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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rumsfeld, Petraeus Linked to Torture Centers in Iraq

The U.S. funded and helped run a network of torture centers operated by Shi’ite militias in Iraq, an investigation by U.K. newspaper The Guardian and BBC Arabic showed. The Department of Defense sent in Colonel James Steele, a veteran of the “proxy wars” of Nicaragua and El Salvador, to train and organise sectarian commando groups that created secret centers where rebels were detained and tortured for intelligence. Steele, who was named by and reported to then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, worked closely with Colonel James Coffman, who reported directly to General David Petraeus, who was then in Iraq. The Shi’ite militias specifically targeted Sunnis, many of whom supported Saddam Hussein and attempted an insurgency. The Shi’ite groups tortured the detainees, a fact that witnesses say catalyzed the civil war in the nation. This is the first time Petraeus, who stepped down last year as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after the revelation of an extramarital affair with his biographer, is directly linked to human rights abuse.

Syrian Rebels Capture 20 U.N. Soldiers in Golan Heights

Twenty United Nations (U.N.) peacekeepers who were investigating the damage at an observation post in the Golan Heights, at the border between Syrian and Israel, were captured today by 30 Syrian rebels who said they would treat them as enemies if forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stayed in the region. It is the first time members of the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force, as the mission is known, find themselves entangled in the civil war. This is the latest in a series of incidents that are inching ever closer to Syria’s borders, threatening to engulf neighboring nations in the country’s conflict and set the region aflame. The Golan Heights have been a disputed area since Israel captured it from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War, occupying it and annexing it in 1981. The U.N. has been responsible for keeping the peace in the demilitarized zone at Syria’s Golan border. “If the withdrawal does not take place within 24 hours, we will deal with those guys like war prisoners. And praise to God,” said a militant from a group that calls itself the Martyrs of Yarmouk in a YouTube video. The news comes two days after 40 Syrian loyalist soldiers were killed in a rebel ambush in Iraq.

Khameini Pushes to Replace Ahmadinejad with Loyalist

As Iran’s campaign began for Iran’s presidential elections later this year, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini warned in a speech against the undermining influence of internal and external enemies over the contest. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who isn’t allowed to run for a third term, will most likely be replaced by candidates loyal to Khameini, observers say. “Khamenei wants the next president to be someone he can control,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy Senior Fellow Mehdi Khalaji told Reuters. Ahmadinejad’s 2009 reelection resulted in large popular protests that were quelled by force, causing dozens of deaths and thousands of arrests. Reformist rivals Mirhossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi are now both under house arrest, limiting the risk that Khameini will lose his grip over the country, even as the economy suffers from international sanction over the uranium enrichment program. Ahmadinejad, who had a falling out with Khameini, saw his circle of aides shrink after he was accused of being part of a “deviant current” that worked against religious leaders. The exiting president has hinted at supporting Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, his senior advisor, to succeed him.

Arkansas Adopts Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Law

Arkansas adopted today the U.S. most restrictive abortion law, overriding a veto by Democratic Governor Mike Beebe. The new law makes abortion over 12 weeks of pregnancy illegal, contradicting the U.S. Supreme Court 1973 Roe vs Wade decision, which states an abortion should be legal until about the 24th week. Beebe called it “blatantly unconstitutional,” but the state’s legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, countered his veto by 20-14 in the Senate and 55-33 in the House. Opponents of the “Human Heartbeat Protection Act,” as the law is called, pointed out “it has no chance of surviving a court challenge,” and the American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to take it to federal court.

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