Israel warns of imminent ground invasion of Gaza

Mike Head

Israel yesterday told an estimated 100,000 Gaza residents living in cities near the border with Israel to leave their homes immediately, in a clear warning of an imminent ground invasion of the densely-populated enclave that houses nearly two million Palestinians.

According to Israeli media reports, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) yesterday sent phone calls to people living in cities and towns, including Beit Lahia, Beit Hanoun, and Absan al-Saghira, ordering them to evacuate and move to the west or south.

Residents are largely unable to leave the territory, however, because the US-backed military regime in Egypt, headed by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has closed the only possible border crossing, at Rafah, except temporarily for some injured people who need to seek hospital treatment.

After four days of relentless aerial bombardments, which have already killed 89 Gaza residents, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has approved a call-up of 40,000 IDF reservists. About 20,000 have already been mobilised to the Gaza border in anticipation of a possible ground assault.

In a statement televised following a meeting of his security cabinet, Netanyahu declared: “So far the battle is progressing as planned but we can expect further stages in future.”

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon added, “We have long days of fighting ahead of us.”

The Israeli offensive is being intensified with the clear backing of the United States. President Barack Obama phoned Netanyahu late yesterday, reportedly offering to broker a ceasefire, while stressing his support for the view that Israel has the right to employ overwhelming force against Gaza, supposedly to defend itself.

Newly installed President Poroshenko pledges to militarise Ukraine and crush rebellion in the east

Mike Head

(L-R) Angela Merkel, Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin

With US Vice President Joseph Biden in the audience, Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire confectioner, was formally sworn in Saturday as president of Ukraine. Delivering a bellicose speech, he pledged to confront Russia, suppress the separatists in Ukraine’s east and fully militarise the country. At the same time, he alluded to his plans to impose brutal austerity measures on the Ukrainian working class.

Poroshenko began by paying homage to the fascistic forces that spearheaded his installation, via a US- and European Union-backed putsch in February followed by an election held May 25 amid a reign of terror and military violence in eastern Ukraine. He enthused over the “victorious revolution” by “Ukrainian patriots” and “warriors.”

While the Western media portrayed it as a powerful performance, the speech only underscored the fact that Poroshenko is nothing but a front man for German and particularly American imperialism, and is entirely dependent on them. Adopting a provocative stance toward Russia, he declared he would never accept Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and vowed to repudiate the Budapest Agreement that restricts the deployment of Western military forces within former Soviet states.

“Russia occupied Crimea, which was, is and will be Ukrainian soil,” Poroshenko insisted. Referring to a brief meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the D-Day commemoration in France, he said: “Yesterday, in the course of the meeting in Normandy, I told this to President Putin: Crimea is Ukraine soil. Period. There can be no compromise on the issues of Crimea, European choice and state structure.”

Fresh from talks in France with US President Barack Obama, Poroshenko rejected any negotiations with pro-Russian separatist forces in Ukraine’s east. He vowed instead to swiftly put an end to the resistance to February’s pro-Western, fascist-led coup in Kiev.

He depicted those holding control in dozens of eastern cities and towns as “bandits,” “criminals,” “terrorists” and “Russian mercenaries,” foreshadowing a renewed offensive by the Ukrainian military and allied right-wing militias.

Washington responsible for fascist massacre in Odessa

Mike Head

In what can only be described as a massacre, 38 anti-government activists were killed Friday after fascist-led forces set fire to Odessa’s Trade Unions House, which had been sheltering opponents of the US- and European-backed regime in Ukraine.

According to eye-witnesses, those who jumped from the burning building and survived were surrounded and beaten by thugs from the neo-Nazi Right Sector. Video footage shows bloodied and wounded survivors being attacked.

The atrocity underscores both the brutal character of the right-wing government installed in Kiev by the Western powers and the encouragement by the US and its allies of a bloody crackdown by the regime to suppress popular opposition, centered in the mainly Russian-speaking south and east of Ukraine.

As the Odessa outrage occurred, US President Barack Obama, at a joint White House press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, explicitly endorsed the military offensive being carried out by the unelected Kiev government against protesters occupying official buildings in eastern Ukraine.

CIA director in Ukraine as Washington steps up threats against Russia

Mike Head

US imperialism and its [European puppets] are seeking to redraw the European map, strategically and militarily encircling Russia in order to dismember the Russian Federation. The ultimate aim is to assert unchallenged US hegemony over the Eurasian landmass.

Seizing upon spreading protests and building occupations in eastern Ukraine in response to February’s Western-backed putsch in Kiev, the Obama administration is escalating its accusations, threats and provocations against Russia.

In the clearest sign of intensifying US involvement in the Ukraine crisis, the White House admitted—after vehement denials—that CIA Director John Brennan flew into Kiev over the weekend. Brennan arrived, under a false name, for discussions on how to further exploit the crisis that the US and its allies deliberately triggered by orchestrating the February coup.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov demanded an explanation about the nature of the undercover visit, and deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych accused Brennan of ordering a crackdown on protests in the east of the country.

