Sunday, January 30, 2011

Where Is America’s Breaking Point? I Really Would Like To Have An Answer To That Question!

Where Is America’s Breaking Point? I Really Would Like To Have An Answer To That Question!

The inequities and civil rights abuses stirring revolution in the Arab world are not so different from our own. Where are the opposition leaders in America? 

"Unemployment is high. Average income is low and declining, making it impossible for a man to marry and support a family. Anger with rampant corruption in government is palpable and longstanding. One percent of the population lives in the lap of luxury that ordinary people can only dream of. The richest one percent is totally ignorant of the real problems of ordinary citizens.
GDP is roughly 5% but the majority of the people have seen no benefit from that.   When the president travels in his limousine the roads are cleared in front of him, so he has no notion of how bad the traffic problems are. 

Elections here are fixed and essentially a joke, as opposition parties cannot run in any effective sense.    The people have been accused of lethargy and apathy, and a willingness to tolerate a loss of civil liberties.   But everybody has a breaking point. The people are fed up. They have had enough."   

That was Ben Wedeman, CNN's longtime Mid-East reporter speaking from Egypt last night. But that could have been Amy Goodman reporting from a march on Washington. 

As Hillary Clinton urged tolerance for protesters from the Egyptian government I wondered what she would say to the world if 200 million Americans took to the streets to protest government corruption, rigged elections, an absurd wealth distribution, and declining wages in America.
Where is America's breaking point?   In a country where both parties in a two-party system are equally beholden to corporate money, where are the opposition leaders?   When do Americans demand real elections - elections where there is no money involved and all potential candidates are funded by taxpayer dollars?      

Americans are now placed in the absurd position of needing to organize a constitutional convention in order to overturn a politicized ruling by a corrupt supreme court; of needing to prove in every state that a corporation is not a human being. 

The apathy of Americans is equally palpable - as Congress and the courts behave as though they are enslaved by corporations and ignore the will of the American people most of the time. 

As Hank Paulsen was in the process of blackmailing Congress into a trillion dollar bailout for his banker cronies, every American adult with a pulse called his representative and screamed "NO". Congressmen reported on the floor of the House that calls and emails were 99% against a bailout. 

Congressional Democrats buckled to their banker masters and ignored us. And how did Americans protest being ignored? They turned control of the House of Representatives over to the Republicans - whose initial volley was to outlaw public funding for presidential elections. Next on their agenda: outlawing abortion and ending Social Security and Medicare.
Our progressive opposition groups are fragmented and issue-based, as could be expected in a nation so huge and diverse. What is needed is a mechanism for binding progressive groups together to fight - literally - for a new regime: For publicly-funded elections and an end to gerrymandering that would give us some hope of a representative government. 

What is needed is genuine progressive leadership.   

Nothing in the documents made public on Sunday offers as vivid a miniature of the Afghan war so far — from hope to heartbreak — as the field reports from one lonely base: Combat Outpost Keating.

The outpost was opened in 2006 in the Kamdesh district of Nuristan Province, an area of mountain escarpments, thick forests and deep canyons with a population suspicious of outsiders. The outpost’s troops were charged with finding allies among local residents and connecting them to the central government in Kabul, stopping illegal cross-border movement and deterring the insurgency. 

But the outpost’s fate, chronicled in unusually detailed glimpses of a base over nearly three years, illustrates many of the frustrations of the allied effort: low troop levels, unreliable Afghan partners and an insurgency that has grown in skill, determination and its ability to menace. 

The outpost was small, isolated and exposed to high ground, one compound in a network of tiny firebases the American and Afghan governments built far from Afghanistan’s cities. The area, near the border with Pakistan, was suspected of being an insurgent corridor. 

Some early reports from the area were upbeat. 

Although it was obvious from the outset that there were so few troops that the outpost, like others of its kind, could barely defend its bunkers and patrol at the same time, much less disrupt a growing insurgency, the dispatches carried notes of cheerful confidence when they described the campaign for local hearts and minds. 

“It was clear our meeting had produced tangible results,” the outpost reported in December 2006, after the Americans distributed pencils, notebooks, erasers and pencil sharpeners in a nearby village, along with prayer rugs and winter gloves for children. 

Later, after a larger handout of clothing, first-aid kits and school supplies to villagers, the report summarized the pitch to local residents: “Our friendship grows every day.” It also noted that the “positive nonlethal effects” of the donations “stimulated a frank discussion on security issues.” 

