Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Palestinian village faces army reign of terror

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By Jonathan Cook in Nilin

The window through which Salam Amira, 16, filmed the moment when an Israeli soldier shot from close range a handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainee has a large hole at its centre with cracks running in every direction.

“Since my video was shown, the soldiers shoot at our house all the time,” she said. The shattered and cracked windows at the front of the building confirm her story. “When we leave the windows open, they fire tear gas inside too.”

Her home looks out over the Israeli road block guarding the only entrance to the village of Nilin, located just inside the West Bank midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It was here that a bound Ashraf Abu Rahma, 27, was shot in the foot in July with a rubber bullet under orders from an Israeli regiment commander.

The treatment of the family stands in stark contrast to the leniency shown to the soldier and his commander involved in that incident.

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, has accused the Israeli army of seeking “revenge” for the girl’s role in exposing the actions of its armed forces in the West Bank.

It may also be hoping to dissuade other families from airing similar evidence of army brutality, particularly since B’Tselem began distributing dozens of video cameras to Palestinians across the West Bank.

Scenes captured on film of hooded settlers attacking Palestinian farmers near Hebron came as a shock to many early this summer.

The village of Nilin has been the focus of the Israeli army’s actions since May, when its 4,700 inhabitants began a campaign of mainly non-violent demonstrations to halt the building of Israel’s separation wall across their land.

After the wall is completed, the village will be cut off from 40 per cent of its remaining farmland, effectively annexing it to half a dozen large Jewish settlements that encircle Nilin. The settlements are all illegal under international law.

Several times a week the villagers, joined by small numbers of Israeli and international supporters, congregate in olive fields where bulldozers are tearing up the land to make way for the wall.

The people of Nilin have tried various non-violent forms of protest, including praying in the path of the heavy machinery, using mirrors to reflect sunlight at the construction workers, banging pots and pans, and placing rocks in the way of the bulldozers during the night.

The army has responded with tear gas and stun grenades, as well as on occasion, with rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition. Last month it was reported that Israel was also experimenting with a new crowd dispersal method called “skunk”, which involves firing a foul-smelling liquid at demonstrators.

In the past few weeks, two youngsters have been shot dead by the army, including one, Ahmed Moussa, who was 10. The army claimed he was throwing stones. An autopsy showed he was hit in the head by a bullet from an M-16 rifle.

This week a soldier fired from close range three rubber bullets at Awad Surur, a mentally disabled man, as he tried to prevent his brother from being arrested. Two bullets penetrated his skull, according to B’Tselem, which denounced the army as increasingly “trigger-happy” and “reckless”.

Salam’s family, like many other villagers, bear the injuries from attendance at protests. Most of her five brothers have been hit by rubber bullets, as has her father, Jamal Amira, 53. The army has sealed the village off on several occasions and, according to villagers, beaten and terrorised inhabitants.

Mr Amira is among at least 100 farmers whose livelihoods will be devastated by the wall. He will lose all 14 hectares of his land, fields on which his ancestors have made their living by growing olives, cucumbers, aubergine and tomatoes.

But Salam’s five-minute film of the roadblock incident, taken during a four-day curfew imposed on the village, has only intensified the family’s troubles.

Three days after the video was aired, the army arrested her father during a peaceful protest. He was the only one seized after the army claimed the demonstrators had entered a closed military zone. Mr Amira was also charged with assaulting a soldier.

He was held for three and a half weeks before an Israeli military judge rejected the army’s demand that he be remanded for a further three months until his trial.

In an almost unprecedented rebuke to the prosecution, the judge questioned the army’s case, saying he could see no evidence of an assault. He also asked why Salam’s father was singled out from all of those protesting.

Mr Amira’s lawyer, Gabi Laski, said the decision confirmed “our preliminary claim that the arrest was out of vengeance and punishment for the video filmed by the girl”.

Nonetheless, Mr Amira still faces a military trial. A report last year by Yesh Din, a human rights group, found that in only 0.25 per cent of cases heard by military tribunals was the defendant found innocent. Even if acquitted, Mr Amira is expected to face legal costs amounting to nearly US$10,000 (Dh36,700), a sum the family says it cannot pay.

In contrast, the two soldiers responsible for the shooting of the detainee at the roadblock have been reprimanded with the minor charge of “unbecoming conduct”. Neither will stand criminal trial. B’Tselem has called the decision “shameful”.

According to the legal group the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, the punishment under Israeli law for aggravated abuse of a detainee is seven years imprisonment. ACRI’s lawyers have submitted a petition arguing the lenient charge “transmits to officers and other soldiers an extremely grave message of contempt for human life”.

Lt Col Omri Borberg, the commander who gave the order to shoot Abu Rahma, resigned his post but was immediately moved sideways to a senior post in a different unit. In a show of support, Gabi Ashkenazi, the head of the army, said Lt Col Borberg may be reinstated to a command position.

Meanwhile, the villagers said the army’s behaviour would not dissuade them from protesting or cause them to renounce their commitment to non-violence.

Salah Hawaja, a protest organiser, said: “When we started our demonstrations, maybe 50 soldiers showed up. Now there are hundreds stationed permanently around us. Israel is treating us like a major war zone, even though we are using non-violence.

“The people of Nilin have accepted that the best strategy to stop Israel’s plans to steal our land and leave us inside a ghetto is non-violence,” said Mr Hawaja.

“We need to show the world who is the occupier and who the occupied. Israel understands how threatening this is, which is why it is using so much force against us.”

Report Faults Gonzales on Data

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The Justice Department refused to prosecute former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for improperly -- and possibly illegally -- storing in his office and home classified information about two of the Bush administration's most sensitive counterterrorism efforts.

Mishandling classified materials violates Justice Department regulations, and removing them from special secure facilities without proper authorization is a misdemeanor crime.

A report issued Tuesday by the Justice Department's inspector general says the agency decided not to press charges against Gonzales, who resigned under fire last year.

The report by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine found that Gonzales risked exposing at least some parts of the National Security Agency's terrorist surveillance program, as well as interrogations of terrorist detainees. Some aspects of the surveillance program explicitly referred to in the documents were ''zealously protected'' by the NSA, the report found.

Fine referred the case to the Justice Department's National Security Division to see if charges should be brought against Gonzales. But prosecutors dropped the case after an internal review that began earlier this year, said Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd.

''After conducting a thorough review of the matter and consulting with senior career officials inside and outside of the division, the NSD ultimately determined that prosecution should be declined,'' Boyd said in a statement.

The lack of charges against the nation's former top law enforcement officer infuriated the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, D-Mich., who demanded to know why.

Lawyers for Gonzales acknowledge he did not store or protect the top secret papers -- a set of handwritten notes about the surveillance program and 17 other documents -- as he should have. But they say he did not intend to risk letting unauthorized people see them, and there's no evidence that occurred.

The report is the latest to take Gonzales to task for mismanagement at the department during his 31 months as attorney general. The criticism could foreshadow the results of an ongoing investigation by Fine's office about Gonzales' role in the 2006 firings of nine U.S. attorneys. That inquiry is expected to be finished within months.

''Like all other department employees, Gonzales was responsible for safeguarding classified materials, familiarizing himself with the facilities available to him ... for storing these materials and observing the rules and procedures for the proper handling of classified materials,'' Fine's report stated. ''Our investigation found that Gonzales did not fulfill these obligations and instead mishandled highly classified documents about the NSA surveillance program and a detainee interrogation program.''

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Conyers said he was ''shocked'' by the report's findings that he said only adds ''to an already troubling record of the Justice Department under this administration and under Mr. Gonzales.''

''The department ought to explain clearly why it declined to pursue charges against Mr. Gonzales and what actions it intends to take in response to the report,'' Conyers said.

Three years ago, former national security adviser Sandy Berger pleaded guilty to removing classified documents from the National Archives and hiding them under a construction trailer. He was fined $50,000 and ordered to perform community service. He was barred from viewing classified material.

Berger, who said he took the documents to help prepare for testifying about the Sept. 11 terror attacks, told a federal judge that he ''let considerations of personal convenience override clear rules of handling classified material.'' Berger, who served under President Bill Clinton, later surrendered his law license.

At issue for Gonzales is how and where he stored the sensitive compartmentalized information, or SCI, which is among the most sensitive levels of classified top secret documents and usually concern national security cases. They are supposed to be stored only in special safes or facilities that can be accessed only by certain people with SCI security clearances.

At the Justice Department, however, Gonzales kept the documents in a safe in a fifth-floor office in the attorney general's suite -- which is not considered an SCI facility. In 2006, investigators found, the safe was searched by two employees who did not have SCI clearances but who looked through it ''document by document'' for papers requested through the Freedom of Information Act.

The report also found that Gonzales took some SCI documents -- specifically, notes about the surveillance program -- to his house in suburban Virginia when he was moving from his secure counsel's office at the White House in early 2005 to the Justice Department.

Although he initially said he believed he kept the documents in a safe at his home, Gonzales later told investigators he did not know the combination of the safe. He said he may have kept the papers in his briefcase and did not always lock it.

In a response to the report, Gonzales' lawyers indicated the former attorney general was merely forgetful or unaware of the proper way to handle the top secret papers.

''Judge Gonzales regrets this lapse,'' concluded the lawyers' response, written by Gonzales attorney George Terwilliger.

However, Tuesday's report showed Gonzales was briefed on how to properly handle SCI material both while at the White House and at the Justice Department.

As a result of the security breach, Gonzales could lose any remaining security clearances he may still have. Fine's investigators alerted the NSA and the Justice Department's internal security officials to alert them that the top secret information may have been compromised.

US-Iraqi Agreement: Leaked Full Text

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By Raed Jarrar

I read about a leaked copy of the US-Iraqi agreement a few days ago when a radio station in Iraq mentioned some of its details, then it was mentioned in some Arab newspapers like Al-Qabas and Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. A couple of days ago, one Iraqi website (linked to an Iraqi armed resistance group) published the leaked draft on their web page for less than a couple of days before their website went offline. (Thankfully, I downloaded the 21 pages agreement and saved them before their server went down)

I spent this weekend translating it, and just finished now. you can read the 27 articles August 6th draft below. The title of this draft is "Agreement regarding the activities and presence of U.S. forces, and its withdrawal from Iraq", but this is the same agreement that is referred to as a "status of forces agreement" or "SOFA" or framework or whatever. It’s the result of months of negotiations after Bush and Al-Maliki signed the "Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America" by the end of last year.

This leaked draft is a treasure of information. It’s the first time any document related to this topic is made public. It shows how weak the Iraqi negotiations team is (it is really pathetic to read their "suggestions" on how to fix the disaster of an agreement).

There are many outrageous articles in the agreement that violates Iraq’s sovereignty and independence, and gives the U.S. occupation authorities unprecedented rights and privileges, but what has draw my attention the most (so far) are three major points:

1- the agreement does not discuss anything about a complete US withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, it talks about withdrawing "combat troops" without defining what is the difference between combat troops and other troops. It is very clear that the US is planning to stay indefinitely in permanent bases in Iraq (or as the agreement calls them: "installations and areas agreed upon") where the U.S. will continue training and supporting Iraqis armed forces for the foreseeable future.
2- the agreement goes into effect when the two executive branches exchange "memos", instead of waiting for Iraqi parliament’s ratification. This is really dangerous, and it is shocking because both the Iraqi and U.S. executive branches have been assuring the Iraqi parliament that no agreement will go into effect without being ratified by Iraq’s MPs.
3- this agreement is the blueprint for keeping other occupation armies (aka Multi-national forces) in Iraq on the long run. This explains the silence regarding what will happed to other occupiers (like the U.K. forces) after the expiration of the UN mandate at the end of this year.

It is really disturbing to read how the U.S. government is still going down the same path of intervention and domination in Iraq.

This agreement will not be accepted by the Iraqi people and their elected representatives in the Iraqi parliament, and if the U.S. and Iraqi executive branches try to consider it valid anyway it will lead to more violence in Iraq.

Agreement Regarding the Activities and Presence of U.S. forces,

and its Withdrawal from Iraq

August, 6th, 2008 4:00pm


Iraq and the U.S., referred to here as “both sides”, affirm the importance of: supporting their joint security, participating in global peace and stability, fighting terrorism, cooperation in the fields of security and defense, and deterring threats against Iraq’s sovereignty, security, and territorial integrity.

Both sides affirm that this cooperation is based on mutual respect of both sides’ sovereignty in accordance with the United Nations’ goals and principles.

Both sides want to achieve mutual understanding to support their collaboration, without jeopardizing Iraq’s sovereignty over its land, water, and sky, and based on the mutual guarantees given as equal and independent sovereign partners.

Both sides have agreed on:

Article One

Scope and goal

This agreement specifies the rules and basic needs that regulate the temporary presence and activities of the U.S. troops and its withdrawal from Iraq.

Article Two


1- “Installations and areas agreed upon” are the installations and areas agreed upon owned by the Iraqi government and used by the U.S. forces from the date this agreement goes into effect. Such installations and areas agreed upon will be decided in a list provided by the U.S. forces and reviewed by both sides. Such “installations and areas agreed upon” include those provided to the U.S. forces during the time of this agreement after the approval of both sides.

Iraqi suggestion: The Iraqi delegation has asked the U.S. delegation to submit a list of structures and areas requested to be discussed and agreed upon and add it to the agreement as an appendix.

2- “U.S. forces” is the entity that includes the members of the armed forces, civilian members, and all the equipments and materials owned by the U.S. forces in Iraq.

