Puppet MastersS

Eye 1

Russian president sacks 7 interior ministry generals

© AFPThe saced generals include the deputy head of the Moscow interior ministry department.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has fired seven senior interior ministry generals, the Kremlin said Friday without immediately explaining the reason for the dismissals.

The sacked generals include the deputy head of the Moscow interior ministry department and the Russian interior ministry's inspector general, news agencies quoted a Kremlin statement as saying.

It was not immediately clear if the dismissals were linked to last month's suicide bombing in Moscow, which killed 37 people at Russia's busiest airport.

Eye 1

Moscow's purchase of French warships causes panic from Washington to Tokyo

assault ship
© ReutersA helicopter flies above an amphibious Mistral-class assault ship as it sails off the Naval Base in Toulon last week

As Russia pushes ahead with its biggest rearmament programme since the fall of the Soviet Union, its decision to buy two amphibious Mistral-class assault ships from France is causing alarm from Washington to Tokyo.

The £856 million pound two ship deal will allow Russia to later build a further two such vessels at its own shipyards, giving it four hi-tech assault ships in total. The vessels can carry up to 16 helicopters, four landing craft, 13 battle tanks, around another 100 vehicles and a 450-strong force. The ships are also equipped with their own on-board hospitals.

It is the biggest and most controversial sale of foreign arms to Russia by a Western country since the Second World War.


Raymond Davis Trial Under Way in Pakistan

© Arif Ali/AFP/Getty ImagesPakistani police stand guard outside Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore as the preliminary trial of CIA agent Raymond Davis gets under way.
CIA agent faces murder charges at hearing in Lahore jail as US-Pakistani relations deteriorate

The trial of Raymond Davis, the CIA agent facing charges of double murder in Pakistan, has started amid tight security and some secrecy in a Lahore jail.

The press and public have excluded from the trial in Kot Lakhpat jail, where Davis has been held since he shot dead two men on a busy Lahore street on 27 January.

US embassy spokeswoman Courtney Beale confirmed that a sessions court hearing was taking place on Friday but said the full trial would not start until Pakistani prosecutors pressed formal charges.

The US consul general in Lahore, Carmela Conroy, was present at the hearing.

The Davis case has sparked a crisis between Pakistan and the US, prompting meetings between top intelligence and military leaders in both countries in recent days.

On Tuesday Pakistan's top brass, led by army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, met a delegation of American generals led by Admiral Mike Mullen at a luxury resort in Oman to discuss the matter.

The US side stressed that it "did not want the US-Pakistan relationship to go into a freefall under media and domestic pressures", according to an account of the meeting obtained by Foreign Policy magazine.


ISI and CIA Relations

© unknown
The relations between ISI and CIA have been fairly professional and close because both had their focus on combating common enemies. Since espionage, counter espionage and security activities are usually enshrouded in cloak and dagger stuff, at times misunderstandings may occur owing to inter service rivalry or encroachment in each other's areas of operation. The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (more commonly known as Inter-Services Intelligence or simply by its initials ISI is Pakistan's premier intelligence agency. It is the largest of the five intelligence agencies of Pakistan, the others being the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Military Intelligence (MI), Naval Intelligence (NI) and Air Intelligence (AI).

ISI was established as an independent intelligence agency in 1948 in order to strengthen the sharing of military intelligence between the three branches of Pakistan's armed forces in the aftermath of the Pakistan-India War of 1947, which had exposed weaknesses in intelligence gathering, sharing and coordination between the Pakistan Army, Air Force and Navy. It proved its mettle during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by organizing the mujahedin resistance.

The United States, on the other hand has carried out intelligence activities since the days of George Washington, but only since World War II have they been coordinated on a government-wide basis. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed New York lawyer and war hero, William J. Donovan, to become first the Coordinator of Information, and then, after the US entered World War II, head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1942. The OSS - the forerunner to the CIA - had a mandate to collect and analyze strategic information. It was abolished after World War II, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government, reporting to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers, was established under the National Security Act of 1947.


Syria Clamps Down on Dissent with Beatings and Arrests

© Remy De La Mauviniere/APThe security apparatus of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, has been cracking down on demonstrations showing support for anti-government protests in other Arab countries
Nervous regime breaks up protests and sends intelligence agents round to warn civil rights activists against taking action

Tensions are mounting in the Syrian capital, Damascus, after the third peaceful demonstration in three weeks was violently dispersed on Wednesday. There are increasing reports of intimidation and blocking of communications by secret services in the wake of violent unrest in neighbouring Arab countries.

Fourteen people were arrested and several people beaten by uniformed and plainclothes police on Tuesday after about 200 staged a peaceful sit-in outside the Libyan embassy to show support for Libya's protesters.

Witnesses said at least two women were among those beaten.

The demonstrators carried placards reading "Freedom for the people" and "Down with Gaddafi", and chanted slogans such as "Traitors are those that beat their people."

Witnesses said authorities warned the group to disperse but they reconvened shortly afterwards in the central neighbouring suburb of Sha'alan. When they tried to march back to the embassy they were met with a heavy police presence.

Several witnesses told the Guardian there were nearly twice as many secret and uniformed police as protesters. Some protesters were punched, kicked and beaten with sticks..

