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A History of War: Israel, Syria and the Golan Heights

by Gjermund E Jansen Tue Jan 30th, 2007 at 07:34:36 PM EST

Map of the Golan Heights
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on the 16 of January that a secret understanding had been reached between Syria and Israel on the future of the Golan Heights.

According to the Israeli newspaper the negotiations between the two countries had taken place under strict confidentiality between 2004 and 2006 on an unknown location somewhere in Europe with the knowledge of senior officials in the government of former prime minister Ariel Sharon.

In a statement the Israeli Prime minister Ehud Olmert
categorically denied that Israeli diplomats had held secret talks and reached agreements with Syrian representatives during former prime minister Ariel Sharon's term in office, saying that such talks "never existed."
Olmert continued by saying that he, serving as a deputy PM under Sharon, had no knowledge of such talks and neither did any other cabinet minister, calling the Haaretz report:
"a private initiative of someone speaking to himself," adding that it was "not serious and not dignified, and there is no need to waste words on what has been said until now."

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The Death of a Dictator and his Authoritarian Legacy

by Gjermund E Jansen Tue Dec 12th, 2006 at 04:28:30 PM EST

Augusto Pinochet
On Sunday the 91 year old Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet died of heart complications at the Santiago Military hospital.  The death of Pinochet closes a chapter in Chile's history that involves the deposing of a legally elected government and the introduction of one of the most ruthless dictatorships South-America has experienced.

Augusto Pinochet was born in the Chilean city of Valparaiso in 1915.  After ending primary and secondary school at the San Rafael Seminary of Valparaíso he joined the Military School in 1933 starting a military career that allegedly was pushed on him by his mother and even encouraged further by his ambitious spouse Lucia.  

The young Pinochet rose through the officer corps in an army based on Prussian traditions of discipline and loyalty to the constitution, but as early as the 1950s he was involved in political struggles, as he headed the clampdown on the Chilean Communist party.

Paradoxically though, it was for his apparent lack of political ambition that he advanced to the rank of general under the left-wing Popular Unity government led by Salvador Allende in the early 1970s, a career that was finally crowned by Pinochet's appointment to Army Commander in Chief on August 23, 1973.

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Alleged military coup in progress in Thailand (UPDATE)

by Gjermund E Jansen Fri Sep 22nd, 2006 at 07:16:49 AM EST

Map of Thailand
It is rumoured that as much as 10 tanks have moved in on the governmental building in Bangkok in what is believed to be a military coup unfolding.  It is said that at least 20-50 soldiers have entered the building and demanded that the police guards inside lay down their arms.  

In an effort to quell the coup in its infancy, the Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, attending a United Nations summit in New York at the moment, sacked the Thai military commander, Lieutenant General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, and ordered troops not to "move illegally".  He urged the armed forces chiefs to report to acting Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya while declaring a state of emergency, but the message seemed to have been cut off according to the online news site China view.  

The soldiers that stormed the government building, said to be loyal to the deposed military commander, have at the moment occupied the Prime Ministers office and according to a recent statement on Thai television The Thai armed forces and national police chiefs have set up a commission to decide on political reforms.

UPDATE Below the fold

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Violence in the wake of the cartoon controversy UPDATE

by Gjermund E Jansen Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 11:09:20 PM EST

The cartoon controversy took a rather nasty turn today when a demonstration in the Syrian capital Damascus, was hijacked by a violent mob.  It all started when the mob broke a rather meagre police barrier and turned on the Danish and Norwegian embassies putting them ablaze.


Burning Norwegian
embassy in Damascus

Thousands of Syrian demonstrators stormed the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus today, setting fire to both buildings in protest against caricatures of Islam's prophet.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators who had moved on to the Norwegian embassy after setting fire to the Danish embassy, about six kilometres (four miles) away. But the protesters broke through police barriers and set fire to the building, shouting "Allahu Akbar"

A Norwegian news agency quoted an unnamed embassy employee as saying no Norwegians were inside the building at the time.

Protesters then moved toward the French embassy, some nine kilometres (six miles) away.

"With our blood and souls we defend you, O Prophet of God," they chanted.

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The Middle East and a nuclear equipped Iran

by Gjermund E Jansen Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 06:14:38 AM EST

As the climate between Iran and the West reaches a new freezing point, the climate between Iran and some of its neighbours seems to sour too.  Last Friday, Iran slashed its gas supplies to Turkey by an overwhelming 70 per cent in an act that can only be described as hostile.  The ordeal is believed to be a calculated move by the Iranians aimed at warning the Turks over the consequences of supporting a possible military strike against the country.  The Turks, on the other hand, have been, until recently, holding a low key in the dispute between Iran and the E3 and the US over nuclear research.  In fact as of mid-November last year, the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said:

"Turkey supports Iran's use of nuclear power for peaceful means. However, the Iranian leadership must openly show its goodwill and convince the international community," when addressing a parliamentary committee during a review of his ministry's budget.  But at the same time he expressed concern over the harsh rhetoric used by the Iranian leadership.

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

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Orhan Pamuk to stand trial for denigrating Turkish identity

by Gjermund E Jansen Wed Dec 14th, 2005 at 08:48:51 AM EST

from the diaries. Important freedom of speech discussion. -- Jérôme

This story began in February 2004, when the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk in an interview published in a Swiss newspaper stated that "a million Armenians and thirty thousand Kurds had been killed in Turkey", and that saying this publicly was taboo and even punishable by law.  Now, Pamuk is not the first to stand trial for "denigrating Turkish identity". The Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was tried in the same court for the same offence, under Article 301 of the same statute, and was found guilty, but according to The New Yorker, Pamuk remains "optimistic" before the trial starting on Friday, 16. December.

