31 killed in Eid suicide bombing, grenade attacks in Nigeria town

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

31 killed in Eid suicide bombing, grenade attacks in Nigeria town

Two blasts ripped through the town of Damboa in Nigeria’s Borno state targeting people returning from celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday, in an attack bearing all the hallmarks of Boko Haram.

WORLD Updated: Jun 17, 2018 17:44 IST

Press Trust of India, Kano (Nigeria)
The toll is expected to go up as many of the injured may not survive, officials said.
The toll is expected to go up as many of the injured may not survive, officials said.(Reuters)

Suspected Boko Haram jihadists killed at least 31 people in a twin suicide bomb attack in a town in northeast Nigeria, a local official and militia leader said on Sunday.

Two blasts ripped through the town of Damboa in Borno state on Saturday evening targeting people returning from celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday, in an attack bearing all the hallmarks of Boko Haram.

Following the suicide bombings, the jihadists fired rocket-propelled grenades into the crowds that had gathered at the scene of the attacks, driving the number of casualties higher.

“There were two suicide attacks and rocket-propelled grenade explosions in Damboa last night which killed 31 people and left several others injured,” militia leader Babakura Kolo told AFP.

Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives in Shuwari and nearby Abachari neighbourhoods in the town around 10:45 pm (2145GMT), killing six residents, said Kolo, speaking from the state capital Maiduguri, which is 88 kilometres from the town.

“No one needs to be told this is the work of Boko Haram,” Kolo said. A local government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the death toll. “The latest death toll is now 31 but it may increase because many among the injured may not survive,” he said.

“Most casualties were from the rocket projectiles fired from outside the town minutes after two suicide bomber attacked,” he said.

The jihadist group has deployed suicide bombers, many of them young girls, in mosques, markets and camps housing people displaced by the nine-year insurgency which has devastated Nigeria’s northeast.

On May 1, at least 86 people were killed in twin suicide blasts targeting a mosque and a nearby market in the town of Mubi in neighbouring Adamawa state.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari came into power in 2015 vowing to stamp out Boko Haram but the jihadists continue to stage frequent attacks, targeting both civilians and security forces.

The militants stormed the Government Girls Technical College in Dapchi on February 19, seizing over 100 schoolgirls in a carbon copy of the abduction in Chibok in 2014 that caused global outrage.

41 Killed In Kashmir, Halt Of Anti-Terror Operation Is Not Working

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

41 killed, violence spiked during halt on anti-terror operations in Kashmir

Mehbooba Mufti had hoped that Rajnath Singh would continue with the ceasefire decision even after Ramzan, but the ground reality was different. There was an abrupt spike in violence as militants ignored the Centre’s gesture.

INDIA Updated: Jun 18, 2018 07:17 IST

Mir Ehsan
Mir Ehsan
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Kashmiri youths through stones during clashes between protesters and security forces in Srinagar on Saturday.
Kashmiri youths through stones during clashes between protesters and security forces in Srinagar on Saturday.(AFP Photo)

A record 20 grenade attacks, 50 militant strikes and 41 killings took place in Kashmir during the month-long suspension of security operations in the Valley, officials said on Sunday.

This surge in violence forced the government’s hand which on Sunday ordered the forces to take all necessary actions against militants.

When home minister Rajnath Singh on May 16 announced the unilateral decision to halt operations during the holy month of Ramzan, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was first to welcome the move with a hope it would break the cycle of daily killings.

Mufti had hoped that the Centre would continue with the decision even after Ramzan, paving the way for negotiations at a later stage. But the ground reality was different. There was an abrupt spike in violence as militants ignored the Centre’s gesture.

From May 17, the day operations were suspended to June 17, the day they were ordered resumed, the Valley saw 41 killings, a huge surge, records show.

According to officials, there were 18 incidents of terror between April 17 to May 17 and the figure rose to more than 50 during the suspension of operations. The gunning down of senior Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bukhari and his two personnel security officers on June 14 pointed to a deteriorating security situation. The three unidentified gunmen made an easy escape from the highly guarded Press Colony. A fourth suspect even managed to steal a weapon of one of the policemen.

Also among the dead were 24 militants and most of them were killed in the frontier district of Kupwara. The militants were from the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish- e -Mohammad and Al Badr groups and had recently sneaked into the Valley, the army and police said.

“The militants or infiltrators killed in operations were highly trained and had been launched recently from PoK ,’’ an army officer posted in north Kashmir said.

Nine security men, including four army jawans, were killed during the period. Last week, militants abducted and gunned down a Rashtriya Rifles jawan, Aurangazeb, as he was heading home for Eid. The militants also killed three civilians.

There was a surge in grenade attacks as well. The 20 attacks that left 62 civilians and 29 personnel injured were the highest for a month in two years, officials said. “The reason for the surge in grenade attacks was that militants were trying to sabotage the ceasefire,’’ a police officer said .

The only drop was in the number of civilians deaths at the hands of security forces. Four people were killed during the month, two of them in the last two days. Police say Sheraz Ahmad, who was killed on Saturday, died in a grenade attack. The streets were relatively calm, with 60 incidents of stone-pelting reported compared to 200 during the Ramzan last year.

HOW DOES ISRAEL’S MILITARY COMPARE TO IRAN?

(THIS ARTICLE SI COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)

 

HOW DOES ISRAEL’S MILITARY COMPARE TO IRAN?

Relations between Israel and Iran are at breaking point. The multinational nuclear deal signed with Iran is on the verge of collapsing—partly thanks to Israeli lobbying against it. Iranian leaders have warned that if it fails, the country will resume its uranium enrichment program, a step Israel considers a threat to its very existence.

Meanwhile, multiple Israeli strikes have sought to dislodge Iranian forces from Syria, where Tehran enjoys increasing influence. Israeli leaders are fighting hard to stop Iranian soldiers deploying along its northern border.

Though it would appear that neither nation wants a full-scale war, the potential for miscalculation and escalation remains. Both nations have considerable military clout, and any prolonged confrontation between them would be bloody.

RTS1IFO9Israeli forces are seen near a border fence between the Israeli-occupied side of the Golan Heights and Syria, on November 4, 2017. Israel is wary of Iran’s growing influence across its northern border.REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD

Iran is a much larger country with a far higher population than Israel, but numbers alone do not dictate military capability—combat technology and experience are vital factors too. Technological capability is even more important in an era where technology is changing the way war is waged, allowing nations to hit each other harder, from further away and with less human involvement.

A small nation with a population of just 8.5 million, Israel’s military punches significantly above its weight. Formed amid a war with seven Arab neighbors, the country’s short history is punctuated with conflicts fought for its survival. This tough history combines with a burgeoning technology sphere and close relations with powerful western nations to create one of the world’s most formidable fighting forces.

According to Global Firepower, Israel has approximately 170,000 active personnel with a further 445,000 in reserve. Conscription exists for all non-Arab citizens of Israel over the age of 18, giving the country a large and well-trained pool of fighters to call up in the event of war.

Though less sophisticated than Israel, the Iranian military is a force to be reckoned with. Its large population—around 82 million—enables Tehran to maintain a standing force of around 534,000 soldiers, with a further 400,000 in reserve, making it the largest force in the Middle East.

In a drawn-out engagement, national manpower becomes an important issue. Iranian available manpower is around 47 million compared with just 3 million for Israel. Of course, how important this is will depend on the nature of any war being fought.

RTXYQI5Members of Iranian armed forces march during the Army Day parade in Tehran on April 18, 2013.REUTERS/HAMID FOROOTAN/ISNA/HANDOUT

In 2017, Israel spent $16.5 billion on its armed forces, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Iran was not far behind on $14.5 billion. Though this does not seem like a big gap, the fact that Israel is spending billions more than Iran on a smaller military indicates the gulf in the quality of equipment used.

