May 29, 2017

Trump Won’t Say Syria and Yemen Deserve Peace

Mon May 29, 2017 12:40

TEHRAN (FNA)- After closing an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth $110 billion, US President Donald Trump refused to say whether Yemen is entitled to peace or ending the war on Syria is the best way to ensure its people have the security they need.

Instead, he announced the $110 billion deal will take effect immediately, extend up to $350 billion over 10 years, Saudi Arabia is US arms dealers’ most important client and is Washington’s No. 1 ally in the Middle East region, particularly in the forgotten military aggression against Yemen, which has claimed the lives of more than 14,100 people, most of them civilians.

In his view, Saudi vassals have every right to incessantly pound Yemen and bring back to power the resigned president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is a staunch ally of Riyadh. Riyadh cannot and should never be allowed to fail to reach its criminal goals despite suffering great expense; and the Saudi regime is free to sponsor Takfiri terrorists fighting against Syria, which has left thousands of people dead and millions more displaced.

In the president’s view, the White House has every right to affect regime change in Damascus; dismiss the de-escalation zones agreement reached between Iran, Russia and Turkey; and strike as many civilians as possible on the territory of another sovereign state without its consent or any UN authorization. There is room for very minor shifts in this excessive policy that make sure war-party Washington does not harm the most vulnerable allies. Especially for terror proxy forces in need, the Trump White House does not want to leave the “moderate” goons without weapons and munitions. Looking at that, the regime changers always want to keep that in mind.

In the interim, no one at the United Nations presses the Trumpsters on their views about the colonial policy’s underlying philosophy: Is Yemen entitled to peace? Is every Syrian entitled to peace, and could the de-escalation zones agreement be something that ought to be that ultimate guarantor?

Trump wants to make sure the deal will never hold, just as the way he is making sure Saudi-led, US-backed war on Yemen will carry on and will never harm the most vulnerable terror proxies in there or in Syria. His massive arms deal with Saudis is merely a set of long-term policies that reflect his war priorities. He embarked on a racialized course of scapegoating and refused to rule out more sanctions against Iran and Russia as part of that process. He wants to have an all-out confrontation, but just in words and without engaging the US in action. It’s good for business.

Though Trump is unable to help regional allies to regime change Syria and Yemen, he did succeed in destabilizing the region for many years to come. His deplorable Saudi arms deal has effectively cast a shadow of war over the millions of people living in the Middle East and North Africa without the hope for permanent peace and tranquility. This shadow accompanies them wherever they go in their daily lives. This divisive arms deal not only serves to incite fear of war; it also helps to exacerbate regional insecurity and chaos, and most importantly, mistrust among Muslims, even among Saudi Arabia’s own allies.

Trump’s discursive policy of weaponizing allies has inspired sectarian warfare as well because his administration hasn’t hesitated to carry out its threats against Iran and its close allies. In its first months, the Trump administration imposed travel ban on Muslims, particularly Syrian refugees, that despite the judges’ overturn is still ongoing. Half the Muslim people applying for visa never get to travel to the United States. And the results have been predictable, as an eroding trust in so-called “American democracy” and “American dream” across the country.  It’s not surprising that Islamophobe Trump’s Islamopbobia campaign has undermined Muslim trust and instigated resentment, as many pundits have attested.

Trump’s own role in furthering regional and global insecurity must also be accounted for. When candidate Trump vaunted his success in helping end the endless war on the Muslim world, it was not surprising to learn that the United States and the mere extras were still going ahead with plans to destroy Iraq, Syria and Yemen. The move was unsurprising in that it was consonant with the ruse to provoke cash cow Saudi Arabia to purchase even more American arms. This flow was abetted and facilitated by the Pentagon regime and the Military-Industrial Complex seeking to maximize profit and minimize US military costs while stretching terror chains around the region.

This asymmetry has made the region highly vulnerable to exploitation as attempts to resist American hegemony and wars of aggression and deceit have often been met with threatened military attack and coup – even in the case of Qatar which wants better ties with Iran. So it is no coincidence that, over the past few days, the growing insecurity and chaos has taken place while the region has become increasingly militarized and while discussions of ending the twin wars on Syria and Yemen have been frequently linked to Iran leaving these two allies to their own devices. All of this has predated Trump.

This president and his pro-Israel cabinet plan to take the profitability of the permanent war on terror, Islam and suchlike to new heights by giving massive arms to the Israel-allied despots of the Persian Gulf and by imposing further sanctions against Iran and Russia. It’s a kind of desperate contradiction between candidate Trump’s populist promises and President Trump’s goal of “making America rich again.” Trump cannot maintain this contradiction without drowning out international condemnation in the noisy drumbeat of warmongering, scapegoating, and Islamophobia

The World Didn’t Agree to a Nuclear-Armed Iran, Even in 10 Years

Max Singer

The U.S. and its allies can prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but only if they are clear about what the controversial 2015 nuclear deal actually says. Critics of the agreement, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, often say the deal gives Iran permission to acquire nuclear weapons after 10 years. Yet the stated premise of the plan was that Iran would never build or acquire nuclear weapons—ever.

