Guide to this blog and other TFF materials

Welcome to this blog where you’ll find almost everything posted over the years by TFF Associates – a group of experts on international issues who are committed to the UN Charter norm that peace shall be established by peaceful means.

Together with the present homepage and older homepages (see menus) that means an estimated 7000-8000 articles. We believe it to be one of the largest reservoirs of research-based pro-peace writings published continuously between 1985 and today. In various ways the content here reflect a very significant period in the history of humanity and international affairs, albeit with a focus on some issues and places more than others.

In addition, there are articles, videos, analyses etc that we do not publish here, only elsewhere – namely on TFF Facebook and Jan Oberg Public Figure profile, on Jan Oberg Facebook profile, on the online magazine “Transnational Affairs”, on TFF YouTube, on TFF Vimeo and – closely related – on Jan Oberg’s blog. Google+ and Twitter carry the same materials as we post on Facebook.

We hope you’ll browse, follow and discuss wherever it suits you best and share links with friends, colleagues, students, media people etc.

Have We Been Deceived Over Syrian Sarin Attack?

By Gareth Porter

Scrutinizing the Evidence in an Incident Trump Used to Justify Bombing Syria

A closer look at the evidence suggests the official narrative is based on a crudely staged deception.

The United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria issued a report this September that reinforced the official narrative that the Syrian air force dropped a bomb containing nerve gas sarin on the insurgent-controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun, Syria on April 4. That conclusion comes several weeks after the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) issued a report that supported sarin exposure as the cause of death and injuries.

The reports by the two official international bodies appear to be aimed at closing the book on what happened at Khan Sheikhoun, where at least 83 deaths and 293 injuries occurred. But a months-long investigation by AlterNet into the questions around the attack raise serious questions about whether a sarin bomb was the source of the deaths. Relying on analysis from forensic and weapons experts, as well as a senior intelligence official with decades of experience in assessing bomb damage, the investigation suggests that a conventional weapon dropped by a Syrian plane struck barrels of a pesticide that created deadly phosphine gas that caused symptoms paralleling those of sarin and capable of causing mass casualties.

The evidence gathered in this investigation undercuts the credibility of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) laboratory test results that showed exposure to sarin, demonstrating how the organization violated its own protocols and opened the door for tampering. Further, the investigation raises questions about whether Russian and Syrian intelligence knew — or should have known — that the conventional strike on the target in Khan Sheikhoun carried a serious risk of mass casualties.

Continued here…

Brexit: May versus Merkel

By Jonathan Power

September 19th 2017

“It’s not over until the fat lady ends her song”- so goes the adage, referring to the often overweight soprano who sings the last aria in Wagner’s opera, Gotterdammerung.

British prime minister, Theresa May, is not fat in a bodily sense, but she is fat-headed, convinced of her own righteousness over Brexit, although she herself voted Remain in the Brexit referendum and then changed her opinion so she could win enough votes from Brexit members of parliament to become prime minister.

Fortunately, for those who believe that the European Union is a force that welds together the former warring nations of Europe who precipitated World Wars 1 and 2 into a well-run economic and political union and thus has ensured that Europe has achieved its longest period of peace in 2000 years, the fat lady has just got going on her long aria.

Indeed, her voice is gaining timbre as it becomes clear that the Remainers still have a chance of defeating Ms May and her inward looking, self-destructive, supporters who would have had Winston Churchill on their backs if he were still alive – he was a great believer in a unified Europe.

Fortunately for Europe, as Ms May goes backwards Chancellor Angela Merkel goes forward. Read the rest of this entry »

9/11 Anniversary: The War On Terror much more dangerous than the terrorists

By Jan Oberg

Short interview with Naskah Zada in Washington on her Middle East program.

Why NATO is obsolete and we need new thinking and policies

Jan Oberg comments on PressTV and argues also for a mass movement of concerned citizens/taxpayers who have received less and less peace over the almost 70 years the alliance has existed.

USA – Where are you heading?

By Johan Galtung

“Pentagon Study Declares American Empire Is ‘Collapsing,’” is the title of an essay by Nafeez Ahmed, analyzing the study.

Sounds interesting. His subtitle: “Report demands massive expansion of military-industrial complex to maintain global ‘access to resources’”. Sounds familiar.

Using excerpts from the Pentagon study made by Nafeez Ahmed, and deeply grateful to him, here are our comments.

Based on some work in the field – The Decline and Fall of the US Empire; And Then What?, TRANSCEND University Press, 2010 [i] – Pentagon is a key institution in the USA, next to the White House-Congress-Wall Street. How it sees its own role in the USA and in the world is of primary importance to understand where USA is heading. Read the rest of this entry »

Unwinding the Iran nuclear deal

By Jonathan Power

September 5th 2017

The big mistake, apparently about to be made by President Trump, in undoing the nuclear agreement made by President Barack Obama with Iran is not just that he intends to go backwards, it is that he doesn’t intend to go forwards. (To be fair, neither did Obama.)

What the Iranians negotiated about was not so much the “bomb” – to be or not to be – but about their pride and their position in the world and their right to become a thriving economic and political power inured from sanctions or military threats. (Sanctions were imposed before the nuclear issue came to the fore.)

The nuclear program was first and foremost about creating leverage so that Iran could regain the sort of respect that the offspring of the Persian Empire once was given. Second, it was about making sure that Iran is not found short when its oil reserves start to shrink. (Iran also has heavily invested in solar energy.)

