Friday, January 20, 2017 INTERNATIONAL

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ON EVE OF TRUMP INSTALLATION
US mounts NATO buildup on Russia’s borders
Bill Van Auken
18 January 2017
 
President Erna Solberg
OVER 300 US combat Marines arrived in Norway on 16 January 2017 as part of an increasingly provocative US-NATO buildup on Russia’s borders in the immediate run-up to 20 January’s inauguration of Donald Trump as president.
The deployment, carried out under the pretext of training US Marines for combat in Arctic conditions, represents a radical break with nearly 70 years of Norway foreswearing the deployment of foreign troops on its soil in order to maintain peaceful relations with first the Soviet Union and then the Russian Federation.
As in Eastern Europe, Washington is maintaining the pretense that the deployment does not violate NATO’s pledge to Moscow in the run-up to the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the USSR that it would not permanently deploy “significant” combat forces near Russia’s borders. It accomplishes this by establishing a system of rotation in which the 330 Marines deployed Monday will be replaced by a different unit of the same size within six months.
 
“Joint Viking” exercises
The Marines will be joined in March this year by British troops for what has been dubbed “Joint Viking” exercises with the Norwegian military. The clear aim is to escalate military pressure from NATO’s northernmost border with Russia.
The deployment in Norway, which Marine Maj. Gen. Niel Nelson described as a demonstration by Washington to its allies of “our willingness to support and defend them and NATO,” is part of a far larger buildup against Russia, which over the weekend saw the deployment of some 4,000 troops, backed by tanks, artillery and armored cars, in Poland. These forces are to be stationed across seven Eastern European countries, including the former Soviet Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all of which share borders with Russia.
This larger deployment, which was set to take effect at the end of January, was speeded up with the apparent aim of having the troops in place before today’s inauguration as part of a bid to cut across Trump’s avowed intentions to make “some good deals with Russia.”
 
Drastic realignment
The stationing of US Marines on Norwegian territory has been prepared by a drastic realignment of Norwegian foreign and military policy under the right-wing government of President Erna Solberg.
Before joining NATO in 1949, Norway entered a so-called base agreement with Moscow pledging that it would not bring foreign troops to its military bases unless it faced an imminent threat or was attacked. Until now, the country has allowed the US and NATO to stockpile arms and ammunition in tunnels dug under the Norwegian mountains. In advance of the Marine deployment, these stockpiles have reportedly been beefed up with the latest weaponry.
In addition to allowing in the US Marines, the Norwegian government is deploying hundreds of additional troops to the Finnmark region bordering Russia in the country’s far north. “We do not consider Russia a direct threat to Norway today,” Norwegian Defence Ministry spokesman Audum Halvorsen told the British daily The Independent. “But we pay close attention to Russian military activity in the High North.”
In addition, the Norwegian government has reversed its earlier abstention from the bid by the US and NATO to establish a ballistic missile defense system surrounding Russia. Solberg’s government has indicated that it will now participate, including with the deployment of advanced radar systems near the Russian border and on Norwegian frigates close to the home base of Russia’s strategic submarines in the Murmansk region.
 
Anti-missile system
Moscow considers the anti-missile system part of a US attempt to create conditions in which it could limit any Russian response to a US nuclear strike.
With little more than two days until Trump takes office, the Obama administration continues to supplement the military provocations on Russia’s borders with a barrage of propaganda, painting Moscow as a threat and an aggressor.
Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations and the standard-bearer for the Obama administration’s hypocritical policy of “human rights” imperialism, delivered what she described as her last speech in office to the Atlantic Council, a US-based think tank and unofficial arm of NATO, in which she described Russia as a “major threat” and “core threat” to the United States.
While heaping on the usual denunciations of Russia for “aggression” in Ukraine, “war crimes” in Syria, “hacking” and having “interfered in our presidential election,” Power insisted that Moscow’s alleged crimes went beyond “any particular actions” and were the product of a “broader strategy” of “weakening the rules-based order” imposed by Washington in the aftermath of World War II.
For his part, Joe Biden made his last foreign trip as US vice president to Ukraine in order to further escalate the war threats against Russia. Speaking in Kiev Tuesday, Biden affirmed that “the international community must continue to stand as one against Russian aggression and coercion.”
He praised the Obama administration for having “trained your national guard, conventional military forces, as well as Special Forces; helped you increase your readiness and make your force interoperable with NATO.”
 
