Author: Friends of The Fifth Column

My Son the Jihadi

How did a perfectly normal British teenager end up fighting in Somalia as a recruit for the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Al Shabaab?

Peter Beard’s documentary “My Son the Jihadi” follows the life of traumatized mother Sally as she struggles to come to terms with her estranged son’s transformation from a ‘normal teenage lad’ to Abdul Hakim, the violent Islamic extremist. Through this lens, we see a mother who is torn between the love for her child and a disgust at his actions in a faraway land. She admits, “I’m ashamed of him, but he’s still my son”.

Iranian MP Urges Readiness to Retaliate US Breach of JCPOA

An Iranian lawmaker described the likely presidential endorsement of two anti-Iran bills, now under discussion in US Congress, as a flagrant violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), calling on Iran’s administration to get ready for taking retaliatory measures.

In an interview with Tasnim on Saturday, chairman of parliament’s nuclear commission, Mojtaba Zolnoor, took a swipe at the US for continuing to breach the JCPOA, a nuclear agreement between Tehran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany) that came into force in January.

JAPANESE TROOPS EXPECT TO FIGHT OVERSEAS FOR FIRST TIME SINCE WWII

Japanese Defense Forces landed in South Sudan on Monday in an effort to aid UN peacekeepers and ultimately protect developing infrastructure in a country devastated by civil war. The 350 troops will replace a previous contingent of Japanese troops which did not have the constitutional authority to engage in combat.

Prior to 2015, the anti-war Japanese constitution did not allow for troops to engage in fighting overseas. But last year, lawmakers expanded the constitution to allow for some combat fighting overseas in certain situations. The troops deployed to South Sudan aren’t allowed to use force against an opposing army per se, but rather to protect civilians, UN members, and of course themselves. They will also be guarding UN bases which are reportedly frequent targets for attacks.

Energy transition in Latin America

Latin America is increasingly exploiting its renewable energy potential. New wind and solar projects are under construction across the region thanks to partnerships with Chinese energy companies.

Thanks to Chinese energy companies, Latin America is increasingly exploiting its renewable energy potential as historic laggards like Argentina get on board with the region’s energy transition. New wind and solar projects are under construction across the region as partnerships with Chinese deliver affordable finance and materials to local governments and businesses.

The Iran-Russia-China Strategic Triangle

The developing economic, political and military links binding Iran, China and Russia in what I see as an emerging Golden Triangle in Eurasia, are continuing to deepen insignificant areas. This, while it seems to be US geopolitical strategy in a prospective Trump Administration to distance Washington from both Iran and from China, while dangling the carrot of lessened confrontation between Washington and Moscow–classic Halford Mackinder or Kissinger geopolitics of avoiding a two-front war that was colossally backfiring on Washington by trying to shift the power balance. At present, the dynamic of the past several years of closer cooperation by the three pivotal states of the Eurasian Heartland is gaining strategic momentum. The latest is the visit of China’s Minister of Defense and of Russian senior officials to Teheran.

On November 14-15 in Teheran, during a high-level visit of the Chinese Defense Minister, General Chang Wanquan, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, the two major Eurasian nations signed a deal to enhance military cooperation. The agreement calls for intensification of bilateral military training and closer cooperation on what the Iran sees as regional security issues, with terrorism and Syria at the top of the list. Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, said Iran is ready to share with China its experiences in fighting against the terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. Dehghan added that the agreement represents an “upgrade in long-term military and defense cooperation with China.”

Iraq: Hundreds of Police in ISIS Mass Grave

Witnesses Describe Executions

A mass grave discovered near Mosul by Iraqi Security Forces on November 7, 2016, most likely contains the bodies of at least 300 former local police officers executed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Witnesses said that they believe that at the end of October, ISIS massacred several hundred former policemen they had been holding as prisoners. The bodies in the grave, 30 kilometers southeast of Mosul, appeared to be of men killed in custody.

“This is another piece of evidence of the horrific mass murder by ISIS of former law enforcement officers in and around Mosul,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “ISIS should be held accountable for these crimes against humanity.”

Palestinians Protest against Israel’s ‘Quiet Mosques’ Bill

Hundreds of Palestinians within Israel and the Gaza Strip demonstrated on Friday against a bill to limit the volume of calls to prayer at mosques.

In the southern city of Rahat, 100 Palestinians held a rally against the bill, while more than 500 people took part in various demonstrations in the north, police said.

In the northern city of Jisr al-Zarqa, lawmaker Ahmed Tibi of the Arab Joint List called the legislation “a provocation and act of coercion in the place of dialogue and tolerance”, a party spokesperson said.

