Archive for August, 2013

FAMILY OF CUBA DISSIDENT OSWALDO PAY FILE LAWSUIT ALLEGING MURDER BY CASTRO REGIME

August 21, 2013

Daily Telegraph, London, on August 20, 2013, reported that the family of Oswaldo Paya, a prominent Cuban dissident who died in a car crash on the Communist island last year, have filed a lawsuit in Spain alleging he was murdered by the Castro government. Excerpts below:

Paya, one of the foremost leaders of the Cuban opposition, died along with fellow activist Harold Cepero after the vehicle in which they were travelling swerved off the road and collided with a tree in Bayamo, in the province of Granma.

In a highly controversial case, Angel Carromero, a visiting Spanish politician who was driving the rental car at the time of the crash, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter by a Cuban court and sentenced to four years in prison.

But many of Paya’s relatives and fellow dissidents have refused to accept that version of events, alleging instead that Cuban government agents forced the car off the road.

“(His death) was not an isolated incident, it was the result of a continuing process that started a long time ago,” Paya’s brother, Carlos, told the Spanish news agency Efe.

Carromero, leader of the youth wing of Spain’s ruling Popular Party, has been allowed to serve most of his sentence in Spain and has since rejected Havana’s account of the crash. In an interview with Spain’s El Mundo newspaper, he claimed that 60-year-old Paya was not killed in the collision.

Paya had dual Cuban and Spanish nationality, meaning Spanish authorities can investigate his death even though it occurred overseas.

Paya’s Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) said in a statement that the suit accused Lieutenant Colonel Aguilas and Colonel Llanes, two top officials at a department which investigates crimes against the security of the Cuban state, of involvement in the dissident’s death. The statement did not elaborate on what roles they were alleged to have played in the crash.

“The Cuban and the Spanish people have the legitimate and legal right to know the truth of what happened that day, which left dead a Spanish citizen, Oswaldo Paya, and a young man, also a Spanish citizen, Angel Carromero, vilely blamed for a crime that he did not commit,” the organisation said.

Long a thorn in the side of the Castro government, Paya was best known internationally as the founder of the Varela Project, which collected 25,000 signatures in support of a referendum on laws to protect civil rights.

In 2002 he won the Sakharov Prize, an award bestowed by the European Union for work in the field of human rights.

Once Spanish judicial authorities receive a lawsuit, they must discuss with the public prosecutor’s office whether to open initial proceedings. The decision in this case would not be expected before September.

If the court decides to proceed, it would automatically trigger an investigation into Paya’s death by a Spanish judge.

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AMERICA’S CONTINUING DENIAL OF SOVIET ESPIONAGE DURING THE NEW DEAL YEARS

August 20, 2013

PJ Media on August 16, 2013, published an article by Ronald Radosh on Soviet espionage in the United States. Excerpts below:

Harry Dexter White, the assistant secretary of the Treasury and the man who created the postwar financial structure and the International Monetary Fund, was arguably the top Communist spy working in our top government agencies during the New and Fair Deal days. As I argued in these pages a while back, economist Benn Steil’s new research not only revealed that White was a Soviet agent, but also brings to the mainstream what many of us have known for years — that the New Deal administration was heavily penetrated by Soviet spies, many of them American citizens who were working for Stalin’s intelligence agencies.

This truth, no matter how documented, is something that the left-wing intellectuals and journalists…never can accept. They continue to be what John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr term “in denial.”

Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary wrote on this:

The anti-anti-Communist point of view about the Cold War was discredited, but for [some] publishers the impulse to wave the old red flag is still strong. That often leads them, as well as some other sectors of the left such as the New York Times, to pretend as if backing the totalitarian, genocidal, and anti-Semitic regime that ruled Moscow was an innocent romantic phase that all true liberals went through.

Like their counterparts on the far-right fringe, the left also ignores evidence, even though it has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that White was indeed a Soviet agent. For those who doubt this, one has only to look at the scrupulous investigation of the evidence by Haynes and Klehr, which you can find at Washington Decoded.

