jueves, 23 de abril de 2015

The $18bn arms race helping to fuel Middle East conflict

“If you are going for an ever-bigger hammer, then the more desperate you are to make every problem a nail.”
How the West has fuelled an unprecedented rise in arms sales to the Middle East.

The $18bn arms race helping to fuel Middle East conflict

Security experts express fears for region’s stability amid record weapons sales from west and Russia’s missile deal with Iran

The Middle East is plunging deeper into an arms race, with an estimated $18bn expected to be spent on weapons this year, a development that experts warn is fuelling serious tension and conflict in the region.
Given the unprecedented levels of weapons sales by the west (including the US, Canada and the UK) to the mainly Sunni Gulf states, Vladimir Putin’s decision last week to allow the controversial delivery of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran – voluntarily blocked by Russia since 2010 – seems likely to further accelerate the proliferation.
That will see agreed arms sales to the top five purchasers in the region - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Egypt and Iraq – surge this year to more than $18bn, up from $12bn last year. Among the systems being purchased are jet fighters, missiles, armoured vehicles, drones and helicopters.
The Russian declaration came only two days before Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, disclosed he was seeking arms worth billions of dollars from Washington – with payment deferred – for the battle against Islamic State (Isis).
Last week France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, disclosed progress in talks to sell Rafale fighter jets to the UAE, one of the Middle East’s biggest and most aggressive arms buyers.
With conflicts raging in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, and with Egypt also battling Islamist extremists in the Sinai, the signs that Russia is preparing to increase its own arms sales – and to the Gulf states’ biggest rival, Iran – are raising fears that tensions will be stoked further still.
In particular Saudi Arabia and Iran are facing off in the conflict in Yemen where, despite the announcement by Riyadh on Tuesday that it had halted its month-long bombing campaign, jets continued to strike Houthi rebel positions close to the capital Sanaa, around the third city Taez, and in the central town of Yarim.
According to the New York Times, defence industry officials have notified Congress that they are expecting additional requests from Arab states fighting Isis – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt – for thousands of new US-made weapons, including missiles and bombs, to rebuild depleted arms stockpiles.
Ironically, among the key weapons suppliers in the arms race are permanent members of the UN security council who have been at the centre of two unconventional arms control initiatives – disarming the Syrian government’s stockpiles of chemical weapons and negotiating for a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme.
The scale of the arms race was revealed this year in reports published by IHS Jane’s Global Defence Trade Report and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri). They showed how Saudi Arabia had become the world’s largest importer of weapons and fourth-largest military spender and that other Middle East states were sharply increasing their arms purchases.
Adding to concern is that the spending spree on arms comes against the background of a marked increase in military interventions by countries in the region since the Arab spring in 2011.
Missiles are displayed by the Iranian army

Missiles are displayed by the Iranian army in a military parade marking National Army Day just outside Tehran. Photograph: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP
Saudi Arabia has intervened in Bahrain (at the request of that kingdom’s ruler during the so-called Pearl revolution), in Yemen in 2009 and again in Yemen this year.