Israel fields more tanks than Iran—2,760 compared to 1,650. Israel wins this matchup on quality as well as quantity, the latest version of its Merkava tank being one of the best and most heavily defended in the world. Iran is mostly using second-rate tanks, though it has announced the development of the new Karrar platform, which it claims will be able to compete with top-class opponents.

The Israeli air force is one of the best in the world, equipped and trained to the highest level. Its pilots are experienced too, having regularly conducted missions against targets in Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and even Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Its 250 or so fighters include a handful of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft, one of just four fifth-generation fighter planes in the world. Israel will eventually have 50 F-35s.

By contrast, Iran fields around 160 fighter jets, none of which are as advanced as the F-35. Furthermore, its pilots are less well-trained and experienced than their Israeli counterparts.

Neither nation is a significant maritime power. Iran has more than 30 submarines, five frigates, three corvettes and more than 200 patrol craft. Israel currently has five submarines, three corvettes, eight missile boats and 45 patrol boats. Considering the geography, the naval theater is unlikely to play any significant role in a potential conflict.

RTX2UPSIAn Israeli soldier sits inside a F-35 fighter jet after it landed at Nevatim air base in southern Israel on December 12, 2016.REUTERS/AMIR COHEN

In the event of an all-out war, Israel holds the nuclear trump card. Notoriously secretive about its nuclear arsenal, the country is believed to possess between 75 and 400 warheads. The weapons can be delivered using Israel’s Jericho ballistic missiles, submarine-launched cruise missiles or even fighter planes.

Iran has no nuclear capability. Even if talks break down, it will take many years before Tehran joins the nuclear club. Iran is working hard to improve its ballistic missile arsenal, already one of the most potent in the region and well-able to hit Israel.

But Iran has other tricks up its sleeves. Financial and military support for anti-Israeli militant groups across the Middle East give it an unconventional way to hit its rival in the event of conflict. The Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah group, especially, is a worry for Israeli leaders. Hezbollah has a well-trained and well-equipped military, far more powerful than the Lebanese army and able to operate freely.

Hezbollah’s experience fighting alongside regime forces in Syria has given it vital combat exposure. The group maintains a huge rocket arsenal, and its weapons can hit anywhere in Israel. Iran also provides support to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad groups in Gaza, which maintain smaller, but still significant, rocket capabilities.

Afghan Clerics Label Suicide Attacks a Sin. Then, a Bomber Strikes Their Meeting.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)

 

Afghan Clerics Label Suicide Attacks a Sin. Then, a Bomber Strikes Their Meeting.

Top clerics and religious scholars also declare country’s 17-year war illegal under Islamic law

Afghan security forces guard the site of the attack in Kabul. At least 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber hit a meeting of religious leaders.
Afghan security forces guard the site of the attack in Kabul. At least 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber hit a meeting of religious leaders. PHOTO: OMAR SOBHANI/REUTERS

KABUL, Afghanistan—A suspected Islamic State suicide bomber struck a meeting of Afghanistan’s top clerics and religious scholars in the capital on Monday, killing 14 people shortly after the large gathering declared such suicide attacks a sin and the country’s 17-year war illegal under Islamic law.

The Afghan branch of Islamic State said through its Amaq news agency that it carried out the attack, which occurred as the meeting of the Afghan Ulema Council was adjourning and attendees were departing the assembly grounds. The Taliban, Afghanistan’s largest insurgency, denied any involvement in the bombing.

Islamic State’s affiliate here, which has claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks in Kabul in recent months, is under intense military pressure from U.S. Special Forces and from stepped-up U.S. airstrikes in eastern Nangarhar province, its Afghan stronghold.

One of those injured in the attack, center. The gathering of clerics and religious scholars declared suicide attacks a sin.
One of those injured in the attack, center. The gathering of clerics and religious scholars declared suicide attacks a sin. PHOTO: REUTERS

A senior Afghan security official said 17 people were also injured in the bombing at one of the exits from the meeting grounds, near Kabul Polytechnic University in western Kabul.

Sayed Ehsan Tahiri, spokesman for the government’s High Peace Council, said the meeting was attended by some 3,000 religious figures from across the Central Asian nation. He said he escaped the blast by a matter of seconds. “God has given me another life,” he said.

Shortly before the attack, the convocation had issued an Islamic ruling, or fatwa, declaring suicide attacks forbidden.

“Suicide attacks, explosions for killing people, division, insurgency, different types of corruption, robbery, kidnapping and any type of violence are counted as big sins in Islam and are against the order of the Almighty Allah,” they said.

Suicide bombings are a relatively recent phenomenon in Afghanistan, having been rejected as a form of combat during the uprising against the occupation of Soviet forces in the 1980s and the takeover by Taliban forces in the mid-1990s.

Rather, they became a feature of the Afghan war in the mid-2000s, as the tactics used by Islamist militants against U.S. forces in Iraq rebounded here.

The clerical gathering also denounced the 17-year war in Afghanistan as illegal under Islamic law, calling it nothing but “shedding the blood of Muslims,” and urged the Taliban to take up the Kabul government’s offer of unconditional peace talks.

In perhaps the most public peace overture since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to remove the Taliban from power, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in late February offered political recognition to the Taliban in exchange for a stop to the fighting.

The Taliban hasn’t replied formally to the bid. It has said it will only negotiate with the U.S. since, it says, America is the main engine of the war and the Kabul government is illegitimate.

Write to Craig Nelson at [email protected]

Appeared in the June 5, 2018, print edition as ‘Afghan Clerics Targeted in Deadly Bombing.’

Iran’s Khamenei: Israel a ‘cancerous tumor’ that ‘must be eradicated’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Khamenei: Israel a ‘cancerous tumor’ that ‘must be eradicated’

Iran’s supreme leader says destruction of Jewish state is ‘possible and will happen,’ slams ‘traitorous countries’ for not defending Palestinians

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers' meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader's Website /HO)

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during Labor Day at a workers’ meeting, April 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Iranian Supreme Leader’s Website /HO)

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday lashed out at Israel, calling the Jewish state the “cancerous tumor” of the region that must be “removed and eradicated.”

In a series of tweets Sunday, Khamenei leveled harsh criticism at Israel for its handling of the violent Hamas-orchestrated “March of Return” protests along the Gaza border.

“Our stance against Israel is the same stance we have always taken,” he said. “#Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen.”

For Iranians, Khamenei said the issue of Palestine was not motivated by politics, but was “an issue of the heart… and faith.”

Khamenei.ir@khamenei_ir

For , the Palestinian cause is not a tactical issue, nor is it a ‘political’ strategy. It’s an issue of beliefs, an issue of the heart and an issue of faith. 2/27/10

A day earlier, the supreme leader took to Twitter to warn “traitorous countries” that refused to confront Israel militarily in order to appease the US, saying that “resistance is the only way to save #Palestine from oppression.”

Khamenei has previously branded Israel as “barbaric,” “infanticidal,” and the “sinister, unclean rabid dog of the region.” More recently, he blamed “Zionists” for the anti-government demonstrations held across Iran earlier this year.

His tweets over the weekend came amid a tense few days along the Gaza border that saw multiple exchanges of mortar and rocket fire and violence along the security fence.

On Friday, a 21-year-old volunteer Gazan paramedic was shot dead as she tried to help evacuate wounded protesters near Israel’s perimeter fence. UN officials condemned Razan Najjar’s killing, and thousands of Palestinians attended her funeral on Saturday. The IDF said it was investigating the incident.

Later Saturday night and early Sunday morning, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza resumed firing rockets over the border, shattering an official ceasefire agreement. In response, the IDF said Israeli jets carried out two rounds of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip.

