Monthly Archives: February 2012

President Obama and His Key Advisors are a Gang of War Criminals

By Dave Lindorff

February 29, 2012 “Information Clearing House” —- If a bunch of street toughs decided to gang up and beat the crap out of some guy in the neighborhood because they feared he might be planning to buy a gun to protect his family, I think we’d all agree that the police would be right to bust that crew and charge them with conspiracy to commit the crime of assault and battery. If they went forward with their plan and actually did attack the guy, injuring or killing him in the process, we’d also all agree they should all be charged with assault and battery, attempted murder, or even first-degree murder if he died.

In international relations and international law, the same applies. Under the Nuremberg Principles, later incorporated into the United Nations Charter, to which the United States is a signatory, the planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, which is defined as a war started against another nation that does not pose an imminent threat of attack on the aggressor nation or nations, is the highest of war crimes, for which the perpetrators are liable for the death penalty. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of those above acts is an equally serious capital crime.
How then to explain the casual way that civilian and military leaders of the US and Israel are talking openly about plans and threats to attack Iran?
The supposed casus belli or justification for such an attack is that Iran, which has a uranium enrichment program underway which it claims is to produce nuclear fuel for its new nuclear reactor (a completely legal activity for any nation under international law), secretly plans to further enrich uranium to make an atomic bomb. Yet that is a process which, even if it were to be implemented, would not lead to an actual bomb suitable for testing for at least a year, and which would not give Iran a functioning, useable weapon for even longer. (US intelligence sources say that Iran at this point is not even trying to make a bomb!).
That alleged threat, even if it were real, doesn’t even come close to constituting an “imminent” threat of attack of the kind which might justify a pre-emptive strike on Iran, as is being publicly contemplated and threatened by the US and Israel.
The simple fact is that the president of the United States, Barack Obama, and his top generals and cabinet officers, are committing a war crime every time they threaten Iran with attack. The president is also committing a crime of conspiracy when he sends his generals to Israel, which is also committing the crime of threatening to attack Iran and planning to attack Iran. This is because by discussing options for an attack, or by providing Israel with the weapons and delivery systems it would need for such an attack, as the US is doing by sending Israel super large bunker-buster bombs and bomb-capable aircraft, they are furthering that conspiracy.
What is absolutely stunning is that this massive criminality at the highest levels of the US government is going on totally unchallenged by the US mainstream media. In an editorial on Feb. 3, the New York Times acknowledged that there was “no proof” that Iran has “made the decision to move from producing fuel to building a bomb.” Yet even so, the paper went on to warn against an Israeli and/or US attack on Iran, saying only that, “The costs of an Israeli military strike — with or without American support — would be huge,” and that it could “backfire.”
There is not one word in the Times or anywhere else in the corporate media about the reality that such an attack would constitute the commission of a supreme war crime.
President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney have all publicly warned that “all options” are “on the table” in dealing with Iran’s supposed threat to construct a nuclear weapon — a clear reference to their being ready to attack Iran if necessary. Both the president and Defense (sic) Secretary Leon E. Panetta have vowed that the US “will not allow” Iran to develop a nuclear bomb,” which comes almost as close in threatening war, since Commander in Chief Obama and Defense Secretary Panetta have already stationed the requisite three Navy aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Arabia which military experts say would be necessary for any attack on Iran.
But all the war talk and saber rattling, the only debate in the US media seems to be over whether the US is really planning to attack Iran, or whether it would join in attacking Iran if Israel were to launch an attack, not on whether such an attack by either nation on Iran would constitute a horrific war crime.
There are polls, some of which show a majority of Americans to favor an attack on Iran by the US, but again, there are no pollsters asking Americans whether they think such an attack would be a crime against humanity.
I suppose we should not be surprised at this sorry state of affairs. After all, the most brutal war that the US engaged in since World War II, when it became the only nation to ever use atomic weapons, incinerating two large cities in Japan in the waning days of that conflict, was the Indochina War, and North Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia never posed the slightest threat to the United States. Nobody was tried , much less hung for that atrocity, though a string of American civilian and military leaders should have been. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, which also posed no conceivable threat to the US, was also clearly a war crime which should have sent President Bush and his grim-visaged regent, Vice President Dick Cheney, to the gallows, but they were never even indicted.
Never have the US media suggested that these past horrors were war crimes deserving prosecution (though at least the House Impeachment Committee did consider charging President Richard Nixon with a war crime for invading Cambodia).
So why should we expect things to be any different now?
Well, perhaps because the consequences of this latest war crime in the making could have far more serious consequences, even, than the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, not just for American military personnel, and not even just for America, but for the entire world.
Iran is decidedly not Iraq. It is a country of 74 million, not 24 million. It is a country with a long history and a strong national identity, not a group of disparate, feuding tribes and regions cobbled together by a departing colonial power as was Iraq. It also has strong backers — both Russia and China, as well as neighboring Turkey and Pakistan–all of whom could and probably would rally to its aid in the event of an attack. The whole Islamic world would also likely rise up in support of Iran if it were attacked by Israel and the US. The likelihood of such a war remaining confined to Iran is almost nil.
As well, an attack on Iran would shut down oil shipments not just from Iran but from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states of Kuwait and the UAE, all of which have to ship out their oil through the narrow Strait of Hormuz. Even if that strait were not successfully closed by Iran, which owns half the width of the waterway, no insurance company would cover the tankers that would have to traverse it under threat of Iranian attack, so shipments would simply cease, causing a huge spike in oil prices and a collapse of the global economy. That alone could be enough to lead China, heavily dependent upon Iranian oil, to act in Iran’s defense — something it could do by simply ratcheting up the tension level in its standing conflict with the “renegade island province” of Taiwan, which country the US is bound by law to defend.
One would think that the magnitude of the unknown and dangerous potential consequences of a criminal attack on Iran by the US and its client state Israel would lead at least some news organizations to look into the very legality of such an attack.
But no. Apparently calling the leaders of this nation criminals is beyond the imagining of the so-called chattering class and its paymasters.
I’ll do it here though:
President Obama and his key advisors, as well as Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Panetta, are all currently war criminals for threatening Iran with attack. And if the US does attack Iran, either on its own or in support of an Israeli attack, they will be even worse war criminals, and will be deserving of the same fate met by Japan’s Imperial Army General and Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, and by Nazi Germany’s Foreign Minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop and Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel.

Dave Lindorff is an investigative reporter. He received two Project Censored awards in 2004 and 2011. www.thiscantbehappening.net

10 Ways AIPAC Undermines Democracy at Home and in the Middle East

AIPAC has tremendous clout but its influence has been disastrous for U.S. foreign policy and U.S. democracy. Here are ten reasons why AIPAC is so dangerous. 
By Medea Benjamin
February 29, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is one of the most powerful lobby organizations in the country. On March 4-6, AIPAC will be holding its annual policy conference in Washington DC. The speakers include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Republican candidate Newt Gingrich and a host of other powerful politicians.
AIPAC has tremendous clout but its influence has been disastrous for U.S. foreign policy and U.S. democracy. Here are ten reasons why AIPAC is so dangerous.
1. AIPAC is lobbying Congress to promote a military confrontation with Iran. AIPAC – like the Israeli government – is demanding that the U.S. attack Iran militarily to prevent Iran from having the technological capacity to produce nuclear weapons, even though U.S. officials say Iran isn’t trying to build a weapon (and even though Israel has hundreds of undeclared nuclear weapons). AIPAC has successfully lobbied the U.S. government to adopt crippling economic sanctions on Iran, including trying to cut off Iran’s oil exports, despite the fact that these sanctions raise the price of gas and threaten the U.S. economy.
2. AIPAC promotes Israeli policies that are in direct opposition to international law. These include the establishment of colonies (settlements) in the Occupied West Bank and the confiscation of Palestinian land in its construction of the 26-foot high concrete “separation barrier” running through the West Bank. The support of these illegal practices makes to impossible to achieve a solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.
3. AIPAC’s call for unconditional support for the Israeli government threatens our national security. The United States’ one-sided support of Israel, demanded by AIPAC, has significantly increased anti-American sentiment throughout the Middle East, thus endangering our troops and sowing the seeds of more possible terrorist attacks against us. Gen. David Petraeus on March 16, 2010 admitted that the U.S./Palestine conflict “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel.” He also said that “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the [region] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”
4. AIPAC undermines American support for democracy movements in the Arab world. AIPAC looks at the entire Arab world through the lens of Israeli government interests, not the democratic aspirations of the Arab people. It has therefore supported corrupt, repressive regimes that are friendly to the Israeli government, such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. Events now unfolding in the Middle East should convince U.S. policy-makers of the need to break from AIPAC’s grip and instead support democratic forces in the Arab world.
5. AIPAC makes the U.S. a pariah at the UN. AIPAC describes the UN as a body hostile to the State of Israel and has pressured the U.S. government to oppose resolutions calling Israel to account. Since 1972, the US has vetoed 44 UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel’s actions against the Palestinians. President Obama continues that policy. Under Obama, the US vetoed UN censure of the savage Israeli assault on Gaza in January 2009 in which about 1400 Palestinians were killed; a 2011 resolution calling for a halt to the illegal Israeli West Bank settlements even though this was stated U.S. policy; a 2011 resolution calling for Israel to cease obstructing the work of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees; and another resolution calling for an end to illegal Israeli settlement building in East Jerusalem and the occupied Golan Heights.
6. AIPAC attacks politicians who question unconditional support of Israel. AIPAC demands that Congress to rubber stamp legislation drafted by AIPAC staff. It keeps a record of how members of Congress vote and this record is used by donors to make contributions to the politicians who score well. Members of Congress who fail to support AIPAC legislation have been targeted for defeat in re-election bids. These include Senators Adlai Stevenson III and Charles H. Percy, and Representatives Paul Findley, Pete McCloskey, Cynthia McKinney, and Earl F. Hilliard. AIPAC’s overwhelmingly disproportionate influence on Congress subverts our democratic system.
7. AIPAC attempts to silence all criticism of Israel by labeling critics as “anti-Semitic,” “de-legitimizers” or “self-hating Jews.” Journalists, think tanks, students and professors have been accused of anti-Semitism for merely taking stands critical of Israeli government policies. These attacks stifle the critical discussions and debates that are at the heart of democratic policy-making. The recent attacks on staffers at the Center for American Progress is but one example of AIPAC efforts to crush all dissent.
8. AIPAC feeds U.S. government officials a distorted view of the Israel/Palestine conflict. AIPAC takes U.S. representatives on sugar-coated trips to Israel. In 2011, AIPAC took one out of very five members of Congress—and many of their spouses—on a free junket to Israel to see precisely what the Israeli government wanted them to see. It is illegal for lobby groups to take Congresspeople on trips, but AIPAC gets around the law by creating a bogus educational group, AIEF, to “organize” the trips for them. AIEF has the same office address as AIPAC and the same staff. These trips help cement the ties between AIPAC and Congress, furthering their undue influence.
9. AIPAC lobbies for billions of U.S. taxdollars to go to Israel instead of rebuilding America. While our country is reeling from a prolonged financial crisis, AIPAC is pushing for no cuts in military funds for Israel, a wealthy nation. With communities across the nation slashing budgets for teachers, firefighters and police, AIPAC pushes for over $3 billion a year to Israel.
10. Money to Israel takes funds from world’s poor. Israel has the 24th largest economy in the world, but thanks to AIPAC, it gets more U.S. taxdollars than any other country. At a time when the foreign aid budget is being slashed, keeping the lion’s share of foreign assistance for Israel meaning taking funds from critical programs to feed, provide shelter and offer emergency assistance to the world’s poorest people.
The bottom line is that AIPAC, which is a de facto agent for a foreign government, has influence on U.S. policy out of all proportion to the number of Americans who support its policies. When a small group like this has disproportionate power, that hurts everyone—including Israelis and American Jews.
From stopping a catastrophic war with Iran to finally solving the Israel/Palestine conflict, an essential starting point is breaking AIPAC’s grip on U.S. policy.

In Search of the ‘Islamic Menace’ in Bolivia

One US congresswoman is convinced that the Iranian government is a danger to Latin American countries such as Bolivia.
By Belen Fernandez
February 29, 2012 ” Al Jazeera” — La Paz, Bolivia – Were I transcribing the wet dream of US Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen – self-appointed bulwark against the alleged Islamo-Bolivarian threat to homeland security – I might describe my arrival to La Paz two weeks ago as follows:
Descending from the city of El Alto into the Bolivian capital, my bus was stopped by a battalion of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. 
All passengers were required to pledge simultaneous allegiance to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Adolf Hitler, and Evo Morales. Once the Iranians had verified that there were no Jewish businesspeople on board available for kidnapping, the vehicle was allowed to pass.
Our progress was once again interrupted, however, by a parade of Iranian diplomats, whose infestation of Bolivia began when the Islamic Republic made the alarming decision to open embassies in Latin America – something no other country in the world has done. Augmenting the infestation are the more than two dozen Iranian diplomatic offspring who have reportedly been enrolled in the international school in La Paz.
I finally checked into a hostel in the city centre and turned on the television to find that the only available channel was HispanTV, Iran’s new Spanish-language extremist propaganda disseminator.
I turned off the TV, sat back, and waited for the bomb to explode.
The possibility of a bomb in La Paz was raised in December 2011 by Ros-Lehtinen, co-star of a non-factual documentary entitled “La amenaza iraní” (“The Iranian Threat”), in which she insinuates that the US should attack Iran in order to avert bomb explosions in various Latin American capitals. The film was released by Univision, the prominent US broadcast network, which is owned by someone who hosts galas in honour of the Israeli military.
The Iranians meanwhile acquired a new rival in the realm of multilingual extremist propaganda dissemination earlier this month when – as Charles Davis has wryly noted – the Spanish-language Univision re-released its film in English.
Quds Force in disguise
When, after several days in La Paz, Iranian penetration into the Western hemisphere was still not glaringly apparent, I set out for the epicentre of penetrating operations: the embassy of Iran, said to be guarded by the elite Quds Force.
Unable to find the address on the internet, I walked to the office of the Shia Bolivian Islamic Cultural Foundation on Landaeta Street. It was closed for Carnival, however, and I had to extricate myself from the grasp of missionaries in an adjacent office belonging to another entity to which Latin America has shown itself increasingly penetrable: the nutrition and weight-management cult Herbalife.
In the end, I found the embassy thanks to a meeting with a former Bolivian official, during which he happened to mention Evo Morales’ hypocritical authorisation of GMOs in Bolivia after having disapproved of Iranian GMO projects. I took advantage of the opportunity to enquire after the coordinates of Tehran’s mother ship in La Paz; he directed me to the website of the Bolivian Foreign Ministry, which did indeed contain an address – albeit an incorrect one.
My visit to the embassy, located in a house with a yard, revealed that the Quds Force had succeeded in disguising itself as a single Bolivian policeman.
The Bolivian receptionist meanwhile informed me that she was not authorised to divulge the address of the Iranian Red Crescent Society Hospital in the neighbouring city of El Alto, where it was rumoured that female employees were forced to wear the hijab
A Shia state within a state
I returned to the Bolivian Islamic Cultural Foundation, which was now open. There, a Bolivian convert to Islam, who introduced himself as both “Sergio Grover” and “Grover Musa”, told me how his dream of travelling to Iran on a religious scholarship had been thwarted by none other than the Univision documentary. According to Grover, there had been a moratorium on such scholarships, following the collaboration with Univision by former Mexican scholar-spies.
A theory put forth several years ago by Ely Karmon of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, according to which Shia ideology might resonate among impoverished sectors of Latin American society, seemed to find confirmation in Grover’s contention that poor inhabitants of El Alto were responsive to the foundation’s discourse.
Though the community currently consists of only approximately 50 members, Grover reckoned that, once membership swells to 3,000, the community might pose a challenge to the modus operandi of the state. For example, he explained, Muslim Bolivian policemen would exhibit superior conscientiousness than regular Bolivian policemen – whose recent achievements include repressing a protest of disabled people.
As for the Iranian hospital, Grover claimed that the hijab had only been required for the inauguration ceremony in 2009, and added that there was a substantial discount for Muslim patients – a slightly subtler approach to conquest, perhaps, than others historically employed on the American continent, such as decimating indigenous populations via infectious disease.
The hijab hospital
The next day, I took the bus to El Alto and found the hospital, a mere several streets away from where Grover had said it was. There were no hijabs in sight.
The hospital’s CEO and general manager, both Iranian, agreed to speak with me after being initially unimpressed that I had failed to bring any form of identification. Over tea and then lunch, they reviewed the institution’s numerous amenities and other contributions to global health by the Iranian Red Crescent Society.
The men claimed that the hospital employees, who were all Bolivian aside from two of them and their wives, were entirely free to pursue their own religious and political beliefs, provided they did not drink alcohol at work. They added that the obligation of the Red Crescent Society was to treat all kinds of people, including enemies of Ahmadinejad.
The general manager declared: “Our concern is lessening the pains of human beings.”
Terror breeding-ground
Less benign motives behind Iranian healthcare initiatives in Latin America were detected in a 2009 Jerusalem Post article entitled “The ‘other’ America: A perfect terror breeding-ground”, in which the author invokes the post-World War II flight to Bolivia by various Nazis as evidence that “[d]isenfranchised and marginalised regions are prime targets for fundamentalists and fanatics of all kinds”.
He also curiously mentions Bolivian “dictatorships aided by high-ranking Nazi officials” but manages not to specify that the Nazi official in question is presumably Klaus Barbie – war criminal, torturer extraordinaire, and former head of the Gestapo office in Lyons – whose escape to Bolivia was facilitated by none other than the non-“other” America, ie the United States. 
In Bolivia Barbie’s talents were put to use in coordinating events like the so-called “cocaine coup” of 1980, which installed the murderous narco-military regime of Luis Garcia Meza Tejada.
Contemporary peddlers of the notion of a Latin America-based Iranian threat, however, prefer to excise such facts from history – as well as the fact that it was not Iranian-backed overthrows of governments in places like Panama and, more recently, Honduras that intensified said countries’ respective roles in the international drug trade. Instead, we learn from these experts that the geographic proximity of West Africa to Venezuela facilitates Islamic drug trafficking.
As for Ros-Lehtinen’s logic – according to which bombs on Iran will deter bombs in La Paz – it has yet to be explained why Iran would suddenly bomb its own alleged satellite, especially when the ostensible aim of Iranian penetration of Latin America is to threaten the US, not Bolivia.
At any rate, in the event that Ros-Lehtinen wants to have a little fun and exploit the coincidence that la paz means “peace” in Spanish, she could always convert her illogic into the following catchy war slogan: “Let’s destroy peace before Iran does”.
Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, released by Verso in November 2011. She is an editor at PULSE Media, and her articles have appeared in the London Review of Books blog, CounterPunch, Guernica Magazine, and many other publications.