An item in the deal’s general provisions states that the plan “will ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.” Another item reads: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons.”

The world powers that negotiated the deal agreed to lift the sanctions against Iran only on the stated assumption that Iran never had, and never would have, a nuclear-weapons program. Although it’s unlikely any parties to the deal believed Iran’s nuclear program was only for peaceful purposes, they all found it diplomatically convenient to assert that it was. This diplomatic prevarication means that any time evidence is found suggesting Iran is trying to produce or acquire nuclear weapons, the U.S. may feign shock at being deceived. And without violating what it agreed to in the nuclear deal, the U.S. can announce that it will do whatever is necessary to ensure that Iran will not succeed in acquiring nuclear weapons.

Nothing in the agreement precludes the countries that signed the deal from acting to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Since Tehran had insisted that it did not have a nuclear-weapons program, the regime cannot claim that its pursuit of nuclear weapons was authorized by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The problem of stopping Iran is therefore not a legal one. The question is whether the U.S. and other powers have the tools to compel Iran to abort its nuclear-weapons program, and whether they have the will to use them. Are the great democracies determined enough to impose decisive economic sanctions or to encourage internal opposition to the Iranian revolutionary regime? What about military force?

The U.S., Germany, France and Britain no doubt have the power to end Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. If they cut off all communication with the country—flights, telephone, internet, banking—along with the countries that would follow their leadership, Iran would be compelled to yield regardless of what China and Russia might do. And Beijing and Moscow would not be enthusiastic about standing against the West’s actions to defend Iran.

The democracies don’t need to commit to changing the Iranian regime, or to collaborate actively with Iranian dissidents. Even moderate political and social support by the U.S. and Europe for Iran’s internal opposition could scare the regime into postponing its efforts to get nuclear weapons.

No military attack, even by the U.S., could reliably destroy all of the Iranian weapons-production facilities, but complete destruction is not necessary. Partial elimination might be enough to convince the regime that rebuilding would not be worthwhile because they could be attacked again. And a successful attack could also undermine the Iranian security services’ control of the population.

The decisive question is how strongly the U.S. and the other democracies are determined to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons. If they have the will to do so, they have the necessary power, and the nuclear deal is not an impediment.

This is not a defense of the Iran deal, which simply postponed a showdown for a decade or so. This delay ended the momentum of the sanctions regime against Iran that had been gradually built over years. And it means that when a confrontation with Iran finally comes, the regime will be much closer to producing numerous nuclear weapons than when the deal was made. On the other hand, the delay also gives more time for the mullahs to fall before they can obtain nuclear weapons—and more time for the democracies to build up courage and determination to prevent the regional nuclear arms race that would follow Iran‘s acquisition of the bomb.

President Trump does not have to solve the Iranian nuclear-weapon threat during his first term. The deadline for building the coalition with the strength and determination to stop Iran will come after 2020. But he would be wise to use the term to develop the American and international understanding and policies that can create the will and power to stop Iran.

New study claims Swiss rejected fewer Jews during Nazi era

By Simon Bradley



MAY 29, 2017 - 17:00

A closed border crossing at Moillesullaz in Geneva on the French-Swiss border in 1943


New research has reignited debate on Swiss policy towards Jews fleeing the Nazis. A historian claims around 3,000 Jewish would-be refugees were turned away at the Swiss border with France between 1940-1945, compared to a previous overall estimate of 24,500 people. 

According to historian Ruth Fivaz-Silbermann, who presented her 1,000-page postgraduate research project, ‘The flight to Switzerland’, at Geneva University last Saturday, 15,519 Jewish people tried to enter Switzerland via the Franco-Swiss border between 1939 and 1945. In all, 12,675 were allowed to enter, but 2,844 were turned away at the frontier in western Switzerland. 

“My research gives a much clearer picture of how many people fled and their stories: where did they come from, why did they flee and how? Could everyone leave? What were the dangers?” Fivaz-Silbermann told on Monday. 

Switzerland also has borders with Germany (north), Austria and Liechtenstein (east) and Italy (south). But the historian estimates that two-thirds of all Jewish refugees entering Switzerland during the war crossed into Switzerland from France. 

Her detailed work, which involved combing tens of thousands of individual files held by the Swiss authorities, also revealed that 248 Jews who were deported from Switzerland later died in Nazi camps. However, she believes this figure could be higher. 

