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Intelligence based on ‘fabrication’

 

  • Press Association – A member of the British Desert Rats during fighting on the outskirts of the Iraqi city of Basra

Vital intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq 10 years ago was based on “fabrication” and “wishful thinking”, a new documentary claims.

A BBC Panorama investigation, broadcast to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, suggests that US and UK security services relied on several pieces of questionable information, while dismissing others that were contradictory.

The war, which started on March 20, 2003, lasted over six years, claimed the lives of 179 UK personnel, more than 100,000 Iraqis, and and cost more than £9 billion.

Britain ended combat operations in 2009 but a decade on the war remains unfinished business, with ongoing questions about the legality of the invasion, and the conduct of British troops.

Panorama – The Spies Who Fooled The World – documents the chain of secret information that contributed to the decision to invade, including new testimonies from intelligence sources.

It tells how claims from a few sources that Iraq was manufacturing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) spiralled into apparently sound intelligence used to justify the war.

The programme alleges that certain intelligence was relied on out of wishful thinking, with one source telling the programme the Iraq War was borne out of “choice” rather than “necessity”.

In his first TV interview on the subject August Hanning, former head of German Intelligence, said Iraqi spy Rafed Al Janabi – codenamed Curveball – told German secret services he had witnessed the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons, including mobile facilities to produce them.

The information was passed by the Germans to American and British intelligence, along with concerns about its reliability, he said.

Former CIA Europe Division chief Tyler Drumheller also claimed he passed warnings about Curveball’s claims up the chain of command, while Mr Hanning said he also sent a personal cable to then CIA director George Tenet. Mr Tenet denies receiving the warnings, the programme says.

Source: Press Association Via Yahoo News

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China replaces Britain in world’s top five arms exporters

China’s J-10 fighter jets from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Aerobatics Team perform during a flight demonstration at the air show in Zhuhai last year. —Photo (File) Reuters

China’s J-10 fighter jets from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Aerobatics Team perform during a flight demonstration at the air show in Zhuhai last year. —Photo (File) Reuters

BEIJING: China has become the world’s fifth-largest arms exporter, a respected Sweden-based think tank said on Monday, its highest ranking since the Cold War, with Pakistan as the main recipient.

China’s volume of weapons exports between 2008 and 2012 rose 162 per cent compared to the previous five year period, with its share of the global arms trade rising from 2 per cent to 5 per cent, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said.

China replaces Britain in the top five arms-dealing countries between 2008 and 2012, a group dominated by the United States and Russia, which accounted for 30 per cent and 26 per cent of weapons exports, SIPRI said.

“China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient states,” Paul Holtom, director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme, said in a statement.

The shift, outlined in SIPRI’s Trends in International Arms Transfers report, marks China’s first time as a top-five arms exporter since the think tank’s 1986-1990 data period.

Now the world’s second-largest economy, China’s rise has come with a new sense of military assertiveness with a growing budget to develop modern warfare equipment including aircraft carriers and drones.

At the Zhuhai air show in southern China in November, Chinese attack helicopters, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and air defences were on public show for the first time.

SIPRI maintains a global arms transfers database base that tracks arms exports back to the 1950s. It averages data over five-year periods because arms sales vary by year.

“Pakistan – which accounted for 55 per cent of Chinese arms exports – is likely to remain the largest recipient of Chinese arms in the coming years due to large outstanding and planned orders for combat aircraft, submarines and frigates,” SIPRI said.

Myanmar, which has been undergoing fragile reforms that the United States thinks could help counter Beijing’s influence in the region, received 8 per cent of China’s weapons exports.

Bangladesh received 7 per cent of the arms, and Algeria, Venezuela and Morocco have bought Chinese-made frigates, aircraft or armoured vehicles in the past several years.

Beijing does not release official figures for arms sales.

Germany and France ranked third and fourth on the arms exporter list. China followed only India in the acquisition of arms, though its reliance on imports is decreasing as it ramps up weapons production capabilities at home.

After decades of steep increases in military spending and cash injections into domestic defence contractors, experts say some Chinese-made equipment is now comparable to Russian or Western counterparts, though accurate information about the performance of Chinese weapons is scarce.

