Western European News Digest
Neo-Con Merkel Continues to Crash in Polls
The latest elections poll shows that CDU Chancellor candidate Angela Merkel is losing massively, especially in the eastern regions of Germany. In Saxony, the CDU is heading toward a rating below 30%, in Berlin, the rating is 27% (second after the SPD with 29%), in Brandenburg only 21% (third after the SPD with 39%, and the Linkspartei with 28%).
Her poor showing is the result of her pro-war (Iraq, and Iran) stance, which Merkel has unsuccessfully tried to avoid addressing, because it exposes her connections to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and the neo-con war faction. The other factor is Merkel's trouble with eastern German voters, who oppose her economic views: her plan to cut all tax breaks for long-distance daily commuters, which affects more than 300,000 in Saxony and Thuringia, plus another 500,000 in the other eastern states. Merkel's nomination of Paul Kirchhof, the actual author of these plans, as the financial expert on her "competence team," confirms their fears.
Whereas Merkel and her staff try to play the problem down, senior members of the eastern CDU keep warning: Eckardt Rehberg, leader of the CDU state parliamentary group in Mecklenburg, said that "we all know that one can lose elections in the east."
UK Unemployment Rises for Six Months
Unemployment in Britain rose for the sixth month in a row in July, making this the longest run of monthly unemployment increases in nearly 13 years. Total unemployment, including people not eligible for benefits, rose by 27,000 over the second quarter to 1.42 million. The rise affected mainly women. Also, the number of people working fell by 16,000 over the quarter to 28.59 million, while those classed as "economically inactive" also rose, by 37,000, to 7.9 million. Job losses continued in Britain's fast-disappearing manufacturing sector.
German Prof: Europe Must Give Iran Security Guarantees
Europe should give Iran security guarantees, proposes Mohssen Massarat, a professor in Osnabruck, according to the Frankfurter Rundschau Aug. 13. Massarat lays out the scenario whereby, following UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, and U.S.-Israeli threats of military attacks, Iran announces a blockade of oil transportation, and lays mines in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. prepares for war, while Russia and China remain neutral; millions of Iranians, and sympathizers, including Hezbollah, in other Islamic countries, mobilize. Al-Qaeda exploits the situation, organizing attacks in capitals of the West.
The author proposes, as an alternative to this scenario, that the EU offer Iran security guarantees, organizing a conference on a nuclear-free zone in the region. This would mean disarming Israel of its nuclear arsenal.
One of the demands Iran has had, in EU talks, is security guarantees of some form.
London Police Chief's Job on the Line Over Terror Policy
Secret documents and CCTV footage revealed Aug. 17, show that the story released by the police about the killing of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes in London July 22 is full of fabrications and lies. The "shoot to kill" anti-terror policy is being called into question, and there are calls for Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair to resign. In an indication of the factional fight inside Britain, evidence given to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigating the shooting, was leaked to ITV News.
Prime Minister Tony Blair remains on vacation at an undisclosed location, contrary to usual practice.
Menezes had already been overpowered and held down by a surveillance officer on the underground train before the "CO19" or firearms squad entered the train and shot him seven times in the head and once in the shoulder. He was wearing only a denim jacket, not the "bulky" one the first police reports had claimed, and, as has already been exposed, he never jumped the turnstile. After travelling on a bus for several miles, he had walked calmly into the train station, picked up a free newspaper, and then ran for an incoming train. He was never running from police, and may not have even known of the pursuit. All the running and jumping reported by witnesses, was done by the police, not Menezes. He was never even properly identified as one of the potential suspects supposedly living in his building, because the officer, now reported to be a soldier rather than policewas relieving himself as Menezes left his building.
Aug. 18, the Daily Mirror revealed that police Commander Cressida Dick, who was in charge of the operation that pursued Menezes, had ordered the police only to "detain" him before he entered the underground system. The question is whether her command ever reached the firearms unit that took over when Menezes entered the station, and if they ignored her orders. The Mirror quoted a senior police source saying: "There's no doubt that Commander Dick did not instruct anyone to shoot de Menezes. The gun team were there as a precaution. It looks as if they didn't have time to tell them to grab the man, not shoot him dead. The difference between de Menezes living and dying may have been five seconds."
The leaked IPCC investigation report says that the firearms squad had been told that "unusual tactics" might be required and if they "were deployed to intercept a subject and there was an opportunity to challenge, but if the subject was non-compliant, a critical shot may be taken."
De Menezes Family Demands Full Investigation
The De Menezes family has demanded a full investigation of the false information that circulated after their son's death, and why there has been no public inquiry. The current inquiry is being carried out by the police. The key question is if Metropolitan police head Sir Ian Blair allowed deliberate spread of false information.
Sir Ian wrote to the Home Office permanent secretary Sir John Gieve on July 22, to delay start of a police inquiry, saying that "this was because it was crucial that the terrorist investigation took precedence over any IPCC investigation at that time," according to police sources. There are also reports that Sir Ian asked Downing Street to let the Metropolitan police handle the Menezes inquiry.
The family of de Menezes is charging that this "fatal delay of several days" before the investigation began, has meant that vital evidence could have been lost. According to the Guardian, Sir Ian was concerned that a public inquiry would damage morale of the CO19 firearms unit.
British Model Cited in Khuzestan Riot
Agents arrested for rioting in Iran's Khuzestan province confessed to being in "separatist and opposition groups," and also to having affiliations with foreign intelligence services, "especially that of England," reported the Iranian news service IRNA Aug. 16. Anti-government riots in the province in May and June had led to casualties.
Italian Interior Minister Warns Nation of Terror Threat
The Italian Interior Minister has warned against an "increased threat" of a terror attack, on the basis of information allegedly collected during investigations of the London and Sharm el Sheik bombing attacks, the Neue Zuercher Zeitung reported Aug. 16. Minister Giuseppe Pisanu announced that, starting in September, joint police and rescue maneuvers will take place, to test coordination of the various police and rescue units, and a quick start of investigations in case of a terror attack. Last week, police raided Muslim Internet-cafes and butcheries, arresting 171 and expelling 701 from the country.
Pontiff Calls for Enhancing Congruences of Religions
Pope Benedict XVI paid an official visit to the Synagogue in Cologne Aug. 19, where he addressed an audience of the leaders of the Jewish community in Germany, as well as leading representatives of the non-Jewish establishment, on the challenge of looking toward a future in which the great religions, but especially Jews and Christians, cooperate closely for the good of mankind. In order to achieve that, the Pontiff said, that which unites the religions, their essential congruences, must be enhanced, to overcome what has so far disunited them.
The speech was welcomed by Paul Spiegel, chairman of the Central Council of the Jews in Germany, as "excellent" and "very encouraging" in respect to the perspective of Jewish-Christian cooperation.