62 Human Rights Organizations Urge the UN to Investigate Saudi Arabia’s Abuses in Yemen

Last week, 62 human rights organizations from around the world called on the UN Human Rights Council to investigate Saudi Arabia’s abuses in Yemen.

“The victims of abuses in Yemen cannot afford to wait longer for credible investigations into ongoing grave violations and abuses to be undertaken”, the letter said. “We, therefore, call on the Human Rights Council to establish, during its 36th session, an independent international inquiry to investigate alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict in Yemen. The inquiry should be given the mandate to establish the facts and circumstances and to collect and preserve evidence of, and clarify responsibility for, alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and violations of international humanitarian law, with a view to ending impunity and providing accountability.”

The call on the UN to investigate Saudi Arabia’s abuses comes weeks before the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterrez, has to make the decision whether or not to add the Saudi Kingdom to the UN’s Child Rights Blacklist. Last year, Ban Ki-moon removed Saudi Arabia from the aforementioned UN blacklist at the last minute, after Saudi Arabia threatened him with halting its communications and de-funding the UN.

Save the Children has been running a campaign demanding the UN stand up to the autocratic Middle East regime and shame it for its alleged war crimes in Yemen.

“Last week we handed in a petition to the secretary-generals office with 37,000 signatures … he needs to make a strong decision. He needs to make sure that the Saudi led coalition are listed,” Mr Kaye explained.

“He should do what Ban Ki-moon failed to do last year”.

Since March 2015, at least 10,000 civilians, including children, have been killed in Yemen, though the U.N. Human Rights Office believes that the overall number is much higher. During this time, the Saudi-led coalition has carried out indiscriminate air-strikes against civilians in cities such as the capital Sana’a, Hajjah, Hodeidah and Sa’da governorates, killing and injuring thousands of civilians. The coalition has unlawfully attacked homes, markets, funerals, hospitals, schools, and mosques.

“None of the forces in Yemen’s conflict seem to fear being held to account for violating the laws of war,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “UN members need to press the parties to end the slaughter and the suffering of civilians.”

Human Rights Watch has documented 58 unlawful Saudi-led coalition air strikes, some may amount to war crimes. The coalition has also used internationally banned cluster munitions. Neither the US nor the UK has suspended arms sales to the Saudi Kingdom despite evidence of their usage to commit war crimes.

Numerous Human right organizations working in Yemen have regularly accused Saudi Arabia of blocking critical relief aid from reaching civilians, including children, deepening Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. The coalition has also imposed a permanent air and naval blockade across the country, limiting the importation of food, drinking water, and medicines, contributing to the near collapse of its health system.

Around 15 million Yemenis do not have access to drinking water and basic healthcare. The country also remains on the brink of famine, with some 385,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF. It said the cholera epidemic has been declining since June by one-third because of help from “unsung local heroes” although 550,000 suspected diarrhea and cholera and more than 2,000 associated deaths recorded since April, UNICEF said.

“What was a steady drumbeat of support for an international inquiry into Yemen abuses has become a crescendo,” John Fisher, Geneva director at Human Rights Watch, said in a release. “Human Rights Council member countries should live up to their own mandate, heed these calls, and put in place a body to begin chipping away at the impunity that has been a central facet of Yemen’s war.”

Ahead of the increasing pressure of human rights organizations and the public opinion to add Saudi Arabia to UN’s blacklist and investigate its abuses in Yemen, Riyad is stressing that the Kingdom has helped the Yemeni people by providing basic aid valued in more than $8 billion.

Over the next few weeks, all doubts over the UN’s credibility will be removed. It will have to decide whether it is a biased partisan organization or a neutral one which is efficient in solving conflicts. Carrying out an independent investigation into Saudi Arabia’s possible war crimes in Yemen would demonstrate that the UN is still sometimes a useful organization capable of holding war criminals accountable. Lastly, adding Saudi Arabia to the aforementioned blacklist would only be a small emotional victory but none the less important due to the fact that the UN cannot allow itself to give way to the Saudi’s constant blackmail against the organization.