Sanctions against Russia
Placing the entire blame for the conflict in eastern Ukraine on Moscow, he insisted that sanctions against Russia must remain in place. Toward the conclusion of his remarks, he warned, “This next year is going to be a very, very telling year—a very telling year.”
And finally, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told a White House press conference that it appeared that Vladimir Putin was using the “talking points” of the “incoming administration.” The remark came in response to a speech in which Putin charged the incumbent administration with attempting to “delegitimize” the Trump presidency with false allegations.
Earnest went on to describe Trump as “deeply misguided” in criticizing the US intelligence agencies and, in particular, CIA Director John Brennan, who on 16 Jan  criticized Trump for lacking a “full appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russia’s intentions.”
“Particularly to call into question the integrity of somebody like John Brennan, somebody who has served at the CIA for three decades, somebody who has served the country in dangerous locations around the world to try to keep us safe. I’m offended by it,” Earnest said.
 
Neo-McCarthyite rhetoric
The bitter internecine struggles within the ruling establishment in the run-up to Trump’s inauguration express deep divisions over strategic aims. While the US intelligence agencies and the Obama administration are demanding a continuation and intensification of the military buildup against Russia, employing neo-McCarthyite rhetoric to counter any opposition, the incoming Trump administration has indicated its intention to shift toward a more direct confrontation with China. Both policies threaten humanity with the prospect of nuclear war.
—WSWS

Comment

Bill Van Auken
18 January 2017
 
President Erna Solberg
OVER 300 US combat Marines arrived in Norway on 16 January 2017 as part of an increasingly provocative US-NATO buildup on Russia’s borders in the immediate run-up to 20 January’s inauguration of Donald Trump as president.
The deployment, carried out under the pretext of training US Marines for combat in Arctic conditions, represents a radical break with nearly 70 years of Norway foreswearing the deployment of foreign troops on its soil in order to maintain peaceful relations with first the Soviet Union and then the Russian Federation.
As in Eastern Europe, Washington is maintaining the pretense that the deployment does not violate NATO’s pledge to Moscow in the run-up to the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the USSR that it would not permanently deploy “significant” combat forces near Russia’s borders. It accomplishes this by establishing a system of rotation in which the 330 Marines deployed Monday will be replaced by a different unit of the same size within six months.
 
“Joint Viking” exercises
The Marines will be joined in March this year by British troops for what has been dubbed “Joint Viking” exercises with the Norwegian military. The clear aim is to escalate military pressure from NATO’s northernmost border with Russia.
The deployment in Norway, which Marine Maj. Gen. Niel Nelson described as a demonstration by Washington to its allies of “our willingness to support and defend them and NATO,” is part of a far larger buildup against Russia, which over the weekend saw the deployment of some 4,000 troops, backed by tanks, artillery and armored cars, in Poland. These forces are to be stationed across seven Eastern European countries, including the former Soviet Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, all of which share borders with Russia.
This larger deployment, which was set to take effect at the end of January, was speeded up with the apparent aim of having the troops in place before today’s inauguration as part of a bid to cut across Trump’s avowed intentions to make “some good deals with Russia.”
 
Drastic realignment
The stationing of US Marines on Norwegian territory has been prepared by a drastic realignment of Norwegian foreign and military policy under the right-wing government of President Erna Solberg.
Before joining NATO in 1949, Norway entered a so-called base agreement with Moscow pledging that it would not bring foreign troops to its military bases unless it faced an imminent threat or was attacked. Until now, the country has allowed the US and NATO to stockpile arms and ammunition in tunnels dug under the Norwegian mountains. In advance of the Marine deployment, these stockpiles have reportedly been beefed up with the latest weaponry.
In addition to allowing in the US Marines, the Norwegian government is deploying hundreds of additional troops to the Finnmark region bordering Russia in the country’s far north. “We do not consider Russia a direct threat to Norway today,” Norwegian Defence Ministry spokesman Audum Halvorsen told the British daily The Independent. “But we pay close attention to Russian military activity in the High North.”
In addition, the Norwegian government has reversed its earlier abstention from the bid by the US and NATO to establish a ballistic missile defense system surrounding Russia. Solberg’s government has indicated that it will now participate, including with the deployment of advanced radar systems near the Russian border and on Norwegian frigates close to the home base of Russia’s strategic submarines in the Murmansk region.
 
