region:middle east

  • When the Camera Was a Weapon of Imperialism. (And When It Still Is.)

    I first saw the photograph some years ago, online. Later, I tracked it down to its original source: “In Afric’s Forest and Jungle: Or Six Years Among the Yorubans,” a memoir published in 1899 by the Rev. R.H. Stone. It shows a crowd in what is now Nigeria, but what was then Yorubaland under British colonial influence. The caption below the photograph reads: “A king of Ejayboo. Governor of Lagos on right. For years the rulers of this fierce tribe made the profession of Christianity a capital crime.” This description is familiar in tone from anthropological literature of the period, though the photograph is hard to date precisely. “Ejayboo” is what we would nowadays spell as “Ijebu,” a subgroup of Yoruba. That catches my attention: I am Yoruba and also Ijebu. This picture is a time capsule from a world to which I am connected but had not seen before, a world by colonial encounter.

    By the middle of the 19th century, through treaties and threats of force, the British had wrested control of the coastal city Lagos from its king. They then turned their efforts to improving access to the goods and services in the Yoruba hinterland. The Yoruba were already by that time a populous and diverse ethnic group, full of rivalrous kingdoms large and small, some friendly to the British, others less so.

    Stone, a Virginian sent by the Southern Baptist Convention, lived among them — lived among us — for two spells, in 1859-63 and 1867-69, before, during and after the American Civil War. He had this to say about Yoruba people: “They are reasonable, brave and patriotic, and are capable of a very high degree of intellectual culture.” It is praise, but must be understood in the context of a statement he makes earlier in his book about living “among the barbarous people” of that part of the world. In any case, the Ijebu in the mid-19th century were largely wealthy traders and farmers who did not want to give the British right of way to the interior of the country; only through diplomacy, subterfuge and violence were they finally overcome.

    This photograph was made in the aftermath. The white governor of Lagos — based on the plausible dates, it is probably John Hawley Glover — sits under an enormous umbrella. On one side of him is another high-ranking colonial officer. On the other side is the Ijebu king, or oba, probably the Awujale of the Ijebu kingdom, Oba Ademuyewo Fidipote.

    The oba wears a beaded crown, but the beads have been parted and his face is visible. This is unusual, for the oba is like a god and must be concealed when in public. The beads over his face, with their interplay of light and shadow, are meant to give him a divine aspect. Why is his face visible in this photograph? Some contravention of customary practice has taken place. The dozens of men seated on the ground in front of him are visibly alarmed. Many have turned their bodies away from the oba, and several are positioned toward the camera, not in order to look at the camera but in order to avoid looking at the exposed radiance of their king.

    The invention of the daguerreotype was announced in 1839. By the 1840s, photography had spread like wildfire and become a vital aspect of European colonialism. It played a role in administrative, missionary, scientific and commercial activities. As the Zimbabwean novelist Yvonne Vera put it: “The camera has often been a dire instrument. In Africa, as in most parts of the dispossessed, the camera arrives as part of the colonial paraphernalia, together with the gun and the bible. ...”

    Photography in colonialized societies was not only a dire instrument. Subject peoples often adopted photography for their own uses. There were, for instance, a number of studios in Lagos by the 1880s, where elites could go to pose for portraits. But such positive side effects aside, photography during colonial rule imaged the world in order to study, profit from and own it. The colonial gaze might describe as barbarous both the oba’s beaded crown and his regal right to conceal himself. This was one of the repeated interactions between imperial powers and the populations that they sought to control: The dominant power decided that everything had to be seen and cataloged, a task for which photography was perfectly suited. Under the giant umbrella of colonialism, nothing would be allowed to remain hidden from the imperial authorities.

    Imperialism and colonial photographic practices both flourished in the 19th century, and both extended themselves, with cosmetic adaptations, into the 20th. In 1960, during the horrific French war on Algeria, the French military assigned a young soldier, Marc Garanger, to photograph people in an internment camp in the Kabylia region of Northern Algeria. Thousands of people had been confined in the region under armed guard, and the French military commander had decreed that ID cards were mandatory. A picture of each prisoner was required. Many of the women were forced to remove their veils. These were women who did not wish to be seen, made to sit for photographs that were not for them. (Photography played a different military role in the numerous aerial reconnaissance missions by the French, which resulted in thousands of negatives mapping the region.)

    Garanger’s photographs both record an injustice and occasion it. His alternative, not an easy one, would have been to refuse the order and go to prison. His pictures show us what we ought not to see: Young and old women, their hair free flowing or plaited, one face after the other, in the hundreds. They collectively emanate refusal. The women of Kabylia look through the photographer, certainly not considering him an ally. Their gazes rise from the surface of the photograph, palpably furious.

    When we speak of “shooting” with a camera, we are acknowledging the kinship of photography and violence. The anthropological photographs made in the 19th century under the aegis of colonial powers are related to the images created by contemporary photojournalists, including those who embed with military forces. Embedding is sometimes the only way to get a direct record, no matter how limited, of what is happening in an armed conflict. On occasion such an arrangement leads to images whose directness displeases the authorities, but a more common outcome has been that proximity to an army helps bolster the narrative preferred by the army.

    Still, photographic reportage has the power to quicken the conscience and motivate political commitments. Examples abound of photographs acting as catalysts in the public’s understanding of vital issues, from the images of Bergen-Belsen in 1945 to the photograph of the Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi in 2015. And yet, perhaps even more insistently, on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis, photography implicitly serves the powers that be. To insist that contemporary photographic practice — and I mean to include a majority of the international news coverage in newspapers like this one — is generally made (and published) for the greater good is to misconstrue history, because it leaves out the question of “Good for whom?” Such pictures aren’t for their subjects any more than the photograph in Stone’s book was for the Ijebus and their king.

    Certain images underscore an unbridgeable gap and a never-to-be-toppled hierarchy. When a group of people is judged to be “foreign,” it becomes far more likely that news organizations will run, for the consumption of their audiences, explicit, disturbing photographs of members of that group: starving children or bullet-riddled bodies. Meanwhile, the injury and degradation of those with whom readers perceive a kinship — a judgment often based on racial sympathy and class loyalties — is routinely treated in more circumspect fashion. This has hardly changed since Susan Sontag made the same observation in “Regarding the Pain of Others” (2003), and it has hardly changed because the underlying political relationships between dominant and subject societies have hardly changed.

    Without confronting this inequality, this misconstrual of history, photography will continue to describe itself as one thing (a force for liberation) while obdurately remaining another (an obedient appendage of state power). It will continue to be like the organs of the state that “spread democracy” and change regimes. Even when it appears to go against the state, it will only do so selectively, quaintly, beautifully, piteously, in terms that do not question the right of the state to assert power.

    For how long will these radically unequal societal realities endure? Many affecting photographs have been made during the huge waves of international migration of the past few years. These pictures issue, as usual, from the presumed rights of photographers to depict the suffering of people “out there” for the viewing of those “back home.” But in looking at these images — images of war, of starvation, of capsized boats and exhausted caravans — we must go beyond the usual frames of pity and abjection. Every picture of suffering should elicit a question stronger than “Why is this happening?” The question should be “Why have I allowed this to happen?”

    This is what the scholar Ariella Azoulay calls the “citizenship” of photography, its ability, when practiced thoughtfully, to remind us of our mutual responsibilities. When I look at the bewildering photographs of refugee camps in Richard Mosse’s recent book, “The Castle,” I feel indicted. The imperial underpinnings of Mosse’s project are inescapable: Using military-grade thermal cameras, he makes extremely complex panoramic images (stitched together from hundreds of shots) of landscapes in the Middle East and Europe in which refugees have gathered or have been confined. His pictures echo the surveillance to which these bodies are already subjected. But the thermal imaging renders the images very dark, with the humans showing up as white shapes (almost like a negative). The picture conceals what it reveals. We see people, but they remain hidden.

    This technique makes for uncanny images in which distressed people move about like the figures you see in dreams, indistinct but full of ghostly presence. At the Moria camp in Greece, it is snowing. We see a long snaking line of people, waiting. What are they waiting for? For some material handout, probably, for food or blankets or documents. But their waiting represents the deeper waiting of all those who have been confined in the antechamber of humanity. They are waiting to be allowed to be human.

    Mosse’s images, formally striking as they are, are unquestionably part of the language of visual domination. With his political freedom of movement and his expensive technical equipment, he makes meticulous pictures of suffering that end up in exquisite books and in art galleries. He is not the first photographer to aestheticize suffering, nor will he be the last. And yet, by suppressing color, by overwhelming the viewer with detail, by evoking racial horror rather than prettily displaying it and by including in his work philosophical considerations of the scenes he shows — “The Castle” contains essays by Judith Butler, Paul K. Saint-Amour and Mosse himself and a poem by Behrouz Boochani — he does something quite different from most photojournalists. He unsettles the viewer.

    Photography’s future will be much like its past. It will largely continue to illustrate, without condemning, how the powerful dominate the less powerful. It will bring the “news” and continue to support the idea that doing so — collecting the lives of others for the consumption of “us” — is a natural right. But with a project like “The Castle,” I have a little bit of hope that an ethic of self-determination can be restored. I have hope that the refugees of Moria, Athens, Berlin and Belgrade will gain a measure of privacy. The women of Kabylia will cover their faces and return to themselves as they wish to be. The oba’s beaded crown will fall back into place, shadowing his face. Photography writes with light, but not everything wants to be seen. Among the human rights is the right to remain obscure, unseen and dark.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/06/magazine/when-the-camera-was-a-weapon-of-imperialism-and-when-it-still-is.html

    #photographie #colonialisme #post-colonialisme #impérialisme
    ping @albertocampiphoto @philippe_de_jonckheere

    Reçu via la mailing-list Migreurop avec le commentaire suivant de Emmanuel Blanchard:

    L’auteur fait notamment référence au travail récent de #Richard_Mosse (exposition et ouvrage « The Castle ») dont il fait un compte rendu à la critique et laudatif. Un point de vue qui peut lui-même être critiqué... dans un sens plus critique.
    Pour accéder à quelques images de Richard Mosse :

    https://vimeo.com/302281332


    https://wsimag.com/art/33291-richard-mosse-the-castle
    https://bit.ly/2NglY08

    #réfugiés #asile #migrations #images #image

    The Castle

    Richard Mosse has spent the past few years documenting the ongoing refugee and migration crisis, repurposing military-grade camera technology to confront how governments and societies perceive refugees. His latest book The Castle is a meticulous record of refugee camps located across mass migration routes from the Middle East and Central Asia into the European Union via Turkey. Using a thermal video camera intended for long-range border enforcement, Mosse films the camps from high elevations to draw attention to the ways in which each interrelates with, or is divorced from, adjacent citizen infrastructure. His source footage is then broken down into hundreds of individual frames, which are digitally overlapped in a grid formation to create composite heat maps.

    Truncating time and space, Mosse’s images speak to the lived experience of refugees indefinitely awaiting asylum and trapped in a Byzantine state of limbo. The book is divided into 28 sites, each presenting an annotated sequence of close-up images that fold out into a panoramic heat map. Within this format, Mosse underscores the provisional architecture of the camps and the ways in which each camp is variously marginalised, concealed, regulated, militarized, integrated, and/or dispersed. His images point to the glaring disconnect between the brisk free trade of globalized capitalism and the dehumanizing erosion of international refugee law in European nation-states. Named after Kafka’s 1926 novel, The Castle prompts questions about the ‘visibility’ of refugees and the erosion of their human rights.

    The book comes with a separate book of texts, including a poem by Behrouz Boochani, the journalist, novelist and Iranian refugee currently held by the Australian government in confinement on Manus island, an essay by Paul K. Saint-Amour, associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, an essay by philosopher Judith Butler, and a text by Richard Mosse.


    #livre


  • Sudan. A desperate Bashir | MadaMasr
    https://madamasr.com/en/2019/02/10/opinion/u/a-desperate-bashir

    It has been eight weeks since anti-government protests began in Sudan, and the government is running out of money. And so Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is not spending his time addressing rallies and strategizing with his inner circle on how to quell or placate the most serious protests in his government’s 30 year history. He is on a plane, criss-crossing the Middle East and North Africa, visiting heads of states in the hope that he can extract some support to bridge his regime for another few months, to fill petrol pumps with fuel and ATMs with cash. These financial boosts have, in the past, come in many forms, ranging from vanilla aid to development schemes, where land or strategic ports are sold off to foreign sovereign leaders and billionaires. During Osama bin Laden’s years in Sudan, it was rumored that, at one point, the government had sold him over half of the agricultural land under its control. When he was expelled from Sudan, his losses were estimated to have reached US$300 million.


  • Anti-BDS bill passed Senate, but trouble awaits in House
    Some Democrats are convinced the decision to tie the controversial bill together with motions on aid to Israel and Jordan and sanctions on Syria was designed to spark intra-Democratic fighting
    Amir Tibon Washington
    Feb 10, 2019 11:52 PM
    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-anti-bds-bill-passed-senate-but-trouble-awaits-in-house-1.6920012

    WASHINGTON – The Senate passed a bill last week that encourages state governments across the U.S. not to sign contracts with supporters of boycotts against Israel and its settlements in the occupied West Bank. The bill has since been introduced in the House of Representatives, but Congressional sources from both parties told Haaretz in recent days they doubt it will pass the House any time soon.

