In Israel, only Jewish blood shocks anyone


Killings of Palestinians by soldiers and policemen will never shock Israel. The propaganda machine will whitewash everything, and the media will be its mouthpiece.

By Gideon Levy | Nov. 20, 2014
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Palestinian youths run from Israeli security forces at the site where Palestinian youth Yussef Shawamreh was shot by Israeli forces near the W. Bank village of Deir al-Asal near Hebron, March 19, 2014 Photo by AFP
     
There was a massacre in Jerusalem on Tuesday in which five Israelis were killed. There was a war in Gaza over the summer in which 2,200 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians. A massacre shocks us; a war, less so. Massacres have culprits; wars don’t. Murder by ax is more appalling than murder by rifle, and far more horrendous than bombing helpless people trying to take shelter.

Terror is always Palestinian, even when hundreds of Palestinian civilians are killed. The name and face of  Daniel Tragerman, the Israeli boy killed by mortar fire during Operation Protective Edge, were known throughout the world; even U.S. President Barack Obama knew his name. Can anyone name one child from Gaza among the hundreds killed?

A few hours after the attack in Jerusalem, journalist Emily Amrousi said at a conference in Eilat that the life of a single Jewish child was more important to her than the lives of thousands of Palestinian children. The audience’s response was clearly favorable; I think there was even some applause.

Afterward Amrousi tried to explain that she was referring to the way the Israeli media should cover events, which is only slightly less serious. This was during a discussion on the ridiculous question: “Is the Israeli media leftist?” Almost no one protested Amrousi’s remarks and the session continued as if nothing had happened. Amrousi’s words reflect Israel’s mood in 2014: Only Jewish blood elicits shock.

Israeli deaths touch Israeli hearts more than the deaths of others. That’s natural human solidarity. The bloody images from Jerusalem stunned every Israeli, probably every person.

But this is a society that sanctifies its dead to the point of death-worship, that wears thin the stories of the victims’ lives and deaths, whether it be in a synagogue attack or a Nepal avalanche. It’s a society preoccupied with endless commemorations in the land of monuments, services and anniversary ceremonies; a society that demands shock and condemnation after every attack, when it blames the entire world.

Precisely from such a society is one permitted to demand some attention to the Palestinian blood that is also spilled in vain; some understanding of the other side’s pain, or even a measure of empathy, which in Israel is considered treason.
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An Israeli rescue worker navigates the scene of a shooting attack in a synagogue in Jerusalem (AP)
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But this doesn’t happen. Aside from exceptional murders and hate crimes by individuals, there is total apathy — and the obtuseness is frightening. Killings (we dare not say murders) by soldiers and policemen will never shock Israel. The propaganda machine will whitewash everything, and the media will be its mouthpiece. No one will demand condemnations. No one will express shock. Few will even consider that the pain is the same pain, that murder is murder.

How many Israelis are willing to give a thought to the parents of Yousef Shawamreh, the boy who went out to pick wild greens and was killed by an army sniper? Why is it exaggerating to be upset by, or at least give some attention to, the killing of Khalil Anati, a 10-year-old boy from the Al-Fawar refugee camp?

Why can’t we identify with the pain of bereaved father Abd al-Wahab Hammad, whose son was killed in Silwad, or with the Al-Qatari family from the Al-Amari refugee camp, two members of which were killed by soldiers within a month? Why do we reserve our horror for the synagogue and not consider these killings disturbing?

Yes, there is the test of intent. The typical Israeli argument is that soldiers, unlike terrorists, do not intend to kill. If so, then what exactly is the intent of the sniper who fires live bullets at the head or chest of a demonstrator a distance away who poses no threat? Or when he shoots a child in the back as he’s running for his life? Didn’t he intend to kill him?

The attack in Jerusalem was a horrendous crime; nothing can justify it. But the blood that flowed there is not the only blood being spilled here murderously. The degree to which it is forbidden to say that is incredible.


President Obama is not the only actor with a red line on Syria. China, Russia and Iran also have their own red line on Damascus

By Dr. Christina Lin | NOVEMBER 14, 2014

CNN on 12 November reported Obama administration is suddenly focused on removing Assad as the core of its anti-ISIS strategy, once again submitting to Turkey and Arab Gulf states that enabled ISIS to begin with, and are actually contributing very little to the anti-ISIS efforts to be dictating such orders to Washington.

Moreover, these demands are harmful to US security interests—redefining US anti-ISIS mission to one of anti-Assad mission—and thereby potentially drawing in Eurasian powers of China, Russia and Iran into open military conflict against the US.

Presently the Beijing-Moscow-Tehran axis is actually tacitly supporting the US-led coalition, and Assad is allowing US use of its airspace to strike ISIS and other Islamic extremist groups.

Now, Ankara, Riyadh and Doha’s obsession on removing Assad and hoping to replace him with a proxy Islamist regime is throwing a monkey wrench into coalition efforts. With Islamist strongholds spanning from Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Egypt, this risks turning the Eastern Mediterranean into an Islamic Lake, a threat shared by Israel as well as EU members Cyprus and Greece.

This is also a threat to US’ Noble Energy, Italy’s ENI, Korea’s KOGAS, Russia’s Gazprom, and other stakeholders such as Jordan, Egypt, and Asian consumers interested in the newly discovered natural gas resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As such, removing Assad for a probable Islamist replacement that will also persecute the Christian, Kurdish, Druze and Alawite communities in Syria; escalate the conflict by drawing in two nuclear powers of China and Russia; harm development of hydrocarbons in the Levantine Basin and further regional instability, is not in US or EU’s security interest.

And it is definitely not in China’s interest.


Obama operates with a China blind spot on Syria and the Mideast


President Obama continues to operate with large blind spots when it comes to Chinese interests, risking strategic misjudgment according to Professor Zhen Wang of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Seton Hall University.

Wang argues this is not surprising given the Obama administration’s China policy suffers from a rather incompetent China team, “including senior positions in the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon, [that] are currently being held by ‘young people’ who don’t have long-term experience in dealing with China policy…many of whom are not even China experts.”

China also sees US hypocrisy and double standards in its Mideast policy.

According to a senior counter-terror advisor to China’s Ministry of Public Security, while Washington criticizes Chinese support for Iran, Beijing views US keeps unsavory allies such as Turkey’s AKP that is “basically Muslim Brotherhood,” while its Saudi Wahhabi ally bans women from driving when “at least women in Iran are allowed to drive.”

Moreover, Washington tends to assume it is still a monopolistic power operating in a Mideast vacuum without other competitors.

While Moscow and Tehran have received more international scrutiny for supporting Assad, Beijing also has vital stakes in protecting this China-friendly regime.

In 2013 China overtook US as the world’s largest trading nation. As such Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the Eurasian Silk Road Economic Belt to safeguard China’s trading routes, with an overland route of transport corridors connecting Asia and Europe, and a maritime route connecting Indo-Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea that meets in the Middle East.

Damascus, a traditional terminus node in the ancient Silk Road, is what the Chinese call “Ning Jiu Li” or “cohesive force,” and key link to the planned Chinese railway connecting Iran, Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean.

While China’s trade is highly dependent on the Suez Canal to reach its largest export market in Europe, after the Arab Spring and increasing instability in the Suez, Beijing is seeking alternative corridors. Chinese investment in Israel’s Med-Red rail connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean that bypasses the Suez is another key corridor.

Suez Canal security risks to Chinese shipping are real. For example, in 2011 after Mubarak was overthrown, Chinese cargo ships were severely delayed in the Suez at great costs. Turmoil following Morsi’s removal further increased security risks and on 31 August 2013, China’s COSCO Asia container ship came under fire from two rocket-propelled grenades launched by al-Furqan Brigades, an al-Qaeda affiliate, as it crossed the Suez Canal.

