IDF officer suspected of covering up Gaza killing
Commander allegedly attempted to block probe by not giving a report on the death of a Palestinian woman to Military Advocate-General Mandelblit.
An IDF commander is suspected of blocking an investigation into the death of a Palestinian in Gaza, according to reports released on Thursday.
The officer is suspected of not submitting the results of a probe about a woman killed when she approached a Givati Brigade station during Operation Cast Lead.
Military Police is investigating the case, which involves officers in the Rotem battalion of the Givati Brigade, who were supposed to give a report to Military Advocate-General Maj.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit.
The oversight was revealed during the trial of S., the soldier accused of killing the Palestinian woman in the report. S.’s case was opened in April 2010, when a reserve officer said that he found the report, which had not been transferred to Mandelblit, on an IDF laptop computer.
The soldier’s lawyers have demanded that the trial be stopped until Military Police finish investigating the commanders in the case.
Iran: We successfully test-fired local S-300 system
Revolution Guards commander says system developed by upgrading Russian-made S-200; not clear when missile test took place
Iran announced Thursday it had successfully test-fired an air defense system similar in its capabilities to the Russian S-300 system, the state-run PRESS TV network reported.
“We have developed the system by upgrading systems like S-200 and we have tested it successfully using all our potential and experience in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, the Army and the Defense Ministry,” Brigadier General Mohammad Hassan Mansourian was quoted as saying.
Mansourian did not say when the missile test took place, but Iran is currently holding a large-scale air defense drill simulating attacks on its nuclear facilities.
Moscow recently canceled a deal involving the sale of the S-300 system to Iran on grounds that it violates UN sanctions aimed at penalizing the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program.
As a result, relations between Moscow and Tehran have deteriorated.
In the 1980s Iran purchased the S-200 surface-to-air missile system from the former Soviet Union.
Site exposes IDF ‘war criminals’
Website reveals details of hundreds of Israeli soldiers it claims took part in Gaza war. ‘I stand by everything I did in Operation Cast Lead, and I have nothing to be ashamed of,’ says First Sergeant (res.) Ziv Danieli, one of toops included on the list.
A website that went online Tuesday has published a list of 200 IDF soldiers which it classifies as directly involved in operations carried out in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Each entry features the soldiers and officers’ pictures and personal details, including identification numbers and addresses.
“In underlining them we are purposefully directing attention to individuals rather than the static structures through which they operate,” the website states while calling on visitors to spread the info “widely”. The reliability of the information is as yet unclear.
“Underlining the following people is an act of retribution and affront. They are the direct perpetrators, agents for the state of Israel that in Dec. – Jan. 2008- 2009 attacked scores of people in the besieged Gaza” noted the website. The website has no special design or graphics, just a table of names of soldiers listed in alphabetic order which the site claims, served in the army in the winter of 2008-2009.
Soldiers listed include officers from the very top of the IDF hierarchy – Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and down to a sergeant in the infantry training program.
“The people listed here held positions of command at the time of the attack therefore not only did they perform on behalf of a murderous state mechanism but actively encouraged other people to do the same. They bear a distinctive personal responsibility. They range from low-level field commanders to the highest echelons of the Israeli army. All took an active and direct role in the offensive,” claimed the website.
A website counter at the top of the page states that over 3000 people have viewed the website so far. They claim that the information “was received anonymously; presumably from a member of the Israeli Military”.
It seems that the information was collected via the internet, doubtlessly through extensive use of social networks. A quick search reveals that many of the pictures on the site, especially those of the younger low level soldiers, were taken from facebook profiles.
“This information was pirated. We encourage people to seek out other such similar information, it is readily available in the public sphere and inside public officials’ locked cabinets,” they said. The person or group behind the website remains a mystery as does the level of exposure that the website receives.
The reliability of the information displayed is also in question, since other than in the case of the senior officers listed, it is impossible to tell whether those listed even served in the IDF during Operation Cast Lead.
“In underlining them we are purposefully directing attention to individuals rather than the static structures through which they operate. We are aligning people with actions. It is to these persons and others, like them, to which we must object and bring our plaints to bear upon”, they further stated.
The project organizers declare that “this is a form of resistance that can be effectively sustained for a long while”. Visitors to the website are told that “this project for one, has only just begun, do your bit so that this virtual list may come to bear upon the physical”. The manifest signs off by calling all web surfers to get involved and: “Disseminate widely”.
Ynet has discovered that many of the details appearing on the website are correct. The photos were taken from various news publications and social networks like facebok. The officers and soldiers aren’t quite sure how their details got into the website’s hands, but clarified that they were proud of their actions and happy to be included in the list.
Danieli doesn’t know where the website got his personal information from but he stressed that he had no problem with the website. “Enjoy it! Whoever wants to can talk to me, I’ll share my phone number as well if they want it. I stand by everything I did in Operation Cast Lead; I have nothing to be ashamed of.”
‘The enemy within’
Danieli thinks that Israeli sources are behind the site. “The same people that the State protects are those that go out against it; sadly the enemy is within, as if we didn’t have enough problems from outside.” He isn’t worried about harassment: It doesn’t scare me, it doesn’t bother me, I have taken trips abroad and will continue to do so, and more than that, I would be happy to meet whoever is behind the site.”
Noam Kashivski who served as a deputy tank company commander was also surprised to see his picture and personal information on the website. “I don’t know who these people are but I’m at peace with my actions,” he told Ynet.
“I guess they found some of the information illegally, my picture was taken from my facebook account,” Kashivsky added and claimed that this was nothing more than a political attack: “The site lists no sources and no details are added, they just rushed to a conclusion that suited them.”
Kashivsky said that he was “happy and proud to be on the list next to honorable men and women,” adding that he wouldn’t change his ways because of the site. “I’m not afraid, and I won’t avoid going abroad. The orders we received were all honorable and necessary, I have no regrets.”
The site which is operated through British servers has already raised furious responses. An Israeli organization called My Israel has already picked up the gauntlet – offering 10,000 shekels ($2,712) to “anyone who will present information that will lead to catching those responsible for the website calling IDF soldiers ‘war criminals’ and responsible for publishing their personal information.”
The IDF spokesman stated that the army “is distressed over the publication of the names and information of 200 officers and soldiers under the heading of ‘war criminals’ slandering them and their reputations without any concrete evidence whatsoever.”
In small US Muslim enclave, a plea to pray in peace
Omar Karmi, AP
SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA–Just across from the front door inside the Islamic Centre of Sioux Falls there is a sign that reads: “We should all be free to pray.”
In this sparsely furnished single-storey building, with its otherwise bare white walls, the exhortation stands out.
Contrary to what might at first be thought, the appeal is not directed at the overwhelmingly white and Christian population of this blue-collar neighbourhood in Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s largest city, with an estimated population in 2009 of 150,000. Rather, the injunction reflects the highly diverse nature of the city’s small, but rapidly growing, Muslim community.
From 15 in 1990, there are now almost 3,000 Muslims improbably tucked away in the eastern-most city of this Midwestern state, most famous for the 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee, where 150 Sioux prisoners were killed by United States cavalry, finally breaking Native American resistance to the colonial expansion of the US.
It is a population that has grown largely as a result of an influx of refugees, many fleeing fighting in Somalia, Ethiopia and, increasingly, Iraq. Combined with other more traditional economic immigrants, the Sioux Falls Muslim community is an almost perfect microcosm of the Muslim world.
However, this diversity has brought its own problems. Until last year, the classroom-sized masjid at the centre was the only Muslim prayer room in the state to cater to the growing numbers of Muslims. To date, it remains the larger of only two, both in Sioux Falls.
“We are a very mixed community,” said Mohammad al Ostaz, a Palestinian, who left Kuwait in 1987 to study physical therapy in Sioux Falls. “But we’re not a Pakistani or an Arab mosque. There are differences between us, and we’ve all had to learn to get along,” he added by way of explanation of the sign at the door.
“There is a lot of ignorance about Muslims here,” he said after Maghreb prayers on the first day of Eid. “There are a lot of stereotypes.”
Unable to return to Kuwait after the first Gulf War, Mr Ostaz, 43, stayed in South Dakota. Though he never finished his studies, he eventually started his own translation service that now handles more than 100 languages. In his 23 years here, he said, he has always experienced negative stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims.
The stereotypes have changed – for the worse, he said. “They used to be about camels and oil and having four wives. Now, they are about terrorism and violence. The stereotypes were always negative, they’ve just become more so.”