In addition, a new Saudi-led and largely Sunni military alliance – announcedthis year and dubbed the “Arab Nato” – appears primarily designed as a new foil to Iran in the widening proxy conflict between Riyadh and Tehran.
And among those concerned by Saudi’s new military assertiveness - on the back of its arms buying spree - was the Iraqi prime minister, Abadi.
“The dangerous thing is we don’t know what the Saudis want to do after [their intervention in Yemen],” Abadi told US reporters last week. “Is Iraq within their radar? That’s very, very dangerous. The idea that you intervene in another state unprovoked just for regional ambition is wrong. Saddam has done it before. See what it has done to the country.”
And if the Saudi intervention in Yemen has been overt, no less real has been the proxy conflict that has set Iran and the Gulf states against each other in Syria, where Tehran has backed the government of Bashar al-Assad with military assistance and weapons, and Gulf states have backed different rebel groups, including Islamist ones.
“It’s crazy,” says Ben Moores, author of IHS Jane’s annual report on arms buying trends. “The one Canadian deal alone – to supply Saudi Arabia with light armoured vehicles – will account for 20% of the military vehicles sold globally in years covered by the contract. And this is just the thin edge of the wedge. Saudi has booked enough arms imports in 24 months for them to be worth $10bn a year.”
While some countries, such as Kuwait, are in the process of modernisation, a key trend identified by Moores is how states are retooling to fight insurgency conflicts in the same way the US military has in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Look at UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Algeria. They were all countries that bought a lot of conventional arms in the past that are no use in a sectarian war or an insurgency.
“If you look at what was bought at the recent Idex arms fair in Abu Dhabi it was drones, high-end surveillance satellites, strategic transport aircraft for projecting power. One of the reasons Egypt went with its recent purchase of Rafale jets [from France] is because it wanted planes that could deliver precision-guided standoff weapons.
And as Tobias Borck of the Royal United Services Institute points out, states in the Middle East are now more prepared to use the weapons they are buying.
“[The] Saudi-led military operations in Yemen [are] the latest manifestation of Arab interventionism, a trend that has been gaining momentum in the Middle East since the uprisings of the Arab spring,” he says. “Middle Eastern countries appear to be increasingly willing to use their armed forces to protect and pursue their interests in crisis zones across the region.”
Referring to the inconsistent approach by key security council members towards arms control in the region, he adds: “There are a lot of different streams feeding into this arms race.
“On Syria’s chemical weapons and the Iranian nuclear programme the two issues were ringfenced as pure arms control questions. When it comes to how we perceive our arms sales – whether they are British or US or whatever – it tends to be seen as a domestic economic issue – protecting our factories.
“That neglects the regional political dimensions, with arms sales taking place with a lack of regard for that context and without long-term strategic awareness.”
An Al Sabr unmanned aerial vehicle at the Idex arms fair in Abu Dhabi.
An Al Sabr unmanned aerial vehicle at the Idex arms fair in Abu Dhabi. Photograph: Bloomberg/ Getty Images
Borck says the sheer scale of the arms being supplied to countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE by the west may also be acting as an incentive for Russia to get back into the Middle East – not least via arms sales to its old clients such as Iran – and may have been a motivating factor in the Kremlin’s decision to lift the ban on the delivery of the S-300 missile system.
Putin, defending the decision to supply the missiles during a call-in television show last week, cited Russia’s prerogative to pursue its own foreign policy initiatives and suggested the missiles could represent “a deterrent factor in connection with the situation in Yemen”.
Omar Ashour, an expert on Middle East security issues at Exeter University, adds another caution, this time over the intentions of the new Saudi-led Arab coalition, warning that its interventions are unlikely to contribute to stability.
“The rise of Arab military coalitions raises serious concerns,” he wrote in a recent piece for Project Syndicate. “Such interventions were usually aimed at empowering a proxy political force over its military and political rivals, instead of averting humanitarian disaster or institutionalising a non-violent conflict-resolution mechanism following a war.”
Speaking to the Guardian last week, he added: “On top of that, the increases in arms sales are bound to be extremely destabilising. At the moment most of the interventions have been against softer targets – Saudi Arabia targeting guerrillas in Yemen; Egypt against Bedouin in Sinai; or strikes against ragtag armies in Libya.
“But if the ‘soft’ keeps being hit hard they won’t remain soft. They will find their own patrons and proxies and hit back and it will lead to a vicious cycle.”
Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher at Sipri, which maintains a database tracking arms contracts, raises another concern. “Something that doesn’t get mentioned is the complete lack of interest in arms control among the countries in region. It is not in the minds of leaders and decision-makers except for the need to arm to defeat any potential opponent.
“There is already instability in the region on several levels. You have instability in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. There is instability between Iran and the Gulf states. What is important now is how the massive expansion of the armed forces of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar will be seen as posing a clear threat to Iran.”
Borck adds a final warning: “If you are going for an ever-bigger hammer, then the more desperate you are to make every problem a nail.”


Salon: 24 Pictures From Around the World That Will Make You Re-Evaluate Your Entire Life

24 Pictures From Around the World That Will Make You Re-Evaluate Your Entire Life


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, they would be right. An image can capture the essence of something powerful more than any writer or poet. An image is simple; it’s right there in front of you, completely unfiltered. Words can get lost in translation and taken out of context; their meaning confused and misinterpreted. Images aren’t just a mixture of colors caught on paper. They are something that can stir and evoke raw emotions inside of us.
There are standard examples of the importance of images. According to the Pew Research Center, an Internet user is 7.4 times more likely to click on content if an image is attached to it. Branding and marketing experts carefully utilize color schemes and images to persuade us to buy certain products. But why are we drawn to these visuals? How do they hold so much power over us?
Psychologists explain that images help to easily convey four key stimulants: expectations, emotion, motivation and culture. All four obviously hold a significant importance in daily human life and tap into the innate id. Images and visuals also elicit projections from the perceiver. If you put a picture of a boy and his dog in front of you, me and ten other people, that picture will probably mean something different for everyone who sees it. Maybe one person in the group recently lost their dog, maybe someone else had a bad childhood experience with a dog. Whatever the case may be, each person’s reaction to the picture will be somewhat based on their previous experiences and opinions. Their subjectivity will take hold and help to dictate the emotions they feel when presented with that picture.
In that sense, images aren’t just a solitary snapshot of a single moment. They are far reaching reminders of memories both good and bad. They are catalysts for emotional reactions.
They are powerful connections to something larger than yourself and they are visual representations of your inner most desires and fears.
Explaining that reasoning makes sense on an intellectual level. You understand that A causes B. But ultimately, there is a reason they say seeing is believing. No collection of words, or sequence of sentences can match the impact of a powerful image. Seeing something, whether it be a horrific image of war or an inspiring example of humanity, instantly makes it real. It makes everything relatable on a personable level.
I’m a writer; I love words. But even I can admit that in this digital age, a picture of a loved one means more to me than a text message. Images can more succinctly represent this world than complicated prose.
Look at these photos and all they represent. The conflicting ideologies of power and love seen in heavily armed police forces facing down peaceful protestors. True happiness found in an elderly couple making silly faces and kissing when the camera snaps. The hope for a better world when you come across a picture of 100,000 monks gathered together to pray. A reminder that anything is possible as you look at The Beatles play for a mostly empty club hall a year before they became The Beatles. All of these images don’t need an explanation because the content of the photographs speak for themselves.
“I never read. I just look at pictures,” Andy Warhol once said.
And why not? Pictures are wonderfully complex in their simplicity; one single image can tell an entire story.
To paraphrase Gandhi, you have two eyes and only one mouth for a reason.