Her more precise estimates into the number of Jewish people who fled to Switzerland and were turned away during the war also contrasts with the official overall number of 24,500 forcibly returned – cited by the Bergier Commission, which from 1997-2002 investigated Switzerland’s role during the Second World Warexternal link

“We also know that 27% came via Italy. A study by the Ticino archives, which has not yet been published, estimates that 6,000 Jewish people entered and around 300 were turned back. For the German and Austrian borders there have been no studies but it is believed the numbers were very small,” she explains. 

“Jewish people from Germany tried to immigrate to Switzerland between 1933 and 1939 but the Holocaust was horrific. People were either being deported or they emigrated or hid from the authorities. It was extremely difficult to travel from Berlin to Switzerland, for example. Very few people came from Germany compared with France and Italy. This is not a hypothesis, it's a fact.“ 

WWIIThe flight to Switzerland

Historic images of Jewish refugees attempting to enter Switzerland (RTS,

The number of 24,500 was based on research completed in 1996 by Guido Koller, a historian at the Federal Archives in Bern. This figure includes people of other confessions and would-be refugees who were turned away at the Swiss borders several times. 

Koller and Georg Kreis, a member of the Bergier Commission, refused to comment on the report for Swiss public television, RTS, stating they had not yet read it. But both reportedly welcomed the fact that new research was providing a more precise view on Swiss wartime policies and their consequences. 

Two other historians have also taken a similar look at Swiss policy towards Jewish refugees during this period. In 2013, renowned French Nazi hunter and historian Serge Klarsfeld also claimed that far fewer Jewish refugees were turned away at Swiss borders than previously thought. Klarsfeld also put the number at 3,000. 

In 2010, writer Henry Spira published a study into Jewish refugees in the northwestern Jurexternal linka region that borders with France. He also found that statistics were often over-exaggerated.

“Certain openness”

In her conclusion, Fivaz-Silbermann also gave a nuanced view on the actions of the Swiss authorities, especially cantonal police, and their application of the government’s decision to close all borders hermetically on August 13, 1942. 

“Switzerland showed a certain openness. It was not totally closed. It let many endangered people enter while keeping the border officially closed,” said the researcher. 

“There was official policy – that of dissuading people to enter - but this strategy involved a great deal of easing… in September 1942, thousands of Jews fled Vichy France to Switzerland, to Geneva and Valais and by boat across Lake Geneva and the Swiss authorities gave instructions not to turn people away. These were not official but via telephone with the police directors of specific cantons. But it wasn't always positive at the customs as the Swiss army still decided who should be turned away.” 

It took Fivaz-Silbermann 19 years to complete her research, combing tens of thousands of individual files held by the Swiss customs, police and migration authorities in various cantons as well as in Bern. 

“It was a real painstaking job; detailed archive research which was not easy,” she commented. “For each family or individual I recreated a biographical file. Such as, ‘I was born in Warsaw and emigrated to Germany and then left for Belgium when Hitler arrived. Then I was deported to France and held in such and such a camp, later I fled and paid a smuggler so much to get to Switzerland’. She said she saw thousands of stories like that. 

Fivaz-Silbermann's PhD research should be soon published on the Geneva University website. She plans to produce a shorter version and to write a book. She also hopes to be able to continue to answer the hundreds of requests for information that she has received from family members who are seeking information about their Jewish relatives who fled to Switzerland

Swiss Armed forces told to tighten up cyber defences


POLITICS Law and order


MAY 29, 2017 - 10:36

Some 150 countries suffered a global ransomware attack this month


Switzerland’s military is poorly equipped to deal with persistent, long-term cyber attacks, according to a defence ministry internal audit. Documents seen by the media criticize the disjointed nature of the ministry’s current strategy.

The Zentralschweiz am Sonntag and Südostschweiz am Sonntag newspapers quoted the audit as saying "various cyber bodies have been created at a strategic level at the [defence ministry] in recent years, although nothing sustainable has been established.” In other words, too many overlapping cyber projects have been started with poor coordination and no long-term thinking.

Defence ministry spokeswoman Karin Suini acknowledged the audit’s findings, but wrote an opinion piece in the Sunday newspapers outlining recent changes in cyber defence strategy. A central working group was set up in February 2016, Suini wrote, following revelations that the state-monitored defence contractor RUAG had been hacked.

Around 23 gigabytes of data was stolen from RUAG between 2014 and the beginning of 2016, although the defence ministry said no crucial information about Swiss armed forces had been hacked.

Last April, Defence Minister Guy Parmelin started work on a ‘Cyber Action Plan’. This had already identified the need for a central body within the ministry to coordinate strategy, Suini wrote. Once implemented in 2020, the action plan will divert 2% of the armed force’s total budget towards tackling cyber crime – CHF100 million out of a CHF5 billion ($5.13 billion) annual budget.

The defence ministry is not tasked with tackling civilian cyber attacks, but could offer support if critical infrastructures are hit. Earlier this month, some 200,000 computer systems in 150 countries were hit by ransomware bug WannaCry, but Switzerland was relatively unscathed by the attack