As Obama’s misguided policy continues to foment regional instability in the Eastern Mediterranean by toppling regimes in Libya, Egypt, possibly Syria, and paving way for anti-Chinese Islamist groups that also support Uyghur separatists in Xinjiang, this directly harms Chinese economic and security interests.

Major General Jin Yinan, a strategist at China’s National Defense University, disclosed that Chinese Uyghur terrorists from ETIM were joining anti-government rebels in Syria–disconcerting to Beijing since these are rebels that Turkey and Saudi Arabia in the anti-ISIS coalition intends to train–and in 2013 videos of Chinese rebels emerged that corroborates this link.

Moreover, according to counter-terror expert Jacob Zenn, the main anti-Chinese militant group Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) also has a terror network in Istanbul that recruits Chinese fighters to train in Syria and Iraq. TIP has carried out attacks in Xinjiang and claimed or praised many others, including the October 2013 suicide car bombing in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, mass stabbing attacks at Kunming and Guangzhou train stations, and double suicide bombings at the Urumqi train station in Xinjiang this year.

Beijing is thus doubling down on supporting her ally to counter Arab Gulf-influenced US policy that harms China’s core interests.


Removing Assad may be “tipping point” for US war with China and Russia


Beijing is flexing her military muscle by arming the Assad regime and conducting gunboat diplomacy with Russia off the Syrian coast.

In February 2013, US sanctioned China’s state-owned CPMIEC for military transfers to Syria that violates nonproliferation legislation, on the heels of a 2011 US Congressional Research Service report highlighting China provided Damascus with $300 million worth of arms from 2007 to 2010.

In July 2012, al Arabiya reported the Syrian opposition slammed the Egyptian government for allowing a Chinese ship loaded with arms for the Assad regime to pass through the Suez Canal while in 2013 China, Iran, and Russia delivered $500 million a month in oil and credit to Syria.

Beijing continues to protect Assad and joined Moscow in May 2014 with the fourth UN Security Council veto on a western resolution referring Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

In June 2012 when Obama threatened airstrikes against the Assad regime, Chinese and Russian navy conducted gunboat diplomacy off the Syrian coast and continued with joint naval war games in January 2013 to signal support for Assad. Jpost also reported China, Russia, Iran and Syria were initially planning to conduct “Middle East’s largest ever military exercise” with 90,000 troops, 400 aircrafts, 1,000 tanks and hundreds of rockets.

In the case of Russia, it is unrealistic to expect Putin will relinquish his sole naval port of Tartus in the Mediterranean, nor the recently ratified $100 million 25-year contract between Russia’s Soyuzneftegaz and Assad regime for oil exploration off the Syrian coast.

Soyuzneftegaz chairman Shafranik also plans to build an oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria, and Imad Fawzi al-Shuebi from the Centre of Strategic Studies in Damascus forecasts Syrian oil production can make 6-7 million barrels daily in the future, possibly placing fourth in the world in terms of its gas reserves.

Putin has thus announced the establishment of a permanent Mediterranean naval task force to protect Russia’s expanding regional interests. Similarly, Chinese security interests are also expanding in the Eastern Mediterranean.

American and Chinese analysts often warned of a “tipping point” in China-US relations beyond which the two conclude conflict is unavoidable and begin preparing for war. Indeed, bilateral relations are tense beneath the surface and on 12 November, renowned Chinese military expert Michael Pillsbury penned a Foreign Policy article entitled “China and the United States are preparing for war.”

He documents Chinese military’s heightened level of distrust towards the US given China is the center of US war planning, thereby forcing Beijing to prepare for the eventuality of war. Chinese military officers observe American war college journals often feature articles on how to win a war against China, and a February 2014 article in the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine entitled “Deterring the Dragon” was especially threatening.

The author, a retired naval commander, proposed laying offensive underwater mines along China’s coast to close China’s main ports and destroy its sea lines of communications. Even more egregious is the recommendation of sending special operation forces to arm China’s restive minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, at a time when Beijing is suffering from its worst terrorist attacks the past 20 months.

Nonetheless, the Middle Kingdom has a counter-measure, a famous strategy called “Sheng Dong Ji Xi (声东击西), meaning make feint in the east and attack in the west.

Currently, Washington’s eyes are on China’s eastern flank in the Pacific.

However, should Obama attempt to remove Assad and pave the way for an anti-Chinese Islamist regime that supports extremist groups to attack Chinese territory, coupled with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) perception that US would arm terrorists in Xinjiang to destabilize China, Washington should not be surprised if this becomes a “tipping point” for China to attack in the west, joined by Russia and Iran.

Christina Lin
Dr. Christina Lin is a Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of "The New Silk Road: China's Energy Strategy in the Greater Middle East" (The Washington Institute for Near East Policy), and a former director for China policy at the U.S. Department of Defense.


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Play-time is over, children: Putin's message to the Western elites is most important since Churchill's 'Iron Curtain' speech


Dmitry Orlov |  ClubOrlov  | Wed, 29 Oct 2014 

Comment: Putin's speech at the Valdai conference in Sochi last week is getting a lot of coverage, both in the alternative news sphere, and the Russophobic den of lies that is the corporate western mainstream presstitute media. And for good reason. You can read the full speechhere, along with Paul Craig Roberts' commentary. See also:

putin
© Aleksey Nikolskyi, RIA Novosti
Most people in the English-speaking parts of the world missed Putin's speech at the Valdai conference in Sochi a few days ago, and, chances are, those of you who have heard of the speech didn't get a chance to read it, and missed its importance. (For your convenience, I am pasting in the full transcript of his speech below.) Western media did their best to ignore it or to twist its meaning. Regardless of what you think or don't think of Putin (like the sun and the moon, he does not exist for you to cultivate an opinion) this is probably the most important political speech since Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech of March 5, 1946.

In this speech, Putin abruptly changed the rules of the game. Previously, the game of international politics was played as follows: politicians made public pronouncements, for the sake of maintaining a pleasant fiction of national sovereignty, but they were strictly for show and had nothing to do with the substance of international politics; in the meantime, they engaged in secret back-room negotiations, in which the actual deals were hammered out. Previously, Putin tried to play this game, expecting only that Russia be treated as an equal. But these hopes have been dashed, and at this conference he declared the game to be over, explicitly violating Western taboo by speaking directly to the people over the heads of elite clans and political leaders.

The Russian blogger chipstone summarized the most salient points from Putin speech as follows:

1. Russia will no longer play games and engage in back-room negotiations over trifles. But Russia is prepared for serious conversations and agreements, if these are conducive to collective security, are based on fairness and take into account the interests of each side.

2. All systems of global collective security now lie in ruins. There are no longer any international security guarantees at all. And the entity that destroyed them has a name: The United States of America.

3. The builders of the New World Order have failed, having built a sand castle. Whether or not a new world order of any sort is to be built is not just Russia's decision, but it is a decision that will not be made without Russia.

4. Russia favors a conservative approach to introducing innovations into the social order, but is not opposed to investigating and discussing such innovations, to see if introducing any of them might be justified.

5. Russia has no intention of going fishing in the murky waters created by America's ever-expanding "empire of chaos," and has no interest in building a new empire of her own (this is unnecessary; Russia's challenges lie in developing her already vast territory).Neither is Russia willing to act as a savior of the world, as she had in the past.

6. Russia will not attempt to reformat the world in her own image, but neither will she allow anyone to reformat her in their image. Russia will not close herself off from the world, but anyone who tries to close her off from the world will be sure to reap a whirlwind.

7. Russia does not wish for the chaos to spread, does not want war, and has no intention of starting one. However, today Russia sees the outbreak of global war as almost inevitable, is prepared for it, and is continuing to prepare for it. Russia does not war - nor does she fear it.

8. Russia does not intend to take an active role in thwarting those who are still attempting to construct their New World Order - until their efforts start to impinge on Russia's key interests. Russia would prefer to stand by and watch them give themselves as many lumps as their poor heads can take. But those who manage to drag Russia into this process, through disregard for her interests, will be taught the true meaning of pain.