miércoles, 22 de abril de 2015

Presidente Barack Obama en el Día de la Madre Tierra

“Este es el único planeta que tenemos” – Presidente Obama. ‪#‎CambioClimático‬,
‪#‎DiaDeLaTierra‬ 2015 en inglés→ go.wh.gov/Eart

Carta de Avaaz acerca del glifosato y los transgénicos, o la economóa de mercado

Queridos amigos y amigas,

¡Reconocidos científicos alertan de que el herbicida que más se usa en el mundo probablemente provoca cáncer! Monsanto está exigiendo a la Organización Mundial de la Salud que se retire este revolucionario informe. Y los expertos dicen que la única manera de asegurarnos de que los resultados no se silencien es que el público exija acciones concretas ya.

El sistema de regulaciones es conocido por su secretismo y por estar en manos de la industria agroquímica. Pero tenemos un momento único ante nosotros: el uso del glifosato se está reevaluando oficialmente en la UE, EE.UU., Canadá y Brasil, mientras que Holanda, Sri Lanka y El Salvador están considerando prohibirlo.

La amenaza es clara -- este veneno se utiliza en nuestros alimentos, nuestros campos, nuestros parques y nuestras calles. Logremos que se suspenda su uso. Súmate al llamamiento urgente y díselo a todo el mundo:


Monsanto se ha levantado en armas. El glifosato es la base del RoundUp, la fórmula química clave del imperio transgénico de Monsanto, que les reporta 6 mil millones de dólares al año. La empresa dice que el informe de la OMS no ha tenido en cuenta estudios que demuestran que el glifosato es seguro. Pero estos científicos no son un grupo de lunáticos, sino 17 de los mejores expertos en oncología del mundo que revisaron a fondo estudios independientes, excluyendo aquellos realizados por las empresas que buscaban la aprobación del producto. 

¡Las autoridades reguladoras se basan sobre todo en pruebas realizadas por las empresas que quieren vender estos venenos! Hay resultados clave que se le ocultan al público porque contienen ‘información comercial confidencial’, y el 58% de los paneles científicos de la Agencia Europea de Seguridad Alimentaria tienen vínculos con la industria. Es una locura, pero es el sistema que tenemos. Y por eso, para asegurarnos de que este informe independiente tan crucial no se pase por alto, todos vamos a tener que tomar parte.

Algunos países ya han prohibido el glifosato. Ahora que la UE, EE.UU., Canadá y Brasil están revisando su uso, tenemos una oportunidad increíble de cambiar el curso de las cosas a nivel global. 

Hace cincuenta años, el pesticida DDT de Monsanto se usaba en todas partes, hasta que el esencial libro Primavera Silenciosa demostró que podía causar cáncer -- una década después, el DDT se prohibió. Si esto puede estar matándonos, no dejemos que lo comercialicen otros diez años más. Exijamos medidas preventivas urgentes de forma inmediata. Súmate ahora y corre la voz: 


Ya lo hemos hecho otras veces -- en EE.UU., contribuimos a lograr una moratoria a los neonicotinoides que están matando a las abejas y detuvimos una mega-fábrica de semillas de Monsanto en Argentina. Ahora vamos a proteger nuestra salud y a asegurarnos de que no nos utilizan como ratas de laboratorio. Este podría ser un punto de inflexión en la lucha por la agricultura segura y sostenible que nuestro mundo necesita.
Con esperanza,

Bert, Marigona, Antonia, Oliver, Alice, Emily, Danny, Nataliya, Ricken y todo el equipo de Avaaz

Más información:

El glifosato puede causar cáncer, dice la OMS (El Tiempo)
La batalla del glifosato (El Periódico)
Le llegó la hora al glifosato (Semana) http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/le-llego-la-hora-al-glifosato/423701-3
Transgénicos, glifosato y cáncer (Adital)
La OMS eleva el riesgo de cáncer del herbicida más popular, ¿cómo se usa el glifosato en España? (20 Minutos)

Más fuentes: