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Cablegate: The Guerrilla Situation: Preparing for War?

P 092218Z JUN 87
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7510
INFO USCINCSO QUARRY HEIGHTS PN
AMEMBASSY QUITO
AMEMBASSY CARACAS
AMEMBASSY PANAMA
AMEMBASSY LIMA
CIA WASHDC
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id: 163
date: 6/9/1987 22:18
refid: 87BOGOTA7890
origin: Embassy Bogota
classification: SECRET
destination: 87BOGOTA3997
header:
P 092218Z JUN 87
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7510
INFO USCINCSO QUARRY HEIGHTS PN
AMEMBASSY QUITO
AMEMBASSY CARACAS
AMEMBASSY PANAMA
AMEMBASSY LIMA
CIA WASHDC
DIA WASHDC


----------------- header ends ----------------

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BOGOTA 07890

E.O. 12356: DECL: OADR
TAGS: KPRP PINS MILI PTER CO
SUBJECT: THE GUERRILLA SITUATION: PREPARING FOR WAR?

REF: BOGOTA 3997

1. (C) SUMMARY. COLOMBIA'S GUERRILLA WAR HAS BEEN
QUIESCENT THE LAST FEW WEEKS. THOUGH ARMED CONTACTS
BETWEEN THE VARIOUS GUERRILLA GROUPS AND THE MILITARY
CONTINUE, THE PACE OF MAJOR CONFRONTATIONS HAS
SLACKENED. THE MAIN ARENA OF CONFRONTATION HAS BEEN THE
MEDIA, WHERE THE UNION PATRIOTICA (UP), POLITICAL FRONT
OF THE COLOMBIAN REVOLUTIONARY ARMED FORCES (FARC),
LEVELED CHARGES OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES AGAINST THE
MILITARY. COLOMBIA'S GUERRILLA GROUPS ARE IN A
RETRENCHMENT PHASE: REGROUPING, FORGING ALLIANCES, AND
RETHINKING STRATEGIES. THE GOC CONTINUES TO
RESTRUCTURE ITS SECURITY APPARATUS AND TO AUGMENT THE
ARMY'S STRENGTH THROUGH RECRUITMENT OF VOLUNTEER UNITS.
THERE ARE INDICATIONS THAT BOTH SIDES ARE PREPARING FOR
AN EVENTUAL BREAKDOWN OF THE PEACE PROCESS AND THE
RESUMPTION OF FULL-SCALE CONFLICT. END SUMMARY.


GUERRILLAS - THE PUBLIC PROFILE
-------------------------------
2. (S/NF) WAVING THE HUMAN RIGHTS BANNER: THE FARC AND
THE UNION PATRIOTICA ARE THE ONE COLOMBIAN GUERRILLA
GROUPING POSSESSED OF A MEDIA SENSE. IN RECENT WEEKS,
THEY HAVE USED THE MEDIA TO MAKE THEIR CASE TO THE
COLOMBIAN AND FOREIGN PUBLIC. THE MAJOR THRUST BY THE
UP WAS A MAY 8 PRESS CONFERENCE IN WHICH EX-PRESIDENTIAL
CANDIDATE JAIME PARDO LEAL CHARGED OVER 100 MILITARY
OFFICERS WITH HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES AGAINST UP MEMBERS AND
ACTIVISTS (SEE BOGOTA 6456). THE UP'S CHARGES RESULTED
IN A SWIFT DENIAL AND A NAME-BY-NAME REBUTTAL BY DEFENSE
MINISTER SAMUDIO. PARDO'S THRUST WAS COMPLEMENTED BY
REPORTS OF A PARIS PRESS CONFERENCE IN WHICH UP
CONGRESSMAN AND EX-FARC COMANDANTE BRAULIO HERRERA
DECLARED THE UP AND THE PEACE PROCESS TO BE IN DANGER OF
EXTINCTION FROM ASSAULTS BY THE MILITARY AND
MILITARY-SUPPORTED PARA-MILITARY GROUPS (SEE BOGOTA
7001). HERRERA'S PARIS SOJOURN IS PROBABLY THE OPENING
PHASE OF A LARGE SCALE PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE
COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT AND SECURITY FORCES. SPECIAL
REPORTING INDICATES THAT THE COLOMBIAN COMMUNIST PARTY
(PCC) IS COORDINATING SUCH A CAMPAIGN WITH LEFTIST
GROUPS IN LATIN AMERICA AND EUROPE. THE CAMPAIGN IS TO
BE MODELED ON THOSE CONDUCTED AGAINST THE GOVERNMENTS OF
EL SALVADOR, GUATEMALA, AND ARGENTINA. ANALOGY BETWEEN
ARGENTINA'S "DIRTY WAR" AND CONTEMPORARY COLOMBIA WILL
BE THE KEY THEME. THE ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE IS TO
CONSTRAIN GOC ACTIONS AGAINST ANY GUERRILLA GROUP AND TO
FRUSTRATE ATTEMPTS TO SECURE COUNTER-INSURGENCY SUPPORT
FROM ABROAD.

