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South Stream ‘Plan B’ opts for route through Greece and Turkey

Πηγή: EurActiv
Aug 19 2014

A Russian newspaper has published an article suggesting that the Kremlin-favoured South Stream gas pipeline could drop Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and Slovenia for its route, and instead reach its final destinations, Italy and Austria, through Turkey and Greece.

On Monday (18 August), Russian business newspaper Vzglyad published an article by journalist Oleg Makarenko, claiming that Gazprom has a “plan B” in case Bulgaria continues to obstruct the construction of the South Stream pipeline.

A caretaker government in Sofia, which took office on 6 August, has frozen the construction of South Stream, following clear indications from Brussels that the EU executive would impose infringements on Bulgaria, unless the country re-negotiates its bilateral agreement with Russia for the construction of the pipeline, which is in breach of EU law.

>> Read: Barroso warns Bulgaria on South Stream

According to the Vzglyad article, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already hinted at another route for South Stream, during his meeting with leaders of world media, on 24 May.

The article quotes Turkish energy Minister Taner Yıldız as saying that Ankara would allow South Stream to reach Turkey under the Black Sea instead of Bulgaria, as originally planned.

However, Russian sources are quoted as saying that the Turkish route is not Moscow’s preferred one, as it is longer, and because of the lost possibility of reaching Serbia and Hungary.

‘Good partners’

Turkey is seen as a “good partner” for Russia, as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is described as a “cynical pragmatist” who wants revenge on the USA, which has reportedly tried to oust him twice. Greece is described as a country where social unrest is boiling. “The attempts to leave Greece without money, without agriculture [as a result of the Russian counter-sanctions] and without gas will trigger massive social unrest,” the article says.

Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Romania are described as the biggest victims of plan B. In the event that the Ukrainian gas transmission system is “blocked permanently”, Russia would reportedly not be able to supply any gas to these countries.

The article ends by saying that Russia would prefer not to opt for a plan B, but if the Commission doesn’t stop pressuring Bulgaria to freeze the construction of the pipeline, this alternative appears to be a viable option.

“We have to be very happy that Russia has a working spare plan to supply gas to Southern and Central Europe,” the article concludes.

A direct competitor to TAP?

If Gazprom decides to choose Turkey and Greece for the South Stream route, the pipeline project would largely resemble the TANAP-TAP project to bring Azeri gas to Italy through the territories of the same countries.

The Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP) is a proposed natural gas pipeline from Azerbaijan running through Turkey. The approximately 870 km long TAP pipeline connects with TANAP, and will cross Greece and Albania before reaching Italy through an offshore section. It is to be built by a consortium led by BP, Norway's Statoil and Azerbaijan's SOCAR.

TAP is in an advanced stage of preparation and the start of its construction is planned in 2016.

Asked by EurActiv to comment, the European Commission said it was unable to confirm reports that NGOs were funded with Russian money, in order to delay the TAP project.

Airstrikes In Libya Kill Six, But No One Knows Who Is Responsible

Πηγή: IBT
By Erin Banco
Aug 19 2014

In the middle of the night, residents of Tripoli, Libya, heard the sounds of large blasts. But no one knows who was causing them. A series of airstrikes in the night between Monday and Tuesday killed six people, but no information is available about who is responsible. Several sources reported that positions held by fighters from the city of Misratah were hit with precision weapons, but that could not be confirmed.

For more than a month, Libya has experienced intense clashes between rival militias, the most violent battle taking place at the Tripoli airport. The fighting in Libya began in May when former Libyan Army Gen. Khalifa Hifter and his rebel supporters launched an offensive in the eastern city of Benghazi against government forces. Hifter has said his goal is to rid the country of Islamist fighters and to take over power.

Hifter's offensive only strengthened the infighting between rebel factions that emerged after the 2011 revolution. In July, the United Nations evacuated its staff from Libya, and the Maltese Air Traffic Service, which is responsible for controlling Libya's airspace, announced that it would close for a month.

Hifter claimed responsibility for the airstrikes in Tripoli Monday, but it is unlikely his forces have the skill to conduct the attacks. The Libyan government, as well as the Italian, British, French and American governments -- all involved in the development of Libya post-revolution and whose air forces took part in the 2011 bombing campaign -- denied responsibility.

The U.K., Italy and Turkey are currently helping Libya's military as part of an agreement to train general-purpose forces. The U.S. is also set to begin training the Libyan army, but officials at the State Department have said that no contract has been signed. In a January press release, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said it notified Congress of a possible foreign military sale to Libya for the training and equipment, parts and logistical support worth $600 million.

In a statement Monday, Major Gen. Suleiman Obeidi said the Libyan air force did not have the capacity or technology to carry out the airstrikes. According toMarsad Libya, an online platform that monitors the Libyan security sector, one of the weapons dropped in Tripoli was a U.S.-made Mark 83 general purpose bomb. The Libyan air force, or rather its remnants after the 2011 air campaign by a U.S.-led coalition largely destroyed it, does not have such weapons, nor the ability to conduct precision strikes, much less at night.

Six people were killed in the airstrikes, according to the Associated Press, but the identities of those killed have not been revelead.

A Libyan source living in Malta who was contacted by IBT said his uncle was killed in the recovery effort following one of the blasst. The man who was killed was identified as Adel Ali Khalifa Abuabdullah. According to a Facebook post, Abuabdullah was killed on August 18 when he heard aircraft had bombed an area in Tripoli. He apparently went to the scene to help recover bodies when an explosion killed him.