    The bill in question is called the Combating BDS Act. It passed the Senate as part of a “package” of Middle East-related bills after being introduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio. The other bills in the package deal with non-controversial, consensus issues such as military aid to Israel and Jordan, and sanctions on the Assad regime in Syria.

    Rubio and Senate Republicans added the anti-BDS bill into the package, setting the stage for an intense fight about it on Capitol Hill. The reason is that civil rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union are concerned that the Combating BDS Act is unconstitutional and harms American citizens’ freedom of speech.

    The bill encourages the implementation of local legislation passed in recent years by half of the states in the U.S., putting limits on state governments’ abilities to sign contracts with supporters of boycotts against Israel or the settlements. Two such laws have been frozen by federal courts in Arizona and Kansas, following lawsuits by state contractors who said the laws harmed their freedom of speech. Similar lawsuits have recently been filed in Texas and Arkansas.

    When the package bill came up for a vote last week, 23 senators voted against it, including one Republican, Rand Paul of Kentucky. Many of those who voted against it clarified that if every aspect of the bill had been voted on separately, they probably would have supported the bills on assistance to Israel and Jordan and on sanctioning Assad, and would have only objected to the BDS bill, mainly because of concerns surrounding freedom of speech.

    Such a vote could take place in the Senate, where Republicans hold the majority, but not in the House, according to the Congressional sources who spoke with Haaretz. Democrats are convinced that the entire purpose of the Republican decision to add the anti-BDS bill into the broader Middle East package was to orchestrate an intra-Democratic fight over the issue, and force many Democrats to choose between their position on the free speech criticism of the bill, and their general opposition to BDS.

    The Democratic leadership in the House, which has a majority ever since the midterm elections, will most likely break up the package into a number of separate bills. That will allow the House to approve the non-controversial bills on security aid to Israel and sanctions on Syria, without immediately setting the stage for a new round of internal party tensions on the “constitutional right to boycott” question.

    While the other bills are probably going to see quick and easy approval, the anti-BDS bill could be up for a lengthy period of debate in the relevant House committees. There could also be an amendment process. In the Senate, for example, one Democratic senator, Gary Peters of Michigan, offered an amendment that would make it absolutely clear that the bill only refers to large companies, not to small businesses or sole proprietors. Another amendment offered to distinguish in the bill’s language between Israel proper and the settlements in the occupied West Bank.

    Lara Friedman of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, one of the most vocal opponents of the legislation, told Haaretz last week that Democrats in the House “can see what happened in the Senate and take a good guess that it will be even more controversial” in their chamber. “The only ones who benefit from seeing Democrats fight amongst themselves on this issue are the GOP and folks in the U.S. and Israel who want to see Israel turned into a weapon for partisan gain,” she added.

    AIPAC, the powerful lobby that supports the Israeli government, is urging Congress to pass the legislation. The organization wrote in its monthly publication, the Near East Report, that “Congress should take up and pass the Combating BDS Act as quickly as possible. This important bipartisan bill seeks both to protect states against claims they are preempting federal authority, and to demonstrate Congress’ strong support for state measures consistent with Congress’ historic commitment to oppose boycotts of Israel.”

    #BDS

    • En complément : attaquer Omar, Tlaib et Ocasio-Cortez, par imputation d’antisémitisme, pour explicitement diviser les Démocrates : McCarthy pressures Democrats to rebuke two Muslim lawmakers over alleged anti-Semitism
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/mccarthy-gop-challenge-house-democrats-to-denounce-alleged-anti-semitism/2019/02/08/aef28514-2bae-11e9-b2fc-721718903bfc_story.html

      Republicans are focusing their ire at the two Muslim women in Congress, accusing them of anti-Semitism and pressuring Democratic leaders to rebuke the lawmakers as attitudes in the party toward Israel shift from unquestioned support.

      The pressure on Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) is part of a larger GOP effort to drive a partisan wedge into the traditionally nonpartisan relationship between the United States and Israel. Republicans are casting themselves as the more resolute defender of Israel, heightening the party’s appeal to traditionally Democratic Jewish voters.

      […]

      Ralph Reed, the head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and an ally of the Trump White House, said Republicans are working to “change the center of gravity in the American electorate on the issue of Israel.”

      “The leftward drift of the grass roots of the Democrat Party, away from wholehearted and robust support of Israel, means you have people in that party who see Israel through the prism of apartheid and occupation,” he said. “That’s an opportunity for Republicans to say, ‘That’s not how we see Israel.’ ”

      Some Republicans have pointed to a recent phone call between Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the high-profile young leader of her party’s hard-left wing, to British lawmaker Jeremy Corbyn, the head of the Labour Party who has come under intense criticism for tolerating anti-Semitism in his ranks.

      (Accessoirement donc : internationalisation de la manipulation anti-Corbyn…)


  • How to Create a Video on Demand Website Like Netflix, YouTube?
    https://hackernoon.com/how-to-create-a-video-on-demand-website-like-netflix-youtube-f238fbcd5e0

    Easy Way to Create Video on Demand Service Like NetflixOn-demand streaming services are one of those trends that have gone on to become a religion. Though started by the millennials, this mode of entertainment has caught on like wildfire with every generation starting from baby boomers to Gen Z. The prediction graphs favor the climate of video on demand business than any other form of entertainment.“Forecasts predict that video on demand market is about to grow from $25.30 billion in 2014 to $61.40 billion in 2019”Though North America and Europe lead in #vod consumption, the geographical locations such as the Asia Pacific and the Middle East has shown promisable growth within a couple of years. The whole world is washed off by the VOD tide, and if you are looking to create your own video (...)

    #creating-video #streaming-video #online-video-platform #video-on-demand


  • Undercover agents target cybersecurity watchdog who detailed Israeli firm NSO’s link to #Khashoggi scandal
    Haaretz.Com
    https://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/.premium-undercover-agents-target-watchdog-who-detailed-israeli-firm-nso-s-

    Operatives with fake identities are pursuing members of #Citizen_Lab, the group that uncovered the connection between Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and Israel’s surveillance company #NSO
    The Associated Press | Jan. 26, 2019 | 4:19 PM

    The researchers who reported that Israeli software was used to spy on Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s inner circle before his gruesome death are being targeted in turn by international undercover operatives, The Associated Press has found.

    Twice in the past two months, men masquerading as socially conscious investors have lured members of the Citizen Lab internet watchdog group to meetings at luxury hotels to quiz them for hours about their work exposing Israeli surveillance and the details of their personal lives. In both cases, the researchers believe they were secretly recorded.

    Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert described the stunts as “a new low.”

    “We condemn these sinister, underhanded activities in the strongest possible terms,” he said in a statement Friday. “Such a deceitful attack on an academic group like the Citizen Lab is an attack on academic freedom everywhere.”

    Who these operatives are working for remains a riddle, but their tactics recall those of private investigators who assume elaborate false identities to gather intelligence or compromising material on critics of powerful figures in government or business.

    Citizen Lab, based out of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, has for years played a leading role in exposing state-backed hackers operating in places as far afield as Tibet , Ethiopia and Syria . Lately the group has drawn attention for its repeated exposés of an Israeli surveillance software vendor called the NSO Group, a firm whose wares have been used by governments to target journalists in Mexico , opposition figures in Panama and human rights activists in the Middle East .

    In October, Citizen Lab reported that an iPhone belonging to one of Khashoggi’s confidantes had been infected by the NSO’s signature spy software only months before Khashoggi’s grisly murder. The friend, Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, would later claim that the hacking had exposed Khashoggi’s private criticisms of the Saudi royal family to the Arab kingdom’s spies and thus “played a major role” in his death.

    In a statement, NSO denied having anything to do with the undercover operations targeting Citizen Lab, “either directly or indirectly” and said it had neither hired nor asked anyone to hire private investigators to pursue the Canadian organization. “Any suggestion to the contrary is factually incorrect and nothing more than baseless speculation,” NSO said.

    NSO has long denied that its software was used to target Khashoggi, although it has refused to comment when asked whether it has sold its software to the Saudi government more generally.

    The first message reached Bahr Abdul Razzak, a Syrian refugee who works as a Citizen Lab researcher, Dec. 6, when a man calling himself Gary Bowman got in touch via LinkedIn. The man described himself as a South African financial technology executive based in Madrid.

    “I came across your profile and think that the work you’ve done helping Syrian refugees and your extensive technical background could be a great fit for our new initiative,” Bowman wrote.

    Abdul Razzak said he thought the proposal was a bit odd, but he eventually agreed to meet the man at Toronto’s swanky Shangri-La Hotel on the morning of Dec. 18.

    The conversation got weird very quickly, Abdul Razzak said.

    Instead of talking about refugees, Abdul Razzak said, Bowman grilled him about his work for Citizen Lab and its investigations into the use of NSO’s software. Abdul Razzak said Bowman appeared to be reading off cue cards, asking him if he was earning enough money and throwing out pointed questions about Israel, the war in Syria and Abdul Razzak’s religiosity.

    “Do you pray?” Abdul Razzak recalled Bowman asking. “Why do you write only about NSO?” ’’Do you write about it because it’s an Israeli company?" ’’Do you hate #Israel?"

    Abdul Razzak said he emerged from the meeting feeling shaken. He alerted his Citizen Lab colleagues, who quickly determined that the breakfast get-together had been a ruse. Bowman’s supposed Madrid-based company, FlameTech, had no web presence beyond a LinkedIn page, a handful of social media profiles and an entry in the business information platform Crunchbase. A reverse image search revealed that the profile picture of the man listed as FlameTech’s chief executive, Mauricio Alonso, was a stock photograph.

    “My immediate gut feeling was: ’This is a fake,’” said John Scott-Railton, one of Abdul Razzak’s colleagues.

    Scott-Railton flagged the incident to the AP, which confirmed that FlameTech was a digital facade.

    Searches of the Orbis database of corporate records, which has data on some 300 million global companies, turned up no evidence of a Spanish firm called FlameTech or Flame Tech or any company anywhere in the world matching its description. Similarly, the AP found no record of FlameTech in Madrid’s official registry or of a Gary Bowman in the city’s telephone listings. An Orbis search for Alonso, the supposed chief executive, also drew a blank. When an AP reporter visited Madrid’s Crystal Tower high-rise, where FlameTech claimed to have 250 sq. meters (2,700 sq. feet) of office space, he could find no trace of the firm and calls to the number listed on its website went unanswered.

    The AP was about to publish a story about the curious company when, on Jan. 9, Scott-Railton received an intriguing message of his own.

    This time the contact came not from Bowman of FlameTech but from someone who identified himself as Michel Lambert, a director at the Paris-based agricultural technology firm CPW-Consulting.

    Lambert had done his homework. In his introductory email , he referred to Scott-Railton’s early doctoral research on kite aerial photography — a mapping technique using kite-mounted cameras — and said he was “quite impressed.

    We have a few projects and clients coming up that could significantly benefit from implementing Kite Aerial Photography,” he said.

    Like FlameTech, CPW-Consulting was a fiction. Searches of Orbis and the French commercial court registry Infogreffe turned up no trace of the supposedly Paris-based company or indeed of any Paris-based company bearing the acronym CPW. And when the AP visited CPW’s alleged office there was no evidence of the company; the address was home to a mainly residential apartment building. Residents and the building’s caretaker said they had never heard of the firm.

    Whoever dreamed up CPW had taken steps to ensure the illusion survived a casual web search, but even those efforts didn’t bear much scrutiny. The company had issued a help wanted ad, for example, seeking a digital mapping specialist for their Paris office, but Scott-Railton discovered that the language had been lifted almost word-for-word from an ad from an unrelated company seeking a mapping specialist in London. A blog post touted CPW as a major player in Africa, but an examination of the author’s profile suggests the article was the only one the blogger had ever written.

    When Lambert suggested an in-person meeting in New York during a Jan. 19 phone call , Scott-Railton felt certain that Lambert was trying to set him up.

    But Scott-Railton agreed to the meeting. He planned to lay a trap of his own.

    Anyone watching Scott-Railton and Lambert laughing over wagyu beef and lobster bisque at the Peninsula Hotel’s upscale restaurant on Thursday afternoon might have mistaken the pair for friends.

    In fact, the lunch was Spy vs. Spy. Scott-Railton had spent the night before trying to secret a homemade camera into his tie, he later told AP, eventually settling for a GoPro action camera and several recording devices hidden about his person. On the table, Lambert had placed a large pen in which Scott-Railton said he spotted a tiny camera lens peeking out from an opening in the top.

    Lambert didn’t seem to be alone. At the beginning of the meal, a man sat behind him, holding up his phone as if to take pictures and then abruptly left the restaurant, having eaten nothing. Later, two or three men materialized at the bar and appeared to be monitoring proceedings.

    Scott-Railton wasn’t alone either. A few tables away, two Associated Press journalists were making small talk as they waited for a signal from Scott-Railton, who had invited the reporters to observe the lunch from nearby and then interview Lambert near the end of the meal.

    The conversation began with a discussion of kites, gossip about African politicians, and a detour through Scott-Railton’s family background. But Lambert, just like Bowman, eventually steered the talk to Citizen Lab and NSO.

