European Theater

Spain strikes down Catalan independence plan

The Constitutional Court of Spain on Dec. 2 declared unconstitutional (PDF) a resolution by the Parliament of Catalonia that proposed a plan for the region's independence from Spain by 2017. The resolution was approved by Catalonian lawmakers in November, and stated that parliament would take the "necessary steps" to effect the separation from Spain in a peaceful and democratic manner and in a way that would empower citizens. The court held that the resolution violated Articles 1.1, 1.2 , 2, 9.1 and 168 of the Constitution and Articles 1 and 2.4 of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. The resolution states that the separation of Catalanonia from Spain is not subject to the decisions of the Constitutional Court.

Paris: police suppress climate protests

Several thousand gathered for the planned march on the eve of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP 21) that opened in Paris Nov. 30. But the march was banned under the State of Emergency declared following the Nov. 13 terror attacks. Defying the ban on public gatherings, some 10,000 Parisians and international activists joined hands to form a human chain along Boulevard Voltaire. When they later attempted to march on Place de la République, police deployed concussion grenades, tear-gas, pepper spray and baton charges. Some 150 who made it to Place de la République were detained for hours as police surrounded and sealed off the square. At least 174 were arrested. (Revolution News)

French parliament extends state of emergency

The French National Assembly voted Nov. 19 to extend the state of emergency for another three months. The state of emergency expands police power for searches and arrests, and allows authorities to restrict movement of individuals and vehicles with the country's borders. During the debate, Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned that France must be prepared to defend against chemical and biological warfare. The bill secured 551 votes with only six against, far surpassing the 279 necessary to pass the legislation through the chamber. The bill will now move to the Senate, where it is expected to pass.

Conspiracy vultures descend on Paris

Well, we knew it was inevitable. And sure enough, the baseless and irreposnsible "false flag" theorizing about the Paris attacks is upon us. Sadly, the first entry is from the official Palestinian Authority  daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. This of course affords the Times of Israel and the right-wing Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) plenty of opportunity for gloating. The op-ed makes all the predictable noises: "The wise and correct thing is to look for who benefits... They need to search the last place reached by the octopus arms of the Mossad... It is clear that its 'Mossad' will burn Beirut and Paris in order to achieve Netanyahu's goals..." No evidence is offered, and the only stab at a motive is the fact that Europe is now moving to impose sanctions on "Israeli" imports in fact produced in the occupied West Bank. For good measure, it also blames "Israeli security services" for the bombing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai last month. 

From Beirut to Paris...

One day before the horrific Paris attacks, some 40 people were killed and more than 180 wounded in twin suicide attacks in a crowded suburb of Beirut. The coordinated blasts struck a Shi'ite community center and a nearby bakery in the commercial and residential district of Borj al-Barajneh. The attacks were claimed in the name of ISIS. (Al Arabiya News, Nov. 12) Less than 24 hours later, the Parisian terror began to unfold—leaving at least 120 dead as a concert hall, sports stadium and restaurants were targeted with bombs and bullets. Eight of the attackers are dead in what appear to have been France's first suicide attacks. (BBC News, France24) In Europe and America, ugly responses are already in witness...

Cold War déja vu in NATO mega-maneuvers

NATO is just winding up its biggest military exercise since the end of the Cold War—Operation Trident Juncture, involving 36,000 troops and more than 140 aircraft and 60 ships from over 30 countries over a month-long span. The maneuvers were centered around Sardinia, where hundreds of local residents attempted to block the troops and craft in a civil disobedience action. They were angered by rising cancers, leukemia and birth defect rates on the island, where the soil and groundwater are contaminated with heavy metals, jet fuel and depleted uranium from decades of military operations and weapons testing there. Maneuvers were also held in Spain, Portugal, Norway and the Atlantic. (Gizmodo, Nov. 10; Revolution News, Nov. 3; ANSA, Oct. 21; NATO, July 15)

Obama's nuclear upgrade: Euro-missiles redux?

There was brief media splash last month after Germany's ZDF TV reported that the US is planning to replace 20 nuclear bombs deployed at Büchel airbase. According to the reports, the current B61 bombs are to be replaced this year with B61-12s, a newer version that is said more accurate and less destructive (potentially making their use more "thinkable"). Alarmingly, reports indicated that the new variants can also be fired as missiles, while B61s had to be dropped from aircraft. Moscow of course immediately responded by threatening "countermeasures"—including deployment of Iskander ballistic missiles to Russia's Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad. (The Telegraph, Reuters, Sept. 23; Washington's Blog, Sept. 23)

UN authorizes operation against migrant smuggling

With a vote of 14 in favor, the United Nations Security Council on Oct. 9 approved a resolution to allow the European Union to inspect and seize vessels suspected of smuggling migrants. Authorized under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the resolution permits certain nations to board ships in order to prevent human trafficking. Those nations may review vessels they have "reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking from Libya." The Council also urged nations to help Libya in its ongoing struggle against human trafficking in the Mediterranean Sea.

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