Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"What is Black Liberation Theology?"

An American Black Liberation Soldier

Black liberation theology is an offshoot of the South American liberation theology, which is largely a humanistic mindset, attempting to focus Christian theology on the plight of the poor. Essentially, black liberation theology focuses on Africans in general, and African Americans in particular, being liberated from all forms of bondage and injustice, whether real or perceived, whether social, political, economic, or religious.

Black liberation theology focuses primarily on the African-American community with its goal to “make Christianity real for blacks.” The primary error in black liberation theology is its focus. Black liberation theology attempts to focus Christianity on liberation from social injustice in the here and now, rather than in the afterlife. Jesus taught the exact opposite, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Have blacks/Africans and especially African Americans been treated unfairly, unjustly, and evilly in recent history? Absolutely! Should one of the results of the Gospel be the end of racism, discrimination, prejudice, and inequality? Again, yes, absolutely (Galatians 3:28)! Is deliverance from social injustice a core principle of the Gospel? No.

The message of the Gospel is that we are all infected with sin (Romans 3:23). We are all worthy of eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23). Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve (1 John 2:2), providing for our salvation. Jesus was then resurrected, demonstrating that His death was indeed a sufficient payment for the sin penalty (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). If we place our faith/trust in Jesus as Savior, all of our sins are forgiven and we will be granted entrance into Heaven after death (John 3:16). That is the Gospel. That is to be our focus. That is the cure for what is truly plaguing humanity.

When a person receives Jesus as Savior, he/she is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), and the indwelling Holy Spirit begins the process of conforming him/her to the image of Christ (Romans 12:1-2). Only through this spiritual transformation can racism truly be conquered. Black liberation theology fails because it attacks the symptoms, without truly addressing the disease. Sin/fallenness is the disease; racism is just one of the many symptoms. The message of the Gospel is Jesus' atoning sacrifice for our sins and the salvation that is therefore available through faith. The end of racism would be a result of people truly receiving Jesus as Savior, but the end of racism is not a part of the Gospel itself.

Because of its extreme over-emphasis of racial issues, a negative result of black liberation theology is that it tends to separate the black and white Christian communities, and this is completely unbiblical. Christ came to earth to unite all who believe in Him in one universal Church, His body, of which He is the head (Ephesians 1:22-23). Members of the Body of Christ share a common bond with all other Christians, regardless of background, race, or nationality. “There should be no division in the body, but . . . its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:25). As such, we are to be of one mind, having the mind of Christ, and have one goal, glorifying God by fulfilling Christ’s command to “go into all the world,” telling others about Him, preaching the good news of the Gospel, and teaching others to observe His commandments (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus reminds us that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others as ourselves, regardless of race (Matthew 22:36-40).

So what's the real agenda of black liberation theology?

Black liberation theology is a product of the dreary leftist politics of the twentieth century, the very vehicles employed by the left to advance statism. For the left, black liberation theology makes for close to a perfect faith.  It is a political creed larded with religion, kind of like Islam.  It serves not to reconcile and unite blacks with the larger cultural, but to keep them separate. The Washington Post reports that  Reverend Wright translates the Bible into lessons about...the misguided pursuit of ‘middle-classness.'"

All the talk about the government infecting blacks with HIV is a fine example of how the left will promote a lie to nurture alienation and grievance. The model for blacks is alienation, deep resentment, separation and grievance.  All of which leads to militancy.  Militancy is important.  It's the sword dangled over the head of society. 

Keeping blacks who fall into the orbit of a Reverend Wright at a near-boil is a card used by leftist agitators to serve their ends: they want bigger and more pervasive government -- and they want badly to run it.
James H. Cone

If any further proof is needed that black liberation theology has nothing to do with the vision of Martin Luther King -- with reconciliation, brotherhood and universality -- the words of James H. Cone, on faculty at New York's Union Theological Seminary, may persuade.  Cone, not incidentally, originated the movement known as black liberation theology.  He said:

 "The Christian faith has been interpreted largely by those who enslaved blacks, and by the people who segregated them"

No mention of the Civil War involving the sacrifices of tens of thousands of lives; no abolition or civil rights movements. No Abraham Lincoln. No Harriet Beecher Stowe. No white civil rights workers who risked and, in some instances, lost their lives crusading in the south to end segregation. And since the civil rights movement, society hasn't opened up; blacks have no better access to jobs and housing; no greater opportunities. The federal government, led by a white liberal, Lyndon Johnson, did not pour billions of dollars into welfare programs and education targeted at inner cities in an attempt to right old wrongs.

In the closed world of Cone, Wright and Moss, Jefferson Davis and Bull Connor are alive and well. Black victimhood is the doing of white society, not the doing of angry black leaders and leftists, who see advantage and profit in keeping too many people in black communities captive.