The security situation was, in a word, bad. The road to the base was overlooked by high ground; all traffic was vulnerable to ambushes. Most of the movement of supplies and troops was done by helicopters, which were exposed to ground fire. 

Transport helicopters were scarce. Attack helicopters, which might provide fire support if the outpost was attacked, were based at Jalalabad — more than a 30-minute flight away. 

Before long the optimistic reports about handouts of milk and soccer balls and the good will of the local residents gave way to a realization that insurgents controlled almost everything up to the outpost’s gates. 

The Afghan forces held little promise: the Americans training them noted that local police chiefs complained that their officers were not being paid and that most of them “will not work, they will walk off the job.” The reports describe how the insurgents gradually moved to cut off the outpost, physically and socially. 

Feb. 17, 2007: Armed men in Afghan Army uniforms ambushed three Afghan trucks as they left a nearby base after delivering supplies. The drivers were allowed to live. But one had been wounded by shrapnel. The insurgents sliced off the others’ ears. 

April 29, 2007: Men who identified themselves as “We the Mujahedeen” posted so-called night letters on a mosque. The handwritten letters complained about American infidels and the “sold-out mullahs,” contractors, police officers, soldiers and officials who worked with them. It listed the names of Afghans who worked as the outpost’s security guards. 

“These people are hated by God,” the letter said, according to a translation in the intelligence summary. “Soon we will start our operations.” 

Insurgents Send a Message
The local villagers tore up the letters. The next day, six insurgents stopped a car owned by Fazal Ahad, the leader of a local council, or shura, that cooperated with the Americans on security issues, as he drove with other council members down a canyon road. The insurgents sent a brutal but measured message to the villagers. 

“The fighters secured Fazal Ahad and told the others they could leave now and live, or follow them and die,” said the military’s report of the incident. After the released men fled, villagers reported hearing a gunshot. Fazal Ahad was dead. 

The outposts in outer Nuristan Province had become defensive positions kept alive by helicopters that would typically fly only at night. Local residents were caught between sides. Development was idled. The reports compose a portrait in futility: the enemy was strong, the post’s ranks were small and counterinsurgency efforts had no traction. 

The area was more treacherous, and less safe, than when the push into the canyons had begun. 

In the summer of 2009, as President Obama explored options for continuing the war, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, then his new commander in Kabul, revisited the idea of dividing the limited available forces and distributing them in remote outposts. New thinking took hold: forces were to be concentrated where they could have the greatest effect. 

Combat Outpost Keating, along with several other tiny firebases in eastern Afghanistan, was ordered to shut down. By fall, the United States was quietly withdrawing from part of its archipelago of little posts. 

But before Combat Outpost Keating could be closed, the insurgents struck.
Early on Oct. 3, they massed for a coordinated attack, pounding the little outpost with mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades and raking it from above with heavy machine-gun fire. 

Groups of gunmen rushed the post’s defensive wire. They simultaneously hit a smaller observation post nearby. At least 175 enemy gunmen were involved in the offensive; some accounts described a force twice that size. 

The first classified summaries of the attack are a frightening record of a small unit caught at the juncture between old and new ways to fight the war. They depict American troops isolated and overwhelmed on enemy turf. The reports include excerpts of real-time computer messages to headquarters typed by soldiers in the outpost and accounts of pilots who attacked the insurgents from the air. 

At first, the outpost reported that Keating and the observation post were “IN HEAVY CONTACT.” 

Typing in the casual familiarity of Internet chat, on a secure server, a soldier immediately asked that an “Air Tic Be Opened.” 

That was military jargon for shifting available close-air support to troops taking fire. The sense of urgency was clear; the reason chilling. 

“We need it now,” another soldier typed. “We have mortars pinned down and fire coming from everywhere.” 

The battle escalated from there. The outpost relayed details. “We are taking casiltys,” the first soldier typed within minutes — the first reports of wounded troops. He added: “GET SOMETHING UP!” 

The consequences of decisions made in distant headquarters were now taking shape for young enlisted men. The enemy had the high ground. The outpost had the low ground. The troops were outnumbered, and starting to drop. Fire support was far away. 

The arrival of attack helicopters, the outpost was told, would take time. “IT’S A 40 MINUTE FLIGHT.” 

The outpost asked about jets. 

“We are taking fire from inside urmul village,” it reported. “Our mortars are still pinned down unable to fire.” 

