• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 8 juli 2017

U.S. Killing and Robbing

US COMPANY CONVICTED OF SMUGGLING AND SELLING ANCIENT IRAQI ARTIFACTS

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US Company Convicted of Smuggling and Selling Ancient Iraqi Artifacts
http://www.arkansasonline.com
The US Public Prosecution announced that it has condemned the Hobby Lobby corporation for smuggling priceless ancient Iraqi artifacts to the United States.
According to a report in the Washington Post, the number of ancient artifacts smuggled in 2010 is about 5000 pieces worth more than 1.5 million dollars. The pieces included sculptures, coins, and historical mudstones.
According to the US Department of Justice, the company agreed to buy the pieces, despite the existence of major problems relating to the way the items are shipped and described in the shipping documents, and the smuggling was carried out across the UAE and Israel. Hobby Lobby will hand over all the pieces to the US authorities and pay a 3 dollars million fine. The United States will return the ancient artifacts to the Iraqi government.
Hobby Lobby Chairman Steve Green said that the company had to do more control procedures on such deals, and it didn’t appreciate the complexity of the acquisition of ancient artifacts at that time. He also said that his company cooperated with the authorities and that what happened was a mistake. However, the US authorities confirmed from its side that an expert hired by Hobby Lobby in October 2010 had warned the company that the ancient artifacts are probably from Iraq and they may have been looted from archaeological sites there but it seems that the company ignored the warning.

John Helmer about Russia

By John Helmer, Moscow
If your enemy is waging economic war on you, it’s prudent to camouflage how well your farms and factories are doing. Better the attacker thinks you’re on your last legs, and are too exhausted to fight back.  A new report on the Russian economy, published by Jon Hellevig, reveals the folly in the enemy’s calculation.  
Who is the audience for this message? US and NATO warfighters against Russia can summon up more will if they think Russia is in retreat than if they must calculate the cost in their own blood and treasure if the Russians strike back.  That’s Russian policy on the Syrian front, where professional soldiers are in charge.   On the home front, where the civilians call the shots,  Hellevig’s message looks like an encouragement for fight-back – the economic policymaker’s equivalent of a no-fly zone for the US and European Union.  It’s also a challenge to the Kremlin policy of appeasement.
Hellevig (right), a Finnish lawyer and investment analyst,  has been directing businesses in Russia since 1992. His Moscow-based consultancy Awara has published its assessment of Russian economic performance since 2014 with the title, “What Does Not Kill You Makes You Stronger.” The maxim was first coined by the `19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He said it in a pep talk for himself. Subsequent readers think of the maxim as an irony.  Knowing now what Nietzsche knew about his own prognosis but kept secret at the time,  he did too.
Hellevig’s report can be read in full here
The headline findings aren’t news to the Kremlin. It has been regularly making the claims at President Vladimir Putin’s semi-annual national talk shows;  at businessmen’s conventions like the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF);  and in Kremlin-funded propaganda -– lowbrow  outlets like Russia Today and  Sputnik News, and the highbrow Valdai Club. A charter for a brand-new outlet for the claims, the Russian National Convention Bureau, was agreed at the St. Petersburg forum last month. Government promotion of reciprocal trade and inward investment isn’t exceptional for Russia; it is normal practice  throughout the world.
The argument of the Hellevig report is that the US and NATO campaign against Russia has failed to do the damage it was aimed to do, and that their propaganda outlets, media and think-tanks are lying to conceal the failure. Small percentage numbers for the decline in Russian GDP and related measures are summed up by Hellevig as “belt-tightening, not much more”.  Logically and arithmetically, similarly small numbers in the measurement of the Russian recovery this year ought to mean “belt expanding, not much more.” But like Nietzsche, Hellevig is more optimistic. Here’s what he concludes:
  • “Industrial Production was down merely 0.6%. A handsome recovery is already on its way with an expected growth of 3 to 4% in 2017. In May the industrial production already soared by a promising 5.3%.”
  • “Unemployment remained stable all through 2014 – 2016, the hoped-for effect of sanctions causing mass unemployment and social chaos failed to materialize.”
  • “GDP was down 2.3% in 2014-2016, expected to more than make up for that in 2017 with 2-3% predicted growth.”
  • “The really devastating news for ‘our Western partners’ (as Putin likes to refer to them) must be – which we are the first to report – the extraordinary decrease in the share of oil & gas revenue in Russia’s GDP.”
  • “In the years of sanctions, Russia has grown to become an agricultural superpower with the world’s largest wheat exports. Already in the time of the Czars Russia was a big grain exporter, but that was often accompanied with domestic famine. Stalin financed Russia’s industrialization to a large extent by grain exports, but hereby also creating domestic shortages and famine. It is then the first time in Russia’s history when it is under Putin a major grain exporter while ensuring domestic abundance. Russia has made an overall remarkable turnaround in food production and is now virtually self-sufficient.”
  • “Russia has the lowest level of imports (as a share of the GDP) of all major countries… Russia’s very low levels of imports in the global comparison obviously signifies that Russia produces domestically a much higher share of all that it consumes (and invests), this in turn means that the economy is superbly diversified contrary to the claims of the failed experts and policymakers. In fact, it is the most self-sufficient and diversified economy in the world. Our argument that Russia’s economy is the most diversified in the world is easily proven by World Bank statistics on the share of imports of goods and services as a percentage of the GDP. This is illustrated by Chart 17, which compares the levels of import of Russia with a sample of countries.” Hellevig also urges using his purchasing power parity measure (PPP) of real output and goods flows rather than a nominal measure based on devalued currency exchange rates.   
  • “We predict Russia to push through the 4 trillion level in 2017 and overtake Germany by 2018 to become the world’s fifth biggest economy.”

