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January 12, 2016

FIFA Ballon d\’Or 2015 goes to Lionel Messi

FIFA Ballon d’Or 2015 goes to Lionel Messi

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

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Yesterday, Argentina and FC Barcelona football star Lionel Messi won the 2015 FIFA Ballon d’Or in the FIFA event, hosted in Zürich, Switzerland. The Ballon d’Or is an annual award given to the player voted to be the best of the year.

Cquote1.svg It’s incredible that it’s my fifth. Much more than anything I would have dreamed of as a kid.((es)) Cquote2.svg

—Lionel Messi

File:Messi’s 5th Ballon d’Or.jpg

Lionel Messi with Carli Lloyd at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala yesterday.
Image: Valeriano de Domenico/AP.
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Messi along with his Barcelona teammate Neymar and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo were shortlisted by FIFA back in November. Having won five major trophies in the 2015 calendar year, which included the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup in December in Japan against Argentine club River Plate in which he scored the first goal, Messi won 41.33% of the votes.

Winner in previous years Ronaldo secured 27.76% of the votes, and Messi’s teammate Neymar won 7.86%. 2007 Ballon d’Or winner and Brazilian player Kaká announced the winner of the Gala. Messi played 61 games in 2015, and scored 52 goals. He also provided 26 assists. He also scored in each of the six tournaments.

At the ceremony, Messi said “It’s a very special moment for me, after watching as Cristiano Ronaldo won for two years. It’s incredible that it’s my fifth. Much more than anything I would have dreamed of as a kid.”((es))

Messi previously won the La Liga best player of the year; and UEFA Best Player in Europe Award with 49 votes out of 54, leaving behind his teammate Luis Suárez and Ronaldo who got three and two votes respectively. He also won a silver medal in the 2015 Copa América when Argentina lost to the hosts Chile on penalties.

Messi previously won the award for four consecutive years from 2009 to 2012. Ronaldo and Messi between them have won the trophy for the past eight years. Neymar this year became the first top-three Brazilian since Kaká‘s 2007 win.

Messi voted for his teammates Neymar, Suárez, and Andrés Iniesta; Neymar voted for Messi, Suárez, and Ivan Rakitić. Neymar at the ceremony said “It is a dream for me to be here, it’s a victory”.



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November 25, 2015

Canadian politician Manmeet Bhullar dies aged 35 after traffic collision

Canadian politician Manmeet Bhullar dies aged 35 after traffic collision

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

File:Media 2011 Picture (Leg) Bhullar Headshot.jpg

An image of Bhullar from 2011.
Image: Eldonm.
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A road accident killed Alberta Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Manmeet Bhullar on Monday. Bhullar pulled over to the median on a snowy stretch of the Queen Elizabeth II highway between Edmonton and Calgary to help a fellow motorist who had gone off the road, before a semi-truck lost control and hit him. Bhullar died at hospital at the age of 35.

Bhullar represented the Calgary-Greenway electoral district, and was a member of the Progressive Conservative party. His family received condolences from his colleagues after his death.

Bhullar became the first turban-wearing Sikh in the Alberta cabinet in 2011, as Minister of Service, and held cabinet positions until earlier this year. According to Calgary mayor Nasheed Nenshi, Bhullar was influenced to enter politics by early experiences of coping with others’ discomfort about Sikhs.

Bhullar was “a true warrior for fairness and justice, a big man with a giant heart, a friend”, said Nenshi. In a teleconference with journalists, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley recognised him for his work in making the governmental system more transparent.

Notley said she “quite frankly [expected] to see Manmeet in public life for decades to come. And I believe all Albertans are poorer for the fact we will not.”



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June 10, 2015

Boxing referee Frank Cappuccino dies aged 86

Boxing referee Frank Cappuccino dies aged 86

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

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Frank Cappuccino pictured in 2004
Image: Al Pepper.
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Long-time boxing referee Frank Cappuccino has died at the age of 86. Cappuccino, who died in Yardley, Pennsylvania on Monday, was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He started his career in the 1950s and officiated on some of the most famous fights in boxing history; these included 94 world championship fights.

Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission executive director Greg Sirb paid tribute to Cappuccino. He said, in remarks to ESPN, “When he was in his prime, there is no doubt he was one of the top five referees in the world. […] When he was reffing, he was poetry in motion. He had as much respect from the fighters as any referee there is. I just think they liked his style. He was straightforward. When you got Frank Cappuccino assigned to your bout, you knew you made it.”

Some of the most notable fights that Cappuccino officiated over include Lennox Lewis vs. Shannon Briggs, Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks, and the 2002 fight-of-the-year between Mike Ward and Arturo Gatti. He himself belonged to both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey boxing halls of fame.

Cappuccino spoke openly about his friendship with notorious boxer Mike Tyson. He had said “I can’t say a bad thing about Mike Tyson[…] He’s always been very good to me.” Cappuccino was the referee during six of Tyson’s fights, including his 91-second victory over Michael Spinks in 1998.

He refereed his last fight in 2008 and was a boxing judge up until 2010. He is survived by his wife, Florence.



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September 11, 2014

John Kerry visits Iraq to build regional support against Islamic State

John Kerry visits Iraq to build regional support against Islamic State

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Baghdad yesterday to meet Haider al-Abadi, the prime minister of the new Iraqi government. The visit came as Kerry toured seeking support in the region — military, political, and financial — against the Islamic State.

File:Haidar Al-Abadi.jpg

Haider Al-Abadi.
Image: RedWolf343.
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Kerry and al-Abadi were to discuss international efforts to build a coalition, in a regional approach to the security issue posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. The meeting came ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s televised address, to air later in the day in the U.S. and set to announce expanded military efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the organisation.

They were to “discuss how the United States can increase its support to Iraq’s new government in our common effort to defeat Isil [Islamic State] and the threat it poses to Iraq, the region, and the world”, said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. The Shia Iraqi prime minister has, according to U.S. officials, promised to create regional national guards, avoiding security enforcement by the mostly Shia Iraqi army in Sunni regions. The policy, if enacted, would provide valuable employment in areas where Islamic State has recruited successfully following economic neglect during the eight years of Nouri al-Maliki‘s government.

Following the Iraq visit Kerry is to visit Saudi Arabia as part of the broad U.S. strategy of regional resistance against the militants. President Obama has said the U.S. would not use ground combat troops, but some senior military figures have suggested Islamic State may not be stopped by air strikes alone — of which the U.S. have used 150 over the past month. The regional strategy to address the security crisis does not rely on the support of Congress. The U.S. administration has been urging representatives to approve $500m to support rebels in Syrian opposing Islamic State, but the legislation has been immobile since it was first proposed in May.



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August 17, 2014

Chadian soldiers rescue Nigerian Boko Haram hostages

Chadian soldiers rescue Nigerian Boko Haram hostages

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

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85 Nigerian villagers, members of a group Nigerian officials said they believed kidnapped by militant extremist group Boko Haram earlier this month, were reported on Friday to have been freed by Chadian soldiers, as they and their captors tried to cross the border near Lake Chad.

File:Logo of Boko Haram.svg

Logo of Boko Haram
Image: ArnoldPlaton.
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CNN reported over a hundred captives had been abducted during a Boko Haram attack on a village by Lake Chad on the night of Sunday to Monday last week. Captives were forced onto buses, before the convoy was stopped by the Chadian military as it was trying to cross the border, where the large number of people aroused suspicion. Other captives were transported away by speedboat and were not rescued.

Founded as a political movement in 2002, Boko Haram seek to create an Islamic country in Northern Nigeria, where the Nigerian military have been engaged in operations aimed at removing the extremists since 2009. In this time, thousands of people have been killed in the fighting, and hundreds are reported to have been kidnapped in both Nigeria and across the border in Cameroon. Many of those kidnapped are believed by authorities to be either forced to fight for Boko Haram, or used as sex slaves.

The violence in the region has intensified this year, with Amnesty International saying over 4,000 people have been killed since January, compared to the 3,600 estimated casualties in the four years previously. While most of the fighting is in North-Eastern Nigeria, Boko Haram have also launched attacks in Abuja, the Nigerian capital; and in Lagos, the country’s commercial centre in the South-West.



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August 10, 2014

Nigerian military launch counter-attack as Boko Haram insurgency believed to spread to Cameroon

Nigerian military launch counter-attack as Boko Haram insurgency believed to spread to Cameroon

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

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Yesterday, Nigeria’s military engaged in gun battles with Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, aimed at regaining two towns in northeastern Nigeria recently captured by the group. This comes as suspected members of Boko Haram attacked a village inside Cameroon.

File:Logo of Boko Haram.svg

Logo of Boko Haram
Image: ArnoldPlaton.
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On Wednesday, Boko Haram attacked and occupied the town of Gwoza, with over 50 reported killed as they forced Nigerian forces out of the town, a stronghold in the fight against the militants. This followed the capture of Damboa in July, leaving much of Borno State under the control of the militants.

Reuters reported eyewitness accounts of the aftermath of the attack on Gwoza, with 500 people said to have gone into hiding in the nearby mountains, and the Emir of Gwoza missing after an attack on his palace.

An attack on a remote northern Cameroon village in by suspected Boko Haram militants was also reported on Wednesday. The attack left ten people, including one soldier, dead, as the group reportedly killed those they had captured during a confrontation with Cameroonian soldiers as they headed towards the Nigerian border. This follows the kidnapping of several people including the Cameroonian deputy prime minister’s wife by militants; Boko Haram is reportedly looking to extend its influence outside of Nigeria, including recruiting Cameroonians to their cause. In response to the threat, the Cameroonian government has sent more than 1000 soldiers to the border region.

Boko Haram first began militant operations in 2009, in an attempt to create an Islamic state in the area. The Nigerian military has struggled to counter their progress. The situation in Nigeria came to International attention in April after the kidnapping of 200 school girls from a school, for which Boko Haram claimed responsibility.



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March 29, 2014

Wikinews interviews Indiana State Senator Mike Delph

Wikinews interviews Indiana State Senator Mike Delph

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

File:Senator Mike Delph 2014.jpg

Indiana State Senator Mike Delph, S-29
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

On Wikinews, we have an exclusive audio interview with Indiana State Senator Mike Delph.

Today is Thursday, March 27, 2014. I am Chad Tew and we are here in The Edge radio studios with my journalism students and recording from the campus of the University of Southern Indiana.

This is Wikinews.

Introduction

Indiana State Senator Mike Delph is a Republican who represents the northwest side of Indianapolis and Carmel, as well as Zionsville, Indiana.

After being selected to finish former State Senator J. Murray Clark’s final term in 2005, Mike Delph has served two full terms for District 29 in the Indiana State Senate. He is currently facing re-election this fall. His opponent is likely to be Democrat JD Ford, who is running as an openly gay candidate.

Senator Delph has also been considered in the past for US Congress but he declined to run, and he has already been mentioned in the Indiana media as a possible candidate for any potential opening in the US Senate in 2016. He is widely known across the state of Indiana for both his Arizona-style legislation on immigration and his support of traditional marriage.

During the legislative session this year, Senator Delph made what is known in Indiana as the “tweet heard around the world”. The tweet announced the defeat of a proposed amendment to the Indiana State Constitution in a form that would have banned civil unions. Senate leader David Long punished Delph because of this tweet on the grounds that it concerned confidential caucus information. What exactly took place in that Republican caucus and between Senator Delph and Senator Long is currently unknown to the public.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: State Senator Delph good morning and welcome to Wikinews.

Mike Delph: Thanks for having me professor.

Interview (part I): A biographical portrait

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Chad Tew: Here with our first question is Ashely Jones Phillips. Jones Phillips: Hi! Good morning, Senator Mike Delph. My name Is Ashley Jones-Phillips. The first question that I have is, I wanted to know if you can tell me a little bit about your parents, where are you from, and where were you were raised and born?