9. In her external, and, even more so, internal politics, Russia's power will rely not on the elites and their back-room dealing, but on the will of the people.

To these nine points I would like to add a tenth:

10. There is still a chance to construct a new world order that will avoid a world war. This new world order must of necessity include the United States - but can only do so on the same terms as everyone else: subject to international law and international agreements; refraining from all unilateral action; in full respect of the sovereignty of other nations.

To sum it all up: play-time is over. Children, put away your toys. Now is the time for the adults to make decisions. Russia is ready for this; is the world?

Putin's speech is below:
Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club 
24 October 2014, Sochi 

Vladimir Putin took part in the final plenary meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club's XI session. The meeting's theme is The World Order: New Rules or a Game without Rules.This year, 108 experts, historians and political analysts from 25 countries, including 62 foreign participants, took part in the club's work. 

The plenary meeting summed up the club's work over the previous three days, which concentrated on analysing the factors eroding the current system of institutions and norms of international law. 

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, friends, it is a pleasure to welcome you to the XI meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club. 

It was mentioned already that the club has new co-organisers this year. They include Russian non-governmental organisations, expert groups and leading universities. The idea was also raised of broadening the discussions to include not just issues related to Russia itself but also global politics and the economy. 

n organisation and content will bolster the club's influence as a leading discussion and expert forum. At the same time, I hope the 'Valdai spirit' will remain - this free and open atmosphere and chance to express all manner of very different and frank opinions. 

Let me say in this respect that I will also not let you down and will speak directly and frankly. Some of what I say might seem a bit too harsh, but if we do not speak directly and honestly about what we really think, then there is little point in even meeting in this way. It would be better in that case just to keep to diplomatic get-togethers, where no one says anything of real sense and, recalling the words of one famous diplomat, you realise that diplomats have tongues so as not to speak the truth. 

We get together for other reasons. We get together so as to talk frankly with each other. We need to be direct and blunt today not so as to trade barbs, but so as to attempt to get to the bottom of what is actually happening in the world, try to understand why the world is becoming less safe and more unpredictable, and why the risks are increasing everywhere around us. 

Today's discussion took place under the theme: New Rules or a Game without Rules. I think that this formula accurately describes the historic turning point we have reached today and the choice we all face. There is nothing new of course in the idea that the world is changing very fast. I know this is something you have spoken about at the discussions today. It is certainly hard not to notice the dramatic transformations in global politics and the economy, public life, and in industry, information and social technologies. 

Let me ask you right now to forgive me if I end up repeating what some of the discussion's participants have already said. It's practically impossible to avoid. You have already held detailed discussions, but I will set out my point of view. It will coincide with other participants' views on some points and differ on others. 

As we analyse today's situation, let us not forget history's lessons. First of all, changes in the world order - and what we are seeing today are events on this scale - have usually been accompanied by if not global war and conflict, then by chains of intensive local-level conflicts. Second, global politics is above all about economic leadership, issues of war and peace, and the humanitarian dimension, including human rights. 

The world is full of contradictions today. We need to be frank in asking each other if we have a reliable safety net in place. Sadly, there is no guarantee and no certainty that the current system of global and regional security is able to protect us from upheavals. This system has become seriously weakened, fragmented and deformed. The international and regional political, economic, and cultural cooperation organisations are also going through difficult times. 

Yes, many of the mechanisms we have for ensuring the world order were created quite a long time ago now, including and above all in the period immediately following World War II. Let me stress that the solidity of the system created back then rested not only on the balance of power and the rights of the victor countries, but on the fact that this system's 'founding fathers' had respect for each other, did not try to put the squeeze on others, but attempted to reach agreements. 

The main thing is that this system needs to develop, and despite its various shortcomings, needs to at least be capable of keeping the world's current problems within certain limits and regulating the intensity of the natural competition between countries. 

It is my conviction that we could not take this mechanism of checks and balances that we built over the last decades, sometimes with such effort and difficulty, and simply tear it apart without building anything in its place. Otherwise we would be left with no instruments other than brute force. 

What we needed to do was to carry out a rational reconstruction and adapt it the new realities in the system of international relations. 

But the United States, having declared itself the winner of the Cold War, saw no need for this. Instead of establishing a new balance of power, essential for maintaining order and stability, they took steps that threw the system into sharp and deep imbalance. 

The Cold War ended, but it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty with clear and transparent agreements on respecting existing rules or creating new rules and standards. This created the impression that the so-called 'victors' in the Cold War had decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests. If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances in place got in the way of these aims, this system was declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition. 

Pardon the analogy, but this is the way nouveaux riches behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune, in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely, for their own benefit too of course, I think they have committed many follies. 

We have entered a period of differing interpretations and deliberate silences in world politics. International law has been forced to retreat over and over by the onslaught of legal nihilism. Objectivity and justice have been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Arbitrary interpretations and biased assessments have replaced legal norms. At the same time, total control of the global mass media has made it possible when desired to portray white as black and black as white. 

In a situation where you had domination by one country and its allies, or its satellites rather, the search for global solutions often turned into an attempt to impose their own universal recipes. This group's ambitions grew so big that they started presenting the policies they put together in their corridors of power as the view of the entire international community. But this is not the case. 

The very notion of 'national sovereignty' became a relative value for most countries. In essence, what was being proposed was the formula: the greater the loyalty towards the world's sole power centre, the greater this or that ruling regime's legitimacy. 

We will have a free discussion afterwards and I will be happy to answer your questions and would also like to use my right to ask you questions. Let someone try to disprove the arguments that I just set out during the upcoming discussion. 

The measures taken against those who refuse to submit are well-known and have been tried and tested many times. They include use of force, economic and propaganda pressure, meddling in domestic affairs, and appeals to a kind of 'supra-legal' legitimacy when they need to justify illegal intervention in this or that conflict or toppling inconvenient regimes. Of late, we have increasing evidence too that outright blackmail has been used with regard to a number of leaders. It is not for nothing that 'big brother' is spending billions of dollars on keeping the whole world, including its own closest allies, under surveillance. 

Let's ask ourselves, how comfortable are we with this, how safe are we, how happy living in this world, and how fair and rational has it become? Maybe, we have no real reasons to worry, argue and ask awkward questions? Maybe the United States' exceptional position and the way they are carrying out their leadership really is a blessing for us all, and their meddling in events all around the world is bringing peace, prosperity, progress, growth and democracy, and we should maybe just relax and enjoy it all? 

Let me say that this is not the case, absolutely not the case. 

A unilateral diktat and imposing one's own models produces the opposite result. Instead of settling conflicts it leads to their escalation, instead of sovereign and stable states we see the growing spread of chaos, and instead of democracy there is support for a very dubious public ranging from open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals. 

Why do they support such people? They do this because they decide to use them as instruments along the way in achieving their goals but then burn their fingers and recoil. I never cease to be amazed by the way that our partners just keep stepping on the same rake, as we say here in Russia, that is to say, make the same mistake over and over. 

They once sponsored Islamic extremist movements to fight the Soviet Union. Those groups got their battle experience in Afghanistan and later gave birth to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The West if not supported, at least closed its eyes, and, I would say, gave information, political and financial support to international terrorists' invasion of Russia (we have not forgotten this) and the Central Asian region's countries. Only after horrific terrorist attacks were committed on US soil itself did the United States wake up to the common threat of terrorism. Let me remind you that we were the first country to support the American people back then, the first to react as friends and partners to the terrible tragedy of September 11. 

During my conversations with American and European leaders, I always spoke of the need to fight terrorism together, as a challenge on a global scale. We cannot resign ourselves to and accept this threat, cannot cut it into separate pieces using double standards. Our partners expressed agreement, but a little time passed and we ended up back where we started. First there was the military operation in Iraq, then in Libya, which got pushed to the brink of falling apart. Why was Libya pushed into this situation? Today it is a country in danger of breaking apart and has become a training ground for terrorists. 