Few can match the precise and careful attention to evidence that both reveal. Reading their dissection of the evidence, it amounts to irrefutable proof that White was a Soviet spy. Why, they ask, do seemingly intelligent people ignore the facts? They believe that it is not because they are dishonest, but because “we are dealing with intellectual ‘true believers,’ ideological zealots who are mentally incapable of accepting or processing information that undermines their historical world view.”

As David Horowitz has often said, being left-wing “means never having to say you’re sorry.” To accept the truth means that they might have to reevaluate the belief system they have adhered to for almost half a century. That system demands a consistent anti-Americanism, a belief that although Stalin might have been bad, the system he built was nevertheless progressive. Indeed, if you acknowledge that there were Soviet spies, maybe that means that in the 1950s the concern for Communist agents in our midst was not really irrational. Maybe they live in fear finding out that anti-Communism was valid and that a witch-hunt never really existed.

…the Venona decrypts proved that Harry Dexter White proved his complicity in espionage.

In fact, the 18 cables that mention White show him passing “confidential strategic information to Soviet intelligence through American moles, as well as directly to Soviet operatives, and expressing grave concern over whether and how his activities can continue to be kept secret.”

It turns out, and both Steill and Klehr and Haynes offer the information about what White really did, that Whittaker Chambers was completely accurate when he said that White was writing down and distributing classified information. As one cable from an NKVD agent said in mid 1944, “J [White] knows where his info. goes, which is precisely why he transmits it in the first place.”

Of course, even if White did it for ideological reasons — a commitment to the Soviets — his wife saw it as a way to monetarily benefit her family. Thus did the Soviets agree to give gifts to the Whites, including, it seems, paying for their daughter’s education, expenses which “may come up to two thousand a year” — a lot for the 1940s!

Will the liberal/left…ever learn to accept the truth? One of the main journalists who live in denial, Victor Navasky, the former editor and publisher of The Nation, is now chairman of the Columbia Journalism Review, the George T. Delacorte professor in magazine journalism at Columbia University, and one of the leading defenders of Alger Hiss. I somehow don’t think that at his perch, he is teaching his students that the magazine he once ran still subscribes to the old left-wing shibboleths he holds so dear.

Ronald Radosh is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute; Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York, and the author of many books, including “The Rosenberg File;” “Divided They Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996,” and most recently, “Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left.”

STATEMENT BY AN AMERICAN “WORKING GROUP ON EGYPT”

August 19, 2013

Weekly Standard on August 19, 2013, published the report of an American “Working Group on Egypt”. Excerpts below:

Despite the mistakes committed by former president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood over the past year in Egypt, and despite the incitement and violence demonstrated by some Brotherhood supporters yesterday, the killing of hundreds of protesters carried out by the Egyptian military government was unnecessary, unjustified, and in contravention of international human rights standards. These events demand a shift in U.S. policy that is urgent and long overdue. We agree with President Barack Obama’s decision to cancel the Bright Star joint military exercise, with his condemnation of violence against civilians, with his emphasis on the need for the Egyptian government to respect the human rights of all its citizens, and with his call for positive steps towards reconciliation.

We…call on the Obama administration to take further steps, including an immediate suspension of military aid to Egypt. If the President fails once again to do so, we call on Congress to suspend military assistance to Egypt until such time as:

• the Egyptian state’s use of force against peaceful protesters stops

• the state of emergency is lifted

• all political prisoners are released unless credible evidence of violent crimes is presented to the judiciary

• the present Egyptian regime demonstrates a credible commitment to an open and fair political process

• this must include freedom of assembly, association, and expression, and the participation of all citizens acting peacefully in the return to a democratically elected government and the establishment of a democratic system of governance.

The Obama administration should also work with Europe, Arab countries, the United Nations, the African Union, and other nations and international institutions to put concerted pressure on the Egyptian military government to reverse its current policies and launch Egypt on a path, finally, towards a genuine democratic transition in Egypt. The alternative is not only morally unconscionable, but also a direct threat to regional stability and U.S. interests.