3. (U) PARDO ON THE PEACE PROCESS: FOLLOWING ON THE
CHARGES OF MILITARY HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES, THE
CONSERVATIVE WEEKLY "GUION" PUBLISHED AN INTERVIEW WITH
PARDO IN ITS MAY 27 EDITION. AFTER THE NOW-RITUAL
DECLARATION OF THE UP'S INDEPENDENCE FROM THE FARC,
PARDO WENT ON TO DENOUNCE THE BARCO ADMINISTRATION'S
CONDUCT OF THE PEACE PROCESS. HE DECLARED THE PROCESS
TO BE IN CRISIS BECAUSE THE GOC LACKS THE WILL TO BUILD
ON THE BASE CREATED BY THE BETANCUR ADMINISTRATION. IN
PARTICULAR, HE CITED THE GOC'S REFUSAL TO NAME AN
INDEPENDENT VERIFICATION COMMISSION AS PROOF OF A LACK
OF INTEREST IN PEACE. "THE GOVERNMENT," PARDO
CONTINUED, "HAS NOT MOVED A SINGLE FINGER TO PUT AN END
TO...ARMED CONFRONTATIONS BETWEEN THE ARMY AND THE
GUERRILLA MOVEMENT OBSERVING THE TRUCE." HE ALSO
CRITICIZED THE GOVERNMENT CONTENTION THAT THE ARMED
FORCES MUST HAVE FREE ACCESS TO ANY PART OF THE
COUNTRY. CHALLENGED THAT THE TREATY DID NOT CONCEDE
"INDEPENDENT REPUBLICS" TO THE FARC, PARDO COUNTERED
THAT "THE FARC NEEDS A GEOGRAPHICAL SITE, A PIECE OF
EARTH."

4. (U) A LETTER TO BARCO: THE UP'S EFFORTS WERE
COMPLEMENTED BY DESPATCH MAY 10 OF A LETTER FROM THE
FARC COMANDANTES TO PRESIDENT BARCO. REVEALING A NEW
AGGRESSIVENESS TOWARD THE GOVERNMENT, THE FARC WARNED
THAT THE FATE OF THE PEACE PROCESS IS IN BARCO'S HANDS.
SIGNIFICANTLY, THE FARC DECLARED THAT THEY DID NOT SIGN
A TRUCE WITH "MILITARISM" AND ARE READY TO JOIN "OUR
PEOPLE WHEN IT DECIDES TO RISE UP AGAINST MILITARISM."
THE FARC'S LETTER CONTAINS AN IMPLICIT THREAT: SHOULD
BARCO BECOME "MILITARISTIC" IN THE FARC'S EYES, THE
GUERRILLAS WILL HAVE THE LEGAL RIGHT TO ABANDON THE
PEACE PROCESS AND RESUME OPERATIONS.