Jets were on the way. Soon a soldier was describing where aircraft should drop their ordnance. “Multiple enemies running through” the Afghan National Police station “and fire coming from the mosque,” he typed.
He added, “The police station is shooting at us.” 

A Frantic Call for Help
Forty minutes into the fighting, he reported that the observation post was about to detonate its Claymore mines — a sign that the attackers were almost at its walls. “They are that close to the wire,” the soldier typed. 

Eight minutes later he reported that the attackers were breaching Keating’s last defensive ring. The post was at risk of falling, and having the fighting go hand-to-hand. 

“Enemy in the wire at keating,” he typed. “ENEMUY IN THE WIRE ENEMY IN THE WIRE!!!” 

An entry soon after was a model of understatement: “We need support.”
Insurgents entered the outpost. The American attack helicopters began to arrive, joining F-15s and an aircraft with jamming equipment to block the insurgents’ two-way radios. One of the pilots’ initial reports described, in laconic terms, flying through gantlets of fire, and occasionally finding a shooting gallery of insurgent targets. 

Hellfire missiles were fired on the local mosque, from where soldiers on the ground said the insurgents were firing. The mosque was destroyed.
As bombs exploded above and around the base and helicopters made strafing runs, the soldiers consolidated in a building that was not burning and began to counterattack. 

As the four-hour mark of the battle approached, a higher command noted that soldiers at the outpost reported that they “have retaken another bldg, can’t push any further due to lack of manpower.” 

Outside the perimeter, the insurgents still fired. 

At the nine-hour mark, the higher command summarized word from the ground: “Only one building left that is not on fire. Have consolidated all casualties at that location.” 

Late in the day, American reinforcements were shuttled by helicopter to nearby terrain. They bounded downhill toward the outpost. The fighting by then had stopped. 

The outpost had held on, but barely. Eight soldiers were dead. Almost two dozen others had been wounded. Several Afghan soldiers and guards were killed or wounded, too. 

The Americans evacuated their casualties. Over the next days they declared the outpost closed and departed — so quickly that they did not carry out all of their stored ammunition. 

The outpost’s depot was promptly looted by the insurgents and bombed by American planes in an effort to destroy the lethal munitions left behind. 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Fraud and mismanagement at Afghanistan’s largest bank have resulted in potential losses of as much as $900 million — three times previous estimates — heightening concerns that the bank could collapse and trigger a broad financial panic in Afghanistan, according to American, European and Afghan officials.

The revolt in major Egyptian cities is continuing to expand and gain momentum as tens of thousands of protestors, inspired by the events in Tunisia, demand freedom (“hurriya”) and the removal of Mubarak’s US-backed autocratic regime. It seems that the possibility of a transition from the Mubarak era to a much freer society has powerfully caught the popular imagination. Meanwhile, the UK and US are warning, predictably, of the dangers of Islamic extremism and urging for Western-style democratic reforms.

Against this background, a story has appeared in the Telegraph which makes the extraordinary claim that the US government “secretly backed leading figures behind the Egyptian uprising who have been planning ‘regime change’ for the past three years.”

The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police.

On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011.

He has already been arrested by Egyptian security in connection with the demonstrations and his identity is being protected by The Daily Telegraph.
The crisis in Egypt follows the toppling of Tunisian president Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, who fled the country after widespread protests forced him from office.

The disclosures, contained in previously secret US diplomatic dispatches released by the WikiLeaks website, show American officials pressed the Egyptian government to release other dissidents who had been detained by the police.

Given the “concerns” voiced by Western leaders over the situation in Egypt and the Middle East, the last thing we might expect would be for the US government to attempt to claim credit for the popular uprising. Yet the cables released by WikiLeaks claim that the US embassy has been actively aiding the protesters and attempting to orchestrate the whole affair.

Can it be that the revolution occurring in Egypt right now (and possibly the unrest in other Middle Eastern countries) is being manipulated by US “black ops”? This seems to be what the leak is designed to have us believe. 

The documents released by WikiLeaks enable the US government to pose as a beacon of freedom: destabilizing the old corrupt regime and coaching the leading actors in the revolution so as to put the “right” kind of people in charge: moderate Muslims who will safeguard Western economic interests in oil and the Egyptian-controlled Suez Canal.

Meanwhile Obama and Hilary Clinton have seized this opportunity to preach the values of the liberal democracy to the Arab world … though after years of reports of waterboarding and torture, Western rendition, and drone attacks that kill women and children in Afghan villages, the sermon has worn a little thin.

