Friday, July 15, 2011

Police in Jordan Break Up March With Beatings

Riot police officers wielding wooden clubs broke up a peaceful demonstration

near a square in this city’s downtown area on Friday afternoon, beating protesters and journalists. The incident was a sign of escalating tensions over the slow pace of political reform in the kingdom.

The protest on Friday, organized by youth groups and attended by labor unionists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, began after prayers at the Husseini mosque in downtown Amman. By about 1:30 p.m., hundreds of protesters were marching through a market district, chanting “The people want to reform the government,” and “We are citizens, not subjects.” Police officers entirely surrounded the march.

Half an hour later, the protesters faced off against a small group of government loyalists, and a youth leader called on protesters to stage a sit-in. Dozens of police officers then charged the gathering and then gave chase as protesters ran. Against a shuttered shop, a cluster of more than 10 officers struck a man with truncheons, as frightened fathers hurried their children away from the violence. Several Jordanian and foreign journalists covering the clashes were also beaten.

Protests in Jordan have persisted since the beginning of the Arab Spring, driven by anger at corruption, the lack of government transparency and King Abdullah II’s absolute hold on power. One person was killed and more than a hundred people were injured during a protest in March, but for the most part, the demonstrations have not been as large or sustained as the ones that toppled autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia.

Opposition leaders have faulted the king for offering what they say are inadequate concessions, including a vague promise that the country’s prime minister would be elected in the future, not appointed. The antigovernment protesters blame internal divisions and the tactics of the security forces for their lack of momentum so far, but they say they have plans to escalate their protests. Amid the calls for reform among the demonstrators in Amman on Friday, a few people could be heard calling for a change in the “regime.”

The response of the security forces reflected a fear that the protests, which have spread to other parts of Jordan, will continue to grow. After policemen wearing blue uniforms had dispersed the marchers with beatings, dozens of other officers marched into the intersection, smacking their truncheons against their shields. By early evening, armored cars had arrived as well, carrying more officers. Some of the dispersed protesters gathered again in a nearby square, chanting and singing a Bedouin wedding song, and were left alone by the police.

US military leader sees stark rifts with China

China and the United States remain starkly different on military issues and have a long way to go toward building a trusting relationship, the top U.S. military officer said Friday after a bumpy visit to Beijing.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he believed his talks with Chinese military leaders were "productive and generally positive." But he added that efforts to create a working military-to-military relationship are still young and so far fraught with difficulties.

"There is a long way to go," he said in a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, where he is wrapping up his Asian tour. "Differences between us are still stark."

Mullen's visit to China was the first of its kind in four years. It was intended to build on efforts to increase communications and exchanges between the two in hopes of easing growing tensions over China's growing military might and economic clout.

Mullen said he was pleased he was afforded access to his counterpart, Chen Bingde, chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, and given a look at some of China's technology and bases.

But he said the visit also underscored the wide rift between the nations.

In a joint news conference during Mullen's stay in China, Chen chided the United States for pouring too much money into its military in a time of economic stress. He suggested that fears of a Chinese threat are overstated.

Chen, who visited the U.S. in May, stressed that China remains well behind the United States in military capability and said its military growth is purely for defense.

Mullen on Friday said he was not convinced.

"It's too early to say where China is going with all of this," he said. "They say it's defensive. We'll see."

Mullen also said the activities of the Chinese, particularly regarding freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, have served to fuel concerns over its ultimate intentions, which he said remain opaque.

Over the past year, China has seen a flare-up in territorial spats with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam and seen its relations strained with South Korea — all of which have turned to Washington for support.

Mullen said Washington is also concerned about developments in Chinese missile technology, its activities in the cyber world, and its military satellite capabilities.

He stressed, however, that the United States is not going to withdraw from the region.

"As I told the Chinese, the United States isn't going away," he said. "We've operated in the South China Sea for many decades, and we will continue to do that."

Why China will rise peacefully under Communist Party leadership?

The Communist Party of China developed the important strategy of a peaceful rise after the country's economy entered a period of rapid growth, thanks to the introduction of the Reform and Open Door Policy.