GUERRILLAS - BEHIND THE SCENES MANEUVERING
------------------------------------------
5. (C/NF) FARC - STIRRING FROM THE NEST: WHILE THE
FARC'S PUBLIC ORGANS ARE ENGAGED IN TARRING THEIR
GOC/MILITARY OPPONENTS, THE FARC AND COLOMBIA'S OTHER
GUERRILLA ARMIES, SINGLY OR IN CONCERT, HAVE BUSIED
THEMSELVES WITH REORGANIZATION, ALLIANCES, AND STRATEGIC
RETHINKING. AS THE LARGEST GUERRILLA ARMY, AND THE SOLE
GROUP REMAINING WITHIN THE PEACE PROCESS, THE FARC'S
ACTIVITIES COMMAND THE LION'S SHARE OF INTEREST. RECENT
REPORTING SUGGESTS THAT THE FARC IS REDISTRIBUTING
FORCES, POSSIBLY WITH AN EYE TO READINESS IN EVENT OF AN
OPEN BREAK WITH THE GOC. ONE MILITARY SOURCE REPORTS
THAT FIVE ADDITIONAL FARC FRONTS ARE BEING FORMED. IT
IS UNCLEAR WHETHER THIS PROJECTED EXPANSION REFLECTS
ADDITIONAL ARMED STRENGTH, A REDISTRIBUTION OF AVAILABLE
STRENGTH TO COUNTER GOC INITIATIVES, OR A RESPONSE TO
RIVAL GUERRILLA GROUPS. HOWEVER, GIVEN THE GROWTH IN
FARC STRENGTH SINCE THE INCEPTION OF THE PEACE PROCESS,
IT FAIR TO ASSUME THAT THE NEW FRONTS REFLECT
AUGMENTATION OF THE FARC'S ARMED STRENGTH. BY CONTRAST,
OTHER SPECIAL REPORTING SUGGESTS THAT THE FARC IS
CONSOLIDATING FRONTS IN ANTICIPATION OF THE MARCH 1988
ELECTIONS. ANOTHER FACET OF THE SITUATION IS A JUNE 2
REPORT IN "EL ESPECTADOR", BOGOTA'S LEADING DAILY, THAT
THE FARC IS ABANDONING ITS MOUNTAIN HEADQUARTERS AT LA
URIBE AND SHIFTING FORCES TO META AND GUAVIARE
DEPARTMENTS. THIS REPORT REMAINS UNCONFIRMED; GOC
OFFICIALS PLED IGNORANCE WHEN PRESSED BY THE MEDIA FOR
CONFIRMATION. IT SEEMS UNLIKELY THAT THE FARC WOULD
LEAVE INACCESSIBLE LA URIBE FOR NEW AND UNHARDENED
QUARTERS. ANY SHIFT OF PERSONNEL FROM LA URIBE MAY IN
FACT BE TIED TO THE ACTIVATION OF NEW FRONTS.

6. (S/NF) EXTENDING A HAND TO THE EPL: WHILE CONTINUING
TO SPAR WITH THE GOC ON THE PEACE PROCESS, THE FARC HAS
NOT ABANDONED ITS HOPES OF DOMINATING COLOMBIA'S
GUERRILLA MOVEMENT. A MAJOR STEP IN THIS DIRECTION WAS
THE APRIL 4 AGREEMENT WITH THE PEOPLE'S LIBERATION ARMY
(EPL) WHICH CALLED FOR GUERRILLA UNITY, "DEMOCRATIC
CONVERGENCE" AND POLITICAL SOLUTIONS TO COLOMBIA'S
PROBLEMS. CONFIDENTIAL REPORTING SUGGESTS THAT EACH
SIDE SEES ADVANTAGES FLOWING FROM THE PACT. THE FARC
FORESEES A NOMINAL TRUCE BETWEEN THE GOC AND THE EPL
WHICH WOULD ALLOW INCREASED EPL TO INCREASE POLITICAL
ACTIVITY IN ITS CORDOBA DEPARTMENT STRONGHOLD -- AN
ADVANTAGE FOR THE RADICAL LEFT. THEY ALSO VIEW THE PACT
AS AN INCENTIVE FOR OTHER GUERRILLA GROUPS TO NEGOTIATE
WITH THE FARC. FOR ITS PART, THE EPL SEES THE AGREEMENT
AS A MEANS OF LURING THE FARC OUT OF THE PEACE PROCESS.
THUS, THE AGREEMENT COULD SUCCUMB TO THE DISTRUST AND
IDEOLOGICAL SQUABBLING THAT HAVE KEPT COLOMBIA'S
GUERRILLAS DIVIDED.