Only the current Egyptian leadership's determination and wisdom saved this key Arab country from chaos and having extremists run rampant. In Syria, as in the past, the United States and its allies started directly financing and arming rebels and allowing them to fill their ranks with mercenaries from various countries. Let me ask where do these rebels get their money, arms and military specialists? Where does all this come from? How did the notorious ISIL manage to become such a powerful group, essentially a real armed force? 

As for financing sources, today, the money is coming not just from drugs, production of which has increased not just by a few percentage points but many-fold, since the international coalition forces have been present in Afghanistan. You are aware of this. The terrorists are getting money from selling oil too. Oil is produced in territory controlled by the terrorists, who sell it at dumping prices, produce it and transport it. But someone buys this oil, resells it, and makes a profit from it, not thinking about the fact that they are thus financing terrorists who could come sooner or later to their own soil and sow destruction in their own countries. 

Where do they get new recruits? In Iraq, after Saddam Hussein was toppled, the state's institutions, including the army, were left in ruins. We said back then, be very, very careful. You are driving people out into the street, and what will they do there? Don't forget (rightfully or not) that they were in the leadership of a large regional power, and what are you now turning them into? 

What was the result? Tens of thousands of soldiers, officers and former Baath Party activists were turned out into the streets and today have joined the rebels' ranks. Perhaps this is what explains why the Islamic State group has turned out so effective? In military terms, it is acting very effectively and has some very professional people. Russia warned repeatedly about the dangers of unilateral military actions, intervening in sovereign states' affairs, and flirting with extremists and radicals. We insisted on having the groups fighting the central Syrian government, above all the Islamic State, included on the lists of terrorist organisations. But did we see any results? We appealed in vain. 

We sometimes get the impression that our colleagues and friends are constantly fighting the consequences of their own policies, throw all their effort into addressing the risks they themselves have created, and pay an ever-greater price. 

Colleagues, this period of unipolar domination has convincingly demonstrated that having only one power centre does not make global processes more manageable. On the contrary, this kind of unstable construction has shown its inability to fight the real threats such as regional conflicts, terrorism, drug trafficking, religious fanaticism, chauvinism and neo-Nazism. At the same time, it has opened the road wide for inflated national pride, manipulating public opinion and letting the strong bully and suppress the weak. 

Essentially, the unipolar world is simply a means of justifying dictatorship over people and countries. The unipolar world turned out too uncomfortable, heavy and unmanageable a burden even for the self-proclaimed leader. Comments along this line were made here just before and I fully agree with this. This is why we see attempts at this new historic stage to recreate a semblance of a quasi-bipolar world as a convenient model for perpetuating American leadership. It does not matter who takes the place of the centre of evil in American propaganda, the USSR's old place as the main adversary. It could be Iran, as a country seeking to acquire nuclear technology, China, as the world's biggest economy, or Russia, as a nuclear superpower. 

Today, we are seeing new efforts to fragment the world, draw new dividing lines, put together coalitions not built for something but directed against someone, anyone, create the image of an enemy as was the case during the Cold War years, and obtain the right to this leadership, or diktat if you wish. The situation was presented this way during the Cold War. We all understand this and know this. The United States always told its allies: "We have a common enemy, a terrible foe, the centre of evil, and we are defending you, our allies, from this foe, and so we have the right to order you around, force you to sacrifice your political and economic interests and pay your share of the costs for this collective defence, but we will be the ones in charge of it all of course." In short, we see today attempts in a new and changing world to reproduce the familiar models of global management, and all this so as to guarantee their [the US'] exceptional position and reap political and economic dividends. 

But these attempts are increasingly divorced from reality and are in contradiction with the world's diversity. Steps of this kind inevitably create confrontation and countermeasures and have the opposite effect to the hoped-for goals. We see what happens when politics rashly starts meddling in the economy and the logic of rational decisions gives way to the logic of confrontation that only hurt one's own economic positions and interests, including national business interests. 

Joint economic projects and mutual investment objectively bring countries closer together and help to smooth out current problems in relations between states. But today, the global business community faces unprecedented pressure from Western governments. What business, economic expediency and pragmatism can we speak of when we hear slogans such as "the homeland is in danger", "the free world is under threat", and "democracy is in jeopardy"? And so everyone needs to mobilise. That is what a real mobilisation policy looks like. 

Sanctions are already undermining the foundations of world trade, the WTO rules and the principle of inviolability of private property. They are dealing a blow to liberal model of globalisation based on markets, freedom and competition, which, let me note, is a model that has primarily benefited precisely the Western countries. And now they risk losing trust as the leaders of globalisation. We have to ask ourselves, why was this necessary? After all, the United States' prosperity rests in large part on the trust of investors and foreign holders of dollars and US securities. This trust is clearly being undermined and signs of disappointment in the fruits of globalisation are visible now in many countries. 

The well-known Cyprus precedent and the politically motivated sanctions have only strengthened the trend towards seeking to bolster economic and financial sovereignty and countries' or their regional groups' desire to find ways of protecting themselves from the risks of outside pressure. We already see that more and more countries are looking for ways to become less dependent on the dollar and are setting up alternative financial and payments systems and reserve currencies. I think that our American friends are quite simply cutting the branch they are sitting on. You cannot mix politics and the economy, but this is what is happening now. I have always thought and still think today that politically motivated sanctions were a mistake that will harm everyone, but I am sure that we will come back to this subject later. 

We know how these decisions were taken and who was applying the pressure. But let me stress that Russia is not going to get all worked up, get offended or come begging at anyone's door. Russia is a self-sufficient country. We will work within the foreign economic environment that has taken shape, develop domestic production and technology and act more decisively to carry out transformation. Pressure from outside, as has been the case on past occasions, will only consolidate our society, keep us alert and make us concentrate on our main development goals. 

Of course the sanctions are a hindrance. They are trying to hurt us through these sanctions, block our development and push us into political, economic and cultural isolation, force us into backwardness in other words. But let me say yet again that the world is a very different place today. We have no intention of shutting ourselves off from anyone and choosing some kind of closed development road, trying to live in autarky. We are always open to dialogue, including on normalising our economic and political relations. We are counting here on the pragmatic approach and position of business communities in the leading countries. 

Some are saying today that Russia is supposedly turning its back on Europe - such words were probably spoken already here too during the discussions - and is looking for new business partners, above all in Asia. Let me say that this is absolutely not the case. Our active policy in the Asian-Pacific region began not just yesterday and not in response to sanctions, but is a policy that we have been following for a good many years now. Like many other countries, including Western countries, we saw that Asia is playing an ever greater role in the world, in the economy and in politics, and there is simply no way we can afford to overlook these developments. 

Let me say again that everyone is doing this, and we will do so to, all the more so as a large part of our country is geographically in Asia. Why should we not make use of our competitive advantages in this area? It would be extremely shortsighted not to do so. 

Developing economic ties with these countries and carrying out joint integration projects also creates big incentives for our domestic development. Today's demographic, economic and cultural trends all suggest that dependence on a sole superpower will objectively decrease. This is something that European and American experts have been talking and writing about too. 

Perhaps developments in global politics will mirror the developments we are seeing in the global economy, namely, intensive competition for specific niches and frequent change of leaders in specific areas. This is entirely possible. 

There is no doubt that humanitarian factors such as education, science, healthcare and culture are playing a greater role in global competition. This also has a big impact on international relations, including because this 'soft power' resource will depend to a great extent on real achievements in developing human capital rather than on sophisticated propaganda tricks. 
At the same time, the formation of a so-called polycentric world (I would also like to draw attention to this, colleagues) in and of itself does not improve stability; in fact, it is more likely to be the opposite. The goal of reaching global equilibrium is turning into a fairly difficult puzzle, an equation with many unknowns. 