3- “Members of the armed forces” include any member of the U.S. army, navy, air force, marines or coast guard.

4- “Civilian members” include any civilian working for the U.S. Ministry of Defense, excluding those members who usually reside in Iraq.

5- “U.S. contractors” or “workers hired by U.S. contractors” include non Iraqi persons and entities and employees who are U.S. or third country citizens and who are in Iraq to supply goods, services or security to the U.S. forces or on behalf of it in accordance to a contract. This does not include Iraqi entities.

6- “Official vehicles”: commercial vehicles that may be modified for security reasons, and are designed originally to transport individuals on different terrains.

7- “Military vehicles”: include all vehicles used by the U.S. armed forces, that were originally designed for combat operations, and have special numbers and signs in accordance to the regulations and laws of U.S. armed forces.

8- “defense equipment” include systems, weapons, ammunition, equipment, and materials used in conventional wars only, that the U.S. forces need in accordance to this agreement, and that are not connected in any way to weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, radiological weapons, biological weapons, and waste related to such weapons).

9- “storage”: keeping defense equipment needed by the U.S. forces for activities agreed upon in this agreement.

10- “taxes and custom”: include all taxes, customs (including border customs), and any other tariffs enforced by the Iraqi government and its entities and provinces in accordance to Iraqi laws and regulations. This does not include money paid for the Iraqi government in exchange for services required or used by the U.S. forces.

Article Three

Rule of Law

All members of the U.S. armed forces and civilian members must follow Iraqi laws, customs, traditions, and agreements while conducting military operations in accordance to this agreement. They must also avoid any activities that do not agree with the text and spirit of this agreement. It is the responsibility of the U.S. to take all necessary measures to insure this.

Article Four


For the purpose of deterring external and/or internal threats against the Republic of Iraq, and to continue the collaboration to defeat Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other outlaw groups, temporarily, both sides have agreed on:

1- The Iraqi government asks for the temporary help of the U.S. forces to support Iraq’s effort in maintaining security and stability of Iraq, including the collaboration in conducting operations against Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and outlaw groups, including the remains of the former regime.

- Military operations that are conducted in accordance to this agreement with the approval of the Iraqi government and with full coordination with Iraqi authorities. Coordinating such military operations will be supervised by a joint mobile operations command centers (JMOCC) created in accordance with this agreement. Any military issues that are not resolved by these centers are submitted to a joint committee of ministries.

3- Operations must respect the Iraqi constitution and laws, and Iraqi sovereignty and national interests as defined by the Iraqi government. The U.S. forces must respect the Iraqi laws, traditions, and customs.

4- Both sides will continue their efforts in collaboration and improving Iraq’s security capacity, including training, supplying, supporting, founding, and upgrading administrative systems.

5- There is nothing in this agreement that limits either sides’ rights of self defense.

Article Five

Property Ownership

1- Iraq owns all non-mobile buildings and structures that are built on the ground in the installations and areas agreed upon, including those built, used, enhanced, or changed by the U.S. forces.

2- The U.S. is responsible for all expenses of construction, remodeling, modification in installations and areas agreed upon used exclusively by the U.S.. The U.S. forces will consult with the Iraqi authorities regarding the works of construction, remodeling, and modification. The U.S. will seek the Iraqi government’s approval for major construction or modification projects. In case of shared use of installations and areas agreed upon both sides are responsible for expenses. The U.S. forces will pay the fees of services used exclusively by the U.S.Both sides cover the expenses of shared installations and areas agreed upon.

3- In the case of a discovery of historic or cultural sites, or the discovery of a strategic natural resource, in the installations and areas agreed upon, all work of construction or modification or remodeling must stop immediately, and the Iraqi representatives in the joint committee must be informed.

4- The United States will return all installations and areas agreed upon and any non-mobile buildings that were constructed, remodeled, or modified under this agreement, according to mechanisms and priorities agreed upon by the joint committee. They will be returned to Iraq without charge, unless both sides agree otherwise.

5- The U.S. will return all installations and areas agreed upon that have special cultural or political importance and that were constructed, remodeled, or modified under this agreement, according to mechanisms and priorities agreed upon by the joint committee. When this agreement goes into effect, the U.S. will immediately return the properties listed in the attached appendix and mentioned in the letter sent by the U.S. embassy to the Iraqi minister of foreign affairs dated (…)

6- What remains of installations and areas agreed upon will be returned to the Iraqi authorities after this agreement expires or if the U.S. forces no longer needs them.

7- The U.S. forces and U.S. contractors maintain their ownership of all equipment, materials, supplements, mobile structures, and other mobile properties imported to Iraq or obtained in Iraq in accordance to the agreement.

Article Six

Usage of Installations and areas agreed upon

1- Iraq guarantees the accessibility of the U.S. forces and U.S. contractors to installations and areas agreed upon according to what both sides agree on, while insuring that Iraq’s sovereignty is not undermined. Installations and areas agreed upon will be returned to Iraq without charge, unless both sides agree otherwise.

2- Iraq authorizes the U.S. forces to practice all the authorities and have all the rights to manage construct, use, maintain, and secure installations and areas agreed upon. Both sides coordinate and collaborate regarding shared installations and areas agreed upon.

3- The United States forces control the entrances of the installations and areas agreed upon. Both sides coordinate their work in shared installations and areas agreed upon based on mechanisms put by the joint military operations committee.

Article 7

Storage of defense equipments

1- The U.S. forces are authorized to store in the installations and areas agreed upon systems, weapons, ammunition, equipment, and materials used by the U.S. forces and related to the U.S. temporary mission in Iraq. Weapons that are used by the U.S. forces are not connected in any way to weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, radiological weapons, biological weapons, and waste related to such weapons). The U.S. forces control the use and transportation of such weapons. The U.S. forces guarantees than no weapons or ammunition will be stored near residential areas, and it will inform the Iraqi government with important information regarding their amount and types.

Article 8

Environmental Protection

Both sides agree to implement this agreement while protecting nature and human security and health. The U.S. complies with Iraqi environmental laws, and Iraq should comply with its laws and regulations to protect the health of the U.S. armed forces.

Article 9

Movement of vehicles, ships, and airplanes

1- U.S. forces’ vehicles and ships are permitted to enter and exit and move inside Iraqi territories for the purposes of this agreement. The joint committee puts the appropriate regulations to control this movement.

2- U.S. government airplanes and civilian airplanes contracted with the U.S. Department of Defense are authorized to fly in the Iraqi airspace, refueling in the air, landing and departing in Iraq. The Iraqi authorities will give a one year authorization to the mentioned airplanes to land and depart from Iraq for the purposes of this agreement. No parties are allowed aboard U.S. government airplanes and civilian airplanes contracted with the U.S. Department of Defense and related ships and vehicles without U.S. forces consent, and they cannot be searched. The joint committee puts the appropriate regulations to facilitate their movement.