The Party developed the strategy of a peaceful rise because it grasped the pulse of the times. In the second half of the 20th century, the theme of the times gradually changed from war and revolution to peace and development. It was a significant change that exerted a far-reaching influence in the development of the world. Nowadays most countries are seeking peace, development and cooperation, and China's peaceful rise strategy is in line with the current global trend. Sun Yat-sen once said, "World progress is like a tidal wave. Those who ride it will prosper, and those who sail against it will perish."

The Party developed the strategy of a peaceful rise because it knew the general direction of the world. Like it or not, the world is becoming increasingly interdependent. A country cannot develop or achieve modernization without cooperating with the rest of the world. In order to achieve a peaceful rise, China needs to ride the wave of globalization. By carrying out reform and joining the WTO, China has made remarkable progress in the process of a peaceful rise in this increasingly globalized world.

The strategy of peaceful rise is the policy proposed by the Party based on historical experience.

Western powers launched unscrupulous plunder and expansion worldwide over the past few centuries when they were rising, which was intensively revolted by oppressed people and oppressed nations worldwide. The colonial expansion finally failed. The peaceful rise means no expansion.

After the World War II, the Soviet Union experienced a rapid rise and embarked on the road of launching an arms race and striving for hegemony with the United States, which finally ended in failure. The Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1991. The peaceful rise means no hegemony.

Two rival military blocs appeared in the context of U.S.-Soviet confrontation after the World War II ended: the Warsaw Treaty Organization and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The emergence of the two military blocs is the product of the bipolar era. However, the bipolar era has ended and the Warsaw Treaty Organization has also disintegrated. The peaceful rise means no military alliances.

China's peaceful rise is a policy put forward by the Party based on taking into account the fundamental interests of both the Chinese nation and the people of the world. What is the goal of the Chinese people and the people of the world after the world entered into the 21st century? It is to build a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity. Peace and prosperity are an eternal dream for mankind that could not be achieved in the past. However, the possibility of fulfilling the dream has been emerging since the start of the 21st century. The rise of a group of developing countries around the world means that there will be considerable improvement in the livelihood of billions of people and the possibility of their leading decent lives will be no longer a dream.

Certainly, a significant part of people around the world are still trapped in hunger and poverty, but the progress and expansion of the tide of peace, development and cooperation will raise the potential for building a world of lasting peace and common prosperity. China's peaceful rise means that China serves as a major force in promoting peace, development and cooperation.

China's peaceful rise is not a slogan but China's more than 30 years of practice that has proven that the path is correct and China will continue to follow the path in the future. Achieving China's peaceful rise, the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and the renascence of Chinese civilization will benefit both the Chinese nation and the entire world.

Barack Obama 'wants agreement on debt deal in 36 hours'

President Barack Obama has told top US lawmakers he wants agreement on the way forward towards a debt deal in 24-36 hours, according to aides.
Five consecutive days of cross-party negotiations at the White House have failed to make a breakthrough.

But Mr Obama believes a $2 trillion debt deal is possible if all sides bend a little, a Democratic official familiar with the White House talks said.

"The president made clear that a big deal remains his strong preference,'' the official said. The official said a deal of approximately $2 trillion would be possible if all sides were "willing to give a little.''

Obama will hold a news conference at 11am ET (4pm BST) on Friday and may call back lawmakers for weekend talks if he does not hear from them within 24 to 36 hours about a "plan of action'' to get to a debt ceiling deal, the official said.

The US must raise its $14.3tn (£8.9tn) debt ceiling to borrow beyond 2 August.

Afghanistan's first female military pilots arrive in US for training

Sourya Saleh and three fellow Afghan women, the first of their gender to qualify as pilots in the Afghan Army, may help change attitudes about women in their conservative Muslim homeland.

"We are going to open the door for other ladies in Afghanistan," the Afghan Army Second Lieutenant told reporters at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. "It is a big deal for us, to open this door for others. Other ladies who feel that they can't do it, we want to show them."

They will first study English at the Defense Language Institute at Lackland.

Dozens of male Afghan pilots have gone through similar training in the United States.

After six to eight months of language study, they will travel to Fort Rucker in Alabama for helicopter pilot training in the U.S. Army "Thunder Lab" program. "What a great day this is," said Col. Eric Axelbank, Commander of the 37th Training Wing, which oversees U.S. Air Force basic training at Lackland.