Mike Delph: Sure, I grew up here in Carmel, Indiana. I was raised by my mother. My parents were divorced for most of my upbringing. While my father was on leave from his business — or actually helping his dad, my grandfather, with one of their plants out east — I was born in South Weymouth, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. So I was actually born in Boston or just outside of Boston but raised in Indiana by my mother. I have three brothers. I shared a bedroom with my little brother John. And my two older brothers Jamie and Stephen were with us as well.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Jones Phillips: Can you tell where you went to school at?

MD: I went through the Carmel school system. And I’m a graduate of Carmel High School — in 1988. And then I went on to college at Indiana University. And ultimately received four degrees from Indiana University.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: And those degrees are in …?

MD: I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech communications with minors in Spanish, biology, and an emphasis in chemistry. I have a Masters in Public Affairs with an emphasis in international relations — or comparative international relations — and public finance. I have a Masters of Science in Environmental Science, focused on applied ecology. And then I have my law degree at the Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png And lastly I want to know, how did you become interested in politics?

MD: I kind of backed my way into politics. I had served as a page for Indiana State Senator Dan Burton. And my mom and dad went to high school with Congressman Burton at Shortridge High School. We had a family friendly connection there. But I really didn’t grow up in politics. I didn’t serve in student government — except one little stint when I was a graduate student at Indiana University. I served one summer stint as a representative from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. But I really wasn’t involved in politics.
After I was getting ready to graduate from graduate school, I had planned to go to work for State Farm Insurance as a bond analyst. About that time, I had made contact with Congressman Burton, who was going to become the first Republican chairman, to chair a Congressional committee in over 60[?] years from Indiana. And we got to talking and eventually that led to a job offer for me to come and join him on his personal and professional staff out in Washington D.C. working on Capitol Hill. So I worked out of the personal office and then the professional staff of the House Committee on Government Reform, primarily focusing on Drug War policy. I also did some work with the House International Relations Committee, which at the time was chaired by Congressman Ben Gillman from New York.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Hello Senator Delph, I’m Sara Behnke. We were wanting to know about your family and your work outside of the Indiana Senate.

MD: My family is: My wife is Beth. She is from Zionsville. She grew up in Zionsville and graduated from Zionsville High School. She is the daughter of Russ and Nancy Frankel and has one brother, who is younger, named Matthew. My in-laws are now constituents of mine, which is nice because my mother-in-law could put my yard sign in her yard without confusing her neighbors.
I have five daughters. My oldest daughter is 19 and a freshman at IUPUI here in Indianapolis. She’s our first proud graduate of Delph Academy for Girls. She did really well her first semester of college, making the Dean’s List. So mom and dad were obviously very ecstatic there. I have a 17-year-old daughter, who just turned 17. She told dad that she wanted a boyfriend for her birthday, and so I went out and got a little stuffed animal of the good guy from Frozen [a film], which I said you can take to bed with you every night and cuddle with. So her name is Evelyn. I have a 14-year old named Anna, a 10-year old named Emma, and my 7-year-old, who will probably — well her name is Lilly, that she believes she will be the next rock star of rock music. And she and I play my guitar and sing every night. So that’s a little bit about my family.
I work as general counsel for a second-generation family-owned business based out of Bloomington, Indiana, named CarDon & Associates. And we are in the business of senior housing and long-term care, post-acute care, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and independent living facilities.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Behnke: We understand that you and your wife home educate your children. How did you decide to home educate your children?

MD: Well the name of our home school is the Delph Academy for Girls. Originally my 19-year old was part of the Carmel school system and attended Carmel Elementary and had a real challenging year, her first grade year. We were actually told by her first grade teacher that she would have a hard time graduating from high school and that college was not in the cards, which obviously was a lot for mom and dad to take with our first grader. We went and had a battery of tests done. And there was a dispute within the school system as to what, if any, learning disabilities that she might have, and what we should do about it. So we finished out that school year and went a little bit into the next, and then we just made the decision as a family that we weren’t going to fight the system. We were going to take matters into our own hands and start homeschooling our daughter. Then we just started homeschooling the rest of our kids. It’s turned out to be a very big blessing in the life of the Delph family for obvious reasons because our daughter has turned around her academic life in a very positive fashion and is doing very well in college, as I mentioned before.
Another reason why we homeschool our students, is we teach Bible in our school. And obviously you can’t do that in the public school system. Our faith and Christian values are very important to Beth and I and to our daughters.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Behnke: What is your religious affliation?

MD: We are Christian. We are not Catholic. That is a falsehood put out on Wikipedia, and I’m not sure where that came from. I think people just assume that if you have a lot of kids that you are Catholic. And there is one nice thing about that, we live right across the street from a very large prominent Catholic Parish called, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and they have a fall festival every year and so it’s the one place we can go as a family where people don’t give us funny looks because of the number of girls that I have, everybody has a large family in that parish.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Hello Senator Delph, I’m Jerrilyn Thompson, and I have a question for you. The Sagamore of the Wabash Award, you were awarded that in 2005. And this honorary award is awarded by the Governor. And what did you do to get this honor?

MD: That was something that I was recommended by former Congressman Baron Hill, who represented the southeastern part of the state. And I had gotten to know Congressman Hill when I was an executive with Comcast Corporation. We actually brought the C-SPAN school bus throughout his district, especially to his hometown of Seymour, Indiana. And we had gotten to know each other, and he found out that I had served as an international election observer with the International Republican Institute in Nicaragua in 1996 and then in Mongolia in 2000. And then he had also learned about my service with Congressman Burton and also here in the state of Indiana, and he was gracious to recommend me for that award. And then Governor Kernan, before he left office as our governor, was very gracious to award me the Sagamore of the Wabash.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Thompson: Okay, just a few more questions. You had mentioned earlier about the role that Congressman Dan Burton had played in your life, could you please talk a little bit more about that?

MD: Well certainly. He is somebody that was my boss, I’ve known him for a good chunk of my life. When I was thirteen or fourteen, I served as a page for him. When he was an Indiana state senator. I had volunteered a little bit on his political campaigns but not a great deal. Primarily putting stickers on fire hats in preparation for his parade season.
But I worked for him from — I want to say — 1996 to 2004. Roughly eight years, give or take. I served as a member of his professional staff when he was chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. And then I also served as a member of his professional staff, handling a number of different policy areas, including foreign policy and national security policy. I covered agricultural issues and environmental policy forum, given some of my academic background. But primarily in the national security foreign policy area, primarily focused on anti-narcotics and the drug war. I was able to travel — in addition to traveling when I was an international election observer — I was able to travel as a member of his staff to countries like Turkey and Colombia.
When I was in Colombia, I got to watch an eradication mission of coca and poppy fields down in Colombia. I also got to work on other cases. There was a new tribes and missionary case that I worked on where there were three men who were abducted by the FARC, and there was no proof of life, and they just basically disappeared. And I was able to work with the families and others in leadership within the FBI to bring that whole issue to closure. They eventually declared the missionaries as being killed by the FARC. But as you can imagine, it was one of those things where the family was in limbo and they just did not know and nobody was trying to find out for them.
It was a great honor to work as a staff member for Congressman Burton. Probably one of the most thankful points in my time for him was when I helped write, or helped ghost write, the resolution honoring the life of Mother Theresa, which was adopted by the Congress. You all probably don’t remember, but Mother Theresa died right around the time that Princess Diana died and all of the news coverage at the time was dedicated towards Princess Diana. And Mother Theresa is arguably somebody that had lived more of a Christ-like life than anybody, since Jesus Christ.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Thompson: Okay one last question from me. What was your father and mother’s relationship with former congressman Dan Burton?

MD: They went to high school together and knew him from their time in high school. And my mother specifically was involved with the Young Republicans when Congressman Burton was involved with the Young Republicans. And they all kind of grew up in politics together. And then she later became a volunteer for his campaign.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Jordan Mornout: You ended up losing your first campaign when you sought the nomination for Indiana’s Secretary of State in 2002. Of course, your opponents that year were impressive, but can you tell us from your perspective about the dramatic finish to that nomination?

MD: That is a very sore subject with me, but it’s not as sore as it used to be. It’s interesting because you guys really… I was kind of surprised with the capturing of the whole flyer deal on the floor, which misled the convention to think that I had willingly dropped out of the race, and my strategy was to win it on the second ballot. I was everybody’s second choice. The people that were supporting Todd Rokita were supporting him because of their relationship with Sue Anne Gilroy, and they would support me if Todd was not in the race. The people that were supporting Richard Mourdock were supporting him because he was older and had more experience than I had. But they liked me after they got to know me, and I was their second choice.
And so I had literally campaigned in all 92 counties for two years of my life, driving around the state of Indiana in my American-made Honda Civic, which became a political issue for part of the race. During that race, Congressman Luke Messer was part of the field for a time. Diana Cordray, the clerk treasurer at Carmel, was in part of the field for a time. Kent Benson was a big part of it. Campaigning against him was like campaigning against Elvis Presley. Because we’d go to these southern Indiana counties, and he would autograph basketballs with the starting five in the 1976 Indiana University National Championship team. And that was the time that I said I had to do something because he was killing me politically, and so we started putting our name on peanut butter and passing out peanut butter. We said that if peanuts were the food of elephants, then peanut butter was the food of the grassroots of the Republican party, whose symbol was the elephant.
So we, we ran hard. We ran a strong campaign. And really it was that campaign that created the foundation for my ability to become a senator. But there’s no question that that was a hard-fought campaign, and the way that it ended was less than favorable. Literally, the next day I had to get on an airplane to fly to Camp Shelby, Mississippi to do my 2 weeks of army training in the middle of nowhere. And I remember being on a rifle range, and a there was misfire happening, and I looked up to the safety officer on the rifle range and I said, “Was that Richard Mourdock over there?” Obviously, they didn’t get the joke. But Richard and I are now friends and get along great.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: And, in fact, you were both competing for [Senator Richard] Lugar‘s office.

MD: Well, you’re talking about the United States Senate, this last go ‘round?

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Yes.

MD: Yeah, at the time I was finishing up my legal studies and kind of transitioning professionally. I was running my own home-based business called MA Advisory Group, which was based upon my grandfather’s name of his company, the MA Delph Company, which I mentioned before. And I had thought about that for a little bit. I had been approached by some folks out in Washington, D.C., specifically that I have known for years and that had an interest in me considering that. And it really wasn’t a good time for me professionally and in the life of my family. And so it wasn’t something that I ever formed a committee or raised money or, started campaigning or reaching out to people to build support. But it did get in the press.
That led to Richard Mourdock reaching out to me. We had lunch, we talked about the opportunity, and he candidly asked me what I thought the top issues were and I told him, and a lot of what I said he ended up using as part of his platform to run against Senator Lugar. And he ultimately was successful. While that whole thing was going on, my wife and I took a three-week home school trip out to the East Coast, to visit former Revolutionary War historical sites to learn more about the founding of the country.
It’s mistaken, in perception, that I have some type of disregard for Senator Lugar. I have very high regard for him and his leadership and specifically his public service. Anybody that serves that long sacrifices a great deal with their family and in their business financially to serve the public. So I have a tremendous regard for him personally and professionally. I just had strong reservations and disagreement with him in matters of public policy and in the direction of some of the issues he was campaigning out in the United States Senate. But there’s no question that he was a strong figure in Washington, D.C.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: Let’s pause for a brief identification.

Interview (part II): Controversy over the proposed marriage amendment

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Chad Tew: This is Wikinews. It is March 27, 2014, and we are here in the radio studio of The Edge speaking to Indiana State Senator Mike Delph by telephone. Here with our next question is Justin Law.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Law: Senator Delph, your opposition to same-sex marriage and your public expression of love for your brother Stephen has us wondering about how you reconcile what seems to some as contradictory stances. Could you explain to us your philosophical stand on homosexuality and support of traditional marriage?