David Low’s cartoon in the London Evening Standard of October 31, 1939, two months after the Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact was signed, and after Poland was invaded. Germany is now tied by the US and NATO to the Ukraine, and the guns are drawn openly. Not even guarded rapprochement between Germany and Russia is possible; there is no significant political support for it among German voters. 
Hellevig’s point deserves repeating — the Russian economy is far more diversified than the enemy thinks. Naturally, that makes Russian targets less vulnerable, but doesn’t deter the enemy from intensifying his attack.  The enemy isn’t as simple-minded as his own propaganda sounds.
A glance at the way in which the Moscow stock exchange index (MICEX) has been moving in relation to the movement of the Brent marker price for crude oil illustrates how the markets, Russian and international,  think. The chart shows positive sentiment for the future of the Russian economy cut its tie to the value of exported energy between November of 2014 and January 2015. Since then the market assessment looks like it has been more aligned with Hellevig than with Washington.
RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET VALUE CROSSED OVER THE OIL EXPORT PRICE AT THE END OF 2014

Key: yellow=MICEX index; blue=Brent oil price. Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/quote/INDEXCF:IND
That’s not what the chart lines mean, according to major institutional investors.  They believe the crossover occurred when Donald Trump won the presidential election on November 8; the gap between share price and oil price opened on market optimism that he would order the lifting of  sanctions and other warfare measures.  Once Trump took the oath of office on January 20, and the oil price started to rise, the lines converged.