Razan al-Najjar (R), a 21-year-old Palestinian paramedic, tends to an injured colleague during clashes near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15, 2018. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departed Israel Monday morning for Europe to rally support from key allies for amending the international nuclear deal with Iran and for pushing Tehran-backed forces out of neighboring Syria.

The Israeli leader is set to meet with leaders from Germany, France and Britain, beginning with German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Monday.

Netanyahu has long identified Iran as Israel’s greatest threat, pointing to its nuclear program, calls for Israel’s destruction and support of anti-Israel terrorist groups.

Before departing, the prime minister told his cabinet that archenemy Iran would top his agenda and voiced optimism for a successful visit. Israel has been a leading critic of the international nuclear deal with Iran, and more recently, has said it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in war-torn Syria.

Agencies contributed to this report

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Why Palestinians care what Donald Trump thinks about Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Why Palestinians care what Donald Trump thinks about Jerusalem

Israelis appreciated but mostly shrugged at last month’s US Embassy move, but Palestinians exploded in fury. The gap reveals much about their predicament

Palestinians prepare to set fire to an Israeli flag and portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a protest at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, April 13, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

Palestinians prepare to set fire to an Israeli flag and portraits of US President Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a protest at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, April 13, 2018. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The US Embassy has moved. With the exception of the effect the move purportedly had on the ailing health of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and acknowledging Palestinian claims that the violence on the Gaza border was mostly due to the American recognition of Jerusalem, or at least its western half, as Israel’s capital, this latest round of Jewish-Arab scuffling seems to have died down.

That doesn’t mean Israeli-Palestinian tensions have decreased, of course. A confluence of powerful moments on the Palestinian calendar — the embassy move on May 14; the recurring Gaza protests launched by Hamas from March 30 until mid-May; Nakba Day on May 15, mourning the displacement of the Palestinians upon Israel’s founding; the May 17 start of the holy month of Ramadan; and even the upcoming Naksa Day on June 5, which mourns the Israeli victory in the 1967 Six Day War — coupled with Hamas’s fraught political position in Gaza have all pushed the sides to new rounds of violence, and may do so again at any time.

But it wasn’t just the calendar. Israelis and Palestinians remain strangers to each other despite living such close and intertwined lives. Each has only a sketchy, piecemeal grasp of what motivates and frightens the other across the ethnic and religious divide.

This gap in comprehension was the reason many Israelis were surprised by the frantic Palestinian response to the American embassy’s opening in Jerusalem. Most Israeli Jews certainly appreciated the gesture, but did not seem to take part in the gushing platitudes of politicians about its unique strategic or “historic” significance.

The Palestinians disagreed. Political factions vied with one another in their expressions of rage over the American move. The Palestinian Authority declared a school strikeurged mass protests across the West Bank and Gaza, cut direct talks with the Trump administration and announced the US had forsaken its role as a peace broker in the region. Protests mounted in the West Bank and Hamas announced its seven-week-long campaign of border rallies in Gaza.

In the process, Palestinian rhetoric shed light on how they view their strategic position, and how their current strategy is failing them.

The Palestinian resort to internationalizing the conflict — the appeal to international institutions, the BDS campaign, and the like — is rooted in the deepest anxieties of Palestinian nationalism. The only real alternative to internationalization (besides terrorism, of course, which vanishingly few Palestinians still view as a winning strategy) is to meaningfully engage with Israel and Israelis, a step too ideologically and politically painful for any major Palestinian faction to contemplate seriously. (Some factions will agree to negotiate with Israeli officials; none with any following will agree to push for engagement or coexistence with Israeli Jewish society.)

Then, too, there is the fact that the appeal to the world’s conscience fits the Palestinian meta-narrative of dispossession. In the telling of the Palestinian national movement, the injustice of Palestinian displacement is larger than the narrow question of Palestinian suffering; it violates history’s deepest logic and purpose, its moral arc. A strategy premised on the existence and political potency of an amorphous moral conscience capable of mobilizing a broader humanity to act in the Palestinians’ favor validates this narrative of lost-but-inevitably-to-be-reclaimed justice. It makes the insistence that an idealized pre-Israeli condition can yet be restored a little less ludicrous and a little more believable.

There is a risk, however, to this reliance on the world’s moral emotions. An indelicate framing of the question might be: What if the international community does not in any meaningful sense exist? What if there are very few nations (even among Arab states) that would risk hard interests in the name of an idealistic call for justice, especially when that call is so hard to apply to the messy conditions of this conflict? Even the Palestinians’ most vocal allies — Turkey, for example — see in the Palestinian cause not a fight for the well-being of Palestinians, but a politically convenient battlefield on which to pursue their own broader ideological battle over the future of Islam and their place in global affairs. It doesn’t help, of course, that the half of Palestinian politics represented by Hamas actively pursues a politics of violence that makes it all the harder for foreign players to act in defense of the Palestinians.

As they discovered yet again with the US Embassy’s move to Jerusalem on May 14, there are costs to the overreliance on the politics of foreign nations: it leaves you vulnerable when those politics change.

Lacking any other strategic horizon, it’s no wonder Palestine’s cause seemed to many Palestinians to be dramatically set back by the election of a populist American right-winger as president.

The point here is not to argue that Trump is actually bad for the Palestinians, at least in the sense that another American president might be better. It’s arguable that a Hillary Clinton presidency, or even a Bernie Sanders one and its undoubted sympathy for the Palestinians, would not really tilt events very much in the Palestinians’ direction. Palestine’s troubles run deep, and Palestinian leaders have a long history of squandering foreign sympathy. The point here is only to say that many Palestinians believe their cause has been dramatically set back by Trump’s rise.

And so Palestinians exploded over Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, which suddenly and viscerally clarified the extent to which their long-established strategic truths offer exceedingly few good answers in this ever-changing world.

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Trump’s legal memo to Robert Mueller is a recipe for tyranny

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF VOX NEWS)

 

Trump’s legal memo to Robert Mueller is a recipe for tyranny

A clear and present danger to the rule of law

Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Essentially all presidents sooner or later end up commissioning lawyers to put forward an expansive view of presidential power, but those lawyers take pains to argue that they are notmaking the case for a totally unchecked executive whose existence would pose a fundamental threat to American values.

Donald Trump, however, is a different kind of president.

In a 20-page memo written by Trump’s legal team and delivered to Robert Mueller, as reported by the New York Time’s this weekend, they make an unusually frank case for a tyrannical interpretation of presidential power.

Trump’s lawyers say he has unlimited power over criminal justice

The key passage in the memo is one in which Trump’s lawyers argue that not only was there nothing shady going on when FBI Director James Comey got fired there isn’t even any potentialshadiness to investigate because the president is allowed to be as shady as he wants to be when it comes to overseeing federal law enforcement. He can fire whoever he wants. Shut down any investigation or open up a new one.

Indeed, the President not only has unfettered statutory and Constitutional authority to terminate the FBI Director, he also has Constitutional authority to direct the Justice Department to open or close an investigation, and, of course, the power to pardon any person before, during, or after an investigation and/or conviction. Put simply, the Constitution leaves no question that the President has exclusive authority over the ultimate conduct and disposition of all criminal investigations and over those executive branch officials responsible for conducting those investigations.

This is a particularly extreme version of the “unitary executive” doctrine that conservative legal scholars sometimes appeal to (especially when there’s a Republican president), drawing on the notion that the executive branch of government — including the federal police agencies and federal prosecutors — are a single entity personified by the president.

But to push that logic into this terrain would not only give the president carte blanche to persecute his enemies but essentially vitiate the idea that there are any enforceable laws at all.

