Archive for October, 2012

Bahrainis use traffic jams to protest

Tue Oct 4, 2011

Anti-government protesters continue to cause huge traffic jams on the streets of Bahrain’s capital, Manama, in a protest campaign against the repressive policies of the Al Khalifa regime, Press TV reports.

As part of the protest campaign, which is dubbed “Manama Storm,” protesters have created massive traffic jams in Manama, according to Press TV sources.

The campaign continues in defiance of an Interior Ministry’s warning in late September that warned the protesters of losing their driver’s licenses for up to one year if they deliberately created traffic jams.

Meanwhile, a Bahraini court handed out three-month jail terms to two people on Tuesday and fined each USD 265 for blocking traffic.

This comes following Monday rulings of a Bahraini military court which sentenced 14 protesters to life imprisonment and handed long jail terms of up to 18 years to 22 others.

The military court, however, rejected pleas by attorneys of those sentenced for an independent probe into the reported torture of defendants.

Earlier on Thursday, the Bahraini court also sentenced 20 medical workers to jail terms of between five and 15 years for treating injured anti-government protesters.

Since mid-February, thousands of anti-government protesters have been staging regular demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling on the US-backed Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.

On March 14, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist Bahraini rulers in their brutal crackdown on peaceful anti-government protesters.

According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested in the regime crackdown.

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://www.presstv.com/detail/202693.html.

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Iraq likely to order another 18 F-16s

Baghdad (UPI)

Oct 3, 2011

Iraq is likely to order a second batch of Lockheed Martin F-16 combat jets following last month’s contract to buy 18 of the aircraft, Iraqi officials say.

This appears to be a concerted, but belated, drive by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to give the country’s emerging postwar air force a credible defensive punch funded by windfall oil revenues and to shore up an important gap in Iraqi defenses as U.S. forces withdraw.

Mudher Khidr Nasir, a member of the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, has told the Iraq Daily Times the 18 F-16 Block 52 aircraft order — enough for one squadron — was so small as to be “ridiculous.”

Ali Musawi, a close Maliki aide, said the 18 jets were “a first installment and hopefully there will be another 18 to make a total of 36.”

He said the first batch of F-16s with “enhance” Iraqi capabilities to protect its airspace, but 18 aircraft will be far too few to effectively cover an area of 169,234 square miles.

Iraq, which has been fought over for millennia, is bordered by Jordan in the west, Syria in the northwest, Turkey in the north, Iran in the east and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the south.

“So looking at Iraq’s position in the region, having those planes is not much,” Musawi observed, “but it is a beginning.”

The Block 52s are built at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, assembly plant.

The contract is worth at least $3 billion but will probably swell to $4.2 billion once training programs, spare parts, maintenance and weapons systems are included.

The first of the aircraft Baghdad has ordered aren’t expected to be delivered until the fall of 2012 and most likely not until 2013.

Ultimately, Iraqi commanders have said they want 96 F-16s, enough for five squadrons deployed around the country at air bases built by the Americans following the 2003 invasion.

But that’s as much as a decade away from fruition as it takes years to build up a fully operational air force, train air and ground crews and install a nationwide radar and air-defense network with guns and missiles.

The development of that system is being discussed between Iraqi and U.S. military officials, says U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the chief spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq.

It’s this lack of Iraqi air-defense infrastructure that was partly behind the current effort to find ways to maintain a sizeable number of U.S. troops in Iraq after the Dec. 31 deadline for completing the U.S. military withdrawal, U.S. officials said.

Buchanan said that amid the U.S. pullout under a December 2008 security agreement between Washington and Baghdad, the acquisition of F-16s was a major step forward for Iraq’s military forces.

“The F-16’s a good example of them taking a step to reinforce their sovereignty, increase their self-reliance and deal with one of those security gaps that they still have,” he said.

Meantime, U.S, forces are handing over a considerable amount of equipment to the Iraqi forces as the withdrawal counts down to the deadline. However, it’s not clear whether that includes air-defense systems.

Still, the Iraq Daily Times reported that Iraqi air traffic controllers will take over responsibility for flights below 15,000 feet in the central part of the country, the last part of Iraqi air space still controlled by the Americans.

“Iraq’s air-defense radar and long-range radar systems will be fully functional by the middle of next year,” the newspaper said, without elaboration.

The Iraqi military, it added, also “now has a modern air-operations center that controls military aircraft throughout the country and is able to sound a warning if the borders are breached.”

The F-16s now on order will be the first combat aircraft for the Iraqi air force. The first batch of 10 pilots is already undergoing supersonic training with the U.S. Air Force.

Buchanan insisted the first delivery of F-16s will give the Iraqis “a robust capability… where they currently have none.”

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Iraq_likely_to_order_another_18_F-16s_999.html.

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Saudi forces clash with protesters

Mon Oct 3, 2011

Security forces have clashed in Saudi Arabia with pro-reform protesters in the Qatif Governorate in the Eastern Province of the country, Press TV reports.