7. (S/NF) EXTENDING A FIST TO THE ELN: DESPITE SUCCESS
IN FORGING LINKS TO THE EPL, TENSIONS BETWEEN THE FARC
AND THE NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY (ELN) HAVE ESCALATED.
IN PARTICULAR, THE FARC HAS ACCUSED THE ELN OF MURDERING
MEMBERS OF THE FARC'S UNION PATRIOTICA (UP) POLITICAL
FRONT IN ARAUCA INTENDENCY. THE SITUATION MIRRORS THE
CONFLICTING AMBITIONS OF THE TWO GROUPS IN THAT AREA.
WHILE THE FARC REMAINS INTENT ON MONOPOLIZING POLITICAL
POWER IN ARAUCA, AND USING THE AREA AS A RECRUITING
POOL, THE ELN SEEKS TO DOMINATE THE AREA THROUGH ATTACKS
ON THE OIL PIPELINE. CONFIDENTIAL REPORTING INDICATES
THAT THE ELN DESIRES A MEETING TO RESOLVE THESE
PROBLEMS. IT IS UNKNOWN IF SUCH A MEETING OCCURRED, BUT
NEW DEVELOPMENTS SUGGEST THAT THE FARC AND THE ELN HAVE
TEMPORARILY SHELVED THEIR DIFFERENCES.

8. (C) ONE FOR ALL, ALL FOR ONE: THE NEW DEVELOPMENT
SUGGESTING A SUBSUMPTION OF FARC-ELN DIFFERENCES IS THE
GENERAL STRIKE CALLED FOR JUNE 7-9. THIS STRIKE,
DESIGNED TO PARALYZE SEVEN DEPARTMENTS OF NORTHEASTERN
COLOMBIA, WAS JOINTLY SPONSORED BY THE FARC, THE
PEOPLE'S LIBERATION ARMY (EPL), THE M-19, THE NATIONAL
LIBERATION ARMY (ELN), AND THE NEWLY-REACTIVATED RICARDO
FRANCO FRONT (A DISSIDENT WING OF THE FARC).
VICE-MINISTER OF GOVERNMENT FERNANDO BOTERO TOLD MISSION
JUNE 9 THAT THE STRIKE HAS NOT ASSUMED THE DIMENSIONS
ORIGINALLY FEARED. URBAN WORKERS HAVE LARGELY IGNORED
CALLS TO TAKE TO THE STREETS. BOTERO ADDED THAT ABOUT
18,000 CAMPESINOS HAVE BEEN MOBILIZED UNDER DURESS BY
THE GUERRILLAS, THREATENED WITH A 20,000 PESO FINE OR
DEATH FOR NON-COMPLIANCE. WHILE SATISFIED THAT THE
STRIKE'S IMMEDIATE IMPACT IS MINIMAL, BOTERO COMMENTED
THAT THE EVIDENT GUERRILLA COOPERATION IN FOMENTING THE
CAMPESINO MARCHES IS DISTURBING (COMMENT: WE SHARE
BOTERO'S CONCERN; WHATEVER THE SUCCESS OF THE CIVIC
STRIKE, ITS PLANNING POINTS TOWARD POSSIBLE GREATER
COOPERATION AMONG THE GUERRILLAS.)

9. (S/NF) M-19 -- THROWING THEIR HAT IN THE RING: THE
FARC IS NOT ALONE IN RETHINKING ITS POSITION AND IN
RESTRUCTURING ITS FORCES. CONFIDENTIAL REPORTING
INDICATES THAT THE LONG-UNHEARD-FROM M-19 HAS DECIDED TO
PARTICIPATE IN THE 1988 MAYORAL ELECTIONS. THE GROUP
INTENDS TO ACT THROUGH FRONT GROUPS AND TO SEEK
ALLIANCES WITH MAINSTREAM POLITICIANS AND GROUPS SUCH AS
THE FARC'S UNION PATRIOTICA. THE FARC/EPL AGREEMENT
CITED IN PARAGRAPH (6) IS A PRIME MOTIVATION FOR THE
M-19'S ACTION. IN ADDITION, THE M-19 INTENDS TO FORGE
CLOSER LINKS WITH THE FARC. AS WITH OTHER
INTER-GUERRILLA AGREEMEMTS, SELF-INTEREST ASSUMES A
COMMANDING POSITION; THE M-19 HOPES THAT CLOSER
RELATIONS WITH THE FARC WILL FOSTER JOINT OPERATIONS
SHOULD THE FARC-GOC TRUCE COLLAPSE. IN OTHER
DEVELOPMENTS, THE M-19 IS CREATING NEW URBAN TERRORIST
UNITS IN COLOMBIA'S MAJOR CITIES, AND HAS BEGUN JOINT
TRAINING WITH THE EPL TO REBUILD ITS DEPLETED STRENGTH
ALONG THE CARIBBEAN COAST.