Mike Delph: Sure, I come to my support of all of the traditional family values from my Christian convictions and my belief in the authenticity and reliability of The Bible. My faith tradition teaches me that homosexuality is one in a number of sins that’s listed out in the Bible, and so that’s why I have an opposition to anything that institutionalizes, or legitimizes, a given sin.
The reconciliation of the contradiction that you point out is really “love the sinner, hate the sin” type deal. You know, my brother, Stephen, is my older brother. He’s had a very tough life, and we’ve been through a lot together. And you can’t go through life together and experience things as a family unit. We just experienced, for example, last year the death of my father and the death of my grandmother, both of whom were close to each one of us. That was something that we went through together. You can’t go through life, and go through experiences, with things like that without having love for one another, a love as brothers. And so I do love my brother. I support my brother. I support his right to be a human being, as well as I do all human beings and to live his life. And I don’t tell him how to live his life. And I don’t tell him what to do, or where to go, or who to be friends with. I feel like I respect my brother; but I don’t, as I’ve mentioned to the media before, I don’t support the lifestyle of homosexuality because it is contrary to my Christian convictions.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: Senator, your brother said on the air that you had set him up on a date. And you denied that. Could you just briefly talk about this?

MD: Certainly, I’ve never set my brother up with anybody nor have I done anything ever to promote his gay lifestyle. I have friends that I went to college with that I have suggested could be friends with my brothers — several of my brothers quite candidly — and in this case, I had a friend from college, who at the time had recently told me that he was gay. And my brother, I think, mistakenly made the connection that by me introducing him to a friend of mine who is gay that somehow there was more to it than that. My brother Stephen is not used to talking to the media and knows that he misspoke when he made that characterization. I love my brother. And we have reconciled that misstatement. But never in my lifetime have I done anything to go contrary to that Christian conviction and that belief that I have on that lifestyle.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Bobby Shipman: Senator Delph, this is Bobby speaking now. HJR-3 — the proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage and civil unions? You said it was the best environment right now. Why is this the right time for HJR-3?

MD: Well, in order for a constitutional amendment to be adopted you have it to go to a legislative body, pass the House and Senate. Then you have to have an election and you have to have the new legislative body take up the exact same language and pass the House and Senate. And so from a procedural standpoint if it didn’t pass in the same form this time the clock gets reset and the process starts over.
When I surveyed my constituents, and I do an annual legislative survey, over 60 percent of my survey responses suggested that people wanted the opportunity to vote on this issue via referendum this year November of 2014. They did not indicate which way they would vote. So they could have said, “we want to vote on it because we want to reject it and we want to be done with it this year,” or they could have said, “we want to adopt it into our constitution.” Either way, because of the actions of the leadership of the House and the Senate, my constituents were denied that opportunity to vote and resolve this issue once and for all in November 2014. And when I engaged in this issue the one thing I heard from people across the spectrum on HJR-3 is they wanted the legislature to be done with this once and for all.
And when I went through in my mind the different courses of action that could get us there I kept coming back to the referendum and I did not see another way that we could bring final closure and resolution to this issue, this very sensitive and difficult issue, without passing it to the people for an up or down vote. Because of the path that we chose, there is going to be pressure to bring this back next year and possibly years beyond that. So the state of Indiana is going to be forced to deal with this issue year in and year out. Which is my fear.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Shipman: With the polls in Indiana showing a change in public opinion over the past several years that is more favorable to the acceptance of same-sex marriage, do you think it’s going to be harder to support traditional marriage in the future?

MD: Well not for me because I am who I am and I support what I support, and I support traditional and Judeo-Christian values. I think if the polling data is accurate, as you expressed it, then the folks that were the opponents of HJR-3 — specifically the folks that were in leadership within Freedom Indiana — were working against their own self-interest. Why do I say that? Well if public opinion has truly changed then it was in their interest to pass this through the legislature and send it to the people themselves for an up or down vote were the referendum would be defeated and the issue would forever be gone and dealt with. And so I think there is some dispute where public opinion is. This is a very sensitive issue. It divides families. It divides political parties. It divides neighbors. Obviously you know about my family, and there is a difference of opinion just with me and brother on this issue. There’s a difference between me and my mother on this opinion. There’s even a difference of opinion in the Delph household — in the house where I live. And so these are all things that our state and society have to reconcile. But to me the ultimate issue was bringing this whole thing to closure and by denying people the right to vote this November we did not bring this to closure.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Shipman: Since the amendment would have had a long lasting consequences on Hoosiers, didn’t the process work this time?

MD: Well some could say that. If that brings the issue to final closure. But having sat in the legislature now for eight years, I think there’s going to be pressure to bring this back this next session — some sort of version. And it may be amended to make it tougher. They may put the civil union ban back in it, which then puts it on another two years. And so for me, I don’t think the information is going to be any clearer. I don’t think the issue are going to be any better understood. To me it didn’t make any sense to delay the final resolution of this once and for all. And for me again, the only way that I could see us bringing this to final closure was to have the referendum by the public. And if public opinion has changed, then those that support same-sex marriage worked against their own self-interest by denying the people the right to vote on this in November of 2014. Because if they would have allowed the vote and public opinion had changed, then they probably would have voted the referendum down and that would have been the debate once and for all.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: But there is also the Supreme Court that the legislature would have to deal with any kind of decision that’s made between now and when they act next.

MD: Certainly, there is a couple of things at play there. Recently, I think in Michigan, they stuck down and then stayed the decision — the Michigan constitutional amendment. So there is no question that the federal courts are getting involved. There is equal protection ground litigation that is being filed throughout the country. And specifically in Indiana, I think, there has been four law suits filed challenging the Indiana Statute, which has been on the books since 1986. And so this is a big battle that’s going on legally.
Traditionally, the widely held view is that the US Constitution trumps the State Constitution and that federal decisions in court trump state constitutional law. And so those are all things that have to be reconciled with the public opinion, and with the will of the people, and what they want, and how they view their government, and how they want society to react and deal with these types of issues.
But there is no question that even if we would have passed the constitutional amendment and even if the public would have adopted it, that that did not prevent a court challenge in federal court.
Let me just make one more comment… To me though we cannot as a legislative body at the state level of government, live in fear of litigation. We have an Article 6 oath of office that we take to the US Constitution that binds all elected officials to the same rule of law — except the President of the United States, who takes a separate oath of office. And that oath of office is to the written Constitution, as written in the Constitution. It has nothing to do with common law, has nothing to do with Supreme Court decisions and stare decisis [precedent]. It has to do with the written law, the written constitution. We also take an oath to uphold the Indiana state constitution.
And that oath of office is something I take very, very seriously. And that is what should drive us, our own understanding of the Constitution — not any fear of litigation in Federal Court.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Devyn Curry: Can you briefly give us your version of the chronology from the time you made the “tweet heard around the world” to the time when you were punished for the tweet.

MD: I will try to do the best that I can. You know the irony in all of this is that HJR-3 was really not my issue. I had found through interaction with the governor’s staff that the governor [Mike Pence] was pretty displeased with what was going on the legislature, particularly in the House of Representatives. He could not understand how a super majority House and a super majority Senate could not get this issue to the voters. He spoke in favor of HJR-3 and in a “State of the State” address and then in an additional follow-up interview with WISH-TV political reporter Jim Shella — WISH-TV is at channel 8, our CBS News affiliate in Indianapolis. And so I was trying to help them behind the scenes. I worked with Senator [Dennis] Kruse, who had told me that Senator [David] Long had wanted to control that process and have Senator Mike Young introduce the amendment on the floor that would restore the second sentence so that we could adopt the entire amendment and send it to the voters.
For me though, if you go back and look at my press conference, I pretty methodically laid out the chronology of why I thought that Senator Long and others had taken the issue into their own hands in order to really kill the issue for the session. And when I had met with them before learning the concerns of the governor, I had met with Senator Long and Senator [Brent] Steele, and we were asked — because we were members of the Judiciary Committee — to do a whip count on the Judiciary members to find out if there was support to reinsert the second sentence and if there was support to pass HJR-3 to pass out of the committee. At the time, we were told that the resolution was going to go to Judiciary Committee. And then when we did the whip count, we found support to restore the second sentence, and then pass it out of committee. After that, Senator Long made the decision to not send it to Judiciary but rather to his own Committee, Rules Committee, and then he made the further decision that he wasn’t going to allow any amendment. And then he was going to pass the resolution to the floor without amendment. Which if you look at the numbers, the mathematics — and again I go through all of this in my press conference, which is on YouTube in detail — If you take the thirteen Democrats and assume that they are all going to vote no, it only takes thirteen more Republicans to vote no with the Democrats. And so the mathematics works against conservative Republicans on the Senate floor. And I think all those things, in addition to other things, factored into Senator Long’s decision to do what he did.
Now in terms of the tweet when I was trying to help Senator Kruse. I had started my own whip count and I was stuck on fifteen solid Republican votes to agree on the floor to reinsert the second sentence. Well I needed twenty-six. If I didn’t have twenty-six, it wasn’t going to happen because of the math with the Democrats.
And so we had caucus, I can’t tell you what was discussed or said or done in caucus, but because I had filed my amendment — because at the time I wasn’t positive that an amendment was going to be filed. In checking with the legislative services agency, and with the Senate majority attorney’s office, I went ahead and filed an amendment to make sure that we would meet a deadline so an amendment could be filed. I did that knowing that I was stuck at fifteen votes. And so there was media interest as to whether or not I was going to call my amendment and what was going to happen. We were on the senate floor and this was after the caucus meeting. Within minutes of Dennis Kruse calling HJR-3 for second reading — and that’s when I put out the tweet saying there wasn’t support for me to call my amendment and that the second sentence was dead for the session of the General Assembly.
When I did that, I did that to satisfy inquiry from probably over half a dozen different media outlets that were going to ask me or had asked me what I was going to do. Rather than have the same discussion, six to ten different times, I just wanted to handle it at once during Twitter. But what I didn’t anticipate at the time was that everybody under the sun would retweet that tweet and I would start to trend nationally. At that point, this evolved into a whole other level of newsworthiness.
Senator Long came back on the floor and asked me about it and I explained what I did and why. At the time, I thought things were resolved between the two of us. It was only later that he had a media availability and he kind of blasted me and accused me of leaking a caucus confidence that we really started to get into it within the press.
And at that point in time, I made the decision to hold my news conference and to vote against HJR-3, if he would not allow the second sentence to be restored. I did that for a couple of reasons. One of which was I had passed out a legal memorandum from a very reputable source out of Washington D.C. that had told us that without the second sentence, our amendment had no legal consequences. So we were basically passing a statement that had no legal significance. And for me, given how divisive this was and how draining it was in terms of energy and what not, it didn’t make any sense to me to pass something for political purposes that wasn’t going to have any legal consequence.
And again, I talked about all of that in my press conference on YouTube. If you haven’t seen it, it will take thirty minutes of your life to watch it. It was carried live on ABC the Channel 6 news affiliate in Indianapolis and I walked through methodically the chronology of events at that press conference.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Curry: What were you trying to convey to the public through the media at the press conference?

MD: I was trying to bring to light what was going on with the process. And I was trying to bring to light my reasoning and thinking as to why I felt like this was a set up job from the beginning and that there was no intention to get this to the people. And how Senator Long had controlled the process. And how every step of the process the decisions that he made gave evidence to what I was saying that the people were never going to see this amendment at the ballot box in November of 2014. I also felt like it was newsworthy that one of the most conservative members of the Indiana State Senate was going to vote against the marriage amendment because it had no legal consequence. I wanted to explain to the public and to my constituents why a guy that is a strong supporter of traditional Judeo-Christian values, was not going to support the marriage amendment. Because I didn’t believe that the marriage amendment had legal consequence.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Curry: Senator, did you violate caucus rules of secrecy?