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Latest Israeli Provocation in Jerusalem

On Friday, three Palestinians and three Israelis died after the Netanyahu Administration infringed the status quo of the Temple Mount by installing metal detectors and banning Palestinian men under the age of fifty from entering the holy site.

Thousands of Palestinians were gathered in the area when Israeli security forces began to use force against the demonstrators, who responded by throwing stones at police.

In an ‘attempt to control the situation,’ numerous Israeli policemen used tear gas, water cannons, and fired real bullets randomly against the demonstrators, causing the death of three of them, and injuring hundreds more.

The demonstrations spread rapidly to Gaza and the West Bank, where a young Palestinian stabbed three Israelis to death in revenge for Netanyahu’s decision to violate a Muslim holy place.

Abbas announced, “the suspension of contacts with Israel on all levels and the suspension of coordination until all the measures currently being taken at al-Aqsa mosque are stopped.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued statements condemning both incidents. He called “on all to refrain from any actions or words that could further escalate an already volatile situation.”

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said, reporters, that “ultimately, what is important is for all of the people at the holy sites, including all the worshipers at the holy sites, to feel that their religious freedoms are being respected.”

On Saturday, Netanyahu said that the metal detectors will remain at the entrance of the Temple Mount, despite the fact that numerous advisors had recommended their removal. They also believe that Netanyahu’s unilateral action will worsen the Palestine-Israeli conflict, leading to unpredictable consequences.

Despite the different versions of the facts, many still believe that the second intifada began in September 2000 when Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount, seen by Palestinians as desecration and which has resulted in the death of thousands of Palestinians and Israelis.

The Temple Mount is one of the holiest places in Islam and in Judaism. According to Judaism, this is the place where God’s divine presence is manifested more strongly than at any other holy site. For Muslims, the site is one of the first places where God was worshiped. They believe it was from here that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the “Divine Presence” on the back of a winged horse.

Over the last few years, the Palestinians have accused PM Netanyahu of planning to build a Third Temple on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which is currently illegal under Israeli law. However, Netanyahu’s coalition with the far right-wing leader Avigdor Lieberman, who supports the construction of the new Jewish temple in the compound has many Palestinians concerned that Netanyahu will soon change the law in order to allow it.

Several international human rights organizations have said that the current situation in Jerusalem has deteriorated to the point that if it does not soon improve a new uprising may occur.

Some have suggested that Netanyahu and Lieberman are intentionally instigating the current increase in violence in Jerusalem with the intention of using it as a pretext to occupy the Temple Mount compound and expand what many consider to be their ethnic cleansing operations in Palestine.

The international community, however, has yet to condemn PM Netanyahu’s actions, which are currently illegal under Israeli law.

Over the next several weeks, several countries will likely be involved in the conflict. Until then, more incidents, which could occur in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as in Jerusalem, are expected.

 

G20 Summit 2017 Hamburg

As they do every year, the world’s 19 largest economies, plus the EU and various financial institutions, met at the annual G-20 Summit, this year held in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7th and 8th.

This year, all eyes were on Trump, who was seeking to normalize his relations with the EU and Putin. Prior to the meeting, Trump had accused Germany of corruption and undermining the US economy. For her part, Merkel had announced that the US was no longer a German ally. His relationship with Putin has also been deteriorating since the attack against the Syrian government back on April 6. 

Due to various discrepancies between leaders, the summit was not successful. As expected, Merkel and Trump did not reach any agreement. The latter suggested that he will soon implement protectionist measures in the US coal industry which will affect the EU economy. The EU rapidly said that it was ready to retaliate against the US within a few days if Trump ever implements protectionist measures. 

The G20 leaders were not able to convince Trump to rejoin the Paris Climate Change agreement.  The latter ignored their claims and abandoned the climate change meeting before it ended in order to meet Putin on July 7th.