The negative views have been reflected in nationwide polls. In August, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that the number of Americans with a favourable view of Islam had dropped from 41 per cent to 30 since 2005. The percentage of those with an unfavourable view had climbed from 36 to 38 per cent in the same period.
Perhaps, more tellingly, the poll counted just 62 per cent of Americans who believe Muslims should have the same rights as other groups to build houses of worship in their local communities, with 25 per cent opposed and 13 undecided.
And, at times, what Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American Muslim Relations calls an “alarming rise in anti-Muslim sentiment” finds violent expression, with instances of hate crimes becoming more prevalent. In Sioux Falls, such incidents have been rare. After the September 11 attacks, someone smeared faeces on the door handle of the Islamic Centre, Mr Ostaz said. People have called in threatening messages and a brick was thrown through the window.
Yousef al Kafiti, 47, who has lived in Sioux Falls since 1992, said he too had noticed the change. “My wife covers her hair, and we hear a lot of comments in shops like, ‘Go home to where you’re from, you don’t belong here’,” said Mr Kafiti, who is of Libyan origin. His wife is an American convert to Islam. “Even if there are no comments, I can often feel the dirty looks.”
There have been efforts at outreach from the Muslim and Christian communities. Mr Ostaz said he had participated in a number of talks to residents in Sioux Falls, mostly arranged by local churches. “They’ve been much more organised about this than us.”
He also remembered with “great admiration” a day when a local family, on an apparent whim, had come on their own to the Islamic Centre to learn about Islam.
Moreover, he said, his business had never suffered. “I never felt that anything but my competence was at issue in work. In fact, in 2006, I had my best ever year.”
Mr Kafiti, who has worked for 16 years in the same plastics factory, said that while September 11 had caused a lot of harm to the Muslim community, it had also caused people to want to learn more about Islam.
“Eventually they see I’m just like them. I came to this free country to build my life and work hard.”
Son of Stuxnet? Variants of the cyberweapon likely, senators told
The Stuxnet cyberworm could soon be modified to attack vital industrial facilities in the US and abroad, cybersecurity experts warned Wednesday at a Senate hearing.
Iran’s facility at Natanz, about 200 miles south of Tehran, is reported to have been infected with the Stuxnet worm.
Stuxnet, the first known weaponized software designed to destroy a specific industrial process, could soon be modified to target an array of industrial systems in the US and abroad, cyber experts told US senators Wednesday.
The Stuxnet malware, discovered this summer, was apparently designed to strike one target – Iran’s nuclear-fuel centrifuge facilities, researchers now say. But Stuxnet’s “digital warhead,” they caution, could be copied and altered by others to wreak havoc on a much grander scale.
Variants of Stuxnet could target a host of critical infrastructure, from the power grid and water supplies to transportation systems, four cybersecurity experts told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
“The concern for the future of Stuxnet is that the underlying code could be adapted to target a broader range of control systems in any number of critical infrastructure sectors,” said Sean McGurk, acting director of the National Cyber-security and Communications Integration Center at the US Department of Homeland Security.
Stuxnet infiltrated and targeted an industrial control system software that is widely used in US infrastructure and industry, meaning the nation is vulnerable to future Stuxnet-like attacks, he said. “While we do not know which process was the intended target [of Stuxnet], it is important to note that the combination of Windows operating software and Siemens hardware can be used in control systems across critical infrastructure sectors – from automobile assembly lines to mixing baby formula to processing chemicals,” said Mr. McGurk.
Citing his research at the national lab, Mr. Assante noted that his team there had explored a similar avenue earlier – alluding apparently to a 2007 test that used Internet-delivered commands to destroy a diesel generator – prompting black smoke and bolts flying off the machine. “I have participated in research that demonstrated this capability in a controlled environment to understand how it could be done,” he said. “I believe that the analysis to date has indicated that Stuxnet may be such a weapon.”
Concern about vulnerability of the power grid has led to warnings and new standards. Yet the grid remains vulnerable to a Stuxnet-style threat, Assante asserted. New government standards have become a “glass ceiling” for companies to perfunctorily meet, he said, but not to exceed.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a team at the national lab have reverse-engineered and decoded Stuxnet, McGurk said. But DHS is worried that attackers “could use publicly available information about the code” to develop variants targeted at broader installations of programmable equipment in control systems, he said.