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The US fans Afghanistan flames

By Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse 

Is it all over but the (anti-American) shouting – and the killing? Are the exits finally coming into view? 
Sometimes, in a moment, the fog lifts, the clouds shift, and you can finally see the landscape ahead with startling clarity. In Afghanistan, Washington may be reaching that moment in a state of panic, horror, and confusion. Even as an anxious US commander withdrew American and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) advisers from Afghan ministries around Kabul last weekend – approximately 300, military spokesman James Williams tells TomDispatch – the ability of American soldiers to remain on giant fortified bases eating pizza and fried chicken into the distant future is not in doubt. 
No set of Taliban guerrillas, suicide bombers, or armed Afghan “allies” turning their guns on their American “brothers” can alter that – not as long as Washington is ready to bring the necessary supplies into semi-blockaded Afghanistan at staggering cost. But sometimes that’s the least of the matter, not the essence of it. So if you’re in a mood to mark your calendars, late February 2012 may be the moment when the end game for America’s second Afghan War, launched in October 2001, was initially glimpsed. 
Amid the reportage about the recent explosion of Afghan anger over the torching of Korans in a burn pit at Bagram Air Base, there was a tiny news item that caught the spirit of the moment. As anti-American protests (and the deaths of protestors) mounted across Afghanistan, the German military made a sudden decision to immediately abandon a 50-man outpost in the north of the country. 
True, they had planned to leave it a few weeks later, but consider the move a tiny sign of the increasing itchiness of Washington’s NATO allies. The French have shown a similar inclination to leave town since, earlier this year, four of their troops were blown away (and 16 wounded) by an Afghan army soldier, as three others had been shot down several weeks before by another Afghan in uniform. Both the French and the Germans have also withdrawn their civilian advisors from Afghan government institutions in the wake of the latest unrest. 
Now, it’s clear enough: the Europeans are ready to go. And that shouldn’t be surprising. After all, we’re talking about NATO, whose soldiers found themselves in distant Afghanistan in the first place only because, since World War II, with the singular exception of French President Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s, European leaders have had a terrible time saying “no” to Washington. They still can’t quite do so, but in these last months it’s clear which way their feet are pointed. 
Which makes sense. You would have to be blind not to notice that the American effort in Afghanistan is heading into the tank. 
The surprising thing is only that the Obama administration, which recently began to show a certain itchiness of its own – speeding up withdrawal dates and lowering the number of forces left behind – remains remarkably mired in its growing Afghan disaster. Besieged by demonstrators there, and at home by Republican presidential hopefuls making hay out of a situation from hell, its room to maneuver in an unraveling, increasingly chaotic situation seems to grow more limited by the day. 
Sensitivity training
The Afghan War shouldn’t be the world’s most complicated subject to deal with. After all, the message is clear enough. Eleven years in, if your forces are still burning Korans in a deeply religious Muslim country, it’s way too late and you should go. 
Instead, the US command in Kabul and the administration back home have proceeded to tie themselves in a series of bizarre knots, issuing apologies, orders, and threats to no particular purpose as events escalated. Soon after the news of the Koran burning broke, for instance, General John R Allen, the US war commander in Afghanistan, issued orders that couldn’t have been grimmer (or more feeble) under the circumstances. Only a decade late, he directed that all US military personnel in the country undergo 10 days of sensitivity “training in the proper handling of religious materials”. 
Sensitivity, in case you hadn’t noticed at this late date, has not been an American strong suit there. In the headlines in the last year, for instance, were revelations about the 12-soldier “kill team” that “hunted” Afghan civilians “for sport,” murdered them, and posed for demeaning photos with their corpses. There were the four wisecracking US Marines who videotaped themselves urinating on the bodies of dead Afghans – whether civilians or Taliban guerrillas is unknown – with commentary (“Have a good day, buddy… Golden – like a shower”). There was also that sniper unit proudly sporting a Nazi SS banner in another photographed incident and the US combat outpost named “Aryan.” And not to leave out the allies, there were the British soldiers who were filmed “abusing” children. 
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how Afghans have often experienced the American and NATO occupation of these last years. To take but one example that recently caused outrage, there were the eight shepherd boys, aged six to 18, slaughtered in a NATO air strike in Kapisa Province in northern Afghanistan (with the usual apology and forthcoming “investigation,” as well as claims, denied by Afghans who also investigated, that the boys were armed). 
More generally, there are the hated night raids launched by special operations forces that break into Afghan homes, cross cultural boundaries of every sort, and sometimes leave death in their wake. Like errant American and NATO air operations, which have been commonplace in these war years, they are reportedly deeply despised by most Afghans. 
All of these, in turn, have been protested again and again by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He has regularly demanded that the US military cease them (or bring them under Afghan control). Being the president of Afghanistan, however, he has limited leverage and so American officials have paid little attention to his complaints or his sense of what Afghans were willing to take. 
The results are now available for all to see in an explosion of anger spreading across the country. How far this can escalate and how long it can last no one knows. But recent experience indicates that, once a population heads for the streets, anything can happen. All of this could, of course, peter out, but with more than 30 protesters already dead, it could also take on a look reminiscent of the escalating civil war in Syria – including, as has already happened on a small scale in the past, whole units of Afghan security forces defecting to the Taliban. 
Unfolding events have visibly overwhelmed and even intimidated the Americans in charge. However, as religious as the country may be and holy as the Koran may be considered, what’s happened cannot be fully explained by the book burning. It is, in truth, an explosion a decade in coming. 
Precursors and omens
After the grim years of Taliban rule, when the Americans arrived in Kabul in November 2001, liberation was in the air. More than 10 years later, the mood is clearly utterly transformed and, for the first time, there are reports of “Taliban songs” being sung at demonstrations in the streets of the capital. Afghanistan is, as the New York Times reported last weekend (using language seldom seen in American newspapers) “a religious country fed up with foreigners”; or as Laura King of the Los Angeles Times put it, there is now “a visceral distaste for Western behavior and values” among significant numbers of Afghans. 
Years of pent up frustration, despair, loathing, and desperation are erupting in the present protests. That this was long on its way can’t be doubted. 
Among the more shocking events in the wake of the Koran burnings was the discovery in a room in the heavily guarded Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul of the bodies of an American lieutenant colonel and major, each evidently executed with a shot in the back of the head while at work. The killer, who worked in the ministry, was evidently angered by the Koran burnings and possibly by the way the two Americans mocked Afghan protesters and the Koran itself. He escaped. The Taliban (as in all such incidents) quickly took responsibility, though it may not have been involved at all. 
What clearly rattled the American command, however, and led them to withdraw hundreds of advisors from Afghan ministries around Kabul was that the two dead officers were “inside a secure room” that bars most Afghans. It was in the ministry’s command and control complex. (By the way, if you want to grasp some of the problems of the last decade just consider that the Afghan Interior Ministry includes an area open to foreigners, but not to most Afghans who work there.) 
As the New York Times put it, the withdrawal of the advisors was “a clear sign of concern that the fury had reached deeply into even the Afghan security forces and ministries working most closely with the coalition.” Those two dead Americans were among four killed in these last days of chaos by Afghan “allies.” Meanwhile, the Taliban urged Afghan police and army troops, some of whom evidently need no urging, to attack US military bases and American or NATO forces. 
Two other US troops died outside a small American base in Nangarhar Province near the Pakistani border in the midst of an Afghan demonstration in which two protestors were also killed. An Afghan soldier gunned the Americans down and then evidently escaped into the crowd of demonstrators. Such deaths, in a recent Washington Post piece, were termed “fratricide,” though that perhaps misconstrues the feelings of many Afghans, who over these last years have come to see the Americans as occupiers and possibly despoilers, but not as brothers. 
Historically unprecedented in the modern era is the way, in the years leading up to this moment, Afghans in police and army uniforms have repeatedly turned their weapons on American or NATO troops training, working with, or patrolling with them. Barely more than a week ago, for instance, an Afghan policeman killed the first Albanian soldier to die in the war. Earlier in the year, there were those seven dead French troops. At least 36 US and NATO troops have died in this fashion in the past year. Since 2007, there have been at least 47 such attacks. These have been regularly dismissed as “isolated incidents” of minimal significance by US and NATO officials and, unbelievably enough, are still being publicly treated that way. 
Yet not in Iraq, nor during the Vietnam War, nor the Korean conflict, nor even during the Philippine Insurrection at the turn of the twentieth century were there similar examples of what once would have been called “native troops” turning on those training, paying for, and employing them. You would perhaps have to go back to the Sepoy Rebellion, a revolt by Indian troops against their British officers in 1857, for anything comparable. 
In April 2011, in the most devastating of these incidents, an Afghan air force colonel murdered nine US trainers in a heavily guarded area of Kabul International Airport. He was reportedly angry at Americans generally and evidently not connected to the Taliban. And consider this an omen of things to come: his funeral in Kabul was openly attended by 1,500 mourners.
Put in the most practical terms, the Bush and now Obama administrations have been paying for and training an Afghan security force numbering in the hundreds of thousands – to the tune of billions dollars annually ($11 billion last year alone). They are the ones to whom the American war is to be “handed over” as US forces are drawn down. Now, thanks either to Taliban infiltration, rising anger, or some combination of the two, it’s clear that any American soldier who approaches a member of the Afghan security forces to “hand over” anything takes his life in his hands. No war can be fought under such circumstances for very long. 
Apologies, pleas, and threats
So don’t say there was no warning, or that Obama’s top officials shouldn’t have been prepared for the present unraveling. But when 
it came, the administration and the military were caught desperately off guard and painfully flatfooted. 
In fact, through repeated missteps and an inability to effectively deal with the fallout from the Koran-burning incident, Washington now finds itself trapped in a labyrinth of investigations, apologies, pleas, and threats. Events have all but overwhelmed the administration’s ability to conduct an effective foreign policy. Think of it instead as a form of diplomatic pinball in which US officials and commanders bounce from crisis to crisis with a limited arsenal of options and a toxic brew of foreign and domestic political pressures at play. 
How did the pace get quite so dizzying? Let’s start with those dead Afghan shepherd boys. On February 15th, the US-led International Security Force (ISAF) “extended its deep regret to the families and loved ones of several Afghan youths who died during an air engagement in Kapisa province Feb 8.” According to an official press release, ISAF insisted, as in so many previous incidents, that it was “taking appropriate action to ascertain the facts, and prevent similar occurrences in the future.” 
The results of the investigation were still pending five days later when Americans in uniform were spotted by Afghan workers tossing those Korans into that burn pit at Bagram Air Base. The Afghans rescued several and smuggled them – burnt pages and all – off base, sparking national outrage. Almost immediately, the next act of contrition came forth. “On behalf of the entire International Security Assistance Force, I extend my sincerest apologies to the people of Afghanistan,” General Allen announced the following day. At the same time, in a classic case of too-little, too-late, he issued that directive for training in “the proper handling of religious materials.” 
That day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was on the same page, telling reporters that the burning of the Muslim holy books was “deeply unfortunate,” but not indicative of the Americans’ feelings toward the religious beliefs of the Afghan people. “Our military leaders have apologized… for these unintentional actions, and ISAF is undertaking an investigation to understand what happened and to ensure that steps are taken so that incidents like this do not happen again.” 
On February 22, an investigation of the Koran burnings by a joint ISAF-Afghan government team commenced. “The purpose of the investigation is to discover the truth surrounding the events which resulted in this incident,” Allen said. “We are determined to ascertain the facts, and take all actions necessary to ensure this never happens again.” 
The next day, as Afghan streets exploded in anger, Allen called on “everyone throughout the country – ISAF members and Afghans – to exercise patience and restraint as we continue to gather the facts surrounding Monday night’s incident”. 
That very same day, Allen’s commander-in-chief sent a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai that included an apology, expressing “deep regret for the reported incident.” “The error was inadvertent,” President Obama wrote. “I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.” 
Obama’s letter drew instant fire from Republican presidential candidates, most forcefully former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who called it an “outrage” and demanded instead that President Karzai issue an apology for the two Americans shot down by an Afghan soldier. (Otherwise, he added, “we should say goodbye and good luck.”) 
Translated into Washingtonese, the situation now looked like this: a Democratic president on the campaign trail in an election year who apologizes to a foreign country has a distinct problem. Two foreign countries? Forget it. 
As a result, efforts to mend crucial, if rocky, relations with Pakistan were thrown into chaos. Because of cross-border US air strikes in November which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, ties between the two countries were already deeply frayed and Pakistan was still blocking critical resupply routes for the war in Afghanistan. With American war efforts suffering for it and resupply costs sky-high, the US government had put together a well-choreographed plan to smooth the waters. 
General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was to issue a formal apology to Pakistan’s army chief. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would then follow up with a similar apology to her Pakistani counterpart. 
Fearing further Republican backlash, however, the Obama administration quickly altered its timetable, putting off the apology for at least several more weeks, effectively telling the Pakistanis that any regrets over the killing of their troops would have to wait for a time more convenient to the US election cycle. 
Trading apologies to Afghans for those to Pakistanis, however, turned out to mean little on the streets of Afghanistan, where even in non-Taliban areas of the country, chants of “Death to America!” were becoming commonplace. “Just by saying ‘I am sorry,’ nothing can be solved,” protester Wali Mohammed told the New York Times. “We want an open trial for those infidels who have burned our Holy Koran.” 
And his response was subdued compared to that of Mohammed Anwar, an officer with the US-allied Afghan police. “I will take revenge from the infidels for what they did to our Holy Koran, and I will kill them whenever I get the chance,” he said. “I don’t care about the job I have.” 
A day later, when Anwar’s words were put into action by someone who undoubtedly had similar feelings, General Allen announced yet another investigation, this time with tough talk, not apologies, following. “I condemn today’s attack at the Afghan Ministry of Interior that killed two of our coalition officers, and my thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of the brave individuals lost today,” he said in a statement provided to TomDispatch by ISAF. “We are investigating the crime and will pursue all leads to find the person responsible for this attack. The perpetrator of this attack is a coward whose actions will not go unanswered.” 
Allen also took the unprecedented step of severing key points of contact with America’s Afghan allies. “For obvious force protection reasons, I have also taken immediate measures to recall all other ISAF personnel working in ministries in and around Kabul.” 
Unable to reboot relations with allies in Islamabad due to the unrest in Afghanistan (which was, in fact, already migrating across the border), the US now found itself partially severing ties with its “partners” in Kabul as well. Meanwhile, back home, Gingrich and others raised the possibility of severing ties with President Karzai himself. In other words, the heat was rising in both the White House and the Afghan presidential palace, while any hope of controlling events elsewhere in either country was threatening to disappear. 
As yet, the US military has not taken the next logical step: barring whole categories of Afghans from American bases. “There are currently no discussions ongoing about limiting access to ISAF bases to our Afghan partners,” an ISAF spokesperson assured TomDispatch, but if the situation worsens, expect such discussions to commence. 
The beginning of the end?
As the Koran burning scandal unfolded, TomDispatch spoke to Raymond F Chandler III, the Sergeant Major of the US Army, the most senior enlisted member of that service. “Are there times that things happen that don’t go exactly the way we want or that people act in an unprofessional manner? Absolutely. It’s unfortunate,” he said. “We have a process in place to ensure that when those things don’t happen we conduct an investigation and hold people accountable.” 
In Afghan eyes over the last decade, however, it’s accountability that has been sorely lacking, which is why many now in the streets are demanding not just apologies, but a local trial and the death penalty for the Koran burners. Although ISAF’s investigation is ongoing, its statements already indicate that it has concluded the book burnings were accidental and unintentional. This ensures one thing: those at fault, whom no American administration could ever afford to turn over to Afghans for trial anyway, will receive, at best, a slap on the wrist – and many Afghans will be further outraged. 
In other words, twist and turn as they might, issue what statements they will, the Americans are now remarkably powerless in the Afghan context to stop the unraveling. Quite the opposite: their actions are guaranteed to ensure further anger among their Afghan “allies.” 
Chandler, who was in Afghanistan last year and is slated to return in the coming months, said that he believed the United States was winning there, albeit with caveats. “Again, there are areas in Afghanistan where we have been less successful than others, but each one of those provinces, each one of those districts has their own set of conditions tied with the Afghan people, the Afghan government’s criteria for transition to the Afghan army and the Afghan national police, the Afghan defense forces, and we’re committed to that.” He added that the Americans serving there were “doing absolutely the best possible under the conditions and the environment.” 
It turns out, however, that in Afghanistan today the “best” has not been sufficient. With even some members of the Afghan parliament now calling for jihad against Washington and its coalition allies, radical change is in the air. The American position is visibly crumbling. “Winning” is a distant, long-faded fantasy, defeat a rising reality. 
Despite its massive firepower and staggering base structure in Afghanistan, actual power is visibly slipping away from the United States. American officials are already talking about not panicking (which indicates that panic is indeed in the air). And in an election year, with the Obama administration’s options desperately limited and what goals it had fast disappearing, it can only brace itself and hope to limp through until November 2012. 
The end game in Afghanistan has, it seems, come into view, and after all these fruitless, bloody years, it couldn’t be sadder. Saddest of all, so much of the blood spilled has been for purposes, if they ever made any sense, that have long since disappeared into the fog of history. 
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture , runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), has just been published. Nick Turse is associate editor of TomDispatch.com. An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. His new TomDispatch series on the changing face of American empire is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook.