Barack Obama knows all this, as a seventeen year congregant at Wright's church, and as a liberal community activist prior to his election to the Illinois Senate. That he feigns innocence, or that he professes forbearance for some of Wright's words because of the goodness of others, is not the line one expects from a post-racial politician. It is what is expected from a man whose career is steeped in racial politics, a politics that does great harm to the very people it purports to serve.

This theology used Marxism to take over churches in Africa and Central America. They use “Christian” terminology, they promote violence to overthrow governments and populations. It especially became popular in Nicaragua in the 1980’s with the pro-sandanista dictatorship. It used Marxist strategies to be an impetus for the people to rebel where violent revolution was used. In some churches Jesus was represented as Sandinista soldier identifying with the oppressed.
In the african american theological framework Jesus becomes a liberator of the oppressed masses which are black. This is in contrast to the word faith prosperity message preached by numerous black pastors today. Black Liberation theology describes Jesus as a poor black man who lived in oppression under “rich white people” which makes this particular view racially based, accentuating the tensions of being Black. The notion of “Blackness” is not merely a reference to skin color, but rather is a symbol of oppression that can be applied to all persons of color who have a history of oppression (except Whites, of course).

Authentic Christianity transcends race and ethnicity. There is no black or white cultural value system in the Bible- there is a humanity system, recognizing that we are all made in the image of God, being sinners in need of redemption the same way- through Jesus Christ.
Jesus plus Marxism equals Black liberation theology and according to its teaching Jesus is against the oppressor who happens to be white to this theology because Jesus is a black man sent to free the oppressed (I thought Moses was sent to free the oppressed, Jesus was sent to set us free from SIN).
To those who espouse this worldview and philosophy white greed is the problem (I didn’t know greed had a particular color attached to it). This theology embraced Marxism/humanism as the vehicle to correct the wrongs of the white oppressors. Marxism which is the very opposite of Christianity in its application. So it is not a marriage made in heaven. This theology is not found in the mainstream of the church but is on the fringe. Even the Vatican has condemned it twice. It has recently been publicized in the media because of the controversial statements of Rev. Wright.

Trinity United Church of Christ is now the largest congregation in the United Church of Christ, a megachurch with anywhere from 8-10,000 members. The United Church of Christ denomination was the first in America to ordain gays, and women as ministers. It is at the forefront of liberal churches that do not hold to the Scripture in a Christian manner (this is the church that President Obama and his family attends).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why Yemen’s Revolution Matters

Unrest In Yemen

While Yemen draws headlines and global policy attention as another critical Arab ally to undergo popular unrest, the Obama administration remains focused on one issue: terrorism.

Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, American security forces have intensified their attention on hunting Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Yemeni cleric and member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Although the American media often presents al-Awlaki as the next bin Laden, his importance, especially in Yemen, is vastly blown out of proportion. Even his tribe in the south does not support him. A far more important task for the American public and policymakers would be to understand the mentality of Yemenis who would potentially become his followers and willingly give their lives for his cause.

As civil and democratic protests continue to rage across the country, Americans must catch up with what is actually happening and what matters in Yemen, as well as the region as a whole.

Ali Abdullah Saleh
Every week protesters are killed simply because they seek a dignified life with more freedoms and better access to basic needs. The Yemeni people are protesting against the corrupt, repressive and divisive politics of Yemen’s president of 32 years, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
While Yemenis continue to demand that he relinquish power, he toys with the country, constantly changing his mind on how to end the social and political tension. Even after the international community came together to offer him a dignified way out, he rejected it, playing politics like Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi rather than Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Moammar Gadhafi

President Saleh is not the answer to U.S. concerns over terrorism in Yemen.

Yemen’s revolution began with inspiration from Bouazizi, the vender who burned himself alive after losing all hope for a better life. There are millions of Mohammed Bouazizis across the Arab world, especially in Yemen, where more than 40 percent of the population lives below the food poverty line on less than $2 a day.

It is important that the U.S. pay attention to these dissatisfied Yemenis and support their courageous efforts to improve their lives through civil and democratic means. Otherwise, some might grow frustrated and use violence to achieve change.

This is why revolution in Yemen presents an opportunity for both Yemen and the world. For the first time in Yemen’s history, politics are related to the people’s lives. Yemenis can see a direct connection between the political powers running the country and their personal welfare. During this transitional phase, Yemenis would do anything to improve their lives. Fear is gone; hope has arrived.

But politics are politics, and there is a need for more than emotion or even genuine mobilization of the public. Yemen needs strategies, political maneuvering and savvy that will translate the revolution into a new system that is more responsive to the people’s needs. This is the role of the political parties.