China faces bans on Western military imports, dating back to anger over its crushing of pro-democracy protests in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. That makes its domestic arms industry crucial in assembling a modern military force that can enforce claims over Taiwan and disputed maritime territories.

China has faced off recently with its Southeast Asian neighbours and Japan over conflicting claims to strings of islets in the South China Sea and East China Sea, even as the United States executes a military pivot towards the Pacific.

Source: Dawn News

Israel must pull all settlers from Palestinian land: UN

GENEVA: Israel must immediately stop all settlement activity and start to withdraw its settlers from the Palestinian territories, a United Nations report said on Thursday.

“Israel must … cease all settlement activities without preconditions (and) must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers” from the occupied territories, a UN fact-finding mission concluded.

Because of the settlements, Palestinians’ human rights “are being violated consistently and on a daily basis,” the three independent experts said in a report commissioned by the UN’s Human Rights Council last March.

The three experts – Christine Chanet of France, Asma Jahangir of Pakistan and Unity Dow of Botswana – who will present their findings to the 47-member state council on March 18, also called on the Jewish state to “ensure adequate, effective and prompt remedy to all Palestinian victims … of human rights violations that are a result of the settlements.”

The council’s decision to dispatch the fact-finding mission to determine what impact the settlements are having on the rights of Palestinians so enraged the Jewish state that it cut all ties with the 47-member state council in March 2012.

The experts published their findings just two days after Israel made its anger felt by becoming the first country to ever boycott a special council review of its rights situation.

Israel calls report ‘biased’

Israel on Thursday slammed as “biased” the report by the UN Human Rights Council, saying it would only hamper peace efforts.

“The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel. This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of that,” foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

“Counterproductive measures, such as the report before us, will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” Palmor said in a statement.

“The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions.”

The experts were not able to visit Israel or the Palestinian territories, after failing to secure Israeli permission, and instead met in Jordan with more than 50 people affected by the settlements or working in NGOs in a relevant field, it said.

The Jewish state is not a member of the council but like all 193 UN countries it is required to undergo Universal Periodic Reviews of its human rights situation.

Source: Dawn News

Polish now England’s second language

POLISH is now the main language spoken in England and Wales after English and Welsh, according to 2011 census data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

The language-speaking figures recorded for the first time from a survey of 56.1 million residents of England and Wales show 546,000 speak Polish. It is now the second main language in England. There are still slightly more Welsh speakers in Wales at 562,000.

The next biggest main languages are the south Asian languages of Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali and Gujarati, followed by Arabic, French, Chinese and Portuguese. The statisticians said they recorded over 100 different languages and 49 main languages with more than 15,000 users. English was the biggest of that group and Swedish the smallest.

Chinese people alone listed 67 different languages or dialects, although a minority of those were different spellings of the same language. All but three of the London boroughs, excluding the City, Richmond and Havering, have residents speaking more than 100 main languages, the ONS said. Hillingdon is the most linguistically diverse, with 107 languages listed, followed by Newham, with 103.

Some of the languages are in a tiny minority. For example, there was only one person in Barnet who said they spoke Caribbean creole and one person in Bexley.

Fifty-eight people speak Scottish Gaelic, 33 speak Manx Gaelic and 629 speak Romany.

Ealing in west London is the nation’s hotspot for Polish speaking, the town of Slough for Punjabi/Urdu, the city of Leicester for Gujarati, Kensington in central London for French and Manchester for Cantonese and Mandarin.

One million households have no residents with English as a main language, although most had some proficiency in English, the ONS said.

Only 138,000 people could not speak English at all.

“The West Midlands is the region with the lowest percentage of people that can speak English very well or well at 72 per cent,” said Roma Chappell, census director. It was the region that also had the highest number of people who can’t speak English at all.

The latest figures from the 2011 census also revealed how people in England and Wales get to work. The university cities of Cambridge and Oxford were the cycling capitals with 18 per cent and 10 per cent of their populations commuting on two wheels but London had the most cyclists, with the number more than doubling from 77,000 in 2001 to 161,000 in 2011.