Used with permission of TomDispactch.com 

(Copyright 2012 Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse.) 


Jihadi democrats ready for their close-up

By Pepe Escobar 



Such a pity that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn’t make the 2012 Oscars. La Clinton would stand a good chance of upstaging even tweet-exploding Angelina Jolie’s right leg – that force of nature now all over the net, landing on the moon and even invading Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. [1] 

The Empress of Libya (“We came, we saw, he died”) did try hard, including a photo op for the BBC, where she finally admitted that the US is fighting side by side with al-Qaeda to unleash regime change in Syria. [2] 



Well, old Cold War fox and former Russian prime minister (under vodka junkie Boris Yeltsin) Yevgeny Primakov actually beat her to the punch on Russia’s Rossiya channel – adding that no one could seriously believe that regime change in Syria could lead to democracy. 

Yet when Clinton mentions “a very dangerous set of actors in the region” who “are on our terrorist list” she is just, once again, plugging the notoriously profitable Pentagon/Central Intelligence Agency /State Department franchise of Resident Evil – whose instalments, among others, include mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, mujahideen in Bosnia in the 1990s and, recently, Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) stalwarts. 

Global war on terror (GWOT)? This is sooo George W Bush Dumb and Dumber era. As certified blockbusters go, The Invasion of the Regime Change al-Qaeda Democrats is the real deal. 

The Muppet show 



The Empress of Libya sometimes displays a Meg Ryan-esque inability of staying close to the script. In her BBC promo, she insisted on the official narrative; the “people of Syria” are under “relentless attack” from “government forces”. At the same time she incites “security forces” to go for regime change. So what’s the story; the killers suddenly become democrats? Why not? That’s a classic Hollywood plot twist. 


Meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland could give Octavia Spencer a run for her money as best supporting actress. Nuland – married to uber-neocon Robert Kagan – blasted Syria’s referendum on the grounds that this “ridiculous proposal” put forward by Bashar al-Assad coincided with “the guns and the tanks and the artillery … still firing into Homs and Hama and cities all over the country”. 

Nuland seems to have conveniently forgotten that that’s exactly what the US had been doing when promoting “free” elections in both Iraq and Afghanistan – with the helpful addition of electoral forces such as killer drones, F-16s, Apache helicopters and compliant corporate media shills reciting the Pentagon script. 

Both State Department actresses also conveniently forgot that if you’re an unemployed sniper in the West or in the Arab world, the place to go – apart from Hollywood – is Syria. Many of the snipers who have been killing civilians in Syria belong to the Friends of Hillary coalition. They are working for the NATOGCC compound – the American, partly European and partly Arab coalition that financed, trained and weaponized a shadow army inside Libya and now Syria. 

Syria has nothing to do with a unilateral state-sponsored massacre; it’s an internal war between a government and a shadow army – with civilians caught in the crossfire. 

La Clinton herself has been forced to admit “a very strong opposition to foreign intervention from inside Syria, from outside Syria”; that implies that most Syrians, not only minorities but even secular Sunnis, know al-Qaeda-style jihadists and/or fanatical Salafis are heavily infiltrated. They also know the Syrian National Council (SNC) is a Muslim Brotherhood and/or Washington puppet. 

What the Empress of Libya also conveniently leaves aside is how the “opposition”, split between SNC opportunists and their rivals, the National Coordination Body (NCB), are virtual nullities inside Syria. The resistance against the undoubtedly police state Assad regime is mostly coordinated by local committees. 

Sunset Boulevard, revisited



On with the show. Expect the Salafi-jihadist fest in Syria to soon rival Vanity Fair’s after-Oscars party. After all, that’s the official strategy of those paragons of democracy, Gulf Cooperation Council stalwarts Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The House of Saud’s Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said that arming the rebels is “a very good idea”. Same for Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani. The GCC loves the smell of a napalmed Arab secular republic in the morning. Feels like … victory. 


What’s actually happening, as Asia Times Online has reported, is that both Qatar and the House of Saud have been weaponizing the Free Syrian Army (FSA) for months now, while Washington sticks with the “lead from behind” plot twist. 

Now try arguing that arming Shi’ites in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, or the pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain is also a “very good idea”. You’ll be visited by a Hellfire missile – or hit by a sniper – in less time than it took Angelina to show off her leg. 

Anyway, as a Hollywood plot, what a better sequel to theResident Evil franchise than this: Sunni Persian Gulf monarchies weaponize al-Qaeda-style freaks to promote democracy and human rights in Syria. This is even bigger than Angie’s right leg. Forget this is not Hollywood, it’s real life. And forget Norma Desmond; now it’s al-Qaeda’s CEO Ayman Al-Zawahiri who is ready for his close up. He used to be big, but now that the pictures became small, he’s bound to be even bigger. Angie’s right leg better watch out. 


Notes:
1. See here 
2. See here

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com 

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


Jihadi democrats ready for their close-up


By Pepe Escobar 

Such a pity that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn’t make the 2012 Oscars. La Clinton would stand a good chance of upstaging even tweet-exploding Angelina Jolie’s right leg – that force of nature now all over the net, landing on the moon and even invading Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. [1] 

The Empress of Libya (“We came, we saw, he died”) did try hard, including a photo op for the BBC, where she finally admitted that the US is fighting side by side with al-Qaeda to unleash regime change in Syria. [2] 


Well, old Cold War fox and former Russian prime minister (under vodka junkie Boris Yeltsin) Yevgeny Primakov actually beat her to the punch on Russia’s Rossiya channel – adding that no one could seriously believe that regime change in Syria could lead to democracy. 


Yet when Clinton mentions “a very dangerous set of actors in the region” who “are on our terrorist list” she is just, once again, plugging the notoriously profitable Pentagon/Central Intelligence Agency /State Department franchise of Resident Evil – whose instalments, among others, include mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 1980s, mujahideen in Bosnia in the 1990s and, recently, Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) stalwarts. 


Global war on terror (GWOT)? This is sooo George W Bush Dumb and Dumber era. As certified blockbusters go, The Invasion of the Regime Change al-Qaeda Democrats is the real deal. 


The Muppet show 

The Empress of Libya sometimes displays a Meg Ryan-esque inability of staying close to the script. In her BBC promo, she insisted on the official narrative; the “people of Syria” are under “relentless attack” from “government forces”. At the same time she incites “security forces” to go for regime change. So what’s the story; the killers suddenly become democrats? Why not? That’s a classic Hollywood plot twist. 


Meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland could give Octavia Spencer a run for her money as best supporting actress. Nuland – married to uber-neocon Robert Kagan – blasted Syria’s referendum on the grounds that this “ridiculous proposal” put forward by Bashar al-Assad coincided with “the guns and the tanks and the artillery … still firing into Homs and Hama and cities all over the country”. 


Nuland seems to have conveniently forgotten that that’s exactly what the US had been doing when promoting “free” elections in both Iraq and Afghanistan – with the helpful addition of electoral forces such as killer drones, F-16s, Apache helicopters and compliant corporate media shills reciting the Pentagon script. 


Both State Department actresses also conveniently forgot that if you’re an unemployed sniper in the West or in the Arab world, the place to go – apart from Hollywood – is Syria. Many of the snipers who have been killing civilians in Syria belong to the Friends of Hillary coalition. They are working for the NATOGCC compound – the American, partly European and partly Arab coalition that financed, trained and weaponized a shadow army inside Libya and now Syria. 


Syria has nothing to do with a unilateral state-sponsored massacre; it’s an internal war between a government and a shadow army – with civilians caught in the crossfire. 


La Clinton herself has been forced to admit “a very strong opposition to foreign intervention from inside Syria, from outside Syria”; that implies that most Syrians, not only minorities but even secular Sunnis, know al-Qaeda-style jihadists and/or fanatical Salafis are heavily infiltrated. They also know the Syrian National Council (SNC) is a Muslim Brotherhood and/or Washington puppet. 


What the Empress of Libya also conveniently leaves aside is how the “opposition”, split between SNC opportunists and their rivals, the National Coordination Body (NCB), are virtual nullities inside Syria. The resistance against the undoubtedly police state Assad regime is mostly coordinated by local committees. 


Sunset Boulevard, revisited

On with the show. Expect the Salafi-jihadist fest in Syria to soon rival Vanity Fair’s after-Oscars party. After all, that’s the official strategy of those paragons of democracy, Gulf Cooperation Council stalwarts Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The House of Saud’s Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said that arming the rebels is “a very good idea”. Same for Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani. The GCC loves the smell of a napalmed Arab secular republic in the morning. Feels like … victory. 


What’s actually happening, as Asia Times Online has reported, is that both Qatar and the House of Saud have been weaponizing the Free Syrian Army (FSA) for months now, while Washington sticks with the “lead from behind” plot twist. 


Now try arguing that arming Shi’ites in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, or the pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain is also a “very good idea”. You’ll be visited by a Hellfire missile – or hit by a sniper – in less time than it took Angelina to show off her leg. 


Anyway, as a Hollywood plot, what a better sequel to theResident Evil franchise than this: Sunni Persian Gulf monarchies weaponize al-Qaeda-style freaks to promote democracy and human rights in Syria. This is even bigger than Angie’s right leg. Forget this is not Hollywood, it’s real life. And forget Norma Desmond; now it’s al-Qaeda’s CEO Ayman Al-Zawahiri who is ready for his close up. He used to be big, but now that the pictures became small, he’s bound to be even bigger. Angie’s right leg better watch out. 


Notes:
1. See here 
2. See here

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com 

(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)