The CIA initially ridiculed these accusations as “completely false.” Yesterday, however, White House spokesman Jay Carney declared: “We don’t normally comment on the CIA director’s travel, but given the extraordinary circumstances in this case and the false claims being leveled by the Russians at the CIA, we can confirm that the director was in Kiev as part of a trip to Europe.”

Ludicrously, Carney told reporters that “senior level visits of intelligence officials are a standard means of fostering mutually beneficial security cooperation, including US-Russian intelligence collaboration.” He added that “to imply that US officials meeting with their counterparts is anything other than in the same spirit is absurd.”

Leading US-backed Ukrainian politician calls for annihilation of Russia

Mike Head

Beauty Will Save The World!”: Feminine Strategies in Ukrainian
Politics...and the Case of Yulia Tymoshenko
(Oksana Kis)

Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Ukrainian prime minister and leading backer of the new regime installed by last month’s coup, has called for Ukrainians to take up arms against Russians and for the Western powers to reduce Russia to ashes.

In a phone call leaked online, Tymoshenko urged the murder of Russians and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “It’s about time we grab our guns and kill those katsaps [a derogatory Ukrainian word] together with their leader,” she said. (Available from the original source here and with RT’s English translation here).

Tymoshenko also advocated the nuclear slaughter of the eight million Russians who remain on Ukrainian territory. She confirmed the authenticity of the conversation on Twitter, while claiming her call for the use of nuclear weapons was edited.

The phone conversation with Nestor Shufrych, former deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, was uploaded on YouTube on Monday by user Sergiy Vechirko. Shufrych had denied its veracity. The leaked tape is a damning exposure of the lies constructed by the US and its allies that the crisis over Ukraine and Crimea was triggered by Russian aggression. It reveals the real face of the regime installed with the support of fascistic forces in Ukraine.

The phone call took place on March 18, hours after the Crimea accession treaty was signed in the Kremlin, following the Crimean referendum vote to join Russia. Enraged by the referendum, Tymoshenko declared that she were in charge “there would be no f***ing way that they would get Crimea.” Tymoshenko, who plans to run in Ukraine’s presidential election, insisted that she would have found “a way to kill those a*****es.”

EU-Ukraine trade pact paves way for brutal austerity

Mike Head

Arseniy ("Yats") Yatsenyuk (L) & Herman Van Rompuy

Amid intensifying US and European Union sanctions and military provocations against Russia, the EU and the Western-backed government in Ukraine yesterday signed a pact that paves the way for brutal austerity measures and free market “reforms.”

The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is based on the deal that former President Viktor Yanukovych’s Ukrainian government rejected, leading to the US- and EU-instigated protests and violence that ousted him last month.

The pact, signed in Brussels, declares that the Ukrainian government must “embark swiftly on an ambitious program of structural reforms” and submit to “an agreement with the [International Monetary Fund].” The plans being drawn up are based on the “Greek model”—the savage cuts imposed on Greece by the IMF and the EU that have produced a massive growth in unemployment and poverty.

For all their claims of a “democratic revolution,” the EU leaders and Ukraine’s unelected regime of former bankers, fascists and oligarchs announced that they would delay finalizing the economic clauses of the EU association pact—and hence unveiling the austerity measures—until after elections in May.

The pact is another step toward realising the underlying objectives of the Ukrainian coup—Ukraine’s integration into the orbit of the Western powers, the transformation of the country into a cheap labour platform for global capitalism and the ratcheting up of economic and strategic pressure on Russia itself.

Afghanistan aid conference signals indefinite foreign occupation

Mike Head

The truth is that the US and its allies, and all those who have collaborated with them, are guilty of war crimes.

The United States and its allies convened a so-called aid conference for Afghanistan in Tokyo last Sunday, where donor countries pledged to provide about $4 billion a year in civil programs beyond 2014, when most foreign combat troops are scheduled to leave the country.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, head of the country’s puppet regime, absurdly declared: “Today’s Tokyo conference will go down in the developing history of Afghanistan as a milestone on the country’s long journey to self-reliance, prosperity, stability and peace.”

The truth is that more than ten years after the October 2001 US-led invasion, which has devastated Afghanistan and its people, the conference was another preparation for an indefinite de facto foreign occupation. The one-day Tokyo gathering, attended by about 70 countries and organisations, was the third recent step taken by the Obama administration to cement Washington’s grip over Afghanistan far beyond the troop “draw down.”

Just a day before the Tokyo meeting, the US nominated the Afghan regime as its 16th “major non-NATO ally” (MNNA), making it formally eligible for military training, loans of equipment, and financing to lease weaponry.

Further evidence of secret US indictment of Julian Assange

Mike Head

"Australian authorities, acting on the instructions of the Gillard government, are heavily involved in the conspiracy against Assange."