Donald Trump’s impunity store

Consider that if the memo is correct, there would be nothing wrong with Trump setting up a booth somewhere in Washington, DC where wealthy individuals could hand checks to Trump, and in exchange Trump would make whatever federal legal trouble they are in go it away. You could call it “The Trump Hotel” or maybe bundle a room to stay in along with the legal impunity.

Having cut your check, you’d then have carte blanche to commit bank fraud or dump toxic waste in violation of the Clean Water Act or whatever else you want to do. Tony Soprano could get the feds off his case, and so could the perpetrators of the next Enron fraud or whatever else.

Perhaps most egregiously, since Washington DC isn’t a state all criminal law here is federal criminal law, so the president could have his staff murder opposition party senators or inconvenient judges and then block any investigation into what’s happening.

Of course, as the memo notes, to an extent this kind of power to undermine the rule of law already exists in the form of the essentially unlimited pardon power. This power has never been a good idea and it has been abused in the past by George H.W. Bush to kill the Iran-Contra investigation and by Bill Clinton to win his wife votes in a New York Senate race. Trump has started using the power abusively and capriciously early in his tenure in office in a disturbing way, but has not yet tried to pardon his way out of the Russia investigation in part because there is one important limit on the pardon power — you have to do it in public. The only check on pardons is political, but the political check is quite real (which is why both Bush and Clinton did their mischievous pardons as lame ducks) and the new theory that Trump can simply make whole investigations vanish would eliminate it.

This issue is bigger than Comey or Mueller

Much of the argument about Trump and the rule of law has focused rather narrowly on the particular case of Comey’s firing and the potential future dismissal of Robert Mueller.

These are important questions, in the sense that an FBI Director is an important person and a special counsel investigation is an important matter, but the memo is a reminder that they offer much too narrow a view of what the real extent of the problem is here.

One of the main purposes of the government is to protect the weak from exploitation at the hands of the strong by making certain forms of misconduct illegal. Trump’s assertion that he can simply waive-away investigations into misconduct because he is worried that the investigation might end badly for his friends or family members is toxic to that entire scheme. Trump, like most presidents, has plenty of rich and powerful friends and a much longer list of rich and powerful people who would like to be his friends.

If he really does have the power to just make anyone’s legal trouble go away because he happens to feel like it, then we’re all in a world of trouble.

Serbia: The Truth Knowledge And The History Of

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Serbia

Introduction The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was formed in 1918; its name was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929. Various paramilitary bands resisted Nazi Germany’s occupation and division of Yugoslavia from 1941 to 1945, but fought each other and ethnic opponents as much as the invaders. The military and political movement headed by Josip TITO (Partisans) took full control of Yugoslavia when German and Croatian separatist forces were defeated in 1945. Although Communist, TITO’s new government and his successors (he died in 1980) managed to steer their own path between the Warsaw Pact nations and the West for the next four and a half decades. In 1989, Slobodan MILOSEVIC became president of the Serbian Republic and his ultranationalist calls for Serbian domination led to the violent breakup of Yugoslavia along ethnic lines. In 1991, Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia declared independence, followed by Bosnia in 1992. The remaining republics of Serbia and Montenegro declared a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in April 1992 and under MILOSEVIC’s leadership, Serbia led various military campaigns to unite ethnic Serbs in neighboring republics into a “Greater Serbia.” These actions led to Yugoslavia being ousted from the UN in 1992, but Serbia continued its – ultimately unsuccessful – campaign until signing the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. MILOSEVIC kept tight control over Serbia and eventually became president of the FRY in 1997. In 1998, an ethnic Albanian insurgency in the formerly autonomous Serbian province of Kosovo provoked a Serbian counterinsurgency campaign that resulted in massacres and massive expulsions of ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo. The MILOSEVIC government’s rejection of a proposed international settlement led to NATO’s bombing of Serbia in the spring of 1999 and to the eventual withdrawal of Serbian military and police forces from Kosovo in June 1999. UNSC Resolution 1244 in June 1999 authorized the stationing of a NATO-led force (KFOR) in Kosovo to provide a safe and secure environment for the region’s ethnic communities, created a UN interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to foster self-governing institutions, and reserved the issue of Kosovo’s final status for an unspecified date in the future. In 2001, UNMIK promulgated a constitutional framework that allowed Kosovo to establish institutions of self-government and led to Kosovo’s first parliamentary election. FRY elections in September 2000 led to the ouster of MILOSEVIC and installed Vojislav KOSTUNICA as president. A broad coalition of democratic reformist parties known as DOS (the Democratic Opposition of Serbia) was subsequently elected to parliament in December 2000 and took control of the government. DOS arrested MILOSEVIC in 2001 and allowed for him to be tried in The Hague for crimes against humanity. (MILOSEVIC died in March 2006 before the completion of his trial.) In 2001, the country’s suspension from the UN was lifted. In 2003, the FRY became Serbia and Montenegro, a loose federation of the two republics with a federal level parliament. Widespread violence predominantly targeting ethnic Serbs in Kosovo in March 2004 caused the international community to open negotiations on the future status of Kosovo in January 2006. In May 2006, Montenegro invoked its right to secede from the federation and – following a successful referendum – it declared itself an independent nation on 3 June 2006. Two days later, Serbia declared that it was the successor state to the union of Serbia and Montenegro. A new Serbian constitution was approved in October 2006 and adopted the following month. After 15 months of inconclusive negotiations mediated by the UN and four months of further inconclusive negotiations mediated by the US, EU, and Russia, on 17 February 2008, the UNMIK-administered province of Kosovo declared itself independent of Serbia.
History Early history

Serbia’s strategic location between two continents has subjected it to invasions by many peoples. Greeks have colonized its south in 4th century B.C.; the northernmost point of the empire of Alexander the Great being the town of Kale.Prehistoric capital of Europe, Belgrade alone is believed to have been torn by 140 wars since Roman times. The northern Serbian city of Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica) was among the top 4 cities of the late Roman Empire, serving as its capital during the Tetrarchy. Contemporary Serbia comprises the classical regions of Moesia, Pannonia, parts of Dalmatia, Dacia and Macedonia. Around the 6th century, Slavs appeared on Byzantine borders in great numbers. Under nominal Serbian rule since the 7th century (having been allowed to settle in Byzantium by its emperor Heraclius after their victory over the Avars), through early history various parts of the territory of modern Serbia have been colonized, claimed or ruled by: the Greeks and Romans (conquered the indigenous Celts and Illyrians); the Western- and the Eastern Roman Empires (challenged by the incursions of the Huns, the Ostrogoths, the Sarmatians, the Avars, the Serbs, the Frankish Kingdom, the Great Moravia, the Bulgarians and finally, the Hungarians). No less than 17 Roman Emperors were born in the land that is now Serbia.

Medieval Serb kingdoms and the Serbian Empire

Following their settlement in the Balkans around 630 A.D. Serbs were ruled by the descendants of the Unknown Archont; its three related medieval dynasties follow a continuous bloodline all the way to the 1400s A.D.

At first heavily dependent on the Byzantine Empire as its vassal, under the Višeslav-Vlastimirović dynasty- Raška (Rascia)- gained independence by expulsion of the Byzantine troops and heavy defeat of the Bulgarian army (847-850). Official adoption of Christianity soon followed (under Prince Mutimir Vlastimirović). First dynasty died out in 960 A.D. with the death of Prince Časlav, who managed to unify all the Serb populated lands, centered between contemporary South Serbia and Montenegro, almost all of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the coastal south of Croatia. The wars of succession for the Serb throne led to incorporation into the Byzantine Empire (971).