"This is a huge step, having female officers who will become pilots in a traditionally male dominated field."

Since the austere Taliban government was toppled by US-backed Afghan forces in 2001, women in Afghanistan have won back basic rights in education, voting and work, which the militant group considered un-Islamic.

But they face an uncertain future as Afghan and foreign leaders have embraced the idea of seeking a negotiated end to ten years of war, through talks with the Taliban. Some analysts warn that could mean a step back for women's rights.

The women pilots will among about 1,200 students at the Institute, where students from around the world learn English – the global vernacular of aviation.

Axelbank said the Afghan women will undergo the same course of study in the United States as have male Afghan pilots, along with thousands of other military personnel who have trained at Lackland over the decades.

"This is a stepping stone in the development of the Afghan military," said Col. Howard Jones III, head of the institute.

In Texas, the women will not only learn English, but also US military history and American culture.

Axelbank said 'gender integration' was a key part of the role that the women will play when they return to Afghanistan.

In addition to training pilots, the women will return to Afghanistan where they will meet men who will "for the first time find a woman who is not a relative in the role of an authority figure in their lives."

Second Lieutenant Masooma Hussani said she just wanted to get her hands on the controls of a military helicopter to fulfil a lifelong dream of being a pilot, and to show that she was capable of the job.

"I want to do it, and I want to show that I can do it," said Hussani, of Bamyan province in central Afghanistan. "It used to be that the women of Afghanistan couldn't do anything."

She said when she joined the Army, her parents were proud.

"They said I was as brave as a man," she said.

As U.S. wars wind down, drones gain new prominence

In many ways, it's the perfect weapon for a war-weary nation that suddenly finds itself on a tight budget.

Missile-armed drones are playing a greater role than ever in U.S. counter-terror operations, as President Barack Obama winds down land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Washington's focus expands to militant havens such as Somalia and Yemen where there are no U.S. troops permanently on the ground.

The CIA now operates Predator and Reaper unmanned aircraft, armed with Hellfire missiles, over at least five countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya.

The agency does not publicly acknowledge the program. The U.S. military uses drones, primarily for surveillance, in Iraq and elsewhere.

And there's every likelihood the use of drones to attack suspected anti-U.S. militants will spread further, current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.

"The CIA's role could very well expand over the coming years as the government deals with emerging terrorist threats," said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In the latest strikes, at least 48 militants were reported killed in drone attacks Monday and Tuesday in Pakistan's tribal regions.

That brought to about 260 the number of drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, including nearly 50 this year, according to a tally kept by the New America Foundation think tank.

By far most of those drone strikes, more than 225, came after July 2008, when the United States decided on a more aggressive and unilateral pursuit of militants in Pakistan, a U.S. official said.

Analysts and former U.S. intelligence officials generally approve of the increasing reliance on drones, but warn they are not without drawbacks. Those include civilian casualties, resentment of America's warfare-from-a-distance in Pakistan and elsewhere -- and the likelihood the technology will be turned against the United States some day, they said.

"We currently have a monopoly, or effective monopoly, on armed drones," said John Nagl, a retired U.S. Army officer and president of the Center for a New American Security think tank. "This technology will spread, and it will be used against us in years to come."


The use of drones -- remotely piloted aircraft -- against militants began in the years after the September 11, 2001 attacks, was ramped up in President George W. Bush's final year in office and has been embraced enthusiastically by Obama.

"When threatened, we must respond with force -- but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large land armies overseas," Obama declared in a June 22 speech announcing a faster-than-expected withdrawal of the troops he surged into Afghanistan last year.

Obama's speech appeared to signal the end of the era of large-scale counter-insurgency campaigns, championed by a cadre of officers that included Nagl, involving tens of thousands of U.S. and allied troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The troops did more than fight. They protected civilian populations, built schools and roads, trained armies and police forces.

The White House's new counter-terrorism strategy emphasizes a lighter footprint, as advocated by Vice President Joe Biden. Combat brigades are being replaced by Special Forces strike teams, capture-and-interrogate operations -- and drones.

A senior U.S. official said Obama has made no "strategic shift" to favor using drone strikes.

"There are probably some times when they are the most appropriate tool given the nature of the target you may be going after, and there are other times when they won't be," said the official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name.