Half of London residents travel using public transport but two per cent now use bikes and nine per cent of the people of Hackney in east London cycle to work.

Source: Dawn News/Guardian News

Binyamin Netanyahu rejects calls for Palestinian state within 1967 lines

Israeli prime minister says border would be impossible to defend and allow ‘Hamas 400 metres from my home’

Election posters for Binyamin Netanyahu on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Photograph: Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

Binyamin Netanyahu has vowed to rebuff international demands to allow a Palestinian state with a border based on the pre-1967 Green Line and its capital in East Jerusalem, as hardline pro-settler parties and factions are expected to make unprecedented gains in Tuesday’s election.

“When they say, ‘Go back to the 67 lines,’ I stand against. When they say, ‘Don’t build in Jerusalem,’ I stand against,” the Israeli prime minister told Channel 2 in a television interview.

“It’s very easy to capitulate. I could go back to the impossible-to-defend 67 lines, and divide Jerusalem, and we would get Hamas 400 metres from my home.” He would not allow that to happen under his leadership, he said.

Likud supporters on Sunday draped the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City with huge banners proclaiming “Only Netanyahu will protect Jerusalem” and “Warning: 67 border ahead”.

Netanyahu’s electoral alliance, Likud-Beiteinu, is on course to emerge from the election as the biggest party in the 120-seat parliament, with 32-35 seats. Negotiations to form the next coalition government will begin immediately after final results are announced.

Most analysts expect Netanyahu to invite the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, led by Naftali Bennett, to become a coalition partner following a bruising election battle between the pair. “An hour after the elections, the fight between Netanyahu and Bennett will be over. They will sit down together to form a coalition government,” wrote the respected columnist Nahum Barnea in Yedioth Ahronoth.

But, he added, they will then “discover that their real enemies are within their own homes”. Both parties are fielding extremely hardline candidates, some of whom are expected to become members of the next Knesset, as the Israeli parliament is called.

The expected strengthening of the hard right in the next parliament may encourage Netanyahu to seek a broad base for his coalition.

“He will try for a large coalition in order to prevent the possibility of one party blackmailing him,” said Efraim Inbar, of the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies. “The more parties you have, the more they neutralise each other. He will want parties both to his right and to his left.”

Labour, historically the party of the Israeli left, has moved towards the political centre. Its leader, former journalist Shelly Yachimovich, has all but refused to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian issue, which traditionally has been at the heart of Labour’s policies, instead attempting to capitalise on huge socio-economic protests in Israel 18 months ago. Labour is expected to be the second largest party, with 16-17 seats – up from 13 in the current parliament – but Yachimovich has publicly rejected the possibility of joining a “radical right” coalition led by Netanyahu.

However, the leaders of two new centrist parties have indicated their willingness to discuss a partnership with the Likud-Beiteinu alliance, led by Netanyahu and the ultra-nationalist former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Yair Lapid, the leader of the secular Yesh Atid party, which is forecast to win 11-13 seats, would be a counterweight to the religious ultra-orthodox parties, which are also potential coalition partners. Lapid has also steered away from the Israeli-Palestinian issue, concentrating his campaign on social and economic issues.

The former foreign minister Tzipi Livni may be a more problematic partner for Netanyahu as the chief pitch of her party, Hatnua, has been the resumption of meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians on a two-state settlement to the conflict. “The radical right and [Naftali] Bennett will bring about the destruction of Israel,” she warned at a campaign rally on Saturday.

But, said Inbar, “most of what Livni says about the peace process is just talk – no one thinks it’s serious. She has gone down in the polls because that’s all she talks about.” Hatnua is predicted to win seven or eight seats, down from a high of 10 earlier in the campaign.

Netanyahu needs to assemble a coalition of more than 60 MPs in order to form the next government.

Source: Guardian News

China unveils rival GPS satellite system

BEIJING: China has launched commercial and public services across the Asia-Pacific region on its domestic satellite navigation network built to rival the US global positioning system.

The Beidou, or Compass, system started providing services to civilians in the region on Thursday and is expected to provide global coverage by 2020, state media reported.