That statement may well be a slap at Symantec, which published detailed reports on precisely how Stuxnet works. Bulletins from DHS, on the other hand, omitted key details, said several cybersecurity researchers interviewed by the Monitor.
Still, lack of information-sharing is preventing readiness to combat advanced cyberthreats like Stuxnet, said other witnesses at the hearing.
“A significant cause for concern is that much of the information about cybersecurity-related threats remains classified in the homeland security, defense, and intelligence communities, with restricted opportunity to share information with security researchers, technology providers, and affected private-sector asset owners,” Assante said. Restricted use of newly gained knowledge about advanced cyberthreats, he added, places “our nation’s critical infrastructure is placed at significant risk.”
The witnesses gave varying assessments about how prepared the private sector is to deal with a threat of Stuxnet’s sophistication.
Mark Gandy, global cybersecurity chief for Dow Corning Corp. and chairman of the American Chemistry Council’s cybersecurity steering committee, said industry is working hard and is up to the task.
“The chemical sector understands this evolving threat,” he said. “The ACC and its members have been working for years across the sector to prepare and share information about these issues…. We continue to comprehensively improve control system security.”
Assante, sounding much less enthusiastic about industry preparedness, cited technology trends that make it easier for attackers to strike control systems.
“I believe we’re extremely susceptible,” he said. “In fact, I believe our susceptibility grows every day. If you just look at the very trends in the technology that we deploy, we’re doing things that would allow an attacker more freedom of action within these environments…. Stuxnet is an important harbinger of things that may come if we do not use this opportunity to learn about this threat and apply it.”
As of last week, 44,000 computers worldwide were still infected with the Stuxnet worm – including 1,600 in the US, said Dean Turner, head of global intelligence for Symantec Corp., the computer security firm that detailed Stuxnet’s inner workings. Fifty of those US infections had worked their way from Windows operating systems into industrial control systems. It’s not publicly known who created Stuxnet.
“Our level of preparedness … in the private sector is better than it ever has been, but still has a long way to go,” said Mr. Turner. “It’s a cliché, but we don’t know what we don’t know.”
Perhaps the sharpest alarm was sounded by Michael Assante, president of the National Board of Information Security Examiners. He’s seen the threat up close, having held key posts in industrial control system security research at the Idaho National Laboratory and then as chief security officer of the North American Electric Reliability Corp., which is charged with power grid reliability.
“Stuxnet is, at the very least, an important wake-up call for digitally enhanced and reliant countries – at its worst, a blueprint for future attackers,” he said. It is a “good example of a cyberthreat thought to be hypothetically possible, but not considered probable by many.” Its sophistication “should disturb security professionals, engineers, businessmen, and government leaders alike.”
Cyber Attacks Present ‘Huge’ Threat, Gates Says
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2010 – Leaders are taking steps to bring defense industrial and domestic partners under an umbrella of protection from cyber attacks, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said.
“There is a huge future threat and there is a considerable current threat [from cyber attacks],” Gates said here yesterday during a question-and-answer session at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council. “That’s just a reality we all face.”
The DOD already has implemented effective protections for “.mil,” he said, and is working with its partners in the defense industrial base to offer them similar protections.
Leaders also would like to extend this protection to the government’s domestic side, Gates said, noting the importance of the National Security Agency to the nation’s defense against cyber threats and attacks.
“The only defense the United States has … against nation states and other potential threats in the cyber world is the National Security Agency,” he said. “You cannot replicate the National Security Agency for domestic affairs. There isn’t enough money, there isn’t enough time, and there isn’t enough human talent.”
The challenge, however, is offering the government’s domestic side access to NSA while also taking into account concerns for privacy and civil liberties, Gates said.
With this issue in mind, President Barack Obama recently approved a memorandum of understanding based on recommendations from Gates and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The MOU creates a Homeland Security Department cell within NSA, Gates said, with the authority to task NSA, but using its own attorneys to ensure privacy and civil liberties are kept at the forefront.
The cell offers a domestic security agency an opportunity to reach into NSA in a “real-time way” for protection, Gates said.
“My hope is over time that this will lead to better protections for both .gov and .com,” he said.