An Egyptian official told Reuters that air traffic between the two countries had been interrupted for six hours in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday.


Why some Muslims want to kill the Yazidis by genocide

Πηγή: New York Post
By Amir Taheri
Aug 17 2014

To hear President Obama tell it, one might think that recent bombing raids by the US against jihadist positions between Mosul and Erbil in northern Iraq have already removed the threat of extermination posed against the Yazidis, a religious minority driven out of its ancestral home by the Islamic State of self-styled Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Displaced Yazidi’s cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing in northern Iraq.Photo: Getty Images
However, several Yazidi spokesmen reached over the past few days insist that tens of thousands of people are still facing extermination — and on Friday, 80 Yazidis were massacred by IS fighters.

“Our people are dying of hunger, thirst and disease,” says Magdi al-Yazidi. “Those who have not left their homes are prisoners in their besieged villages around el-Qush and Shaikhan. They are simply coming to realize and old dream of fanatical Islamic rulers: wiping our community off the face of the earth.”

The Islamic State’ self-styled Caliph Abu Bakr al-BaghdadiPhoto: AP

“It has always been a dream of Islamic rulers to wipe us out,” Emir Muawwyyah bin Ismail, the leader of the Yazidis, told me back in the 1980s when he was forced into exile by Saddam Hussein.

The Emir had ended up in Paris after a long trek out of Iraq through Syria. Hussein had given him a choice between death and exile after the Emir issued a statement banning Yazidis from joining the despot’s army for a war against Iran.

After an initial meeting with the Emir, I managed to persuade him to speak about his community, its history and the Yazidi faith. He did, thus ending almost 15 centuries of esoteric tradition under which Yazidis pretended to be some sort of Muslims.

“The pretension was necessary to avoid genocide,” he told me.

Displaced Yazidi’sPhoto: Reuters; AP; Reuters; Reuters; Reuters; Getty Images; Getty Images; AP

Our conversations lasted over some six months and resulted in a book published under the title “To Us Spoke Zarathustra.”
A portrait of the prophet Zoroaster, founder of Zoroastrianism, a monotheistic religion that was the dominant religion in Persia before the Arab conquest.Photo: Getty Images
As far as fanatical Muslims are concerned, Yazidis must be classified among the heathen because they do not belong to any of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Under Islamic rules, Jews and Christians are regarded as “people of the book” and thus could live among Muslims provided they pay a protection fee known as “dhimma.” Even if they wanted to, Yazidis cannot make use of that provision because they regard themselves as followers of Zoroaster, a prophet of ancient Iranian peoples who preached around 700 BC.

The belief system starts with the assertion that there is but one God, variously known as Izad, Yazdan or Xweda (Khoda in Persian).

Their one God shares the basic traits of Ahura-Mazda, the Wise God of Zoroaster. It is Ahura-Mazda who decided that a world should be created. But he subcontracts the task to a demiurge figure known as Tavous Malek (“The Peacock Angel”) who, assisted by six other angels each representing an aspect of natural life, shape the world as man knows it. As might have been expected, the sub-contractors, not having God’s divine infallibility, make some mistakes which leads to the emergence of evil in the world.

The Faravahar, a popular symbol of Zoroastrianism.Photo: Getty Images
In that context, the Good God needs the help of human beings to fight evil in a series of three battles, at the end of which the fate of the universe is decided forever. Thus, the Yazidis faith is the only religion in which God needs help from human beings, a concept that scandalizes fanatical Muslims who regard Allah as omnipotent and infallible. The Yazidi god can enter into a conversation with man; Allah cannot.

Man could help god by becoming “truly human,” Yazidis assert. According to one of their proverbs: “Just as the best sword is the sharpest, the best man is the most human.”

A view of the Bajed Kadal refugee camp, south west of Dohuk, Iraq where displaced Yazidi’s are staying after fleeing the violence of Islamic State fighters.Photo: Reuters
A peaceful people opposed to violence and bloodshed, Yazidis believe that no cause is worth killing people for, something that scandalizes fanatical Muslims who regard the spread of “The Only True Faith” by sword as a duty and the man who does it as the “Ghazi” (Holy Warrior) who is assured a place in paradise.

Displaced Yazidi’s travel towards the Syrian border.Photo: Reuters
The Yazidis tradition of equality between men and women, including the rejection of polygamy, also scandalizes their fanatical Muslim neighbors.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces hand out water bottles to Yazidi’s as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border.Photo: Getty Images
Arab Sunnis also hate Yazidis because of their language, a variety of Kurdish, itself one of the 18 Iranic languages still alive in Western Asia.

The Yazidis claim to be the oldest religious community with a continuous existence in its own land. That may well be the case, at least as far as he estimated 600,000 Yazidis who live in Iraq are concerned. There are a further 1.8 million Yazidis in Syria, Turkey, Iran and Transcaucasia not to mention almost a million others in exile in more than 50 countries across the globe.

Iraq has always been a mosaic of peoples and faith. Six decades ago, 20% of Baghdad’s population consisted of Jews. Today there are only six Jews in the whole of Iraq. The Armenia community has shrunk by almost 90% while other Christian communities are also shrinking. Caliph Abu Bakr ’s dream is to have an Iraq empty of all non-Muslims so that he could embark on his second phase of his “purification” by organizing genocide against Shiites regarded as deviant Muslims.

The Caliph dreams of a hecatomb in Iraq. He must be stopped.