Robert Kagan (co-chair)
Brookings Institution

Michele Dunne (co-chair)
Atlantic Council

Elliott Abrams
Council on Foreign Relations

Ellen Bork
Foreign Policy Initiative

Daniel Calingaert
Freedom House

Reuel Gerecht
Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Amy Hawthorne
Atlantic Council

Neil Hicks
Human Rights First

Peter Mandaville
Ali Vural Ak Center for Islamic Studies
George Mason University

Stephen McInerney
Project on Middle East Democracy

Tamara Wittes
Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution

**Affiliations are given for purposes of identification only and do not indicate institutional support.

EGYPTIAN SECURITY FORCES STORM MOSQUE, CONSIDER DISSOLVING MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

August 18, 2013

Fox News on August 17, 2013, published an AP report on Egyptian security forces storming a Cairo mosque after shooting at armed men firing down from a minaret, rounding up hundreds of supporters of the country’s ousted president who hid there overnight after violent clashes killed 173 people. Excerpts below:

Security officials said officers raided the Ramses Square mosque out of fear the Muslim Brotherhood again planned to set up a sit-in similar to those broken up Wednesday in assaults that killed hundreds of people. The Egyptian government meanwhile announced it had begun deliberations on whether to ban the Brotherhood, a long-outlawed organization that swept to power in the country’s first democratic elections a year ago.

Such a ban — which authorities say is rooted in the group’s use of violence — would be a repeat to the historic and decades-long power struggle between the state and the Brotherhood.

The assault on the al-Fath Mosque began overnight on August 16, as pro-Morsi protesters and armed men fled into worship center to avoid angry vigilantes and arrest. They piled furniture in the mosque’s entrance to block authorities and enraged anti-Morsi protesters from reaching them.

The mosque earlier served as a field hospital and an open-air morgue as a Brotherhood-called day of protests descended into violence. By daybreak August 17, security forces and armored personnel carriers surrounded the mosque and it appeared that military-led negotiations might defuse the standoff.

Then gunmen took over a mosque minaret and opened fire on the security forces below, the state-run MENA news agency said. The crowd around the mosque panicked as soldiers opened fire with assault rifles, the chaos broadcast live on local television channels.

Several security officials told The Associated Press that ending the standoff at the mosque was essential after receiving information that the group planned to turn it into a new sit-in protest camp. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi, who leads the military-backed government, later told journalists that authorities had no choice but to use force in the wake of recent violence.

“I feel sorry for valuable blood shed,” el-Beblawi said. However, he cautioned that there will be no “reconciliation with those whose hands are stained with blood or those who hold weapons against the country’s institutions.”

Signaling the Brotherhood’s precarious political position, Shawki said the government was considering ordering the group be disbanded. The spokesman said the prime minister had assigned the Ministry of Social Solidarity to study the legal possibilities of dissolving the group. He didn’t elaborate.

The Muslim Brotherhood [was] founded in 1928…

The fundamentalist group has been banned for most of its 85-year history and repeatedly subjected to crackdowns under Mubarak’s rule. While sometimes tolerated and its leaders part of the political process, members regularly faced long bouts of imprisonment…

The possible banning comes amid calls by pro-military political forces to brand the Brotherhood a “terrorist organization.”

“We are calling for declaring the Brotherhood as a terrorist group,” said Mohammed Abdel-Aziz, one of the leaders of the Tamarod youth movement that had organized mass rallies calling Morsi’s ouster.

The military-backed government has declared a state of emergency and imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew, empowering army troops to act as a law enforcement force. Top Brotherhood leaders, including Morsi, remain held on a variety of charges, including inciting violence.

On Saturday, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that a total of 1,004 Brotherhood members were detained in raids across the country and that weapons, bombs and ammunition were confiscated from the detainees.

…authorities also arrested the brother of al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri, a security official said. Mohammed al-Zawahri, leader of the ultraconservative Jihadi Salafist group, was detained at a checkpoint in Giza, the city across the Nile from Cairo, the official said.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists about the arrest.