The release of documents about American involvement through WikiLeaks may itself be viewed as manipulative. It is entirely possible that WikiLeaks is being exploited by Western intelligence. By associating itself with the popular yearning for freedom in Egypt and with Julian Assange’s campaign for transparency, the American ruling establishment can enhance its liberal credentials and control the message relayed through WikiLeaks to the mainstream media at the same time.

It shows a remarkable arrogance for the US to attempt to claim the credit for these uprisings. Young Egyptian protesters on the street are not going to look kindly on the idea that they are being ruthlessly manipulated by Western powers.

Which raises the question: why did US diplomats wish to broadcast the information that America was plotting the disturbances while the operation was still afoot? Was someone “in the know” trying to sabotage it?

Maybe not. The goal may be not only to increase US influence in the region, but also to add credibility to the War on Terror. Although Obama and Clinton would prefer to see a moderate government installed in Egypt, it might also do no harm to stir up popular resentment against the West. Since 9/11, US and UK governments have enthusiastically promoted the concept of Islamofascism through the mainstream media in order to justify taxation for manufactured foreign wars, and tighten surveillance and controls over their own citizens. - Noaidi
Bradley Manning is a UK citizen: tell the UK Government, tell everyone.
How we know Bradley Manning is a UK citizen

This is an important blog post. Please distribute it widely.

My legal information is sourced from the UK Border Agency, specifically their caseworking instructions for all issues arising under The British Nationality Act of 1981. This piece of legislation has formed the basis of British nationality law since coming into force on 1 January 1983 and the caseworking instructions derived from it are the guidelines Border Agency employees refer to on a day-to-day basis when deciding who is entitled to British citizenship. This is an absolutely authoritative source.

Bradley Manning is a UK citizen by virtue of his mother’s nationality. He holds both US and UK citizenship.

Bradley Manning was born in the United States on 17 December 1987, the son of Brian and Susan Manning. As the son of an American father, born on US soil, Bradley Manning has held US citizenship since birth.

Bradley’s parents met in Wales and Susan Manning has been described as ‘Welsh’ or hailing from Wales repeatedly in the mainstream media, including outlets with self-proclaimed fact-checking operations.

Susan Manning is, beyond any reasonable doubt, a UK citizen.  As far as we know she was born in the UK and is therefore not a “UK citizen by descent”. In law she is a UK citizen “otherwise than by descent”.

I would now like to refer you to Chapter 20 of the caseworking instructions for the Nationality Act of 1981. This is, remember, the working reference guide that British civil servants use every day to determine who qualifies for UK citizenship. Chapter 20 explains what rules govern the transmission of UK citizenship to children born abroad and is the crucial reference that resolves the issue of Bradley Manning’s citizenship status. We will take this step-by-step to avoid any possible confusion.

20.1.1 Every person who is a British citizen is so either “by descent” or “otherwise than by descent”.

20.1.2 The distinction between the two affects a British citizen’s ability to transmit that citizenship to children born abroad. It does not affect any of the other rights or duties that go with British citizenship.

20.1.3 British citizens by descent cannot transmit their citizenship to children born abroad except in the circumstances described in Chapter 4. British citizens otherwise than by descent automatically transmit their citizenship to children born abroad.

20.1.4 As a general principle, people are British citizens otherwise than by descent if they are British citizens: • by birth, adoption, registration or naturalisation in the United Kingdom or the Falkland Islands before 21 May 2002; or…

My working assumption is that Susan Manning was born in the United Kingdom. Hence she is a British citizen otherwise than by descent (20.1.4) and “British citizens otherwise than by descent automatically transmit their citizenship to children born abroad.” (20.1.3)

20.1.5 People who are British citizens by birth or other means elsewhere are British citizens by descent. A child born to a British citizen outside the UK or its overseas territories is a British citizen by descent. Bradley Manning is therefore a British citizen by descent. (20.1.5)

The issue of Bradley Manning’s dual citizenship has been the subject of some controversy and much disinformation but the situation is in fact straightforward: unless Bradley’s mother was born outside the UK, her son has also been a UK citizen automatically since birth. We will confirm that Susan Manning was born in this country as quickly as possible.  At that point, I will seek to update the Bradley Manning wikipedia article, backed up with the proper evidence, and we will be able to put this issue to bed once and for all.

Big thanks to @danhind who was indispensable in putting this together.