3- Air traffic control and surveillance are handed over immediately to the Iraqi authorities as soon as this agreement goes into effect.

4- Iraq can ask for the U.S. forces to temporarily take responsibility of the control and surveillance of the Iraqi airspace, and these tasks will be handed over to the Iraqi government upon its request. The Iraqi authorities will participate in the control and surveillance of the Iraqi airspace during the temporary period.

5- U.S. government airplanes and civilian airplanes contracted with the U.S. Department of Defense are not subject to taxes or related fees, including any fees related to flying in Iraqi airspace, refueling in the air, landing and departing in Iraq. Also, U.S. ships and civilian ships contracted with the U.S. Department of Defense are not subject to taxes or related fees during using Iraqi ports. Airplanes and ships are not subject to any search, and all Iraqi requirements of registration are waived.

6- U.S. forces pay money for any services or materials obtained or received in Iraq.

7- Both sides exchange maps and other information on mines and other obstacles in the Iraqi lands and waters that might jeopardize either side’s movement in Iraq’s land and waters.

Article Ten


U.S. forces are permitted to sign contracts in accordance to U.S. law to obtain materials and services in Iraq, including construction services. U.S. forces can obtain such materials and services from any source, and they must respect Iraq laws when signing contracts, and they will choose Iraqi contractors when possible as long as their bids have the best value. The U.S. forces will inform the Iraqi authorities of the Iraqi importers and Iraqi contractors names and the amount of relevant contracts.

Article Eleven

Services and telecommunications

1- U.S. forces are permitted to produce and generate water and electricity and other services for the installations and areas agreed upon in coordination with the Iraqi authorities through the joint committee.

2- The Iraqi government owns all frequencies. The Iraqi authorities allocate special waves for the U.S. forces based on what both sides decide through the joint committee (JMOCC). The U.S. forces will give these waves back after it is done with using them.

- The U.S. forces are permitted to operate their own wired and wireless telecommunications (according to the definition of wired and wireless telecommunications in the Convention of the International Telecommunication Union of 1992), including all the special services needed to secure the full capacity of telecommunications operations. The U.S. operates its systems in accordance to the Convention of the International Telecommunication Union whenever it is possible to implement these regulations.

4- For the purposes of this agreement, all fees related to the U.S. usage of telecommunications frequencies are waived, including any administrative or other related fees.

5- U.S. forces will coordinate with the Iraqi authorities regarding any telecommunications infrastructure projects outside the installations and areas agreed upon.

Article Twelve

Legal Jurisdictions

1- The U.S. has exclusive legal jurisdiction over U.S. armed forces members and civilian members inside and outside installations and areas agreed upon.Iraqi Suggestion: the Iraqi delegation has suggested the following:

The U.S. has the legal jurisdictions over the U.S. armed forces members and civilian members inside installations and areas agreed upon at all times, and outside the installations and areas agreed upon while conducting missions except for intentional crimes and major mistakes.

U.S. suggestion: The U.S. delegation suggested the following:

As a temporary regulation, and until the withdrawal of the U.S. combat forces is complete as indicated in paragraph 1 of article 26, until the combat missions are over the U.S. has the exclusive legal jurisdiction over U.S. armed forces members and civilian members inside and outside installations and areas agreed upon.

2- The U.S. will give its full attention to any complaint submitted by Iraq over intentional crimes and major mistakes that break Iraqi laws committed by U.S. armed forces members and civilian members. All complaints submitted by the Iraqi legal authorities will be dealt with by the joint committee and settled by mutual agreement of both sides.

Iraqi Suggestion: the Iraqi delegation has suggested the following:

Iraq has legal jurisdiction over U.S. armed forces members and civilian members who commit intentional crimes or major mistakes that break the Iraqi laws. The related joint committee concerning jurisdictions takes the appropriate action to solve disputes based on mutual agreement.

3- Iraq has legal jurisdiction over U.S. contractors and their employees when they break Iraqi laws.

4- U.S. forces will inform the Iraqi authorities of any criminal investigations that relate to members of the U.S. armed forces or civilian members involved in a crime against a victim that usually lives in Iraq. Both sides put the appropriate regulations to contact people related to incidents, provide details of the case and court dates, and help persons involved contact lawyers in accordance to article 21 of this agreement. The U.S. will work on holding the court in Iraq when that is appropriate and when both sides agree on it. In case the court was based in the U.S., the United States will make its best effort to facilitate bringing victims into the court.

5- Both sides agree to help each other in incidents’ investigations and collecting evidences to support a fair judgment.

6- All members of U.S. armed forces or civilian members who get arrested by the Iraqi authorities must be surrendered immediately to the U.S. forces authorities.

Iraqi Suggestion: the Iraqi delegation has suggested the following:

All members of U.S. armed forces or civilian members who get arrested by the Iraqi authorities must be surrendered to the U.S. forces authorities within 24 hours.

Article Thirteen

Baring Guns and wearing uniforms

U.S. armed forces members and civilian members are authorized to carry U.S. government guns during their presence in Iraq based on the authorities and orders given to them. U.S. armed forces members are also permitted to wear their official uniforms during duty in Iraq.

Article Fourteen

Entering and Exiting

1- For the purposes of the agreement, U.S. armed forces members and civilian members can enter and exit Iraq from official borders using U.S.-issued ID cards. The joint committee puts a mechanism for the Iraqi verification process.

2- For purposes of verification the U.S. forces will submit to the Iraqi authorities a list with the names of U.S. armed forces members and civilian members entering and exiting Iraq or through the Installations and areas agreed upon.

3- The Iraqi entering and exiting laws can be implemented on others, but not on the U.S. armed forces members and civilian members.

Article Fifteen

Importing and Exporting

1- For the purposes of the agreement, including training and services, the U.S. forces and their contractors are permitted to import into Iraq and export from Iraq and re-export from Iraq and transport and use any equipments, supplements, materials, technology, training, or services except for those materials banned in Iraq at the time of signing this agreement. These materials are not subject to search or to license requirement or any other limitations. Exporting Iraqi goods by the U.S. forces is not subject to search or any other limitations either except the license discussed later in this agreement. The joint committee will coordinate with the Iraqi ministry of trade to facilitate getting the required export license in accordance to the Iraqi laws related to exporting goods by U.S. forces.

2- U.S. forces members and civilian members are permitted to import, re-export, and use their personal equipment and materials for consumption or personal use. Such materials are not subject to any licenses, limitations, taxes and customs or other fees defined in paragraph 10 of article 2, except for required or obtained services. The amount of imports must be reasonable and for personal use. The U.S. forces authorities will put the needed regulations to insure no materials or articles of cultural or historical value are exported.

3- Materials mentioned in paragraph 2 will be searched in a speedy fashion in a specific location agreed upon according to the joint committee.

4- If the tax exempt materials in accordance to this agreement were to be sold in Iraq to individuals or entities not included in tax exemption, taxes and customs as defined in paragraph 10 of article 2 are to be paid by the buyer.