MASSACRES BY TITO PARTISANS – REVIEW OF A BOOK BY FLORIAN RULITZ, DIE TRAGÖDIE VON BLEIBURG UND VIKTRING, VERLAG HERMAGORAS, 2ND EDITION, 2012

August 17, 2013

Verlag Hermagoras has published a review of a book by Rulitz on the massacres of Bleiburg and Viktring by Dr. Malte Olschewski. Excerpts below:

The historian Florian Rulitz from Carinthia has searched and provided a lot of various sources which he investigated and rated over many years.

After the capitulation on 8th May 1945 the situation in the south part of today’s Austrian Federal State Carinthia was [chaotic]. At the end of the war a large stream of armed and civilian units from Slovenia and Croatia entered Carinthia [Austria]. In the same time the country was occupied by British units.

Under mysterious circumstances which have not been cleared up to this day the British delivered the Croatian and Slovene refugees to the communist Tito units which meant the same as execution and death. About 500 000 soldiers and civilians were encircled at the Bleiburg field, attacked with fire by the partisans, disarmed by the British and delivered to the Tito communist partisans.

The Croats were massacred and some of them committed suicide.

The massacres started in Austria and were finished on today’s Slovene and Croatian territory.

…at the field of Viktring mostly Slovenes, pro-German home guards, and Serbian and Russian Cetniks as well as civilians [were killed]. The deception [that took place] is documented by the British army: “To tell nothing about the destination…! The Slovenes were informed they would be evacuated to Italy by train. But the destination of the trains was the Secret Service of Tito after crossing the tunnel through the Karawanken mountains. …Slovenia became a killing place. More then 600 mass graves are known like those near Thesen (Tezno), Huda Jama, Liescha (Lese) or Gottscheer Wald (Kocevski rog). Night after night the shootings in the woods were heard. There were supposedly about 100,000 victims on Slovene territory only.

[Presently] there are estimated 130 Austrian civilians killed. The major part of them is buried in mass graves at Slovene Koroska in the Mießtal.
For the time between 8th May and the day of the withdrawal of the communist Yugoslav partisans Dr. Rulitz investigated in parish and police sources more then 350 dead anticommunist refugees. But there has been much more killing on Austrian territory. Sources report about more then 1000 killed refugees in the Bleiburg area and in south Carinthia. The major part of the corpses were not [buried]in Austria but carried to Yugoslavia and buried in mass graves near the border (Liescha, Poljana, Unterdrauburg and Zancani near Windischgrätz). There are mass graves in the marsh fields at Bleiburg also.

In May 1945 a witness,Neubersch, saw the killing and burial of 10 persons by the partisans. More than 100 of corpses were transported to Yugoslavia by trucks. About 50 corpses of Croatian soldiers were [brought] to the military cemetery of St.Veit/Glan. Bones were found because of works on the railway in the 1960s and 1970s near the border at Grablach but this was not reported. The original wording: “Near the state border in 1967 I placed fence posts to another place. I uncovered human bones and remains of jaw bones with teeth.” In addition there are a lot of scattered individual graves around the Bleiburg field.

NORWAY’S RIGHT TURN

August 16, 2013

National Review on August 9, 2013, published an article by John Fund on how Norway was transformed by the discovery of huge oil deposits off its shores in 1969 and the changing political landscape. Excerpts below:

Although Norway’s state-owned oil company, Statoil, was quickly established to lead the development of the new oil discoveries, the industry has been open to private investment and participation on a scale seldom found outside the United States. That has led to an extremely efficient and profitable energy sector, which provides 36 percent of the national government’s revenue. The Government Pension Fund, into which much of the oil profits are channeled, had $445 billion in assets in 2010 and represented nearly 2 percent of the equity in European stock markets.

“Oil has turned Norway from a sleepy, largely rural economy into an economic powerhouse,” says Norwegian businessman Olaf Halvorssen. “So much money comes in to the government that Norway has largely escaped the trimming of the welfare state that many other European countries are going through.”