Iraq: Militias Held, Beat Villagers

Recruited Children as Fighters From Camp for Displaced People

Iraqi government-backed Hashad al-Asha’ri militias detained and beat at least 22 men from two villages near Mosul. The militias also recruited at least 10 children in a camp for displaced people as fighters against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

“Civilians in ISIS-held territory in and around Mosul are asking themselves what will come next. The answer to that question should be greater respect for human rights,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “For some civilians who have come under the control of Hashad al-Asha’ri militias, however, the change in guard has not meant protection from rights abuses.”

Despite Mass Protests In South Korea, No Moves By Park To Step Down?

South Korea saw hundreds of thousands demonstrating last week, with some counts stating that over one million participated in demonstrations on November 12th. Protests have now entered their fourth week. The ongoing scandal regarding embattled South Korean president Park Geun-hye’s bizarre devotion to her friend and spiritual advisor, Choi Sil-soon, is not going away anytime soon. Demonstrators called on Park to step down, stating Park was no longer suitable to be president of South Korea. Reportedly, Park allowed Choi access to classified information and to embezzle tens of millions of dollars in government funds and to dictate aspects of her life ranging from wardrobe choices to presidential speeches. Park’s approval rating is currently below five percent.

After being questioned by prosecutors, prosecutors concluded that Park colluded with Choi to embezzle money. Because South Korean presidents can only be prosecuted for insurrection or treason, Park may only be prosecuted once out of office. Regardless, Park would be the first South Korean president to be interrogated in an ongoing criminal case. This is despite high-profile cases of political corruption in the past such as Chun Doo-hwan embezzling nearly one billion dollars during South Korea’s authoritarian period in the 1980s, and the arrest of family members of President Lee Myung-bak on charges of corruption during the democratic period. The history of corruption in South Korean politics raises serious questions about the country’s political system.

IRS Missteps with Bitcoin Lead to Witch Hunt of Coinbase Clients

The Internal Revenue Service has dropped the ball on bitcoin and left users with little choice but noncompliance. Agency officials may have been in denial for the past few years, but the weight of criticism from both government and independent watchdogs appears to have jolted them into action.

Their knee-jerk response, however, is thin on introspection and does zero to facilitate legal use of the cryptocurrency. To make up for lost time and cast fear into the hearts of bitcoin users across the country, the IRS is demanding to know the transaction records and identities of every single client from 2013 to 2015 of the largest bitcoin trading platform in the United States.

Ethiopia’s crisis

Things fall apart: will the centre hold?

Almost exactly a year ago, Ethiopia entered its worst crisis since the arrival of the regime in 1991. Last month, a state of emergency was proclaimed. These two events have generated a flood of commentary and analysis. A few key points, sometimes underplayed if not ignored, are worth closer attention.

“Mengist yelem!” – “Authority has disappeared!”

People waited in vain for the government to react other than by brute force alone to the opposition it was facing and the resulting chaos. The unrest in Oromya, Ethiopia’s most populous state with 35% of the country’s total population, began on November 12, 2015; the uprising in part of the Amhara Region, the second largest by population (27%), on July 12, 2016.

Sweden Concerned over Israel’s Settlement Bill

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said the country is “deeply concerned” about a planned Israeli bill to allow expanded construction in major West Bank settlements.

The ministry said Friday such settlements are contrary to “Israeli and international law,” and “greatly undermine” the possibility of peace.

Israel’s parliament this week gave preliminary approval to a contentious bill that would retroactively legalize hundreds of homes in West Bank settlements that sit on private Palestinian land, according to AP.

Broadband to the Wilderness: SpaceX to Provide Global Gigabit Speed Internet

SpaceX has announced plans to launch over four thousand satellites into low-Earth orbit to provide the world with super-fast internet, according to a recent regulatory filing.

Earlier this week, Elon Musk’s SpaceX company outlined plans to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create global broadband network by launching 4,425 satellites into space. The first deployment will entail 800 satellites, intended only for connectivity in the US. The global remainder will be launched at a later date. Currently, some 1,400 satellites orbit the Earth, in varying stages of usefulness and repair.

Forward the Commons! A unifying political vision for Europe

The idea of the commons offers the possibility to fundamentally change something without a revolution. This is what we will put forward at the European Commons Assembly in Brussels, November 15-17.

From November 15 to 17 the European Commons Assembly will meet in Brussels. It will be the first meeting of a dynamic coalition that has come together over the space of just a few months since its incipient meeting in Paris.

The assembly of ‘commoners’: of citizen initiatives, of activists and social innovators will be hosted in the European Parliament by the multi party Intergroup on Common Goods & Public Services chaired by the Portuguese MEP, Marisa Mattias.