10. (S/NF) ELN - PULSO FIRME Y MANO TENDIDA: IN
ADDITION, THE ELN IS NEARING COMPLETION OF A MAJOR
REORGANIZATION OF ITS BOGOTA UNITS. FORMERLY LARGELY
AUTONOMOUS, THESE UNITS WILL NOW BE SUBJECT TO THE ELN'S
NATIONAL DIRECTORATE. GIVEN THE ELN'S REPUTATION FOR
DISCIPLINE, FUTURE ELN ACTIONS IN BOGOTA MAY SEEK TO
HAVE AN IMPACT SIMILAR TO THEIR PIPELINE ATTACKS IN
ARAUCA. REGARDING THE PIPELINE, ON JUNE 1, THE ELN
PROPOSED TO THE GOC A CESSATION OF PIPELINE ATTACKS,
PROVIDED THE GOC MET SEVERAL ELN DEMANDS REGARDING
PETROLEUM EXTRACTION AND EXPORT (SEE BOGOTA 7451).
THESE DEMANDS WERE ROUNDLY REJECTED BY RECONCILIATION
ADVISOR CARLOS OSSA ESCOBAR, WHO DECLARED THAT THE GOC
WOULD NOT NEGOTIATE ITS ENERGY POLICY "WITH AN ARMED
MINORITY INTENT ON ATTACKING THE NATIONAL PATRIMONY."


THE GOVERNMENT - RESTRUCTURING FOR CONFLICT
-------------------------------------------
11. (C/NF) MILITARY GROWTH: GUERRILLA EFFORTS AT
RESTRUCTURING HAVE THEIR PARALLEL ON THE GOVERNMENT
SIDE. THOUGH PRESIDENT BARCO REITERATED TO VISITING
GENERAL GALVIN (SEE BOGOTA 7463) HIS BELIEF THAT HIS
REHABILITATION PLAN WILL SAP MUCH OF THE FARC'S
STRENGTH, HE REMAINS INTENT ON EXPANDING THE SIZE,
MOBILITY, AND PROFESSIONALISM OF THE ARMED FORCES.
BARCO BELIEVES (COMMENT: WE AGREE) THAT THE ARMED FORCES
ARE NOT NOW IN A POSITION TO TAKE ON A FULLY-ACTIVE
FARC. HOWEVER, HIS RECENT COMMENTS SUGGEST THAT
ECONOMIC CONSTRAINTS ARE BRAKING THE PACE OF ARMY
EXPANSION. IN A JUNE 2 SPEECH AT THE MILITARY ACADEMY,
BARCO STATED THAT HIS GOVERMMENT WOULD PROVIDE THE
"BASIC ELEMENTS" NEEDED BY THE ARMY, BUT ONLY "TO THE
MAXIMUM EXTENT POSSIBLE." WHATEVER THE REALITY OF
BUDGET LIMITATIONS, THE COLOMBIANS HAVE DECIDED TO
PURCHASE U.S.-MADE TRANSPORT HELICOPTERS AT A COST OF
$36 MILLION, THOUGH DELIVERY OF THE FIRST UNIT WILL NOT
TAKE PLACE UNTIL LATE 1987. IN ADDITION, THE ARMY HAS
BEEN RECRUITING SOME 2,000 DISCHARGED SOLDIERS FOR
SERVICE IN SPECIAL VOLUNTEER COMPANIES. THESE UNITS ARE
HIGHLY RATED DUE TO THE MEN'S PRIOR EXPERIENCE, AND HAVE
BEEN DEPLOYED IN CONTESTED AREAS SUCH AS CAQUETA
DEPARTMENT. RECRUITMENT OF ADDITIONAL VOLUNTEER UNITS
IS EXPECTED.