MD: I did not.
And the saying that I take great great umbrage with is … the only way I can fully defend myself would be to go violate caucus protocol and confidence.
Now I don’t accuse Senator Long of lying; that is a little strong. There are some — because what has been said to the media, particularly by Senator Long — that have had the wrong perception that I may have violated a confidence of the caucus. I certainly want to clear up any kind of misunderstanding with my caucus mates. But in no way did I violate a caucus confidence. The tweet that I put out was based upon my own information, from my own whip count that I kept on this project. Senator (Scott) Schneider knew about my whip count. Senator Dennis Kruse knew about my whip count. Senator Mike Young knew about my whip count. And so this idea that I violated a caucus confidence is unfortunate, it’s wrong, it’s untrue, it’s misleading, and, hopefully, this will help correct that record.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Senator, Chad Tew here. Who leaked the information about your punishment to the media?

MD: That is a great question because [laughs] — There is another issue over in the House of Representatives about caucus confidence being violated. I don’t know if you are following that with the whole nursing moratorium issue —
But it was interesting because the following Thursday I was called in to Senator Long and there were a couple of other senators, and they brought me in there to tell me what my consequence from this whole event was going to be. And they listed out four different things that were going to happen, and they then told me they were going to go to the caucus and privately tell them what was going to happen. Well, I get home Thursday night, that night, getting ready to have dinner, and I get a call from a Channel 13 WTHR NBC News affiliate. And they say “Senator Delph, we understand this, this, this and this are going to happen to you because of violating caucus protocol. Do you have a comment?”
And I just find it grossly hypocritical and somewhat ironic that there would be a violation of caucus protocol to leak out this punishment that I have while they’re accusing me of this. It’s really all very silly.
Since I have been in the legislature for eight years, I have been a champion of transparency and accountability. And I think the public has the right to know what their elected officials are doing on behalf of them and in some cases against them. And in this case, I did not violate a caucus confidence, and I was trying to advocate for my constituents, who wanted the right to vote on this issue as reflected in the surveys that they returned to my office. And so I felt like I was doing things to try to advocate on their behalf without necessarily taking a position from their perspective on whether they felt like this should be part of the constitution or not part of the constitution. I was trying to give them their opportunity, which they said they wanted, to vote on this one way or the other.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: Concerning your punishment, you’ve had a number of disagreements over the years with Senate leader David Long. Does Senate leader David Long serve the Republicans in the state senate or do they serve him?

MD: Yeah, that is a great question. I like Senator Long. He and I every couple of years will have an issue. The legislative process is not one where conflict can be avoided. When you are in the arena, you are going to have issues, and I have enjoyed serving with Senator Long. But ultimately we the people elect elected officials to serve in the legislative branch of government. And as Thomas Jefferson said, “The consent of the governed are who give and what gives elected leadership and legislatures the legitimacy to make decisions on behalf of the people.” And so Senator Long has been elected by the Republican caucus to a position of great public trust — to manage the institutional integrity of the senate. And so he needs to, in my opinion — I have said this to him publicly and privately — to remember it is the people of Indiana that he represents and not just special interests or even the interest of the caucus itself — but it is the public at large. And he has also a responsibility to the institution of the senate.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: Thank you, Senator. Let’s pause for identification.

Interview (part III): Issues in the fall 2014 election

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Chad Tew: Mike Delph, a Republican who represents parts of Indianapolis, Carmel and Zionsville is with us this morning for an exclusive interview. It is March 27, 2014, and this is Wikinews. Welcome back, Senator.

Mike Delph: Thanks for having me professor. One thing I just wanted to add from the last segment. There are a lot of YouTube videos and interviews that I’ve done and I’ve tried to be consistent in the story that I’ve been telling making sure that the truth gets communicated to the public. But when I did my press conference, I very methodically walked through my reasoning for why I believe that the marriage amendment was at least on the Senate side, set up for failure from the beginning. And I also addressed the whole tweet and where the information for that tweet came from. There’s been misinformation and misperception that it was tweeted from a caucus meeting. That is a falsehood. It was a tweet that I actually put out, again, directly from the senate floor within minutes of HJR-3 being called down for a second reading, and I did that, again, because there were a number of media requests to explain what I was going to do or not do with the amendment I had filed to restore the second sentence. I would encourage your listeners and your students if they’ve not done so to go listen to the press conference on YouTube.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Rachel Christian: Senator Delph, you have been labeled as a social conservative. Where do you believe you fall on the political spectrum?

MD: You know, that’s a good question. In my intro (Wikipedia: Voice Intro Project) that I read for Wikinews[sic] for the project that the professor and I worked on together, I reference myself as a fiscal and social conservative.
I kind of consider myself a constitutional conservative. I consider myself very independent-minded. If you look at my last election in 2010, I won my senate district 59 percent to 41 percent. Just two years prior to that, President Barack Obama won the same Senate district 56 percent to 44 percent over John McCain. So I think my history has shown an ability to have people who aren’t necessarily conservative Republican voters vote for me.
I try to listen to everybody, anybody in my district who has an issue or concern or wants to talk to me or tell me what they think about anything, always gets my ear. And you can’t do this job and be effective doing this job without being shaped by the views of your constituents, some of whom may disagree with your position on a given issue.
So I do consider myself a full-spectrum conservative, fiscal and social, but more importantly I consider myself a Constitutional conservative.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Bradie Gray: Recently, political commentator Brian Howey wrote about your senate district. Is it fair to say that your district is not socially conservative, that your stand on HJR-3 might not been aligned with your constituents, and that the Democrats see your seat as an opportunity.

MD: Well you will to talk to the Democrat[sic] Party about what they see as an opportunity. I can’t speak for them.
I will tell you again. I survey my constituents every year before we go in session. And I knew that the marriage amendment was going to be something that was going to be debated and considered. I asked them if they wanted a chance to vote on this through the constitutional amendment process via referendum in November 2014. I sent that survey to all registered voters in Senate District 29 and over 60 percent of the respondents said they wanted a chance to vote in November 2014. Again I didn’t ask which way they were going to vote — whether they were going to vote yes or no — but rather did they wanted the chance to vote. My position primarily was driven by that piece of information and my desire to try to advocate on behalf of my constituents to bring this whole issue to resolution.
From a personal standpoint, this issue is very divisive. The media is fixated on it. Very little else was covered because the media was so fixated on it. And to me whether you were for the amendment or against the amendment, there was pretty strong support to being done with it once and for all. And I couldn’t figure out a way to bring final closure to this without going to the referendum process to the public. And so I was hoping we could deal with this whole issue in 2014 but others felt differently that were in the leadership. And so we are going to be dealing with this issue on into the future.
In terms of the ideology of my constituents. I have some constituents who are socially conservative. I have some constituents who are socially moderate. I have some constituents who are socially liberal. The proof is going to be in the pudding when we run for reelection in November 2014 whether or not this is the driving issue to drive turnout and ultimately render judgement over the totality of my service in the senate.
Last year, I carried three bills into law. I’ve been known widely as somebody who is a leader on Veterans and military issues. Last year, we expanded contracting opportunities for veterans returning from Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. I wrote and carried into law a strong reform in the area of education for high performing schools. I have led efforts in reform for local government reform in Title 36 of Indiana Code. I have been named Legislator of the Year by the Disabled American Veterans. And I have been giving the Distinguished Public Service Award twice, once in 2006 and once in 2013 by the American Legion. I’ve been awarded the Mr. Clean Award by Common Cause for my efforts to promote lobbying reform, and ethics reform, and redistricting reform. I’ve led an effort to change the law in the area immigration reform. And again that was not a Republican or Democrat issue, it was an American patriotic issue. And a lot of my folks that were not a conservative or Republican because of my leadership on this issue supported me in 2010. We feel very good about where we were politically.
I just actually just had a grassroots campaign committee with my team on Saturday at my house. My 19-year-old daughter Abby, who is a freshman at IUPUI, is going to serve as my campaign manager, and I’m going to teach her how to do this. We have the leader of the College Republicans at Anderson University, as well as IUPUI and other leaders from Butler University that will all be involved in my grass roots effort.
Before Thanksgiving, there was some talk that somebody might try to challenge me in a primary. And our grassroots effort, we had home school moms and volunteers make over 7,000 phone calls to base, Republican voters. We shut that down pretty quick. We have the strongest, best grassroots team in the state senate. I welcome competition. We are going to go out and compete. And we are going to let the voters make their decisions. We feel very good where we are politically.
From a campaign finance standpoint. We have the most money that we have ever had. We have [US]$180,000 in cash in the bank. I have a business man, a Christian pastor, who has offered to write a check for $25,000 to support me. Another person is going to write a check for $2500. And I suspect if I really tried to raise more money, I could raise a lot more money.
So again I feel the grassroots, the financial support, the community support will be there for us. But ultimately I serve at the pleasure of the voters. And if they choose that they would rather have somebody else serve them and represent them in the Indiana State Senate, I certainly will respect that decision. But I will never shy away from my core convictions, or my Christian principles, or what I believe in, or what I think the right thing to do is, and I will always act on what I believe is the right thing to do.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Casie Mathies: Senator, this is Casie, how important are the business or establishment Republicans in your district and do you stand in danger of alienating them with your stands on HJR-3?

MD: You know there are some businesses that are in fear of litigation right now because of the whole environment around same-sex marriage. There are some churches that will be sued and possibly forced to ordain a relationship and a union that their God rejects. And so there are some businesses that will probably have some concerns but there will be other businesses that will support my position. I think most businesses though, aren’t really motivated by this issue in particular. They are just out trying to run a business to make payroll, to grow their business, and I’ve got a strong business-friendly record as delineated by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Manufacturers Association. A strong history for promoting economic growth, including our latest bill this year was Senate Bill 1. Where we’ve given the local government units the ability to phase out the business personal property tax if they so choose to do so, and a gradual further reduction of the corporate income tax.
One other additional point I want to make. I’ve also been a leader on corporate transparency reform. Last year, I also carried into law a bill that Governor Pence signed into law before a board of directors meeting of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation calling for and requiring more transparency and the economic incentives that we give out to companies that say that they are going to create “X” amount of jobs in exchange for those economic incentives. So bottom line, I think my record in the senate has been very pro-business and pro-job growth and pro-economic development and so I think businesses will look more at that than they will look at HJR-3.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Sean Kerchief: Your likely opponent in next fall’s election, JD Ford, says he stands for, quote, equality. Do you?

MD: I’ve not had a chance to meet Mr. Ford. I look forward to doing so. You know, we still have a primary to get through, and I’ll probably reserve my comments until after May. After the candidates have been officially nominated by the voters of each party. But I believe in equality. We do have equality of marriage. We just have not, ever, believed as a society that that translates to same-sex marriage. We have had over two hundred years of social norms and of standing up for traditional Judeo-Christian values and this idea of equating same-sex marriage with opposite sex or traditional marriage is a very new thing in the history and life of Indiana and our nation. And so, any man has the right to marry a woman who agrees to marry him, and any woman has the right to marry any man who agrees to marry her, and that is equal, you know, across all boundaries.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Keisha Wright: Senator Delph, What are the political stands that are going to provide the sharpest contrast between you and your likely political opponent, JD Ford this fall?

MD: Well again, I’ve not yet had the chance to meet Mr. Ford. I look forward to doing that, and I’ve not had the chance to be educated on what he stands for, and what his positions are, and I look forward to doing that. But what I’m told, the biographical backgrounds and positions are pretty black and white, night and day, and so I think the voters, for what I’ve been told without studying the issues on him, will get a sharp contrast.
You know I’ve served in the Indiana State Senate for 8 years. I spent four years in leadership as an assistant majority floor leader for communications revamping the whole communications process through two communications directors. I’ve carried a number of bills into law. I’ve served in business. I’ve run my own business out of my home. Now I serve for a privately-held company as a general counsel. I’ve served for a publicly traded company as an executive in their government affairs department, and so I have a lot of business experience, applied experience in the Indiana General Assembly. I’ve also had a lot of family experience raising five daughters as a home school educator.
I’ve been a leader in the military. I currently am a major in the United States Army Reserve serving in a number of leadership capacities during the course of my military experiences. So I’m very confident and proud of my history, of my record, and I look forward to further communicating that with my voters and Senate District 29. And I also look forward to meeting my opponent after we get through the May primary.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: Just a short question. You started your military service in what year?