All Alone in the Night – Time-lapse footage of the Earth as seen from th…

Russia and the changing world

by Vladimir V. Putin
In the run-up to Russia’s presidential elections, prime minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin has to date published a total of seven program statements in which he defines Russia’s niche in a “changing world.” The sixth article on defense policy and army reforms was published by Voltaire Networkyesterday. Today we bring to the attention of our readers the latest statement, published Monday in the Moskovskiya Novosti, devoted to international affairs.
VOLTAIRE NETWORK
In my previous articles I have discussed some of the key foreign challenges that Russia now faces. This subject deserves a more detailed discussion and not just because foreign policy is part and parcel of any government strategy. External challenges and the changing world around us are compelling us to make decisions that have implications for the economy, our culture, the budget and for investment.
Russia is part of the greater world whether we are talking about the economy, media coverage or cultural development. We do not wish to and cannot isolate ourselves. We hope that our openness will result in a higher standard of living for Russia plus a more diverse culture and a general level of trust, something that is becoming increasingly scarce.
However, we intend to be consistent in proceeding from our own interests and goals rather than decisions dictated by someone else. Russia is only respected and considered when it is strong and stands firmly on its own feet. Russia has generally always enjoyed the privilege of conducting an independent foreign policy and this is what it will continue to do. In addition, I am convinced that global security can only be achieved in cooperation with Russia rather than by attempts to push it to the background, weaken its geopolitical position or compromise its defenses.
Our foreign policy objectives are strategic in nature and do not proceed from opportunistic considerations. They reflect Russia’s unique role on the world political map as well as its role in history and in the development of civilization.
I do not doubt that we will continue on our constructive course to enhance global security, renounce confrontation, and counter such challenges as the proliferation of nuclear weapons, regional conflict and crises, terrorism and drug trafficking. We will do everything we can to see that Russia enjoys the latest achievements in scientific and technical progress and to assist our entrepreneurs in occupying an appropriate place on the world market.
We will strive to ensure a new world order, one that meets current geopolitical realities, and one that develops smoothly and without unnecessary upheaval.
Who undermines confidence
As before, I believe that the major principles necessary for any feasible civilization include indivisible security for all states, the unacceptability of excessive use of force, and the unconditional observance of the basic standards of international law. The neglect of any of these principles can only lead to the destabilization of international relations.
It is through this prism that we perceive some aspects of U.S. and NATO conduct that contradict the logic of modern development, relying instead on the stereotypes of a block-based mentality. Everyone understands what I am referring to – an expansion of NATO that includes the deployment of new military infrastructure with its U.S.-drafted plans to establish a missile defense system in Europe. I would not touch on this issue if these plans were not conducted in close proximity to Russian borders, if they did not undermine our security and global stability in general.
Our arguments are well known, and I will not spell them out again, but regrettably our Western partners are irresponsive and are simply brushing them aside.
We are worried that although the outlines of our “new” relations with NATO are not yet final, the alliance is already providing us with “facts on the ground” that are counterproductive to confidence building. At the same time, this approach will backfire with respect to global objectives, making it more difficult to cooperate on a positive agenda in international relations and will impede any constructive flexibility.
The recent series of armed conflicts started under the pretext of humanitarian goals is undermining the time-honored principle of state sovereignty, creating a void in the moral and legal implications of international relations.
It is often said that human rights override state sovereignty. No doubt about this – crimes against humanity must be punished by the International Court. However, when state sovereignty is too easily violated in the name of this provision, when human rights are protected from the outside and on a selective basis, and when the same rights of a population are trampled underfoot in the process of such “protection,” including the most basic and sacred right – the right to one’s life – these actions cannot be considered a noble mission but rather outright demagogy.
It is important for the United Nations and its Security Council to effectively counter the dictates of some countries and their arbitrary actions in the world arena. Nobody has the right to usurp the prerogatives and powers of the UN, particularly the use of force as regards sovereign nations. This concerns NATO, an organization that has been assuming an attitude that is inconsistent with a “defensive alliance.” These points are very serious. We recall how states that have fallen victim to “humanitarian” operations and the export of “missile-and-bomb democracy” appealed for respect for legal standards and common human decency. But their cries were in vain – their appeals went unheard.
It seems that NATO members, especially the United States, have developed a peculiar interpretation of security that is different from ours. The Americans have become obsessed with the idea of becoming absolutely invulnerable. This utopian concept is unfeasible both technologically and geopolitically, but it is the root of the problem.
By definition, absolute invulnerability for one country would in theory require absolute vulnerability for all others. This is something that cannot be accepted. Many countries prefer not to be straight about this for various reasons, but that’s another matter. Russia will always call a spade a spade and do so openly. I’d like to emphasize again that a violation of the principle of unity and the indivisibility of security – despite numerous declarations committing to it – poses a serious threat. Eventually these threats become reality for those states that initiate such violations, for many reasons.
The Arab Spring: lessons and conclusions
A year ago the world witnessed a new phenomenon – almost simultaneous demonstrations against authoritarian regimes in may Arab countries. The Arab Spring was initially perceived with a hope for positive change. People in Russia sympathized with those who were seeking democratic reform.
However, it soon became clear that events in many countries were not following a civilized scenario. Instead of asserting democracy and protecting the rights of the minority, attempts were being made to depose an enemy and to stage a coup, which only resulted in the replacement of one dominant force with another even more aggressive dominant force.
Foreign interference in support of one side of a domestic conflict and the use of power in this interference gave developments a negative aura. A number of countries did away with the Libyan regime by using air power in the name of humanitarian support. The revolting slaughter of Muammar Gaddafi – not just medieval but primeval – was the incarnation of these actions.
No one should be allowed to use the Libyan scenario in Syria. The international community must work to achieve an inter-Syrian reconciliation. It is important to achieve an early end to the violence no matter what the source, and to initiate a national dialogue – without preconditions or foreign interference and with due respect for the country’s sovereignty. This would create the conditions necessary for the Syrian leadership-announced measures on democratization. The main objective is to prevent an all-out civil war. Russian diplomacy has worked and will continue to work towards this end.
Sadder but wiser, we are against the adoption of UN Security Council resolutions that may be interpreted as a signal to armed interference in the domestic developments of Syria. Guided by this consistent approach in early February, Russia and China prevented the adoption of an ambiguous resolution that would have encouraged one side of this domestic conflict to resort to violence.
In this context and considering the extremely negative, almost hysterical reaction to the Russian-Chinese veto, I would like to warn our Western colleagues against the temptation to resort to this simple, previously used tactic: if the UN Security Council approves of a given action, fine; if not, we will establish a coalition of the states concerned and strike anyway.
The logic of such conduct is counterproductive and very dangerous. No good can come of it. In any case, it will not help reach a settlement in a country that is going through a domestic conflict. Even worse, it further undermines the entire system of international security as well as the authority and key role of the UN. Let me recall that the right to veto is not some whim but an inalienable part of the world’s agreement that is registered in the UN Charter – incidentally, on U.S. insistence. The implication of this right is that decisions that raise the objection of even one permanent member of the UN Security Council cannot be well-grounded or effective.
I hope very much that The United States and other countries will consider this sad experience and will not pursue the use of power in Syria without UN Security Council sanctions. In general, I cannot understand what causes this itch for military intervention. Why isn’t there the patience to develop a well-considered, balanced and cooperative approach, all the more so since this approach was already taking shape in the form of the afore-mentioned Syrian resolution? It only lacked the demand that the armed opposition do the same as the government; in particular, withdraw military units and detachments from cities. The refusal to do so is cynical. If we want to protect civilians – and this is the main goal for Russia – we must bring to reason all participants in an armed confrontation.
And one more point. It appears that with the Arab Spring countries, as with Iraq, Russian companies are losing their decades-long positions in local commercial markets and are being deprived of large commercial contracts. The niches thus vacated are being filled by the economic operatives of the states that had a hand in the change of the ruling regime.
One could reasonably conclude that tragic events have been encouraged to a certain extent by someone’s interest in a re-division of the commercial market rather than a concern for human rights. Be that as it may, we cannot sit back watch all this with Olympian serenity. We intend to work with the new governments of the Arab countries in order to promptly restore our economic positions.
Generally, the current developments in the Arab world are, in many ways, instructive. They show that a striving to introduce democracy by use of power can produce – and often does produce –contradictory results. They can produce forces that rise from the bottom, including religious extremists, who will strive to change the very direction of a country’s development and the secular nature of a government.
Russia has always had good relations with the moderate representatives of Islam, whose world outlook was close to the traditions of Muslims in Russia. We are ready to develop these contacts further under the current conditions. We are interested in stepping up our political, trade and economic ties with all Arab countries, including those that, let me repeat, have gone through domestic upheaval. Moreover, I see real possibilities that will enable Russia to fully preserve its leading position in the Middle East, where we have always had many friends.
As for the Arab-Israeli conflict, to this day, the “magic recipe” that will produce a final settlement has not been invented. It would be unacceptable to give up on this issue. Considering our close ties with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Russian diplomacy will continue to work for the resumption of the peace process both on a bilateral basis and within the format of the Quartet on the Middle East, while coordinating its steps with the Arab League.
The Arab Spring has graphically demonstrated that world public opinion is being shaped by the most active use of advanced information and communications technology. It is possible to say that the Internet, the social networks, cell phones, etc. have turned – on par with television – into an effective tool for the promotion of domestic and international policy. This new variable has come into play and gives us food for thought – how to continue developing the unique freedoms of communication via the Internet and at the same time reduce the risk of its being used by terrorists and other criminal elements.
The notion of “soft power” is being used increasingly often. This implies a matrix of tools and methods to reach foreign policy goals without the use of arms but by exerting information and other levers of influence. Regrettably, these methods are being used all too frequently to develop and provoke extremist, separatist and nationalistic attitudes, to manipulate the public and to conduct direct interference in the domestic policy of sovereign countries.
There must be a clear division between freedom of speech and normal political activity, on the one hand, and illegal instruments of “soft power,” on the other. The civilized work of non-governmental humanitarian and charity organizations deserves every support. This also applies to those who actively criticize the current authorities. However, the activities of “pseudo-NGOs” and other agencies that try to destabilize other countries with outside support are unacceptable.
I’m referring to those cases where the activities of NGOs are not based on the interests (and resources) of local social groups but are funded and supported by outside forces. There are many agents of influence from big countries, international blocks or corporations. When they act in the open – this is simply a form of civilized lobbyism. Russia also uses such institutions – the Federal Agency for CIS Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, International Humanitarian Cooperation, the Russkiy Mir Foundation and our leading universities who recruit talented students from abroad.
However, Russia does not use or fund national NGOs based in other countries or any foreign political organizations in the pursuit of its own interests. China, India and Brazil do not do this either. We believe that any influence on domestic policy and public attitude in other countries must be exerted in the open; in this way, those who wish to be of influence will do so responsibly.
New challenges and threats
Today, Iran is the focus of international attention. Needless to say, Russia is worried about the growing threat of a military strike against Iran. If this happens, the consequences will be disastrous. It is impossible to imagine the true scope of this turn of events.
I am convinced that this issue must be settled exclusively by peaceful means. We propose recognizing Iran’s right to develop a civilian nuclear program, including the right to enrich uranium. But this must be done in exchange for putting all Iranian nuclear activity under reliable and comprehensive IAEA safeguards. If this is done, the sanctions against Iran, including the unilateral ones, must be rescinded. The West has shown too much willingness to “punish” certain countries. At any minor development it reaches for sanctions if not armed force. Let me remind you that we are not in the 19th century or even the 20th century now.
Developments around the Korean nuclear issue are no less serious. Violating the non-proliferation regime, Pyongyang openly claims the right to develop “the military atom” and has already conducted two nuclear tests. We cannot accept North Korea’s nuclear status. We have consistently advocated the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula – exclusively through political and diplomatic means — and the early resumption of Six-Party Talks.
However, it is evident that not all of our partners share this approach. I am convinced that today it is essential to be particularly careful. It would be unadvisable to try and test the strength of the new North Korean leader and provoke a rash countermeasure.
Allow me to recall that North Korea and Russia share a common border and we cannot choose our neighbors. We will continue conducting an active dialogue with the leaders of North Korea and developing good-neighborly relations with it, while at the same time trying to encourage Pyongyang to settle the nuclear issue. Obviously, it would be easier to do this if mutual trust is built up and the inter-Korean dialogue resumes on the peninsula.
All this fervor around the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea makes one wonder how the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation emerge and who is aggravating them. It seems that the more frequent cases of crude and even armed outside interference in the domestic affairs of countries may prompt authoritarian (and other) regimes to possess nuclear weapons. If I have the A-bomb in my pocket, nobody will touch me because it’s more trouble than it is worth. And those who don’t have the bomb might have to sit and wait for “humanitarian intervention.”
Whether we like it or not, foreign interference suggests this train of thought. This is why the number of threshold countries that are one step away from “military atom” technology, is growing rather than decreasing. Under these conditions, zones free of weapons of mass destruction are being established in different parts of the world and are becoming increasingly important. Russia has initiated the discussion of the parameters for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East.
It is essential to do everything we can to prevent any country from being tempted to get nuclear weapons. Non-proliferation campaigners must also change their conduct, especially those that are used to penalizing other countries by force, without letting the diplomats do their job. This was the case in Iraq – its problems have only become worse after an almost decade-long occupation.
If the incentives for becoming a nuclear power are finally eradicated, it will be possible to make the international non-proliferation regime universal and firm based on the existing treaties. This regime would allow all interested countries to fully enjoy the benefits of the “peaceful atom” under IAEA safeguards.
Russia would stand to gain much from this because we are actively operating in international markets, building new nuclear power plants based on safe, modern technology and taking part in the formation of multilateral nuclear enrichment centers and nuclear fuel banks.
The probable future of Afghanistan is alarming. We have supported the military operation on rendering international aid to that country. However, the NATO-led international military contingent has not met its objectives. The threats of terrorism and drug trafficking have not been reduced. Having announced its withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, the United States has been building, both there and in neighboring countries, military bases without a clear-cut mandate, objectives or duration of operation. Understandably, this does not suit us.
Russia has obvious interests in Afghanistan and these interests are understandable. Afghanistan is our close neighbor and we have a stake in its stable and peaceful development. Most important, we want it to stop being the main source of the drug threat. Illegal drug trafficking has become one of the most urgent threats. It undermines the genetic bank of entire nations, while creating fertile soil for corruption and crime and is leading to the destabilization of Afghanistan. Far from declining, the production of Afghan drugs increased by almost 40% last year. Russia is being subjected to vicious heroin-related aggression that is doing tremendous damage to the health of our people.
The dimensions of the Afghan drug threat make it clear that it can only be overcome by a global effort with reliance on the United Nations and regional organizations – the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the CIS. We are willing to consider much greater participation in the relief operation for the Afghan people but only on the condition that the international contingent in Afghanistan acts with greater zeal and in our interests, that it will pursue the physical destruction of drug crops and underground laboratories.
Invigorated anti-drug measures inside Afghanistan must be accompanied by the reliable blocking of the routes of opiate transportation to external markets, financial flows and the supply of chemical substances used in heroin production. The goal is to build a comprehensive system of antidrug security in the region. Russia will contribute to the effective cooperation of the international community for turning the tide in the war against the global drug threat.
It is hard to predict further developments in Afghanistan. Historical experience shows that foreign military presence has not brought it serenity. Only the Afghans can resolve their own problems. I see Russia’s role as follows – to help the Afghan people, with the active involvement of other neighboring countries, to develop a sustainable economy and enhance the ability of the national armed forces to counter the threats of terrorism and drug-related crime. We do not object to the process of national reconciliation being joined by participants of the armed opposition, including the Taliban, on condition they renounce violence, recognize the country’s Constitution and sever ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. In principle, I believe it is possible to build a peaceful, stable, independent and neutral Afghan state.
The instability that has persisted for years and decades is creating a breeding ground for international terrorism that is universally recognized as one of the most dangerous challenges to the world community. I’d like to note that the crises zones that engender a terrorist threat are located near the Russian borders and are much close to us than to our European or American partners. The United Nations has adopted the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy but it seems that the struggle against this evil is conducted not under a common universal plan and not consistently but in a series of responses to the most urgent and barbarian manifestations of terror – when the public uproar over the impudent acts of terrorists grows out of proportion. The civilized world must not wait for tragedies like the terrorist attacks in New York in September 2001 or another Beslan disaster and only then act collectively and resolutely after the shock of such cases.
I’m far from denying the results achieved in the war on international terror. There has been progress. In the last few years security services and the law-enforcement agencies of many countries have markedly upgraded their cooperation. But there is still the obvious potential for further anti-terrorist cooperation. Thus, double standards still exist and terrorists are perceived differently in different countries – some are “bad guys” and others are “not so bad.” Some forces are not averse to using the latter in political manipulation, for example, in shaking up objectionable ruling regimes.
All available public institutions – the media, religious associations, NGOs, the education system, science and business – must be used to prevent terrorism all over the world. We need a dialogue between religions and, on a broader plane, among civilizations. Russia has many religions, but we have never had religious wars. We could make a contribution to an international discussion on this issue.
The growing role of the Asia-Pacific Region
One of our country’s neighbors is China, a major hub of the global economy. It has become fashionable to opine about that country’s future role in the global economy and international affairs. Last year China moved into second place in the world in terms of GDP and it is poised to surpass the U.S. on that count, according to international – including American – experts. The overall might of the People’s Republic of China is growing, and that includes the ability to project power in various regions.
How should we conduct ourselves in the face of the rapidly strengthening Chinese factor?
First of all, I am convinced that China’s economic growth is by no means a threat, but a challenge that carries colossal potential for business cooperation – a chance to catch the Chinese wind in the sails of our economy. We should seek to more actively form new cooperative ties, combining the technological and productive capabilities of our two countries and tapping China’s potential – judiciously, of course – in order to develop the economy of Siberia and the Russian Far East.
Second, China’s conduct on the world stage gives no grounds to talk about its aspirations to dominance. The Chinese voice in the world is indeed growing ever more confident, and we welcome that, because Beijing shares our vision of the emerging equitable world order. We will continue to support each other in the international arena, to work together to solve acute regional and global problems, and to promote cooperation within the UN Security Council, BRICS, the SCO, the G20 and other multilateral forums.
And third, we have settled all the major political issues in our relations with China, including the critical border issue. Our nations have created a solid mechanism of bilateral ties, reinforced by legally binding documents. There is an unprecedentedly high level of trust between the leaders of our two countries. This enables us and the Chinese to act in the spirit of genuine partnership, rooted in pragmatism and respect for each other’s interests. The model of Russian-Chinese relations we have created has good prospects.
Of course, this is not suggest that our relationship with China is problem-free. There are some sources of friction. Our commercial interests in third countries by no means always coincide, and we are not entirely satisfied with the emerging trade structure and the low level of mutual investments. We will also closely monitor immigration from the People’s Republic of China.
But my main premise is that Russia needs a prosperous and stable China, and I am convinced that China needs a strong and successful Russia.
Another rapidly growing Asian giant is India. Russia has traditionally enjoyed friendly relations with India, which the leaders of our two countries have classified as a privileged strategic partnership. Not only our countries but the entire multipolar system that is emerging in the world stands to gain from this partnership.
We see before our eyes not only the rise of China and India, but the growing weight of the entire Asia-Pacific Region. This has opened up new horizons for fruitful work within the framework of the Russian chairmanship of APEC. In September of this year we will host a meeting of its leaders in Vladivostok. We are actively preparing for it, creating modern infrastructure that will promote the further development of Siberia and the Russian Far East and enable our country to become more involved in the dynamic integration processes in the “new Asia.”
We will continue to prioritize our cooperation with our BRICS partners. That unique structure, created in 2006, is a striking symbol of the transition from a unipolar world to a more just world order. BRICS brings together five countries with a population of almost three billion people, the largest emerging economies, colossal labor and natural resources and huge domestic markets. With the addition of South Africa, BRICS acquired a truly global format, and it now accounts for more than 25% of world GDP.
We are still getting used to working together in this format. In particular, we have to coordinate better on foreign policy matters and work together more closely at the UN. But when BRICS is really up and running, its impact on the world economy and politics will be considerable.
In recent years, cooperation with the countries of Asia, Latin America and Africa has become a growing focus of Russian diplomacy and of our business community. In these regions there is still sincere goodwill toward Russia. One of the key tasks for the coming period, in my view, is cultivating trade and economic cooperation as well as joint projects in the fields of energy, infrastructure, investment, science and technology, banking and tourism.
The growing role of Asia, Latin America and Africa in the emerging democratic system of managing the global economy and global finance is reflected in the work of the G20. I believe that this association will soon become a strategically important tool not only for responding to crises, but for the long-term reform of the world’s financial and economic architecture. Russia will chair the G20 in 2013, and we must use this opportunity to better coordinate the work of the G20 and other multilateral structures, above all the G8 and, of course, the UN.
The Europe factor
Russia is an inalienable and organic part of Greater Europe and European civilization. Our citizens think of themselves as Europeans. We are by no means indifferent to developments in united Europe.
That is why Russia proposes moving toward the creation of a common economic and human space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean – a community referred by Russian experts to as “the Union of Europe,” which will strengthen Russia’s potential and position in its economic pivot toward the “new Asia.”
Against the background of the rise of China, India and other new economies, the financial and economic upheavals in Europe – formerly an oasis of stability and order – is particularly worrisome. The crisis that has struck the eurozone cannot but affect Russia’s interests, especially if one considers that the EU is our major foreign economic and trade partner. Likewise, it is clear that the prospects of the entire global economic structure depend heavily on the state of affairs in Europe.
Russia is actively participating in the international effort to support the ailing European economies, and is consistently working with its partners to formulate collective decisions under the auspices of the IMF. Russia is not opposed in principle to direct financial assistance in some cases.
At the same time I believe that external financial injections can only partially solve the problem. A true solution will require energetic, system-wide measures. European leaders face the task of effecting large-scale transformations that will fundamentally change many financial and economic mechanisms to ensure genuine budget discipline. We have a stake in ensuring a strong EU, as envisioned by Germany and France. It is in our interests to realize the enormous potential of the Russia-EU partnership.
The current level of cooperation between Russia and the European Union does not correspond to current global challenges, above all making our shared continent more competitive. I propose again that we work toward creating a harmonious community of economies from Lisbon to Vladivostok, which will, in the future, evolve into a free trade zone and even more advanced forms of economic integration. The resulting common continental market would be worth trillions of euros. Does anyone doubt that this would be a wonderful development, and that it would meet the interests of both Russians and Europeans?
We must also consider more extensive cooperation in the energy sphere, up to and including the formation of a common European energy complex. The Nord Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea and the South Stream pipeline under the Black Sea are important steps in that direction. These projects have the support of many governments and involve major European energy companies. Once the pipelines start operating at full capacity, Europe will have a reliable and flexible gas-supply system that does not depend on the political whims of any nation. This will strengthen the continent’s energy security not only in form but in substance. This is particularly relevant in the light of the decision of some European states to reduce or renounce nuclear energy.
The Third Energy Package, backed by the European Commission and aimed at squeezing out integrated Russian companies, is frankly not conducive to stronger relations between Russia and the EU. Considering the growing instability of energy suppliers that could act as an alternative to Russia, the package aggravates the systemic risks to the European energy sector and scares away potential investors in new infrastructure projects. Many European politicians have been critical of the package in their talks with me. We should summon the courage to remove this obstacle to mutually beneficial cooperation.
I believe that genuine partnership between Russia and the European Union is impossible as long as there are barriers that impede human and economic contacts, first and foremost visa requirements. The abolition of visas would give powerful impetus to real integration between Russia and the EU, and would help expand cultural and business ties, especially between medium-sized and small businesses. The threat to Europeans from Russian economic migrants is largely imagined. Our people have opportunities to put their abilities and skills to use in their own country, and these opportunities are becoming ever more numerous.
In December 2011 we agreed with the EU on “joint steps” toward a visa-free regime. They can and should be taken without delay. We should continue to actively pursue this goal.
Russian-American affairs
In recent years a good deal has been done to develop Russian-American relations. Even so, we have not managed to fundamentally change the matrix of our relations, which continue to ebb and flow. The instability of the partnership with America is due in part to the tenacity of some well-known stereotypes and phobias, particularly the perception of Russia on Capitol Hill. But the main problem is that bilateral political dialogue and cooperation do not rest on a solid economic foundation. The current level of bilateral trade falls far short of the potential of our economies. The same is true of mutual investments. We have yet to create a safety net that would protect our relations against ups and downs. We should work on this.
Nor is mutual understanding strengthened by regular U.S. attempts to engage in “political engineering,” including in regions that are traditionally important to us and during Russian elections.
As I’ve said before, U.S. plans to create a missile defense system in Europe give rise to legitimate fears in Russia. Why does that system worry us more than others? Because it affects the strategic nuclear deterrence forces that only Russia possesses in that theatre, and upsets the military-political balance established over decades.
The inseparable link between missile defense and strategic offensive weapons is reflected in the New START treaty signed in 2010. The treaty has come into effect and is working fairly well. It is a major foreign policy achievement. We are ready to consider various options for our joint agenda with the Americans in the field of arms control in the coming period. In this effort we must seek to balance our interests and renounce any attempts to gain one-sided advantages through negotiations.
In 2007, during a meeting with President Bush in Kennebunkport, I proposed a solution to the missile defense problem, which, if adopted, would have changed the customary character of Russian-American relations and opened up a positive path forward. Moreover, if we had managed to achieve a breakthrough on missile defense, this would have opened the floodgates for building a qualitatively new model of cooperation, similar to an alliance, in many other sensitive areas.
It was not to be. Perhaps it would be useful to look back at the transcripts of the talks in Kennebunkport. In recent years the Russian leadership has come forward with other proposals to resolve the dispute over missile defense. These proposals still stand.
I am loath to dismiss the possibility of reaching a compromise on missile defense. One would not like to see the deployment of the American system on a scale that would demand the implementation of our declared countermeasures.
I recently had a talk with Henry Kissinger. I meet with him regularly. I fully share this consummate professional’s thesis that close and trusting interactions between Moscow and Washington are particularly important in periods of international turbulence.
In general, we are prepared to make great strides in our relations with the U.S., to achieve a qualitative breakthrough, but on the condition that the Americans are guided by the principles of equal and mutually respectful partnership.
Economic diplomacy
In December of last year, Russia finally concluded its marathon accession to the WTO, which lasted for many years. I must mention that, in the finishing stretch, the Obama administration and the leaders of some major European states made a significant contribution to achieving the final accords.
To be honest, at times during this long and arduous journey we wanted to turn our backs on the talks and slam the door. But we did not succumb to emotion. As a result a compromise was reached that is quite acceptable for our country: we managed to defend the interests of Russian industrial and agricultural producers in the face of growing external competition. Our economic actors have gained substantial additional opportunities to enter world markets and uphold their rights there in a civilized manner. It is this, rather than the symbolism of Russia’s accession to the World Trade “club”, that I see as the main result of this process.
Russia will comply with WTO norms, as it meets all of its international obligations. Likewise, I hope that our partners will play according to the rules. Let me note in passing that we have already integrated WTO principles in the legal framework of the Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Russia is still learning how to systematically and consistently promote its economic interests in the world. We have yet to learn, as many Western partners have, how to lobby for decisions that favor Russian business in foreign international forums. The challenges facing us in this area, given our priority of innovation-driven development, are very serious: to achieve equal standing for Russia in the modern system of global economic ties, and to minimize the risks arising from integration in the world economy, including Russia’s membership in the WTO and its forthcoming accession to the OECD.
We are badly in need of broader, non-discriminatory access to foreign markets. So far Russian economic actors have been getting a raw deal abroad. Restrictive trade and political measures are being taken against them, and technical barriers are being erected that put them at a disadvantage compared with their competitors.
The same holds for investments. We are trying to attract foreign capital to the Russian economy. We are opening up the most attractive areas of our economy to foreign investors, granting them access to the “juiciest morsels,” in particular, our fuel and energy complex. But our investors are not welcome abroad and are often pointedly brushed aside.
Examples abound. Take the story of Germany’s Opel, which Russian investors tried and failed to acquire despite the fact that the deal was approved by the German government and was positively received by German trade unions. Or take the outrageous examples of Russian businesses being denied their rights as investors after investing considerable resources in foreign assets. This is a frequent occurrence in Central and Eastern Europe.
All this leads to the conclusions that Russia must strengthen its political and diplomatic support for Russian entrepreneurs in foreign markets, and to provide more robust assistance to major, landmark business projects. Nor should we forget that Russia can employ identical response measures against those who resort to dishonest methods of competition.
The government and business associations should better coordinate their efforts in the foreign economic sphere, more aggressively promote the interests of Russian business and help it to open up new markets.
I would like to draw attention to another important factor that largely shapes the role and place of Russia in present-day and future political and economic alignments – the vast size of our country. Granted, we no longer occupy one-sixth of the Earth’s surface, but the Russian Federation is still the world’s largest nation with an unrivaled abundance of natural resources. I am referring not only to oil and gas, but also our forests, agricultural land and clean freshwater resources.
Russia’s territory is a source of its potential strength. In the past, our vast land mainly served as a buffer against foreign aggression. Now, given a sound economic strategy, they can become a very important foundation for increasing our competitiveness.
I would like to mention, in particular, the growing shortage of fresh water in the world. One can foresee in the near future the start of geopolitical competition for water resources and for the ability to produce water-intensive goods. When this time comes, Russia will have its trump card ready. We understand that we must use our natural wealth prudently and strategically.
Support for compatriots and Russian culture in the international context
Respect for one’s country is rooted, among other things, in its ability to protect the rights of its citizens abroad. We must never neglect the interests of the millions of Russian nationals who live and travel abroad on vacation or on business. I would like to stress that the Foreign Ministry and all diplomatic and consular agencies must be prepared to provide real support to our citizens around the clock. Diplomats must respond to conflicts between Russian nationals and local authorities, and to incidents and accidents in a prompt manner – before the media announces the news to the world.
We are determined to ensure that Latvian and Estonian authorities follow the numerous recommendations of reputable international organizations on observing generally accepted rights of ethnic minorities. We cannot tolerate the shameful status of “non-citizen.” How can we accept that, due to their status as non-citizens, one in six Latvian residents and one in thirteen Estonian residents are denied their fundamental political, electoral and socioeconomic rights and the ability to freely use Russian?
The recent referendum in Latvia on the status of the Russian language again demonstrated to the international community how acute this problem is. Over 300,000 non-citizens were once again barred from taking part in a referendum. Even more outrageous is the fact that the Latvian Central Electoral Commission refused to allow a delegation from the Russian Public Chamber to monitor the vote. Meanwhile, international organizations responsible for compliance with generally accepted democratic norms remain silent.
On the whole, we are dissatisfied with how the issue of human rights is handled globally. First, the United States and other Western states dominate and politicize the human rights agenda, using it as a means to exert pressure. At the same time, they are very sensitive and even intolerant to criticism. Second, the objects of human rights monitoring are chosen regardless of objective criteria but at the discretion of the states that have “privatized” the human rights agenda.
Russia has been the target of biased and aggressive criticism that, at times, exceeds all limits. When we are given constructive criticism, we welcome it and are ready to learn from it. But when we are subjected, again and again, to blanket criticisms in a persistent effort to influence our citizens, their attitudes, and our domestic affairs, it becomes clear that these attacks are not rooted in moral and democratic values.
Nobody should possess complete control over the sphere of human rights. Russia is a young democracy. More often than not, we are too humble and too willing to spare the self-regard of our more experienced partners. Still, we often have something to say, and no country has a perfect record on human rights and basic freedoms. Even the older democracies commit serious violations, and we should not look the other way. Obviously, this work should not be about trading insults. All sides stand to gain from a constructive discussion of human rights issues.
In late 2011, the Russian Foreign Ministry published its first report on the observance of human rights in other countries. I believe we should become more active in this area. This will facilitate broader and more equitable cooperation in the effort to solve humanitarian problems and promote fundamental democratic principles and human rights.
Of course, this is just one aspect of our efforts to promote our international and diplomatic activity and to foster an accurate image of Russia abroad. Admittedly, we have not seen great success here. When it comes to media influence, we are often outperformed. This is a separate and complex challenge that we must confront.
Russia has a great cultural heritage, recognized both in the West and the East. But we have yet to make a serious investment in our culture and its promotion around the world. The surge in global interest in ideas and culture, sparked by the merger of societies and economies in the global information network, provides new opportunities for Russia, with its proven talent for creating cultural objects.
Russia has a chance not only to preserve its culture but to use it as a powerful force for progress in international markets. The Russian language is spoken in nearly all the former Soviet republics and in a significant part of Eastern Europe. This is not about empire, but rather cultural progress. Exporting education and culture will help promote Russian goods, services and ideas; guns and imposing political regimes will not.
We must work to expand Russia’s educational and cultural presence in the world, especially in those countries where a substantial part of the population speaks or understands Russian.
We must discuss how we can derive the maximum benefit for Russia’s image from hosting large international events, including the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in 2012, the G20 summit in 2013 and the G8 summit in 2014, the Universiade in Kazan in 2013, the Winter Olympic Games in 2014, the IIHF World Championships in 2016, and the FIFA World Cup in 2018.
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Russia intends to continue promoting its security and protecting its national interest by actively and constructively engaging in global politics and in efforts to solve global and regional problems. We are ready for mutually beneficial cooperation and open dialogue with all our foreign partners. We aim to understand and take into account the interests of our partners, and we ask that our own interests be respected.