For Iran, negotiations were a suggestive game of hide and seek, played in front of all-angled, reflecting mirrors. They were not about actually building a bomb or, as we used to say in Pakistan’s pre-bomb days, of being “a screwdriver away from completing a bomb”.

I don’t actually believe that Iran ever had the intention of building a nuclear bomb. But it was not unhappy that the West thought it was. It did want to frighten the West. It did want to forestall what it believes is the Americans’ true ambition – to bring about “regime change”.

Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, has spoken a number of times about how nuclear weapons go against the principles of Islam. Islam is a language of love and brotherhood, not of a nuclear holocaust. I believe him, not out of naivety, but because I know Iran is a deeply religious society and that the ayatollahs take Islamic teaching earnestly. Children are brought up to take values seriously, to love not hate, and to take care of the poor and widowed. War is a last resort. Reading the Koran, nuclear weapons could never be justified.

Iran doesn’t go easily to war. Saddam Hussein inflicted war on Iran for no good reason, other than to demonstrate the muscle of a dictator. Iran had never tried to build up a deterrent against Iraq. (The US and the UK supported Saddam and provided him with weapons.) Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from the North Korea crisis: Nuclear weapons cause war even when not used

By Gunnar Westberg
Board member of TFF

August 20, 2017

The author has been twice to North Korea and maintains contacts with physicians in the North Korean branch of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War in that country.

”If your country continues to develop nuclear weapons, you will be attacked, maybe with nuclear weapons”. This what we have told our colleagues from North Korea, at visits to Pyongyang or at international meetings. “Oh no,” they said. “Look at Saddam Hussein and Mohamad Ghadafi. They gave up their plans for nuclear weapons, and they were attacked”.

“Nuclear weapons development is not the only reason for the USA to attack. Oil is the other”, we said.

It turns out we were right. North Korea – DPRK – continued on the path to nuclear weapons and the President of the USA threatens to attack. The crisis is, for the moment fading, but is likely to increase when DPRK makes its next move. It should be emphasized that a misunderstanding on either side may provide the spark causing a devastating war.

Nuclear weapons cause wars. Read the rest of this entry »

Peace-Development-Environment – Can they be integrated?

By Johan Galtung

Lecture notes at the Hardanger Academy for Peace Development and Environment
30 Jul 2017

These are the goals of the United Nations; the Hardanger Academy in little Jondal, Norway (population ca.1150) made them three foci.

The problem arose: what do they have in common? Are they three aspects of the same thing? If so, what is that “thing”?

Four ways of trying to answer have been identified and explored. Four because of four ways of approaching social reality, through:

actors, with intentions-capabilities-contexts, with their needs;
culture, defining the true-good-right-beautiful-sacred;
structure, the patterns of individual and collective interaction;
nature, evolving to higher complexity, with diversity and symbiosis.

All four have surfaces and deeper aspects. The surface aspects are conscious, can be articulated and communicated. The deeper aspects are repressed into the subconscious as inconvenient, too obvious or simply unknown. They can be “conscientized” (Freire), or simply be learnt. Read the rest of this entry »

Evolving International Law, Political Realism, and the Illusions of Diplomacy

By Richard Falk

International law is mainly supportive of Palestinian grievances with respect to Israel, as well as offering both Israelis and Palestinians a reliable marker as to how these two peoples could live normally together in the future if the appropriate political will existed on both sides to reach a sustainable peace.

International law is also helpful in clarifying the evolution of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination over the course of the last hundred years. It is clarifying to realize how the law itself has evolved during this past century in ways that bear on our sense of right and wrong in the current phase of the struggle.

Yet at the same time, as the Palestinians have painfully learned, to have international law clearly on your side is not the end of the story. The politics of effective control often cruelly override moral and legal norms that stand in its way, and this is what has happened over the course of the last hundred years with no end in sight.

The Relevance of History

2017 is the anniversary of three crucial milestones in this narrative:

(1) the issuance of the Balfour Declaration by the British Foreign Secretary a hundred years ago pledging support to the World Zionist Movement in their campaign to establish a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine;

(2) the passage of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 seventy years ago proposing the partition of Palestine between the two peoples along with the internationalization of the city of Jerusalem as a proposed political compromise between Arabs and Jews; and

(3) the Israel military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip over fifty years ago after the 1967 War.

Each of these milestones represents a major development in the underlying struggle.

Each combines an Israeli disregard of international law the result of which is to inflict major injustices on the Palestinian people. Without due regard for this past, it will not be possible to understand the present encounters between Israelis and Palestinians or to shape a future beneficial for both peoples that must take due account of the past without ignoring the realities of the present.

Israel is sophisticated about its use of international law, invoking it vigorously to support its claims to act in ways often motivated by territorial ambitions and national security goals, while readily evading or defying international law when the constraints of its rules interfere with the pursuit of high priority national goals, especially policies of continuous territorial encroachment at the expense of reasonable Palestinian expectations and related legally entrenched rights.

To gain perspective, history is crucial, but not without some unexpected features. Read the rest of this entry »

Can the US and North Korea move from threats to negotiations?

By Gareth Porter

For months, the Trump administration and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have each made a series of moves that have appeared to take them ever closer to the brink of war.

But a closer review of the escalation of the conflict reveals that both sides are consciously maneuvering for what they know will be extended serious negotiations on a new framework for peace on the Korean peninsula. The Trump administration is well aware that it has no real military option against the North, and the Kim Jong-un regime seems to have sought to use missile launches as signals to the Trump administration to convey not only North Korea’s determination not to give in to pressure, but also its hopes to stabilize the situation and avoid further escalation in US-North Korea military relations.

Continue reading here at TruthOut…

 

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