    “Work drama? Tell me, I like drama!” Lambert said at one point, according to Scott-Railton’s recording of the conversation. “Is there a big competition between the people inside Citizen Lab?” he asked later.

    Like Bowman, Lambert appeared to be working off cue cards and occasionally made awkward conversational gambits. At one point he repeated a racist French expression, insisting it wasn’t offensive. He also asked Scott-Railton questions about the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and whether he grew up with any Jewish friends. At another point he asked whether there might not be a “racist element” to Citizen Lab’s interest in Israeli spyware.

    After dessert arrived, the AP reporters approached Lambert at his table and asked him why his company didn’t seem to exist.
    He seemed to stiffen.

    “I know what I’m doing,” Lambert said, as he put his files — and his pen — into a bag. Then he stood up, bumped into a chair and walked off, saying “Ciao” and waving his hand, before returning because he had neglected to pay the bill.

    As he paced around the restaurant waiting for the check, Lambert refused to answer questions about who he worked for or why no trace of his firm could be found.

    “I don’t have to give you any explanation,” he said. He eventually retreated to a back room and closed the door.

    Who Lambert and Bowman really are isn’t clear. Neither men returned emails, LinkedIn messages or phone calls. And despite their keen focus on NSO the AP has found no evidence of any link to the Israeli spyware merchant, which is adamant that it wasn’t involved.

    The kind of aggressive investigative tactics used by the mystery men who targeted Citizen Lab have come under fire in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal. Black Cube, an Israeli private investigation firm apologized after The New Yorker and other media outlets revealed that the company’s operatives had used subterfuge and dirty tricks to help the Hollywood mogul suppress allegations of rape and sexual assault.

    Scott-Railton and Abdul Razzak said they didn’t want to speculate about who was involved. But both said they believed they were being steered toward making controversial comments that could be used to blacken Citizen Lab’s reputation.

    “It could be they wanted me to say, ’Yes, I hate Israel,’ or ’Yes, Citizen Lab is against NSO because it’s Israeli,’” said Abdul Razzak.
    Scott-Railton said the elaborate, multinational operation was gratifying, in a way.

    “People were paid to fly to a city to sit you down to an expensive meal and try to convince you to say bad things about your work, your colleagues and your employer,” he said.

    “That means that your work is important.”


  • Beware ! Les hordes asiatiques vont déferler sur l’Occident !
    Il s’agit de produits intermédiaires (diesel) raffinés en Chine.

    Armada of Giant New Tankers Lines Up to Ship Diesel Out of Asia - Bloomberg
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-24/armada-of-giant-new-tankers-lines-up-to-ship-diesel-out-of-asia


    Photographer : Tim Rue/Bloomberg

    • Maintenance season in Europe seen pulling cargoes West
    • New China refineries, weak local demand seen driving shipments

    A fleet of giant newly built oil tankers is gearing up to ship diesel out of East Asia.

    Five very large crude carriers, which typically carry about 2 million barrels of oil each, are currently positioned in the seas off China’s eastern and southern coasts, according to shipping intelligence and tracking company Kpler. Two more newbuilds are set to swell that fleet shortly. If all were fully loaded, they would haul a total approaching what is currently held in independent storage in Europe’s key trading hub of the Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp ports.

    It’s a large volume coming at once,” said Olivier Jakob, director at Petromatrix GmbH in Zug, Switzerland.

    China is boosting output, with more refinery capacity coming online, while weak local demand for middle distillates is helping to push products west, said Jakob. The start of refinery maintenance season in Europe also stoking Western demand for the fuel. China’s first round of export quotas also signaled an increase in diesel exports at the start of the year, while independent gasoil/diesel stocks in ARA are at their lowest seasonally since 2014.

    Three of the seven VLCCs highlighted by Kpler — the San Ramon Voyager, Ascona and Olympic Laurel — have already taken on board a combined 3.5 million barrels of diesel, according to a Bloomberg calculation from Kpler data, but are not yet fully loaded. Of the remaining four, one is currently loading, one is en route to Singapore where it may take on product, and two have yet to fully leave their construction yards.

    We expect the majority of these cargoes to head west around the Cape of Good Hope,” said Eli Powell, a Kpler analyst. Discharging is likely in northwest Europe, with possible partial discharges in West Africa.

    European demand conditions are quite favorable,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, global head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas in London. “It would make sense to try to move a lot of volume into Europe in short order to meet that demand.

    The surge in Asian exports mirrors an increase in shipments of oil products, much of it diesel, from India and the Middle East into Europe in recent weeks. January’s monthly arrivals from India are set to hit their highest since at least 2017, and shipments from the Persian Gulf will be at their highest since July last year.


  • Ten sailors dead, 14 saved after two ships catch fire near Crimea | Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-crimea-ship-idUSKCN1PF1PX


    Smoke rises from a fire at a ship in the Kerch Strait near Crimea January 21, 2019 in this still image taken from Reuters TV footage.
    REUTERS/Reuters TV

    Ten crew members have been found dead and 14 have been rescued after two ships caught fire in the Kerch Strait near Crimea, Russia’s transport ministry said on Monday, with a rescue operation still underway.

    The ministry said earlier on Monday that crew members were jumping into the sea to escape the blaze, which probably broke out during a ship-to-ship fuel transhipment.

    Both ships were under the Tanzanian flag - Candy (Venice) and Maestro - and had a combined total of 31 crew members. Of them, 16 were Turkish citizens and 15 from India, it said.

    • Le transfert bord à bord risqué et l’incendie qui s’est déclaré en Mer Noire serait une conséquence des sanctions états-uniennes contre l’approvisionnement en hydrocarbures de la Syrie.

      Exclusive: Ship in deadly Black Sea blaze was turned away from port over sanctions | Reuters
      https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-ukraine-crisis-crimea-ships-exclusive-idUKKCN1PG1ZT


      An aerial view from a helicopter shows a rescue vessel during a fire-fighting operation following an accident involving two ships, which caught fire in the Kerch Strait, near the coast of Crimea in this handout photo released by Russian Emergencies Ministry January 22, 2019.
      Russia’s Ministry for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters/Handout via REUTERS

      Two ships ablaze in the Black Sea region, leaving at least 10 crew dead, caught fire while transferring fuel mid-sea after one vessel was barred from using its usual port in southern Russia due to U.S. sanctions risk, two sources told Reuters.

      The vessels, which caught fire on Monday, have the same names as two gas-transporting tankers, the Maestro and Venice, which were included on a U.S. sanctions advisory note last year for delivering fuel to Syria.

      The U.S. Treasury note, published in November, advised that any dealings with these or other vessels involved in transporting fuel to Syria could result in sanctions.

      The Maestro was subsequently barred from using Temryuk port in southern Russia by the owners of its only gas terminal, Maktren-Nafta, two industry sources said, where it had previously loaded liquefied petroleum gas of Russian and Kazakh origin for export to the Middle East.

      Temriouk est situé à la base de la presqu’île de Taman (détroit de Kertch), côté mer d’Azov.

    • At least 10 dead as fire rages on Black Sea ships | Reuters
      https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-ukraine-crisis-crimea-ships-idUKKCN1PG0GF

      Ten crew died and another 10 were missing presumed dead in a fire that broke out on two ships while they were transferring fuel in the Black Sea, Russia’s Transport Ministry said on Tuesday.

      Twelve people were rescued from the burning vessels but there was little hope of finding any more survivors, a spokesman for the Transport Ministry’s maritime unit said. The focus had switched from a rescue operation to a search for bodies, he added.

      The spokesman said the vessels, which had a combined crew of 32, were still on fire and rough no attempts were being made to put out the blaze because of rough sea conditions.

      Russian maritime officials said on Monday that the vessels were carrying out a ship-to-ship transfer of fuel in the Kerch Strait, which separates Crimea from Russia.


  • Palestinian Authority tells U.S. it will stop taking aid to avoid multi-million dollar lawsuits - U.S. News - Haaretz.com

    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-pa-informs-u-s-it-will-stop-receiving-aid-to-avoid-multi-million-d

    WASHINGTON – The Palestinian Authority informed the Trump administration that it will stop taking any form of government assistance from the United States at the end of the month, as a result of legislation passed last year by Congress.

    The law that led the PA to make this decision is the “Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act”, known as ATCA, which makes it possible for U.S. citizens to sue foreign entities that receive U.S. assistance for past acts of terrorism.

    The Palestinian decision could lead to the end of the U.S. support for the PA’s security forces. These forces work regularly with the Israeli military to thwart terror attacks. In his last appearance before the Israeli government last week, outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot said that the security coordination between Israel and the PA’s forces helps save lives and maintain stability in the region.

    >> Trump’s ’Arab NATO’ push against Iran comes to a head, and he’s the biggest obstacle | Analysis

    During 2018, the Trump administration cut all forms of U.S. civil assistance to the Palestinians, but it did not touch the security assistance, stating that the security coordination between the PA and Israel serves American foreign policy interests. Now, however, U.S. support for the PA security forces could end at the end of January, putting at risk the continuation of efficient security coordination.

    The ATCA bill, which the PA blamed for its decision, was promoted last year in Congress in response to rulings by U.S. courts that rejected multi-million dollar lawsuits against the PA. These lawsuits were filed by American citizens who were injured or lost loved ones in terror attacks committed by Palestinians, mostly during the Second Intifada. The Supreme Court in Washington affirmed a ruling by a lower court that the American legal system does not have jurisdiction to deal with such lawsuits.

    This led members of Congress to promote the ATCA bill, which states that U.S. courts will have jurisdiction to hear terrorism-related lawsuits against any foreign entity reviving U.S. government assistance. This means that if the PA will receive even one dollar of U.S. funding, it could face lawsuits asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. The law has also created concern in other countries in the Middle East that rely on U.S. assistance. It would not apply to Israel, however, because of the specific sources of funding through which Israel receives U.S. security assistance.
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    Only after the bill passed Congress and was signed into law by President Trump, senior administration officials became aware of its possible impact on security coordination. In recent months, the administration tried to negotiate a “fix” to the law together with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. As reported in Haaretz two weeks ago, these efforts have stalled because of the ongoing government shutdown.

    The PA’s letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which was first reported over the weekend by NPR, could create a sense of urgency in Washington to solve the security assistance question.

    Two sources who are involved in the negotiations on the subject told Haaretz that a possible solution could emerge with the involvement of the CIA or the Pentagon, but its exact mechanism hasn’t yet been drawn in full. “Everyone wants a fix, but it’s still not clear how we can get it,” explained one of the sources, who asked not to be named in order to discuss politicallly-sensitive negotiations.


  • On a mission from God : Pompeo messages evangelicals from the Middle East - Asia Times
    http://www.atimes.com/article/on-a-mission-from-god-pompeo-messages-evangelicals-from-the-middle-east

    Commentaire ironique d’Elijah Magnier sur Twitter (https://twitter.com/ejmalrai/status/1085258903045238784) : Al-Baghdadi a également une « mission divine » et Dieu doit vraiment s’intéresser au Moyen-Orient pour y envoyer autant d’envoyés !

    “This trip is especially meaningful for me as an evangelical Christian, coming so soon after the Coptic Church’s Christmas celebrations. This is an important time. We’re all children of Abraham: Christians, Muslims, Jews. In my office, I keep a Bible open on my desk to remind me of God and His Word, and The Truth.”

    He added that he was in Cairo to herald another truth, that America was a “force for good” in the Middle East.

    Pompeo then proceeded to rip into former president Barack Obama, who some fringe evangelists have accused of being a secret Muslim and even the Antichrist. The secretary of state used his speech to air domestic grievances, blaming Obama for the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) and the empowerment of Iran.

    “Remember: It was here, here in this city, that another American stood before you. He told you that radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from an ideology. He told you that 9/11 led my country to abandon its ideals, particularly in the Middle East.

    “The results of these misjudgments have been dire,” Pompeo told an assembled group of blank-faced students, eliciting little palpable reaction.

    “We grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism, a debauched strain of the faith that seeks to upend every other form of worship or governance. ISIS drove to the outskirts of Baghdad as America hesitated. They raped and pillaged and murdered tens of thousands of innocents. They birthed a caliphate across Syria and Iraq and launched terror attacks that killed all across continents,” he said.


  • Rare Photos: European Refugee Camps in Syria — At The Height of World War II

    The whole world is aware that Europe is buckled under the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, with millions of people fleeing civil war and oppression in the Middle East, North Africa, and Western Asia, and landing on the continent’s shores by land and by sea. The UN estimates that more people have been displaced than at any time since the Second World War — there are close to 60 million war refugees, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

    While there is no denying the fact that the current humanitarian crisis is the worst refugee crisis of our generation; with continuous comparison to World War II, it is imperative that we share a small yet important fact with you: at the height of World War II, the Middle East Relief and Refugee Administration (MERRA) operated camps in Syria, Egypt and Palestine, where tens of thousands of people from across Europe sought refuge.

    Yes, you read it right. Refugees crossed the same passageways [which the Syrians, the Africans, and the Asians are taking to reach Europe TODAY] 70 years ago — BUT they were the Europeans (largely from Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Yugoslavia) trying to find solace in the Middle East.

    How The Refugees Entered The Camps:

    According to the International Social Service records, refugees from Europe had to register at one of several camps in Egypt, Palestine and Syria and obtain camp-issued identification cards, which contained their full name, gender, marital status, passport number, and their educational and work history.