Anti-missile system
Moscow considers the anti-missile system part of a US attempt to create conditions in which it could limit any Russian response to a US nuclear strike.
With little more than two days until Trump takes office, the Obama administration continues to supplement the military provocations on Russia’s borders with a barrage of propaganda, painting Moscow as a threat and an aggressor.
Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations and the standard-bearer for the Obama administration’s hypocritical policy of “human rights” imperialism, delivered what she described as her last speech in office to the Atlantic Council, a US-based think tank and unofficial arm of NATO, in which she described Russia as a “major threat” and “core threat” to the United States.
While heaping on the usual denunciations of Russia for “aggression” in Ukraine, “war crimes” in Syria, “hacking” and having “interfered in our presidential election,” Power insisted that Moscow’s alleged crimes went beyond “any particular actions” and were the product of a “broader strategy” of “weakening the rules-based order” imposed by Washington in the aftermath of World War II.
For his part, Joe Biden made his last foreign trip as US vice president to Ukraine in order to further escalate the war threats against Russia. Speaking in Kiev Tuesday, Biden affirmed that “the international community must continue to stand as one against Russian aggression and coercion.”
He praised the Obama administration for having “trained your national guard, conventional military forces, as well as Special Forces; helped you increase your readiness and make your force interoperable with NATO.”
 
Sanctions against Russia
Placing the entire blame for the conflict in eastern Ukraine on Moscow, he insisted that sanctions against Russia must remain in place. Toward the conclusion of his remarks, he warned, “This next year is going to be a very, very telling year—a very telling year.”
And finally, Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told a White House press conference that it appeared that Vladimir Putin was using the “talking points” of the “incoming administration.” The remark came in response to a speech in which Putin charged the incumbent administration with attempting to “delegitimize” the Trump presidency with false allegations.
Earnest went on to describe Trump as “deeply misguided” in criticizing the US intelligence agencies and, in particular, CIA Director John Brennan, who on 16 Jan  criticized Trump for lacking a “full appreciation of Russian capabilities, Russia’s intentions.”
“Particularly to call into question the integrity of somebody like John Brennan, somebody who has served at the CIA for three decades, somebody who has served the country in dangerous locations around the world to try to keep us safe. I’m offended by it,” Earnest said.
 
Neo-McCarthyite rhetoric
The bitter internecine struggles within the ruling establishment in the run-up to Trump’s inauguration express deep divisions over strategic aims. While the US intelligence agencies and the Obama administration are demanding a continuation and intensification of the military buildup against Russia, employing neo-McCarthyite rhetoric to counter any opposition, the incoming Trump administration has indicated its intention to shift toward a more direct confrontation with China. Both policies threaten humanity with the prospect of nuclear war.
—WSWS

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Iraq’s civilian death toll mounts as fighting intensifies in Mosul
Jordan Shilton
17 January 2017
 
FIGHTING has intensified in Mosul over the past two weeks as Iraqi government forces, backed by US-led air strikes, have pushed forward to the Tigris River in their efforts to recapture the country’s second-largest city from Islamic State.
The US-backed offensive is having a devastating impact on the civilian population, which numbered over 1 million when operations began in October. Recently reports emerged that a suspected coalition air strike killed up to 30 civilians in the west of the city. Two missiles struck the home of a senior ISIS commander who was not at home.
One Iraqi commander described the fighting in the city as “guerrilla warfare”. In operations to retake the Mosul University campus over the weekend, led by elite Counter-Terrorism Service Special Forces, several buildings were completely destroyed by advancing forces. Further gains were made Sunday as government troops reportedly killed over 120 ISIS fighters.
 