MD: June of 2001, I believe.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: And you were promoted to major when?

MD: I was promoted to major on March 23, 2012. And that was also after the whole brouhaha over the military uniform issue with [Lieutenant] Colonel Mejia. I was a company commander for the 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, at the time I was a captain, company commander. And notwithstanding that I was still promoted to major. I think the military almost on a weekly basis to take a leadership position in a unit.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Meredith Harris: You have been considered for higher offices. What qualities do you have to offer not only your district, but voters all over Indiana?

MD: Well, I’ve not actively sought higher office. I enjoy reading about my political future in the press routinely, oftentimes over coffee with my daughters. You know, I love my country, I love my state, I love my neighbors, I love my community, I love my fellow man. I’m very concerned about the direction that our nation’s going. In 2008, we crossed a barrier that was not widely reported. That was the first year that our nation started talking about operational deficits — the difference between revenue and expense on an annual basis — in terms of trillions of dollars. It is mind boggling to me that since 2008 the United States government has added a trillion dollars in national debt each and every year. We are spending our posterity into oblivion. At some point our debt will not be marketable. People won’t think it’s a good enough risk to invest in and at that point Judgement Day happens.
And I, you know, am concerned about that because I love my five daughters and I want them to grow up with opportunity. I want them to grow up in economic freedom and to be able to compete and do things and love and live and enjoy life and not have a country on the brink of collapse — of economic collapse. So I’m very outspoken on issues like that and on national security issues and also on Supreme Court nomination issues, and that sort of thing. And because of that, that’s led to speculation.
When the speculation took place regarding Senator Lugar and also Congressman Burton, we did have brief discussions with my family, with my daughters, around our kitchen table. Some of my daughters have been character actors, or youth interpreters I should say, at Conner Prairie, a live museum here in central Indiana, others have served as members of the Indianapolis Children’s Choir. They’re all very involved in the home school community and their friends are here. So I told them that if I ran and got elected to federal office, they would either have to move out to Washington D.C., or they wouldn’t get to see their dad three nights, at least three nights out of the week. And once I gave them that information, they were unanimous in their opposition to me running for Congress or the United States Senate. Until I get to a point where my family balance can be taken into consideration, I don’t anticipate seeking higher office. But I’m always humble and grateful that people consider my record and my views worthy of consideration for such purpose.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: Just briefly, senator. Your passage of the local government initiative that would allow governments to merge was very successful in your district, but not successful elsewhere around Indiana. What was it about your district that made it unique in that it decided to merge?

MD: Well the reform that came from House Bill 1362, which at the time was the most dramatic reform in Title 36, in probably 25 years or more. It allowed for the creation of a government of the people, by the people, for the people subject to the imagination. Whatever the mind could come up with, you could do up to the county boundary. And so in the case of Eagle and Union Townships deciding to dissolve themselves and then enter into a pact with the town of Zionsville and create the new town of Zionsville, it took vision. It took selfless service because you had two township trustees that had to agree to dissolve their reason for being. Not many elected officials will do something like that. It was a very courageous move by the trustee of Eagle and the trustee of Union Townships to do that. I think part of the problem that we’ve had in other parts of the state, including Evansville and Fort Wayne, is that the process and the law has not been adequately marketed and explained to the public and to elected officials. But right now in Indiana Code, you could reform local government up to the county boundary in just about any way imaginable to the mind. The only thing that really is the constraint is the imagination.
I’m very proud of that. And I’m proud of the fact that the folks in Zionsville took the ball and ran with it. I was honored to work with then state representative Jim Buck, from Kokomo, who also represented Zionsville. And I represented … at the time, not Zionsville. It wasn’t until afterwards that Zionsville became part of my area.
Here is one other neat story. The Town Hall chambers in Zionsville is the former Methodist church where Beth and I got married in. When we had this ceremony of this dissolution of Eagle and Union Townships and the creation of the new town of Zionsville. It literally happened right where we got married. And I was asked to speak right in the same place where I exchanged my wedding vows with my wife. I got up to speak and I was nervous and stammering a little bit and they’re like “Senator is everything ok?” And I’m like, “For some reason, this specific location in the world, I’m in a vortex, and it makes me really nervous.”

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: Thank you, senator. And, let’s pause for identification.

Interview (part IV): Conclusion

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png This is Wikinews, and we are back with Senator Mike Delph. I am Chad Tew, and we are here at The Edge radio studios with my journalism students and recording from the campus of the University of Southern Indiana, in Evansville. Our first question will come from Jordan.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Jordan Bayes: Hi, Senator Delph, Jordan Bayes speaking. What ever became of the military investigation of you and the soldier who appeared by you at a press conference?

Mike Delph: Well that was ultimately adjudicated by the military. Colonel Mejia ended up retiring in good standing with the military. At the time I was a captain in the United States Army Reserve, and I am now a major. So I think everybody has moved forward and moved on.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngTew: And you were never punished for that, for the record?

MD: There was a resolution that I had with my commanding general that is private, but there was never anything official other than on my officer evaluation report that denoted the issue.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.pngTew: Yes, and then you were successfully promoted.

MD: Successfully promoted for major and more importantly I get, I won’t say harassed, but a fair number of calls from recruitment and retention people asking me to take leadership of units and to be more involved in the military, as if I have all this extra time on my hands.
But let me just tell you, on that whole deal. I don’t go through life with regrets. I had no regrets for that press conference. The purpose of that press conference was to show Ray Mejia to the world, and how a guy who came from Mexico, not knowing the language, not being a citizen, used the path of the military to rise up through the ranks, get an education, learn the English language, and then ultimately become a successful executive with Eli Lilly. To me that was a story that needed to be told. Nobody was telling it. Ray Mejia is very proud of his military service, as am I, and he wanted to show off what he had done in the military that was part of his identity and part of his story.
So we were both supportive of that move, and, you know, as in life, you take positions just like when I did my press conference a couple weeks ago. I decided to do a press conference in the center of the rotunda of the Indiana State House, and I did that going into it knowing there would be consequences. That’s part of leadership.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Bayes: Tim Durham, who is now serving a 50-year sentence for running a Ponzi scheme in Indiana, was a major donator to Republicans, including your campaign. Former Governor Daniels for instance received almost $200,000 dollars. You were the first to give money back donated by Durham in 2011 after he was charged, which was $10,000 dollars. However you kept money donated by BP after the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010. What kind of money do you think should be given back, and what kinds do you think are alright to keep?

MD: You know, it’s interesting, because I got introduced to Tim Durham in, I want to say September or October — I want to say it was October of 2005. It was right before my special caucus or special election for my caucus for the replacement of Murray Clark. Governor Daniels was hosting a Republican Governors Association fundraising event at Obsidian headquarters, and that was my first introduction to Tim Durham. And then I have a dear friend of mine who went to high school with him down in Seymour in Jackson County. I did not know Tim well. I met him a couple times, but my friend Tim Motsinger — who I’d known through politics and Marion County used to be a deputy with Marion County Sheriff’s Department for Jack Cottey — encouraged me to reach out to him, and I did on a couple occasions, and he wrote me two checks for $5000 dollars.
When the whole fair finance deal was coming out, and I started learning about that, the bankruptcy trustee actually sent out a list, or made a list of people that Durham had made contributions to, asking for voluntary returns of that money. Making the argument that it wasn’t his money to donate, it was the retiree’s money. I was not on that list. I didn’t know about the list. When I found out about the news story, I reached out on my own to the bankruptcy trustee, and said, “Hey, Tim gave me $10,000 dollars, I’d like to return it, what do I need to do?” And they were shocked. They couldn’t believe it because they were trying so hard to get all this other money that you mentioned back and they were not getting much cooperation. So. Tor me I felt it was the right thing to do. You know, I pray for Tim Durham. I think that all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I also believe only one man walked this Earth without sin and his name was not Mike Delph. And so I felt it was the right thing to do to give the money back, and I did that.
In the terms of BP, BP is a great corporate citizen. They made a mistake and immediately went to rectify and restore the ecology of the mistake that they made. And so I’m very proud of BP and I’m very proud for the way that they handled that, and I thought this political scapegoatism of them was pretty shameful. This is a company that provides a lot of jobs, a lot of economic development, a lot of good things to the community. They had a tough time and they immediately used corporate assets and their ingenuity to aggressively address and correct what they had done negatively to the environment. And I felt like they should be applauded and lifted up and not condemned.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Dennis Marshall is here with our last question tonight, Dennis —

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Dennis: Senator you are well known for your support of the single class basketball here in Indiana, why is that such an important issue for you?

MD: Dennis you’re going to make me cry. I love this issue, love it. I grew up in a time that is not, obviously, today, and I just fell in love with Indiana high school basketball. I didn’t play basketball in high school myself. I was a football player and I was slow and bulky and that sort of thing.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: You were a wrestler, too?

MD: I actually was a cheerleader for the high school basketball team my senior year.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: Senator, were you a wrestler?

MD: I love basketball, I always have. But when I was growing up I remember watching the state tournament with my grandmother. It was almost like a holiday. We’d play cards and have a cheeseball and you know salami and crackers. We’d bet a dollar a game on the games.
That was the time when guys like Scott Skiles were bringing Plymouth (High School) to the state championship tournament, and Steve Alford and New Castle [High School], and Mike and Chris Heineman over at Connersville [High School]. There was just a tremendous amount of great basketball stories. And then I got to learn about the story of the “Milan Miracle”, of the state championship run that led to the story of Hoosiers [a film]. Then, later on, right before I left and started growing up more after college and graduate school, the story of Damon Bailey and Bedford North Lawrence [High School] team. These are stories were high school basketball teams would captivate and grab the attention of the entire state. I remember when the Marion Giants with Jay Edwards and Lyndon Jones dominated for a couple years.
And so these are things that are very important and then when they went to this touchy feeling everybody has to have a trophy and a championship multi-class system, it took something away from our Hoosier identity. So it was something that I always felt pretty strongly about.
When I first got elected to the legislature, my pastor’s wife was the executive assistant to the commissioner of the ISHAA, Blake Ress, and she knew how I felt about class basketball. I didn’t like it and I wished we’d go back to single class [basketball in Indiana]. But out of unity to my church and not wanting to cause my pastor’s wife consternation, I decided I would not do anything or pursue anything. Then she left the IHSAA and then I had an opportunity to interject this multi-facet education proposal. And then I met Bobby Cox, the then commissioner of the IHSAA, and I told him, “I’ll table this proposal, but let’s see what the public has to say.” And he said, “that is a great idea. Let’s do some public meetings. Let’s go around the state together, let’s hold a press conference and tell the world what we are doing, and let’s take a vote at every public meeting. We’ll give the public a chance that they didn’t have at the time when we made this decision.
I think at the time the IHSAA and Commissioner Cox, in particular, thought that the public would be more allow the lines of multi-class basketball. We probably had 50 to 100 people turn out at every one of our meetings. We even went to former historical Gary Roosevelt up in Lake County we went down to several areas in Southern Indiana, we went to Pendleton. I don’t have the list in front of me, so I’m just kind of doing this from memory. I emailed it to Professor Tew. I think the turnout or vote was 68 percent for restoration towards single class basketball.
One of the real joys of that whole process for me was meeting Bobby Plump and going to Milan and meeting the [19]54 basketball team. They all turned out for that. That was kind of a turning point in our road show. Because up until that point, the turnout was mixed in terms of whether it was single-class or multi-class. But at Milan, it was blowout. Everyone there wants to go back to single class basketball. I toured the Milan high school, and the athletic director tells me to this day he still gets calls from people all over the world wanting to know about Milan and Hoosiers.
He actually had a guy call him once and say how do I get to the high school, I’m flying in to Cincinnati, and he gave him directions from the Cincinnati airport to the Milan high school so he could come see the trophies and learn more about the history because he had just seen the movie Hoosiers. To me this is something like, just like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway puts Indianapolis on the map, we’re known as the greatest racing spectacle in world, with the Indianapolis 500. We are also known internationally for our wonderful single class basketball tournament, which lifts up and extolls the virtues of the underdog and the little guy. When we went to multi-class basketball we lost some of that cultural identity that Indiana was known for. Not only nationally but throughout the world. And I want to try to bring that back.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Tew: Thank you Senator. This has been an exclusive interview with Mike Delph. Thank you very much Senator for being with us tonight and speaking to fifteen journalism students and myself…

MD: Professor, it’s been an honor. I really have enjoyed working with you and the University of Southern Indiana through this process. And I really enjoyed talking with your students and answering their questions. I look forward to an ongoing partnership into the future.