It has been brought to my attention that, under Section 3(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981, even the children of those who are British citizens “by descent” may be able to claim citizenship. The relevant clauses are published on the UK Border Agency website:

A child will have an entitlement to be registered under section 3(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 if: they were born outside the United Kingdom; or they were born after 21 May 2002 outside any of the British overseas territories; and they were born to parents, one or both of whom are British citizens by descent; and the parent who is British by descent was born to a parent (the child’s grandparent) who was a British citizen otherwise than by descent (or would have been but for their death); and the parent who is British by descent lived in the United Kingdom at any time before the child’s birth for a continuous period of three years*; and during the period they were living in the United Kingdom the parent was not absent for more than 270 days; and the application is made before the child’s 18th birthday.

The case is very nearly closed.

NEXT STOP: Why this matters

The Telegraph this evening ran a story on tomorrow's Wikileaks book by the Guardian editors David Leigh and Luke Harding - just one of several books in a publishing run by Wikileaks' media partners. Among the revelations forthcoming in that volume, we are told, is the rather stale information that Bradley Manning is alleged to be Wikileaks' anonymous source for Cablegate and the War Log releases.

The authors, David Leigh and Luke Harding, of The Guardian, name Specialist Bradley Manning, the soldier being held in a US military jail, as the alleged source of the information which was passed on to The Guardian by WikiLeaks.

While Rayner attempts to present this information as if some new information was being disclosed in the book, it appears, in fact, that we will learn nothing new from it. As the facts stand, Bradley Manning is still the "alleged" source of the information. He has not been convicted of the acts with which he is charged, and all of the evidence in favour of those charges yet available to the public is highly speculative.

The distinction between reportage which mentions Manning as "Wikileaks' source" and that which mentions him as "Wikileaks' alleged source" is of some importance, since to the extent that newspapers - for whatever reason - elide this difference, public opinion might be swayed in such a way as to incriminate Manning, and to prejudice his trial. It is therefore important that media organizations treat the distinction with care.

We learn in the Telegraph, however, that Leigh and Harding, in an attempt perhaps to convey the information in an easy narrative, may have glossed over this distinction in the two chapters which deal with Bradley Manning. All the information they relate appears to be paraphrasal of the Lamo-Manning chatlog - a document that has been available to the general public on since June 2010.

Remarkably, the New York Times still (as of Jan. 30) has not run a single regular column or guest column focused on Egypt since the protests against the Mubarak dictatorship arose over the past week. This epic negligence and evasiveness speaks volumes about the poverty of public discourse in America. As the free will of editors and columnists from our national paper coincides with Mubarak's censorship, we are witnessing further confirmation of what Chris Hedges has called "the death of the liberal class."

The Obama administration appears to have been caught totally flat-footed by Tunisia and Egypt. It has struggled to articulate a coherent position: first remarking that the Egyptian government is stable and that Mubarak is not a dictator; then urging restraint on all sides before finally advocating democracy and free and fair elections -- though refusing to point out that this cannot be achieved until Mubarak and hand-picked successors leave the scene.

The result is that the U.S. government again looks sadly out of step with the democratic aspirations of people around the world. And WikiLeaks has further revealed how administration officials refrained from sharp criticism of Mubarak in hopes of regaining his trust. That strategy appears to have been incredibly miscalculated. 

But regardless of one's assessment of past events, we need to focus on how time is quickly running out for our government to atone for three decades of backing a repressive dictator so long as he backed American corporate and military interests.

Harsh realities and tough choices lie ahead. But readers of the NYT op-ed page would never suspect this. You can read pontifications about Michelle Bachmann and the First Lady's clothes. Yet, you won't find anything about one of the most game-changing events in our lifetimes and how it has thrown U.S. foreign policy into a state of disarray.

To be fair, the paper's reporting has been decent, though largely tailing the work of Al Jazeera. And a couple NYT editorials have criticized Mubarak, though these have largely echoed the tepid line of the U.S. administration by comparison with the Washington Post's call for the U.S. to break with his regime immediately.

Even the blog section of the NYT, where one would hope to find more timely dialogue, is less than buzzing. Paul Krugman sums it up well: "Egypt: I don't know anything, have no expertise, haven't even ever looked at the economic situation. Hence, no posting." Maybe Krugman could write about the consequences of his own ignorance and how badly that limits his analysis of global economics and politics.