Yet the strongest political party in the revolutionary scene remains Islah, a conservative Islamic party. Although it has toned down its ideological rhetoric and dogma, adopting a more political stance, one cannot ignore Islah’s religious mandate.
For this reason, it is dangerous to allow the passionate revolutionary youth to be overwhelmed by the strategizing of this political party, especially since Islah continues to recognize Sheikh Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” as head of its consultative council. If the political future of Yemen is dominated by Islah, no doubt, the U.S. will find a way — which it is already doing — to deal with this conservative party. And Islah, having already learned the rules of international politics, will accept this reality.

Islah, however, is not the only option for the U.S. or Yemen.

The best way to create political and ideological balance in Yemen — and guarantee that any new government is not sympathetic to al Qaeda — is to strengthen civil society and empower smaller, rising political entities that embrace moderate agendas, including women’s movements. This must be done quickly in order to capture the momentum of this remarkable popular revolution and all the goodwill and positive energy that comes with change.

The longer the U.S. allies itself with President Saleh, the more likely Yemen will experience chaos and civil war and risk becoming a sanctuary for terrorist activity. Today is the best opportunity to achieve democratic change and guarantee a secure and stable Yemen.

What If He Gets The Bomb?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Now that the Wikileaks reveal widespread Arab support for the military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities to be put on the table, the time has come to reassess United States policy toward the Ahmadinejad regime.

Even if Israel freezes settlement building, the Palestinians come to the negotiating table and an agreement is reached about borders, refugees and Jerusalem, there will still be no real peace in the Middle East - if Iran continues on its determined path toward developing deliverable nuclear weapons. Despite noble efforts by the United States to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the peace process, the inability to achieve a real peace will be largely the fault of the deeply flawed American policy toward Iran.

Bishehr: Iran's Nuclear Power Plant (now operational)
The policy of the United States seems to be that a nuclear Iran is inevitable, that sanctions may delay but not prevent the Iranians from developing the bomb, and that a policy of containment is the best we can hope for. But containment is not a policy; it is an admission of failure. A nuclear Iran cannot be contained, because it operates largely through surrogates such as Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups. It can direct these surrogates to take actions that do not leave Iranian fingerprints. Currently these actions are limited to Hezbollah aiming rockets at Israel’s heartland and Hamas firing improvised rockets at Israeli civilians. If these groups - which oppose any peace with Israel—could operate under the protection of an Iranian nuclear umbrella, they would constantly provoke retaliatory and preventive military actions. These actions might well force the Palestinian Authority to violate agreements they made with Israel. Moreover, an Israeli population constantly under the threat of a nuclear Holocaust from a nation whose leader has called for Israel to be wiped off the map may demand that preventive military action be taken. Any such action by Israel would provoke an immediate response from Hezbollah and Hamas, if not from the Palestinian Authority.

Nor would a nuclear Iran limits its mischief to Israel. Now that it has obtained medium range ballistic missiles from North Korea, it might feel adventurous enough to export nuclear terrorism to other parts of the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. President Barak Obama understated the threat when he said that a nuclear Iran would be “a game changer.” It would be unmitigated disaster, threatening world peace, putting an end to any hope of nuclear non-proliferation, and engendering the greatest arms race in modern history.

The fault for this disaster would be equally shared by the Bush and the Obama Administrations. Under George Bush’s watch, the United States issued its notorious National Security Estimate of November 2007, which essentially denied that Iran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons. 
nuclear weapons facility at Qum
 This report was known to be false at the time it was issued since American intelligence became aware of the nuclear weapons facility at Qum before the report was issued. The publication of this report sent a powerful message to Iran: The Americans have fallen for your bait and switch game in which you hide your capacity to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of purported civilian use. This has encouraged the Iranians to move full-throttle ahead on their program. At the same time the Bush Administration changed Israel’s green light to yellow and then to red, as it related to United States approval of an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The end result was that Iran felt no real constraints on continuing to develop its nuclear weapons capacity in a pretextual civilian context.

The Obama Administration appears to have taken any military option off the table, relying instead on its enhanced package of sanctions. Secretary of Defense Gates has been explicit about this and the Iranians have been listening. It makes absolutely no sense to take the military option off the table, even—perhaps especially—if one is reluctant to deploy it. As George Washington taught us in his first address to Congress: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” Israel’s Prime Minister echoed President Washington when he recently said, “The simple paradox is this: If the international community, led by the United States, hopes to stop Iran’s nuclear program without resorting to military action, it will have to convince Iran that it is prepared to take such action.” What is it that American policymakers don’t seem to understand about this self-evident proposition?