Gates also touched on the need for “real” competition in regard to acquisition, a topic that dovetails into his initiative to slash $100 billion from the DOD’s overhead –- or the “tail side” — and reinvest savings into the “tooth side” of the department.
“Too often competition in Washington is, everyone wins,” the secretary said. “That’s not my idea of competition. My idea of competition in the acquisition arena is winner takes all.
“I think the more we can do this, and the more we can cause industry, particularly on relatively low-technology-risk programs, to share the risk with the government in terms of timeliness and costs, the better off the taxpayers will be,” Gates said. “And at the end of the day, I think, the better off business will be.”
Stuxnet a threat to critical industries worldwide: experts
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Stuxnet worm that infiltrated Iran’s nuclear facilities poses a threat to critical industries worldwide such as water, power and chemical plants, cybersecurity experts warned on Wednesday.
Sean McGurk, the acting director of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), described Stuxnet in testimony before a US Senate committee as a “game-changer.”
Stuxnet, which was detected in July, has “significantly changed the landscape of targeted cyberattacks,” McGurk told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
“For us, to use a very overused term, it’s a game-changer,” he said.
Stuxnet targets computer control systems made by German industrial giant Siemens commonly used to manage water supplies, oil rigs, power plants and other critical infrastructure.
Most Stuxnet infections have been discovered in Iran, giving rise to speculation it was intended to sabotage nuclear facilities there, especially the Russian-built atomic power plant in the southern city of Bushehr.
Computer security firm Symantec said last week that Stuxnet may have been specifically designed to disrupt the motors that power gas centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
Dean Turner, director of Symantec’s Global Intelligence Network, told the Senate panel that while 60 percent of the Stuxnet infections detected were in Iran it should be seen as “a wake-up call to critical infrastructure systems around the world.”
“This is the first publicly known threat to target industrial control systems and grants hackers vital control of critical infrastructures such as power plants, dams and chemical facilities,” Turner said.
Stuxnet was so complex that only a “select few attackers” could develop a similar threat but it highlights that “direct-attacks to control critical infrastructure are possible and not necessarily spy novel fictions,” he said.
“The real-world implications of Stuxnet are beyond any threat we have seen in the past,” Turner warned.
The New York Times reported in September that Stuxnet code includes a reference to the Book of Esther, the Old Testament story in which the Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them, and is a possible clue of Israeli involvement.
McGurk, the US cybersecurity official, declined to speculate about Stuxnet’s origins or objectives but said US analysis “indicates that a specific process was likely targeted.”
“While we do not know which process was the intended target, it is important to note that the combination of Windows operating software and Siemens hardware can be used in control systems across critical infrastructure sectors — from automobile assembly lines to mixing baby formula to processing chemicals,” he said.
“The concern for the future of Stuxnet is that the underlying code could be adapted to target a broader range of control systems in any number of critical infrastructure sectors,” McGurk said.
“These systems are used to operate physical processes that produce the goods and services that we rely upon, such as electricity, drinking water, and manufacturing,” he said.
“Although each of the critical infrastructure industries, from energy though water treatment, is vastly different, they all have one thing in common: they are dependent on control systems to monitor, control, and safeguard their processes,” the US cybersecurity official said.
McGurk warned that “a successful cyberattack on a control system could potentially result in physical damage, loss of life, and cascading effects that could disrupt services.”
He explained that with Stuxnet, “I don’t have to break into the front door and actually steal the formula or the intellectual property of what you’re manufacturing.
“I can actually go the devices themselves, read the settings and reverse engineer the formula for whatever the process is that’s being manufactured,” McGurk said. “In addition, I can make modifications to the physical environment so that you would be unaware of those changes being made.
“In other words, this code can automatically enter a system, steal the formula for the product you are manufacturing, alter the ingredients being mixed in your product, and indicate to the operator and your anti-virus software that everything is functioning as expected,” he said.
Iran warns against meddling with its Russian ties
MOSCOW (AFP) – Iran called Wednesday on foreign powers not to block cooperation between Tehran and Moscow, ahead of a summit between the two nations struggling to mend an unprecedented rift in bilateral ties.
“We cannot allow far away countries to prevent our cooperation and strategic partnership,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in an interview on Russia Today television channel.
“We have longstanding relations with Russia and we hope to cooperate in the long-term with this country,” he said, adding, “our countries have an enormous potential for political, economic and technological cooperation”.