5- It is not permissible to import any of the materials mentioned in this article for commercial reasons.

Article Sixteen


1- Services and goods obtained by U.S. forces in Iraq for official use are not subject to taxes and fees as defined in paragraph 10 of article 2.

2- U.S. forces members and civilian members are not subject to any taxes or fees in Iraq except for services obtained or requested by them.

Article Seventeen

Licenses and Permits

1- Iraq agrees to accept valid U.S.-issued drivers’ licenses held by U.S. forces members, civilian members and U.S. contractors without subjecting them to any tests or operation fees for vehicles, ships, and airplanes owned by the U.S. forces in Iraq.

2- Iraq agrees to accept valid U.S.-issued drivers’ licenses held by U.S. forces members, civilian members and U.S. contractors to operate their personal cars in Iraq without subjecting them to any tests or fees.

Article Eighteen

Official and Military Vehicles

For the purposes of this article:

1- Officials vehicles are commercial vehicles that might be modified for security reasons, and they will carry Iraqi license plates to be agreed upon by both sides. Iraqi authorities will issue, based on a request by the U.S. forces authorities, license plates for U.S. forces official cars without fees, and U.S. forces will reimburse the Iraqi authorities for the cost of these plates.

2- Iraq agrees to accept the validity of U.S.-issued licenses and registrations for the U.S. forces official vehicles.

3- All U.S. military vehicles are exempt from registration and licenses requirements. These vehicles will be identified with distinguishable numbers and signs.

Article Nineteen

Support Services

1- U.S. forces, or others acting on its behalf, are permitted to create and manage activities and entities inside the installations and areas agreed upon. This includes providing services to U.S. forces members, civilian members, and their contractors. These activities and entities might include military post offices, financial services, stores selling food, medicine, goods and other services, and it includes other areas providing entertainment and telecommunications. All of the mentioned services do not require a permit.

2- Radio, media, and entertainment activities that reache beyond the installations and areas agreed upon must comply with Iraqi laws.

3- Support services are for the exclusive use of the U.S. forces members, civilian members, their contractors, and other entities to be agreed upon. U.S. forces will take the required measures to ensure none of the mentioned support services are misused, and to insure services and goods will not be re-sold to unauthorized individuals. The U.S. forces will limit radio and TV broadcasting to authorized receivers.

4- Entities and facilities offering services indicated this is article enjoy the same tax exemptions offered to the U.S. forces, including those exemptions mentioned in articles 15 and 16 of this agreement. These entities and facilities offering services are to be operated in accordance to U.S. regulations, and will not be obligated to collect or pay any taxes or fees on its operations.

5- Outgoing mail, sent through military postal services, is verified by the U.S. authorities and is exempt from being searched, examined, or confiscated by the Iraqi authorities.

Article Twenty

Currency and Foreign exchange

1- U.S. forces are permitted to use any amount of U.S. currency or bonds for the purposes of this agreement. Using Iraqi currency in U.S. military banks must be in compliance with Iraqi laws.

2- U.S. forces are permitted to distribute or exchange any amount of currency to the U.S. forces members, civilians’ members, and their contractors for purposes of travelling, including vacations.

3- U.S. forces will not take Iraqi currency out of Iraq, and will take all required measures to insure none of the U.S. forces members, civilian members, or their contractors take Iraqi currency out of Iraq.

Article Twenty One


1- Except for contract related claims, both sides waive their rights to request compensation because of any harm, loss, or destruction of property, or request compensation for injury or death of forces members or civilian members from both sides occurring during their official duties.

2- Us forces authorities will pay fair and reasonable compensation to settle third party claims arising due to a member of the armed forces or civilian members during their official duties, or due to non-combat accidents caused by U.S. armed forces. The U.S. forces’ authorities may settle claims caused by non-official duties actions. Claims must be dealt with urgently by the U.S. forces’ authorities in accordance to U.S. laws and regulations. When settling claims, the U.S. forces authorities will take in consideration any investigation reports, opinions regarding responsibility, or opinions regarding amount of damages issued by the Iraqi authorities.

- The joint committee will study issues related to claims resulting from paragraph 1 and 2 of this article and find resolutions in accordance to U.S. and Iraqi laws.

Article Twenty Two


1- All detention operations in this agreement must be conducted in accordance to the Iraqi law, constitution, sovereignty and national interest as decided by the Iraqi government in accordance to the international law.

- All individuals detained by U.S. forces must be prepared to be handed over to the Iraqi authorities within 24 hours.

3- No detention operations can take place without a warrant issued by the specialized Iraqi authorities in accordance to the Iraqi law.

4- When Iraqi authorities conduct detention operations, they may ask for the help of the U.S. forces.

5- Detainees are kept in locations prepared by the Iraqi authorities and under its exclusive supervision and control.

6- U.S. forces are not permitted to search houses and other properties without a judicial warrant, unless there was an active combat operation, and in coordinating with the specialized Iraqi authorities.

Article Twenty three

Extending this agreement to other countries

1- Iraq may reach an agreement with any other country participating in the Multi-National forces to ask for their help in achieving security and stability in Iraq.

2- Iraq is permitted to reach an agreement that includes any of the articles mentioned in this agreement with any country or international organization to ask for help in achieving security and stability in Iraq.

Article twenty four


The following entities are responsible of the implementation of this agreement and the settlement of any disputes over its interpretation and application:

1- A joint committee of ministers from both sides that deal with the basic issues needed to interpret the implementation of this agreement.

2- A joint committee to coordinate military operations. This committee will be formed by the joint committee of ministers and includes representatives from both sides. The joint committee to coordinate military operations will be jointly led by both sides.

3- A joint committee formed by both sides that includes representatives chosen by both sides. This committee deals with all issues related to this agreement that do not fall under the mandate of the joint committee to coordinate military operations; this committee will jointly led by both sides.

4- Sub-committees in all different areas created by the joint committee. Subcommittees will discuss issues related to interpretation and implementation of this agreement each in accordance to its expertise.

Article twenty five

Implementation Arrangements

Both sides enter into implementation arrangements to execute this agreement.

Article Twenty Six

Targeted times to handover complete security responsibilities to the Iraqi security forces, and withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq

Iraqi Suggestion: the Iraqi delegation has suggested the following title to this article:

Transferring security responsibilities to Iraqi authorities, and the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Iraq

U.S. Suggestion: the U.S. delegation has suggested combining paragraphs 1 and 2 as follows:

1- Both sides have agreed on the following time targets to handover complete security responsibilities to the Iraqi security forces and the withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Iraq:

A- U.S. combat troops will withdraw from Iraq completely at the latest on (…)

B- U.S. forces will withdraw from all cities, towns, and villages at latest by June 30, 2009 unless the Iraqi authorities request otherwise.