Robert Gates

The man most responsible for both the Bush and Obama Administration’s failure with regard to Iran is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, whose tenure has straddled both the issuance of the false National Security Estimate and the decision to take the military option off the table. He is Iran’s favorite American facilitator. Although he soon plans to leave office, there are no signs—certainly none visible to Iran—that his failed policies with regard to Iran’s nuclear program will end with his too long tenure.

The Biblical prophet cautioned “peace, peace and there is no peace.” This tragic prophecy will become a sad reality if Israel and the Palestinian Authority make great sacrifices in an effort to bring peace to their people, only to see that peace shattered by a short-sighted American policy that allows Iran to hold a nuclear sword of Damocles over the entire region.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Libyan premier says he's ready to talk

's government has pushed a ceasefire proposal and said for the first time it is prepared to speak with its rebel adversaries, signaling months of fighting and NATO bombardment may be closer to forcing some concessions.

Even so, the government has insisted Muammar Gadahfi will not relinquish power, which he has held for more than 40 years.

His departure is a key demand of the United States, European leaders and the rebels, who say they will not consider halting more than three months of fighting until Gadahfi goes.
Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi

"The leader, Muammar Gadahfi, is in the heart of every Libyan. If he leaves, the entire Libyan people leave," Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi said today.
He told reporters in the Libyan capital he was willing to hold talks with "all Libyans", including members of the rebel administration based in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Officials from Gadahfi's regime said before they would not speak to the rebel government, arguing it did not represent Libyans.

Al-Mahmoudi did not outline the government's latest ceasefire proposal in detail, but emphasized NATO must be a party to it, not just the rebels.

He would not say whether the government would meet NATO's demands to return its military forces to their barracks.

"Libya is serious about a ceasefire. But that means a halt for all parties, in particular NATO," al-Mahmoudi said.

"Any ceasefire needs its own special arrangements between technical and military people. Everything will be discussed once we have a ceasefire."

The White House dismissed the proposal as not credible.

US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said such offers must be backed up by action.

National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes

He said the Libyan government is not complying with the UN resolution that authorized the international military operation to protect the Libyan people from forces loyal to Gadahfi.

He said the effort to drive Gadahfi from power would continue.

The UN resolution called for an immediate ceasefire. The Gadahfi government unilaterally announced several truces in the past but did not adhere to them.

Libyan officials argue they cannot conduct a one-sided ceasefire and say all parties - NATO and the rebels included - must simultaneously halt their fire.

Al-Mahmoudi sent a letter to European governments seeking their backing for the latest proposal.

One of the nations that received it, Spain, responded by saying that it and the rest of the 27-nation European Union are insisting Gadahfi's government take certain steps first, a Spanish government spokesman said today.

He did not elaborate and spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with government rules.

Spain is one of the NATO allies taking part in the international air campaign in support of the rebels.

The British newspaper The Independent said today it obtained a copy of al-Mahmoudi's letter and it proposed an immediate ceasefire to be monitored by the UN and the African Union.

It also called for unconditional talks with the opposition, amnesty for both sides in the conflict and the drafting of a new constitution, according to the newspaper.

"We are prepared to speak to the social and popular leaders that represent Libya ... whether in the (rebel) council or a popular leader," al-Mahmoudi said at today's news conference.

"We are ready to sit with all Libyans around one table. All Libyans feel that the time has come for discussions to deal all the developments."

Al-Mahmoudi said the NATO strikes would not make the government "kneel" and that there was no military solution.

Libya's rebel administration repeated its insistence that before any ceasefire can be considered, Gadahfi's regime must respond to the demands in the UN resolution.

Besides a ceasefire, the resolution calls for an end to attacks on civilians, unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance and talks on a solution that responds to "the legitimate demands of the Libyan people".

Nevertheless, the rebels appeared to welcome the diplomatic movement.
Council, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga

The deputy leader of the rebel's National Transitional Council, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, said that "political processes are under way to negotiate ways for his (Gadahfi's) exit, so in our opinion it is a matter of time for this process to come to a critical conclusion".

Asked about missing American journalist Matthew VanDyke, the Libyan prime minister said he was not in the government's custody and he had no other information.

The 31-year-old freelance reporter from Baltimore last spoke with his family on March 12, saying he was heading to the eastern oil town of Brega.

"All journalists that were in our custody and detention have been released," al-Mahmoudi said. "There are no journalists detained or imprisoned in Libyan custody. If he is in another place - God knows - but with us, we have no journalists."

Meanwhile, splits emerged within Libya's rebel movement over a timetable for a transition to democracy.

Ghoga announced on Wednesday that it could take up to two years to organize elections, backtracking on promises of a six-month transition to democracy and adding to the internal dissent that has been brewing.