German parliament supports austerity for Greece

By Peter Schwarz 

29 February 2012
On Monday, the German parliament approved the new financial package for Greece by a large majority. 496 of the 591 deputies present voted in the affirmative, supporting the devastating austerity measures with which the disbursement of funds is linked.
The Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Greens voted for the cuts along with most members of the governing parties—Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) and Free Democratic Party (FDP). They are fully behind the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) when it comes to shifting the burden of the international financial crisis onto the working people of Greece and throughout Europe.
Only the Left Party voted unanimously against the package. Seventeen deputies belonging to the government coalition, who want Greece expelled from the euro zone or declared insolvent, also rejected it. Nine other members of the government camp abstained or were absent from the vote. For the first time in such an important vote, Merkel lost the so-called chancellor’s majority, but thanks to the support of the SPD and Greens this had no practical consequences.
The financial package includes €130 billion ($175 billion) from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, provided to Greece in interest-bearing and repayable loans. In addition, there is €34 billion from a previous financial package, which had not yet been issued, and another €35 billion to secure the exchange of old Greek government bonds into new ones.
Although the talk is always of an “aid” or “rescue package” for Greece, the almost 200 billion euros will flow directly into the coffers of the banks. The Greek budget and Greek population will not benefit from them.
According to the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD), €93 billion are needed immediately to ensure the debt write-off by private creditors takes place and to make it more attractive; €35 billion will be used to guarantee bonds held by private banks that are deposited with the European Central Bank; €23 billion for the recapitalization of Greek banks; €30 billion to “sweeten” the creditors to exchange their old bonds into new ones, and €5.5 billion to pay old debt interest.
For creditor banks, this is a great deal. They will write off slightly more than half of the nominal value of their Greek government bonds (which are already worth far less on the market) and will receive new, internationally guaranteed bonds.
Since the €93 billion being used by the EU and IMF to fund this exchange will be charged to the Greek state, the “waiver of more than €110 billion stands against Greece’s newly-issued debt of more than 93 billion euros,” FTDconcludes. The new “rescue package” only reduces Greek debt by about €17 billion if the creditors actually voluntarily “write off” the €110 billion.
According to FTD, the remaining billions in the rescue package are mainly “reserved for servicing old loans from the IMF and public banks, and for interest payments”. The exact details are still not known.
The financial package for Greece is therefore simply an aid package for the banks, for which Greece is liable and must pay a devastating price. The austerity measures, to which the Greek government is committed and which must be reviewed before payment of each instalment, are unprecedented in post-war European history. Only authoritarian regimes, such as the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and Brüning’s emergency government at the end of the Weimar Republic before the coming to power of the Nazis—have imposed similar measures.
Athens is undertaking to sack 150,000 public sector workers over the next four years; to slash the minimum wage and unemployment benefits by a quarter, and cut private sector wages by 15 percent; to reduce spending on medicines by a billion within a year; to raise prices on public transport by 25 percent and to privatize many state enterprises. For many Greeks, this means outright poverty, hunger and even death.
Many experts consider that all the finance package will achieve is to build a “firewall” around the country, so that it can then be allowed to go bankrupt without triggering further state bankruptcies and financial crises internationally.
Greece is the prelude to similar attacks on working people throughout Europe. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on February 22, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi openly declared: “The European social model has already gone. There was no alternative to fiscal consolidation, and we should not deny that this is contractionary in the short term.”
In Germany, the media have made ​​much about the differences within the government camp, which cost Chancellor Merkel her majority. But these differences revolve solely around the question of whether and when Greece should go bankrupt. The ruling coalition, as well as the SPD and the Greens all agree on a policy of social austerity.
Merkel is taking advantage of the dissenters in her own ranks to ward off international demands. The US, most EU member states, and the IMF are urging that the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) be stocked up from half to one trillion euros, to secure the banks against future state bankruptcies. The German government has so far rejected this, because it would have to find a large portion of the money required. Pointing to the resistance within their own ranks helps to fend off such claims.
Above all, the tabloid Bild has sought to encourage opposition to the financial aid for Greece among broader social layers by employing chauvinist arguments; on the day of the parliamentary vote, the paper appeared with a large headline: “Stop”.
The same newspaper also published an article by former Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU), who spoke out strongly in favour of the financial package. Kohl warned of the danger of war and dictatorship if the package had been rejected. After two terrible world wars, one had come to the realization that only a united Europe would provide lasting peace and freedom, he warned: “The evil spirits of the past are not banished; they can come back again and again”. That is why “the great European idea” should be defended against “faint-hearts and doubters”.
The contradiction between Kohl’s plea for the financial package and the negative editorial line taken by Bild is only too apparent: in reality it is the austerity measures being dictated by the EU that are reawakening the “demons of the past”—social misery, dictatorship and war. Europe can only be united in a struggle against the EU and the governments and financial interests that stand behind it.
The Left Party rejected the financial package for purely tactical reasons. It says the package only rescues the banks and speculators, and the anti-social and economically damaging programmes drive Greece deeper into crisis. However, it does so only from the standpoint of arousing illusions in a possible reform of the EU and directing the growing social anger into harmless channels. In practice, the Left Party works closely with the SPD and Greens, and supports austerity measures when needed to ensure a majority.

Washington pushes drug war in Mexico, Central America

By Bill Van Auken 

29 February 2012
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano signaled this week that Washington is prepared to utilize the same bloody counterinsurgency methods in Mexico and Central America that it has employed in the so-called “war on terror”.
Napolitano is conducting a three-day, five-nation tour through Mexico and Central America with the key purpose of pushing for an escalation of the so-called “war on drugs”— through which Washington seeks to defend its hegemony in the region and tighten links between the Pentagon and local security forces.
At a press conference in Mexico City Monday, Napolitano and her Mexican counterpart, Interior Minister Alejandro Poire, announced the signing of a series of agreements on border security. Poire stressed that the two had discussed means of strengthening collaboration to keep “international terrorism” out of Mexico.
In response to a journalist’s question about the failure of either US or Mexican authorities to capture Joaquin Guzman, Mexico’s most wanted drug trafficker and leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, Napolitano drew a revealing comparison between him and the leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, who was assassinated by US special operations troops in Pakistan last May.
“Well, let me just say it took us 10 years to find Osama Bin Laden and we found him,” said the Homeland Security secretary. “And you know what happened there. I’m not suggesting the same thing would happen with Guzman, but I am suggesting that we are persistent when it comes to wrongdoers and those who do harm in both of our countries. So that issue continues. I think I’ll just stop there with that.”
The remark suggested—and it was widely interpreted in Mexico to mean—that the US reserved the right to “take out” a Mexican citizen on Mexican soil. As with bin Laden, there is little doubt that the US and Mexican establishments would both prefer to see Guzman, commonly referred to as “El Chapo”, or “Shorty”, murdered rather than placed on trial. Featured on the Forbes magazine list of the world’s billionaires, Guzman could no doubt provide damning testimony on his connections to leading figures in government and finance on both sides of the US-Mexican border.
More broadly, Napolitano’s drawing an analogy between bin Laden and Guzman reflects US policy, which views Mexico through the prism of counterinsurgency. Three years ago, a Pentagon document known as the Joint Operating Environment provoked outrage in Mexico by lumping it together with Pakistan as “weak and failing states,” where a “rapid collapse” was threatened. Now, a top Obama administration official suggests that the same type of illegal cross-border killings that have been staged by the US in Pakistan may be employed in Mexico.
Last year, it was revealed that CIA operatives and “retired” military personnel have been deployed in Mexico and that the Obama administration was considering the dispatch of private military contractors to further escalate Mexico’s drug war. This presence was widely seen in Mexico as a violation of the country’s constitution and a further tightening of US semi-colonial domination of its southern neighbor.
Napolitano used her trip to counter charges that the so-called war on drugs has demonstratively failed to achieve any of its supposed aims. “I would not agree with the premise that the drug war is a failure,” she said. “It is a continuing effort to keep our peoples from becoming addicted to dangerous drugs.”
From this standpoint, the drug war is a manifest failure. The US, despite its draconian drug laws, continues to have the highest level of illegal drug use of any country in the world. And despite Napolitano’s claims about concern for people “becoming addicted”, the US, under the Obama administration just as under preceding administrations, continues to underfund drug prevention and treatment programs, while pouring the lion’s share of funding into militarized drug interdiction and criminal prosecution. Despite the tens of billions spent every year to this end, the supply of illegal drugs remains virtually unchanged.
For Mexico, the drug war has represented a national catastrophe. Since 2006, when the right-wing government of President Felipe Calderon formally adopted the US-backed strategy of a militarized drug war, sending 45,000 Mexican troops into the streets, some 50,000 Mexicans have lost their lives in this war.
Human rights organizations have charged the Mexican military with systematic use of torture, abductions and extra-judicial executions.
Washington has backed this military campaign with its $1.4 billion Mérida Initiative, which has provided Mexican security forces with Black Hawk helicopters, other hardware and military training. Last year, the US provided Mexico with $180 million in military and police aid.
From Mexico, Napolitano flew to Guatemala and then onto El Salvador on Tuesday, with subsequent stops set for Costa Rica and Panama.
In Guatemala, she spoke out forcefully against a proposal by the country’s recently inaugurated president, Otto Perez, a former general who participated in the US-backed counter-insurgency campaign that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands.
Perez has called for a discussion throughout the region on the de-criminalization of drugs as a means of reducing violence, which has spiked in Guatemala as members of Mexico’s drug cartels have shifted some of their operations there.
Napolitano condemned the proposal as “not viable.” She insisted that there are “better ways to confront the problem of drug trafficking,” by which she meant continuing and escalating the US-sponsored “war on drugs.”
For his part, Guatemala’s President Perez refused to drop his proposal. “What we have been proposing is a dialogue and debate with respect to this initiative, because after 25 years of being in this struggle against drug trafficking, it is important to open up a debate to find a much more effective way,” he said.
At the same time, Perez insisted that his government would continue combating drug trafficking with “clarity and firmness”. It is possible that the ex-general is using the proposal as a means of pressuring Washington for more arms and aid. Washington gave Guatemala $16 million in security aid last year, less than a tenth of the amount granted to Mexico.
As Napolitano was conducting her Central American tour, the United Nations’ International Narcotics Control Board issued a report warning that violence in the region had reached “alarming levels that have no precedent”. The homicide rate has reached 82 per 100,000 inhabitants in Honduras, 65 in El Salvador, and 40 in Guatemala. The worldwide average is 6.9.
The UN report stated: “Poverty, social inequality and the absence of economic opportunities for youth, as well as emigration, are factors that have allowed drug trafficking to prosper in the region.” More than 50 percent of Central America’s 45 million people subsist in poverty.
These essential underlying conditions are a searing indictment of capitalism and the bitter legacy of the region’s more than century-old semi-colonial domination by US imperialism. The ultimate aim of the “drug war” is not to stop the entry of drugs into the US—a multi-billion-dollar enterprise that yields significant profits for US banks and which, over the course of more than half a century, has served as a funding source for US covert operations internationally, from Indochina to Central America and Afghanistan.
Rather, its purpose is to preserve this domination by military means at the expense of the workers of the entire hemisphere.