50 per cent casualties are civilians
According to estimates by the United Nations, over 800 civilians were injured in Mosul during the last week of December and a further 670 in the first week of the New Year. Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, gave an indication of the heavy price civilians are paying in the fighting, telling reporters recently, “You would expect in a conflict like this that the number of civilian casualties would be around 15 percent, a high of 20 percent. What we’re seeing in Mosul is that nearly 50 per cent of all casualties are in fact civilians.”
There have been reports of family members unable to bury their dead relatives for several weeks due to the intensity of the fighting in local neighbourhoods.
While many civilians are being deliberately targeted by ISIS terrorists as they seek to flee, Iraqi forces have increasingly resorted to heavy weaponry in built-up areas, and coalition air strikes are driving up casualties.
The lack of medical care for those injured in the fighting is leading to further health problems. Doctors at a hospital in the Kurdish capital of Irbil report that casualties brought in from Mosul after several days with treatable injuries have frequently picked up infections.
 
144,500 civilians fled homes
The latest figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirm that over 144,500 civilians have fled their homes since the beginning of the Mosul offensive, a dramatic rise over the past month given that the total in December stood at 98,000.
The widespread disruption of the lives of hundreds of thousands of local residents has occurred before government forces even enter the most densely populated areas of the city. The UN estimates that some 750,000 civilians remain trapped in siege-like conditions on the west side of the Tigris. Early on in the offensive, the US bombed five bridges crossing the Tigris to prevent ISIS supplying its fighters in the east of the city.
The air strike killing 30 civilians marked the third time in little more than five weeks that US warplanes have carried out bombing raids with civilian casualties. On December 7, an air strike called in by Iraqi government forces targeted the Al Salem hospital in eastern Mosul, the district’s largest medical facility. The Pentagon avoided acknowledging any civilian casualties in the incident. Three weeks later, on December 29, a bomb dropped on the Ibn-Al-Athir hospital compound claimed the lives of seven civilians and prompted a rare statement from the Pentagon acknowledging the attack, which amounts to a war crime.
While government forces in the CTS, backed by Shia militias with ties to Iran and the Kurdish Peshmerga, initially advanced rapidly to the outskirts of Mosul, the offensive became bogged down in November and early December. 
ISIS fighters launched counterattacks, including the use of car bombs, and inflicted significant casualties on Iraqi forces. Federal police and other security forces were called up to support the offensive, and the government troops began using heavy artillery on heavily-populated residential areas. Government officials first optimistically predicted the retaking of Mosul by the end of 2016, but it is now acknowledged that the operation will last at least several more months.
 
16,000 civilians killed in 2016
In a recent estimate, Iraq Body Count, a project run by academics and peace activists that has counted civilian deaths in the country since 2003, reported that more than 16,000 civilians died in the country in 2016. In western Anbar province, health officials have issued a warning of a potential epidemic of diseases, including plague, caused by the decomposition of dead bodies left unburied following fighting in the area last year.
The high number of civilian deaths in Mosul, and the terrible conditions under which residents are being forced to suffer, thoroughly expose the double standards of the US political establishment and pliant corporate media, which incessantly accused Russia and Syria of war crimes during its offensive in Aleppo for its bombardment of residential areas as they sought to dislodge Jihadi forces led by the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front. Under conditions of an all-out assault on a much larger population center just a few hundred miles further east, the Iraqi army, Shia militia, Kurdish Peshmerga forces and their allies in the US-led coalition are being hailed as liberators even as they lay waste to large sections of one of the Middle East’s oldest cities.
The glaring hypocrisy is bound up with the fact that Washington relied on an alliance with Al Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists in Syria to achieve its goal of overthrowing the Russian-backed Assad regime.
Media reports on the Mosul offensive focus persistently on the use by ISIS of civilians as human shields, blaming this for the overwhelming majority of casualties. The truth is that real responsibility for the disastrous conditions facing Mosul’s population, and Iraqis across the country, lies with the imperialist powers, above all the United States, which laid waste to Iraqi society during the 2003 invasion, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and forcing millions from their homes.
The bitter sectarian conflict that threatens to explode in the current Mosul offensive is directly linked to Washington’s criminal policy of divide and rule pursued in the years following the Iraq war. Support for the extremist ISIS emerged under conditions where the Sunni population was sidelined and suffered sectarian violence at the hands of the Shia-dominated Baghdad government.
While Iraqi government troops, Iranian-aligned Shia militias and Kurdish Peshmerga forces are ostensibly part of an alliance against ISIS, each is pursuing their own goals, and there are even sharp divisions within each camp.
 