    After registration, they had to undergo a refugee medical examination at makeshift hospital facilities — where they took off their clothes, their shoes and were washed until officials believed they were sufficiently disinfected. When they were declared fit enough to join the refugee camp, they were divided into living quarters for families, unaccompanied children, single men and single women.

    How They Survived:

    Refugees in MERRA camps received a half portion of Army rations each day; sometimes supplemented with foods that reflected refugees’ national customs and religious practices. ‘Rich’ refugees could buy beans, olives, oil, fruit, tea, coffee and other staples from camp canteens. On the rare occasion, during supervised visits to local shops, they could buy soap, razor blades, pencils, paper, stamps and other items. Some camps provided space for refugees to prepare meals; one camp in Aleppo reserved a room for women so they could make macaroni with flour, which they received from camp officials.

    How They Found Work & Developed Skills:

    Some, but not all, camps required refugees to work — though they were not forced to earn to make ends meet. GlobalPost reports:

    In Aleppo, refugees were encouraged, but not required, to work as cooks, cleaners and cobblers. Labor wasn’t mandatory in Nuseirat, either, but camp officials did try to create opportunities for refugees to use their skills in carpentry, painting, shoe making and wool spinning so that they could stay occupied and earn a little income from other refugees who could afford their services. At Moses Wells, all able-bodied, physically fit refugees worked as shopkeepers, cleaners, seamstresses, apprentices, masons, carpenters or plumbers, while “exceptionally qualified persons” served as school masters or labor foremen. Women performed additional domestic work like sewing, laundry, and preparing food on top of any other work they had.

    How They Acquired Knowledge:

    Margaret G. Arnstein, a prominent nurse practitioner notes that students in a few camps at El Shatt and Moses Wells were taught practical nursing, anatomy, physiology, first aid, obstetrics, pediatrics, as well as the military rules and regulations that governed wartime refugee camps.

    How They Entertained Themselves:

    In their free time, the men played handball, football and socialized over cigarettes, beer and wine in camp canteens. In their free time, children played with swings, slides and seesaws.

    How They Prepared For A Brighter Future:

    Education was a crucial part of camp routines. GlobalPost writes:

    Classrooms in Middle Eastern refugee camps had too few teachers and too many students, inadequate supplies and suffered from overcrowding. Yet not all the camps were so hard pressed. In Nuseirat, for example, a refugee who was an artist completed many paintings and posted them all over the walls of a kindergarten inside the camp, making the classrooms “bright and cheerful.” Well-to-do people in the area donated toys, games, and dolls to the kindergarten, causing a camp official to remark that it “compared favorably with many in the United States.”

    https://anonhq.com/rare-photos-european-refugee-camps-syria-height-world-war-ii

    #quand_eux_c'était_nous #réfugiés_européens #histoire #syrie #camps_de_réfugiés #WWII #seconde_guerre_mondiale #photographie #deuxième_guerre_moniale
    ping @albertocampiphoto @philippe_de_jonckheere


  • [Revision] « Tell Me How This Ends » | Harper’s Magazine
    https://harpers.org/archive/2019/02/american-involvement-in-syria

    Dans cet article très USA-centré, le récit des premiers temps de la guerre en #Syrie par l’ancien ambassadeur US à Damas. (J’ai grasseyé certains passages. Le récit US passe égaleemnt sous silence la présence à Hama de l’ambassadeur français et de quelques invités...) L’histoire de ce conflit commence petit à petit à s’écrire...

    The vulnerable regimes in early 2011 were in the American camp, a coincidence that the Syrian president, Bashar al-­Assad, interpreted as proof that the Arab Spring was a repudiation of American tutelage. As Russia’s and Iran’s only Arab ally, he foresaw no challenge to his throne. An omen in the unlikely guise of an incident at an open-­air market in the old city of Damascus, in February 2011, should have changed his mind. One policeman ordered a motorist to stop at an intersection, while another officer told him to drive on. “The poor guy got conflicting instructions, and did what I would have done and stopped,” recalled the US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, who had only just arrived in the country. The second policeman dragged the driver out of his car and thrashed him. “A crowd gathered, and all of a sudden it took off,” Ford said. “No violence, but it was big enough that the interior minister himself went down to the market and told people to go home.” Ford reported to Washington, “This is the first big demonstration that we know of. And it tells us that this tinder is dry.”

    The next month, the security police astride the Jordanian border in the dusty southern town of Daraa ignited the tinder by torturing children who had scrawled anti-­Assad graffiti on walls. Their families, proud Sunni tribespeople, appealed for justice, then called for reform of the regime, and finally demanded its removal. Rallies swelled by the day. Ford cabled Washington that the government was using live ammunition to quell the demonstrations. He noted that the protesters were not entirely peaceful: “There was a little bit of violence from the demonstrators in Daraa. They burned the Syriatel office.” (Syriatel is the cell phone company of Rami Makhlouf, Assad’s cousin, who epitomized for many Syrians the ruling elite’s corruption.) “And they burned a court building, but they didn’t kill anybody.” Funerals of protesters produced more demonstrations and thus more funerals. The Obama Administration, though, was preoccupied with Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak had resigned in February, and with the NATO bombing campaign in Libya to support the Libyan insurgents who would depose and murder Muammar Qaddafi in October.

    Ambassador Ford detected a turn in the Syrian uprising that would define part of its character: “The first really serious violence on the opposition side was up on the coast around Baniyas, where a bus was stopped and soldiers were hauled off the bus. If you were Alawite, you were shot. If you were Sunni, they let you go.” At demonstrations, some activists chanted the slogan, “Alawites to the grave, and Christians to Beirut.” A sectarian element wanted to remove Assad, not because he was a dictator but because he belonged to the Alawite minority sect that Sunni fundamentalists regard as heretical. Washington neglected to factor that into its early calculations.

    Phil Gordon, the assistant secretary of state for European affairs before becoming Obama’s White House coordinator for the Middle East, told me, “I think the initial attitude in Syria was seen through that prism of what was happening in the other countries, which was, in fact, leaders—the public rising up against their leaders and in some cases actually getting rid of them, and in Tunisia, and Yemen, and Libya, with our help.”

    Ambassador Ford said he counseled Syria’s activists to remain non­violent and urged both sides to negotiate. Demonstrations became weekly events, starting after Friday’s noon prayer as men left the mosques, and spreading north to Homs and Hama. Ford and some embassy staffers, including the military attaché, drove to Hama, with government permission, one Thursday evening in July. To his surprise, Ford said, “We were welcomed like heroes by the opposition people. We had a simple message—no violence. There were no burned buildings. There was a general strike going on, and the opposition people had control of the streets. They had all kinds of checkpoints. Largely, the government had pulled out.”

    Bassam Barabandi, a diplomat who defected in Washington to establish a Syrian exile organization, People Demand Change, thought that Ford had made two errors: his appearance in Hama raised hopes for direct intervention that was not forthcoming, and he was accompanied by a military attaché. “So, at that time, the big question for Damascus wasn’t Ford,” Barabandi told me in his spartan Washington office. “It was the military attaché. Why did this guy go with Ford?” The Syrian regime had a long-standing fear of American intelligence interference, dating to the CIA-­assisted overthrow in 1949 of the elected parliamentary government and several attempted coups d’état afterward. The presence in Hama of an ambassador with his military attaché allowed the Assad regime to paint its opponents as pawns of a hostile foreign power.


  • EXCLUSIVE : Pompeo announces international summit on Iran | Fox News
    https://www.foxnews.com/politics/exclusive-pompeo-announces-international-summit-on-iran

    Discussions avec le régime syrien pour l’avenir du pays contre lâchage de l’Iran (en prélude à une attaque) : la carotte et le bâton as usual.

    The United States will host an international summit next month to promote stability and freedom in the Middle East, focusing on Iran’s regional influence, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an exclusive Fox News interview, while traveling in the Middle East.

    "We’ll bring together dozens of countries from all around the world,” said Pompeo, announcing the February 13-14 event in Poland. “Countries will all come together to focus on Middle East stability and peace and freedom and security here in this region, and that includes an important element of making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence.”

    (...)

    The secretary is in the middle of a nine-country trip through the Middle East, as the Trump administration is confronted with questions over when and how it plans to remove American forces from Syria.

    Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, said in October 2017, that Syrian President Bashar al Assad had no role in Syria’s political future, but when asked whether that is still the U.S. position, Pompeo today said the Assad regime will be part of those conversations.

    “We want to make sure all the options are open as that political discourse begins,” he said. “We are very hopeful that we will get the bad actors in the region, the Russians and the Iranians, to come to the table, along with the regime and all the other stakeholders in there to come to the table and have conversations about what a post-civil-war political structure might look like in Syria.”

    #syrie #iran #grand_jeu


  • Iran’s Tiny Navy Is Trying to Revive the Persian Empire - Bloomberg
    Opinion by Jim Stavridis

    https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-01-10/iran-s-tiny-navy-is-trying-to-revive-the-persian-empire


    A cheap alternative to aircraft carriers.
    Photographer: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

    The West sees Tehran as a regional player. Iranians see themselves as a global power.

    On the campaign trail in 2007, Senator John McCain sang a parody to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann”: “Bomb, bomb, bomb … bomb, bomb Iran.” That sentiment resonates in the Donald Trump administration, and it’s understandable. The Iranians continue to push their influence throughout the Middle East: using proxies to threaten U.S. allies; supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria; fueling the war in Yemen through support for Houthi rebels; and seeking to destabilize Iraq and gain further influence in Lebanon.

    Now we face a new twist to Iranian expansionism that demonstrates both Tehran’s ambition and its growing ties to Russia: the Iranian navy announced it will undertake a five-month deployment to the western Atlantic. While it’s unclear how many ships will be involved, Tehran says the flotilla will include a newly built destroyer, the Sahand. Some vessels are expected dock in Venezuela, one of the few countries in the Western Hemisphere that would welcome them.


  • The Woman With Lapis Lazuli in Her Teeth - The Atlantic
    https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/01/the-woman-with-lapis-lazuli-in-her-teeth/579760

    Who was that person? A woman, first of all. According to radiocarbon dating, she lived around 997 to 1162, and she was buried at a women’s monastery in Dalheim, Germany. And so these embedded blue particles in her teeth illuminate a forgotten history of medieval manuscripts: Not just monks made them. In the medieval ages, nuns also produced the famously laborious and beautiful books. And some of these women must have been very good, if they were using pigment as precious and rare as ultramarine.

    (...) art experts were still skeptical. Some dismissed the idea that a woman could have been a painter skilled enough to work with ultramarine. One suggested to Warinner that this woman came into contact with ultramarine because she was simply the cleaning lady.

    #archéologie #femmes #nonnes_copistes #historicisation via @arnicas


  • Pan Am Flight 103 : Robert Mueller’s 30-Year Search for Justice | WIRED
    https://www.wired.com/story/robert-muellers-search-for-justice-for-pan-am-103

    Cet article décrit le rôle de Robert Mueller dans l’enquête historique qui a permis de dissimuler ou de justifier la plupart des batailles de la guerre non déclarée des États Unis contre l’OLP et les pays arabes qui soutenaient la lutte pour un état palestinien.

    Aux États-Unis, en Allemagne et en France le grand public ignore les actes de guerre commis par les États Unis dans cette guerre. Vu dans ce contexte on ne peut que classer le récit de cet article dans la catégorie idéologie et propagande même si les intentions et faits qu’on y apprend sont bien documentés et plausibles.

    Cette perspective transforme le contenu de cet article d’une variation sur un thème connu dans un reportage sur l’état d’âme des dirigeants étatsuniens moins fanatiques que l’équipe du président actuel.

    THIRTY YEARS AGO last Friday, on the darkest day of the year, 31,000 feet above one of the most remote parts of Europe, America suffered its first major terror attack.

    TEN YEARS AGO last Friday, then FBI director Robert Mueller bundled himself in his tan trench coat against the cold December air in Washington, his scarf wrapped tightly around his neck. Sitting on a small stage at Arlington National Cemetery, he scanned the faces arrayed before him—the victims he’d come to know over years, relatives and friends of husbands and wives who would never grow old, college students who would never graduate, business travelers and flight attendants who would never come home.

    Burned into Mueller’s memory were the small items those victims had left behind, items that he’d seen on the shelves of a small wooden warehouse outside Lockerbie, Scotland, a visit he would never forget: A teenager’s single white sneaker, an unworn Syracuse University sweatshirt, the wrapped Christmas gifts that would never be opened, a lonely teddy bear.

    A decade before the attacks of 9/11—attacks that came during Mueller’s second week as FBI director, and that awoke the rest of America to the threats of terrorism—the bombing of Pan Am 103 had impressed upon Mueller a new global threat.

    It had taught him the complexity of responding to international terror attacks, how unprepared the government was to respond to the needs of victims’ families, and how on the global stage justice would always be intertwined with geopolitics. In the intervening years, he had never lost sight of the Lockerbie bombing—known to the FBI by the codename Scotbom—and he had watched the orphaned children from the bombing grow up over the years.