Peace In Palestine? Nope : Let's Try Détente

Can't We Just All Get Along

If you want to stop spinning your wheels over the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, forget about truth and justice. Forget about right and wrong. Forget about whose historical claims and grievances are more worthy. Accept the fact that intractable foes will remain intractable. Surrender the fantasy of a negotiated solution, two-state or otherwise. Do this as a mental exercise even if you hate amorality.

Now, what is the best we can hope for in the Middle East? What bona fide common interests might the Israelis and Palestinians have, (despite their being bitter enmities), that can be rationally advanced even under the condition that a sometimes violent minority remains determined to sabotage any progress toward peace?

These are the questions statesmen should be asking. That’s because these questions actually have practical answers. We know this because the world faced and solved a much larger problem of the same nature before.

It wasn’t long ago that two nuclear armed superpowers with diametrically opposed political and economic systems faced off in a decades-long war that sometimes blew hot and sometimes blew cold. Despite being intractable foes both had a common interest in avoiding Mutually Assured Destruction, something that came perilously close when the Soviets installed missiles in Cuba and grade school kids like me practiced hiding under desks to increase the odds of surviving the blast from a nuclear strike.

Détente, or learning to live with reality without surrendering our fantasies, arrived in the 1970s at the midpoint of the cold war. Whether you were a freedom loving capitalist or a motherland loving communist, détente was an amoral solution to a problem that could not be solved through negotiation. Détente allowed a shaky peace-of-the-status-quo to hold long enough for the inherent differences in the two systems to manifest themselves. Two decades later, when the Soviet Union lost legitimacy in the eyes of its own people, the problem went away. In the aftermath many new problems arose, one of the most noticable problems to arise was freedom, but they pale in comparison to a nuclear holocaust.

Suppose we try a similar approach in the Levant? Nothing else has worked. Not land for peace. Not Intifada. Not Gaza self rule. Not intermediation by great powers. Not resolutions by the UN. No agreement between any parties has ever trumped the facts on the ground.

Without defending or even discussing Israel’s right to exist, who doubts that they will violently defend that right to their last breath? Without defending or even discussing the Palestinians’ right of return, who is surprised when they violently assert that right down unto the nth generation?

So be it. Let’s do the world a favor and stop pretending that if A does this and B does that and C agrees to some other thing peace will blossom. It Ain’t Gonna Happen. Instead, let’s figure out how to optimally manage a permanent state of hostilities under a policy of détente.

What might this look like?

First, we would be spared the spectacle of third party peacemakers making fools of themselves. This includes current and past U.S. presidents, Nobel Prize winners or otherwise. The UN would be wise to buzz off too since there has hardly ever been a problem they haven’t made worse. The Israelis could stop obsessing about whether they have the right negotiating partner as there would be an official end to all negotiations. Hamas and Fatah could work together or not, whichever they please.

Wouldn’t it be a relief to drop the pretenses? Could honesty perhaps free up some energy either side could use to unilaterally improve their own situation knowing that the others side has officially stopped talking?

For example, take Barack Obama’s recent suggestion that the Israeli’s should agree to returning to their 1967 borders because this is better than having the UN unilaterally recognize an independent Palestinian state. Says who? Rather than wasting time discussing how unworkable this formulation is, designed as it was for U.S. domestic consumption, how about just shaking your head and moving on?

Yes, Iran would keep supplying money and weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah and the U.S. would do the same to Israel. Get over it, no amount of jawboning is going to change that. Relations between the Israelis and Palestinians would be governed by Biblical law – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Hamas hurls a rocket at an Israeli village; they get a bombs dropped on their heads in return. Let Hamas explain to their own people how such a policy is going help them regain possession of the holy land when no negotiations exist that the promise to stop this behavior can influence.

Everyone else goes about their business. The Israelis decide for themselves whether building all those provocative “settlements” is worth the bother. The Palestinians decide for themselves whether they want to build a functioning society or prefer to choke on their own hatred as they remain wards of the international community.

Meanwhile the Arab world figures out what it wants to be when it grows up. Will the Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Syrians, Bahrainis and others end up creating peaceful secular democracies or virulent jihadist states? Will the Saudis come apart at the seams? Will Iran build the bomb? Who knows. But what is the point of trying to solve the far less significant Israeli-Palestinian problem before we find out what kind of world ends up surrounding them?

I welcome your input.

Venezuela condemns US sanctions for Iran ties

Likely Bed Fellows

President Hugo Chavez's government condemned U.S. sanctions imposed on Venezuela's state oil company for doing business with Iran, saying it is evaluating how fuel shipments might be affected.

Industry analysts, however, said the sanctions announced Tuesday probably won't significantly cut into the business of Petroleos de Venezuela SA because Washington is not preventing PDVSA from selling crude to the United States or through Citgo, its U.S. subsidiary. Venezuela is one of the United States' main suppliers of petroleum.