An uprising in Duklja around 1040 overthrew Byzantine rule and assumed domination over the Serbian lands between 11-12th centuries under the 2nd dynasty of Vojislavljević (descendants of the 1st dynasty). In 1077 A.D. Duklja became the first Serb Kingdom (under Michael I- ruler of Tribals and Serbs), following the establishment of the catholic Bisphoric of Bar. With the recuperation and rise of Raška from late 12th century onwards, however, the centre of the Serb world (Raska, Duklja, Travunia, Zahumlje, Pagania and Bosnia) has again moved northwards, further from the Adriatic coast. Although fully converted to Christianity as early as 865 AD, this relocation to the north and east also meant a shift towards the Eastern Orthodox rather than the Catholic faith (initially predominant in the south following the East-West Schism). By the beginning of the 14th century Serbs lived in four distinctly independent kingdoms- Dioclea, Rascia, Bosnia and Syrmia.

The House of Nemanjić, descendants of the kings of Duklja, have moved from Duklja to Raška, signaling this shift towards continental Serbia in the late 12th century. Direct result of this was the establishment of the Serbian Orthodox Church in 1217, which rivalled the Catholic Bisphoric of Bar. The Serbian apogee in economy, law, military matters, and religion ensued; the Serbian Kingdom of Raška was proclaimed in 1219, joined later by the Kingdom of Syrmia, Banovina of Mačva and Bosnia; finally, the Serbian Empire under Stefan Dušan was formed in 1346. Under Dušan’s rule, Serbia reached its territorial peak, becoming one of the larger states in Europe, portraying itself as the heir of the run-down Byzantine Empire. The renowned Dušan’s Code, a universal system of laws, was enforced. The Serbian identity has been profoundly shaped by the rule of this dynasty and its accomplishments, with Serbian Orthodox Church assuming the role of the national spiritual guardian.

As a result of internal struggle between rival noble families, and heavy losses inflicted by the Ottomans in the epic Battle of Kosovo, the Serbian Empire had dissolved into many statelets by the beginning of the 15th century. Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, constant struggles took place between various Serbian kingdoms on the one hand, and the Ottoman Empire on the other. The turning point was the fall of Constantinople and its last emperor (of Serbo-Greek ethnicity) Constantine Dragaš- Paleologus, to the Turks. The Serbian Despotate fell in 1459 following the siege of the “temporary” capital Smederevo, followed by Bosnia a few years later, and Herzegovina in 1482. Montenegro was overrun by 1499. Belgrade was the last major Balkan city to endure Ottoman onslaughts, when it joined the Catholic Kingdom of Hungary. Serbs, Hungarians and European crusaders heavily defeated the Turkish in the Siege of Belgrade of 1456. Several Serbian despots ruled in parts of Vojvodina as vassals of the Hungarian kings with the title of Hungarian barons. After repelling Ottoman attacks for over 70 years, Belgrade finally fell in 1521, along with the greater part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Forceful conversion to Islam became imminent, especially in the southwest (Raška, Kosovo and Bosnia). Republic of Venice grew stronger in importance, gradually taking over the coastal areas.

Ottoman and Austrian rule

The Early modern period saw the loss of Serbia’s independence to the Kingdom of Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, interrupted briefly by the revolutionary state of the Emperor Jovan Nenad in the 16th century. Modern times witnessed the rise of the Habsburg Monarchy (known as the Austrian Empire, later Austria-Hungary), which fought many wars against the Ottoman Turks for supremacy over Serbia. Three Austrian invasions and numerous rebellions (such as the Banat Uprising) constantly challenged Ottoman rule. Vojvodina endured a century long Ottoman occupation before being ceded to the Habsburg Empire in the 17th-18th centuries under the terms of the Treaty of Karlowitz (Sremski Karlovci). As the Great Serb Migrations depopulated most of Kosovo and Serbia proper, the Serbs sought refuge in more prosperous (and Christian) North and West were granted imperial rights by the Austrian crown (under measures such as the Statuta Wallachorum in 1630). The Ottoman persecutions ofChristians culminated in the abolition and plunder of the Patriarchate of Peć in 1766. As Ottoman rule in the South grew ever more brutal, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I formally granted the Serbs the right to their autonomous crown land, speeding up their migrations into Austria.

The Serbian Revolution and independence (Principality of Serbia)

The quest for independence of Serbia began during the Serbian national revolution (1804-1817), and it lasted for several decades. For the first time in Ottoman history an entire Christian population had risen up against the Sultan. The entrenchment of French troops in the western Balkans, the incessant political crises in the Ottoman Empire, the growing intensity of the Austro-Russian rivalry in the Balkans, the intermittent warfare which consumed the energies of French and Russian Empires and the outbreak of protracted hostilities between the Porte and Russia are but a few of the major international developments which directly or indirectly influenced the course of the Serbian revolt. During the First Serbian Uprising (first phase of the revolt) led by Karađorđe Petrović, Serbia was independent for almost a decade before the Ottoman army was able to reoccupy the country. Shortly after this, the Second Serbian Uprising began. Led by Miloš Obrenović, it ended in 1815 with a compromise between the Serbian revolutionary army and the Ottoman authorities. The famous German historian Leopold von Ranke published his book “The Serbian revolution” (1829). They were the easternmost bourgeois revolutions in the 19th-century world. Likewise, Principality of Serbia abolished feudalism- second in Europe after France.

The Convention of Ackerman (1828), the Treaty of Adrianople (1829) and finally, the Hatt-i Sharif of 1830, recognised the suzerainty of Serbia with Miloš Obrenović I as its hereditary Prince. The struggle for liberty, a more modern society and a nation-state in Serbia won a victory under first constitution in the Balkans on 15 February 1835. It was replaced by a more conservative Constitution in 1838.

In the two following decades (temporarily ruled by the Karadjordjevic dynasty) the Principality actively supported the neighboring Habsburg Serbs, especially during the 1848 revolutions. Interior minister Ilija Garašanin published The Draft (for South Slavic unification), which became the standpoint of Serbian foreign policy from the mid-19th century onwards. The government thus developed close ties with the Illyrian movement in Croatia-Slavonia (Austria-Hungary).

Following the clashes between the Ottoman army and civilians in Belgrade in 1862, and under pressure from the Great Powers, by 1867 the last Turkish soldiers left the Principality. By enacting a new constitution without consulting the Porte, Serbian diplomats confirmed the de facto independence of the country. In 1876, Montenegro and Serbia declared war on the Ottoman Empire, proclaiming their unification with Bosnia. The formal independence of the country was internationally recognized at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, which formally ended the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78; this treaty, however, prohibited Serbia from uniting with Principality of Montenegro, and placed Bosnia and Raška region under Austro-Hungarian occupation to prevent unification.

Kingdom of Serbia

From 1815 to 1903, Serbia was ruled by the House of Obrenović (except from 1842 to 1858, when it was led by Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević). In 1882, Serbia, ruled by King Milan, was proclaimed a Kingdom. In 1903, the House of Karađorđević, (descendants of the revolutionary leader Đorđe Petrović) assumed power. Serbia was the only country in the region that was allowed by the Great Powers to be ruled its own domestic dynasty. During the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), the Kingdom of Serbia tripled its territory by acquiring part of Macedonia, Kosovo, and parts of Serbia proper.

As for Vojvodina, during the 1848 revolution in Austria, Serbs of Vojvodina established an autonomous region known as Serbian Vojvodina. As of 1849, the region was transformed into a new Austrian crown land known as the Serbian Voivodship and Tamiš Banat. Although abolished in 1860, Habsburg emperors claimed the title Großwoiwode der Woiwodschaft Serbien until the end of the monarchy and the creation of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1918.