The Saudis had gathered in an anti-government demonstration in the province’s Awamiyah village, a Press TV correspondent reported. They chanted slogans against the province’s Governor, Prince Mohammed bin Fahd, — the son of the late King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

Reports say the forces arrested a 70-year-old man, whose son had participated in the protests, demanding the son to surrender himself in exchange for his father’s release.

A larger demonstration is scheduled for Monday in the city of Qatif, where protesters often take to the streets despite a heavy security presence to condemn Riyadh’s role in the brutal crackdown on anti-regime protesters in Bahrain.

The Saudi demonstrators call for respect for human rights, implementation of further reforms, freedom of expression, and the release of political prisoners, some of whom have been held without trial for more than 16 years.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, known for its intolerance of dissent. Earlier in the year, the Saudi Interior Ministry imposed a ban on all kinds of demonstrations and public gatherings.

Human Rights Watch says hundreds of dissidents have been arrested since February as part of the Saudi government’s suppression of anti-government protests.

According to the Saudi-based Human Rights First Society (HRFS), the detainees were subjected to physical and mental torture.

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://www.presstv.com/detail/202435.html.

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Saudis want political prisoners released

Fri Sep 30, 2011

Hundreds of anti-government protesters have poured into the streets in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, demanding the immediate release of political prisoners.

Chanting slogans against the country’s absolute monarchy, demonstrators in the cities of Qatif and Awamiyah on Friday also expressed solidarity with anti-government protesters in neighboring Bahrain and condemned Manama’s violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.

The protests come despite tight security and a strict ban on all anti-government rallies.

Saudi activists say there are more than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly Prisoner of conscience, in jails across the Kingdom.

According to the activists, most of the detained political thinkers are being held by the government without trials or legitimate charges and they were arrested for merely looking suspicious.

Some of the detainees are reported to be held without trial for more than 16 years.

Attempting to incite the public against the government and the allegiance to foreign entities are usually the ready-made charges against political dissidents.

Families of political prisoners have repeatedly pleaded with the ruling monarchy to at least give their loved ones a fair trial. But for years now, the families say, the king has ignored their calls.

Human Rights Watch says more than 160 dissidents have been arrested since February as part of the Saudi government’s crackdown on anti-government protesters.

According to the Saudi-based Human Rights First Society (HRFS), the detainees were subject to both physical and mental torture.

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://www.presstv.com/detail/202062.html.

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Iran sends cruise missiles to its navy

Sept. 28, 2011

TEHRAN, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Cruise missiles with a range of 124 miles were delivered to the Iranian navy to bolster the country’s national defense, the military said.

The Iranian Defense Ministry said it supplied “large numbers” of anti-ship cruise missiles to the Iranian navy and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reports.

Iranian military officials noted, during a ceremony commemorating the delivery, that the cruise missiles were manufactured domestically.

Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, the Mehr News Agency in Iran reported, said his country was working on a radar system to counter incoming cruise missile threats. An anti-missile system, he added, is being designed with the aim of retargeting enemy missiles.

Tehran had wanted Russia’s S-300 missile defense system to protect its nuclear installations from a possible aerial attack by the Israelis, who bombed an Iraqi nuclear facility in the 1980s.

A 2005 contract signed by Moscow and Tehran outlined terms of the sale of the S-300 missile defense system. The missile system boasts a range of around 100 miles and can engage several targets at once.

However, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed an executive order last year prohibiting the sale of military equipment to Iran.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2011/09/28/Iran-sends-cruise-missiles-to-its-navy/UPI-13011317217158/.

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Health workers given jail terms in Bahrain

Sept. 29, 2011

MANAMA, Bahrain, Sept. 29 (UPI) — A military prosecutor in Bahrain announced charges against 20 healthcare workers for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government.

The group of Bahraini doctors and nurses were given sentences ranging from 5-15 years in prison on charges of “spreading fabricating stories and lies” and gaining access to “unlicensed weapons to topple the regime,” the official Bahrain News Agency stated.

All of those sentenced to prison had worked at the Salmaniya medical complex in Manama. Bahraini security forces raided the facility in March as part of a crackdown on a Shiite uprising in the country.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay described the March 16 seizure by security forces of the hospital as “shocking and illegal conduct.”

Human Rights Watch in a 54-page report published early this year said it had documented “serious government abuses” against medics and patients wounded during opposition protests.

In a separate case, BNA said Ali Yusuf Abdulwahab al-Taweel was sentenced to death and Mehdi Ali Attia was given a life-in-prison sentence for their role in the death of a Bahraini police officer.

Human Rights Watch said Washington was sending the wrong message when it authorized a $53 million arms sale to Bahrain. Bahrain was criticized for its response to the uprising.

Bahrain is host to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2011/09/29/Health-workers-given-jail-terms-in-Bahrain/UPI-39851317315622/.

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