So, what is in store for us if we choose not to live by the rules - even if they may be strict and inconvenient - but rather live without any rules at all? And that scenario is entirely possible; we cannot rule it out, given the tensions in the global situation. Many predictions can already be made, taking into account current trends, and unfortunately, they are not optimistic. If we do not create a clear system of mutual commitments and agreements, if we do not build the mechanisms for managing and resolving crisis situations, the symptoms of global anarchy will inevitably grow. 

Today, we already see a sharp increase in the likelihood of a whole set of violent conflicts with either direct or indirect participation by the world's major powers. And the risk factors include not just traditional multinational conflicts, but also the internal instability in separate states, especially when we talk about nations located at the intersections of major states' geopolitical interests, or on the border of cultural, historical, and economic civilizational continents. 

Ukraine, which I'm sure was discussed at length and which we will discuss some more, is one of the example of such sorts of conflicts that affect international power balance, and I think it will certainly not be the last. From here emanates the next real threat of destroying the current system of arms control agreements. And this dangerous process was launched by the United States of America when it unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, and then set about and continues today to actively pursue the creation of its global missile defence system. 

Colleagues, friends, I want to point out that we did not start this. Once again, we are sliding into the times when, instead of the balance of interests and mutual guarantees, it is fear and the balance of mutual destruction that prevent nations from engaging in direct conflict. In absence of legal and political instruments, arms are once again becoming the focal point of the global agenda; they are used wherever and however, without any UN Security Council sanctions. And if the Security Council refuses to produce such decisions, then it is immediately declared to be an outdated and ineffective instrument. 

Many states do not see any other ways of ensuring their sovereignty but to obtain their own bombs. This is extremely dangerous. We insist on continuing talks; we are not only in favour of talks, but insist on continuing talks to reduce nuclear arsenals. The less nuclear weapons we have in the world, the better. And we are ready for the most serious, concrete discussions on nuclear disarmament - but only serious discussions without any double standards. 

What do I mean? Today, many types of high-precision weaponry are already close to mass-destruction weapons in terms of their capabilities, and in the event of full renunciation of nuclear weapons or radical reduction of nuclear potential, nations that are leaders in creating and producing high-precision systems will have a clear military advantage. Strategic parity will be disrupted, and this is likely to bring destabilization. The use of a so-called first global pre-emptive strike may become tempting. In short, the risks do not decrease, but intensify. 

The next obvious threat is the further escalation of ethnic, religious, and social conflicts. Such conflicts are dangerous not only as such, but also because they create zones of anarchy, lawlessness, and chaos around them, places that are comfortable for terrorists and criminals, where piracy, human trafficking, and drug trafficking flourish. 

Incidentally, at the time, our colleagues tried to somehow manage these processes, use regional conflicts and design 'colour revolutions' to suit their interests, but the genie escaped the bottle. It looks like the controlled chaos theory fathers themselves do not know what to do with it; there is disarray in their ranks. 

We closely follow the discussions by both the ruling elite and the expert community. It is enough to look at the headlines of the Western press over the last year. The same people are called fighters for democracy, and then Islamists; first they write about revolutions and then call them riots and upheavals. The result is obvious: the further expansion of global chaos. 

Colleagues, given the global situation, it is time to start agreeing on fundamental things. This is incredibly important and necessary; this is much better than going back to our own corners. The more we all face common problems, the more we find ourselves in the same boat, so to speak. And the logical way out is in cooperation between nations, societies, in finding collective answers to increasing challenges, and in joint risk management. Granted, some of our partners, for some reason, remember this only when it suits their interests. 

Practical experience shows that joint answers to challenges are not always a panacea; and we need to understand this. Moreover, in most cases, they are hard to reach; it is not easy to overcome the differences in national interests, the subjectivity of different approaches, particularly when it comes to nations with different cultural and historical traditions. But nevertheless, we have examples when, having common goals and acting based on the same criteria, together we achieved real success. 

Let me remind you about solving the problem of chemical weapons in Syria, and the substantive dialogue on the Iranian nuclear programme, as well as our work on North Korean issues, which also has some positive results. Why can't we use this experience in the future to solve local and global challenges? 

What could be the legal, political, and economic basis for a new world order that would allow for stability and security, while encouraging healthy competition, not allowing the formation of new monopolies that hinder development? It is unlikely that someone could provide absolutely exhaustive, ready-made solutions right now. We will need extensive work with participation by a wide range of governments, global businesses, civil society, and such expert platforms as ours. 

However, it is obvious that success and real results are only possible if key participants in international affairs can agree on harmonising basic interests, on reasonable self-restraint, and set the example of positive and responsible leadership. We must clearly identify where unilateral actions end and we need to apply multilateral mechanisms, and as part of improving the effectiveness of international law, we must resolve the dilemma between the actions by international community to ensure security and human rights and the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of any state. 

Those very collisions increasingly lead to arbitrary external interference in complex internal processes, and time and again, they provoke dangerous conflicts between leading global players. The issue of maintaining sovereignty becomes almost paramount in maintaining and strengthening global stability. 

Clearly, discussing the criteria for the use of external force is extremely difficult; it is practically impossible to separate it from the interests of particular nations. However, it is far more dangerous when there are no agreements that are clear to everyone, when no clear conditions are set for necessary and legal interference. 

I will add that international relations must be based on international law, which itself should rest on moral principles such as justice, equality and truth. Perhaps most important is respect for one's partners and their interests. This is an obvious formula, but simply following it could radically change the global situation. 

I am certain that if there is a will, we can restore the effectiveness of the international and regional institutions system. We do not even need to build anything anew, from the scratch; this is not a "greenfield," especially since the institutions created after World War II are quite universal and can be given modern substance, adequate to manage the current situation. 

This is true of improving the work of the UN, whose central role is irreplaceable, as well as the OSCE, which, over the course of 40 years, has proven to be a necessary mechanism for ensuring security and cooperation in the Euro-Atlantic region. I must say that even now, in trying to resolve the crisis in southeast Ukraine, the OSCE is playing a very positive role. 

In light of the fundamental changes in the international environment, the increase in uncontrollability and various threats, we need a new global consensus of responsible forces. It's not about some local deals or a division of spheres of influence in the spirit of classic diplomacy, or somebody's complete global domination. I think that we need a new version of interdependence. We should not be afraid of it. On the contrary, this is a good instrument for harmonising positions. 

This is particularly relevant given the strengthening and growth of certain regions on the planet, which process objectively requires institutionalisation of such new poles, creating powerful regional organisations and developing rules for their interaction. Cooperation between these centres would seriously add to the stability of global security, policy and economy. But in order to establish such a dialogue, we need to proceed from the assumption that all regional centres and integration projects forming around them need to have equal rights to development, so that they can complement each other and nobody can force them into conflict or opposition artificially. Such destructive actions would break down ties between states, and the states themselves would be subjected to extreme hardship, or perhaps even total destruction. 

I would like to remind you of the last year's events. We have told our American and European partners that hasty backstage decisions, for example, on Ukraine's association with the EU, are fraught with serious risks to the economy. We didn't even say anything about politics; we spoke only about the economy, saying that such steps, made without any prior arrangements, touch on the interests of many other nations, including Russia as Ukraine's main trade partner, and that a wide discussion of the issues is necessary. Incidentally, in this regard, I will remind you that, for example, the talks on Russia's accession to the WTO lasted 19 years. This was very difficult work, and a certain consensus was reached. 