12. (U) SECURITY RESTRUCTURING: AS A FURTHER STEP IN
COMBATTING THE THREAT POSED BY THE GUERRILLAS AND THE
EROSION OF PUBLIC ORDER, THE COUNTRY'S PRINCIPAL
INTERNAL SECURITY ORGANS HAVE BEGUN MAJOR
REORGANIZATIONS. THE NATIONAL POLICE ANNOUNCED JUNE 2
THE ACTIVATION OF 30 INTELLIGENCE "BRIGADES" DESIGNED TO
DETECT URBAN ACTIVITIES BY GUERRILLA GROUPS, BE THEY
MILITARY OR POLITICAL IN NATURE. FOR ITS PART, THE
ADMINISTRATIVE DEPARTMENT OF SECURITY (DAS - COLOMBIAN
FBI) HAS CREATED THREE NEW COMMANDS DEDICATED TO
SECURITY, EXPLOSIVES AND COUNTER-TERRORISM, AS WELL AS
INTELLIGENCE CENTERS IN BOGOTA, CALI, MEDELLIN, AND
CUCUTA. ACCORDING TO DAS COMMANDER GENERAL MAZA, ALL
UNITS ARE DESIGNED TO COUNTER THE WAVE OF CRIMINALITY,
TERRORISM, AND ARMED SUBVERSION CONFRONTING COLOMBIA.


PROGNOSIS
---------
13. (C) AS INDICATED IN MISSION'S LAST ASSESSMENT OF
COLOMBIA'S GUERRILLA SITUATION (REFTEL), THE LEVEL OF
CONFLICT IN COLOMBIA IS EXPECTED TO GROW DURING 1987.
THE STEPS BEING TAKEN BY BOTH THE GOC AND THE VARIOUS
GUERRILLA GROUPS REFLECT THAT EXPECTATION. THE ACTIVE
GUERRILLA GROUPS APPEAR INTENT ON STRIKING THE GOC ANEW
ONCE REDEPLOYMENT AND RETRAINING ARE ACCOMPLISHED.
HOWEVER, THE MAJOR DANGER TO COLOMBIAN INSTITUTIONS AND
U.S. INTERESTS HERE LIES IN THE ATTITUDES OF THE FARC.
EVOLUTION OF EVENTS, OF COURSE, WILL DEPEND ON HOW THE
FARC FORESEES PROSPECTS OF ITS UNION PATRIOTICA
POLITICAL FRONT IN THE MARCH 1988 POPULAR ELECTIONS FOR
MAYORS. CURRENT PROJECTIONS SUGGEST THE UP WILL DO
FAIRLY WELL IN SOME ISOLATED RURAL AREAS, AND MAY ELECT
UP TO EIGHTY MAYORS (OUT OF OVER 1,000), ALL IN
RELATIVELY SMALL TOWNS. BASED ON THIS EXPECTATION, MOST
OBSERVERS HERE THINK THE FARC WILL BE VERY RELUCTANT TO
FORMALLY BREAK THE TRUCE BEFORE NEXT MARCH -- ALTHOUGH
THE LEVEL OF VIOLENCE MAY RISE WITHOUT ANY DECLARATION.
BEFORE OR AFTER MARCH, THE RANGE OF POSSIBLE EVENTS IS
WIDE: THE FARC IN OPEN WARFARE, OR STILL-NOMINAL
ADHERENCE TO THE PEACE ACCORDS; THE UP LEAVING THE
CONGRESS, OR STAYING TO USE IT AS A PLATFORM TO DENOUNCE
THE GOVERNMENT. BUT IN OUR JUDGEMENT ALL THESE
SCENARIOS WILL HAVE ONE COMMON FACTOR: HEIGHTENED
VIOLENCE AND INCREASED THREAT TO COLOMBIA'S INSTITUTIONS
AND U.S. INTERESTS.


GILLESPIE

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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