Despite their previous disagreements, Trump and Putin agreed on a partial ceasefire in Southern Syria that began on Sunday. They also agreed on the need of deescalating tensions between them in order to normalize relations and reach future agreements. In the end, they both agreed on continuing their regular talks until their next personal meeting takes place in a close future.

I think this is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria,” Mr. Tillerson told reporters on Friday night in Hamburg, Germany, after the more than two-hour meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. “And as a result of that, we had a very lengthy discussion regarding other areas in Syria that we can continue to work together on to de-escalate the areas and violence once we defeat ISIS, and to work together toward a political process that will secure the future of the Syrian people.”

Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, later said the cease-fire would take effect from midnight to noon local time on Sunday in the areas of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida in Syria along the Jordanian border. “At first, security around this de-escalation zone will be guaranteed by the forces and means of the Russian military police, in coordination with the Americans and Jordanians,” he said.

The G-20 did not reach any agreement on the current refugee crisis. Italy, which is receiving thousands of refugees weekly, demanded a global compromise to solve the problem. However, the rest of the world leaders ignored Italy’s claims and directed their attacks against NGO’s

According to numerous world leaders, NGO’s are promoting immigration instead of helping refugees. For that reason, they discussed tightening the conditions permitting NGO’s to operate in the Mediterranean Sea.

Representatives from several NGO’s said that they are just saving lives and reminded governments that refugees are not immigrants. They are fleeing from war zones in countries such as Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan which were caused by the Western world.

As usual, social organizations organized an alternative to the G-20 Summit on July 5th and 6th, the so-called Global Solidarity Summit. This year, thousands of people from all over the world attended the various activities, assemblies, and conferences seeking alternative ways to improve people’s lives worldwide. Most of the conferences were open and people could freely participate and give their point of view regardless of their social status.

As expected, thousands of demonstrators from all over the world gathered in Hamburg in order to disrupt the G-20 summit. However, they were not able to achieve their ultimate goal due to a heavy police presence. Despite the fact that most of them were peaceful, the German police attacked them without justification, leading to serious riots, arrests, and injuries.

As numerous videos show, moments before the so-called “Welcome to Hell” march on was set to begin on July 6, thousands of German police officers rushed the crowd, hitting everyone, including journalists. In the end, the Hamburg police admitted that the “Welcome to Hell” march was peaceful at the time of the attack and only some in the crowd were masked.

The “Welcome to Hell” march was not the only protest which ended in riots. There were many others before, during, and after the summit in various locations around Hamburg. On a few occasions, protesters were able to close off portions of the city for several hours before the German police evicted them.

In the end, the G20 Hamburg Summit will be remembered for the inability of world’s leaders to agree on solving real people’s problems. People will remember instead the decisions made by the wealthiest nations, which will result in thousands of deaths in poor countries.

 

 

Consequences of Hate-Filled Political Rhetoric and Illegal Military Interventions

In recent years, the number of terrorist attacks and hate crimes in western countries has risen to levels never seen before, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent citizens. Recent studies suggest that there are clear connections between terrorism, illegal military interventions in the Middle East, and those politicians who regularly use hateful rhetoric against immigrants.

This has been more evident in the UK, which has suffered four terrorist attacks in just four months, the latest against the Muslim community only a week ago. In the aftermath of those attacks, the number of hate crimes increased fivefold in London and 530% in Manchester, according to the Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks).

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Source: The Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime, Home Office. 12 months to March in year shown

A Met police spokesperson said that the number of hate crimes against Muslims had increased sharply in the last four years. They recorded 343 incidents in 2013, 1009 in the year before March 2016, and 1260 in the year prior to March of 2017.

Last year, the UN the body Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination argued that the continuous anti-immigration rhetoric used by British politicians during, and after the Brexit campaign, resulted in a significant increase in the number of hate crimes and in the potential radicalization of several individuals.

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The committee reported that more than 3,000 allegations of hate crimes were made to UK police in the week before and the week after the Brexit vote, an increase of 42% over the two corresponding weeks in the year before. It also pointed out that numerous politicians and journalists regularly fail to condemn hate crimes against ethnic minority groups.