Ran Chengqi, spokesman for the China Satellite Navigation Office, said the system’s performance was “comparable” to GPS, the China Daily said.

“Signals from Beidou can be received in countries such as Australia,” he said.

It is the latest accomplishment in space technology for China, which aims to build a space station by the end of the decade and eventually send a manned mission to the moon.

China sees the multi-billion-dollar programme as a symbol of its rising global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

The Beidou system comprises 16 navigation satellites and four experimental satellites, the paper said. Ran added that the system would ultimately provide global navigation, positioning and timing services.

The start of commercial services comes a year after Beidou — which literally means the Big Dipper in Chinese — began a limited positioning service for China and adjacent areas.

China began building the network in 2000 to avoid relying on GPS.

“Having a satellite navigation system is of great strategic significance,” the Global Times newspaper, which has links to the Communist Party, said in an editorial.

“China has a large market, where the Beidou system can benefit both the military and civilians,” the paper said.

“With increases in profit, the Beidou system will be able to eventually develop into a global navigation satellite system which can compete with GPS.”

In a separate report, the paper said satellite navigation was seen as one of China’s “strategic emerging industries”.

Sun Jiadong, the system’s chief engineer, told the 21st century Business Herald newspaper that as Beidou matures it will erode GPS’s current 95 percent market share in China, the Global Times said.

Morris Jones, an independent space analyst based in Sydney, Australia, said that making significant inroads into that dominance anywhere outside China is unlikely.

“GPS is freely available, highly accessed and is well-known and trusted by the world at large,” he told AFP. “It has brand recognition and has successfully fought off other challenges.”

Morris described any commercial benefits China gains as “icing on the cake” and that the main reason for developing Beidou is to protect its own national security given the possibility US-controlled GPS could be cut off.

“It’s that possibility, that they could be denied access to GPS, that inspires other nations to develop their own system that would be free of control by the United States,” he said.

“At a time of war you do not want to be denied” access, he said.

The Global Times editorial, while trumpeting Beidou as “not a second-class product or a carbon-copy of GPS” still appeared to recognise its limitations, at least in the early stages.

“Some problems may be found in its operation because Beidou is a new system. Chinese consumers should… show tolerance toward the Beidou system,” it said.

Source: News international

More than 60,000 killed in Syria conflict: UN

A Syrian child plays at the Bab al-Salam refugee camp on the Syrian-Turkish border. -AFP Photo

GENEVA: More than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime erupted in March 2011, a top UN official said on Wednesday.

Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that an exhaustive analysis carried out by data specialists showed that 59,648 people had died through the end of November.

“Given there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013,” Pillay concluded in a statement.

“The number of casualties is much higher than we expected, and is truly shocking,” she said.

Pillay had said in December 2011 that the UN was unable to provide a precise figure on the number of deaths, and media have been relying on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based watchdog, which on Monday had put the total number of those killed at more than 46,000.

In reference to the UN figure, Pillay said Wednesday that “although this is the most detailed and wide-ranging analysis of casualty figures so far, this is by no means a definitive figure.

“We have not been able to verify the circumstances of each and every death, partly because of the nature of the conflict and partly because we have not been allowed inside Syria since the unrest began in March 2011.”

The UN High Commissioner added that “once there is peace in Syria, further investigations will be necessary to discover precisely how many people have died, and in what circumstances, and who was responsible for all the crimes that have been committed.”

The analysts cited by the UN official noted that 60,000 was likely to be an underestimate of the actual number of deaths, given that reports containing insufficient information were excluded from the list, and that a significant number of killings might not have been documented.

The analysis, which the UN High Commissioner stressed is “a work in progress, not a final product”, shows a steady increase in the average number of documented deaths per month since the beginning of the conflict, from around 1,000 per month in the summer of 2011 to an average of more than 5,000 per month since July 2012.

The greatest number of reported killings have occurred in Homs (12,560), rural Damascus (10,862) and Idlib (7,686), followed by Aleppo (6,188), Daraa (6,034) and Hama (5,080).

Source: Dawn News