KRG sent 500,000 barrels of oil
On January 3, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi accused the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of illegally exporting large quantities of oil via Turkey to raise finances. Under the Iraqi constitution, the national government is solely responsible for the country’s oil wealth. Abadi alleged that the KRG sent over 500,000 barrels of oil to Turkey during December 2016, resulting in Baghdad missing its OPEC target by 200,000 barrels. An unnamed KRG minister reportedly offered to sell oilfields to Turkey for $5 billion.
The Iraqi government is moving to curtail the KRG’s control over oil supplies. Iranian oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh is to visit Baghdad this month to discuss a planned pipeline from the province of Sulaimaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan to Iran. This would put an end to the monopoly currently enjoyed by the KRG on the region’s oil reserves.
Disputes over control of Iraq’s lucrative oil wealth are also linked to territorial conflicts in the region. Kurdish officials have previously expressed the desire to gain territory in the areas surrounding Mosul because of the role played by the Peshmerga in the advance on the city, a suggestion rejected out of hand by Baghdad. The Peshmerga have been accused by international organizations of carrying out sectarian reprisals against Arab populations.
— WSWS

Comment

Jordan Shilton
17 January 2017
 
FIGHTING has intensified in Mosul over the past two weeks as Iraqi government forces, backed by US-led air strikes, have pushed forward to the Tigris River in their efforts to recapture the country’s second-largest city from Islamic State.
The US-backed offensive is having a devastating impact on the civilian population, which numbered over 1 million when operations began in October. Recently reports emerged that a suspected coalition air strike killed up to 30 civilians in the west of the city. Two missiles struck the home of a senior ISIS commander who was not at home.
One Iraqi commander described the fighting in the city as “guerrilla warfare”. In operations to retake the Mosul University campus over the weekend, led by elite Counter-Terrorism Service Special Forces, several buildings were completely destroyed by advancing forces. Further gains were made Sunday as government troops reportedly killed over 120 ISIS fighters.
 
50 per cent casualties are civilians
According to estimates by the United Nations, over 800 civilians were injured in Mosul during the last week of December and a further 670 in the first week of the New Year. Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, gave an indication of the heavy price civilians are paying in the fighting, telling reporters recently, “You would expect in a conflict like this that the number of civilian casualties would be around 15 percent, a high of 20 percent. What we’re seeing in Mosul is that nearly 50 per cent of all casualties are in fact civilians.”
There have been reports of family members unable to bury their dead relatives for several weeks due to the intensity of the fighting in local neighbourhoods.
While many civilians are being deliberately targeted by ISIS terrorists as they seek to flee, Iraqi forces have increasingly resorted to heavy weaponry in built-up areas, and coalition air strikes are driving up casualties.
The lack of medical care for those injured in the fighting is leading to further health problems. Doctors at a hospital in the Kurdish capital of Irbil report that casualties brought in from Mosul after several days with treatable injuries have frequently picked up infections.
 
144,500 civilians fled homes
The latest figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirm that over 144,500 civilians have fled their homes since the beginning of the Mosul offensive, a dramatic rise over the past month given that the total in December stood at 98,000.
The widespread disruption of the lives of hundreds of thousands of local residents has occurred before government forces even enter the most densely populated areas of the city. The UN estimates that some 750,000 civilians remain trapped in siege-like conditions on the west side of the Tigris. Early on in the offensive, the US bombed five bridges crossing the Tigris to prevent ISIS supplying its fighters in the east of the city.
The air strike killing 30 civilians marked the third time in little more than five weeks that US warplanes have carried out bombing raids with civilian casualties. On December 7, an air strike called in by Iraqi government forces targeted the Al Salem hospital in eastern Mosul, the district’s largest medical facility. The Pentagon avoided acknowledging any civilian casualties in the incident. Three weeks later, on December 29, a bomb dropped on the Ibn-Al-Athir hospital compound claimed the lives of seven civilians and prompted a rare statement from the Pentagon acknowledging the attack, which amounts to a war crime.
While government forces in the CTS, backed by Shia militias with ties to Iran and the Kurdish Peshmerga, initially advanced rapidly to the outskirts of Mosul, the offensive became bogged down in November and early December. 
ISIS fighters launched counterattacks, including the use of car bombs, and inflicted significant casualties on Iraqi forces. Federal police and other security forces were called up to support the offensive, and the government troops began using heavy artillery on heavily-populated residential areas. Government officials first optimistically predicted the retaking of Mosul by the end of 2016, but it is now acknowledged that the operation will last at least several more months.
 