Just like our sisters and brothers in other parts of the world, we will need new voices, perspectives, and modes of communication to rethink our nation's values, its policies, and its relationship to the global community at this crossroads moment in American and world history. The age of relying on expert opinion is coming to a spectacular demise.
All across the US and the world, people are gathering to demonstrate to support the Egyptian people. This is good. But we need to also come up with ways to help the Egyptian people so their revolution fulfills their hopes and dreams, so it is not stolen from them by another totalitarian regime, possibly one that is worse than the existing one. 

Egypt's new Vice President has a long history serving US interests, especially in aiding the rendition for torture program. 

Every year at Passover, Jews recall the story of an ancient Egyptian ruler who oppressed his people and was overthrown by God, the People, and the Earth itself. This story is not just an antiquarian tale. It's an archetypal vision of what happens, again and again, when top-down tyranny becomes addicted to its own power, at first unwilling and then unable to change. 

To all the cowboys and girls who argue that that guns are necessary to rebel against dictators, I wonder what you have to say about what appear to be successful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia without guns. 

The truth is covered up by the beliefs of those who do not accept it. If we could ever see through the myths we have been given in place of the truth, we would be a country worth dying, not lying, for. 

By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich
Rude Awakening
Who is encouraging the Egypt uprising?

As the rest of the Middle East is experience true grassroots pushes for change, Yemen's demonstrations are led by the government's Islamist political opposition. 

The Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas affiliates have joined protests in Egypt. To what extent do the current protests reflect their influence, and what will fill the power vacuum in the aftermath of protests? A rare report from a source inside Hamas holds some clues.

The vibrant protest movements across the Arab world, Russian human rights activists and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will all likely be in the running for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, observers say as the deadline for nominating candidates approaches.

According to existing rules, the Norwegian Nobel Committee will only consider candidate proposals sent by February 1 for its pick, to be announced in October.

Since news events often influence nominations, this year's list of candidates could be coloured by the recent waves of protests against authoritarian Arab regimes, including in Tunisia and Egypt.

"That's a possibility," explained Nobel expert and historian Asle Sveen.
"But no name really stands out. In Egypt, the (opposition) movement seems very spontaneous. And (the most visible opposition leader) Mohamed ElBaradei already received a Nobel prize" in 2005, he pointed out.

The nature of the protests, which appear more motivated by socio-economic factors than ideological, could also complicate finding an obvious candidate.
The names of nominees are kept secret for 50 years, and although those entitled to nominate candidates are allowed to reveal their picks, Nobel observers are basically condemned to making educated guesses as to who will figure on the list.

Thousands of people are eligible to submit nominations, including members of parliament and government worldwide, university professors, previous laureates and members of several international institutes.

The five-member Nobel Committee that awards the prize is also eligible to add to the list during its first meeting of the year, scheduled for February 28.
"Maybe a leader (of the popular uprisings in the Arab world) will stand out by then," Sveen said.

After infuriating Beijing last year by handing the prestigious prize to jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Committee might also want to turn its attention to Russia this year, the historian mused.

"We'll have to see how the situation evolves in the aftermath of the terror attack" that on January 24 killed 35 people at Moscow's largest airport.
"If Moscow reacts by opting, as I suspect, for a hard line in the Caucasus region that puts pressure on human rights activists, those activists could become natural candidates for the Nobel," Sveen said.

He speculated that two candidates mentioned among the favourites last year will likely be on the list again this year: female human rights activists Svetlana Gannushkina of Russia and Sima Samar of Afghanistan.

"It has been a long time since the Nobel was given to a woman," Sveen points out, adding that "giving it to Sima Samar would have the additional benefit of raising the issue of women in Muslim countries."

Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai was the last woman to receive the honour in 2004.

Another likely candidate this year is Australian former hacker Julian Assange, the founder of world-rocking whistleblower website WikiLeaks, which is in the midst of slowly releasing some 250,000 confidential US diplomatic cables.

But experts are sceptical of his chances of grabbing the prize.

"To claim that his actions have in some way promoted 'fraternity among nations,' to invoke the famous line in Alfred Nobel's will, would be far-fetched, if not altogether inaccurate," US journalist and Nobel Peace Prize specialist Scott London told AFP.

"It might be truer to say that he has undermined that fraternity by creating a culture of anxiety and suspicion in international affairs, especially between countries in volatile regions like the Middle East," he added.

Assange's misadventures in Sweden, where he is suspected of rape and sexual molestation, also diminish his chances of winning the prize, according to experts.