Tamil Tiger propaganda

May 13, 2009

Zachary Fillingham

Tamil protesters demonstrate on Parliament square outside the Houses of Parliament in London

Geopoliticalmonitor.com

FORECAST

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) find themselves up against a wall with no hope of launching a conventional counter-attack against the Sri Lankan Army. As such, their survival now hinges on a worldwide propaganda war.

The LTTE’s military prospects are dire. The Sri Lankan Army has driven the Tigers back into a swathe of land about the size of Central Park in northeast Sri Lanka. A far cry from 2006 when the Tigers controlled nearly one third of Sri Lanka, they are now penned in from all sides. An estimated fifty thousand refugees are also trapped inside the Sri Lankan Army encirclement.

Upon the arrival at such a delicate military situation, both sides subsequently turned their attentions toward winning the international propaganda war. In an effort to ferment international outrage, LTTE representatives report on the conflict in the most gruesome and inhumane terms possible. Likewise, the Sri Lankan government attempts to minimize and reverse such characterizations long enough so that they can finish off the Tigers before an international intervention can stay their hand. Given the absence of journalists and aid workers in the war zone, there is no way to consistently verify the claims of either party.

Overseas Tamil communities have taken up positions on the front lines of the propaganda war.  Ongoing Tamil protests in Toronto have disrupted downtown traffic as a means of pressuring the Canadian government to act over the war in Sri Lanka. In Washington DC, a group of around 150 protesters converged on the White House, while a similar scene has played out in central London where hundreds of protesters broke through police barricades and disrupted traffic.

Whatever punitive measures that Tamil protests can elicit from foreign governments, they will not be coordinated through the UN Security Council. Even though a UN report has recently described the conflict as a ‘bloodbath’, it is extremely unlikely that it will be addressed by the Security Council due to China and Russia’s shared belief that the conflict represents an internal matter, and thus no threat to international peace and security.

The LTTE’s best hope for a unilateral military intervention to stop the war and save the Tigers is India, but even there the odds are extremely small.  India’s large Tamil Nadu province lies directly across the Palk Straits. It is a state with a nearly 90% ethnic Tamil population. The conflict in Sri Lanka has become a contentious issue for Tamil Nadu voters, who go to the polls on May 13th, and as such has become subject to various political promises. However, the political importance of the conflict will fade after May 13th; a fact that is speculated to be behind the Sri Lankan government’s reasoning for a delay before any hard push into the LTTE-held zone.

Despite the best efforts of international pro-Tamil groups, the Tigers will not be saved by any international intervention. The Sri Lankan government has learned some hard lessons from their past public relations battles with the Tigers, and hence have begun to produce their own propaganda.  LTTE denouncements of the government shelling civilians are swiftly met by counter-accusations that the Tigers are using refugees as human shields and not allowing civilians to leave. In this case, Colombo even went so far as to distribute footage from an unmanned drone that purportedly caught Tamil rebels firing on civilians trying to escape on a beach.

All evidence indicates that the Sri Lankan government will not let international condemnation precipitate a premature ceasefire; they will keep fighting until the Tigers are destroyed.

 

SUMMARY OF EVENTS: May 4 – 11, 2009

NORTH AMERICA

United States

The U.S. military denied on Monday it has allowed soldiers to try to convert Afghans to Christianity, after a television network showed pictures of soldiers with bibles translated into local languages.

Former Bush administration officials are launching a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to urge Justice Department leaders to soften an ethics report criticizing lawyers who blessed harsh detainee interrogation tactics, according to two sources familiar with the efforts.

A U.S. court has formally dropped espionage charges against two pro-Israeli lobbyists amid a scandal that had threatened to expose the extent of Israeli grip on US politics.

U.S. interrogators killed nearly four-dozen detainees during or after their interrogations, according a report published by a human rights researcher based on a Human Rights First report and follow-up investigations.

The troubled U.S. security firm Blackwater has halted its operations in Iraq, ending its controversial era in the war-battered country.

More than half of the 19 U.S. banks that were assessed to see if they had adequate capital failed the “stress test,” the U.S. Federal Reserve reported Thursday.

Congressional leaders were briefed in detail about techniques used in the CIA’s interrogation program, according to a new intelligence document.

SOUTH AMERICA

Venezuela

Venezuelan soldiers on Thursday took control of boatyards and other assets belonging to oil service companies in the latest step by socialist President Hugo Chavez to tighten his grip on the industry.

WESTERN EUROPE

Britain

GCHQ – the Government’s secret electronic eavesdropping agency – issued a rare public statement to deny it is pressing ahead with plans to monitor all internet use and telephone calls in the UK.

EASTERN EUROPE

Belarus

The Belarusian president denied on Friday the country had any plans to sell weapons to Syria or Iran.

Georgia

Georgian troops on Tuesday staged a mutiny on the eve of NATO exercises in the ex-Soviet republic, which the government said it ended without violence but accused Russia of backing the rebels.

Violence flared between police and protesters in Georgia on Wednesday during a month-long opposition campaign to oust President Mikheil Saakashvili, building on fears of unrest after a failed military mutiny.

Russia

Russian border guards have begun patrolling the de-facto borders of Georgia’s rebel region of South Ossetia, Interfax news agency reported on Saturday, citing the region’s leader, Eduard Kokoity.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday the expulsion of two Canadian diplomats working for the NATO office in Moscow, in an apparent retaliation to a similar step by NATO.

MIDDLE EAST

Iran

Iran on Tuesday pointed a finger at Israel and the US for a recent bombing plot in northern Tehran, saying that its two arch-foes plot or back up terrorist operations against the Islamic Republic.

EAST ASIA

North Korea

North Korea pledges not to wind up its nuclear weapons program, claiming the United States is plotting a nuclear attack on its soil.

South Korea

There is increased activity at North Korea’s known nuclear test site, a South Korean news report said on Thursday, suggesting Pyongyang is gearing up for a new test as it has threatened in response to tightened UN sanctions.

SOUTH ASIA

Afghanistan

Hundreds of Afghans took to the streets on Thursday protesting civilian deaths after a recent NATO airstrike in the western Afghan province of Farah, local media said.

A joint probe by the U.S. and Afghan authorities shows civilians including women and children were the victims of U.S. air strikes earlier this week in Afghanistan.

Nepal

Nepal’s prime minister, a former guerrilla leader turned politician, resigned Monday after a power struggle with the president while his party vowed to launch mass protests and shut down parliament.

Pakistan

Panicked civilians fled Pakistan’s Swat district on Tuesday as the government prepared to shelter 500,000 displaced people and clashes with Taliban fighters heightened fears that a peace deal was about to collapse.

Pakistan’s government ordered the army to eliminate militants on Thursday, setting the stage for a major offensive against Taliban fighters battling security forces in a northwestern valley.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has pledged to mount an all-out war against Taliban extremists, vowing to kill the militants in a military offensive.

AFRICA

Chad

Chad government forces fought desert battles against rebels who were stepping up an offensive against President Idriss Deby, with almost 250 reported dead in two days of conflict, as the UN Security Council condemned the rebel assault.

Egypt

The UN nuclear watchdog is investigating the discovery of traces of highly enriched uranium (HEU) — at or near weapons grade level — in Egypt, reports say.

Zachary Fillingham is a contributor to Geopoliticalmonitor.com

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