…more and more people recognize that the oil wealth won’t last forever, and a real debate is just starting in this country of 4.9 million people over what direction its economy should go. Norway will be holding elections for Parliament on September 9, just two weeks before Germany votes. If polls taken over the last year are accurate, the eight-year-old Labor-party government of Jens Stoltenberg is headed for a landslide defeat.

…Labor has been the leading party in Norway for all but 16 of the last 78 years. While much of Europe is wracked by recession, Norway’s economy grew by 3 percent last year, and the unemployment rate is only 3.5 percent. Norway’s GDP per capita is now over $60,000 a year.

But Norwegians appear likely to elect a conservative coalition government for the first time in over a decade. Polls show the Conservative party leading with 32 percent of the vote, which should give it 58 seats in the 169-seat parliament, a dramatic increase from 2005, when it won only 23 seats. The Labor party has about 30 percent of the vote, and its left-wing allied parties are floundering. The Progress party — a populist party that supports low taxes and stricter limits on immigration, and that worries about Muslim extremism – has about 16 percent of the vote, and it and the Conservatives together with their smaller allies, look to have a clear majority in the new Parliament. Both the Conservative party and the Progress party are headed by women — former local-government minister Erna Solberg and economist Siv Jensen, respectively — making it very likely that Norway will soon have its second woman prime minister.

The two parties agree on some basics: lower taxes and reform of the welfare system to encourage more entrepreneurship and less dependence on oil money.

…the public is highly skeptical about joining the EU in the wake of the recent bailouts of insolvent nations — over 70 percent of voters turn thumbs down on EU membership.

Unlike the Progress party, the Conservatives accept the basis of the Norwegian welfare state and largely promise to make it more efficient. Solberg’s slogan is clearly humanist if somewhat gauzy: “Human beings, not billions.”

Siv Jensen is taking a different approach. An unapologetic admirer of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, she has appeared frequently at gatherings of U.S. conservatives such as CPAC to champion individual liberty. “We are rooted in Norwegian values and believe the best way to improve them is to create more opportunity,” she told me last year during a visit to the U.S.

…it is…likely to enter a conservative government led by Solberg’s Conservatives, with Jensen a possible finance minister.

It will be interesting to see just how many compromises the Progress party will have to make as it transitions from noisy critic of the status quo to actually being part of the government. Here’s hoping it can help the Conservatives demonstrate that it is possible to reform the welfare state even when there is no immediate crisis facing it.

 John Fund is national-affairs columnist for National Review Online.

 

NORTH KOREA SPONSORS TERRORISM

August 15, 2013

Weekly Standard on August 13, 2013, reported that the US State Departmen in this year’s “Country Reports on Terrorism” that North Korea is “not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987”. Excerpts below:

It would appear that State’s definition of “acts of terrorism” no longer includes international assassinations, threats against foreign media, or arms sales to terrorists—all of which North Korea has done during Barack Obama’s presidency. Indeed, no one has refuted State’s assertion more convincingly than Obama himself.

In 2005, the Illinois congressional delegation wrote to North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations to protest the abduction and probable murder of the Reverend Kim Dong-shik, a wheelchair-bound U.S. resident who lived in the Chicago suburbs until 1993, when he went to China to help North Korean child refugees. In 2000, North Korean agents abducted Rev. Kim in China and took him to North Korea. Two of the agents later entered South Korea, where they were arrested, charged, and convicted of kidnapping Reverend Kim. After comparing Rev. Kim to Harriet Tubman and Raoul Wallenberg, the letter’s authors promised that they would “NOT support the removal of [North Korea] from the State Department list of State Sponsors of Terrorism” until Pyongyang gave the Kim family “a full accounting” of Rev. Kim’s fate (emphasis in original). The letter bears the signatures of Henry Hyde, Ray LaHood, Rahm Emmanuel, Dick Durbin, and then-Senator Obama.

In 2008, in an effort to save a failing disarmament agreement, President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In the fifth year of Obama’s presidency, Pyongyang still hasn’t accounted for Rev. Kim, and perhaps as a consequence of the Obama administration’s laxity, North Korea increasingly relies on the sponsorship of terrorism as a tool of national policy.