Outro

This has been an exclusive audio Wikinews interview with Indiana State Senator Mike Delph. To receive the latest news, please visit wikinews.org, presenting up-to-date, relevant, newsworthy and entertaining content without bias. Wikinews is a free service and it is funded by your generous donations. Click on the donate link on our homepage to learn how you can contribute. This recording has been released under the Creative Commons 2.5 License.

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January 6, 2014

Wikinews interviews on contributions to open-source: Opera

Wikinews interviews on contributions to open-source: Opera

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Monday, January 6, 2014 File:BRUCE LAWSON OPERA.png

Bruce Lawson.
Image: Bruce Lawson.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Wikinews interviewed Opera, a Norwegian software company, about its contributions to open-source, such as software. Questions discussed current workflow, dynamics of contributions, and background.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What caused your initial interest in open-source software?

Bruce Lawson: Opera has long been involved in open source software — we’ve often used open-source software, enhanced it and committed it back before including it in products. Opera began the specification that’s now called HTML5, bringing rich internet capabilities that were previously only available in proprietary plugins such as Flash and Silverlight into the open standard that is HTML.
Most recently, we’ve moved to using the open-source Blink rendering engine and have established a team dedicated to enhancing Blink and Chromium so that it’s better for everyone.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What is your current workflow regarding open-source contributions?

Bruce Lawson: Branch, commit, rinse and repeat.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What would you say had changed during your contributions to open-source projects throughout the years?

Bruce Lawson: The power and popularity of Github.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png How would you describe the role of open-source software today?

Bruce Lawson: Open source or closed source are equally valid; the vital glue is open standards for data interchange so that a user isn’t locked into one vendor.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png What effort do you put into localisation of your products? both open and not?

Bruce Lawson: Opera is available in 54 different languages. So, a lot of effort!

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you hire people for work remotely? How would you describe the dynamics of such trend over the years?

Bruce Lawson: No; we have offices in Norway, Poland, and Sweden but find it works best with everyone being physically close.



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October 6, 2013

Wikinews interviews specialists on South Korea military parade

Wikinews interviews specialists on South Korea military parade

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

File photo of South Korean military troops.
Image: US Military.

On Tuesday, South Korea staged a huge military parade to mark its armed forces’ 65th anniversary in a display of long-range missiles considered a direct threat to North Korea. 11,000 troops and 190 different weapons systems were on display in the parade. Wikinews interviewed several specialists about the parade’s possible significance.

Interviewees

Wikinews interviewed:

  • Robert Kelly, Associate Professor of International Relations Pusan National University (PNU) in South Korea
  • Margaret Kosal, Assistant Professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Gari Ledyard, Professor Emeritus of Korean Studies at Columbia University, New York
  • Sue Mi Terry, Senior Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University in New York
  • Young-hae Chi, Instructor in Korean at the University of Oxford, England
  • Seungkwon You, Associate Teaching Professor of Korean Studies at the University of Missouri

Wikinews Q&A

File:Robert Kelly File Photo.JPG

File photo of interviewee Robert Kelly.
Image: Robert Kelly.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What is your job role?

Kelly: I am a Professor of International Relations at PNU.
Kosal: I am an Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, more commonly known as “Georgia Tech.” I also direct the Emerging Technology and Security Program and the Biological and Chemical Nonproliferation and Counterterrorism Program.
Ledyard: I retired from my professorship at Columbia thirteen years ago; since then I’ve had no role. When I was active there since 1964, I taught Korean history and culture, emphasizing the traditional periods of Korea’s earlier history. In those years I wrote a few articles on contemporary political issues but my research has been almost all in Korea’s past.
Terry: I am a Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute.
Chi: I have been teaching Korean studies at Oxford University. I am specialized in international relations of the Far East and particularly North Korean human rights and refugee issues. I worked as an analyst of security issues at the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses in Seoul between 1983 and 1988 authoring a number of policy papers for the South Korean Government.
You: Associate Teaching Professor of Korean Studies teaching Korean Unification, Korean film, Korean society [at the University of Missouri].

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Is the display of cruise missiles and other weapons in a military parade by South Korea in direct response to repeated similar North Korean parades?

Kelly: Yes. I don’t actually think these sorts of demonstrations are proper in a democracy. Liberal states should not really be flashing their hardware in a strutting, provocative way like this. This is the sort of thing Putin would do. But SK’s [South Korea’s] case is rather exceptional. NK [North Korea] tries pretty regularly to bully SK, and as its nuclear and missile programs advance, SK deterrence become ever more important. So parades like this are a way of SK saying ‘don’t mess with us even though you have nukes.’

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye with United States President Barack Obama.
Image: White House.

Kosal: The “display” was multi-functional. It shows the modern, indigenous conventional military capabilities of the South Korean forces. It was also to credibly communicate — literally show to the North — possession of an adequate deterrent force, a force that is both capable and credible. The underlying capacity supports the newly announced bilateral tailored deterrence strategy between South Korea and the United States. The military parade served to transparently show, in a largely passive/non-offensive/non-reactionary way, the capacity to follow through on that strategy that is directed at North Korea’s offensive nuclear weapons, offensive chemical weapons, and offensive biological weapons programs rather than a more general deterrence strategy. There is much more to a tailored deterrence strategy, but that is one part of it. The specific declaratory policy highlights South Korea’s responsibility to “continue to build reliable inter-operable response capabilities and to develop the Korean Air and Missile Defense system.” These are largely passive defense measures to minimize the effects of a North Korean offensive attack and to reduce vulnerability of South Korean forces and civilians. It’s part of the overall strategic defense posture.
While not commonly observed in the US, parades like this are not atypical for East Asia, particularly in conjunction with significant anniversaries. In this case, the parade also marked the 65th anniversary of the Republic of Korea [South Korea] Armed Forces. In addition to the international visibility, it also serves South Korean domestic politics and advances South Korean President Park Geun-hye‘s own strong national security policies.
Ledyard: It could very well be, but I have no knowledge regarding it. It has long been routine for both Koreas to compete in the headlines.
Terry: President Park is trying to make it clear to the North that this time, under her watch, Seoul is now serious about responding to future provocations by the North. South Korea’s display of its missiles is meant to deter the North, to show the North that any provocation in the future would be met with strong retaliation.
Chi: The institution of the military parade has been a regular feature of the Armed Forces’ Day celebration in South Korea. Yet the display of the cruise missiles in the recent parade is designed to achieve specific purposes. One is obviously targeting at the North Korean regime as a warning for possible pre-emptive strikes on their conventional and nuclear missile sites. The other target is South Korean citizens who have been increasingly agitated about the possession of WMDs by its Northern counterpart and want to see some guarantee from their own government. Hence the parade is not only for displaying its military capabilities to its enemies but it is also playing a psychological game with its own people. Yet, Hyunmoo-3c, one of the cruise missiles displayed in the event, signals that the South Korean government’s perspective is no longer limited to the Korean peninsula. Hyunmoo-3c’s range of 1,500 km indicates that the Korean military oversees the entire Northeast Asian region as its strategic theatre. Such a wide strategic thinking is also behind the planned construction of the naval base in Jeju Island.
You: Not direct response. However, this parade has not been done for many years and resumed this year indicating [the] Park government would not tolerate any hostile action by North Korea.

File photo of interviewee Young-hae Chi.
Image: Young-hae Chi.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, has warned of a “very grave” threat posed by North Korea. Would a military parade like this be more likely to encourage hostile behaviour?

Kelly: Not really, because NK already engages in so much hostile behavior it is hard to know how much more restraint SK show. My own sense is that SK demonstrates remarkable forbearance in the face of NK threats. If one thinks of how, e.g., the US or Israel would respond to such threats, SK looks downright gentle. So SK needs to signal both that it does not seek escalation, but also that it cannot be bullied. It’s a tough balancing act, and this parade is to send that second message.
Kosal: Not necessarily. North Korean behavior is difficult to predict with any fidelity. The military parade, while it shows potential capacity, is a fundamentally passive (rather than active or reactive) form of behavior. Reinforces a consistent posture by the South Koreans and the US.
Ledyard: There is a sixty-year history of such back-and-forth with an impressive absence of active military conflict. It’s tit for tat, and both sides either maintain the balance or one or the other loses face. It would take much more than a parade for actual conflict to erupt.
Terry: No, not in the long run although this kind of a military parade might provoke temporary, short-term hostile behavior by the North. The North has never been ideological or suicidal. Its chief goal always has been regime survival. It knows if a war were to break out, it will definitively lose to South Korea.
Chi: The South Korean government has been implementing military parades since 1956, and as such it is unlikely to encourage or discourage hostile behaviour.
You: Could be. North Korea already criticized [the] Park government about the recent parade and very bold move by the Park Government in negotiating family reunion and resuming of Diamond Mountains. However, I do not believe that North Korea will take any hostile action since the US Secretary of State, Kerry, is proposing North Korea a peaceful dialogue.

File photo of interviewee Margaret Kosal.
Image: Margaret Kosal.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Does the presence of US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel to this military parade show a further strengthening in the US–South Korea alliance?

Kelly: It does, but the Secretary’s presence is more for the optics than substance. The US–Korean alliance was substantially strengthened about 4 years ago by the previous SK president. This is just a refresher that looks good on TV.
Kosal: Secretary of Defense Hagel’s presence, along with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, shows the commitment of the United States to support its ally. The United States remains committed to the transfer of operational control (OPCON) to the South Koreans for general defense of South Korea. The US is also strongly committed to limiting proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Their presence reinforces that to the North Koreans as well as to the international community.
Ledyard: It is simple routine in the USA–ROK alliance. South Koreans depend on it and the US takes care to show support.
Terry: Yes, it further showcases the depth of Washington‘s support for South Korea against any provocation from Pyongyang.
Chi: Certainly he is there to add symbolic strength to the alliance which tended to be weakened until recently. Behind his presence is the recent agreement to reconsider the planed transfer of the war-time operation control from the UN/US to the Korean army.
You: US–South Korea alliance is strong but it is a bit more complicated since [the] US is supporting Japan in arming in naval forces to check China, which is a great concern for South Korea and [the] South Korean people. This might cause some issues in US–South Korea alliance.

File photo of interviewee Gari Ledyard.
Image: Gari Ledyard.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png North Korea’s rhetoric vows the repeated bolstering of its nuclear arsenal to what it calls US military threats. Do you think a military parade of this type backed by the US is likely to influence further hostility?