All present had their identities recorded. Fourteen people were detained but later released, Human Rights Watch in Beirut confirmed.

War Whore

Israeli jets bomb Gaza Strip

© ReutersPalestinians survey the damage the morning after an Israeli air strike hit a scrap yard in the Gaza Strip
Israeli jets bombed several sites in the Gaza Strip yesterday in response to a rocket attack on a southern Israeli city.

"I don't suggest anyone test the determination of the state of Israel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

The exchange of fire comes after a day of clashes along the Gaza border in which one Islamic Jihad militant was killed and 10 other people wounded.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in the air force strikes or from the rocket that landed in the city of Beersheba, the first time the city has been targeted since Israel's devastating 2009 Gaza offensive.

The military said in a statement it had "targeted a terrorist squad in the northern Gaza Strip, in the same location where rockets were fired towards the Israeli city of Beersheva."

Later, war planes bombed several other sites across the coastal strip, which the military called "hubs of terror". It gave no further details.


Saudi Arabia King Accused of Misjudged Bribery in Attempt to Avoid Unrest

© ReutersSaudi Arabia's King Abdullah unveiled a social welfare package after returning to Riyadh airport from America where he has been receiving medical treatment.
King Abdullah needs to implement political reform, scholars claim, as students plan 'day of rage'

Leading intellectuals in Saudi Arabia have warned that grand financial gestures are no substitute for meaningful political reform, after King Abdullah unveiled a $36bn (£22bn) social welfare package in advance of planned anti-government protests next month.

In a statement released on Thursday, a group of Saudi scholars called on the royal family to learn from recent uprisings in the Gulf and North Africa and to start listening to the voices of the kingdom's disenfranchised young people, some of whom are planning a "day of rage" on 11 March. Several Islamic thinkers, as well as a female academic and a poet, are among those adding their names to the declaration.

"The Saudi regime is learning all the wrong lessons from Egypt and Tunisia," said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Centre. "The unrest in the region is not fundamentally economic, it's fundamentally about politics. Economics plays a role but what the events of the past few months have shown us is that Arabs are looking for freedom, dignity and democracy - and if the Saudi leadership can't see that, then they're in trouble."

Saudi Arabia's 86-year-old monarch returned home this week from three months in hospital abroad, and immediately announced a vast package of welfare measures including new education and housing subsidies, the creation of 1,200 jobs and a 15% pay rise for all government employees.

But analysts believe the king - who promised far-reaching political reform when he ascended to the throne in 2005, only to make little effort in tackling the political status quo - has misjudged the grievances of his population.


U.S. closes Libya embassy, freezes Gadhafi assets


Washington -- The Obama administration froze assets of the Libyan government, leader Muammar Gaddafi and four of his children Friday, just hours after it closed the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli and evacuated its remaining staff. U.S. officials said announcements of the steps were withheld until Americans wishing to leave the country had departed as they feared Gaddafi might retaliate amid worsening violence in the North African country.

The measures announced Friday ended days of cautious U.S. condemnation of Gaddafi that had been driven by concerns for the safety of U.S. citizens in Libya. They struck directly at his family, which is believed to have amassed great wealth over his four decades in power.

President Barack Obama accused the Gaddafi regime of violating "human rights, brutalization of its people and outrageous threats." In a statement issued by the White House, the president said "Gaddafi, his government and close associates have taken extreme measures against the people of Libya, including by using weapons of war, mercenaries and wanton violence against unarmed civilians."

Bizarro Earth

Gaddafi 'Losing Grip' Over Libya

Demonstrators remain on the streets as leader's power may soon be confined only to the capital, Tripoli.

Most of Libya is out of control of the government, and Muammar Gaddafi's grip on power may soon be confined only to the capital, Tripoli, Libya's former interior minister has said.

General Abdul Fatteh Younis told Al Jazeera on Saturday that he had called upon Gaddafi to end his resistance to the uprising, although he does not expect him to do so.

The embattled Libyan regime passed out guns to civilian supporters, set up checkpoints and sent out armed patrols, witnesses said in Tripoli.

Some of Libya's security forces reportedly have given up the fight. Footage believed to be filmed on Friday showed soldiers joining the protesters.

The footage showed demonstrators carrying them on their shoulders in the city of Az Zawiyah after having defected -- a scene activists said is being repeated across the country.

Al Jazeera, however, is unable to independently verify the content of the video, which was obtained via social networking websites.

Our correspondent in Libya reported on Friday that army commanders in the east who had defected had told her that military commanders in the country's west were also beginning to turn against Gaddafi.

They warned, however, that the Khamis Brigade, an army special forces brigade that is loyal to the Gaddafi family and is equipped with sophisticated weapons, is currently still fighting anti-government forces.

Our correspondent, who cannot be named for security reasons, said that despite the gains, people are anxious about what Gaddafi might do next and also because his loyalists were still at large.


Video: David Cronin attempts citizens arrest on Lieberman in Brussels

Irish journalist David Cronin, correspondent for IPS and commentator for The Guardian, on Tuesday attempted a citizens arrest on Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in EU Council, he was quickly escorted from the conference room before the press meeting started.

Watch the interview with David Cronin, on his Lieberman arrest attempt.