World War I and the birth of Yugoslavia

On 28 June 1914 the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria at Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina by Gavrilo Princip (a Yugoslav unionist member of Young Bosnia) and an Austrian citizen, led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Kingdom of Serbia. In defense of its ally Serbia, Russia started to mobilize its troops, which resulted in Austria-Hungary’s ally Germany declaring war on Russia. The retaliation by Austria-Hungary against Serbia activated a series of military alliances that set off a chain reaction of war declarations across the continent, leading to the outbreak of World War I within a month.

The Serbian Army won several major victories against Austria-Hungary at the beginning of World War I, such as the Battle of Cer and Battle of Kolubara – marking the first Allied victories against the Central Powers in World War I. Despite initial success it was eventually overpowered by the joint forces of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria in 1915. Most of its army and some people went into exile to Greece and Corfu where they recovered, regrouped and returned to Macedonian front (World War I) to lead a final breakthrough through enemy lines on 15 September 1918, freeing Serbia again and defeating Austro-Hungarian Empire and Bulgaria. Serbia (with its major campaign) was a major Balkan Entente Power which contributed significantly to the Allied victory in the Balkans in November 1918, especially by enforcing Bulgaria’s capitulation with the aid of France. The country was militarilly classified as a minor Entente power. Serbia was also among the main contributors to the capitulation of Austria-Hungary in Central Europe.

Casualties

Prior to the war, the Kingdom of Serbia had 4.5 million inhabitants. According to the New York Times, in 1915 alone 150,000 people are estimated to have died during the worst typhus epidemics in world history. With the aid of the American Red Cross and 44 foreign governments, the outbreak was brought under control by the end of the year. The number of civilian deaths is estimated by some sources at 650,000, primarily due to the typhus outbreak and famine, but also direct clashes with the occupiers. Serbia’s casualties accounted for 8% of the total Entente military deaths or 58% of the regular Serbian Army (420,000 strong) has perished during the conflict. The total number of casualties is placed around 1,000,000[54]-> 25% of Serbia’s prewar size, and an absolute majority (57%) of its overall male population. L.A.Times and N.Y.Times also cited over 1,000,000 victims in their respective articles.

The extent of the Serbian demographic disaster can be illustrated by the statement of the Bulgarian Prime Minister Vasil Radoslavov: “Serbia ceased to exist” (New York Times, summer 1917). In July 1918 the US Secretary of State Robert Lansing urged the Americans of all religions to pray for Serbia in their respective churches.

World War II

Invasion of Yugoslavia

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was in a precarious position in World War II. Fearing an invasion by Nazi Germany, the Yugoslav Regent, Prince Paul, signed the Tripartite Pact with the Axis powers on 25 March 1941, triggering massive demonstrations in Belgrade. On 27 March, Prince Paul was overthrown by a military coup d’état (with British support) and replaced by the 17-year-old King Peter II. General Dušan Simović became Peter’s Prime Minister and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia withdrew its support for the Axis.

In response to this Adolf Hitler launched an invasion of Yugoslavia on 6 April. By 17 April, unconditional surrender was signed in Belgrade. After the invasion, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was dissolved and, with Yugoslavia partitioned, the remaining portion of Serbia became part of the Military Administration of Serbia, under a joint German-Serb government, with military power controlled by the German armed forces, while a Serb civil government led by Milan Nedić was permitted to try to draw Serbs away from their opposition to the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia.

Not all of what is present-day Serbia was included as part of the military administration. Some of the contemporary Republic of Serbia was occupied by the Independent State of Croatia, the Kingdom of Hungary, the Kingdom of Bulgaria, the Fascist Italy’s Balkan protectorates, the Albanian Kingdom and the Kingdom of Montenegro. In addition to being occupied by the (Wehrmacht), from 1941 to 1945, Serbia was the scene of a civil war between Royalist Chetniks commanded by Draža Mihailović and Communist Partisans commanded by Josip Broz Tito. Against these forces were arrayed Nedić’s units of the Serbian Volunteer Corps and Serbian State Guard.

Genocide of Serbs by the Ustaše regime in Croatia

Memorial to Serb, Jewish, and Roma victims of the genocide that took place at theJasenovac concentration camp in World War II in the Independent State of Croatia now modern-day Croatia . The events had a profound impact on Serbian society and relations between Croats and Serbs.

Serbia’s society was profoundly affected by the events that took place during World War II, especially in the neighboring Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH), an Axis puppet state which controlled what is modern-day Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and parts of modern-day Serbia. The regime selected to led the puppet state was the Croatian ultranationalist and fascist Ustaše movement. The Ustase promised to purge the state of Serbs, Jews, and Roma who were subject to large-scale persecution and genocide, most notoriously at the Jasenovac concentration camp. The Jewish Virtual Library estimates that between 45,000 and 52,000 Serbs were killed at Jasenovac and between 330,000 and 390,000 Serbs were victims of the entire genocide campaign. The estimated number of Serbian children who died is between 35,000 and 50,000. The Yad Vashem center reports that over 600,000 Serbs were killed overall in the NDH, with some 500,000 people of many nationalities and ethnicities murdered in one camp Jasenovac. After the war, official Yugoslav sources estimated over 700,000 victims, mostly Serbs. Misha Glenny suggests that the numbers of Serbs killed in the genocide was more than 400,000.

The atrocities that took place in Croatia against Serbs has led to a deep sense of antagonism by Serbs towards Croats, whose relations between each other had already been historically tense, but the war deeply aggravated this division. A number of governments have attempted to lessen. Reconciliation between the two peoples was attempted under Joseph Broz Tito’s policy of Brotherhood and Unity. To a degree this succeeded, as during the Tito-era, intermarriages between Serbs and Croats increased, but this effort was destroyed with the outbreak of the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s as rival Croat and Serb nationalism promoted xenophobia towards each other. The most recent attempt was made at the commemoration to the Serb casualties of the Jasenovic concentration camp in April 2003, when the Croatian president Stjepan Mesić apologized on behalf of Croatia to the victims of Jasenovac. In 2006, on the same occasion, he added that to every visitor to Jasenovac it must be clear that the “Holocaust, genocide and war crimes” took place there.

Socialist Yugoslavia (“Second Yugoslavia”)

On 29 November 1945, the constitutional assembly established by the Yugoslav Communist party proclaimed the abolition of the Serbian-led monarchy of Yugoslavia – and the royal family was banned from returning to the country. A communist regime was established under a dictatorship led by Yugoslavia’s Communist Party leader Joseph Broz Tito. Tito, who was of Croat- Slovene descent personally sought inter-ethnic unity in the aftermath of the violent division of the country in World War II through a policy called Brotherhood and Unity which sponsored cooperation between the peoples and promoted a united Yugoslav identity over existing ethnic or religious identities, repressed nationalists of any nationality, and forced the different peoples to work with each other to solve their differences. This would become highly controversial in Serbia in the latter years of Tito’s rule. Serbia was one of 6 federal units of the state, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Socijalistička Federativna Republika Jugoslavija, or SFRJ). Over time Serbia’s influence began to wane as reforms demanded by the other republics demanded decentralization of power to allow them to have an equal say[citation needed] as they claimed that the centralized system had allowed Serb hegemony[citation needed]. This began with the creation of the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina which initially held modest powers. However reforms in 1974 made drastic changes, giving the autonomous provinces nearly equal powers to the republics, in which the Serbian parliament held no control over the political affairs of the two provinces, and technically only held power over Central Serbia. Many Serbs, including those in the Yugoslav Communist party, resented the powers held by the autonomous provinces. At the same time, a number of Kosovo ethnic Albanians in the 1980s began to demand that Kosovo be granted the right to be a republic within Yugoslavia, thus giving it the right to separate, a right which it did not have as an autonomous province. The ethnic tensions between Serbs and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo would eventually have a major influence in the collapse of the SFRY.