"The sanctions would have only modest real impact on today's undertakings by PDVSA," said Gustavo Coronel, an energy consultant and former PDVSA executive. "The real significance has to be found in the psychological, political effect of the measure."

"It constitutes the first real move of the Obama government against Chavez's Venezuela," Coronel said.

President Barack Obama's administration slapped sanctions on PDVSA and seven other foreign companies for doing business with Iran. The State Department said PDVSA delivered at least two cargoes of refined petroleum products worth about $50 million to Iran between December and March.

Venezuela's government strongly condemned the sanctions, saying in a statement that it is studying to what extent "these sanctions affect the operations of our national oil industry, and the supply of 1.2 million barrels a day to the United States."
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro read the statement at a news conference, adding that "Venezuela reserves the most proper response to this imperialist aggression."

The U.S. is the main buyer of oil from Venezuela, where Chavez's leftist-oriented government relies heavily on PDVSA's annual revenues of about $4 billion to fund its social programs for the country's poor.

Maduro told reporters Venezuela was considering the possibility of denouncing the sanctions before international organizations such as the United Nations. He said that the government's relationship with Iran is purely peaceful and that Venezuela intends to continue strengthening ties with the Iranian government.

Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said shipments of heavy crude to PDVSA's U.S.-based subsidiaries will continue, but the company cannot guarantee shipments to nonaffiliated private oil companies. He said the details of the U.S. sanctions are vague.

He said the government was still analyzing the potential impact of the sanctions on Venezuela's oil industry. "We are going to evaluate exactly how these actions affect our production and sales capacity," he said.
Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez

 Ramirez sidestepped a question seeking confirmation that Venezuela shipped oil to Iran.

Under the sanctions, PDVSA will be barred from any U.S. government contracts, U.S. import-export financing and export licenses for sensitive technology. But it will not be banned from selling oil to the United States or its dealings with its U.S. subsidiaries are not affected.

Venezuela does not fear the possibility of more severe U.S. sanctions in the future, and PDVSA is ready to confront the effects of the sanctions, Ramirez said.

"We're not scared of anything," he said.

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, a Florida Republican who pushed for the sanctions, said he thinks they are "not going to have an immediate, drastic effect" on Venezuela's petroleum industry or weaken Chavez's government.
U.S. Rep. Connie Mack

But he said in a telephone interview that the State Department's decision to apply sanctions is "a step in the right direction."

Jorge Pinon, a visiting research fellow at Florida International University's Latin American and Caribbean Center, said the U.S. government probably did not apply more strict sanctions against Venezuela or measures that would halt Venezuelan oil exports to the United States because such a move would further boost gasoline prices.

"This is a very difficult balancing act for the U.S. because in the short term they need the oil supply from Venezuela," Pinon said. "Supply to the U.S. is crucial."

The United States remains the top buyer of Venezuelan oil despite political tensions between Chavez and officials in Washington.

Under Chavez, PDVSA has sought to diversify its clientele, exporting more to China and other countries.
Julio Montoya

During a debate in Venezuela's National Assembly after the sanctions were announced, opposition lawmaker Julio Montoya scoffed at suggestions by ruling party lawmakers that Venezuela could potentially ship its heavy crude to allied countries rather than the United States.

"Venezuela depends more than ever on the United States," Montoya said.
He accused Chavez and his political allies of failing to live up to their ideals by periodically threatening to cut off oil exports to the U.S. yet not significantly reducing Venezuela's dependence on the U.S. market.

Chavez responded on Twitter, calling the sanctions a "new aggression" imposed by "the imperialist gringo government." He said it would serve only to strengthen Venezuela's resolve.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Yemen's President Vows No Retreat

President Ali Abdullah Saleh

's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh vowed he would not step down or allow his impoverished nation to become a "failed state" even as urban combat between government troops and armed tribesmen engulfed parts of the capital today.

Both sides raised the specter of civil war as the three-day death toll rose to at least 63. The latest violence comes just days after a failed Arab mediation effort to end the three-month uprising and ease Saleh from power.

Saleh's statement today - read by spokesman Ahmed al-Soufi in a meeting with tribal allies - ruled out a voluntary departure and blasted U.S.-backed efforts to negotiate his exit after 32 years of authoritarian rule.

"I will not leave power and I will not leave Yemen," the statement said. "I don't take orders from outside."

Saleh also threatened that his ouster could turn Yemen into a haven for al-Qaeda - directly touching on U.S. fears that chaos in Yemen could open room for more terrorist footholds. The Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda is linked to the attempted Christmas Day 2009 bombing of an airline over Detroit and explosives found in parcels intercepted last year in Dubai and Britain.