In 2009, North Korean arms shipments were intercepted in Bangkok and Dubai on their way to Iran.

The North is also suspected of helping Hezbollah build an extensive system of tunnels and bunkers.

In 2010, North Korea sank a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors, and shelled a South Korean fishing village, killing two Marines and two civilians. It also carried out cyber attacks and made threats against South Korean newspapers and television stations, particularly those which are staffed by defectors and which report news from inside North Korea (clandestinely, of course). North Korea’s official news agency even published a threat to shell the offices of three newspapers in Seoul, complete with their (mostly wrong) coordinates. North Korea carried out its most recent cyber attack on South Korean government and media sites in June, on the anniversary of its 1950 invasion of the South.

Beginning in 2011, North Korea launched an assassination campaign against its critics abroad. Its signature weapons are syringes disguised as pens, and loaded with neostigmine bromide – a poison five times more lethal than potassium cyanide. One victim was Patrick Kim, a South Korean human rights activist who was in Dandong, China, aiding North Korean refugees. One day in August 2011, Kim collapsed on the street and, according to an account in the Los Angeles Times, was found with “a discolored complexion, spots on his fingers and limbs, and flecks of foam on his mouth.” He died a few minutes later. Another activist survived a similar attack in Dandong that month, also after being stuck with a needle by a stranger.

Other North Korean agents have been convicted of attempting to assassinate senior defector Hwang Jang-yop and defector-activist Park Sang-hak, who floats leaflets into his homeland with balloons. In 2011, South Korean police arrested a North Korean agent who was on his way to meet and kill Park. The police later showed the assassin’s weapons to reporters.

North Korea belongs on the list of state sponsors of terrorism because its conduct meets the legal definition of that term. As long as North Korea suffers no adverse consequences for its terrorism, it will continue to murder human rights activists and dissidents in exile who risk their lives to bring us the truth about their homeland.

The author of the article, Joshua Stanton, blogs at freekorea.us. He has served as an Army Judge Advocate in South Korea and as a Fellow at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, advising on North Korea-related legislation.

INCREASINGLY LAWLESS SINAI: MISSILES FALL ON EILAT

August 14, 2013

Fox News on August 13, 2013, reported that a missile attack on Israel’s popular Red Sea resort of Eilat prompted deployment of the military’s vaunted Iron Dome defense – and has raised new fears Egypt’s army can’t contain the violence in the increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula. Excerpts below:

Although no one was killed and one of the three missiles was intercepted, the attack is viewed as a significant escalation in the activity of Islamist terror groups in Sinai, many of whom are affiliated with Al Qaeda. Under the recently deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, security in Sinai deteriorated, allowing groups such as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis – which claimed responsibility for the Eilat attack – to flourish. They have been targeting the provisional Egyptian government, but now could be taking on Israel, too.

The jihadist group’s claim that an Israeli drone strike was responsible for the death of four of their fighters drew no comment from Israel. Ahmed Mohammad Ali, a spokesman for Egypt’s military, which has been trying to root out terror groups in the vast peninsula, denied that Israeli drones had been used for attacks in the area, which lies at Israel’s southern border and across the Suez Canal from the rest of Egypt. But he noted Egypt’s army has been active in the area.

“Since Saturday night, 25 terrorists have been killed or injured by the Egyptian Army, and ammunition supply depots had been destroyed,” Ali said.

Egyptian forces also have been clamping down on the activities of Hamas in the Gaza Strip that borders Sinai, and have publicly accused Hamas of supporting the desert-based terrorists by sending hundreds of fighters through smuggling tunnels to fight in Sinai. But now that missiles launched from the Sinai have landed in Israel’s southernmost city, regional observers warn that the Jewish state is not likely to stand pat. The feeling is that if the Egyptian military doesn’t quickly regain control and make the border region safe, Israel might be forced to take matters into its own hands.

So far, the attack on Eilat seems to have had more of an impact on defense officials than tourists and residents.