Note: the head of the U.S. delegation offered to accept the new title only if their combined paragraph is accepted, and he linked the two as one deal

3- All U.S. combat troops regroup in installations and areas agreed upon after the date mentioned in paragraph 2 of this article.

4- After the withdrawal of all combat troops as mentioned in paragraph 1 of this article, the rest of these forces will stay based on a request from the Iraqi government in accordance to this agreement. The joint committee for operations and coordination will determine the tasks and level of the troops that will focus on training and supporting Iraqi security forces.

5- Both sides review the progress towards achieving dates mentioned in this article and the conditions that might lead to one side asking the other to extend or reduce the time periods mentioned in paragraph 1 and paragraph 2 of this article. Any extension or reduction of the time period is subject to both side’s approval.

6- U.S. forces may withdraw from Iraq before the dates indicated in this article if either of the two sides should so request. Both sides recognize the Iraqi government’s sovereign right to request a withdrawal of U.S. forces at anytime.

Article Twenty Seven

Contract Validity

1- This agreement is valid for (…) years unless it is terminated earlier based on a request from either sides or extended with the approval of both sides.

2- This agreement can be modified with the written approval of both sides and in accordance to constitutional procedures in both countries.

3- Cancellation of this agreement requires a written notice provided on year in advance.

4- This agreement goes into effect on the day that diplomatic memos confirming all constitutional procedures have been met in both countries are exchanged.

5- These memos will be exchanged before the expiration of UN resolution number 1790 at latest by December 31st, 2008.

Translated from the original Arabic by Raed Jarrar - Visit his blog http://raedinthemiddle.blogspot.com

Representative of the Iraqi government Representative of the U.S. government

Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar Released After Illegal Arrest at RNC

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Goodman Charged with Obstruction; Felony Riot Charges Pending Against Kouddous and Salazar

ST. PAUL - Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar have all been released from police custody in St. Paul following their illegal arrest by Minneapolis Police on Monday afternoon.
All three were violently manhandled by law enforcement officers. Abdel Kouddous was slammed against a wall and the ground, leaving his arms scraped and bloodied. He sustained other injuries to his chest and back. Salazar's violent arrest by baton-wielding officers, during which she was slammed to the ground while yelling, "I'm Press! Press!," resulted in her nose bleeding, as well as causing facial pain. Goodman's arm was violently yanked by police as she was arrested.

On Tuesday, Democracy Now! will broadcast video of these arrests, as well as the broader police action. These will also be available on: www.democracynow.org

Goodman was arrested while questioning police about the unlawful detention of Kouddous and Salazar who were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman’s crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were arrested on suspicion of rioting, a felony. While the three have been released, they all still face charges stemming from their unlawful arrest. Kouddous and Salazar face pending charges of suspicion of felony riot, while Goodman has been officially charged with obstruction of a legal process and interference with a "peace officer."

Democracy Now! forcefully rejects all of these charges as false and an attempt at intimidation of these journalists. We demand that the charges be immediately and completely dropped.

Democracy Now! stands by Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and condemns this action by Twin Cities’ law enforcement as a clear violation of the freedom of the press and the First Amendment rights of these journalists.

During the demonstration in which the Democracy Now! team was arrested, law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force against protesters and journalists. Several dozen demonstrators were also arrested during this action, including a photographer for the Associated Press.

Amy Goodman is one of the most well-known and well-respected journalists in the United States. She has received journalism’s top honors for her reporting and has a distinguished reputation of bravery and courage. The arrest of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and the subsequent criminal charges and threat of charges are a transparent attempt to intimidate journalists.

Democracy Now! is a nationally-syndicated public TV and radio program that airs on over 700 radio and TV stations across the US and the globe.

Video of Amy Goodman’s Arrest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYjyvkR0bGQ

Putin's Ruthless Gambit

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By Michael T. Klare

The Bush Administration Falters in a Geopolitical Chess Match

Many Western analysts have chosen to interpret the recent fighting in the Caucasus as the onset of a new Cold War, with a small pro-Western democracy bravely resisting a brutal reincarnation of Stalin’s jack-booted Soviet Union. Others have viewed it a throwback to the age-old ethnic politics of southeastern Europe, with assorted minorities using contemporary border disputes to settle ancient scores.

Neither of these explanations is accurate. To fully grasp the recent upheavals in the Caucasus, it is necessary to view the conflict as but a minor skirmish in a far more significant geopolitical struggle between Moscow and Washington over the energy riches of the Caspian Sea basin -- with former Russian President (now Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin emerging as the reigning Grand Master of geostrategic chess and the Bush team turning out to be middling amateurs, at best.

The ultimate prize in this contest is control over the flow of oil and natural gas from the energy-rich Caspian basin to eager markets in Europe and Asia. According to the most recent tally by oil giant BP, the Caspian’s leading energy producers, all former "socialist republics" of the Soviet Union -- notably Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan -- together possess approximately 48 billion barrels in proven oil reserves (roughly equivalent to those left in the U.S. and Canada) and 268 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (essentially equivalent to what Saudi Arabia possesses).

During the Soviet era, the oil and gas output of these nations was, of course, controlled by officials in Moscow and largely allocated to Russia and other Soviet republics. After the breakup of the USSR in 1991, however, Western oil companies began to participate in the hydrocarbon equivalent of a gold rush to exploit Caspian energy reservoirs, while plans were being made to channel the region’s oil and gas to markets across the world.

Rush to the Caspian

In the 1990s, the Caspian Sea basin was viewed as the world’s most promising new source of oil and gas, and so the major Western energy firms -- Chevron, BP, Shell, and Exxon Mobil, among others -- rushed into the region to take advantage of what seemed a golden opportunity. For these firms, persuading the governments of the newly independent Caspian states to sign deals proved to be no great hassle. They were eager to attract Western investment -- and the bribes that often came with it -- and to free themselves from Moscow’s economic domination.

But there turned out to be a major catch: It was neither obvious nor easy to figure out how to move all the new oil and gas to markets in the West. After all, the Caspian is landlocked, so tankers cannot get near it, while all existing pipelines passed through Russia and were hooked into Soviet-era supply systems. While many in Washington were eager to assist U.S. firms in their drive to gain access to Caspian energy, they did not want to see the resulting oil and gas flow through Russia -- until recently, the country’s leading adversary -- before reaching Western markets.

What, then, to do? Looking at the Caspian chessboard in the mid-1990s, President Bill Clinton conceived the striking notion of converting the newly independent, energy-poor Republic of Georgia into an "energy corridor" for the export of Caspian basin oil and gas to the West, thereby bypassing Russia altogether. An initial, "early-oil" pipeline was built to carry petroleum from newly-developed fields in Azerbaijan’s sector of the Caspian Sea to Supsa on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, where it was loaded onto tankers for delivery to international markets. This would be followed by a far more audacious scheme: the construction of the 1,000-mile BTC pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to Tbilisi in Georgia and then on to Ceyhan on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Again, the idea was to exclude Russia -- which had, in the intervening years, been transformed into a struggling, increasingly impoverished former superpower -- from the Caspian Sea energy rush.