Key: yellow=MICEX index; blue=Brent oil price. Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/quote/INDEXCF:IND
Hellevig warns against illusions.  “Russia must understand that the Russia containment strategy of the West will be there for years to come, and will only disappear the day when they gather the courage to understand that Russia has overcome. Therefore, Russia must root all its economic strategy and development efforts in a firm understanding of this reality, and never to count on West in anything. Russia must, focus on China, the East, and the rest of the world.”
In war, feats of courage, while awarded medals after the event, are usually irrationally motivated when they happen.  Instead of courage to understand,  Hellevig may mean something more like cost-benefit analysis, as performed in the minds of voters. When American or European voters calculate that war against Russia is threatening their interests, then there may be a change  in the war policy towards Russia. For US voters to turn against war, war must hurt. 
Hellevig doesn’t have a programme for that as much as a programme for changing hearts and minds in the policy-making centres of Moscow. Here are his recommendations:
  • “All further privatization, based on the failed globalist liberal ideology, must be rejected and instead Russia must strengthen state ownership in key branches of the economy, in order to build globally competitive national champions.”
  • “Russia’s highly successful import substitution program [must continue]. This is the kind of thing Russia must continue to invest in, but not forgetting to heed our advice, that state ownership must be guaranteed in the new fledgling industries.”
  • “Russia must also speed up investments in transport and other public infrastructure as well as investment in urban renewal and amelioration programs, in the way it has been done in Moscow.”
  • “Cut interest rates. In a bewildering policy motivated by inflation targeting, the Russian Central Bank has inflicted record high real interest on the economy ever since end of 2015. Presently the primary real interest rate stands at a stunning 5%. This is an unprecedented situation in a global comparison. On the contrary, the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have fought against recession by bringing the real interest rates to historical lows, even to negative territory. Without this excessive austerity the Russian economy would have fared yet much betters, especially so the consumer…Both charts show that the birth rates have fallen with high real interest rates. The Central Bank therefore must take urgent measures to reduce the gap before the situation worsens further.”
Who does Hellevig think, from Putin on down, believes these things, or is even willing to consider the case for them?
Sergei Glazyev is obvious, but he is window-dressing in the Kremlin wall. Not one of his policy recommendations has been adopted, nor even endorsed in public by the president; for details, click to open. Instead, Glazyev is treated to public dressing-downs from Putin’s spokesman, Dmity Peskov. Glazyev, to be sure, is a prickly, vain character with a voice pitch that compares unfavourably to chalk across a blackboard.   Those are not disqualifications for his ideas.

Above, left: Sergei Glazyev with President Putin, Minsk, October 10, 2014.
In his latest presentation on the economy, Putin sounded all of Hellevig’s findings, with the exception of the imports-to-GDP ratio and surpassing Germany.  However, Putin committed to none of Hellevig’s recommendations. For the full text of the president’s June 15 “Direct Line” broadcast, read this.  Addressing the criticism of Central Bank interest rate policy – the only Russian target Hellevig explicitly attacks — Putin agreed with the critics; he also agreed with the Central Bank.
“I very much hope that the Central Bank continues to move cautiously towards reducing the key interest rate,” Putin started.  
“Why has the Central Bank adopted such a cautious approach? Unfortunately, the Russian economy still depends on oil and gas. The price of natural gas depends on the price of oil, and a special formula is used to calculate it. The price of oil has recently exceeded $50, and today it is only $48, I think. The Central Bank believes that if it declines, the key interest rate would have to be adjusted. What matters most for us right now is not the key interest rate itself, but avoiding any sharp fluctuations in the key interest rate. We need to ensure a stable exchange rate for our national currency, the ruble. This is what underpins the Central Bank’s cautious approach. Some may like it, others may not. I am simply trying to explain the Central Bank’s logic. It deserves respect.”

Left to right: Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina; Finance Minister Anton Siluanov; ex-Finance Minister, Putin adviser and patron of the other two, Alexei Kudrin, at their own SPIEF session, June 16, 2016
So who else is Hellewig addressing with the new report? The regrettable answer is noone in particular. Russia’s enemies are in for a long war, Hellevig acknowledges himself.  US Congress action to finalize the new sanctions bill may come this month, even before the August summer recess; for details of the new Russian targets and US weapons to be deployed, according to the new statute,  read this.  A veto by President Trump is unlikely because there are two-thirds majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives to override.  
So Hellevig’s “What Doesn’t Kill You” is a report in a vacuum unless it is convincing in the domestic producers’ market, and in foreign investor markets.
Sentiment for the future of the Russian economy is measurable in what Russians with cash and capital say they plan to do. If they are producing, shipping, buying and selling more,  that will show in growth rates for electricity consumption, cargo tonnage moved on railroads, and the flow of cash and capital goods inward and outward.  The latest measures of the electricity and rail indicators show single-digit growth upon the depressed base numbers prevailing last year. However, the numbers for capital outflow, including Russian businessmen on the run, are also growing.  The closer you get to the individuals who are moving their cash abroad, the less confidence in the future you hear.
From the regular monthly polling of confidence in the future on the part of Russian businesses, it’s clear there is less optimism than Hellevig’s:  the score last month remained negative, as it had been in April and May. The minus-1 score wasn’t as bad as last December, but at minus-8 even that was nowhere near as bad as the all-time low in measured Russian business confidence – minus-20 in 2008. For more details, read this
The sentiment of foreign investors should be estimated differently.  The long money goes into Russian debt; the short or hot money is in Russian equity. Normally, they move in parallel. But for confidence in Russian bonds and confidence in Russian shares, the trend lines this year have been running in opposite directions. By the end of June, foreign buying of Russian debt issues rose sharply, compared to April and May, with an aggregate of $2.8 billion invested last month.  For shares the situation has been the reverse. Funds holding Russian shares have been selling steadily for the past four months, and $1.6 billion has been withdrawn over this period, according to EPFR Global. 

http://johnhelmer.net/how-the-russian-economy-looks-if-you-arent-wearing-nato-night-fighting-goggles/#more-17849


«War in the Balkans»

«War in the Balkans» – the Memoirs of a Portugese Peacekeeper (I)
STEPHEN KARGANOVIC | 07.07.2017 | WORLD

«War in the Balkans» – the Memoirs of a Portugese Peacekeeper (I)

General Carlos Martins Branco is one of the most fascinating (and until quite recently also inaccessible) actors in the Srebrenica controversy. From his Zagreb vantage point as deputy head of the U.N. Protection Force (UNPROFOR) between 1994 and 1996, during the latter phase of the 1990s Yugoslav conflict as it unfolded in Croatia and Bosnian and Herzegovina, this Portuguese officer had privileged access to significant information. Confidential reports about the goings on in the field were crossing his desk. With first-hand information and further enlightened by discrete conversations with colleagues from various intelligence structures, Martins Branco was positioned ideally to learn facts which many officials would have preferred to cover up, and the media frequently ignored.
With a typically Latin emotional flair, refusing to remain silent as the «Srebrenica genocide narrative» was taking shape in the second half of the 1990s, Martins Branco published in 1998 an article provocatively entitled «Was Srebrenica a Hoax? Eyewitness Account of a Former UN Military Observer in Bosnia» In that early plunge into the toxic Srebrenica debate, Martins Branco ventured a number of critical questions concerning the notorious events in July 1995:
«One may agree or disagree with my political analysis, but one really ought to read the account of how Srebrenica fell, who are the victims whose bodies have been found so far, and why the author believes that the Serbs wanted to conquer Srebrenica and make the Bosnian Muslims flee, rather than having any intentions of butchering them. The comparison Srebrenica vs. Krajina, as well as the related media reaction by the 'free press' in the West, is also rather instructive».
Shortly after that expression of skepticism about the nature of the disputed events in Srebrenica, Martins Branco practically disappeared from view. Not physically, of course. He spent several years in Florence teaching at the European University Institute and preparing his doctoral dissertation. After that, in 2007 and 2008 he was attached by his government to NATO forces in Afghanistan in the capacity of media spokesperson for the Commander. From 2008 until recently, when he retired, General Martins Branco served as deputy director of the National Defense Institute of the Portuguese armed forces.
This impressive background, to which we may add the duty of head of the Intelligence Affairs Section of EUROFOR for Bosnia, Albania, and Kosovo from 1996 to 1999, bespeaks an elite and highly trained staff officer, with first-class intelligence capabilities and powers of observation.
Intrigued by Martins Branco’s out-of-the-box analysis of Srebrenica events, shortly after the founding of our NGO «Srebrenica Historical Project» we attempted to establish communication with him to see if he would share with us some of his exceptional information and insights. Our efforts were fruitless and correspondence with the general over the years came down mostly to an exchange of non-committal courtesies. Defense teams at the ICTY in the Hague, which endeavored to obtain him as a witness on their clients’ behalf, had no better luck. However, not very long ago General Martins Branco wrote to us seeking answers to some questions concerning Srebrenica. He mentioned that in November 2016 his memoirs were published in Portugal. That volume, which he kindly made available to us, encompassed the period of his service in the Balkans. It was entitled «A Guerra nos Balcãs, jihadismo, geopolítica e desinformação» [War in the Balkans, Jihadism, Geopolitics, and Disinformation], published by Edições Colibri in Lisbon.
As already seen numerous times with high-level officials, in this case as well open expression of intimate views and public disclosure of facts regarded of a delicate nature had to wait for retirement. In General Martins  Branco’s case, the wait was worthwhile. These fascinating recollections from the Balkan war theater consist of the insights of a Portuguese officer attached to UN forces into such episodes as the merciless expulsion, accompanied by mass killing, of the Serbian population of Krajina by Croatian forces. These outrages were orchestrated with the discrete backing of the NATO alliance, for which the author indirectly happened to be working at the time. Events surrounding Srebrenica in July 0f 1995 encompass another portion of his recollections. For the moment, we will focus on the latter and Martins Branco’s perception of the background and impact of the Srebrenica situation.
Already in his introduction to the chapters of his memoirs that deal with Srebrenica, Martins Branco questions the coherence of the prevalent view that it constituted genocide:
«General Ratko Mladic had made it known that he was leaving open a corridor for withdrawal toward Tuzla. With Mladic’s approval, about 6.000 persons took advantage of that opportunity. In a report by the Dutch Foreign Ministry it is noted that, according to UN sources, by August 4 a total of 35.632 displaced persons had made it to Tuzla, of whom between 800 and 1.000 were members of Bosnia and Herzegovina armed forces. Out of that total, 17.500 had been evacuated by bus». (Page 195)
The Portuguese general then continues:
«Srebrenica was portrayed – and continues to be – as a premeditated massacre of innocent Muslim civilians. As a genocide! But was it really so? A more careful and informed assessment of those events leads me to doubt it». (Page 196)
Martins Branco goes on to raise some pointed questions, and he does so purely in the capacity of a professional soldier:
«There are various estimates of the relative strength of forces involved in the Srebrenica battle. On the Serbian side, at most 3.000 fighters could have taken part. The number of armored vehicles is more difficult to determine, as stated at the beginning of this chapter. According to field reports, however, not more than six such vehicles were in motion at any given time. Though we lack reliable information about troop strength on the Muslim side, it is entirely probable that they numbered a minimum of 4.000 armed men, counting together Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina soldiers and members of the paramilitaries. According to some sources, they numbered up to 6.000. But for the purposes of this analysis, we will consider the 4.000 figure as credible». (Page 196)
The general then goes on:
«The topographical features of the terrain around Srebrenica, and Eastern Bosnia as a whole, are extremely rugged and hilly.  Crags, thickly forested areas, and deep ravines impede the movement of military vehicles while facilitating infantry operations. In relation to ground features, which beyond any doubt favor defenders, the numerical relationship of forces on the opposing sides suggests that Bosnian army troops had at their disposal more than sufficient manpower to put up a defense. They, however, failed to do that. Taking into account the numerical ratio of attackers to defenders, as we were taught at the military academy, for the attack to have any chance of success the number of attackers would have to exceed that of the defenders by a factor of at least three. In the case at hand, that ratio was more than advantageous to the defenders (4.000 defenders versus 3.000 attackers). In addition, the defenders had the additional benefit of knowing the landscape». (Page 196)
Martins Branco than asks one of the key Srebrenica questions:
«Given that military advantage favored the defense, why did the Bosnian army fail to put up any resistance to Serbian forces? Why did the command of the 28th Division of the Bosnian army – acting apparently contrary to its interest – fail to establish a defense line, as at other times it knew well how to do, as for instance during the April 1993 crisis? Why did Muslim forces in the enclave fail to act to regain control over their heavy weapons, which had been deposited in a local warehouse under UN’s lock and key? Was it no more than an oversight?» (Page 197)
As a supplement to these well-formulated questions, we may note that already on July 6, as the Serbian attack was commencing, the Dutch battalion command in Srebrenica let it be known to the 28th Division that it was free to retrieve its warehoused heavy armaments, if it so wished. That fact was revealed in the Dutch battalion «Debriefing», which came out in October of 1995. However, Muslim forces in Srebrenica inexplicably ignored this invitation, thus reinforcing the impression that – for political or other reasons – they lacked the purpose of militarily resisting the Serbian attack.
Which leads the author to the following reflections:
«Twenty years later, we still lack satisfactory answers to questions that seem crucial, assuming that we are seeking to find out what exactly happened. The passivity and absence of a military reaction on the part of Muslim forces in the enclave is in stark contrast to their offensive behavior during the preceding two years, which was manifested in the form of systematic slaughter of Serbian civilians in the villages surrounding Srebrenica». (Page 197)
The author then discloses an intriguing detail that was previously unknown even to this reviewer:
«Ramiz Becirevic [in command of the 28th Division in Naser Oric’s absence] initially issued an order for the heavy weapons to be collected. However, he cancelled it shortly thereafter, explaining that he had received a countermanding order. Who was the source of that order, and for what reason was it given? For the record, let it be noted that in the morning of July 6, as the Serbian attack was starting, acting on his own responsibility, the Dutchbat commander informed the leadership of the Bosnian army that the Serbs had ‘trespassed’ the enclave’s boundaries and that the UN would not be object should they come to retrieve their heavy weaponry that had been deposited in a local warehouse». (Page 197)
 Pressing further his point about the enigmatic dissipation within the Srebrenica enclave of the will to resist, Martins Branco points out that Naser Oric, «the charismaticleader who very likely would have acted differently», was withdrawn from the enclave in April of 1995, never to return. He therefore goes on to ask some common sense questions:
«Was [Oric’s] return prevented by the Second Corps of the Bosnian army, of which 28th Division was part? What could have been the reasons for that? We still lack convincing answers to these questions». (Page 198)
«On the other hand», the Portuguese author continues with his detailed analysis of the suspicious train of events, «officials of the local SDA, the Party of Democratic Action that was in charge in Sarajevo, not only refused, citing strange reasons, to assist UN forces in evacuating Srebrenica, which is to say their own population and refugees from the surrounding villages who had taken shelter in the town, but they went even further by preventing them from fleeing in the direction of Potocari. Instead, they submitted to the commander of B Company [of the Dutchbat] a long list of demands, the fullment of which was insisted upon as the condition for their cooperation. The nature of these demands suggested the existence of a carefully elaborated advance plan which, however, did not mesh with the conditions that actually prevailed on the ground at that particular moment. At that point, there were only two issues which were of significance to the municipal president: one, the demand to the Military Observers on July 10 to disseminate to the outside world a report alleging the use of chemical weapons by Serbian forces, although that was not true; secondly, to publicly accuse the international media of spreading misinformation that Muslim forces were offering armed resistance, with an additional demand to the UN to also issue an official denial to that effect. According to him, Bosnian soldiers neither used heavy weapons, nor were they prepared to ever do so. At the same time, he complained about the lack of foodstuffs and the dismal humanitarian situation. The outline of an official narrative was becoming perceptible and it consisted of two messages: the absence of any military resistance and lack of food». (Page 198)
To put it in plain English, this elite NATO officer with excellent powers of observation and acumen for critical analysis «smelled a rat,» and he did so right from the beginning of the game. He does not say it outright in his memoirs, but it is strongly suggested that these doubts about the authenticity of the official Srebrenica narrative were proliferating in his mind in real time, as field reports accumulated on his desk in Zagreb.
Martins Branco then pops the logical question or, rather, he points his finger at one of the key incoherencies of the official account of Srebrenica events:
«A question mark could also be put over the complete absence of a military response of any kind by the Second Corps of the Bosnian army, whose zone of responsibility encompassed northeastern Bosnia, including Tuzla (where its headquarters was located), as well as Doboj, Bijeljina, Srebrenica, Zepa, and Zvornik. Bosnian army intelligence agencies, whose ear was constantly fixed on Serbian signal communications, were perfectly aware of the impending offensive operation. In spite of not at all being in the dark concerning the Serbs’ intention to attack, the Second Corps of the Bosnian army did not make the slightest move to weaken the Serbs’ pressure upon the enclave. It was a known fact that the Drina Corps, the Serbian army unit in whose zone of responsibility Srebrenica was located, was exhausted and that the attack on Srebrenica was made feasible only by scraping together forces withdrawn from other segments of the front, which naturally left in its wake many vulnerable points. Why didn’t the Second Corps undertake an attack along the entire front line with the Drina Corps, not merely in order to relieve the pressure on Srebrenica but also to exploit the Serbian forces’ temporary vulnerabilities in order to seize territory in areas that were left unprotected? Following the passage of twenty years, we still do not have the answer to this more than coherent and reasonable question». (Pages 198-199)
These are just some of the more important reasons leading a professional soldier to be skeptical of the general framework of the accepted Srebrenica narrative. As we will see in the next installment of this review, his more detailed analysis raises even more troubling questions.
Tags: Srebrenica 
https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/07/07/war-balkans-memoirs-portugese-peacekeeper-i.html
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https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/07/07/war-balkans-memoirs-portugese-peacekeeper-i.html

ANC decides South Africa should downgrade ties with Israel

ANC decides South Africa should downgrade ties with Israel

South Africa’s ruling party wants to sharply downgrade ties with Israel.
At its national policy conference on Tuesday, the African National Congress adopted a recommendation “to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office in a bid to reduce diplomatic ties,” the Mail & Guardian newspaper reported.
Yes!!! National Policy Conference of South Africa's governing ANC party moves for downgrade of SA embassy in Israel ✊✊✊
The policy will go to the ANC’s national conference for ratification in December.
“Our embassy has failed to achieve its necessary political objective over the past 22 years in moving Israel closer to a resolution on the Palestinian question,” Faiez Jacobs, an officer in the Western Cape provincial branch of the ANC which proposed the recommendation, told the newspaper.
The move is intended to send a “strong message” in protest of Israel’s continued military occupation and human rights abuses against Palestinians.
The policy does not call on the government to downgrade Israel’s embassy in Pretoria, but Jacobs anticipates that if South Africa reduces its representation in Tel Aviv, Israel might respond by doing the same.
In 2012, the year of its previous national policy conference, the ANC endorsed the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Ties with apartheid

Israel maintained extremely close ties with apartheid South Africa. Tel Aviv was the white supremacist regime’s main weapons supplier when Pretoria was under a tightening international embargo.
Relations cooled significantly after the ANC took power in democratic elections in 1994. Many grassroots activists and iconic leaders in South Africa’s liberation struggle, including the late Ahmed Kathrada, have been staunch supporters of the Palestinian struggle.
Recently, a number of government ministers, including South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, fasted in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.
In 2015, Israel prevented the entry of South Africa’s higher education minister, who had planned to travel to the occupied West Bank to discuss cooperation with Palestinians.
The minister, Blade Nzimande, had observed – as many leading South Africans have – that “Israeli apartheid is worse than South African apartheid.”

Israel’s destructive record in Africa

While the South African government has offered consistent support for Palestinians – albeit within the framework of backing the so-called two-state solution – it has not spearheaded international efforts to isolate Israel despite a growing consensus that Israel is guilty of apartheid against Palestinians.
Such leadership could be particularly important as Israel launches a renewed diplomatic offensive to win over support from African governments.
Israel markets itself to African countries as a purveyor of development technologies such as drip-irrigation – assistance it withdrew from Senegal in revenge for that country’s December vote for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
But despite the end of its cozy relationship with South Africa, Israel has continued to fuel conflict and atrocities on the continent by supplying arms used in conflicts in South Sudan and Burundi and sending weapons to Rwanda before the 1994 genocide – a role Israel has sought to cover up.
South Africa has gone further than many countries by explicitly discouraging its citizens from traveling to present-day Israel because of the mistreatment of Palestinians.
The ANC policy conference decision indicates that the ruling party’s grassroots feel that the government could be doing much more to translate the strong sentiments of solidarity into effective action.