Mehmanparast spoke ahead of a Thursday summit in the Azerbaijani capital Baku between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Analysts describe the meeting, during a leaders’ summit of five littoral Caspian Sea states, as a last chance to repair ties that have frayed over Moscow’s support of UN sanctions against Tehran.
Russian-Iranian tensions came to the boil in September when Moscow — after repeated delays — officially dropped plans to supply Tehran with high-precision S-300 missiles and a batch of other sensitive arms.
Iran did little to hide its displeasure with Russia’s reversal.
Ahmadinejad this month accused Russia of falling “under the influence of Satan (the United States)” and selling out “to our enemies”.
Mosque protests reach new level of surreal
A Christian church in Phoenix has had to make a presidential-type denial: It is not Muslim.
The building under construction will feature a domed ceiling, and protesters have taken that as a sign the church is not what it says it is. The leaders have hung up a sign saying, “We are building a Christian house of worship,” the Atlantic reports. The front of the building also says Luz Del Mundo Iglesia, which is Spanish for Light of the World Church.
“I have nothing against Islamic people,” Carlos Montemayor, the pastor of the church, said in a phone interview. But local commentary had been growing, saying that the building was a mosque and an investigation should be launched into the church. He put the sign up to stop the comments. “They should be happy that we are putting something beautiful by the freeway, but they’re not,” he said.
Iraqi president: I won’t sign Aziz death order
Report: Iraqi president says he won’t sign death penalty order of Tariq Aziz
(AP News) Iraqi President Jalal Talabani says he won’t sign off on a death penalty sentence against Tariq Aziz, seen by many as the international face of Saddam Hussein’s government.
“I cannot sign an order of this kind because I am a Socialist,” Talabani told France 24 TV, in an interview aired Wednesday. “I feel compassion for Tarik Aziz because he is a Christian, an Iraqi Christian.”
“In addition, he is an elderly man — aged over 70 — and this is why I will never sign this order,” Talabani said in Arabic through a translator.
The 74-year-old Aziz was the highest-ranking Christian in Saddam Hussein’s inner circle. He was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging on Oct. 26 for his role in persecuting members of the Shiite religious parties that now dominate the country.
Aziz has already been convicted in two other cases, receiving a combined 22 years in prison. In an interview with The Associated Press this summer, Aziz predicted he would die in prison.
In the long-running case for which he received the death penalty, Aziz was accused of being part of a campaign of persecuting, killing and torturing members of the Shiite opposition and religious parties banned under Saddam. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a member of one of the religious parties central to the case.
The death sentence came two months after Aziz was transferred from U.S. to Iraqi custody. Under Iraqi law, Aziz had 30 days to appeal the death sentence.
Aziz’s supporters have argued that he was not responsible for the crimes he’s accused of but is being persecuted simply because he was a member of Saddam’s regime.
The pursuit of criminal cases against former members of Saddam’s regime demonstrates the deep hatred that exists even today among the country’s current Shiite leadership and within the Shiite population as well.
Although Aziz was not Sunni, his death sentence as well as the death sentences against other figures of Saddam’s regime is seen as a form of persecution against the country’s Sunni minority.
Some Western officials including Italy’s foreign minister have urged Iraq to call off the death penalty for Aziz.
Talabani was speaking in Paris, where he attended a meeting of the Socialist International this week.
France is “delighted” with Talabani’s decision, in keeping with its call for the abolishment of the death penalty around the world, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
Autonomous Region Would Be Carved Out of Nineveh Province
The idea of the province, which would be carved out of the portion of the Nineveh Province bordering Iraqi Kurdistan, was originally floated by an organization representing Iraqi Christians and would seem to be a smaller version of what Iraqi Kurdistan has became, a largely autonomous region with less oversight by the national government.
Iraq’s Christian community, targeted since the 2003 US occupation began, has been under growing attack in recent weeks from insurgents, and large numbers are said to be fleeing the nation for Syria and, when they are able, Europe.
The group is still nominally a majority in that portion of the Nineveh Province, however, and a semi-independent micro-province could well encourage many to stay. It might also encourage Christians in the rest of the country to move, however, furthering the increasing reality of an Iraq with internal “borders” separating the various religious and ethnic groups.