The UK military interventions in the Middle East have not seemed to help reduce the level of terrorism. Instead, they have served as a platform for ISIS to carry out its massive proselytizing, especially to those vulnerable people who often feel discriminated against by society.

The Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn recently said, “Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought against other countries and terrorism here at home.”

“That assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children. Those terrorists will forever be reviled and held to account for their actions. But an informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people and will fight rather than fuel terrorism.”

 

It seems clear that explicit support for an illegal war overseas often backfires with unpredictable consequences. And then that action, far from reducing terrorism, boosts it.

Rhetoric that is hostile to an ethnic group, including locals, or any action that could be understood as hostile by them, will do nothing but feed their perception that they will always be targeted, resulting in the radicalization of numerous individuals.

Numerous right-wing politicians and journalists remind us how the constant discrimination against ethnic minorities fuels terrorism, resulting in the backlash which the enormous tragedies previously mentioned represent.

To believe that Islamist terrorism is going to be eradicated anytime soon would be very naive. However, western governments could easily reduce the number of terrorist incidents in their respective territories by ending their hate rhetoric against immigrants and by building bridges between communities.

Tolerance is the key to reducing tensions and solving the existing problem. Although there are many distinct communities in the world, and each one has its own peculiarities and customs, all of them have things in common, and most importantly they are all made up of human beings.

For that reason, it is important to emphasize those common points and downplay the differences that set those community apart.  Even though this may sound utopic, it is crucial to remember that people and people alone determine what is real and what is not. By persuading governments of the importance of leaving their hateful rhetoric aside while showing the importance of building bridges between communities, global society will move a step closer to achieving unity and getting away from division once and for all.

 

Donald Trump: the Despicable Warmonger

When Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, not many people, including his most fervent supporters, could ever have imagined that his belligerent actions would one day place us on the brink of WWIII.

Despite his many promises, three weeks ago, Trump directed a tactical strike on al-Shayrat air base (Syria) that was designed to weaken Syrian military defenses against rebels and terrorists, but which also jeopardized diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States.

Prior to that, Trump had attempted to garner a green light from the international community at large in order to launch a preemptive strike against Iran. However, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Hans Blix, warned him that,

“it would be disastrous for the world if the U. S. that it would be disastrous for the world if the U.S. tore up the Iran nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to scale down its nuclear aspirations in exchange for sanctions relief, which brought stability to the region.”

Under the pretext of defending the U.S. against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Trump obtained the long-awaited international support needed to implement his imperialist, warmongering plans. Although the international community at first supported Trump, in the end, it established some boundaries aimed at avoiding global instability.

Ignoring international demands, Trump recently announced the deployment of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and its carrier group to waters off the coast of the Korean Peninsula. Furthermore, with his usual belligerence, Trump threatened Kim Jong-un, saying that the next time that North Korea conducts either a new ballistic missile or other variety of nuclear test, the U.S. will launch a preemptive strike against North Korea.

According to yesterday’s breaking news revealed by the New York Times, the aircraft deployment was fabricated:

The carrier, the Carl Vinson, and the four other warships in its strike force were at that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.”

“The Carl Vinson is now on a northerly course for the Korean Peninsula and is expected to arrive in the region sometime next week,” Defence Department officials said. The White House declined to comment on the misunderstanding, referring all questions to the Pentagon.”

Amidst growing tension, China, and Russia warned the international community that the U.S. and North Korea are set for a head-on collision and called on Trump to de-escalate the tension in Korea.

Several pundits noted that North Korea does not yet have the capacity to fit miniaturized nuclear warheads on long-range missiles. Nonetheless, North Korean military forces possess conventional weapons that can easily reach South Korean and Japanese targets and deal catastrophic damage.

Despite a multitude of warnings, Trump does not appear to be considering the consequences of a potential war with North Korea, and continues instead to escalate the tension with his usual belligerent rhetoric against Kim Jong-un. Each time this happens, Kim Jong-un announces counter-measures and elevates his nuclear threats against the U.S.