Latin America prepared for US financial bubble to burst

Latin America is rapidly changing the orientation of the old standards of economic policy dominated by the United States and welcomes the arrival of other world powers. Some time ago, the South American continent was a good friend of Russia, its economic partner and political ally. However, Russia is moving away from it, and for no good reason.

It is hard to imagine that Russia and Latin America may have more in common than large reserves of natural resources. Meanwhile, cultural and spiritual values ​​of the Russians and citizens of many Latin American countries are so close that a single concept of the emerging new world is reflected in the economic and foreign policy. The idea of ​​creating BRICS, though not owned by the followers of a multipolar world, still embodied in the pursuit of post-industrial countries to set their own rules on the international platform.

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America in terms of economic indicators, as well as Argentina. However, recently the latter was in the deepest financial depression, enslaved by the International Monetary Fund. The economic growth that was beginning to show in Argentina suggests that Latin American countries are fed up with neo-liberal capitalism. The reformed economies have not been able to adapt to globalization, and class stratification began to grow exponentially.
The arrival of alternative, mostly leftist leaders in the region indicates that they welcome an end to the hegemony of the United States on the continent and are waiting for the arrival of other world powers. That is why a positive political dialogue is so important between the South American continent and Russia as it would catalyze the economic and trade ties. Despite the fact that the global financial crisis has caused severe damage to these relations, the trade between Latin America and Russia exceeds eight billion dollars, and before the crisis it was twice the present rate.
However, despite the fact that the countries seized by the idea of ​​national identity strive to form a unified Latin American space, they are far from uniform in terms of their financial indicators. Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico are countries that follow the path of technological innovation and will continue to grow. Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru and Colombia will continue to languish as “drug lords”. This is despite the fact that the natural resources of Bolivia are hardly inferior to those of Venezuela, but the people in this country are among the poorest in the region.
Peru, Chile and Mexico are members of APEC, and Brazil is part of BRICS conglomerate. The insistence with which the Russians and Latinos overcome the difficulties and hardships should cause blatant jealousy of the West, where the population even in the “light savings” mode takes to the streets with protests. But why Russia that also has a large economic weight in the above-mentioned organizations have increasingly moved away from Latin American markets? What are the prospects for cooperation between Russia and the continent of South America at the time when Europe and the United States are in deep crisis? How utopian is the concept of multilateralism based on spatial-territorial proximity?
Writer Vladislav Savin suggested the concept of “friendship through a neighbor,” and there is certain logic to it. Latin America and Russia never had a common border and, consequently, territorial conflict. This is not to the liking of the United States used to leading the movement against a “common enemy”. So far the hegemony is supported by the economic indicators, as well as a number of formally independent organizations – NATO, WTO, World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Here Moscow should try and prepare in advance to enter the region with a competitive advantage when the U.S. financial bubble finally bursts.
On the one hand, the current numbers of the economic relations between Russia and Latin America have surpassed the numbers of the Soviet times, when Russia and the South American continent were mainly connected by virtue of ideological and political and military-strategic reasons. On the other hand, the inertia of the Russian business is a major barrier to unification. Even large corporations like the “Gazprom”, LUKOIL, “Aluminum” and “Power Machines” only began to move from talking to specific commercial projects.
If the current trends continue, the trade turnover between the countries of Latin America and Russia by 2017 could exceed $20 billion. It may be higher if Russia manages to keep this area as a major market for weapons after the Middle East currently engulfed in revolutions. The policy of “loose hands” may bring out other types of cooperation, such as the use of the equatorial launch site “Alcantara” in Brazil. The main thing is to be able to bring the relationship to the level of strategic partnership. To do this, both diplomacy and business will have to assess the interests of exporters and investors from other countries that are now firmly seated on the South American continent.

Darya Deryabina

The incredible hijacking of the word Freedom


 

The incredible hijacking of the word Freedom. 46711.jpeg
Freedom, a word so much used during the Cold War period and repeated so many times, that one began to get suspicious. And the more time that elapses, the more obvious it gets that those using this word were abusing it, so tenuous were their arguments based upon lies and so thin and fragile their glass roofs. Their freedom is a chimera, an illusion and a fraud. The conclusion is that Freedom is a meaningless word describing a notion that does not exist.
There are certain soundbites that bite deep into the collective conscience of humanity, words and catch-phrases which light up hearts in the darkest depths of despair and the word Freedom, carefully nurtured and shaped into our collective conscience by a biased and brainwashing media, is one of them.
Freedom is a word which is today much used in the corridors of London and Washington, as they gear up for war with Iran and try desperately to explore all the avenues they can to launch a savage and murderous attack against the people of Syria, now that their terrorists have failed to make their mark. It is also a word which will be bandied around the corridors of Geneva in the forthcoming days as the United Nations Human Rights Council meets.
Where was this council when the people of Tawerga in Libya were being massacred by terrorists backed by the FUKUS Axis (France, UK, US and Israel) just because they were black? Where was this council when the FUKUS armed and aided terrorists from Misratah painted slogans on the walls calling for death to slaves and blacks out of Libya? Where was this council when the Jamahiriya government proposed a free and fair democratic election and the FUKUS Axis refused?
How free were the people of Libya to choose whether they were governed by the all inclusive and racially tolerant Jamahiriya system (government by people’s councils) or the murderous scourge of racists and rapists and torturers and thieves unleashed by the FUKUS Axis?
How free were the people of Iraq to choose whether their civilian structures were bombed by NATO military hardware? How free were the thousands of children a day murdered by US sanctions over the years? How free are the people in western countries to choose whether their foreign policy is dictated to them by NATO? Has anyone elected NATO? Then why is it controlling foreign policy as a supra-national organism and who pulls its strings?
How free was the British businessman extradited to the USA because Washington told its poodle Britain to do so, to have a free and fair, open trial in his own country, because he was caught in a CIA sting operation, when he was transporting what he thought were spares for cars?
How free are the people in Guantanamo Bay, held for years without the right to due legal process, without the right to a lawyer, to see their families, or even to answer a formal accusation? How free were those people detained illegally in Abu Ghraib concentration camp in Baghdad, when they were beaten and kicked senseless by American cowards wearing jackboots, when their food was urinated in, when they had dogs set upon them? How free were they when they were being sodomised by their perverted and demonic jailors?
How free is the average citizen to choose his destiny, to shape his Government’s policy? How free are people living in political systems in which a minority can be elected into power and impose their policies upon the majority who did not vote for them?
How free are people to use the natural resources their country produces? They are not. In western countries, the ones which treat the word “Freedom” as if they owned it, the people do not control their foreign policy, they do not control their internal policy, they do not control who governs them, they do not control whether their laws are implemented, or whether their governments choose to breach international law time and time again (such is the case with the FUKUS Axis), they do not control financial policy, they do not control fiscal policy, they do not control economic policy.
So suppose those hijacking the word “freedom” used what it stands for in their policy instead of abusing it?
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey


Who profits from Qatari-Western “Export of Revolutions”?

By Babich Dmitry
February 28, 2012 “VOR” — The recent announcement by the Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani about Qatar’s readiness to arm the Syrian opposition puts the situation in the region in an entirely new context. Obviously, the Rubicon has been crossed and the monarchies of the Persian Gulf have opted for “no limits” strategy in their drive to oust the remaining secular Arab regimes in the Middle East.
So, the Gulf monarchies have made their choice. The European Union does not lag too far behind – its foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels declared the anti-government Syrian National Council a legitimate representative of the Syrian people. So, the European “democrats” are just one step behind the absolute monarchs of the Gulf– if only one side in the Syrian conflict is “legitimate,” why not send arms to this side?
This new situation raises new questions about the West’s role in this huge rearrangement of the Middle Eastern politics. How long will the West (i.e. the EU and the USA) follow the monarchies in their risky undertakings? And do the interests of the Sunni insurgents, supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, indeed coincide with the West’s interests?
Yevgeny Primakov, Russia’s former foreign minister in 1996-1998 and later prime minister under Boris Yeltsin in the late 1990s, is puzzled by the West’s desire to satisfy every wish of the radical Sunni opposition movements.
“Doesn’t the example of Egypt teach the United States a lesson or two? There was an Arab Spring in Egypt, but finally the Islamists ended up on the top of that wave. Can anyone think seriously that Assad’s ouster will be followed by an establishment of some kind of a democratic regime? This is just laughable,” Primakov, an Arabist by education and his background, told Rossiya channel of Russian television on Sunday.
Nikolay Surkov, a specialist on the Middle East, writing for Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily, thinks that the Western countries decided to “saddle” the wave of the seemingly endless successes of the protest movements in the Arab countries – simply because it was the strongest trend.
“Initially, France, for example, had no intention of inspiring protests in its former protectorates, such as Tunisia, let alone Syria,” Surkov said. “In the initial stages of the protests against the Tunisian president Ben Ali the French even pondered helping him with tear gas and other anti-riot equipment. But when the secular regimes began to be one by one swept away by the protests, the French, Britons and Americans decided to go with the flow, sometimes even supporting more moderate Islamist forces against more violent Salafi Islamists,” Surkov explains.
Another Arab country, Yemen, where the new president was recently elected by more than 99 percent of the eligible voters, offers a good example of the expenses that might follow if the monarchs’ and the West’s immediate aims are achieved. The election of the former vice-president, Abed Rabu Mansour Hadi, which followed more than a year of violent clashes, can hardly be called an exercise in democracy or a security achievement.
On the contrary, experts agree that during the “revolution,” when Yemeni troops had to be pulled back to the capital to fight the violent uprisings, Al-Qaeda strengthened its presence in the country and became a real threat both to the people of Yemen and to Western interests there. Now, the United States has to spend additional amounts of money on fighting Al-Qaeda in Yemen. The New York Times, citing the State Department figures, recently reported that the United States had allocated $53.8 million in security assistance for Yemen this year, up from $30.1 million last year. In fact, Al-Qaeda operatives welcomed the departure of the former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom they viewed as their enemy, not as an “impediment to democracy.” The same seems to be true about Al-Qaeda’s operatives in Syria.
“It is interesting to note that the new Al-Qaeda chief, who became a replacement for Bin Laden, said his organization supported the opposition in Syria. So, Al-Qaeda is against Assad,” former prime minister Primakov said in his interview to Russian television.So, who is profiting from the “revolutionary spirit” that suddenly engulfed both the oil monarchies of the Persian Gulf and Western capitals? Al Qaeda seems to be at least one such force – and not the smallest one.

AIPAC and the Push Toward War

By Robert Wright 
February 28, 2012 “The Atlantic” — Late last week, amid little fanfare, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Robert Casey introduced a resolution that would move America further down the path toward war with Iran.
The good news is that the resolution hasn’t been universally embraced in the Senate. As Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agencyreports, the resolution has “provoked jitters among Democrats anxious over the specter of war.” The bad news is that, as Kampeas also reports, “AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an ‘ask’ in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying.”
In standard media accounts, the resolution is being described as an attempt to move the “red line”–the line that, if crossed by Iran, could trigger a US military strike. The Obama administration has said that what’s unacceptable is for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This resolution speaks instead of a “nuclear weapons capability.” In other words, Iran shouldn’t be allowed to get to a point where, should it decide to produce a nuclear weapon, it would have the wherewithal to do so.
By itself this language is meaninglessly vague. Does “capability” mean the ability to produce a bomb within two months? Two years? If two years is the standard, Iran has probably crossed the red line already. (So should we start bombing now?) Indeed, by the two-year standard, Iran might well be over the red line even after a bombing campaign–which would at most be a temporary setback, and would remove any doubt among Iran’s leaders as to whether to build nuclear weapons, and whether to make its nuclear program impervious to future American and Israeli bombs. What do we do then? Invade?
In other words, if interpreted expansively, the “nuclear weapons capability” threshold is a recipe not just for war, but for ongoing war–war that wouldn’t ultimately prevent the building of a nuclear weapon without putting boots on the ground. And it turns out that the authors of this resolution want “nuclear weapons capability” interpreted very expansively.
The key is in the way the resolution deals with the question of whether Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium, as it’s been doing for some time now. The resolution defines as an American goal “the full and sustained suspension” of uranium enrichment by Iran. In case you’re wondering what the resolution’s prime movers mean by that: In a letter sent to the White House on the same day the resolution was introduced, Lieberman, Graham and ten other senators wrote, “We would strongly oppose any proposal that recognizes a ‘right to enrichment’ by the current regime or for [sic] a diplomatic endgame in which Iran is permitted to continue enrichment on its territory in any form.”
This notwithstanding the fact that 1) enrichment is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; (2) a sufficiently intrusive monitoring system can verify that enrichment is for peaceful purposes; (3) Iran’s right to enrich its own uranium is an issue of strong national pride. In a poll published in 2010, after sanctions had already started to bite, 86 percent of Iranians said Iran should not “give up its nuclear activities regardless of the circumstances.” And this wasn’t about building a bomb; most Iranians said Iran’s nuclear activities shouldn’t include producing weapons.
Even Dennis Ross–who has rarely, in his long career as a Mideast diplomat, left much daylight between his positions and AIPAC’s, and who once categorically opposed Iranian enrichment–now realizes that a diplomatic solution may have to include enrichment. Last week in a New York Times op-ed, he said that, contrary to pessimistic assessments, it may still be possible to get a deal that “uses intrusive inspections and denies or limits uranium enrichment [emphasis added]…”
The resolution plays down its departure from current policy by claiming that there have been “multiple” UN resolutions since 2006 demanding the “sustained” suspension of uranium. But the UN resolutions don’t actually use that term. The UN has demanded suspension as a confidence-building measure that could then lead to, as one resolution puts it, a “negotiated solution that guarantees Iran’s nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes.” And various Security Council members who voted on these resolutions have made it clear that Iranian enrichment of uranium can be part of this scenario if Iran agrees to sufficiently tight monitoring.
Indeed, that Iran’s right to enrich uranium could be recognized under those circumstances is, Hillary Clinton has said, “the position of the international community, along with the United States.” If the Lieberman-Graham-Casey resolution guides US policy, says George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, that would “preclude” fulfillment of the UN resolutions and isolate the US from the international coalition that backed them.
The Congressional resolution goes beyond the UN resolutions in another sense. It demands an end to Iran’s ballistic missile program. Greg Thielmann of the Arms Control Association notes that, “Even after crushing Iraq in the first Gulf War, the international coalition only imposed a 150-kilometer range ceiling on Saddam’s ballistic missiles. A demand to eliminate all ballistic missiles would be unprecedented in the modern era–removing any doubt among Iranians that the United States was interested in nothing less than the total subjugation of the country.”
On the brighter side: Maybe it’s a good sign that getting significant Democratic buy-in for this resolution took some strong-arming.According to Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now, the resolution got 15 Democratic supporters only “after days of intense AIPAC lobbying, particularly of what some consider ‘vulnerable’ Democrats (vulnerable in terms of being in races where their pro-Israel credentials are being challenged by the candidate running against them).” What’s more, even as AIPAC was playing this hardball, the bill’s sponsors still had to tone down some particularly threatening language in the resolution.
But, even so, the resolution defines keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapons “capability” as being in America’s “vital national interest,” which is generally taken as synonymous with “worth war.” And, though this “sense of Congress” resolution is nonbinding, AIPAC will probably seek unanimous Senate consent, which puts pressure on a president. Friedman says this “risks sending a message that Congress supports war and opposes a realistic negotiated solution or any de facto solution short of stripping Iran of even a peaceful nuclear capacity.”
What’s more, says Friedman, the non-binding status may be temporary. “Often AIPAC-backed Congressional initiatives start as non-binding language (in a resolution or a letter) and then show up in binding legislation. Once members of Congress have already signed on to a policy in non-binding form, it is much harder for them to oppose it when it shows up later in a bill that, if passed, will have the full force of law.”
No wonder Democrats who worry about war have the “jitters.”
Robert Wright is a senior editor at The Atlantic and the author, most recently, of The Evolution of God, a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

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The Eurozone Crisis and the USA

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Would Israel Strike Iran Without Telling US?

Steve Keen on the transmutation of Zombie Banking into Zombie Government!