    Nearby in the cemetery stood a memorial cairn made of pink sandstone—a single brick representing each of the victims, the stone mined from a Scottish quarry that the doomed flight passed over just seconds before the bomb ripped its baggage hold apart. The crowd that day had gathered near the cairn in the cold to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing.

    For a man with an affinity for speaking in prose, not poetry, a man whose staff was accustomed to orders given in crisp sentences as if they were Marines on the battlefield or under cross-examination from a prosecutor in a courtroom, Mueller’s remarks that day soared in a way unlike almost any other speech he’d deliver.

    “There are those who say that time heals all wounds. But you know that not to be true. At its best, time may dull the deepest wounds; it cannot make them disappear,” Mueller told the assembled mourners. “Yet out of the darkness of this day comes a ray of light. The light of unity, of friendship, and of comfort from those who once were strangers and who are now bonded together by a terrible moment in time. The light of shared memories that bring smiles instead of sadness. And the light of hope for better days to come.”

    He talked of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and of inspiration drawn from Lockerbie’s town crest, with its simple motto, “Forward.” He spoke of what was then a two-decade-long quest for justice, of how on windswept Scottish mores and frigid lochs a generation of FBI agents, investigators, and prosecutors had redoubled their dedication to fighting terrorism.

    Mueller closed with a promise: “Today, as we stand here together on this, the darkest of days, we renew that bond. We remember the light these individuals brought to each of you here today. We renew our efforts to bring justice down on those who seek to harm us. We renew our efforts to keep our people safe, and to rid the world of terrorism. We will continue to move forward. But we will never forget.”

    Hand bells tolled for each of the victims as their names were read aloud, 270 names, 270 sets of bells.

    The investigation, though, was not yet closed. Mueller, although he didn’t know it then, wasn’t done with Pan Am 103. Just months after that speech, the case would test his innate sense of justice and morality in a way that few other cases in his career ever have.

    ROBERT S. MUELLER III had returned from a combat tour in Vietnam in the late 1960s and eventually headed to law school at the University of Virginia, part of a path that he hoped would lead him to being an FBI agent. Unable after graduation to get a job in government, he entered private practice in San Francisco, where he found he loved being a lawyer—just not a defense attorney.

    Then—as his wife Ann, a teacher, recounted to me years ago—one morning at their small home, while the two of them made the bed, Mueller complained, “Don’t I deserve to be doing something that makes me happy?” He finally landed a job as an assistant US attorney in San Francisco and stood, for the first time, in court and announced, “Good morning your Honor, I am Robert Mueller appearing on behalf of the United States of America.” It is a moment that young prosecutors often practice beforehand, and for Mueller those words carried enormous weight. He had found the thing that made him happy.

    His family remembers that time in San Francisco as some of their happiest years; the Muellers’ two daughters were young, they loved the Bay Area—and have returned there on annual vacations almost every year since relocating to the East Coast—and Mueller found himself at home as a prosecutor.

    On Friday nights, their routine was that Ann and the two girls would pick Mueller up at Harrington’s Bar & Grill, the city’s oldest Irish pub, not far from the Ferry Building in the Financial District, where he hung out each week with a group of prosecutors, defense attorneys, cops, and agents. (One Christmas, his daughter Cynthia gave him a model of the bar made out of Popsicle sticks.) He balanced that family time against weekends and trainings with the Marines Corps Reserves, where he served for more than a decade, until 1980, eventually rising to be a captain.

    Over the next 15 years, he rose through the ranks of the San Francisco US attorney’s office—an office he would return to lead during the Clinton administration—and then decamped to Massachusetts to work for US attorney William Weld in the 1980s. There, too, he shined and eventually became acting US attorney when Weld departed at the end of the Reagan administration. “You cannot get the words straight arrow out of your head,” Weld told me, speaking of Mueller a decade ago. “The agencies loved him because he knew his stuff. He didn’t try to be elegant or fancy, he just put the cards on the table.”

    In 1989, an old high school classmate, Robert Ross, who was chief of staff to then attorney general Richard Thornburgh, asked Mueller to come down to Washington to help advise Thornburgh. The offer intrigued Mueller. Ann protested the move—their younger daughter Melissa wanted to finish high school in Massachusetts. Ann told her husband, “We can’t possibly do this.” He replied, his eyes twinkling, “You’re right, it’s a terrible time. Well, why don’t we just go down and look at a few houses?” As she told me, “When he wants to do something, he just revisits it again and again.”

    For his first two years at so-called Main Justice in Washington, working under President George H.W. Bush, the family commuted back and forth from Boston to Washington, alternating weekends in each city, to allow Melissa to finish school.

    Washington gave Mueller his first exposure to national politics and cases with geopolitical implications; in September 1990, President Bush nominated him to be assistant attorney general, overseeing the Justice Department’s entire criminal division, which at that time handled all the nation’s terrorism cases as well. Mueller would oversee the prosecution of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, mob boss John Gotti, and the controversial investigation into a vast money laundering scheme run through the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, known as the Bank of Crooks and Criminals

    None of his cases in Washington, though, would affect him as much as the bombing of Pan Am 103.

    THE TIME ON the clocks in Lockerbie, Scotland, read 7:04 pm, on December 21, 1988, when the first emergency call came into the local fire brigade, reporting what sounded like a massive boiler explosion. It was technically early evening, but it had been dark for hours already; that far north, on the shortest day of the year, daylight barely stretched to eight hours.

    Soon it became clear something much worse than a boiler explosion had unfolded: Fiery debris pounded the landscape, plunging from the sky and killing 11 Lockerbie residents. As Mike Carnahan told a local TV reporter, “The whole sky was lit up with flames. It was actually raining, liquid fire. You could see several houses on the skyline with the roofs totally off and all you could see was flaming timbers.”

    At 8:45 pm, a farmer found in his field the cockpit of Pan Am 103, a Boeing 747 known as Clipper Maid of the Seas, lying on its side, 15 of its crew dead inside, just some of the 259 passengers and crew killed when a bomb had exploded inside the plane’s cargo hold. The scheduled London to New York flight never even made it out of the UK.

    It had taken just three seconds for the plane to disintegrate in the air, though the wreckage took three long minutes to fall the five miles from the sky to the earth; court testimony later would examine how passengers had still been alive as they fell. Nearly 200 of the passengers were American, including 35 students from Syracuse University returning home from a semester abroad. The attack horrified America, which until then had seen terror touch its shores only occasionally as a hijacking went awry; while the US had weathered the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, attacks almost never targeted civilians.

    The Pan Am 103 bombing seemed squarely aimed at the US, hitting one of its most iconic brands. Pan Am then represented America’s global reach in a way few companies did; the world’s most powerful airline shuttled 19 million passengers a year to more than 160 countries and had ferried the Beatles to their US tour and James Bond around the globe on his cinematic missions. In a moment of hubris a generation before Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, the airline had even opened a “waiting list” for the first tourists to travel to outer space. Its New York headquarters, the Pan Am building, was the world’s largest commercial building and its terminal at JFK Airport the biggest in the world.

    The investigation into the bombing of Pan Am 103 began immediately, as police and investigators streamed north from London by the hundreds; chief constable John Boyd, the head of the local police, arrived at the Lockerbie police station by 8:15 pm, and within an hour the first victim had been brought in: A farmer arrived in town with the body of a baby girl who had fallen from the sky. He’d carefully placed her in the front seat of his pickup truck.

    An FBI agent posted in London had raced north too, with the US ambassador, aboard a special US Air Force flight, and at 2 am, when Boyd convened his first senior leadership meeting, he announced, “The FBI is here, and they are fully operational.” By that point, FBI explosives experts were already en route to Scotland aboard an FAA plane; agents would install special secure communications equipment in Lockerbie and remain on site for months.

    Although it quickly became clear that a bomb had targeted Pan Am 103—wreckage showed signs of an explosion and tested positive for PETN and RDX, two key ingredients of the explosive Semtex—the investigation proceeded with frustrating slowness. Pan Am’s records were incomplete, and it took days to even determine the full list of passengers. At the same time, it was the largest crime scene ever investigated—a fact that remains true today.

    Investigators walked 845 square miles, an area 12 times the size of Washington, DC, and searched so thoroughly that they recovered more than 70 packages of airline crackers and ultimately could reconstruct about 85 percent of the fuselage. (Today, the wreckage remains in an English scrapyard.) Constable Boyd, at his first press conference, told the media, “This is a mammoth inquiry.”

    On Christmas Eve, a searcher found a piece of a luggage pallet with signs of obvious scorching, which would indicate the bomb had been in the luggage compartment below the passenger cabin. The evidence was rushed to a special British military lab—one originally created to investigate the Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament and kill King James I in 1605.

    When the explosive tests came back a day later, the British government called the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for combating terrorism, L. Paul Bremer III (who would go on to be President George W. Bush’s viceroy in Baghdad after the 2003 invasion of Iraq), and officially delivered the news that everyone had anticipated: Pan Am 103 had been downed by a bomb.

    Meanwhile, FBI agents fanned out across the country. In New York, special agent Neil Herman—who would later lead the FBI’s counterterrorism office in New York in the run up to 9/11—was tasked with interviewing some of the victims’ families; many of the Syracuse students on board had been from the New York region. One of the mothers he interviewed hadn’t heard from the government in the 10 days since the attack. “It really struck me how ill-equipped we were to deal with this,” Herman told me, years later. “Multiply her by 270 victims and families.” The bombing underscored that the FBI and the US government had a lot to learn in responding and aiding victims in a terror attack.

    INVESTIGATORS MOVED TOWARD piecing together how a bomb could have been placed on board; years before the 9/11 attack, they discounted the idea of a suicide bomber aboard—there had never been a suicide attack on civil aviation at that point—and so focused on one of two theories: The possibility of a “mule,” an innocent passenger duped into carrying a bomb aboard, or an “inside man,” a trusted airport or airline employee who had smuggled the fatal cargo aboard. The initial suspect list stretched to 1,200 names.

    Yet even reconstructing what was on board took an eternity: Evidence pointed to a Japanese manufactured Toshiba cassette recorder as the likely delivery device for the bomb, and then, by the end of January, investigators located pieces of the suitcase that had held the bomb. After determining that it was a Samsonite bag, police and the FBI flew to the company’s headquarters in the United States and narrowed the search further: The bag, they found, was a System 4 Silhouette 4000 model, color “antique-copper,” a case and color made for only three years, 1985 to 1988, and sold only in the Middle East. There were a total of 3,500 such suitcases in circulation.

    By late spring, investigators had identified 14 pieces of luggage inside the target cargo container, known as AVE4041; each bore tell-tale signs of the explosion. Through careful retracing of how luggage moved through the London airport, investigators determined that the bags on the container’s bottom row came from passengers transferring in London. The bags on the second and third row of AVE4041 had been the last bags loaded onto the leg of the flight that began in Frankfurt, before the plane took off for London. None of the baggage had been X-rayed or matched with passengers on board.

    The British lab traced clothing fragments from the wreckage that bore signs of the explosion and thus likely originated in the bomb-carrying suitcase. It was an odd mix: Two herring-bone skirts, men’s pajamas, tartan trousers, and so on. The most promising fragment was a blue infant’s onesie that, after fiber analysis, was conclusively determined to have been inside the explosive case, and had a label saying “Malta Trading Company.” In March, two detectives took off for Malta, where the manufacturer told them that 500 such articles of clothing had been made and most sent to Ireland, while the rest went locally to Maltese outlets and others to continental Europe.

    As they dug deeper, they focused on bag B8849, which appeared to have come off Air Malta Flight 180—Malta to Frankfurt—on December 21, even though there was no record of one of that flight’s 47 passengers transferring to Pan Am 103.

    Investigators located the store in Malta where the suspect clothing had been sold; the British inspector later recorded in his statement, “[Store owner] Anthony Gauci interjected and stated that he could recall selling a pair of the checked trousers, size 34, and three pairs of the pajamas to a male person.” The investigators snapped to attention—after nine months did they finally have a suspect in their sights? “[Gauci] informed me that the man had also purchased the following items: one imitation Harris Tweed jacket; one woolen cardigan; one black umbrella; one blue colored ‘Baby Gro’ with a motif described by the witness as a ‘sheep’s face’ on the front; and one pair of gents’ brown herring-bone material trousers, size 36.”

    Game, set, match. Gauci had perfectly described the clothing fragments found by RARDE technicians to contain traces of explosive. The purchase, Gauci went on to explain, stood out in his mind because the customer—whom Gauci tellingly identified as speaking the “Libyan language”—had entered the store on November 23, 1988, and gathered items without seeming to care about the size, gender, or color of any of it.

    As the investigation painstakingly proceeded into 1989 and 1990, Robert Mueller arrived at Main Justice; the final objects of the Lockerbie search wouldn’t be found until the spring of 1990, just months before Mueller took over as assistant attorney general of the criminal division in September.

    The Justice Department that year was undergoing a series of leadership changes; the deputy attorney general, William Barr, became acting attorney general midyear as Richard Thornburgh stepped down to run for Senate back in his native Pennsylvania. President Bush then nominated Barr to take over as attorney general officially. (Earlier this month Barr was nominated by President Trump to become attorney general once again.)