On Saturday, during the traditional military parade for the birth of Kim Jong-il, North Korea showed its armament’s capacity, including what appears to be an ICBM (an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching U.S. soil) However, most pundits think that it has never tested, and its purpose was to send a clear message to Trump.

On Sunday Kim Jong-Un unsuccessfully attempted to test a new ballistic missile, which exploded a few seconds after launch.

Due to the relentless escalation of the conflict, citizens living in the region are preparing for an imminent outbreak of violence. They say that they are used to this kind of narrative between the two countries. This time, however, it appears to be different with Trump, who is a very unpredictable president.

With the drums of war beating, the international community is warning Trump, saying that if he follows through on his threats and attacks North Korea, the outcome would cause up to 1,000,000 or 2,000,000 casualties (according to an investigation conducted two years ago by the Obama administration). It would primarily affect civilians in South Korea and Japan, but also the thousands of U.S. troops deployed in the region.

In response to the constant international pressure, Trump could decide not to attack North Korea. However, it is important to remember that Trump also said that he would never attack the Syrian government, but ended up putting the lie to those words and launched a nighttime attack.

Regardless of the outcome of the Korean conflict, it appears that Trump will continue following in the footsteps of previous warmongering presidents in pursuit of power and popularity. Thus, the only left question is whether Trump will cause more carnage than George W. Bush.

U.S. Strike on Syria

On Thursday night, Donald Trump directed a strike against a Syrian military airbase, which targeted fighter planes, ammunition bunkers, radars, and petroleum storage. The Syrian regime said that the attack killed 7 soldiers and wounded 3.

In a brief press conference, Trump assured the American public that the strike was in retaliation for the last chemical attack against innocent civilians in Khan Sheikhoun in north-western Syria, which caused as many as 80 casualties, including many children.

Despite the fact that the UN could not reliably determine the accountability of the Syrian regime over the chemical attack, the U.S. government and the mainstream media launched a campaign to accuse them.

Ignoring the resolution of the UN, the NATO and other allies expressed their support for the strike and said that it was proportional. On the other hand, the Russian government condemned the attack and said that the U.S. is helping terrorists on the ground. Furthermore, the Russian Army announced the cessation of its communications with the U.S. in Syria and reiterated its support for the Syrian regime.

48 hours after the strike, in a joint statement, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and several local militias said that the U.S. had crossed the line and that the next time they will respond with force. According to this coalition, there are many reasons to think that the U.S. wants to exert utter control over Syria due to its geolocation.

Despite their many lies, Russia and the U.S. have committed several war crimes in Syria. For years, the U.S. has bombed civilians and assisted rebel groups with ties to terrorist organizations, which have killed thousands of innocents. And Russia has supported the Syrian regime, which has also killed thousands of innocent civilians.

Everyone still remembers, when in 2003, at an assembly of the UN, the then U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, assured that the Iraqi government had WMD, which could soon cause carnage in the region and perhaps worldwide. As a result, the international community created a coalition to invade Iraq, which caused as many as 1 million of deaths. It was not until after some years that the international community found out that the CIA deliberately fabricated that story to intervene in Iraq.

By attacking Syria, Trump has gained as much popularity as Bush did during the Iraqi invasion. Since the strike, the mainstream media, including the most critical such as CNN, and The New York Times have praised Trump’s military action and elevated him as an excellent President.

It is deeply troubling that Trump has found out the key to gain popularity. Due to his incapacity to govern the country, it appears that he will launch more military interventions in countries such as North Korea and Iran.

It is important to remember that for years, Donald Trump suggested that Obama’s intervention in Syria was a political move to gain popularity. However, he is now adopting the same ploy. Fortunately for everyone, he could not delete his past tweets and here there is a sample of them:

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Despite the complexity of the Syrian conflict, this will only end when all parties negotiate a realistic resolution. Apparently, Trump is not willing to do so, but a strong antiwar movement may force him (like in the past with previous administrations) to step back in his bellicose decisions.