"Yemen will not be a failed state. It will not turn to al-Qaeda refuge," the statement said. Saleh also said he would work to prevent the recent violence from "dragging the country into a civil war."

President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama has called on Saleh to transfer power - a change from an administration that once considered the Yemeni ruler a necessary ally against terrorism.

Today, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate end to the fighting, expressing concern that clashes "might further destabilize the situation," U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The clashes broke out Monday after Saleh's troops tried to storm the compound of Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, the head of Yemen's largest tribe, the Hashid. Hundreds of tribal fighters rushed to the capital's northern Hassaba neighborhood, where clashes erupted with government forces.

Government troops shelled the neighborhood around al-Ahmar's house while gunmen in civilian clothes exchanged gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades with tribal fighters.

The battles have ravaged the area, home to government offices and the headquarters of Saleh's ruling party. The tribal fighters have occupied 16 ministries and other government institutions, while Saleh's forces have used the interior ministry as their front-line base.

Pro-Saleh force checkpoint
 Some military units also appear to have broken ranks and joined the opposition. One breakaway unit trucked in stones to block streets in attempts to prevent government troops from moving in heavy weapons. Pro-Saleh forces, meanwhile, set up checkpoints in other areas, witnesses said.

Gregory Johnsen, an expert on Yemen at Princeton University, said the current fighting could spread quickly if any of Yemen's other armed groups jump in, especially if the first armored division of Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a former Saleh confidant who sided with the protesters in March. He is not related to the tribal chief.

"If the first armored division gets involved, then it is no longer just a two-sided fight," he said. "It gets much more complicated and the possibility of escalation across the country goes up significantly."

The fighting sent dozens of families fleeing the area and seeking refuge outside the capital. Eyewitnesses said that all roads entering Sanaa were blocked by pro-government Republican Guards, which are under the command of Saleh's son, leaving hundreds of Yemenis trying to enter the capital stranded and forced to spend the night in their cars.
Refugee tends her sheep outside Sanaa, Yemen

The fighting also appears to be widening into nearby neighborhoods. Volleys of mortars hit an army unit that had defected to the opposition side in the district of al-Nahda, killing three and injuring 10 others, according to a military official.

An airport official said that fighting north of the city forced a flight from the northern city of Hodeida not to land and return home.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to talk to the media.

Yemen's Interior Ministry said 14 soldiers have been killed. Al-Ahmar's spokesman Abdel-Qawi al-Qaisi said 46 tribal fighters had been killed - bringing the death toll since Monday to 63. Scores more were injured.

Yemen's Interior Ministry blamed the tribal fighters for the violence. In a statement, al-Ahmar accused the regime of trying to "ignite discord and civil war between Yemenis."

The violence ended the most recent effort to negotiate and end to the crisis, which has struck Yemen's already staggering economy.

A delegation of tribal chiefs sent by Saleh to negotiate a cease-fire with al-Ahmar quit their mission today after saying government troops fired on them near al-Ahmar's house.

"It became clear to us that the president was not serious about the cease-fire and we the mediators decided to stop mediating and place the responsibility on the president," the group said in a statement.

The violence follows Saleh's refusal to sign a U.S.-backed agreement pushed by Yemen's powerful Gulf neighbors that would have seen him leave power in exchange from immunity from prosecution.

Other groups also criticized the attack on al-Ahmar's house that touched off the clashes.

A group of opposition parties that have sought to negotiate with Saleh called the attack "a planned crime of official violence to take revenge" al-Ahmar for supporting the anti-Saleh protesters.

Thousands of protesters marched through the capital Wednesday, not far from the clashes, calling on Saleh to step down. Protest leader Mana al-Matari said the marchers remained committed to nonviolence and accused Saleh of fueling the unrest.

"The president seeks to ignite the military situation and cause a war to serve his own interests and distract from issue of his stepping down," he said.

South African President to hold discussions for Gadahfi's exit strategy

South African President Jacob Zuma

South African President Jacob Zuma will travel to Tripoli Monday to hold discussions with Libyan leader Muammar Al Gadahfi that would focus on an “exit strategy”.

“President Zuma, who is reported to be working with Turkey on the exit plan, will stop over in Tripoli in his capacity as a member of the African Union High Level Panel for the Resolution of the conflict in Libya,” the President said in a statement, and possibly meet the Libyan leader.

It will be President Zuma's second visit Tripoli during the conflict. He first called on the Libyan leader on April 10 as part of a high-ranking African Union delegation to broker a truce between Gadahfi and rebels, in a peace plan that fell through when the rebels insisted there would not be a deal if the Libyan leader does not step down.
N.A.T.O Fighter /Bomber

South Africa voted for the UN resolution authorizing the no-fly zone over Libya, but has since criticized NATO's bombing campaign in the country and said that it does not support regime change in Tripoli.