Clinton presided over every stage of the BTC line’s initial development, from its early conception to the formal arrangements imposed by Washington on the three nations involved in its corporate structuring. (Final work on the pipeline was not completed until 2006, two years into George W. Bush’s second term.) For Clinton and his advisors, this was geopolitics, pure and simple -- a calculated effort to enhance Western energy security while diminishing Moscow’s control over the global flow of oil and gas. The administration’s efforts to promote the construction of new pipelines through Azerbaijan and Georgia were intended "to break Russia’s monopoly of control over the transportation of oil from the region," Sheila Heslin of the National Security Council bluntly told a Senate investigating committee in 1997.

Clinton understood that this strategy entailed significant risks, particularly because Washington’s favored "energy corridor" passed through or near several major conflict zones -- including the Russian-backed breakaway enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. With this in mind, Clinton made a secondary decision -- to convert the new Georgian army into a military proxy of the United States, equipped and trained by the Department of Defense. From 1998 to 2000 alone, Georgia was awarded $302 million in U.S. military and economic aid -- more than any other Caspian country -- and top U.S. military officials started making regular trips to its capital, Tbilisi, to demonstrate support for then-president Eduard Shevardnadze.

In those years, Clinton was the top chess player in the Caspian region, while his Russian presidential counterpart, Boris Yeltsin, was far too preoccupied with domestic troubles and a bitter, costly, ongoing guerrilla war in Chechnya to match his moves. It was clear, however, that senior Russian officials were deeply concerned by the growing U.S. presence in their southern backyard -- what they called their "near abroad" -- and had already had begun planning for an eventual comeback. "It hasn’t been left unnoticed in Russia that certain outside interests are trying to weaken our position in the Caspian basin," Andrei Y. Urnov of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared in May 2000. "No one should be perplexed that Russia is determined to resist the attempts to encroach on her interests."

Russia Resurgent

At this critical moment, a far more capable player took over on Russia’s side of the geopolitical chessboard. On December 31, 1999, Vladimir V. Putin was appointed president by Yeltsin and then, on March 26, 2000, elected to a full four-year term in office. Politics in the Caucasus and the Caspian region have never been the same.

Even before assuming the presidency, Putin indicated that he believed state control over energy resources should be the basis for Russia’s return to great-power status. In his doctoral dissertation, a summary of which was published in 1999, he had written that "[t]he state has the right to regulate the process of the acquisition and the use of natural resources, and particularly mineral resources [including oil and natural gas], independent of on whose property they are located." On this basis, Putin presided over the re-nationalization of many of the energy companies that had been privatized by Yeltsin and the virtual confiscation of Yukos -- once Russia’s richest private energy firm -- by Russian state authorities. He also brought Gazprom, the world’s largest natural gas supplier, back under state control and placed a protégé, Dmitri Medvedev -- now president of Russia -- at its helm.

Once he had restored state control over the lion’s share of Russia’s oil and gas resources, Putin turned his attention to the next obvious place -- the Caspian Sea basin. Here, his intent was not so much to gain ownership of its energy resources -- although Russian firms have in recent years acquired an equity share in some Caspian oil and gas fields -- but rather to dominate the export conduits used to transport its energy to Europe and Asia.

Russia already enjoyed a considerable advantage since much of Kazakhstan’s oil already flowed to the West via the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), which passes through Russia before terminating on the Black Sea; moreover, much of Central Asia’s natural gas continued to flow to Russia through pipelines built during the Soviet era. But Putin’s gambit in the Caspian region evidently was meant to capture a far more ambitious prize. He wanted to ensure that most oil and gas from newly developed fields in the Caspian basin would travel west via Russia.

The first part of this drive entailed frenzied diplomacy by Putin and Medvedev (still in his role as board chairman of Gazprom) to persuade the presidents of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to ship their future output of gas through Russia. Success was achieved when, in December 2007, Putin signed an agreement with the leaders of these countries to supply 20 billion cubic meters of gas per year through a new conduit along the Caspian’s eastern shore to southern Russia -- for ultimate delivery to Europe via Gazprom’s existing pipeline network.

Meanwhile, Putin moved to undermine international confidence in Georgia as a reliable future corridor for energy delivery. This became a strategic priority for Moscow because the European Union announced plans to build a $10 billion natural-gas pipeline from the Caspian, dubbed "Nabucco" after the opera by Verdi. It would run from Turkey to Austria, while linking up to an expanded South Caucasus gas pipeline that now extends from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Erzurum in Turkey. The Nabucco pipeline was intended as a dramatic move to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian natural gas -- and so has enjoyed strong support from the Bush administration.

It is against this backdrop that the recent events in Georgia unfolded.

Checkmate in Georgia

Obviously, the more oil and gas passing through Georgia on its way to the West, the greater that country’s geostrategic significance in the U.S.-Russian struggle over the distribution of Caspian energy. Certainly, the Bush administration recognized this and responded by providing hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to the Georgian military and helping to train specialized forces for protection of the new pipelines. But the administration’s partner in Tbilisi, President Mikheil Saakashvili, was not content to play the relatively modest role of pipeline protector. Instead, he sought to pursue a megalomaniacal fantasy of recapturing the breakaway regions of Abhkazia and South Ossetia with American help. As it happened, the Bush team -- blindsided by their own neoconservative fantasies -- saw in Saakashvili a useful pawn in their pursuit of a long smoldering anti-Russian agenda. Together, they walked into a trap cleverly set by Putin.

It is hard not to conclude that Russian prime minister goaded the rash Saakashvili into invading South Ossetia by encouraging Abkhazian and South Ossetian irregulars to attack Georgian outposts and villages on the peripheries of the two enclaves. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reportedly told Saakashvili not to respond to such provocations when she met with him in July. Apparently her advice fell on deaf ears. Far more enticing, it seems, was her promise of strong U.S. backing for Georgia’s rapid entry into NATO. Other American leaders, including Senator John McCain, assured Saakashvili of unwavering U.S. support. Whatever was said in these private conversations, the Georgian president seems to have interpreted them as a green light for his adventuristic impulses. On August 7th, by all accounts, his forces invaded South Ossetia and attacked its capital city of Tskhinvali, giving Putin what he long craved -- a seemingly legitimate excuse to invade Georgia and demonstrate the complete vulnerability of Clinton’s (and now Bush’s) vaunted energy corridor.

Today, the Georgian army is in shambles, the BTC and South Caucasus gas pipelines are within range of Russian firepower, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia have declared their independence, quickly receiving Russian recognition. In response to these developments, the Bush administration has, along with some friendly leaders in Europe, mounted a media and diplomatic counterattack, accusing Moscow of barbaric behavior and assorted violations of international law. Threats have also been made to exclude Russia from various international forums and institutions, such as the G-8 club of governments and the World Trade Organization. It is possible, then, that Moscow will suffer some isolation and inconvenience as a result of its incursion into Georgia.