Why am I bringing this up? Because in implementing Ukraine's association project, our partners would come to us with their goods and services through the back gate, so to speak, and we did not agree to this, nobody asked us about this. We had discussions on all topics related to Ukraine's association with the EU, persistent discussions, but I want to stress that this was done in an entirely civilised manner, indicating possible problems, showing the obvious reasoning and arguments. Nobody wanted to listen to us and nobody wanted to talk. They simply told us: this is none of your business, point, end of discussion. Instead of a comprehensive but - I stress - civilised dialogue, it all came down to a government overthrow; they plunged the country into chaos, into economic and social collapse, into a civil war with enormous casualties. 

Why? When I ask my colleagues why, they no longer have an answer; nobody says anything. That's it. Everyone's at a loss, saying it just turned out that way. Those actions should not have been encouraged - it wouldn't have worked. After all (I already spoke about this), former Ukrainian President Yanukovych signed everything, agreed with everything. Why do it? What was the point? What is this, a civilised way of solving problems? Apparently, those who constantly throw together new 'colour revolutions' consider themselves 'brilliant artists' and simply cannot stop. 

I am certain that the work of integrated associations, the cooperation of regional structures, should be built on a transparent, clear basis; the Eurasian Economic Union's formation process is a good example of such transparency. The states that are parties to this project informed their partners of their plans in advance, specifying the parameters of our association, the principles of its work, which fully correspond with the World Trade Organisation rules. 

I will add that we would also have welcomed the start of a concrete dialogue between the Eurasian and European Union. Incidentally, they have almost completely refused us this as well, and it is also unclear why - what is so scary about it? 

And, of course, with such joint work, we would think that we need to engage in dialogue (I spoke about this many times and heard agreement from many of our western partners, at least in Europe) on the need to create a common space for economic and humanitarian cooperation stretching all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. 

Colleagues, Russia made its choice. Our priorities are further improving our democratic and open economy institutions, accelerated internal development, taking into account all the positive modern trends in the world, and consolidating society based on traditional values and patriotism. 

We have an integration-oriented, positive, peaceful agenda; we are working actively with our colleagues in the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS and other partners. This agenda is aimed at developing ties between governments, not dissociating. We are not planning to cobble together any blocs or get involved in an exchange of blows. 

The allegations and statements that Russia is trying to establish some sort of empire, encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbours, are groundless. Russia does not need any kind of special, exclusive place in the world - I want to emphasise this. While respecting the interests of others, we simply want for our own interests to be taken into account and for our position to be respected. 

We are well aware that the world has entered an era of changes and global transformations, when we all need a particular degree of caution, the ability to avoid thoughtless steps. In the years after the Cold War, participants in global politics lost these qualities somewhat. Now, we need to remember them. Otherwise, hopes for a peaceful, stable development will be a dangerous illusion, while today's turmoil will simply serve as a prelude to the collapse of world order. 

Yes, of course, I have already said that building a more stable world order is a difficult task. We are talking about long and hard work. We were able to develop rules for interaction after World War II, and we were able to reach an agreement in Helsinki in the 1970s. Our common duty is to resolve this fundamental challenge at this new stage of development. 

Thank you very much for your attention. 

VLADIMIR PUTIN (commenting on statements by former Prime Minister of France Dominique de Villepin and former Federal Chancellor of Austria Wolfgang Schuessel): I would like to begin by saying that overall I agree with what both Wolfgang and Dominique have said. I fully support everything they said. However, there are a few things I would like to clarify. 

I believe Dominique referred to the Ukrainian crisis as the reason for the deterioration in international relations. Naturally, this crisis is a cause, but this is not the principal cause. The crisis in Ukraine is itself a result of a misbalance in international relations. 

I have already said in my address why this is happening, and my colleagues have already mentioned it. I can add to this, if necessary. However, primarily this is the outcome of the misbalance in international relations. 

As for the issues mentioned by Wolfgang, we will get back to them: we will talk about the elections, if necessary, and about the supply of energy resources to Ukraine and Europe. 

However, I would like to respond to the phrase "Wolfgang is an optimist, while life is harder for pessimists." I already mentioned the old joke we have about a pessimist and an optimist, but I cannot help telling it again. We have this very old joke about a pessimist and an optimist: a pessimist drinks his cognac and says, "It smells of bedbugs," while an optimist catches a bedbug, crushes it, then sniffs it and says, "A slight whiff of cognac." 

I would rather be the pessimist who drinks cognac than the optimist who sniffs bedbugs. (Laughter) 
Though it does seem that optimists have a better time, our common goal is to live a decent life (without overindulging in alcohol). For this purpose, we need to avoid crises, together handle all challenges and threats and build such relations on the global arena that would help us reach these goals. 

Later I will be ready to respond to some of the other things mentioned here. Thank you. 
---------
Sourced from: 

1) http://www.sott.net/article/288204-Play-time-is-over-children-Putins-message-to-the-Western-elites-is-most-important-since-Churchills-Iron-Curtain-speech

2) http://www.sott.net/article/288000-Paul-Craig-Roberts-Vladimir-Putin-is-the-leader-of-the-moral-world

Beat The System With This List Of 40 Free Educational Websites


Posted On 18 Jan 2014 | By : Stan



According to www.webometrics.info, there are more than 17 000 universities in the world, but getting a degree in many of them is quite costly. Many students around the world(and their families) get into big debts or have to work over sixty hours a week in order to afford an Education. Two thirds of the US college seniors who graduated in 2011 had student loan debt, with an average of over 27 000 USD per person. Reading those statistics I can’t stop thinking about those words from over 30 years ago:

With mass education, it turned out that most people could be taught to read and write. In the same way, once we have computer outlets in every home, each of them hooked up to enormous libraries, where you can ask any question and be given answers, you can look up something you’re interested in knowing, however silly it might seem to someone else. – Isaac Asiov

Isaac Asimov died in 1992, but if he could see the opportunities that the Internet is giving us in XXI century he would probably grin from ear to ear. Getting a degree in an university might be expensive, but there are much better options.

There are many websites on the Internet that now offer FREE of charge learning materials. Now even very poor people can afford to be better educated than many of Harvard’s graduates, all they need is access to a computer(does not even have to be personal one, it could be the one that the local library offers for public use)

Enough with the words, here is a great list of 40 useful links which can help you learn a lot for free:

1. ALISON – over 60 million lessons and records 1.2 million unique visitors per month

2. COURSERA – Educational website that works with universities to get their courses on the Internet, free for you to use. Learn from over 542 courses.

3. The University of Reddit – The free university of Reddit.

4. UDACITY – Advance your education and career through project-based online classes, mainly focused around computer, data science and mathematics.

5. MIT Open CourseWare – Free access to quite a few MIT courses that are on par with what you’d expect from MIT.

6. Open Culture – Compendium of free learning resources, including courses, textbooks, and videos/films.


7. No Excuse List – Huge list of websites to learn from.

8. Open YALE Courses – Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to a selection of introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University All lectures were recorded in the Yale College classroom and are available in video, audio, and text transcript formats. Registration is not required

9. Khan Academy – Watch thousands of micro-lectures on topics ranging from history and medicine to chemistry and computer science.

10. Zooniverse – Take part in a huge variety of interesting studies of nature, science, and culture.

11. TUFTS Open CourseWare – Tufts OpenCourseWare is part of a new educational movement initiated by MIT that provides free access to course content for everyone online. Tufts’ course offerings demonstrate the University’s strength in the life sciences in addition to its multidisciplinary approach, international perspective and underlying ethic of service to its local, national and international communities.

12. How Stuff Works? – More scientific lessons and explanations than you could sort through in an entire year.

13. Harvard Medical School Open Courseware The mission of the Harvard Medical School Open Courseware Initiative is to exchange knowledge from the Harvard community of scholars to other academic institutions, prospective students, and the general public.

14. VideoLectures.NET – the title says it all – amazing video lectures on many topics.

15. TED – Motivational and educational lectures from noteworthy professionals around the world.

16. Shodor – A non-profit research and education organisation dedicated to the advancement of science and math education, specifically trough the use of modeling and simulation technologies. Included in this site are instructional resources, software, interactive lessons, explorations and information about workshops for students, teachers and learners of all ages on mathematics and science. Make sure you check Shodor Interactive – a great collection of interactive math, geometry, fractal, probability, algebra and statistics activities.