Meanwhile, leaders of the African Union are meeting today in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa in an extraordinary African Union summit on the situation in Libya. It is the continental body's first major step towards ending fighting in Libya that has been ongoing for over three months.
President Yoweri Museveni

Libya's government said it welcomed the call by Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni for today's summit. Earlier this week Museveni condemned Western air strikes against Muammar Gadahfi's forces.

All along, it has been difficult for the AU to constitute a quorum as France, Britain and the US reportedly, successfully divided Africa in order to pre-empt the summit. However, the deliberative assembly mustered the requisite numbers last week, paving the way for the summit.

The meeting, considered to be a crucial one, was organized at the behest of incoming AU chairman president Teodore Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea.
President Teodore Obiang Nguema

Libya's government said it welcomed a call by Uganda's president to hold an extraordinary African Union summit on the situation in Libya, Libyan state television said on Thursday.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni condemned Western air strikes against Muammar Gaddafi's forces earlier this week.

What Did I Leave out?

At virtually every stop on his extended trip to Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed the need for hard truth and clarity. In remarks that were unusually blunt for a visiting head of state, Netanyahu outlined his vision for a Middle East peace that is not only at odds with recent White House proposals, but also anathema to Palestinians. That Netanyahu felt free to lecture Barack Obama at the White House last week, secure in the adoring reception he would later receive from both Republicans and Democrats at Monday’s speech before a joint session of Congress, only underscores how far apart these two leaders and their administrations remain in their readings of seismic events in the Middle East.

When Netanyahu flatly rejected Obama’s call to restart territorial negotiations based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, with mutual “land swaps,” he wasn’t actually rejecting the substance of the proposal. Netanyahu knows that fundamental construct has served as the basis for every Israeli-Palestinian negotiation going back to the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s. He objected to an American president stating the obvious publicly for the first time, thus potentially raising the expectations of Palestinian negotiators about the nature and ratio of those “land swaps.” So Netanyahu mischaracterized what Obama had proposed, eyeball-to-eyeball in the White House, insisting it called for a return to 1967 borders.

“You had this perfect storm where in his Middle East speech Obama didn’t explain very well what he meant by ‘land swaps,’ Netanyahu was so upset by the mention of 1967 borders that he basically mischaracterized the president’s proposal for four days, and as a result the whole visit became hyper partisan at a time when Israel was looking for bipartisan support from the United States”.

When Netanyahu repeatedly stressed that “Israel will not return to the indefensible lines of 1967,” because they would leave Israel only “9 miles wide” at its most narrow point, he was pointing to an actual disagreement with the Obama administration. In his May 19 speech, Obama called for a “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces” from a “demilitarized” Palestinian state. Netanyahu intends no such withdrawal. “It is absolutely vital for Israel’s security that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized, and it is vital that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River,” Netanyahu said in his speech before Congress Monday.

On the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Netanyahu was on firm ground in stating that “under any realistic peace agreement” the large settlement blocs on the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel. That is the genesis of the required “land swaps” that Obama referred to in his proposal for restarting negotiations. But in grudgingly accepting the principle of “land for peace” that has undergirded Israel-Palestinian talks going back decades, Netanyahu adopted the narrative of the settlement movement that only Israel has a true, historic claim to the land.

“I recognize that in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland,” he told Congress. “In Judea and Samara [the West Bank and Gaza], the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. We are not the British in India. We are not the Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel.… No distortion of history can deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”

In calling for renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the issues of territorial borders and security, Obama cast them as a foundation from which to address the two most “wrenching and emotional issues” that would remain: the fate of Palestinian refugees and the future of Jerusalem. In the failed Camp David Summit of 2000 and Taba negotiations of 2001, Palestinians settled on only a token “right of return” for a limited number of Palestinian refugees in return for making East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state.

Once again on his trip to Washington, however, Netanyahu called for Palestinian recognition of some hard truths, tipping his likely position should negotiations restart at some future date. “Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state. This means the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel,” Netanyahu told Congress. “As for Jerusalem, [it] must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”

The vision for an eventual peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians that emerged from Netanyahu’s visit was thus unyielding on nearly all of the key contested points. Israel will incorporate the major settlement blocs, maintain a long-term military presence, retain uncontested sovereignty over Jerusalem and deny the return of Palestinian refugees.

“President Obama tried to point out that the tides of history are moving against Israel and its occupation is becoming untenable, and in response Netanyahu delivered a point-scoring, propaganda speech that raised the bar for a Palestinian state beyond the reach of any imaginable Palestinian leader,” Netanyahu knows any peace deal will require compromises he is not willing to make, which has left him absolutely bereft of any viable vision for peace.”