Kelly: No, because NK must be permanently hostile toward the US and SK anyway. NK has no reason to exist as a separate, poorer Korean state, just as the GDR [East Germany] had no post-cold war reason to exist, unless SK and the US can be regularly described as the enemy. So NK doesn’t want a war, but they certainly don’t want a warm peace, as then NK then loses its raison d’etre.
Kosal: No, North Korea and its leadership are responsible for its choices, which are the primary source of instability on the Korean peninsula with potential regional effects.
Ledyard: The “military threats” are more a reflection of North Korea’s fears than any concrete threats. They are more for internal DPRK [North Korea] efforts to keep its own population in tune with government policies.
Terry: No. I think it’s important to remember Pyongyang’s periodic provocations and its pursuit of nuclear arsenal are not reactions or self-defense measures against a threatening Seoul or Washington. Incapable of competing with economically flourishing South Korea, the North relies on bolstering its nuclear arsenal and on military and political brinkmanship to make up ground.
Chi: The two Koreas do the military parade almost routinely. South Korea will have a similar parade again when there is a new government in five years. It is unlikely the kind of parade to influence further hostility.
You: No, this is just symbolic. As a matter of fact, North Korea is very anxious to escape from the current gridlock and [the] US and South Korea do not give them plenty of reasons to go to the negotiating table.

File photo of interviewee Sue Mi Terry.
Image: Sue Mi Terry.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you think it is likely that North and South Korea may at some point in the near future be engaged in direct military action with each other?

Kelly: Minor skirmishes are possible, indeed likely, given the border confusion in the Yellow Sea. But a major conflict is highly unlikely, no matter what bluster comes from NK. The NKs would lose such a war, decisively in fact, and the NK elite would face the hangman in the South afterward. NK is much too far behind to win. So full-scale conflict is very unlikely.
Kosal: I hope not.
Ledyard: No. A year or two ago there was a naval incident that occurred in the West Sea, but both sides separated quickly, although the North shelled an island claimed by both the DPRK and the ROK. Neither side has anything to gain from any such incident.
Terry: The North’s latest tactic — to return to diplomacy after provoking Seoul and Washington earlier this year — does not mean that the North has abandoned its timeworn brinkmanship strategy nor that it has shifted its nuclear policy. The North is likely to pursue more aggressive action down the road, attempting to ratchet up another sense of crisis, if it determines that its current peace ploy is not getting the concessions it seeks from Seoul. But while the North may provoke Seoul again with border skirmishes, or another missile or nuclear test, I think it will avoid direct military action with Seoul that will escalate to an all-out conflict. Again, Pyongyang will not risk outright hostilities that will lead to an all-out war.
Chi: You can never exclude possible exchanges of military actions within a limited range. At the time of North Korean attack on Yeonpyeong Island in November 2011, the South Korean Government made an official pledge to retaliate against any future military actions by North Korea. The government will face grave political consequences if it fails to live up to its own words. There is always a possibility of direct military actions but they will be more or less contained to a local level.
You: No, I would not think so. North Korea is more desperate to engage in a dialogue with South Korea and [the] US but they look for justification to go to the table. However, [the] Park government and US would not be simply welcoming them to the negotiating table. When they negotiate, they would be not generous or lenient to take all the North Korean offers.

A KPAF Ilyushin Il-76MD strategic airlifter in the mid-2000s, in Air Koryo markings.
Image: Regis Sibille.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png This parade has been described as an Anti-North deterrence, do you think this will act as such?

Kelly: Yes. NK is moving more rapidly toward nuclearization and missilization than many had expected. NK pretty clearly has no intention of de-nuclearizing. That is simply not going to happen no matter how many SK and US political figures demand it. So now, SK must show that it can keep up and match, if not outrace, the NKs. This is why there is so much focus now on SK missile and BMD capabilities.
Kosal: Yes.
Ledyard: Again, nearly sixty years of history supports the view that neither side has any interest in actual military conflict.
Terry: To some degree, yes. It’s good to remind the North of Seoul’s capabilities, although as I said before, Kim Jong-un, like his father and grandfather before him, already knows any all-out conflict would result in the destruction of his regime.
Chi: South Korea’s possession of cruise missiles and other advanced technology such as drones had been an open secret. There is nothing new about this parade, hence little deterrence effect added to the existing military posture.
You: No, it would not act as such. Rather, it has domestic purpose to draw [the] South Korean public to concern more about South Korean military and national security in general. For the past decade, [the] South Korean public have been very critical of the role of military in society. Certainly, the Park government wants to rectify it.



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September 23, 2013

Wikinews interviews specialists on China, Iran, Russia support for al-Assad

Wikinews interviews specialists on China, Iran, Russia support for al-Assad

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Over the past week, diplomatic actions have averted — or, at least delayed — military strikes on Syria by the United States. Wikinews sought input from a range of international experts on the situation; and, the tensions caused by Russia’s support for the al-Assad regime despite its apparent use of chemical weapons.

File:Ghouta chemical attack map.svg

Map of areas affected by chemical weapons in Ghouta, Syria.
Image: FutureTrillionaire.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Tensions in the country increased dramatically, late August when it was reported between 100 and 1,300 people were killed in an alleged chemical attack. Many of those killed appeared to be children, with some of the pictures and video coming out of the country showing — according to witnesses — those who died from apparent suffocation; some foaming at the mouth, others having convulsions.

Amongst Syria’s few remaining allies, Iran, China, and Russia continue to oppose calls for military intervention. In an effort to provide a better-understanding of the reasoning behind their ongoing support, the following people were posed a range of questions.

Interviewees

  • Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C.
  • Kerry Brown, Professor of Chinese Politics from the University of Sydney, Australia
  • Farideh Farhi, an Affiliate with the Graduate Faculty of Political Science, and lecturer, at the ̣̣University of Hawai’i, Honolulu
  • Mehran Kamrava, Professor and Director of the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
  • William Martel, Professor of International Security Studies at Tufts University near Boston, Massachusetts
  • Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford, England
  • Walter Posch, an Iran expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin, Germany; and,
  • Sam Roggeveen, a fellow of the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, Australia

Wikinews Q&A

Iran, China, and Russia have remained as allies to the al-Assad government despite the alleged use of chemical weapons in Ghouta on August 21, 2013. Wikinews queried the listed subject-matter experts regarding the diplomatic relations between these nations, and the reasoning behind such.

China

File photo of United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York.
Image: Patrick Gruban.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png There are suggestions China wants to maintain its financial ties with Syria as its third largest importer in 2010. Would you agree with this?

  • Brown: I don’t think that is China’s key priority. China has a massive economy, and Syria is a very minor player in this. It has some, but not much, energy from Syria. Its real concerns in the current conflict are for stability, and geopolitical.
  • Farhi: China’s conduct in Syria has been similar to its conduct elsewhere. It has given support to Russia in international forum such as the UNSC [United Nations Security Council] and has acted opportunistically wherever its economic interest could be pursued. But, Syria is really not an area of interest for China. Its actions and support for the Russian position is derived from its general concerns regarding American imperialism and unilateralism.
  • Mitter: China will want, in general, to maintain financial ties with Syria as it does with many countries. China’s general position is that internal politics of countries should not interfere with economic ties.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you think China is talking from experience when it says that foreign countries shouldn’t get involved with Syria’s internal affairs?

File photo of interviewee Sam Roggeveen.
Image: Sam Roggeveen.

  • Roggeveen: That stance reflects China’s history as a weak, developing country with a host of territorial disputes with its neighbours. Beijing does not want to set international precedents that will allow third parties to interfere with, for example, the Taiwan issue, Tibet, the East China Sea or the South China Sea.
But increasingly, China’s stance will conflict with its growing strength and growing responsibilities on the world stage. China is already the world’s second biggest economy and a major strategic power in the Asia Pacific [region]; and, it will increasingly be expected to take up responsibilities that come with such power. Also, as we saw in the case of Libya — where China sent a fleet of ships and aircraft to evacuate its nationals — China has interests and citizens all over the world, both of which need to be protected.
  • Brown: It [China] has always stood by non interference of other counties in the internal affairs of sovereign states; though, this position has changed over time since it was formulated on the back of China’s experience of colonisation in the early part of the twentieth-century. Its main priority now is to not see the escalation of issues, as was seen in Iraq and Afghanistan; where it runs the risk of being sucked into lengthy conflicts with no real gameplan, and no clear outcome that is relevant to it. It does not see the Syria[n] conflict [as] one where there is a an easy, viable, alternative option waiting to govern the country. And, it is very sceptical about US and others’ claims that they can control this problem.
  • Farhi: Yes, rejection of interference in the internal affairs of other countries — particularly of a military kind — is a principled Chinese position in areas where China doesn’t have an over-riding interest.
  • Mitter: China has been a hardline advocate of strong territorial sovereignty for decades. This is, in part, a product of its own history of being invaded and occupied by other countries.

File photo of interviewee Rana Mitter.
Image: Rana Mitter.


Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png China abstained from a UN Security Council resolution on Libya — do you think they are trying to reprise what happened in Libya in terms of regime change?

  • Roggeveen: China and Russia suspect the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine, which was used by Western powers to justify the Libya intervention, was a smokescreen for regime change. So, they are wary of seeing something similar happen in Syria. China also prefers not to be on its own in the Security Council; so, if the Russians come down against a Libya-like resolution, [the] chances are that China will join them.
  • Brown: They felt there was clear mission-creep with Libya. What, however, has most emboldened them in opposing action in Syria is the position of Russia; which they have been able to stand behind. Diplomatically they dislike isolation, so this has proved the issue they have taken cover from.
  • Farhi: Libya has set a bad precedent for many countries who supported, or did not object to, NATO action. So, yes, the Libya example is a precedent; but, in any case, the Syrian dynamics are much more complex than Libya and both Russia and China — as well as Iran — genuinely see the attempt to resolve the imbroglio in Syria through military means as truly dangerous. In other words, they see the conduct of Western powers in the past two years as spawning policies that are tactically geared to weaken the Assad regime without a clear sense or strategy regarding what the end game should be. Particularly since at least part of the opposition to Assad has also elicited support from Islamic radicals.
  • Mitter: In general China is reluctant to take decisive action in international society, and [at] the UN. It prefers its partners, such as Russia, to take on confrontational roles while it tries to remain more neutral and passive.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you think a political solution is the only realistic means to resolve the Syrian issue?

File photo of interviewee Kerry Brown.
Image: Kerry Brown.

  • Roggeveen: At the moment, both sides [in Syria] evidently feel they can still obtain their objectives through force. Perhaps one of them will be proved right; or, perhaps there will be a long-term stalemate with Syria split between regime and opposition forces.
One important change is the chemical weapons agreement; which now makes it much more difficult for the US or Israel to intervene militarily. The deal also gives the regime some degree of status as a legal authority with which outside powers must negotiate. That weakens the hand of the opposition; but, it could open a door for an international diplomatic intervention to achieve — firstly — a cease fire. and perhaps then something more substantive.
  • Brown: There is no appetite for the kinds of expensive and very hard interventions [undertaken] in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, in any case, the US and its allies don’t have the money to fund this, and their publics evidently feel no case has been made yet for getting involved. People are weary of the endless arguments in the Middle-East, and feel that they should now be left to deal with their own issues. China, in particular, has tried to maintain as strong a […] network of benign support in the region as possible, while avoiding getting sucked into problems. There is no viable opposition in Syria that would make it easier to justify intervention; and, no easy way of seeing how this tragic civil war is going to be easily ended.
  • Farhi: Syria has become the arena for a proxy war among regional and extra-regional players and yes its civil war will not end until all key players and their external supporters develop a political will to end the conflict. For the conflict to end, the bankers feeding the conflict should agree to stop funding it.
  • Mitter: Yes. But, it will depend on Russia, China, and the US, being able to come up with a compromise solution. That looks [to be] a long way off.

Iran

Free Syrian Army soldiers involved in the civil war.
Image: Voice of America.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png For many years, Syria has been considered Iran’s “closest ally”. What vested interest does the Iranian government have in keeping Bashar al-Assad in power?