16,000 civilians killed in 2016
In a recent estimate, Iraq Body Count, a project run by academics and peace activists that has counted civilian deaths in the country since 2003, reported that more than 16,000 civilians died in the country in 2016. In western Anbar province, health officials have issued a warning of a potential epidemic of diseases, including plague, caused by the decomposition of dead bodies left unburied following fighting in the area last year.
The high number of civilian deaths in Mosul, and the terrible conditions under which residents are being forced to suffer, thoroughly expose the double standards of the US political establishment and pliant corporate media, which incessantly accused Russia and Syria of war crimes during its offensive in Aleppo for its bombardment of residential areas as they sought to dislodge Jihadi forces led by the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front. Under conditions of an all-out assault on a much larger population center just a few hundred miles further east, the Iraqi army, Shia militia, Kurdish Peshmerga forces and their allies in the US-led coalition are being hailed as liberators even as they lay waste to large sections of one of the Middle East’s oldest cities.
The glaring hypocrisy is bound up with the fact that Washington relied on an alliance with Al Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists in Syria to achieve its goal of overthrowing the Russian-backed Assad regime.
Media reports on the Mosul offensive focus persistently on the use by ISIS of civilians as human shields, blaming this for the overwhelming majority of casualties. The truth is that real responsibility for the disastrous conditions facing Mosul’s population, and Iraqis across the country, lies with the imperialist powers, above all the United States, which laid waste to Iraqi society during the 2003 invasion, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and forcing millions from their homes.
The bitter sectarian conflict that threatens to explode in the current Mosul offensive is directly linked to Washington’s criminal policy of divide and rule pursued in the years following the Iraq war. Support for the extremist ISIS emerged under conditions where the Sunni population was sidelined and suffered sectarian violence at the hands of the Shia-dominated Baghdad government.
While Iraqi government troops, Iranian-aligned Shia militias and Kurdish Peshmerga forces are ostensibly part of an alliance against ISIS, each is pursuing their own goals, and there are even sharp divisions within each camp.
 
KRG sent 500,000 barrels of oil
On January 3, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi accused the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) of illegally exporting large quantities of oil via Turkey to raise finances. Under the Iraqi constitution, the national government is solely responsible for the country’s oil wealth. Abadi alleged that the KRG sent over 500,000 barrels of oil to Turkey during December 2016, resulting in Baghdad missing its OPEC target by 200,000 barrels. An unnamed KRG minister reportedly offered to sell oilfields to Turkey for $5 billion.
The Iraqi government is moving to curtail the KRG’s control over oil supplies. Iranian oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh is to visit Baghdad this month to discuss a planned pipeline from the province of Sulaimaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan to Iran. This would put an end to the monopoly currently enjoyed by the KRG on the region’s oil reserves.
Disputes over control of Iraq’s lucrative oil wealth are also linked to territorial conflicts in the region. Kurdish officials have previously expressed the desire to gain territory in the areas surrounding Mosul because of the role played by the Peshmerga in the advance on the city, a suggestion rejected out of hand by Baghdad. The Peshmerga have been accused by international organizations of carrying out sectarian reprisals against Arab populations.
— WSWS

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Govt should take on challenge of task force report