17. Udemy FREE Courses – hundreds of experts teach on Udemy every month including New York Times best-selling authors, CEOs, Ivy League professionals and celebrity instructors. Courses include video, live lectures and tools to help teachers interact with students and track their progress. There are many free courses that can teach you business online, law, programming, design, mathematics, science, photography, yoga and many more.

18. Maths & Science – Courses, tests and learning materials about mathematics and science for students from 1 to 12 grade.

19. edX.org – Free courses designed specifically for interactive study via the web, provided by MIT, Harvard, Barkley, Georgetown, Boston University, University of Washington, Karolinska Institute, Kyoto University and many more.

20. iTunes U – Apple’s free app that gives students mobile access to many courses. It offers many free video courses, books, presentations and audio lectures.

21. Liberty Classroom – Owned by bestselling author Tom Woods. Offers some free courses in history and economics, but at the price of one movie ticket a month you can gain access to a lot of useful information. Not completely free, but totally worth it…

22. Drawspace – Hundreds of free drawing lessons.

23. Codeacademy – Easy way to learn how to code. It’s interactive, fun and you can do it with your friends.

24. Duke U – Duke offers variety of free courses on iTunesU.

25. Scitable – A free science library and personal learning tool that currently concentrates on genetic, the study of evolution, variation and the rich complexity of living organisms.

26. My own business – Offers free online business administration course that would be beneficial to new managers and to anyone who is interested in starting a business.

27. Kutztown University’s free courses – The Kutztown University of Pennsylvania’s Small Business Development Center offers more than 80 free business online learning. Kutztown’s courses are individualized and self-paced. Many of the courses feature high-end graphics, interactive case studies and audio streams.

28. Open Learn – Gives you free access to Open University course materials.

29. Free Computer Books – Free computer, mathematics, technical books and lecture notes.

30. Academic Earth – Free video lectures from the world’s top scholars.31. American Sign Language Browser – Teach yourself sign language online

32. BBC Languages – Teach yourself a new spoken language online.

33. unplugthetv – Randomly selects an educational video for you to watch.

34. Lifehacker – Learn to hack life! Tips and tricks for improving all areas of your life.

35. JustinGuitar – Hundreds of free guitar lessons as well as some basic music theory.

36. DuoLingo – Learn a new language for free while helping to translate the web.

37. Layers Magazine – Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash, Premiere Pro, In Design and After Effects tutorials.

38. Creative Flow – list of OVER 950 Photoshop tutorials to keep your skillset up to date.

39. Open2study – Open2Study delivers free, high-quality education online. You can study subjects with real value, and in just four weeks you can learn something new, explore the next step in your career, challenge yourself or simply satisfy your curiosity. These subjects are provided by leading Australian institutions, and are taught by academics and leading industry professionals who love to teach. All you need is an internet connection and the desire to study.

40. OEDb – Choose from over 10,000 free online classes

The myth of Assad, ISIL and extremism - by Sharmine Narwani


Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She tweets @snarwani

Published time: October 07, 2014 13:39
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (Reuters / SANA / Handout via Reuters)
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (Reuters / SANA / Handout via Reuters)
It is difficult to find US officials directly claiming that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in league with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but you will find plenty who will allude to it using specious reasoning:Who is to blame for the proliferation of extremist groups in Syria? The West often points a finger at Assad and his allies, but two secret US documents tell a different story.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is one of many who have sought to encourage this narrative:

“There is evidence that Assad has played footsie with them (ISIL), and he has used them as a tool of weakening the opposition. He never took on their headquarters, which were there and obvious, and other assets that they have. So we have no confidence that Assad is either capable of or willing to take on ISIL.” 
That logic forms the basis of several key arguments used by Syria’s opponents to suggest a covert and symbiotic relationship between the Syrian government and Islamist extremists. They go something like this:

• Assad encouraged the growth of militants to create an either-or dilemma for Syrians who want him deposed, but who fear “what comes next.”

• Assad released militants from prison in 2011 so that they would overwhelm secular moderates.

• Proof of this is that the Syrian Army does not attack ISIL targets.

• Assad has a close history with militants – he sent hundreds over the border into Iraq to join the insurgency against US forces and is now suffering blowback.

But as a global confrontation with ISIL mounts, an entirely different picture has begun to emerge. The US-led coalition's five Arab Sunni partners are providing little less than fig-leaf cover for airstrike operations. NATO has been unable to wrest - to date - a commitment from Turkey to enforce serious border security to stop militants from crossing over into Iraq and Syria. In recent weeks, Western media has unleashed a flurry of articles pointing to Qatar's role in funding extremists.

Clearly, America's Sunni Arab and Turkish allies are approaching the “ISIL Project”' with something less than enthusiasm.

On Thursday, US Vice President Joe Biden let the cat out of the bag. During a speech at Harvard University, Biden told his audience:

"Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks...the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world….we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them."



Smoke rises from the southwest of the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, following air strikes as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, on October 7, 2014. (AFP Photo / Aris Messinis)



He, of course, failed to mention Washington's own arming, training and funding activities coordinatedwith these very same allies. Predictably, Biden was forced to “apologize” for his undiplomatic comments over the weekend.

But just last month, during a hearing in the US Senate for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, Senator Lindsey Graham asked: “Do you know of any major Arab ally that embraces ISIL?”

To the surprise of many, Dempsey countered: “I know of major Arab allies who fund them.”

The revelations keep flowing from once tight-lipped Western sources. According to US news reports, current and former officials now say wealthy Gulf donors are the source of early funding:

“These rich individuals have long served as ‘angel investors’ for the most violent militants in the region, providing the ‘seed money’ that helped launch ISIS and other jihadi groups…Former U.S. Navy Admiral and NATO Supreme Commander James Stavridis says the cash flow from private donors is significant now and was even more significant in the early fund-raising done by ISIS and al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front,” NBC’s Robert Windrem wrote in an article.

And on Saturday, the UK's former Assistant Chief of the Defense Staff General Jonathan Shaw, who specialized in counter-terrorism and security policy and retired in 2012, told The Telegraph
"This is a time bomb that, under the guise of education, Wahhabi Salafism is igniting under the world really. And it is funded by Saudi and Qatari money and that must stop."
The ‘Assad-has-encouraged-extremism’ argument

Has the Syrian government exploited extremism while at the same time fighting a three-year nationwide military campaign to thwart it? Perhaps. Politics are opportunistic by nature.

But the narrative about Assad encouraging Islamist militancy has always failed to note the historic role of armed Islamists in Syrian “rebellions.”

A US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document that was declassified in 2012 provides a starkly different reading of events leading up to the controversial “Hama massacre” of 1982. It tells a story remarkably similar to events in Syria beginning in early 2011. Here is a montage of quotes from the document:

“In early 1979, encouraged by the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood developed a plan to trigger a similar popular revolution in Syria to oust (Hafez) Assad. The massacre of 50 Alawite cadets, on 16 June 1979 at the Artillery School in Aleppo, signaled the start of the MB offensive.”

The Syrian MB regroups for a “new round of fighting” in late 1980, announces the formation of an “Islamic Front”’ and increases cooperation with the Sunni (Baathist) government of Iraq which had helped the MB covertly in 1979-80 to oust Assad.

“The plan, apparently developed by the leadership of the Syrian MB and probably coordinated with Iraq, centered on two complementary actions. The first was a full-scale revolt by the city of Hama, a traditional Brotherhood stronghold and the location of its covert headquarters in Syria. Once this rebellion was unleashed, similar uprisings were to take place in Aleppo, Damascus and other major cities, accompanied by a general strike designed to paralyze Syria...”