None of this, so far as can be determined, will alter the picture in the Caucasus: Putin has moved his most powerful pieces onto this corner of the chessboard, America’s pawn has been decisively defeated, and there’s not much of a practical nature that Washington (or London or Paris or Berlin) can do to alter the outcome.

There will, of course, be more rounds to come, and it is impossible to predict how they will play out. Putin prevailed this time around because he focused on geopolitical objectives, while his opponents were blindly driven by fantasy and ideology; so long as this pattern persists, he or his successors are likely to come out on top. Only if American leaders assume a more realistic approach to Russia’s resurgent power or, alternatively, choose to collaborate with Moscow in the exploitation of Caspian energy, will the risk of further strategic setbacks in the region disappear.

World Bank: Two and a half billion people live on less than $2 a day

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By David Walsh

The World Bank reported Tuesday that in 2005 an estimated 1.4 billion people in the so-called ‘developing world,’ one-fourth of its population, lived on less than $1.25 a day, the new official poverty line. This figure is 400 million more than the Bank’s 2004 estimate of 985 million. Another 1.2 billion people live on between $1.25 and $2 a day.

The report issues from an institution correctly identified by great numbers of people around the world as a reactionary pillar of the global financial system. Despite efforts by Bank officials to put the best face on things, that more than two and a half billion people continue to live in unspeakable poverty in the first decade of the 21st century is an indictment of the capitalist system.

Martin Ravallion and Shaohua Chen, of the World Bank’s Development Research Group, in a study entitled, “The Developing World is Poorer than We Thought, But No Less Successful in the Fight Against Poverty,” note that in 2004, for the first time, the Bank’s global poverty count had fallen below one billion.

They continue: “Alas the revised estimates reported in the present paper suggest that our celebrations in finally getting under the one billion mark for the ‘$1 a day’ poverty count were premature. ... We find that the incidence of poverty in the world is higher than past estimates have suggested.”

The 2005 estimates are based on surveys conducted in 116 countries and interviews with some 1.23 million households.

The most dire conditions exist in Sub-Saharan Africa. After a quarter-century (1981-2005) that witnessed the most extraordinary advances in technology, the percentage of people living in absolute poverty in that region remained unchanged; some 50 percent of its population subsists on $1.25 a day or less.

The actual number of the extremely poor in Sub-Saharan Africa almost doubled, from 200 million in 1981 to about 380 million in 2005. “If the trend continues,” notes a World Bank press release, “a third of the world’s poor will live in Africa by 2015. Average consumption among poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa stood at a meager 70 cents a day in 2005.”

Most of the 15 poorest countries in the world—Malawi, Mali, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Uganda, Gambia, Rwanda, Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania, Tajikistan, Mozambique, Chad, Nepal and Ghana—are located in Africa.

In South Asia, the percentage of those living below the $1.25 poverty rate has decreased from 60 to 40 percent over 1981-2005, but the absolute number of desperately poor people did not decline; there are some 600 million in that category. In India, extremely uneven economic development reduced the poverty rate as a share of the total population from 60 percent in 1981 to 42 percent in 2005, but the number of the destitute increased from 420 million in 1981 to 455 million in 2005.

The largest factor in lowering the percentage of extremely poor people in East Asia has been the explosive industrialization of China. In 1981 East Asia was the poorest region in the world. In China the number of people surviving on less than $1.25 a day in 2005 prices dropped from 835 million in 1981 to 207 million in 2005. A quarter of a century ago, the report states, “China’s incidence of poverty (measured by the percentage below $1.25 per day) was roughly twice that for the rest of the developing world; by the mid-1990s, the Chinese poverty rate had fallen well below average.”

In the former colonial world, outside of China, the progress has been far more limited; the total number of extremely poor people has remained at about 1.2 billion. The percentage of the ‘developing world’ population living in absolute poverty has decreased from 40 percent in 1981 to 29 percent in 2005, according to the Bank. Excluding China, however, the most oppressed countries are not on track to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the 1990 poverty rate by 2015.

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA), the former Stalinist-ruled countries, the picture is bleak. “The mean consumption of EECA’s poor has actually fallen since the 1990s, even though the overall poverty rate was falling.” In passing, the authors note that social inequality has grown in that region since the collapse of Stalinism: “The paucity of survey data for EECA in the 1980s should also be recalled. Thus our estimates are heavily based on extrapolations, which do not allow for any changes in distribution. One would expect that distribution was better from the point of view of the poor in EECA in the 1980s, in which case poverty would have been even lower than we estimate—and the increase over time even larger.”

The poverty rate in Latin America and the Caribbean has also declined, but not enough to bring down the number of extremely poor people.

Ravallion and Chen point to two phenomena that tend to undercut even the limited progress they cite.

First, although hundreds of millions of people have lifted themselves out of absolute poverty since 1981, the improvement has been very slight for vast numbers. While the increase in wealth at the other pole of global society, registered in the number of billionaires and the share of national incomes held by the top one or five percent of the population, has been explosive, the very poor have only inched ahead and remain immensely vulnerable.

The study’s authors point to the phenomenon of “bunching up” that has occurred between $1.25 and $2.00 a day. They observe that the number of people living at that level “has actually risen sharply over these 25 years, from about 600 million to 1.2 billion. This marked ‘bunching up’ of people just above the $1.25 line suggests that the poverty rate according to that line could rise sharply with aggregate economic contraction.”

Speaking of the same phenomenon in relation to both East and South Asia, they note that a total of some 900 million people live on between $1.25 and $2.00 a day, “roughly equally split between the two sides of Asia. While this points again to the vulnerability of the poor, by the same token it also suggests that substantial further impacts on poverty can be expected from economic growth, provided that it does not come with substantially higher inequality.”

In a press release, the World Bank notes that its estimates “suggest less progress in getting over the $2 per day hurdle. Indeed, we have seen no change in the number of people living below $2 per day at around 2.5 billion, between 1981 and 2005.”

In another press release, the Bank is also careful to point out that the new estimates “do not yet reflect the potentially large adverse effects on poor people of rising food and fuel prices since 2005.”

Or, as Ravallion and Chen write in their conclusion, “There are a great many people who have reached the frugal $1.25 standard, but are still very poor, and clearly vulnerable to downside shocks. One such shock is the steep rise in international food and fuel prices since 2005. Despite the progress in reducing the lags in survey data availability, it will probably not be until 2010 that we can make a reasonably confident assessment of the ex post impacts of the rising food and fuel prices on the world’s poor. Until then, ex ante assessments will be required, based on pre-crisis data and economic assumptions. Such assessments suggest that at least a few years of the progress reported here have been eroded since 2005.”