Jehan Perera in Colombo
 
THE DISQUIET about the government’s commitment to deliver on its promises is now extending itself to those sections of the international community that gave their support to the government on the basis of its commitment to human rights and reconciliation. The sense of disenchantment amongst the general population is also getting more pronounced.  The common factor is the failure of the government to deliver on its promises.  With regard to the general population it is the continuing failure to deliver economic development that directly benefits those who depend on governmental largesse to get them out of poverty. It is also the ineffectiveness of the government’s anti-corruption programme that is reflected in the failure to take cases through to their conclusion.  
However, with regard to the international human rights community, and Western governments, the focus is more on the slow pace of reconciliation initiatives that have an impact on those who have long been victims of the conflict.  This sentiment is not confined to the international community but also includes the ethnic minorities who are beginning to feel more convinced that their interests are being neglected by the government in order to cater to ethnic majority sentiment.  They are even beginning to see overtly hostile intent in actions such as the presidential declaration that extends forest cover (Wilpattu) to areas in the North that have been sites of traditional settlement by the ethnic minorities, in this case primarily the Muslims, prior to their displacement by the war.
The negative reception extended by members of the government to the report of the Consultation Task Force on reconciliation mechanisms has added to the sense of disquiet within the international community and ethnic minorities.   The government-appointed Task Force obtained submissions from the general public, many of whom were directly affected by the three decades of war.  The Task Force focused its findings on the commitments made by the government to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in October 2015.  The government’s commitments included setting up four new reconciliation mechanisms, namely a truth commission, an office of missing persons, an office of reparations and a special court to try war crimes.  The government also pledged to make the laws more human rights-friendly and to demilitarize the former war zones of the North and East.  
 
Politically controversial
The Task Force recommendations have met with the support and appreciation of the international human rights community and the ethnic minorities. The recommendations seek to meet international standards.  The report itself provides material that is invaluable in terms of concepts and cases that could be used for a public education campaign.  However, the lukewarm if not negative response from those in the government is clearly visible.  The problem that the government seems to be having is that the Task Force recommendations do not correspond to the general sentiment in the ethnic majority Sinhalese population.  This is especially true of the recommendation that there should be international participation in the proposed special courts, with its provision for foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators.  The adverse media focus on the hybrid court structure recommended by the Task Force has deflected public attention away from all other recommendations.

Comment

Jehan Perera in Colombo
 
THE DISQUIET about the government’s commitment to deliver on its promises is now extending itself to those sections of the international community that gave their support to the government on the basis of its commitment to human rights and reconciliation. The sense of disenchantment amongst the general population is also getting more pronounced.  The common factor is the failure of the government to deliver on its promises.  With regard to the general population it is the continuing failure to deliver economic development that directly benefits those who depend on governmental largesse to get them out of poverty. It is also the ineffectiveness of the government’s anti-corruption programme that is reflected in the failure to take cases through to their conclusion.  
However, with regard to the international human rights community, and Western governments, the focus is more on the slow pace of reconciliation initiatives that have an impact on those who have long been victims of the conflict.  This sentiment is not confined to the international community but also includes the ethnic minorities who are beginning to feel more convinced that their interests are being neglected by the government in order to cater to ethnic majority sentiment.  They are even beginning to see overtly hostile intent in actions such as the presidential declaration that extends forest cover (Wilpattu) to areas in the North that have been sites of traditional settlement by the ethnic minorities, in this case primarily the Muslims, prior to their displacement by the war.
The negative reception extended by members of the government to the report of the Consultation Task Force on reconciliation mechanisms has added to the sense of disquiet within the international community and ethnic minorities.   The government-appointed Task Force obtained submissions from the general public, many of whom were directly affected by the three decades of war.  The Task Force focused its findings on the commitments made by the government to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in October 2015.  The government’s commitments included setting up four new reconciliation mechanisms, namely a truth commission, an office of missing persons, an office of reparations and a special court to try war crimes.  The government also pledged to make the laws more human rights-friendly and to demilitarize the former war zones of the North and East.  
 
Politically controversial
The Task Force recommendations have met with the support and appreciation of the international human rights community and the ethnic minorities. The recommendations seek to meet international standards.  The report itself provides material that is invaluable in terms of concepts and cases that could be used for a public education campaign.  However, the lukewarm if not negative response from those in the government is clearly visible.  The problem that the government seems to be having is that the Task Force recommendations do not correspond to the general sentiment in the ethnic majority Sinhalese population.  This is especially true of the recommendation that there should be international participation in the proposed special courts, with its provision for foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators.  The adverse media focus on the hybrid court structure recommended by the Task Force has deflected public attention away from all other recommendations.

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