“I’m surprised by the complaints as all residents of Eilat are well prepared and the city is organized and ready,” Eilat Mayor Yitzhak Halevi told Israel’s Channel 10 television. “There have been very few [hotel] cancellations.”

US PROVIDING $ 15M TO FUND FOR SYRIAN OPPOSITION

August 13, 2013

Fox News on August 12, 2013, published an AP report on the U.S. providing $15 million to an international fund to help Syria’s opposition govern territory under its control. Excerpts below:

The Obama administration says the money will finance reconstruction and provide civilians with water, energy, food and health care.

The administration informed Congress of its intentions August 6. Germany and the United Arab Emirates have pledged support; the U.S. expects the total fund to surpass $130 million.

The fund is separate from lethal aid Washington has authorized for Syria’s rebels and $1 billion in humanitarian aid it has given throughout the two-year conflict.

More than 100,000 have died amid fighting between rebels and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

CHINA-RUSSIA RELATIONS WARMING

August 12, 2013

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on August 9, 2013, commented on China-Russia relations. The two great powers share a border running 4,300 kilometers, but have long been divided by mistrust. Excerpts below:

China and Russia, [however], are enjoying a distinct warming in relations. A historic oil deal in June and a major joint military exercise in July are the clearest signs of a deepening partnership. Analysts say suspicions are likely to linger,…. But economic and geopolitical considerations — including the urge to counterbalance the United States — are bringing the countries increasingly in line.

In March, a mere eight days after he was installed as China’s new president, Xi Jinping visited Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has increasingly turned his country away from the West since returning to the Kremlin in 2012, signed treaties. He declared that relations between the countries were “the best in their history.” Some analysts said the Russian leader was enjoying the images of aligning himself with an economically booming and increasingly assertive power.

In June Rosneft, Russia’s state-controlled energy giant, inked a $270 billion agreement to double oil supplies to China. The deal was one of the biggest in the history of the global oil industry.

Disagreement over pricing had constrained past oil deals between the countries. Aleksei Maslov, head of the School of Asian Studies at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, says the most significant element of the new agreement was how that roadblock was overcome.

With Russia well-aware of European efforts to become less dependent on its oil and natural gas, as well as a predicted energy boom in the United States, stronger energy ties with Beijing have become all the more important, experts say. China, in turn, is expected to remain energy-thirsty for decades to come.

The oil deal also included some $60 billion-$70 billion in prepayments from Beijing — funds that would be a significant boost to the indebted Rosneft.

China has its own reasons for cozying up to Russia, and they increasingly extend beyond energy and trade. Last month, China conducted its largest-ever military exercise with a foreign country, as warships from Beijing and Moscow joined forces in the Sea of Japan. Expanding on exercises last year, the latest war games included fleet air defense and antisubmarine and surface warfare.

Many read the display of force in part as a signal to the United States, which has repositioned military assets eastward and made new overtures to Pacific allies.

Reports appeared in the Chinese state-owned press following the March summit that the sides had agreed to a deal in which Beijing would purchase 24 Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia.

While most analysts say Chinese and Russian interests in the West will prevent the formation of a full-fledged anti-Western axis, both have been comfortable with playing the foil.

Both countries have also expressed skepticism about the presence of U.S. missile interceptors in Alaska and have floated the idea of establishing a new international lending institution to rival the Western-led International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Just how deep ties can become remains to be seen. Skeptics say energy and arms deals could fall apart before being implemented. Moscow fears Chinese demographic pressure on the sparsely populated Russian Far East. Despite the bold show of military cooperation in July, Moscow is also wary of Beijing’s might. Russia has not backed Chinese claims to territory in the South China Sea. China, in turn, has refused to recognize the pro-Moscow breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Likely their greatest point of divergence is on Central Asia — a region that Russia continues to consider its “near abroad,” but one that China is fast integrating into its economic orbit. In 2012, all Central Asian states except for Uzbekistan traded more with Beijing than Moscow. Analysts say Putin’s efforts to establish a Eurasian Economic Union is largely an attempt to limit Chinese economic dominance of the region.