While the U.S. antiwar movement is organizing to become stronger, Trump is deploying warships, and troops in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula. Over the next months, the world will observe whether the antiwar movement succeeds or Trump causes chaos everywhere.

 

North Korea and the U.S.: Dangerous War Games

Over the last month, the escalation of the conflict between the U.S. and North Korea has seriously threatened the social peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. For the first time in 20 years, the U.S. government is seriously considering the launch of a preemptive strike against North Korean nuclear facilities to reduce its nuclear capacity.

In a recent visit to South Korea, the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a quixotic statement,

“Certainly we do not want to, for things to get to the military conflict,…If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, then that option’s on the table.”
“Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended. We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures.”

On the face of Tillerson’s threats, the young North Korean Supreme leader Kim Jon-Un has intensified his endeavors to endow the regime with a modern nuclear defense system capable of repelling any form of aggression.

Since Trump got into office, the North Korean regime has successfully tested ballistic missiles capable of reaching South Korean and American military bases in the region. Besides that, North Korea is also developing a new long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying weapons of mass destruction as far as the U.S.

According to the American Intelligence, the regime is in advanced stages of testing this new weapon, which will endow the regime with new military power. Further, this month, the North Korean government announced that it will test the above mentioned ballistic missile some time soon.

While the escalation of the conflict in the Korean Peninsula is reaching an unsustainable level, the weak South Korean government has merely suggested that North Korea is a global threat. These weak statements come after its former President Park Geun-Hye was impeached.

The North Korean regime has always used the same belligerent narrative against its enemies to repel any potential aggression. In fact, the continual American threats against North Korea, far from calming the situation, have encouraged the regime to adopt stronger bellicose positions.

Without a doubt, the North Korean development of new long-range ballistic missiles is bad news and should be halted somehow but always intelligently. For that to happen, the international community should soon present a new realistic nuclear disarmament program, including all of the parties involved in the conflict.

It is a fact that the North Korean regime is a tyrannical one, which punishes its citizens on a regular basis. However, it is hard to think that North Korea is willing to begin a conflict in the region because it would be a suicidal act.

Despite the fact that several countries think that a preemptive strike against North Korea is the best option at this point, the truth is that there are better alternatives that would not entail a potential war that could cause a real carnage in the region.

Over the last decade, the international community has routinely failed in its endeavors to normalize its relations with the North Korean regime. In part, this is due to the bellicose narrative directed at them by the U.S. However, this strategy has been demonstrated to be inefficient with “delusional” leaders such as Kim Jon-Un who has the courage of his convictions and will follow them to the bitter end.

China is probably the only country which can exert influence over the North Korean regime. Such being the case, to de-escalate the conflict in the region, the international community should count on the Chinese government.

Several experts gainsay this approach, on the grounds that China would never, in their opinion, cooperate with the international community to solve this conflict. However, the bottom line is, the Chinese government does not want North Korea to expand its nuclear arsenal. They know that a potential war in the region would jeopardize part of its territory. And if a North Korean failed launch accidentally drops a rocket on its territory it could cause countless casualties.

These developments are leading up to an inordinate mutual distrust between the two major powers in the world.

If there is one thing that is certain, it is that a preemptive war against North Korea would cause an undetermined number of casualties in the region. If it is true that the North Korean regime will never begin any war, it is also certain that if it ever feels attacked, the regime would then launch a mass ballistic missile attack against different locations (including South Korean and American military bases in Guam and Hawaii). Without a doubt, it would be devastating for the Korean Peninsula, and would constitute a point of no return in the conflict, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

Whether you are from Europe, China, South Korea, or the US is not important anymore. The most important thing for one to better understand is that the potential outbreak of a new conflict on the Korean Peninsula would negatively impact on your everyday life.

By coming to this understand, every citizen of every country, first of all, is morally obliged to explain the conflict to the political cast of his or her country, and secondly, demand a change in their strategy on the North Korean conflict.