    The bombing soon became one of the top cases on Mueller’s desk. He met regularly with Richard Marquise, the FBI special agent heading Scotbom. For Mueller, the case became personal; he met with victims’ families and toured the Lockerbie crash site and the investigation’s headquarters. He traveled repeatedly to the United Kingdom for meetings and walked the fields of Lockerbie himself. “The Scots just did a phenomenal job with the crime scene,” he told me, years ago.

    Mueller pushed the investigators forward constantly, getting involved in the investigation at a level that a high-ranking Justice Department official almost never does. Marquise turned to him in one meeting, after yet another set of directions, and sighed, “Geez, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you want to be FBI director.”

    The investigation gradually, carefully, zeroed in on Libya. Agents traced a circuit board used in the bomb to a similar device seized in Africa a couple of years earlier used by Libyan intelligence. An FBI-created database of Maltese immigration records even showed that a man using the same alias as one of those Libyan intelligence officers had departed from Malta on October 19, 1988—just two months before the bombing.

    The circuit board also helped makes sense of an important aspect of the bombing: It controlled a timer, meaning that the bomb was not set off by a barometric trigger that registers altitude. This, in turn, explained why the explosive baggage had lain peacefully in the jet’s hold as it took off and landed repeatedly.

    Tiny letters on the suspect timer said “MEBO.” What was MEBO? In the days before Google, searching for something called “Mebo” required going country to country, company to company. There were no shortcuts. The FBI, MI5, and CIA were, after months of work, able to trace MEBO back to a Swiss company, Meister et Bollier, adding a fifth country to the ever-expanding investigative circle.

    From Meister et Bollier, they learned that the company had provided 20 prototype timers to the Libyan government and the company helped ID their contact as a Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, who looked like the sketch of the Maltese clothing shopper. Then, when the FBI looked at its database of Maltese immigration records, they found that Al Megrahi had been present in Malta the day the clothing was purchased.

    Marquise sat down with Robert Mueller and the rest of the prosecutorial team and laid out the latest evidence. Mueller’s orders were clear—he wanted specific suspects and he wanted to bring charges. As he said, “Proceed toward indictment.” Let’s get this case moving.

    IN NOVEMBER 1990, Marquise was placed in charge of all aspects of the investigation and assigned on special duty to the Washington Field Office and moved to a new Scotbom task force. The field offce was located far from the Hoover building, in a run-down neighborhood known by the thoroughly unromantic moniker of Buzzard Point.

    The Scotbom task force had been allotted three tiny windowless rooms with dark wood paneling, which were soon covered floor-to-ceiling with 747 diagrams, crime scene photographs, maps, and other clues. By the door of the office, the team kept two photographs to remind themselves of the stakes: One, a tiny baby shoe recovered from the fields of Lockerbie; the other, a picture of the American flag on the tail of Pan Am 103. This was the first major attack on the US and its civilians. Whoever was responsible couldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

    With representatives from a half-dozen countries—the US, Britain, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, France, and Malta—now sitting around the table, putting together a case that met everyone’s evidentiary standards was difficult. “We talked through everything, and everything was always done to the higher standard,” Marquise says. In the US, for instance, the legal standard for a photo array was six photos; in Scotland, though, it was 12. So every photo array in the investigation had 12 photos to ensure that the IDs could be used in a British court.

    The trail of evidence so far was pretty clear, and it all pointed toward Libya. Yet there was still much work to do prior to an indictment. A solid hunch was one thing. Having evidence that would stand up in court and under cross-examination was something else entirely.

    As the case neared an indictment, the international investigators and prosecutors found themselves focusing at their gatherings on the fine print of their respective legal code and engaging in deep, philosophical-seeming debates: “What does murder mean in your statute? Huh? I know what murder means: I kill you. Well, then you start going through the details and the standards are just a little different. It may entail five factors in one country, three in another. Was Megrahi guilty of murder? Depends on the country.”

    At every meeting, the international team danced around the question of where a prosecution would ultimately take place. “Jurisdiction was an eggshell problem,” Marquise says. “It was always there, but no one wanted to talk about it. It was always the elephant in the room.”

    Mueller tried to deflect the debate for as long as possible, arguing there was more investigation to do first. Eventually, though, he argued forcefully that the case should be tried in the US. “I recognize that Scotland has significant equities which support trial of the case in your country,” he said in one meeting. “However, the primary target of this act of terrorism was the United States. The majority of the victims were Americans, and the Pan American aircraft was targeted precisely because it was of United States registry.”

    After one meeting, where the Scots and Americans debated jurisdiction for more than two hours, the group migrated over to the Peasant, a restaurant near the Justice Department, where, in an attempt to foster good spirits, it paid for the visiting Scots. Mueller and the other American officials each had to pay for their own meals.

    Mueller was getting ready to move forward; the federal grand jury would begin work in early September. Prosecutors and other investigators were already preparing background, readying evidence, and piecing together information like the names and nationalities of all the Lockerbie victims so that they could be included in the forthcoming indictment.

    There had never been any doubt in the US that the Pan Am 103 bombing would be handled as a criminal matter, but the case was still closely monitored by the White House and the National Security Council.

    The Reagan administration had been surprised in February 1988 by the indictment on drug charges of its close ally Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, and a rule of thumb had been developed: Give the White House a heads up anytime you’re going to indict a foreign agent. “If you tag Libya with Pan Am 103, that’s fair to say it’s going to disrupt our relationship with Libya,” Mueller deadpans. So Mueller would head up to the Cabinet Room at the White House, charts and pictures in hand, to explain to President Bush and his team what Justice had in mind.

    To Mueller, the investigation underscored why such complex investigations needed a law enforcement eye. A few months after the attack, he sat through a CIA briefing pointing toward Syria as the culprit behind the attack. “That’s always struck with me as a lesson in the difference between intelligence and evidence. I always try to remember that,” he told me, back when he was FBI director. “It’s a very good object lesson about hasty action based on intelligence. What if we had gone and attacked Syria based on that initial intelligence? Then, after the attack, it came out that Libya had been behind it? What could we have done?”

    Marquise was the last witness for the federal grand jury on Friday, November 8, 1991. Only in the days leading up to that testimony had prosecutors zeroed in on Megrahi and another Libyan officer, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah; as late as the week of the testimony, they had hoped to pursue additional indictments, yet the evidence wasn’t there to get to a conviction.

    Mueller traveled to London to meet with the Peter Fraser, the lord advocate—Scotland’s top prosecutor—and they agreed to announce indictments simultaneously on November 15, 1991. Who got their hands on the suspects first, well, that was a question for later. The joint indictment, Mueller believed, would benefit both countries. “It adds credibility to both our investigations,” he says.

    That coordinated joint, multi-nation statement and indictment would become a model that the US would deploy more regularly in the years to come, as the US and other western nations have tried to coordinate cyber investigations and indictments against hackers from countries like North Korea, Russia, and Iran.

    To make the stunning announcement against Libya, Mueller joined FBI director William Sessions, DC US attorney Jay Stephens, and attorney general William Barr.

    “We charge that two Libyan officials, acting as operatives of the Libyan intelligence agency, along with other co-conspirators, planted and detonated the bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103,” Barr said. “I have just telephoned some of the families of those murdered on Pan Am 103 to inform them and the organizations of the survivors that this indictment has been returned. Their loss has been ever present in our minds.”

    At the same time, in Scotland, investigators there were announcing the same indictments.

    At the press conference, Barr listed a long set of names to thank—the first one he singled out was Mueller’s. Then, he continued, “This investigation is by no means over. It continues unabated. We will not rest until all those responsible are brought to justice. We have no higher priority.”

    From there, the case would drag on for years. ABC News interviewed the two suspects in Libya later that month; both denied any responsibility for the bombing. Marquise was reassigned within six months; the other investigators moved along too.

    Mueller himself left the administration when Bill Clinton became president, spending an unhappy year in private practice before rejoining the Justice Department to work as a junior homicide prosecutor in DC under then US attorney Eric Holder; Mueller, who had led the nation’s entire criminal division was now working side by side with prosecutors just a few years out of law school, the equivalent of a three-star military general retiring and reenlisting as a second lieutenant. Clinton eventually named Mueller the US attorney in San Francisco, the office where he’d worked as a young attorney in the 1970s.

    THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY of the bombing came and went without any justice. Then, in April 1999, prolonged international negotiations led to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi turning over the two suspects; the international economic sanctions imposed on Libya in the wake of the bombing were taking a toll on his country, and the leader wanted to put the incident behind him.

    The final negotiated agreement said that the two men would be tried by a Scottish court, under Scottish law, in The Hague in the Netherlands. Distinct from the international court there, the three-judge Scottish court would ensure that the men faced justice under the laws of the country where their accused crime had been committed.

    Allowing the Scots to move forward meant some concessions by the US. The big one was taking the death penalty, prohibited in Scotland, off the table. Mueller badly wanted the death penalty. Mueller, like many prosecutors and law enforcement officials, is a strong proponent of capital punishment, but he believes it should be reserved for only egregious crimes. “It has to be especially heinous, and you have to be 100 percent sure he’s guilty,” he says. This case met that criteria. “There’s never closure. If there can’t be closure, there should be justice—both for the victims as well as the society at large,” he says.

    An old US military facility, Kamp Van Zeist, was converted to an elaborate jail and courtroom in The Hague, and the Dutch formally surrendered the two Libyans to Scottish police. The trial began in May 2000. For nine months, the court heard testimony from around the world. In what many observers saw as a political verdict, Al Megrahi was found guilty and Fhimah was found not guilty.

    With barely 24 hours notice, Marquise and victim family members raced from the United States to be in the courtroom to hear the verdict. The morning of the verdict in 2001, Mueller was just days into his tenure as acting deputy US attorney general—filling in for the start of the George W. Bush administration in the department’s No. 2 role as attorney general John Ashcroft got himself situated.

    That day, Mueller awoke early and joined with victims’ families and other officials in Washington, who watched the verdict announcement via a satellite hookup. To him, it was a chance for some closure—but the investigation would go on. As he told the media, “The United States remains vigilant in its pursuit to bring to justice any other individuals who may have been involved in the conspiracy to bring down Pan Am Flight 103.”

    The Scotbom case would leave a deep imprint on Mueller; one of his first actions as FBI director was to recruit Kathryn Turman, who had served as the liaison to the Pan Am 103 victim families during the trial, to head the FBI’s Victim Services Division, helping to elevate the role and responsibility of the FBI in dealing with crime victims.

    JUST MONTHS AFTER that 20th anniversary ceremony with Mueller at Arlington National Cemetery, in the summer of 2009, Scotland released a terminally ill Megrahi from prison after a lengthy appeals process, and sent him back to Libya. The decision was made, the Scottish minister of justice reported, on “compassionate grounds.” Few involved on the US side believed the terrorist deserved compassion. Megrahi was greeted as a hero on the tarmac in Libya—rose petals, cheering crowds. The US consensus remained that he should rot in prison.

    The idea that Megrahi could walk out of prison on “compassionate” ground made a mockery of everything that Mueller had dedicated his life to fighting and doing. Amid a series of tepid official condemnations—President Obama labeled it “highly objectionable”—Mueller fired off a letter to Scottish minister Kenny MacAskill that stood out for its raw pain, anger, and deep sorrow.

    “Over the years I have been a prosecutor, and recently as the Director of the FBI, I have made it a practice not to comment on the actions of other prosecutors, since only the prosecutor handling the case has all the facts and the law before him in reaching the appropriate decision,” Mueller began. “Your decision to release Megrahi causes me to abandon that practice in this case. I do so because I am familiar with the facts, and the law, having been the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the investigation and indictment of Megrahi in 1991. And I do so because I am outraged at your decision, blithely defended on the grounds of ‘compassion.’”

    That nine months after the 20th anniversary of the bombing, the only person behind bars for the bombing would walk back onto Libyan soil a free man and be greeted with rose petals left Mueller seething.

    “Your action in releasing Megrahi is as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice. Indeed your action makes a mockery of the rule of law. Your action gives comfort to terrorists around the world,” Mueller wrote. “You could not have spent much time with the families, certainly not as much time as others involved in the investigation and prosecution. You could not have visited the small wooden warehouse where the personal items of those who perished were gathered for identification—the single sneaker belonging to a teenager; the Syracuse sweatshirt never again to be worn by a college student returning home for the holidays; the toys in a suitcase of a businessman looking forward to spending Christmas with his wife and children.”

    For Mueller, walking the fields of Lockerbie had been walking on hallowed ground. The Scottish decision pained him especially deeply, because of the mission and dedication he and his Scottish counterparts had shared 20 years before. “If all civilized nations join together to apply the rules of law to international terrorists, certainly we will be successful in ridding the world of the scourge of terrorism,” he had written in a perhaps too hopeful private note to the Scottish Lord Advocate in 1990.

    Some 20 years later, in an era when counterterrorism would be a massive, multibillion dollar industry and a buzzword for politicians everywhere, Mueller—betrayed—concluded his letter with a decidedly un-Mueller-like plea, shouted plaintively and hopelessly across the Atlantic: “Where, I ask, is the justice?”