Internal emails obtained from the US private intelligence firm Stratfor indicate that the Obama administration has had a secret indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for more than 12 months. The emails, published by WikiLeaks this week, also point to the close involvement of the Australian Labor government and intelligence agencies in the operation against Assange, an Australian citizen.

The emails were sent by Fred Burton, Stratfor’s vice-president for counterterrorism and corporate security. Burton is a former Deputy Chief of the US Department of State’s counterterrorism division for the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). The DSS is playing a leading investigative role in the ongoing operation to extradite Assange to the US, where he would be tried under the Espionage Act of 1917 and could face the death penalty.

In January 2011, Burton revealed in Stratfor correspondence that a secret Grand Jury had issued an indictment: “Not for Pub—We have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect.” According to Burton: “Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the terrorist. He’ll be eating cat food forever.”

A few weeks earlier, following Assange’s release from a London jail, where he had been remanded as a result of a Swedish prosecutor’s arrest warrant, Burton told SkyNews: “extradition [to the US is] more and more likely.”

Burton’s emails indicate that the US government is employing the same “counter-terrorism” methods against WikiLeaks as against Al Qaeda, “Take down the money. Go after his infrastructure. The tools we are using to nail and de-construct Wiki are the same tools used to dismantle and track aQ [Al Qaeda],” he wrote.

Later Burton pointed to a relentless dirty tricks and destabilisation operation. “Ferreting out [Assange’s] confederates is also key. Find out what other disgruntled rogues inside the tent or outside [sic]. Pile on. Move him from country to country to face various charges for the next 25 years. But, seize everything he and his family own, to include every person linked to Wiki.”

Egyptian military commands a vast business empire

Mike Head

Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi

Egypt’s military has been presented by the Obama administration, as well as by the leaders of Egypt’s official “opposition,” such as Mohamed ElBaradei, as the guarantor of an “orderly transition” to a new democratic order. This is false to the core. The generals have a long record of repression against the working class, starting with the court-martial and execution of two textile workers’ strike leaders just a month after the 1952 military coup that inaugurated the Nasser regime (see: “The Egyptian working class moves to the forefront”).

Contrary to the myth of the armed forces’ neutrality, every acute crisis of the military-backed dictatorship has seen troops mobilised to suppress working class discontent. These occasions included the 1977 food riots triggered by the implementation of World Bank and International Monetary Fund-ordered price rises, and an uprising of police conscripts in Cairo and other cities in 1986.

Last August, eight employees of Military Factory 99 were placed on trial—in a military court—for calling a strike. The workers had demanded safer working conditions, as they are formally entitled to do under Egyptian law, after a boiler exploded, killing one civilian worker and injuring six. The strikers were charged with “disclosing military secrets” and “illegally stopping production”. In the end, after a quick trial, three were acquitted and the five others received suspended sentences. The outcome was regarded as lenient, but the military had sent an unmistakeable message. “There are no labor strikes in military society,” a retired army general, Hosam Sowilam, told the New York Times.

In addition to its unabiding commitment to maintain the capitalist order as a whole, Egypt’s officer caste commands its own huge business empire, which has mushroomed since the 1952 coup. Military Factory 99, at Helwan, in Cairo’s south, is a prime example. The plant produces a wide variety of consumer goods—stainless steel pots and pans, fire extinguishers, scales, cutlery—in addition to its primary function of forging metal components for heavy ammunition.

Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, a life-long henchman of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, remains both Defence Minister and Minister of Military Production, posts he has held since 1991. That makes him not only the commander-in-chief of the military junta but, in effect, the chief executive officer of a giant military-run commercial enterprise.

Australian media organisations, Labor MPs attack persecution of Julian Assange

Mike Head

"The mounting divisions in the [Australian] government reflect growing differences within the [...] ruling elite over the nature of Australia’s political, strategic and military relations with the US, under conditions where the US is in historic decline and tensions are rapidly rising between Washington and Beijing."

Representatives of nearly all the mainstream Australian media organisations today released an open letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, condemning her denunciations of the WikiLeaks publication of secret US diplomatic cables as “illegal”. The letter declares that “the reaction of the US and Australian governments to date has been deeply troubling” and states: “We will strongly resist any attempts to make the publication of these or similar documents illegal.”

The document was signed by 26 editors and news directors, including from the Murdoch and Fairfax media empires, the four national commercial television networks, the two government-owned broadcasters, the ABC and SBS, and two other radio stations. It declares its opposition to attempts to use Australian law or criminal charges to assist the US-led witch-hunt against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Australian citizen. “There is no evidence, either, that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have broken any Australian law. The Australian government is investigating whether Mr Assange has committed an offence, and the Prime Minister has condemned WikiLeaks’ actions as ‘illegal’. So far, it has been able to point to no Australian law that has been breached.”

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