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Norwegian subs used in the ''War on Terror'' campaign

by Gjermund E Jansen Fri Nov 11th, 2005 at 11:50:07 AM EST

According to the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet (in Norwegian)the Norwegian Navy has been using some of its submarines on intelligence missions in the Mediterranean Sea.  The mission was conducted in 2003 and was part of a NATO-operation called Active Endeavour.  

The mission was at the time secret and the order was to follow and observe certain ships operating illegally from inside the Mediterranean.  The goal was to monitor traffic in and out of the Mediterranean in order to expose illegal activity in collusion with terrorist activities.  The Norwegian subs were part of a bigger intelligence and security operation aimed at uncovering and terrorist transport networks operating at sea from ports in the Mediterranean.  

In the aftermath of this NATO-led operation, political parties opposed to the War on Terror campaign, raised questions in the Norwegian parliament over whether these subs could be counted as partakers in the Iraqi war, but the government and the majority of delegates in the Parliament dismissed these allegations and emphasized that the operations started in 2001, long before the Iraq War, and that they were an extension of the ongoing NATO-operations in Afghanistan.

This article is also available at Bitsofnews.com.

Comments >> (11 comments)

Convictions of al-Qaeda members in Spain

by Gjermund E Jansen Tue Sep 27th, 2005 at 12:23:32 AM EST

Almost four years to the day after the 9/11 disaster Spain convicted 19 out of 21 al-Qaeda suspects to jail.  The sentences ranged from 27 years for Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, the alleged leader of the al-Qaeda cell, to 7 years for Tayseer Alouni, an al-Jazzera journalist accused of aiding the cell as a courier.

Yarkas and two other al-Qaida suspects were charged with the specific offence of helping to plot the 2001 attacks. Judges in Madrid today acquitted the two other men of charges relating to the September 11 attacks, although one of them was found guilty of collaborating with a terrorist organisation.

The cell Leader Yarkas, a father of six, was found guilty of overseeing a cell that provided logistical cover for the September 11 plotters, including Mohamed Atta, who is believed to have piloted one of the two hijacked planes that destroyed the World Trade Centre in New York.

The trial, which involves 21 other suspected cell members, mostly Muslims of Syrian or Moroccan origin, is Europe's biggest of suspected al-Qaida members. The defendants are accused of terrorism, possessing illegal weapons and other offences. All have denied the charges.

A panel of three judges has heard evidence from more than 100 witnesses during the two-and-a-half month trial, which has taken place at a high-security courtroom on the outskirts of Madrid.

Al-Qaeda was spawned out of an afghan resistance movement called,Maktab al-Khadamat (MAK), allegedly founded in 1984 by Osama bin Laden and a Palestinian known as Dr. Abdullah Yusuf Azzam or the "Godfather of Jihad".  The initial idea was to recruit and train Mujahedin fighters to fight in the Jihad against the Soviet aggressors in Afghanistan.

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Basque ETA: negotiating a ceasefire ?

by Gjermund E Jansen Wed Sep 14th, 2005 at 09:02:30 AM EST

This would be a significant development - from the diaries (with minor edits) ~ whataboutbob

The armed Basque separatist group ETA is expected to call a ceasefire within three months after secret, indirect negotiations with the Spanish government, according to the Guardian Unlimited.

The newspaper El Mundo quoted unnamed sources as saying that a date for a ceasefire was "practically fixed" and only a change of heart by ETA would prevent a deal.

ETA or Euskadi Ta Askatasuna in Basque, was founded by students in 1953 and started originally as a political discussion group in the Basque city of Bilbao advocating Basque culture in an effort to boost Basque patriotism and awareness in direct opposition to Franco's National centralist policy.  Franco's violent response to the Basque plea for cultural independence and political autonomy led to the creation of ETA in 1959 and the abolishing of their non-violent doctrine.  

During the Franco years, and after ETA carried out a number of violent attacks against government and civilians alike, resulting in hundreds of casualties, the most devastating  being the period between 1978-80 with a total of 235 fatalities.

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Red-green coalition wins the Norwegian election

by Gjermund E Jansen Tue Sep 13th, 2005 at 02:32:40 AM EST

From the diaries (with minor edits) ~ whataboutbob

The wind of election seems to blow over Europe this year and on Monday the 12th of September it reached Norway just a week before the grand finale in Germany.  The results from the Norwegian election so far, when 91 percent of the ballots had been counted, seems to signal a changing of the guard from the centre-right government led by Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik of the Christian Peoples Party, to a new red-green government led by the Labour party leader Jens Stoltenberg.  The two victors of the parliamentary election were the Labour Party which ended up with 32.6 percent of the votes and 62 parliamentary representatives and the far right Progress Party with 22.1 percent of the total votes and 37 parliamentary representatives out of a total 169 of representatives in the Norwegian parliament.  

The first polls turned out very well in favour of the new red-green coalition, but as the election campaign progressed the centre-right government slammed the red-green opposition and labelled it a political experiment with no hope of survival.  At the very end of the campaign the centre-right government gained support and the election seemed to end up in a tie with no clear outcome.  It was not before the poll stations closed at eight o'clock on Monday that the political commentators could sense in which direction the political winds would blow ending up in a preliminary 88 to 81 in parliamentary seats in favour of the red-green coalition.  

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