    #USA #Libye #impérialisme #terrorisme #histoire #CIA #idéologie #propagande


  • Judge Richard Goldstone suffered for turning his back on Gaza – but not as much as the Palestinians he betrayed | The Independent

    by Robert Fisk

    https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/israel-gaza-war-judge-richard-goldstone-palestinian-conflict-a8709211
    https://static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/thumbnails/image/2010/02/02/00/310761.bin

    When a hero lets you down, the betrayal lasts forever. I’m not alone, I know, when I say that Richard Goldstone was a hero of mine – a most formidable, brilliant and brave judge who finally spoke truth to power in the Middle East. And then recanted like a frightened political prisoner, with protestations of love for the nation whose war crimes he so courageously exposed.

    Now, after years of virtual silence, the man who confronted Israel and Hamas with their unforgivable violence after the 2008-09 Gaza war has found a defender in a little known but eloquent academic. Judge Goldstone, a Jewish South African, was denounced by Israelis and their supporters as “evil” and a “quisling” after he listed the evidence of Israel’s brutality against the Palestinians of Gaza (around 1,300 dead, most of them civilians), and of Hamas’ numerically fewer crimes (13 Israeli dead, three of them civilians, plus a number of Palestinian “informer” executions).
    Professor Daniel Terris, a Brandeis University scholar admired for his work on law and ethics, calls his new book The Trials of Richard Goldstone. Good title, but no cigar. ​

    Terris is eminently fair. Perhaps he is too fair. He treats far too gently the column that Goldstone wrote for the Washington Post, in which the judge effectively undermined the research and conclusions of his own report that he and three others wrote about the Gaza war. The book recalls how Richard Falk, a Princeton law professor and former UN rapporteur on human rights in Gaza and the West Bank, described Goldstone’s retraction as “a personal tragedy for such a distinguished international civil servant”. I think Falk was right.


  • The roundabout revolutions

    The history of these banal, utilitarian instruments of traffic management has become entangled with that of political uprising, #Eyal_Weizman argues in his latest book

    This project started with a photograph. It was one of the most arresting images depicting the May 1980 #Gwangju uprising, recognised now as the first step in the eventual overthrow of the military dictatorship in South Korea. The photograph (above) depicts a large crowd of people occupying a roundabout in the city center. Atop a disused fountain in the middle of the roundabout a few protestors have unfurled a South Korean flag. The roundabout organised the protest in concentric circles, a geometric order that exposed the crowd to itself, helping a political collective in becoming.

    It had an uncanny resonance with events that had just unfolded: in the previous year a series of popular uprisings spread through Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, #Oman, Yemen, Libya, and Syria. These events shared with Gwangju not only the historical circumstances – they too were popular protests against military dictatorships – but, remarkably, an urban-architectural setting: many of them similarly erupted on roundabouts in downtown areas. The history of these roundabouts is entangled with the revolutions that rose from them.

    The photograph of the roundabout—now the symbol of the “liberated republic” – was taken by #Na_Kyung-taek from the roof of the occupied Provincial Hall, looking toward Geumnam-ro, only a few hours before the fall of the “#Gwangju_Republic”. In the early morning hours of the following day, the Gwangju uprising was overwhelmed by military force employing tanks and other armed vehicles. The last stand took place at the roundabout.

    The scene immediately resonates with the well-known photographs of people gathering in #Tahrir_Square in early 2011. Taken from different high-rise buildings around the square, a distinct feature in these images is the traffic circle visible by the way it organises bodies and objects in space. These images became the symbol of the revolution that led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 – an event described by urban historian Nezar AlSayyad as “Cairo’s roundabout revolution”. But the Gwangju photograph also connects to images of other roundabouts that erupted in dissent in fast succession throughout the Middle East. Before Tahrir, as Jonathan Liu noted in his essay Roundabouts and Revolutions, it was the main roundabout in the capital of Tunisia – subsequently renamed Place du 14 Janvier 2011 after the date on which President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was forced to flee the country. Thousands of protesters gathered at the roundabout in Tunis and filled the city’s main boulevard.

    A main roundabout in Bahrain’s capital Manama erupted in protests shortly after the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt. Its central traffic island became the site of popular protests against the government and the first decisive act of military repression: the protests were violently broken up and the roundabout itself destroyed and replaced with a traffic intersection. In solidarity with the Tahrir protests, the roundabouts in the small al-Manara Square in Ramallah and the immense Azadi Square in Tehran also filled with protesters. These events, too, were violently suppressed.

    The roundabouts in Tehran and Ramallah had also been the scenes of previous revolts. In 2009 the Azadi roundabout in Iran’s capital was the site of the main protests of the Green Movement contesting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reelection. Hamid Dabashi, a literature professor at Columbia University and one of the most outspoken public intellectuals on these revolutions, claims that the Green Movement was inspirational for the subsequent revolutionary wave in the Arab world. In Palestine, revolt was a permanent consequence of life under occupation, and the al-Manara roundabout was a frequent site of clashes between Palestinian youth and the Israeli military. The sequence of roundabout revolutions evolved as acts of imitation, each building on its predecessor, each helping propel the next.

    Roundabouts were of course not only exhilarating sites of protest and experiments in popular democracy, but moreover they were places where people gathered and risked their life. The Gwangju uprising is, thus, the first of the roundabout revolutions. Liu wrote: “In all these cases, the symbolism is almost jokingly obvious: what better place to stage a revolution, after all, then one built for turning around?” What better way to show solidarity across national borders than to stage protests in analogous places?

    Why roundabouts? After all, they are banal, utilitarian instruments of traffic management, certainly not prone to induce revolutionary feeling. Other kinds of sites – squares, boulevards, favelas, refugee camps – have served throughout history as the setting for political protest and revolt. Each alignment of a roundabout and a revolution has a specific context and diverse causes, but the curious repetition of this phenomenon might give rise to several speculations. Urban roundabouts are the intersection points of large axes, which also puts them at the start or end of processions.

    Occupying a roundabout demonstrates the power of tactical acupuncture: it blocks off all routes going in and out. Congestion moves outward like a wave, flowing down avenues and streets through large parts of the city. By pressuring a single pivotal point within a networked infrastructure, an entire city can be put under siege (a contemporary contradistinction to the medieval technique of surrounding the entire perimeter of a city wall). Unlike public squares, which are designed as sites for people to gather (therefore not interrupting the flow of vehicular traffic) and are usually monitored and policed, roundabout islands are designed to keep people away. The continuous flow of traffic around them creates a wall of speeding vehicles that prohibits access. While providing open spaces (in some cities the only available open spaces) these islands are meant to be seen but not used.

    Another possible explanation is their symbolic power: they often contain monuments that represent the existing regime. The roundabouts of recent revolutions had emblematic names – Place du 7 Novembre 1987, the date the previous regime took power in Tunisia; “Liberty” (Azadi), referring to the 1979 Iranian Revolution; or “Liberation” (Tahrir), referring to the 1952 revolutions in Egypt. Roundabout islands often had statues, both figurative and abstract, representing the symbolic order of regimes. Leaders might have wished to believe that circular movement around their monuments was akin to a form of worship or consent. While roundabouts exercise a centripetal force, pulling protestors into the city center, the police seek to generate movement in the opposite direction, out and away from the center, and to break a collective into controllable individuals that can be handled and dispersed.

    The most common of all centrifugal forces of urban disorganisation during protests is tear gas, a formless cloud that drifts through space to disperse crowds. From Gwangju to Cairo, Manama to Ramallah, hundreds of tear-gas canisters were used largely exceeding permitted levels in an attempt to evict protesters from public spaces. The bodily sensation of the gas forms part of the affective dimension of the roundabout revolution. When tear gas is inhaled, the pain is abrupt, sharp, and isolating. The eyes shut involuntary, generating a sense of disorientation and disempowerment.

    Protestors have found ways to mitigate the toxic effects of this weapon. Online advice is shared between activists from Palestine through Cairo to Ferguson. The best protection is offered by proper gas masks. Improvised masks made of mineral water bottles cut in half and equipped with a filter of wet towels also work, according to online manuals. Some activists wear swim goggles and place wet bandanas or kaffiyehs over their mouths. To mitigate some of the adverse effects, these improvised filters can be soaked in water, lemon juice, vinegar, toothpaste, or wrapped around an onion. When nothing else is at hand, breathe the air from inside your shirt and run upwind onto higher ground. When you have a chance, blow your nose, rinse your mouth, cough, and spit.


    https://www.iconeye.com/opinion/comment/item/12093-the-roundabout-revolutions
    #révolution #résistance #giratoire #carrefour #rond-point #routes #infrastructure_routière #soulèvement_politique #Corée_du_Sud #printemps_arabe #Egypte #Tunisie #Bahreïni #Yémen #Libye #Syrie #Tahrir

    Du coup : #gilets_jaunes ?

    @albertocampiphoto & @philippe_de_jonckheere

    This project started with a photograph. It was one of the most arresting images depicting the May 1980 #Gwangju uprising, recognised now as the first step in the eventual overthrow of the military dictatorship in South Korea. The photograph (above) depicts a large crowd of people occupying a roundabout in the city center. Atop a disused fountain in the middle of the roundabout a few protestors have unfurled a South Korean flag. The roundabout organised the protest in concentric circles, a geometric order that exposed the crowd to itself, helping a political collective in becoming.

    –-> le pouvoir d’une #photographie...

    signalé par @isskein

    ping @reka


  • American Exceptionalism Is a Dangerous Myth
    http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/01/american-exceptionalism-is-a-dangerous-myth.html

    Having a global hegemon that preaches human rights — while propping up dictators and incinerating schoolchildren — is bad. But having one that does those things while preaching nihilism is worse; not least because even a nominal commitment to liberal values can function as a constraint against their violation. Trump’s distaste for the whole “shining city on a hill” shtick has, among other things, enabled the Pentagon to tolerate higher levels of civilian casualties in the Middle East, the Israeli government to accelerate settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, and the Saudi crown prince to take a bonesaw to international law.

    #etats-unis


  • The U.S. put a Yemeni warlord on a terrorist list. One of its close allies is still arming him. - The Washington Post
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/the-us-put-a-yemeni-warlord-on-a-terrorist-list-one-of-its-close-allies-is-still-arming-him/2018/12/28/f3c4fb5b-f366-4570-b27b-75a3ed0f0f52_story.html

    TAIZ, Yemen — In 2017, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on a powerful Yemeni Islamist warlord, accusing him of being a “prominent military instructor” and fundraiser for #al-Qaeda who had also at one point “served with” the Islamic State and financed its forces.

    But Abu al-Abbas is not on the run. He is not even in hiding.

    By his own admission, Abbas continues to receive millions of dollars in weapons and financial support for his fighters from one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies, the United Arab Emirates [..]

    #émirats_arabes_unis#modérés#etats-unis


  • In Russia, 2018 Ends You – Foreign Policy
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/12/27/in-russia-2018-ends-you

    2018: THE YEAR IN REVIEW
    In Russia, 2018 Ends You
    Five Reads: The best Foreign Policy stories to help make sense of Russia′s role in the world in 2018.

    1. Inside a European Center to Combat Russia’s Hybrid Warfare - 18/01/18
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/01/18/inside-a-european-center-to-combat-russias-hybrid-warfare

    2. Russia Is in the Middle East to Stay -16/03/18
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/03/16/the-middle-east-needs-a-steady-boyfriend

    3. In Russia, Plan to Raise Pension Age Draws Protests - 01/07/18
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/07/01/in-russia-plan-to-raise-pension-age-draws-protests

    4. Russia Is 4chan, China Is Facebook - 10/10/18
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/10/10/russia-is-4chan-china-is-facebook

    5. How Do You Say ‘Fake News’ in Russian? - 01/11/18
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/11/01/how-do-you-say-fake-news-in-russian-russia-media


  • Battle brews between French and ultra-Orthodox over Jerusalem archaeology site

    Ultra-Orthodox demands to pray at the Tomb of the Kings – the grandest burial compound in Jerusalem – have kindled fears among the French of an Israeli land grab under their flag in East Jerusalem

    Nir Hasson SendSend me email alerts
    Dec 21, 2018

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-france-orthodox-jews-archaeologists-battle-over-e-j-lem-s-tomb-of-

    In recent weeks, a small group of ultra-Orthodox Jews has been gathering alongside a locked iron gate on Nablus Road in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. They pray and protest alongside the shuttered gate, periodically squabbling with the Palestinian guard, demanding to be allowed inside to pray. The guard refuses, and refers them to the body that owns and administers the site – the French Consulate of Jerusalem.
    These protests are yet another round in a long-standing historic struggle over control of one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in Jerusalem, which has been closed to the public for years. On the one side stands the government of France and on the other, Haredi and right-wing Israeli factions. Israel’s Antiquities Authority is in favor of opening the site to the public, but does share the French concerns that the site might befall the same fate of many other archaeological sites in the city, which were transformed from mere archaeology and tourism sites into holy sites and then appropriated from the public’s domain.
    To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz
    The Tomb of the Kings, situated between the Jerusalem District Court and the American Colony Hotel, is considered the grandest burial compound in Jerusalem. The site includes a sophisticated burial cave that has a mechanism for sealing the entrance by means of a stone that rotates on a hinge. It includes a mammoth courtyard carved into the bedrock, a staircase carved into the bedrock that is the second largest in Jerusalem – the only one larger is on the Temple Mount – stone-inscribed ornamentation, an ancient mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) and cisterns.
    The site has been dated to the Second Temple period, and there are various traditions and theories regarding who is actually buried there. According to one tradition, it was the place of burial of Kalba Savua, the father-in-law of Rabbi Akiva, or of Nicodemus ben Guryon – two of the wealthier residents of Jerusalem at the start of the 1st millennium CE.
    The historian Josephus Flavius wrote that this was the burial place of Queen Helena of Adiabene, who converted to Judaism around the year 30 C.E., and some of the site’s investigators say it is reasonable to believe that this is indeed her tomb. An ornamented sarcophagus found here was inscribed with the legend, “Tzadan Malkata,” which is believed to refer to Queen (Malka) Helena. This reinforces the notion that buried on this site were other members of her royal family. The site gained fame in the late 19th century, and among its visitors were the German Kaiser Wilhelm II and Theodore Herzl.