Indeed, Obama rejected an option for a drone strike to kill al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in early May, sending in a Navy SEAL team instead. In April, he authorized yet another approach, capturing a leader of the Somali militant group al Shabaab, Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, at sea and interrogating him for two months before transferring him to a U.S. prison.

Still, the official acknowledged that drones are an attractive option outside declared theaters of war, where "you want to be even more discriminating and more careful in your application" of deadly force.

That, analysts say, is precisely where the militant threat is moving, as al Qaeda's core group declines relative to affiliates like al Shabaab and Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

As the Iraq war winds down, more drones equipped for intelligence gathering and other purposes have been freed up, the senior official said. The overall U.S. drone arsenal has also increased. "It's something that in some ways is a natural evolution: as you have more assets to draw on, you tend to use them more," he said.


Paul Pillar, a Georgetown University professor and former top CIA analyst, said drones are a "more effective and better focused way" of using military force against militants.

"But ... we must bear in mind as we make each individual decision about a drone strike that the immediate positive results always have to be weighed against the potentially longer-term consequences, given how it's perceived and possible resentment," he said.

Former U.S. intelligence officials said one downside to drone strikes is the loss of potential intelligence from interrogating a suspect or finding telltale "pocket litter."

The senior U.S. official called that a false choice -- capture often isn't an option -- and also rejected criticism of civilian casualties. Drones, he said, are often more precise than other counter-terrorism weapons.

Innocent bystanders have frequently been killed in drone strikes, but such deaths appear to have dropped dramatically in recent years.

A source familiar with the program said about 30 noncombatants and 1,400 militants have been killed in Pakistan since Bush expanded drone use in July 2008. The New America Foundation analysis found the "non-militant fatality rate" dropped from about 20 percent in 2004 to 5 percent last year.

Nagl credited former defense secretary Robert Gates and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, with pushing hard for better links between intelligence gathering and drone operators, resulting in more accurate strikes -- and fewer civilian casualties.

While counter-insurgency may be out of favor now, Nagl -- who emphasized that he did not back the 2003 Iraq invasion -- said the United States should not jettison those skills. "We may be done with counter-insurgency, but insurgency may not be done with us."

Both the Predator and Reaper drones are produced by the privately held General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., based in San Diego, California.

Bahraini poetess confirms torture

young Bahraini pro-democracy poetess just released from jail and placed under house arrest says she was mentally and physically tortured by male and female officers while in jail.

“They beat me [for] nine days, morning and afternoon and at night… they beat me a lot, a lot, a lot. More than one person beat me at the same time, man and woman,” said Ayat al-Qurmezi in an exclusive phone interview with Press TV on Friday.

Recounting her bitter experience while jailed by the Saudi-backed Bahraini regime, Qurmezi, hailed as 'freedom poet,' told Press TV that her interrogator and prison guards did not allow her to use a bathroom and used very offensive and derogatory language against herself and her parents.

She confirmed that her jailers also threatened to kill her and to hurt her family, adding that she was forced to make confessions, as the only way for “the king to forgive me” and to be saved from the beatings, verbal abuse and other forms of torture.

Qurmezi, however, stated that despite repeated threats by Bahraini authorities that she would be returned to jail if she speaks to any media outlets, she was not afraid and would continue to speak the words of the Bahraini people.

Al-Qurmezi was arrested on March 30 for reciting anti-government poetry in the capital of Manama's Pearl Square.

She was then charged with incitement and insulting members of the royal family and handed a one-year jail term.

On Thursday, the 20-year-old said she had faced house arrest in exchange for freedom, but vowed to continue her freedom-seeking campaign.

“And I won't be afraid because of a paper I signed,” Qurmezi said, referring to a pledge she had signed not to violate the terms of her arrest, join protests and speak to the media.

Further, her family says she was forced by her jailors to clean filthy lavatories with her bare hands.

In a popular uprising, tens of thousands of Bahraini protesters have been holding peaceful anti-regime rallies throughout the country since February, demanding an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa family.

The royals have governed the oil-rich Persian Gulf island for over 40 years with major backing from the United States, Britain and the neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Scores of people have been killed and many more arrested and tortured in prisons as part of the clampdown in the country -- a longtime US ally and home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.