BRICS prepares world banking revolution

VOLTAIRE NETWORK



BRICS member-states are preparing a world banking revolution. They are planning to nominate an alternative candidate for the post of the Chairman of the World Bank for the first time in history. BRICS also demands redistribution of quotas in the International Monetary Fund in the near future and intends to study India’s initiative on creating a South-South Bank.
Representatives of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa proposed a reform of the world financial system at their meeting in Mexico City which took place during the conference of G20 finance ministers and heads of central banks.
BRICS financiers are annoyed with the private rule that the head of the World Bank is always a representative of the US. They believe that candidates should be assessed based on their merits and not citizenship. BRICS member-states are convinced that it is essential to create competition for the US candidate, either from a BRICS country or from Europe. It has been decided to prepare a declaration on a coordinated position on this subject in the next two weeks. Candidates for the post of the head of the World Bank should be determined by the 23rd of March.
On the 29th of March BRICS leaders are expected to launch the mechanism of coordinating opinions on India’s proposal to create a South-South Bank. It is to become a support institution for countries with developing markets. BRICS member-states will be playing the main role in it, according to the quotas of votes. In this context they will have to assume serious financial responsibilities. The project looks promising but needs detailed studying, President of the Russian Financial Corporation Andrey Nechayev says.
There are a lot of unanswered questions at the moment. Who is going to provide capitals for this bank? Who will be able to get money from it? There may be a lot more of those who want to take a loan than those willing to give loans. The new institution meets the requirements of world development. BRICS member-states need investments and not only cash but new technologies, methods of corporate management and innovations. At present it is not quite clear how this bank, if it ever opens, will help to solve this problem.”
In any case, India’s initiative on creating a South-South Bank is an attempt by BRICS member-states to offer their mite to the establishment of a new world financial system. They are planning to take a place in it according to their global weight. The rate of the Brazilian, Russian, Indian, Chinese and South African growing economies in world production exceeds 21% and these countries’ currency reserves exceed $4trln.
The latter fact gives these countries grounds to dispute the financial tradition set by the west. BRICS member-states intend to upgrade their role in the IMF. They are ready to discuss the strengthening of the Fund’s resource base, in particular, for helping the EU to get out of the debt crisis. At the same time, they demand redistribution of the Fund’s quotas, which means both the realignment of world financial flows and the rearrangement of votes when the IMF makes decisions. At present, almost half of the votes belong to the EU and the US, while BRICS member-states have about 10%. In 2010 BRICS raised its quota a little but its potential is still underrated. The West will keep trying to hamper the IMF reform, so as to prevent countries with growing markets from strengthening their positions. Meanwhile, the need for replenishing the IMF resource base will apparently make the management of the Fund respond to the BRICS initiative.

USA may lose all allies in Middle East


 

USA may lose all allies in Middle East. 46710.jpeg
The USA may lose the support of Pakistan after a number of notorious incidents with the participation of US servicemen, which took place in the country in 2011.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has recently announced his support of Iran. The relations between the United States and Pakistan have been growing intense recently indeed. The trilateral summit with the participation of the leaders of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan caused a serious blow on the USA’s image in the region. The Obama administration strives for the economic and diplomatic isolation of Teheran at the time when Iranian President Ahmadinejad discusses a new project in the field of gas industry with his Pakistani counterpart.
Decades ago, during the time of the 1980s and 1990s, the USA considered Pakistan one of its key allies in the Middle East. Iran was America’s enemy, whereas India was attracted to the USSR. Pakistan is an important player in the region: the country became a nuclear power at the end of the 1990s.
The relations between the two countries began to aggravate presumably because of the clash of interests in Afghanistan. Many Pakistani military men were exposed of their support of the Talibs. The US army began to conduct punitive operations inside Pakistan. The operations very often resulted in losses among Pakistani military men.
“America’s relationship with Pakistan is crashing. Decades of mistrust and duplicity on both sides are coming to the surface. The Pakistani Army has an agenda that is at odds with ours. At bottom, we are on opposite sides of the war in Afghanistan, and that poisons everything. […]This trust gap is the result of decades of mutual deceit and lying. Pakistan proclaimed it was our ally against communism or Al Qaeda or whatever when what it really just wanted was arms and help to fight India. America promised to help democracy in Pakistan and instead backed four brutal military dictators.” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer write once, describing the point of mutual mistrust.
A serious diplomatic scandal erupted in the spring of 2011 against the background of the US-led anti-terrorist operation to destroy Al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The Americans did not coordinate their actions with the Pakistani government, which raised eyebrows in Islamabad. The Pakistani administration concluded that the Americans violated the sovereignty of the country. The States, however, accused Pakistan of giving shelter to terrorist No.1 and his associates.
Another anti-terrorist operation, which the Americans conducted in November 2011, led to catastrophic consequences. A Pakistani frontier outpost found itself in the line of fire. Twenty-four military men were killed in the raid. Afterwards, the Pakistani government demanded the US should withdraw its Shamsi airbase from the territory of Pakistan. The evacuation of the base had been completed by December 11.
A recent statement from the Pakistan President regarding a possible attack against Iran became another unpleasant surprise for the United States. Washington may not count on Islamabad’s support in case of a military conflict with Iran. Furthermore, Pakistan will show a tough response to possible aggression. Pakistan and Iran need each other, and they will not tolerate any foreign interference, the Pakistani leader claimed.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar stated that she would like to have a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss opportunities for resuming allied relations between Islamabad and Washington.
The geopolitical satiation in the Middle East continues to get worse. However, the US government takes no measures to improve its ties with Pakistan. As a result, the United States may finally lose the ally which received considerable military assistance from the Pentagon in the past. Nowadays, the US Army leaves its bases in the country because anti-American sentiments in the multi-million-strong country have reached their peak.
The USA loses one ally after another. The country may eventually face the powerful coalition of Mideastern states that will be ousting NATO servicemen from their region.
Yury Sosinsky Semikhat
Pravda.Ru

Iran Moves Further To End Petrodollar, Announces Will Accept Payment In Gold Instead Of Dollars

By Tyler Durden

February 28, 2012 “Zero Hedge” — Much has been spun in recent weeks to indicate that as a result of collapsing trade, Iran’s economy is in shambles and that the financial embargo hoisted upon the country by the insolvent, pardon, developed world is working. We had a totally different perspective on things “A Very Different Take On The “Iran Barters Gold For Food” Story” in which we essentially said that Iran, with the complicity of major trading partners like China, India and Russia is preparing to phase out the petrodollar: a move which would be impossible if key bilateral trade partners would not agree to it. Gradually it appears this is increasingly the case following a just released Reuters report that “Iran will take payment from its trading partners in gold instead of dollars, the Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted the central bank governor as saying on Tuesday.”

Via Reuters:

Iranian financial institutions have been hit by sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union in an effort to force Tehran to halt its nuclear programme.

Significant difficulties in making dollar payments to Iranian banks have forced Iran’s trading partners to look for alternative ways to settle transactions, including direct barter deals.

“In its trade transactions with other countries, Iran does not limit itself to the U.S. dollar, and the country can pay using its own currency,” central bank governor Mahmoud Bahmani was quoted as saying. “If a country should so choose, it can pay in gold and we would accept that without any reservation.”

The sanctions include a phased ban on importing oil from Iran, which EU member states are to implement by July.

China and India, two of the largest consumers of Iranian oil, have said they will continue imports, but Japan and Korea have announced cuts to quotas following pressure from the United States. As a result the value of Iran’s rial has plummeted, pushing the price of goods sharply higher across the country.

And from the souce:

Governor of the Central Bank of Iran Mahmoud Bahmani says the country can trade in currencies other than the American dollar in its foreign transactions.

“Iran does not just work with the dollar in trade transactions and every country can pay in its own currency,” said Mahmoud Bahmani on Tuesday.

Bahmani added that Tehran could receive gold in its transactions instead of currency transfers.

In case a country is willing to pay for the price of its imports from Iran in gold, there is no problem in this respect, he noted.

According to Bahmani, Iran imports commodities from China and India in exchange for the countries’ currencies. Tehran’s move is aimed at bypassing the upcoming freeze on CBI’s assets and the oil embargo, which the European Union’s foreign ministers agreed to impose on the Islamic Republic.

Now this would be great news for Greece which as previously reported had at times relied for more than 50% of its crude imports on Iran. There is just one problem: very soon the country will no longer have said gold in its possession, as part of the preapproved Greek bailout of Europe, the country’s constitution would be changed to reflect that even its gold now is part of the bailout conditions, and European banks have a lien on it. Especially if said gold is located in the basement of the NY Fed where it most likely resides.

As for other countries, such as China which we are confident has been quietly stockpiling gold in the last few years, and will make a surprise announcement any day now, as it did back in 2009… that’s a different matter entirely. 

 

“Friends of Syria” plan war, regime change at Washington’s behest

By Chris Marsden

February 28, 2012 “WSWS” — February 24, 2012 – The “Friends of Syria” are a gang of political criminals, gathered in Tunisia to plan the latest in a series of destabilization campaigns that have all ended in colonial wars of aggression.

Officials from 80 nations are traveling to Tunis, headed by the United States, which has waged half a dozen illegal wars in the past two decades at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. At its side stand France and Britain, former colonial powers that once carved up the Middle East between them and want to secure their share of the spoils of any re-division of the region’s oil riches. The imperialist powers are aligned with Turkey and the Gulf sheikhdoms—whose professions of concern for “democracy” are hardly less nauseating than those emanating from Washington, London and Paris.

The meeting at Tunis is premised on the claim that the Western powers are intent on protecting popular protests from the brutal regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The reality is that the imperialist powers’ intelligence agencies and special forces have been instrumental in stoking a sectarian-Sunni movement against Assad, plunging Syria into a bloody civil war.

Former US representative at the United Nations, Walid Maalouf, told Lebanon’s Daily Star that Washington is already “secretly providing aid to the opposition”. Some 50 Turkish officers have been arrested in Syria for helping organize the opposition, while Jordan-based Al Bawaba reported that over 10,000 Libyans are being trained in a closed-off zone before entering Syria to fight—paid for by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said that MI6 agents from Britain are already on the ground.

Syria is being targeted with the aim of setting up a new government that would break Syria’s alliance with Iran, consolidating US regional hegemony and undercutting Russia and China.

The Friends of Syria is a new version of the Contact Group that led the assault on Libya and the “Coalition of the Willing” through which Washington invaded Iraq. The Syrian National Council (SNC) and Free Syrian Army (FSA) constitute the proxy force being groomed as a vehicle for imposing regime change, like the National Transitional Council (NTC) in Libya and the Kosovo Liberation Army in the former Yugoslavia before them.

The SNC and FSA do not fully control a Syrian opposition made up of disparate elements, including a significant presence on the ground of Al Qaeda-type forces. It is under orders to form a coherent and authoritative command structure with which the imperialists can deal. Once this has been accomplished, and they are declared the official representative of the Syrian people, it is a short step to declaring “humanitarian corridors” and mounting a NATO air campaign fronted by Turkey and the Arab League. On cue, SNC spokesperson Bassma Kodmani declared Wednesday, “We are really close to seeing this military intervention as the only solution.”

This well-rehearsed scenario threatens to end in a conflict far bloodier than Libya and trigger a wider regional or even global war. In the face of this threat, workers and young people must confront the abject failure of the official anti-war movement.

In 2003, millions worldwide opposed war against Iraq. But the forces that led this mass movement drove it into the ground. Petty-bourgeois ex-left and Stalinist groups internationally insisted that the United Nations, France and Germany could act as a counterweight to the US. A decade later, all three function as Washington’s partners in crime.

They have promoted organizations tied to the Muslim Brotherhood as representatives of the Middle Eastern masses. Today the Brotherhood forthrightly champions imperialist intervention and represses the struggles of the Egyptian working class on behalf of Washington. It was instrumental in setting up a US client regime in Libya and forms the backbone of the pro-imperialist Syrian opposition.

Above all, the collapse of the anti-war movement is a product of the rightward evolution of the ex-left tendencies at its head and their own embrace of imperialism.

The various ex-left groups, including the affiliates of the United Secretariat and the International Socialists, all championed the NTC in Libya. Prominent figures within these parties, such as Gilbert Achcar, openly supported the NATO bombardment.

The same picture is being repeated with Syria. The Socialist Workers Party in Britain, for example, has all but abandoned what remains of the Stop the War Coalition it helped establish, lining up behind the campaign for regime change in Syria. Shortly before the Tunis conference, the SWP solidarised itself with the Arab League, citing its “contradictory role.”

The League, it writes, “is currently considering arming the opposition and working within Friends of Syria. This would bounce the US into an awkward situation because many of Barack Obama’s advisers are calling for caution.”

With these words, the SWP lines up behind the efforts of the Arab powers and their agents in the SNC and FSA to create the best conditions for military action by the US.

The ex-left groups, despite their selective use of anti-imperialist and socialist phraseology, are parties of the bourgeoisie. They rest on aging, middle-class layers that long ago abandoned the radicalism of their youth and concluded that preserving the existing social order, both in the Middle East and at home, is vital to maintaining their privileged existence amid mounting economic crises and revolutionary struggles.

The only social force that can oppose the mounting war danger is the international working class, mobilized on a socialist programme to put an end to capitalism. The building of such a new anti-war movement by workers and youth in America and Europe is the greatest service they can perform for their Arab brothers and sisters. It would provide a fresh impulse to the movement of the working class and oppressed masses of the Middle East, based on a struggle against imperialist intervention and to put an end to all of the region’s rotten and corrupt regimes.


Copyright © 1998-2012 World Socialist Web Site 

Wikileaks Releases Stratfor Emails

Gerald Celente – Coast to Coast AM – 27 February 2012

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The Alyona Show 2/27/12

Israel’s "New West Bank"

Keiser Report: Weed Out Wall St. Crooks! (E255)

Syria: Clinton Admits US On Same Side As Al Qaeda To Destabilise Assad Government

by Michel Chossudovsky and Finian Cunningham

Global Research, February 27, 2012

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has acknowledged that Al Qaeda and other organizations on the US “terror list” are supporting the Syrian opposition.
Clinton said: “We have a very dangerous set of actors in the region, al-Qaida [sic], Hamas, and those who are on our terrorist list, to be sure, supporting – claiming to support the opposition [in Syria].” [1] (Click here to watch video)
Yet at the same time, in the above BBC interview the US Secretary of State repeats the threadbare Western claim that the situation in Syria is one of a defenceless population coming under “relentless attack” from Syrian government forces.
There is ample evidence that teams of snipers who have been killing civilians over the past year in Syria belong to the terrorist formations to which Clinton is referring to.
As Michel Chossudovsky points out in a recent article: “Since the middle of March 2011, Islamist armed groups – covertly supported by Western and Israeli intelligence – have conducted terrorist attacks directed against government buildings, including acts of arson. Amply documented, trained gunmen and snipers, including mercenaries, have targeted the police, armed forces as well as innocent civilians. There is ample evidence, as outlined in the Arab League Observer Mission report, that these armed groups of mercenaries are responsible for killing civilians. 

While the Syrian government and military bear a heavy burden of responsibility, it is important to underscore the fact that these terrorist acts – including the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children – are part of a US-NATO-Israeli initiative, which consists is supporting, training and financing ‘an armed entity’ operating inside Syria.” [2]
The admission at the weekend by Hillary Clinton corroborates the finding that armed groups are attacking civilians and these groups are terroristic, according to US own definitions, and that the situation in Syria is not one of unilateral state violence against its population but rather is one of a shadowy armed insurrection.
Clinton’s admission retrospectively justifies the stance taken by Russia and China, both of which vetoed the proposed UN Security Council Resolution on 4 February, precisely because that proposal was predicated on a spurious notion that the violence in Syria was solely the responsibility of the Al Assad government.
Clinton also acknowledges in the BBC interview that there is “a very strong opposition to foreign intervention from inside Syria, from outside Syria” – which tacitly concedes the fact that the Syrian population is aware that the so-called oppositionists within their country are Al Qaeda-affiliated mercenaries. 
Meanwhile, the US Gulf allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have separately issued statements that they are willing to send arms to Syria to support the insurrection against the Damascus government. Given the still substantial popular support for the government of Bashir Al Assad, such a declaration by Saudi Arabia and Qatar towards a fellow Arab League member state signifies an unprecedented interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. Indeed, legal opinion could argue that it constitutes a self-indicting act of international aggression.
Besides, such a declaration by Saudi Arabia and Qatar of being willing to arm Syrian insurrectionists, can be seen as a cynical cover for what is already taking place. It is known that the Gulf monarchical states are already supplying weapons illicitly to the self-styled Syrian Free Army, along with Turkey and Israel.
So far, the US is officially maintaining the fiction that it is not involved in supplying arms to Syria even though Washington has demanded “regime change” and in spite of evidence that Western covert forces, including American, British and French operatives, are actively engaged with the opposition groups.
It is richly ironic that the unelected fundamentalist Sunni regimes of the Persian Gulf are supporting Al Qaeda affiliated groups within Syria purportedly to “bring about democratic reforms”. This is the same dynamic that prevailed in Libya where the overthrow of that country’s government by Western and Gulf Arab powers has now led to a collapse in human rights and social conditions.
Once again, Syria is indicating the same alignment of allies: Washington, London and other NATO powers comfortably in bed with Sunni/Salafist tyrants and terrorists, claiming to be supporting democratic freedom and human rights.
Of course, the real agenda has nothing to do with either democratic freedoms or human rights – as the awry alignment of allies clearly indicates. Rather, this is about Washington and its proxy powers trying to engineer regime change throughout the Arab World and beyond to conform to geopolitical objectives, principally the control of raw energy. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria are but a sequence of stops on a global roadmap of permanent war that also swings through Iran. Russia and China are the terminal targets.
Washington is evidently prepared to use any means necessary to assert this agenda: illegal wars, death on a massive scale, possibly triggering global war and the use of nuclear weapons. But surely the most preposterous mask is the “war on terror”, when it is seen – from the words of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – that Washington is now openly collaborating with the supposed “terrorist enemy” to bring about regime change in desired countries.
If somehow the weasel words from Washington could be taken at face value, then if it were serious about wanting regime change to facilitate democracy, human rights and world peace, the first regime that pre-eminently qualifies for such change is Washington itself.
 Global Research Articles by Michel Chossudovsky
 Global Research Articles by Finian Cunningham

Dedicated to Our Troops (currently running on TV)

