Tuesday, February 7, 2012

  • A Struggle for Regional Supremacy: Syria Conflict Escalates as World Powers Debate Assad’s Future


    Syria is seeing some of the worst violence of the 11-month uprising against Bashar al-Assad amid an ongoing international standoff over how to respond. Assad’s forces have launched what appears to be one of their fiercest assaults on the flashpoint city of Homs to date. Both the United States and Britain have closed their embassies in the Syrian capital of Damascus and withdrawn diplomatic personnel, citing safety fears. As the crisis escalates, Russia and China are facing criticism for blocking a U.N. Security Council resolution backed by the United States and Arab League calling for a political transition in Syria. To discuss the situation in Syria, we’re joined by Patrick Seale, a leading British writer on the Middle East and author of "Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East." "It’s at least a two- or possibly a three-stage crisis. Internally in Syria, the situation is getting worse by the day," Seale says. "At a higher level, there is a struggle between the United States, on the one hand, and its allies, and its opponents like Russia and China... Then there’s a third level, possibly, of Arab Gulf states like Qatar, for example, even Saudi Arabia behind it, who are obsessed and worried by Iran, and they think that Iran might stir up Shia communities in the region." [includes rush transcript]

  • U.S. Maintains Embargo of Cuba After 50 Years, Despite International Condemnation


    There are no commemorations planned in Washington, D.C., but today marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. embargo against Cuba — the longest-running embargo in the world. On February 7, 1962, President John F. Kennedy formally expanded the harsh regime of commercial and financial sanctions against Cuba that have continued to the present day. The embargo has been solidly bipartisan, notably intensifying under the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which was passed by a Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. The United States has targeted Cuba in defiance of widespread international condemnation. "That’s been the longest-enduring embargo we have had in the world. And the question is, why is it still there? What good has it done? Of course, it has squeezed the Cuban people," said Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who has been involved in efforts to challenge the U.S. embargo against Cuba for many years. [includes rush transcript]

  • "Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away with Murder": New Book Ties Johnson Admin to Guevara’s Death


    Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith are the co-authors of a new book about the U.S. role in the killing of Cuban revolutionary, Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Born in Argentina in 1928, Che rose to international prominence as one of the key leaders of the 1959 Cuban Revolution that overthrew U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. After a period in the new Cuban government leadership, Che aimed to spark revolutionary activity internationally. On October 8, 1967, he was captured by Bolivian troops working with the CIA. He was executed one day later. In their book, "Who Killed Che?" Ratner and Smith draw on previously unpublished government documents to argue the CIA played a critical role in the killing. "The line of the [U.S.] government was that the Bolivians did it, we couldn’t do anything about it. That’s not true," Smith said. "This whole operation was organized out of the White House by Walt Whitman Rostow. And the CIA, by this time, had become a paramilitary organization." On Che’s significance, Ratner says Che became "a symbol for revolutionary change... He still remains, of course, that today. If you go to Occupy Wall Street, if you go to Tahrir Square, you will see people who are wearing Che T-shirts, because they understand that their obligation, their necessity, is to take on the 1 percent. And that’s what Che was about. And that’s why I think he remains such a hero for people in the streets today." [includes rush transcript]