“Simultaneously, a sophisticated worldwide propaganda campaign was to be launched supporting the rebellion and emphasizing its victories and the wholesale desertion of Army units to the rebel side. Press releases were to be made in Europe and the US, while propaganda broadcasts against Syria were to be carried by the Phalange-controlled Voice of Lebanon and the Iraqi-controlled Voice of Arab Syria.”

“At least 100 militants were transported from Jordan, where they had taken refuge, into Iraq where they probably received training prior to their movement into Syria... Sometime after this, the infiltration of ‘Secret Apparatus’ militants began from staging areas in Iraq, and to a lesser degree from Turkey, where others had fled. During the interim period, a number of terrorist bombings and shootings took place in Syria to demonstrate the Brotherhood/dissident Alawites ability to strike at the government.”



Free Syrian Army fighters launch a rocket towards Hama military airport that is controlled by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in the Hama countryside July 25, 2014. (Reuters / Badi Khlif)



“As a result of Syrian security actions, the MB was forced to prematurely unleash the Hama rebellion with the hope that it might spark widespread fighting in other cities…The rebellion would also force the Damascus government to become even more oppressive. The Brotherhood leadership believed this would, in turn, cause greater alienation of the Assad government from the Sunni Muslim majority and within the Alawite community.”

“On February 2, following a clash between the MB and Syrian security forces, the loudspeakers atop the mosque minarets in Hama called on the people to begin a Jihad (Holy Struggle) against the government. The appeal also told the people that arms were available at specified mosques. At about the same time, teams of the MB’s ‘Secret Apparatus,’ some in army uniforms, moved to attack preselected government targets in the city.”

“Despite the propaganda reporting, the uprising in Syria had never spread outside of Hama, although some limited bombings had taken place in Damascus and elsewhere… The total casualties for the Hama incident probably number about 2,000. This includes an estimated 300-400 of the Muslim Brotherhood’s elite ‘Secret Apparatus’… The Syrian dissidents’ modus operandi will continue to be terrorism, particularly bombings and assassinations.”
WikiLeaks: Syria’s government and terrorism

On February 24, 2010, a Cable classified as ‘Secret’ was dispatched from the US Embassy in Damascus to the CIA, DIA, National Security Council, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Office of Homeland Security and a smattering of key US embassies in the Middle East and Europe.

It details the communications between Syria’s General Intelligence Director (GID) Ali Mamlouk who dropped in on a meeting between Syria’s Vice Foreign Minister Faisal al-Miqdad and a US delegation, headed by State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Daniel Benjamin.

The participants discuss possible future security and intelligence cooperation on issues related to terrorism, particularly on the Syria-Iraq border.

What is notable about this US-framed communiqué is that the American delegation does not take any of the Syrian officials in the room to task for “encouraging and coordinating” the passage of extremist fighters from Syria into Iraq to participate in an insurgency against US forces. This accusation has become a key narrative advanced by Washington in recent years, so why not challenge the Syrians face-to-face when the opportunity is there?

According to the Cable, Benjamin says “the two countries should still work to cooperate on immediate threats facing both the U.S. and Syria, including the proliferation of takfiri groups in the region, such as al-Qaeda, and stopping the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.”

The Syrian response? According to the US Cable:

“Mamlouk said the foreign fighters come from a large number of Arab and Muslim countries and that the Syrians detain ‘large numbers plus their local facilitators.’ As an example, Mamlouk said he handed over 23 Saudis detained in Syria to Saudi Prince Muqrin last year.”

The US delegation even acknowledges the fact that the Syrians have been helpful:

“Benjamin commended Mamlouk on reducing the flow of foreign fighters, while encouraging further progress.”

And the Syrians offer additional cooperation, provided that Damascus takes the lead in these efforts:

“Miqdad interjected that the issue of foreign fighters using Syrian soil is a matter of national security for Syria. ‘We have zero tolerance,’ he said. Miqdad said Syria needs the cooperation of other countries, namely those from which the terrorists are coming. ‘If we can close this circle - with us, you, and other countries - we will succeed,’ he concluded.”

The Cable does reveal some interesting information about Syrian strategies in dealing with terrorism, which Mamlouk says differs considerably from the American approach:

"The GID Director said Syria had been more successful than the U.S. and other countries in the region in fighting terrorist groups because ‘we are practical and not theoretical.’ He stated Syria's success is due to its penetration of terrorist groups. ‘In principle, we don't attack or kill them immediately. Instead, we embed ourselves in them and only at the opportune moment do we move.’ Describing the process of planting embeds in terrorist organizations as ‘complex,’ Mamlouk said the result had yielded been the detention of scores of terrorists, stamping out terror cells, and stopping hundreds of terrorists from entering Iraq.

Mamlouk acknowledged some terrorists were still slipping into Iraq from Syria. ‘By all means we will continue to do all this, but if we start cooperation with you it will lead to better results and we can better protect our interests,’ he concluded.”



A Free Syrian Army fighter reacts to the camera at the Handarat camp frontline, an area located beside Aleppo Central prison July 7, 2014. (Reuters / Hosam Katan)


War of words

The tactics described by Mamlouk explain, in part, why Syrian forces today do not typically launch assaults on terrorist groups unless there is an immediate and direct threat to its military strategy of maintaining control over key areas and disrupting rebel supply lines.

While groups like ISIL are viewed as a security threat, they have not always posed an imminent one.

For the better part of the Syrian conflict, ISIL has not controlled the “priority zones” of the Syrian Army.

Those areas have always been Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama and their surrounding countryside (Rif), with Quseir and Qalamoun, Daraa, Tal Kalakh and other border towns playing an important role. When ISIL fighters have been present in those areas, the Syrian Army has fought them - as in Qalamoun and the Damascus suburbs.

In early 2014, pro-opposition writer and researcher A.J. Tamimi questioned in detail accusations of collaboration between the Syrian government and ISIL/al Nusra. Among his many points, Tamimi notes:

“One must ask what the regime would gain strategically by constantly bombing ISIS strongholds in Raqqa province, or ISIS strongholds elsewhere, for that matter, located far beyond the frontlines. As in the wider east of Syria, the regime lacks ground forces to launch an offensive to retake any territory in Raqqa province, and must depend on airlifts from elsewhere to maintain its remaining airbases. Hence, the regime is focusing its airstrikes where it has some real expectations of advancing: most notably in Aleppo city.”

Nevertheless, the Syrian air force did take immediate action when ISIL escalated in Mosul in June, which changed the geopolitical dynamic well beyond the Syrian-Iraqi border. Kerry is misleading when he suggests that Assad will not strike ISIL headquarters: this is about timing and gains from both a military and political perspective – not necessarily a response that trigger-happy Americans can understand.

As for accusations that the Syrians have released militants from their prisons to “populate” ideologically extremist rebel groups that will make Assad look like an angel… You can’t have it both ways – political prisoner releases were initiated to defuse conflict and demonstrate leniency. Were some of these prisoners “extremists” of the variety that man Islamist rebel groups? Almost certainly. But that was the Sunni constituency that the Syrian government was also trying to placate in the early days.

Even today, after grueling “reconciliation” negotiations, the Syrian government is allowing these very rebels to “go free” after they lay down their arms – this, according to volunteers involved in negotiations from Homs to Rif Damascus. What is to stop these same “reformed rebels” from hopping over to al-Raqqa and taking up bigger arms? Should the Syrian government kill them instead? How does one win in a situation like this?

Critics of Syria's prisoner releases should be reminded of the “Big One” carried out by the Americans in 2009 when they allegedly freed future ISIL ‘Caliph’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from an Iraqi prison.

Does anyone have the right to point fingers after that monumental gaff? The fact is – from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, from Turkey to the United States, from Iraq to France – there appears to be plenty of complicity in fueling ISIL and the jihadi phenomenon. Is Syria complicit too? It depends who is asking - and why.