Milošević era, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and the Kosovo War

Slobodan Milošević rose to power in Serbia in 1989 in the League of Communists of Serbia through a serious of coups against incumbent governing members. Milošević promised reduction of powers for the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. This ignited tensions with the communist leadership of the other republics that eventually resulted in the secession of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia, and Slovenia from Yugoslavia.

A skyscraper building in Belgrade on fire after being bombed by NATO aircraft during the Kosovo War.

Multiparty democracy was introduced in Serbia in 1990, officially dismantling the former one-party communist system. Critics of the Milošević government claimed that the Serbian government continued to be authoritarian despite constitutional changes as Milošević maintained strong personal influence over Serbia’s state media. Milošević issued media blackouts of independent media stations’ coverage of protests against his government and restricted freedom of speech through reforms to the Serbian Penal Code which issued criminal sentences on anyone who “ridiculed” the government and its leaders, resulting in many people being arrested who opposed Milošević and his government.

The period of political turmoil and conflict marked a rise in ethnic tensions and between Serbs and other ethnicities of the former Communist Yugoslavia as territorial claims of the different ethnic factions often crossed into each others’ claimed territories Serbs who had criticized the nationalist atmosphere, the Serbian government, or the Serb political entities in Bosnia and Croatia were reported to be harassed, threatened, or killed by nationalist Serbs. Serbs in Serbia feared that the nationalist and separatist government of Croatia was led by Ustase sympathizers who would oppress Serbs living in Croatia. This view of the Croatian government was promoted by Milošević which also accused the separatist government of Bosnia and Herzegovina of being led by Islamic fundamentalists. The governments of Croatia and Bosnia in turn accused the Serbian government of attempting to create a Greater Serbia. These views led to a heightening of xenophobia between the peoples during the wars.

In 1992, the governments of Serbia and Montenegro agreed to the creation of a new Yugoslav federation called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which abandoned the predecessor SFRY’s official endorsement of communism, but instead endorsed democracy.

In response to accusations that the Yugoslav government was financially and militarily supporting the Serb military forces in Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia, sanctions were imposed by the United Nations, during the 1990s, which led to political isolation, economic decline and hardship, and serious hyperinflation of currency in Yugoslavia.

Milošević represented the Bosnian Serbs at the Dayton peace agreement in 1995, signing the agreement which ended the Bosnian War that internally partitioned Bosnia & Herzegovina largely along ethnic lines into a Serb republic and a Bosniak-Croat federation.

When the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia refused to accept municipal election results in 1997 which resulted in defeat in municipal municipalties, Serbians engaged in large protests against the Serbian government, government forces held back the protesters.

Reports and accusations of war crimes being committed by Yugoslav and Serbian security forces led to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launching “Operation Allied Force”, bombing Yugoslavia for 78 days in order to stop Yugoslav military operations in Kosovo. The bombing ends with the agreement which upheld Yugoslav (and later Serbian) sovereignty over Kosovo but replaced Serbian government of the province with a UN administration, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

Fall of Milošević and post-Milošević political transition

In September 2000, opposition parties claimed that Milošević committed fraud in routine federal elections. Street protests and rallies throughout Serbia eventually forced Milošević to concede and hand over power to the recently formed Democratic Opposition of Serbia (Demokratska opozicija Srbije, or DOS). The DOS was a broad coalition of anti-Milošević parties. On 5 October, the fall of Milošević led to end of the international isolation Serbia suffered during the Milošević years. Milošević was sent to the International Criminal Court on accusations of sponsoring war crimes and crimes against humanity during the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo which he was held on trial to until his death in 2006. With the fall of Milošević, Serbia’s new leaders announced that Serbia would seek to join the European Union (EU). In October 2005, the EU opened negotiations with Serbia for a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), a preliminary step towards joining the EU.

Serbia’s political climate since the fall of Milošević has remained tense. In 2003, Zoran Đinđić was assassinated by a Serb ultranationalist. Nationalist and EU-oriented political forces in Serbia have remained sharply divided on the political course of Serbia in regards to its relations with the European Union and the west.

From 2003 to 2006, Serbia has been part of the “State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.” This union was the successor to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SRJ). On 21 May 2006, Montenegro held a referendum to determine whether or not to end its union with Serbia. The next day, state-certified results showed 55.4% of voters in favor of independence. This was just above the 55% required by the referendum.

Republic of Serbia

On 5 June 2006, following the referendum in Montenegro, the National Assembly of Serbia declared the “Republic of Serbia” to be the legal successor to the “State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.” Serbia and Montenegro became separate nations. However, the possibility of a dual citizenship for the Serbs of Montenegro is a matter of the ongoing negotiations between the two governments. In April 2008 Serbia was invited to join the intensified dialogue programme with NATO despite the diplomatic rift with the Alliance over Kosovo.

Geography Location: Southeastern Europe, between Macedonia and Hungary
Geographic coordinates: 44 00 N, 21 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 77,474 sq km
land: 77,474 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than South Carolina
Land boundaries: total: 2,026 km
border countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina 302 km, Bulgaria 318 km, Croatia 241 km, Hungary 151 km, Kosovo 352 km, Macedonia 62 km, Montenegro 124 km, Romania 476 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: in the north, continental climate (cold winters and hot, humid summers with well distributed rainfall); in other parts, continental and Mediterranean climate (relatively cold winters with heavy snowfall and hot, dry summers and autumns)
Terrain: extremely varied; to the north, rich fertile plains; to the east, limestone ranges and basins; to the southeast, ancient mountains and hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: NA
highest point: Midzor 2,169 m
Natural resources: oil, gas, coal, iron ore, copper, zinc, antimony, chromite, gold, silver, magnesium, pyrite, limestone, marble, salt, arable land
Land use: arable land: NA
permanent crops: NA
other: NA
Irrigated land: NA
Total renewable water resources: 208.5 cu km (note – includes Kosovo) (2003)
Natural hazards: destructive earthquakes
Environment – current issues: air pollution around Belgrade and other industrial cities; water pollution from industrial wastes dumped into the Sava which flows into the Danube
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: controls one of the major land routes from Western Europe to Turkey and the Near East
Politics On 4 February 2003 the parliament of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia agreed to a weaker form of cooperation between Serbia and Montenegro within a confederal state called Serbia and Montenegro. The Union ceased to exist following Montenegrin and Serbian declarations of independence in June 2006.

After the ousting of Slobodan Milošević on 5 October 2000, the country was governed by the Democratic Opposition of Serbia. Tensions gradually increased within the coalition until the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) left the government, leaving the Democratic Party (DS) in overall control.

Serbia held a two-day referendum on 28 October and 29 October 2006, that ratified a new constitution to replace the Milošević-era constitution.

Boris Tadić, President of Serbia

The current President of Serbia is Boris Tadić, leader of the center-left Democratic Party (DS). He was reelected with 50.5% of the vote in the second round of the Serbian presidential election held on 4 February 2008.

Serbia held parliamentary elections on 21 May 2008. The coalition For a European Serbia led by DS claimed victory, but significantly short of an absolute majority. Following the negotiations with the leftist coalition centered around Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and parties of national minorities (those of Hungarians, Bosniaks and Albanians) an agreement was reached to make-up a new government, headed by Mirko Cvetković.

Present-day Serbian politics are fractious and extremely divided between liberal and European Union advocating parties. As of 2008 all parties in Serbia are pro-European. The only exception are the Radicals who still advocate Greater Serbia but this party has collapsed in September 2008 following the expulsion of its deputy leader Tomislav Nikolic from the party. Other political issues include proposals to restore the Serbian monarchy whose family members have stated that they are interested in forming a constitutional monarchy in Serbia.