  • Kamrava: These interests are primarily strategic, with both countries sharing common interests in relation to Lebanon — particularly the Hezbollah group — and [as] deterrence against Israel[i intervention].
  • Martel: Iran’s interests align very closely with that of Russia in supporting Syria and opposing the United States. Further, during this last week, President Putin offered to help Iran build a second nuclear reactor. The policies of Russia, Iran, and Syria align quite closely; thus leading some — such as myself — to argue that we are seeing the rise of an “authoritarian axis” of states, whose policies are coordinated.
  • Posch: First, Syria was Iran’s only ally against Saddam Hussein and [an] indispensable partner in Lebanon since the early 1980s.

Kurdish supporters of Syria’s Democratic Union Party in Afrin.
Image: Scott Bobb.

Even before the fall of Saddam in 2003, Iran reinterpreted the basically pragmatic cooperation in the field of intelligence and security. Ever since Syria was part of a so called “axis of resistance” consisting of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the sole common strategic denominator of these different actors is hostility against Israel, which is always depicted as an aggressor against whom the Muslims should resist — hence, the [designation as an] “axis of resistance”. Of course, forming an alliance ‘officially against Israel’ serves another purpose too: to take a stand against Saudi Arabia without naming it. Much of the current crisis in Syria has to do with this scheme.
  • Farhi: Syria supported Iran during the Iran–Iraq war; and, that dynamic forged a long-standing relationship between the two countries that includes economic, political, and military cooperation. In more recent years, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah have self-identified as [an] axis of resistance against Israeli–American involvement in the region. Despite this, Iran initially mostly followed the Russian lead in the Syria. However as other regional players — such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as extra-regional players such as the United States — began to see, and articulate the weakening of, the Assad regime as a first step to the weakening of Iran, this enhanced Iran’s threat perception, and gave it [an] incentive for further involvement in support of Assad.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Do you think Iranian support for the Syrian government is a way of standing up against UN sanctions imposed on them, and opposing American imperialism?

  • Kamrava: No. Iranian–Syrian relations are rooted in common strategic interests rather than in assumptions about US imperialism, or the role of the UN sanctions.
  • Martel: Both Iran and Syria share a strategic interest in undermining the influence of the US and the West.
  • Posch: Definitely not. The sanctions track is a different one, checking American “imperialism” — as you call it — is, of course. one aim.
  • Farhi: As has become evident in the past few weeks, the primary interactive dynamic regarding the Syrian imbroglio is being played out mostly in terms of US–Russian rivalry; and, Iran is following the Russian lead.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png The UN has “overwhelmingly” confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria. Do you think both sides have used chemical weapons?

File photo of interviewee Mehran Kamrava.
Image: Mehran Kamrava.

  • Kamrava: It is undeniable that chemical weapons were used in Syria. But, I have not yet seen conclusive evidence for the responsibility of the use of chemical gas by one side or another. Until valid evidence is made available — proving who used chemical weapons — affixing blame to either the government forces, or to one of the fractious rebel groups, is only a matter of speculation.
  • Martel: I remain skeptical that anyone other than the Syrian government used chemical weapons. It is widely accepted that the Syrian government was behind the use of chemical weapons.
  • Posch: I think the Report is quite clear on that.
  • Farhi: I —as an academic, with no access to on the ground information — am in no position to know whether both sides have used chemical weapons.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Would you agree that part of Iran’s vested interest in Syria remaining under al-Assad is bound to two factors: religion and strategy?

Former President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmedinejad who stepped down earlier this year.
Image: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office.

  • Kamrava: No, I do not agree. Iran’s “vested interest in Syria remaining under al-Assad” is [a] product only of Iran’s strategic calculations.
While foreign policies anywhere may be expressed — and justified — through slogans and ideological rhetoric, they are based on strategic considerations and calculations. Despite common, journalistic misconceptions, religion has not played a role in Iranian foreign policy; whether in relation to Syria or anywhere else.
  • Martel: Iran’s vested interest in Syria is entirely geo-strategic. Iran’s support [for] Syria is designed to undermine US power and influence. For Iran, no policy objective is more important than to possess nuclear weapons. When the U.S. declared a “redline” if Syria “used or moved” chemical weapons, and then backed away from that redline, it is likely that Iran’s leadership drew one principal conclusion:
the US redline on Iran’s nuclear program is in doubt, the US commitment to preventing Iran from possessing nuclear weapons is in doubt,
and that Iran likely will test US resolve.
In strategic terms, doubts about the credibility of the US redline on Iran dwarfs any concerns about Syria’s chemical weapons.
The belief in Iran — that the US may not be willing to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons — could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It is difficult to exaggerate just how dangerous a nuclear-armed Iran is for regional and global security.
  • Posch: No, it is strategy, and perhaps ideology. Religion doesn’t play too much [of] a role, even though the conflict has been thoroughly “sectarianised”. This happened a few years back when the Saudis baptised (if that term is appropriate) the “axis of resistance” to “shiite crescent”. The domination of the Syrian Baath Party by members of one sect plays no role in Iran’s security equation. Attempts to convert Syrian Alevites to Mainstream Shiites are initiatives of some individual Ayatollahs. I have already mentioned the strategic aspect, [an] axis of resistance against Israel and Saudi Arabia simultaneously; to this I would add Iranian concern over the Kurdish issue.
  • Farhi: The Assad government is a secular government, and Iran’s relationship with it has nothing to do with religion or religious affinities. The relationship is a complex one — and, as mentioned before — forged as a strategic bond during the Iran–Iraq War, when Saddam’s regime was deemed aggressively expansionist by both regimes.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Iran is home to the world’s most populous Shiite Muslim nation. The Syrian rebels are Sunni. Could this be a Sunni vs. Shiite alignment in the Middle East?

File photo of interviewee Farideh Farhi.
Image: Farideh Farhi.

  • Kamrava: No. While sectarianism may be the lens through which some of the Syrian rebels see their fight against the government, ultimately the contest is over state power and capitalizing on opportunities created by the Arab uprisings in general; and, the Syrian civil war in particular. Sunni–Shia ‘alignments’ have nothing to do with it.
  • Posch: Usually, the Sunni–Shia divide is something Iranians and Saudis play up in order to put pressure on one another; usually, they were also able to deescalate. Syria, however, is the game-changer — for the simple reason that nobody believes the Saudis would control the post Al-Qaeda Networks in Syria. What Iran fears is an increase of the most-radical Sunni anti-shiism, the so called takfiris, spilling over onto Iranian territory.
  • Farhi: The Sunni governments in the region are working hard to use sectarian tensions as an instrument to fan popular resentments, in the region, towards Shi’ite Iran. But, the rivalry is actually political; and, has to do with the fears rivals have of what they consider — I think wrongly — to be Iran’s hegemonic aspirations in the region.
Sectarianism is an instrument for shaping regional rivalries, and not the source of problems, in the region.

Russia

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, meeting Syrianan president Bashar al-Assad, on a visit to Syria in 2010.
Image: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Russia is one of Syria’s biggest arms suppliers. Do you think this means Russia’s interest lies in economic benefit, as opposed to the humanitarian crisis?

  • Blank: Although Russia sells Syria weapons, Russia’s main interest has nothing to do with humanitarianism or economics.
Rather, its main interests are to force the US to accept Russia as an equal — so that Moscow has an effective veto power over any further American actions of a strategic nature there and elsewhere — and second, to restore Russia’s standing as an indispensable great power in the Middle East without whom nothing strategic can be resolved.
It should be noted that in neither case is Russia actively interested in finding solutions to existing problems. Rather, it seeks to create a bloc of pro-Russian, anti-American states and maintain simmering conflicts at their present level while weakening US power.

File photo of interviewee William Martel.
Image: William Martel.

  • Martel: Russia’s principal interests in Syria are twofold. First, Moscow’s support is geopolitical in design. It is designed precisely to undermine and weaken American influence in the Middle East and globally. The extent to which Russia can undermine American influence directly helps to bolster Russia’s influence. For now, Russia is such a vastly diminished power — both politically, economically, militarily, and technologically — that Russian policymakers are pursuing policies they believe will help to reverse Russia’s strategic decline.
Second, Syria is Russia’s strongest ally in the region, if not the world, while Syria is the home to Russia’s only foreign naval base.
  • Farhi: Syria is Russia’s only solid strategic ally in the Middle East. Syria, in effect, is a Russian client. Russia’s interests lie in maintaining that foothold, and perhaps extending it.
It also has a concern regarding the civil war in Syria spawning what it considers to be extremist Islamist activities, which it has had to contend with within its own borders.

File photo of interviewee Stephen Blank.
Image: Stephen Blank.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you believe Russia distrusts US intentions in the region — in the sense of countering the West on regime change?

  • Blank: It is clear that Russia not only does not trust US interests and judgment in the Middle East, it regards Washington as too-ready to use force to unseat regimes it does not like and believes these could lead to wars; more importantly, to the attempt to overthrow the present Russian government. That is critical to understanding Moscow’s staunch support for Assad.
  • Martel: Russia’s policymakers understand that American and Russia interests directly diverge. Russia seeks to undermine US geopolitical influence, and increase its own. It is using its support of the Syrian regime to accomplish that objective. American interests, by contrast, are largely to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons.
Appallingly, Russia is supporting Syria despite the fact that all evidence points to Syria’s use of chemical weapons.
One would think that American policymakers would be more critical of Russia; which is directly supporting a regime that used poison gas to slaughter its own men, women, and children.
  • Farhi: It is less about trust and more about protection of geopolitical interests and prevention of even more dire consequences if Assad goes. It is true that Russia feels that the United States and NATO went beyond the mandate afforded to them by the UN Security Council in going after regime change in Libya.
However, Russia’s geopolitical, and economic, interests in Syria are much more important; and, the relationship between the two countries [is] much deeper.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png The Russian Government accepts that chemical weapons have been used in Syria. How does it come to claim that the rebels are behind the attacks even though it is widely accepted that the al-Assad government has stocks of weapons?

A BM-14 multiple rocket launcher, similar to the type likely to have launched the M-14 munitions found by UN Inspectors on August 26.
Image: Vlad.

  • Blank: It [Russia] simply intends to defend Assad to the hilt; and is hardly unwilling to lie — especially as its intelligence service is notorious for fabricating mendacious and biased threat assessments, and is not under any form of effective democratic control.
  • Martel: Russia’s claims that Syrian rebels were behind the chemical weapon attacks is, frankly, inexplicable. Worse, Russia’s basic credibility is undermined by such statements.
  • Farhi: Russia claims Syria has presented it [with] evidence that the rebels have used chemical weapons; and Russia, in turn, has given the evidence to the UNSC. It has also called the UN report one-sided and biased. The bottom line is — the claim that the opposition to the Assad regime is at least as culpable in the violence being committed in Syria, opens the path for Russia to continue calling for a political solution [which] brings to the table all parties to the conflict in Syria, including Assad and his supporters; something the multi-voiced opposition has so far refused.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Would you agree that Russia’s vested interest in Syria remaining under al-Assad is bound to two factors: economics and ideology?

  • Blank: As I said above, Russia’s interest in Assad is bound to two geopolitical factors: maintaining the security of its regime; and, equally important, weakening America in the Middle-East — if not globally — and ensuring that Russia’s great power status is thereby ensured.
  • Martel: Russia’s vested interest in protecting Syria’s al-Assad is driven by geopolitics.
To support Assad, is to counter US policy and influence; which is precisely what Putin’s government seeks to accomplish. In many senses, Russia’s support for Syria is entirely secondary to Russia’s strategy of reversing its two-decade long decline in every measure of power. With its weak economy, dependence on petroleum for half of its national income, and increasingly authoritarian government, Russia has relatively little to offer the world — other than to oppose the United States as part of its strategy of reversing its decline.
While Russia’s geopolitical influence clearly increased as a result of its support for Syria, its long-term economic prospects remain quite dim.
  • Farhi: It is economic as well as political.
Syria is a customer of Russian arms and goods; hosting a naval supply base in Tartus. But, as mentioned above, Russia has serious concerns regarding what comes after Assad. For Russia, the current regime is better than chaos or control by Islamists.
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