    The Tomb of Kings site in Jerusalem, December, 2018. Emil Salman

    The Tomb of Kings site in Jerusalem, December, 2018. Emil Salman

    The Tomb of Kings site in Jerusalem, December, 2018. Emil Salman
    The Tomb of the Kings is interwoven into the history of archaeology in Israel. The excavation conducted by Félicien de Saulcy in 1863 is considered the first modern archaeological dig in the country. It is also the first excavation to receive a digging permit from the Turkish sultan.
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    Pressure worked

    The Tomb of Kings archaeological site in Jerusalem, December, 2018. Emil Salman
    But along with modern archaeology, the protest against it was also born here. “This was the first official archaeological excavation, and also the first time in which the Jews of Jerusalem rose up against the excavation of ancestral graves,” writes a scholar who has studied the site, Dr. Dotan Goren.
    In the wake of the Orthodox Jews’ public protests in the city and pressure from the Jews on the sultan, those excavations were suspended. To the dismay of the city’s Jews, de Saulcy managed to load the queen’s sarcophagus onto a ship anchored in Jaffa port, and it is to this day displayed at the Louvre Museum. Several years ago, it appeared as part of a temporary exhibition in the Israel Museum.
    The basis for the current demand by religious and Haredi circles that the Jews ought to be granted rights over the site has to do with events that occurred following the excavation. In 1878, a woman named Berta Amalia Bertrand, a French Jew who was related to the Pereire brothers, a famous Jewish banking family, purchased the burial compound from its Arab owners. At the time of the purchase, Bertrand dedicated the site in the presence of the chief rabbi of Paris, declaring that it “will become the land in perpetuity of the Jewish community, to be preserved from desecration and abomination, and will never again be damaged by foreigners..”

    The Tomb of Kings site in Jerusalem, December, 2018. Emil Salman
    Eight years later, however, one of Bertrand’s heirs granted the site as a gift to the government of France. At the time of the conferral of the gift, an agreement was signed between the French government and the family, under which France committed to meet several conditions. One was to erect a sign in Hebrew, French and Arabic saying that these are the Tombs of the Kings of Judah. The large sign, made of copper, can still be found set into the wall of the building.
    A few testimonies describe how the site served for prayer and pilgrimage, although it is altogether clear that it was secondary in importance to the neighboring holy site, the cave of Shimon Hatzadik. But in any event, following the battles of 1948, the site was left behind the enemy lines, within the territory of the Jordanian kingdom. “This site was forgotten or made to be forgotten, and there was no one to tell about it,” says Goren.

    An inscription at the Tomb of Kings in Jerusalem, December, 2018. Emil Salman
    Following 1967’s Six-Day War, the site continued to be administered by the French consulate in Jerusalem. Most of the time, it was open to visitors, for a token entry fee. Ten years ago the consulate held a concert there, together with the Palestinian cultural organization Yabous, which advocates a boycott of Israel.
    Apparently that is what has sparked a renewed interest in the site. In 2014, the rabbinical court for “hekdesh” (sacred property) affairs appointed Yitzhak Mamo and Yaakov Saltzman as emissaries of the court in the matter of the Tomb of the Kings sacred property. Mamo is a well-known right-wing activist in East Jerusalem who for years has been engaged in the evacuation of Palestinian families and the resettlement of Jews in Sheikh Jarrah. In 2015, the two men filed a suit in the rabbinical court against the government of France, with a plea to gain possession of the site.
    The lawsuit sparked outrage in Paris and in the French consulate in Jerusalem, as well as in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A letter sent to the court by David Goldfarb of the ministry’s legal department stated that according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, to which Israel is a signatory, consulate employees are not subject to the rulings of a rabbinical court. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also wishes to inform the honorable court that in response to bringing the lawsuit in this case, our office has received a sharply worded letter from the government of France,” Goldfarb wrote.
    The Israeli attorney general also sided with the French, and in a legal opinion submitted to the court, he argued that it was not at all clear that the site can be considered a hekdesh, since the hekdesh was created by the chief rabbi of Paris and not by the Sharia court in Jerusalem, which had been entrusted with the authority to rule on sacred property issues in the city during the period of Ottoman rule. In the wake of these developments, the religious court in Jerusalem rejected the suit.

    FILE Photo: The Tomb of Kings site in Jerusalem. American Colony

    FILE Photo: The Tomb of Kings site in Jerusalem. American Colony
    The French subsequently announced the closure of the site for renovations. In recent years, there has been practically no opportunity to visit the site. According to parties involved in the matter, the French consulate has invested about 900,000 euros (about $790,000) in a renovation that included construction of a steel apparatus to reinforce the central structure in the event of earthquake, construction of a new stairway, and preservation work.
    In September 2018, the consulate informed the Israeli Foreign Ministry that the work had been completed and that it was now possible to reopen the site. However, the French imposed two conditions: one, that Israel officially recognize French ownership of the site, and two, that they be assured no new lawsuits would be brought against them. Foreign Ministry officials have reported that discussions on the matter are now underway. In the meantime, the place remains closed and the protests have begun again.
    This time around, it was a group of Haredim led by Rabbi Zalman Grossman of Jerusalem that began to arrive on site twice a week and protest its closure by means of prayers and demonstrations. The protest has gained the support of the rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy sites, Shmuel Rabinovich, and of the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, Shlomo Amar, as well as the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
    The demonstrations and the demands to be able to pray on the site have kindled fears among the French that if the site is reopened, it will take on a religious nature and essentially become an Israeli land grab under the French flag in East Jerusalem. As far as France is concerned, this would engender serious political complications with the Palestinians.
    The concerns of the French in this matter are shared by the Antiquities Authority’s Jerusalem district archaeologist, Dr. Yuval Baruch. “There is a trend of archaeological sites taking on a status of holiness, and the problem is if and when that happens, archaeology always loses out,” says Baruch.
    He is concerned about other sites, mainly in the Old City, archaeological-tourism sites that have in the past few years been converted into religious sites, where visitors not coming for ritual purposes do not always feel welcome.
    The phenomenon, incidentally, is not exclusive to Orthodox Jews. This has happened, for instance, in a large section of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park-Davidson Center, south of the Western Wall, which has been turned into the “Ezrat Israel,” a prayer section earmarked for the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism. It is happening on the Hulda steps that ascend to the Temple Mount from the south, which have become a popular prayer site among evangelical Christians. The evangelicals have also adopted the Siloam Pool in Silwan. The plaza just outside Tanner’s Gate, not far from the Western Wall, has become the province of bar mitzvah organizers, and the archaeological site at Nebi Samuel in northern Jerusalem has become a site for prayer and pilgrimage.
    “When all is said and done, there is freedom of religion and the authorities have no ability to control it, but there has to be some regulation,” says Baruch. d”As excavations in Jerusalem continue to proliferate, the more assured it is that there will be continued attempts by religious bodies, and this can be Orthodox, Conservative or Reform rabbis, or evangelicals, it matters not who, to try and take them over. The appeal of sites whose character is becoming more emphatically religious will change. I appeal to the rabbinical establishment and to the leadership of the Christian communities to show more responsibility and greater recognition of the importance of the archaeological values, as well.”
    The official response from the office of the rabbi of the Western Wall in regard to the Tomb of the Kings: “In truth, the site is a holy place for Jews. To that end, the rabbi is acting with all due sensitivity in order that the site also provide free access for Jewish prayer and that its character and its holiness be preserved.”

    Nir Hasson
    Haaretz Correspondent


  • Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’ | Science | AAAS
    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/why-536-was-worst-year-be-alive

    536. In Europe, “It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year,” says McCormick, a historian and archaeologist who chairs the Harvard University Initiative for the Science of the Human Past.

    A mysterious fog plunged Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Asia into darkness, day and night—for 18 months. “For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year,” wrote Byzantine historian Procopius. Temperatures in the summer of 536 fell 1.5°C to 2.5°C, initiating the coldest decade in the past 2300 years. Snow fell that summer in China; crops failed; people starved.

    Wow.


  • In starkest warning yet, EU states say Trump’s Mideast peace plan risks ’being condemned to failure’

    Eight EU member states say ahead of the plan’s publication that any proposal must take into account ’internationally agreed parameters’ – namely, a two-state solution

    Noa Landau SendSend me email alerts
    Dec 19, 2018 6

    https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/.premium-eu-states-warn-trump-s-mideast-plan-risks-being-condemned-to-failu

    Eight European Union member states issued on Tuesday their starkest warning ahead of the publication of U.S. President Donald Trump’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan.

    The joint statement by France, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany and Italy follows a United Nations Security Council session on the situation in the region during which outgoing U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley praised the “thoughtful” plan.
    The EU states, all members of the Security Council, warned that any peace plan that would disregard “internationally agreed parameters,” namely a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, “would risk being condemned to failure.”

    >> Netanyahu is risking Israel’s interests by riding the European nationalist tiger | Analysis ■ U.S. evangelicals out their faith in Netanyahu as Trump readies Mideast peace plan
    They also reiterated “the EU’s strong continued commitment to the internationally agreed parameters for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East based on international law, relevant UN resolutions and previous agreements.”
    The statement went on to read: “The EU is truly convinced that the achievement of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as the capital of both States, that meets Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, ends the occupation and resolves all final status issues, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2334 and previous agreements, is the only viable and realistic way to end the conflict and to achieve just and lasting peace.”
    The member states added that the EU “will continue to work towards that end with both parties, and its regional and international partners”, and called for restring “a political horizon” on this issue.
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    Nikki Haley said earlier Tuesday that the proposed U.S. plan to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians “brings new elements to the discussion, taking advantage of the new world of technology that we live in.” However, she gave no details of what was in the plan.


  • USA trekker seg ut, Russland rykker inn – NRK Urix – Utenriksnyheter og -dokumentarer

    https://www.nrk.no/urix/usa-trekker-seg-ut_-russland-rykker-inn-1.14342752

    Alors que les États-unis semblent réduire peu à peu leur présence en Afrique, la Russie a signé des accords de coopération militaire avec au moins la moitié des pays africains.

    USA trekker seg ut, Russland rykker inn

    Afrika består av 54 selvstendige stater. Russland har i løpet av de fire siste årene inngått et militært samarbeid med over halvparten av dem.
    Russiske og egyptiske spesialstyrker under en øvelse i Egypt i august 2018.

    Det handler om å lære moderne krigføring. Hvordan nedkjempe og utslette militsgrupper som ikke følger vanlige regler som gjelder for krigføring ?

    I tillegg trekker supermakten USA seg ut av Afrika. Mange av landene på det afrikanske kontinentet ser seg om etter en ny samarbeidspartner og militær støttespiller.

    –---------

    U.S. Prepares to Reduce Troops and Shed Missions in Africa - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/01/world/africa/us-withdraw-troops-africa.html

    STUTTGART, Germany — Hundreds of American troops in Africa would be reassigned and the number of Special Operations missions on the continent would be wound down under plans submitted by a top military commander, a response to the Trump administration’s strategy to increasingly focus on threats from China and Russia.

    Defense Department officials said they expected most of the troop cuts and scaled-back missions to come from Central and West Africa, where Special Operations missions have focused on training African militaries to combat the growing threat from extremist Islamist militant groups.

    The plan by Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the leader of United States Africa Command, follows an ambush in Niger last fall that killed four American soldiers and an attack in southwestern Somalia that killed another in June.

    In an interview with The New York Times, General Waldhauser said his plan would help streamline the military’s ability to combat threats around the world — but not retreat from Africa.

    –-----

    Russia to increase military presence in Central African Republic | Central African Republic News | Al Jazeera
    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/11/russia-increase-military-presence-central-african-republic-18111909031651
    /mritems/images/2018/11/19/665003303001_5968862195001_5968848897001-th.jpg

    Russia to increase military presence in Central African Republic

    With an arms embargo in place on the Central African Republic, Russia is ready to send military trainers to the country.

    #afrique #russie #états-unis #armement #présence_militaire


  • Shamoon malware destroys data at Italian oil and gas company
    https://www.zdnet.com/article/shamoon-malware-destroys-data-at-italian-oil-and-gas-company

    A new variant of the Shamoon malware was discovered on the network of Italian oil and gas contractor Saipem, where it destroyed files on about ten percent of the company’s PC fleet, ZDNet has learned. The vast majority of the affected systems were located in the Middle East, where Saipem does a vast majority of its business, but infections were also reported in India, Italy, and Scotland. Shamoon is one of the most dangerous strains of malware known to date. It was first deployed in two (...)

    #Saipem #Aramco #malware #Shamoon #hacking