People Population: 10,159,046
note: all population data includes Kosovo (July 2008 est.)
Median age: total: 37.5 years
male: 36.1 years
female: 39 years (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 75.29 years
male: 72.7 years
female: 78.09 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.69 children born/woman (2008 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne disease: Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
Nationality: noun: Serb(s)
adjective: Serbian
Ethnic groups: Serb 82.9%, Hungarian 3.9%, Romany (Gypsy) 1.4%, Yugoslavs 1.1%, Bosniaks 1.8%, Montenegrin 0.9%, other 8% (2002 census)
Religions: Serbian Orthodox 85%, Catholic 5.5%, Protestant 1.1%, Muslim 3.2%, unspecified 2.6%, other, unknown, or atheist 2.6% (2002 census)
Languages: Serbian 88.3% (official), Hungarian 3.8%, Bosniak 1.8%, Romany (Gypsy) 1.1%, other 4.1%, unknown 0.9% (2002 census)
note: Romanian, Hungarian, Slovak, Ukrainian, and Croatian all official in Vojvodina
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 96.4%
male: 98.9%
female: 94.1% (2003 census)
note: includes Montenegro
Education expenditures: NA

Israel destroys ‘unique’ Hamas tunnel extending into Israel via Egypt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel destroys ‘unique’ Hamas tunnel extending into Israel via Egypt

Army strikes in Gaza seal off tunnel — intended for both smuggling and attacks according to IDF — that reached 900 meters into Israel

The Israeli army on Tuesday afternoon struck what it said was a Hamas tunnel in the Gaza Strip that extended hundreds of meters into Egyptian and Israeli territory.

The IDF said the U-shaped attack tunnel destroyed near Rafah and the Kerem Shalom border crossing was still under construction and not yet usable.

The military said the tunnel crossed from Gaza into Egypt and from there into southern Israel, and was intended both for smuggling weapons and for attacks against Israel.

Its full length was around 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), the army said, and the segment inside Israeli territory was 900 meters (half a mile) long.

The military discovered the tunnel in the past two weeks, an army spokesperson said.

The army called the tunnel’s design “unique.”

“This is a very long tunnel,” a source told the Ynet news site. “It also had exit shafts on the Egyptian side. The tunnel was dealt with using airstrikes [in Gaza], and in the coming hours will also be taken care of on our side to neutralize it entirely.”

Israeli officials reportedly informed Egyptian counterparts of the planned strike on the tunnel, according to Hebrew-language media. It was not clear if Israeli strikes on the tunnel included action over the border in Egypt.

A map handed out by the Israeli military showing the apparent route of a Hamas tunnel that extended from Gaza to Israel and Egypt, and destroyed by Israel on May 29. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

The destruction of the tunnels came as Israeli planes pounded Gaza in response to a morning barrage of mortar fire, including one shell that landed in a kindergarten playground shortly before children were due to arrive.

The IDF said it struck over 35 terror targets in Gaza throughout the day, belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. These included weapons caches, naval targets and terror headquarters, the IDF said.

A picture taken from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 29, 2018, shows smoke billowing over buildings following an Israeli air strike on the Palestinian enclave. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

Hamas identified one of the targets as a training facility.

Some 28 mortar shells and rockets were fired into Israel by Palestinian terror groups Tuesday morning, and media reported dozens more in the afternoon following the strikes.

Three Israeli soldiers were lightly injured from shrapnel in the afternoon attacks.

The military said a total of 25 projectiles had been knocked down by Iron Dome missile defense batteries as of 4 p.m., though the tally was not official.

The morning attacks were mounted by the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, apparently in revenge for the IDF killing three of its members in a cross-border exchange earlier in the week.

In a statement, Islamic Jihad described its assault as “a blessed response of the resistance,” adding, “our people’s blood is not cheap.”

The Israeli military, however, ultimately blamed the barrages on the Hamas terror group, which rules Gaza, saying the barrages were the result of the organization’s “failures” to successfully attack Israel during the recent riots along the border.

There was no claim of responsibility for the afternoon barrage. As a matter of policy, the Israeli army considers Hamas, which rules Gaza, to be responsible for any attack emanating from the beleaguered coastal enclave.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed to respond “with great force” to the mortar shells, one of which landed just outside a kindergarten less than an hour before children were due to arrive.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the military had launched a “massive and forceful” retaliatory attack.

Defense officials reportedly said the next 24 hours would be “intense” amid the worst escalation on the Gaza border since the 2014 war, known in Israel as Operation Protective Edge.

The army evacuated the Zikim beach near Gaza, while local authorities in the region told residents to stay near their bomb shelters in the coming hours.

An Israeli soldier takes cover as rocket sirens blare in southern Israel on May 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Israel views the attacks on it and on its communities by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip with great severity,” Netanyahu said earlier, during a conference in the northern Galilee region, ahead of urgent security consultations set to take place later in the day.

“The IDF will retaliate with great force to these attacks,” the prime minister added. “Israel will make anyone trying to harm it pay a heavy price, and we view Hamas as responsible for preventing such attacks against us.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman earlier called a “special situational assessment” at army’s Tel Aviv headquarters with IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and other senior figures from Israel’s security services, his office said.

Judah Ari Gross and Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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Gunman reportedly shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ kills three in Belgian city

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Gunman reportedly shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ kills three in Belgian city

Investigators look at possible terror motive after two police officers and a passerby shot dead in eastern city of Liege; attacker also killed

Police officers redirect traffic in the eastern Belgian city of Liege on May 29, 2018, near the site where a man shot and killed three people before being shot dead by police.  (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS)

Police officers redirect traffic in the eastern Belgian city of Liege on May 29, 2018, near the site where a man shot and killed three people before being shot dead by police. (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS)

A gunman in the eastern Belgian city of Liege on Tuesday shot dead three people — two police officers and a passerby in a vehicle — before he was killed by elite officers.

Prosecutors said the attacker killed the police officers with their own firearms.

The shooting occurred around 10:30 a.m. near a high school on a major street in the city, which is around 90 kilometers (55 miles) east of Brussels, close to the German border.

The French-language Belgian news site LaLibre reported that the man had shouted “Allahu akbar” before police shot him.

Police and an ambulance are seen at the site where a gunman shot dead three people, two of them policemen, before being killed by elite officers, in the eastern Belgian city of Liege on May 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS)

The file has been passed to the federal prosecutor responsible for terrorism, one person at the Liege federal prosecutor’s office, spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt, said.

“There are elements that go in the direction of a terrorist act,” he was quoted by the French language RTL news site as saying.

But Catherine Collignon, another spokeswoman for the same office, told the AFP news agency that the attacker’s motive was not immediately clear. “We don’t know anything yet,” she said.

Media reports said the gunman shot dead two police officers at a cafe before fleeing to the Lycee Waha school, where he took a cleaning lady hostage.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said Belgium’s Federal Crisis Center was monitoring the situation.

FRANCE 24 English

@France24_en

🔴 A killed three people, two of them policemen, in the eastern Belgian city of before he was shot dead by officers, prosecutors have said 🇧🇪

“Our thoughts are with the victims of this horrible act. We are in the process of establishing an overview of exactly what happened,” Jambon wrote on Twitter.

The crisis center said a security cordon had been set up around the area and urged people to stay away.

Belgium has been on high alert since the smashing of a terror cell in the town of Verviers in January 2015 that was planning an attack on police.

The Verviers cell also had links to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the November 2015 Islamic State attacks on Paris that killed 130 people.

Belgium further raised its terror alert level after the Paris attack, and placed the capital Brussels on lockdown for a week.

Belgium was then hit by its own IS suicide attacks on Brussels airport and a metro station that killed 32 people.

In March, Belgian police arrested eight people in Brussels in counter-terror raids as part of an investigation into what one source said appeared to be preparations for an attack.

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