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Syriana redux: The Middle East fragments

By Brian M Downing 
National borders from the eastern Mediterranean to the Iranian border were made after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. Britain and France, with little consideration for sectarian or ethnic realities, drew lines across the area and established the new countries of Iraq and Syria. 
As authoritarian regimes disappear under the weight of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the ongoing uprising in Syria, regional boundaries may be redrawn by indigenous peoples and regional powers. Five new states could emerge: Shi’ite Iraq, Sunni Iraq, Sunni Syria, Greater Kurdistan, and Shi’ite Syria. 
Shi’ite Iraq
Sunnis governed the Mesopotamian area since the time of the Ottomans, as they did after the British installed the Hashemite monarchy to govern Iraq in the 1920s and also under later rulers, including Saddam Hussein. Nonetheless, Iraq was, and is, overwhelmingly Shi’ite – at least 60% today, perhaps much more owing to Sunnis’ fleeing to Syria over the last few years. 
Representative democracy in Iraq, however tentative and imperfect it presently is, will always mean Shi’ite rule. Representative democracy also means ties to Iran – not simply because of sectarian affinities, but also because Iran organized many of Iraq’s political movements and militia bands during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-89). All this should have been clear before the US invaded in 2003, as should the prospects for fragmentation. 
Iran’s influence is substantial but not dominant. After all, Iraq has granted oil licenses and defense contracts to US companies and this could not have sat well in Tehran. Further, Iraq was amenable to a continued US troop presence but it insisted on subjecting them to local law, which was unacceptable to Washington. And so the troops left in December 2011. 
The Iraqi government faces the task of holding together a fractious country and negotiating a middle way between Iran and the US. As oil income climbs to the levels of affluent neighbors, the government will have extraordinary revenues, giving it the opportunity to become a “rentier state” that holds together disparate groups through generous subsidies. 
The unifying rentier-state approach for Iraq has two problems. The Kurdish north has its own oil resources which make their way to world markets via Turkey, avoiding the older routes into southern Iraq. The Sunni center has only modest oil resources, though promising tracts lie in its Anbar province. Sunni participation in the Baghdad government is limited by an unwritten principle of government that has more force than any passage in the constitution: the Sunnis will never have significant political power again. 
Iraq will be ruled by Shi’ites, whether it remains unified or breaks apart. Internal and external forces make the latter scenario more likely. 
Sunni Iraq
Angered by lost power and inauspicious prospects, Sunnis seek to establish an autonomous region in the central and western provinces. Eventually, they may try to establish an independent state which will allow them to predominate as they had long been accustomed until 2003. They will not have to look far for help. 
Iraq, in Riyadh’s view, is not negotiating a middle way between Iran and the US. It is a staunch ally of Iran, if not its vassal. A portentous chapter in Riyadh’s Gulf policy is opening. Previously, Saudi Arabia supported Saddam’s invasion of Iran in 1980 and argued against the US’s invasion that ousted him in 2003. Today, it is scrambling furiously to contain Iranian-Shi’ite power. Insurgency and intrigue in Sunni Iraq are promising tactics. 
Saudi Arabia wields influence in the Salafi networks in Iraq and in the Dulayim tribes that straddle the Iraq-Saudi frontier. That influence was important in helping the US abate the Sunni insurgency in 2007 and it remains in force as Shi’ite power consolidates in Baghdad. 
Today, the Saudis are reorganizing the disparate groups of the old Sunni insurgency. Ba’athists, demobilized soldiers, Salafi networks, and tribal bands act in a more disciplined manner now and ply their deadly skills against Shi’ite targets in their campaign for autonomy or independence. 
The Shi’ite government held back from confronting the new Sunni insurgents while US troops were still in country, but with their departure in December, a crackdown looms. Events, however, are complicated by the ongoing Gulf crisis, which makes any action a potential trigger of a regional war, and by the Syrian uprising, which is drawing away Sunni insurgents. 
Sunni Syria
The Bashar al-Assad government – an Alawite elite in a predominantly Sunni country – faces widening revolt from within and growing opposition from without. It is unlikely to survive. Even many Shi’ites are voicing their opposition to the Assad regime. They do so out of sincere recognition of the need for political reform and out of fear of a post-Assad reckoning for those deemed supportive of the increasingly murderous regime. 
Syria, owing to sectarian and geopolitical complications, presents graver regional problems than do any of the other countries in the Arab Spring. The Assad regime is chiefly Alawite, a Shi’ite sect, though Syria is 74% Sunni. The regime is backed by Iran and Russia, but opposed by Saudi Arabia and to an uncertain extent by many North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) powers as well. 
Further complicating the situation are the hundreds of thousands of Sunni Iraqis living in Syria, who fled the sectarian fighting in Iraq and resent the Shi’ite government in Baghdad. They are eager to avenge their loss of power back home and have maintained contacts with like-minded people still in Iraq. 
Russia has a warm-water port in Syria and sells large amounts of arms to Damascus. Iran too sells it arms, shares its sectarian beliefs, and sees it as a link to allies in Lebanon and Palestine. China is also a supplier of arms, and like Russia, used its veto on the UN Security Council to protect the Assad government. All three states have voiced support for their beleaguered ally, but none is likely to send ground troops to help it. Syria will have to face mounting opposition on its own. 
Saudi Arabia is eager if not desperate to detach Syria from Iran. It has vast funds, of course, and a number of Sunni fighters at its disposal. Smaller Sunni states are already smuggling weapons to the rebels, as they did in Libya last year. Riyadh’s deployment of men and materiel into Syria requires no debate in its public or at the United Nations. 
Many Sunni insurgents who operated against the US and then Shi’ite Iraq – the tribal bands, Salafis, former soldiers – are beginning to shift their energies against the Shi’ite regime to the west. Iraqi veterans who took the Saudi king’s riyal and now serve in Saudi forces are eager to settle accounts with their sectarian foes. The old smuggling routes that brought arms and fighters from Syria into Iraq are of course two-way streets and capable of bearing heavier traffic. 
These Saudi-backed forces are capable of sustaining guerrilla operations inside Syria almost indefinitely and should Assad’s pitiless repression continue for some time, Damascus and Aleppo could resemble Baghdad and Falujah of a few years ago. 
The guerrillas will not want for funds and will enjoy safe havens in western Iraq, well outside the control of the government in Baghdad. The indigenous fighters of the Free Syrian Army will have skilled and resolute allies as long as Assad remains in power. After that, all bets are off as Riyadh’s preference for autocracy will not mesh with the hopes of the Syrian uprising. 
A Sunni-dominated Syria may be in the offing. The arduous problems of building democracy and restructuring the crony-dominated economy now facing Tunisia and Egypt will command the attention of Syrians for many months or even years, but Saudi Arabia will use its wealth to align Syria with Riyadh’s foreign policy. 
The Sunni majority is unlikely to have warm feelings for Iran, which supported and armed Assad, or for Shi’ites inside Syria, who may be uniformly deemed traitors. The new Syria will share Saudi Arabia’s opposition to Iran, Shi’ite Iraq, and Iran’s allies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Sunni Syria will support a Sunni Iraq in central and western Iraq. 
Longer term, this may lead to a federation of the two Sunni regions, with Shi’ite Syria left in a precarious situation. In strengthening regional opposition to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel will expand their cautious, initially puzzling, yet productive partnership. 
Greater Kurdistan
The Kurdish people over the years have been the victims of regional powers and the pawns of various intelligence services. Events have given them the opportunity to create their own state; nature has given them the opportunity for a wealthy one. 
Following the First Gulf War in 1991, the US, Britain, and France enforced a no-fly zone over northern Iraq, which gave the Kurds the opportunity to govern themselves without fear of large-scale attacks from Saddam. The Second Gulf War shattered the Iraq government and the Kurds have all but seceded, establishing their own flag, constitution, and army. 
The Kurdish economy is booming and oil production is poised to grow nicely, especially if the Kurds break from from the revenue-sharing programs demanded by lower Iraq. Sectarian conflict inside Iraq and Syria may provide the opportunity to break away. Working arrangements with Turkey and Exxon Mobil may prove helpful here. 
The Kurdish people, of course, dwell in several countries – Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria. The uprising in Syria has been accompanied by demands from Syrian Kurds (some 8% of the 22 million Syrians) for greater “autonomy” – a term to the Kurdish people approximating “independence,” if not a code word for it. 
Kurds serving in the Syrian army are refusing orders. Kurdish leaders are on guard as assassinations and assassination attempts have occurred, presumably on the orders of Syrian security forces. The Assad regime is increasingly desperate to hold onto control of the country, perhaps especially so in the Kurdish areas, which contain much of the country’s oil reserves and are contiguous to Kurdish Iraq. 
Israel is motivated and positioned to aid in the creation of a greater Kurdistan. Israeli intelligence has had strategic ties with many Kurdish groups over the years. In the days of the Israeli-Iranian alliance, Israeli intelligence worked with Iranian Kurds to build ties with other Kurds in the region, especially those in two of Israel’s most powerful allies – Syria and Iraq. By arming and training Kurds there, the Assads and Saddam had to allocate troops against them and Israel built valuable guerrilla allies across the region. 
Israeli-Iranian comity ended in the early 1990s, as Saddam Hussein’s army was badly damaged in the First Gulf War and Iranian power appeared unchecked and a potential danger. Israeli intelligence officers now work almost openly in northern Iraq and have turned their Kurdish assets against Tehran and perhaps also against Damascus. 
Saudi Arabia’s disposition toward Kurdish autonomy in Syria and Iraq isn’t as readily discernible. Syrian Kurds may be useful in undermining Shi’ite dominance and Iranian influence, but it might open up too much instability stemming from the prospect of a new oil-rich power to reckon with – one with long ties to Israel whose alliance with Riyadh is unlikely to be enduring. 
Riyadh would of course welcome any difficulties the Kurds might inflict upon Iran, and support for greater Kurdistan in Syria and beyond might be an agreeable trade-off. Saudi Arabia would dearly love to see Israel and the US incite an insurgency in Iranian Kurdistan while Riyadh uses its own contacts with the Arabs of Iran’s Khuzestan province to incite rebellion. 
However, Tehran’s repressive capacity in the form of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) remains high. 
Uprisings would depend on signs of paralysis in Tehran. This could come from an eventual standoff between a strengthened reform movement and a divided regime, fiscal collapse brought on by continued sanctions, or from a sustained air campaign against IRGC bases and the axes of approach into Kurdistan and Khuzestan – though the latter is the heart of the oil industry and heavily defended. 
The same can be said of an uprising in the Baloch region in southeastern Iran. The Baloch in Iran resent Tehran’s rule just as the Baloch across the frontier in Pakistan do Islamabad’s. They presently enjoy a measure of support from Saudi and perhaps US intelligence services and watch Tehran for an opportune moment. 
Shi’ite Syria
Sectarian strife inside Syria is becoming sharper as the uprising continues into its second year and become more violent. The Alawites and other Shi’ites – some 12% of the population and concentrated in the northwest along the Mediterranean coast – are suffering acts of vengeance and intolerance, even though many are joining the opposition to Assad. Sectarian conflict, foreign intrigue, and the example of Kurdish separatism may lead to a Sunni-Shi’ite partition. 
The Shi’ites were long discontent and even oppressed under the Ottomans, the French Mandate, and much of the independent republic. The Alawite branch of the Shi’ites became ascendant in national affairs only when Hafez al-Assad took power in 1970, after which he placed his coreligionists in key positions of the state, military, and economy. 
In that the uprising is essentially based on dismantling this preeminence and opening the state and economy to all, the Shi’ites may become an oppressed minority once again. Alternately, they may seek to establish an autonomous region or independent state in their homeland along the coast – a prospect that will be received differently by foreign powers. 
Iran will support a Shi’ite region or state as an effort to retain a measure of influence in the eastern Mediterranean. Without it, Iran’s connections to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine would become tenuous and its reasons for sending warships into the Mediterranean would disappear. For its part, Hezbollah might welcome a Shi’ite ally to its north, one with ties to the Shi’ites in Lebanon. Russia will support almost any initiative that would help it to retain its naval base at Tartus and foothold in the Mediterranean. 
Opposition to a Shi’ite region will be greater. The Sunnis of Syria will not want an adjacent state tied to Iran that, rightly or wrongly, will be assumed to be tied to Tehran and dedicated to a revanchist course. Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states will oppose any entity tied to Iran, regardless if mullahs or reformists rule in Tehran. 
Foreign Sunni influence will of course be significant in post-Assad Syria as the country rebuilds and tries to provide opportunities for young people. Better, Riyadh will counsel (if not insist) on keeping the Shi’ites out of national affairs, as with their brethren in Bahrain. 
Nor will Israel be receptive to a Shi’ite state tied to Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. It would be much preferred to see Iran’s links to the eastern Mediterranean as difficult as possible and to keep the Shi’ites a part of Syria, if only as an aggrieved minority diverting Damascus’s attention and resources from other matters.
A paradoxical symmetry is coming about in Syria and Iraq. In Syria, the once downtrodden Sunni majority will predominate over the unseated Shi’ite minority; in Iraq, the once marginalized Shi’ite majority will hold sway over the old Sunni minority. The symmetry, however, does not mean stability. It may even be fearful. 
Stability in the new region
As initially hopeful as Shi’ite-Sunni separatism might be, the sectarian geography of both Iraq and Syria is complex and vexing. While Syrian Shi’ites are concentrated in the northwest coastal area and Iraqi Shi’ites in their south, large pockets of one sect are found in an area where the other is far more numerous. 
The two sects coexist, reasonably well or not, in the same rural villages and in the same neighborhoods of large cities. The Sunni Dulayim confederation that straddles Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia has Shi’ite tribes; and even the Kurdish regions have Shi’ite tribes living among them. Accordingly, separation will never be smooth. 
The rise of a Kurdish state from northern Iraq and possibly northeastern Syria will begin to solve the longstanding matter of their homeland, but it presents many problems for adjacent countries. Should Syrian Kurds unite with their Iraqi kin, alarm signals will ring out in Ankara and Tehran. It will be feared that Kurdish nationalism, awakened by rising power and booming oil exports, will set its eyes on Kurdish areas in Turkey and Iran. Greater Kurdistan will come at the expense of Turkish and Iranian territorial integrity. 
Turkey has mixed relations with the Kurdish region of Iraq, benefiting from construction contracts and oil transit fees but angered by Kurdish attacks inside Turkey. Ankara’s responses are irate denunciations followed by desultory air strikes that seek to send a message but not upset trade. Iran watches Kurdish Iraq with great interest as the area teems with foreign intelligence officers. Occasional Kurdish forays into Iran have met with Iranian responses, including ground incursions and artillery barrages. 
Despite the uncertainties ahead and the knowledge that even skillful plans can go awry, Israel stands to win from a reworked region. A dextrous Kurdish policy – and no small amount of good fortune – could bring a boon. Israel’s three most powerful enemies – Syria, Iraq, and Iran – could be broken into pieces, perhaps permanently. 
Fragmenting Iran is unlikely, perhaps highly so, but Iraq is heading toward three-way division and Syria could well follow. The fragmentation of two out of three enemies to its north and east would yield Israel a monumental strategic windfall. 
Further, sectarian states would be preoccupied by internal matters and perhaps even poised against one another, granting Israel a relatively non-threatening northeastern front for a decade or more. Greater Kurdistan’s long-term security relations are uncertain but Israel’s decades-long support will weigh in its calculus. 
A fragmented Syria and Iraq would more than compensate for the uncertainty presented by the fall of Hosni Mubarak and the rise of Islamist governments in Tunisia and Egypt. And all this might come into being without the cost of a single Israeli life. 
Ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq will increase Sunni militancy as armed groups in the employ of indigenous parties and Saudi intelligence grow in numbers and skill. Weapons have never been in short supply in the Middle East and the arms caches of Assad’s military will soon spread throughout the region just as Muammar Gaddafi’s weapons are spreading throughout northwestern Africa. 
Salafist groups will become especially more numerous, energetic, and lethal. Even upon political settlements someday, they will be no more likely to return to mundane lives than their fathers did upon returning from the mujahadeen war in Afghanistan. American audiences may recognize this scene as where they came in. 
Historians may one day discuss how much of this fragmentation came from injudicious nation-drawing after Word War I, and how much came from realpolitik in our own day. 
Brian M Downing is a political/military analyst and author of The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: War and Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam. He can be reached at brianmdowning@gmail.com. 
(Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.) 

‘Iran’ as a weapon of subordination

By Vijay Prashad 
The United States has taken steps to pressure its allies outside Europe to move away from imports of Iranian oil. US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland specifically mentioned India and China when saying on February 21 that her government was “having talks with countries around the world about the implications of the [sanctions/embargo] legislation with regard to our expectation that countries will increasingly wean themselves of dependence on Iranian oil.” 
Asked about an opinion piece from former Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who wrote that India’s decision to continue trade with Iran “isn’t just a slap in the face for the US – it raises questions about its ability to lead”, Nuland brushed Burns off as “a private citizen”. 
The commercial pressure on India has begun to show. The Indian Export Credit Guarantee Corporation, which underwrites the risk
of Indian exporters, said that it would not halt insurance cover for exports to Iran but that it is become “very cautious” and “will try to keep our exposure at the minimum level.” 
With the Turkiye Halk Bankasi unable to provide third-party financial intermediation and with Dubai-based middlemen unable to easily deal with Iranian firms, about US$3 billion in Iranian arrears against Indian traders have built up since December 2010. These commercial headaches have soured India-Iran business relations. 
On February 24, SWIFT, the main financial messaging service for international money transfers, threatened to cut Iran out of its network. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (as SWIFT is less commonly known) deals with about 10,000 member banks and transmits 17 million financial messages per day. In 2010, 19 banks and 25 financial institutions in Iran transmitted 2 million messages through the SWIFT network. 
Based in Brussels, SWIFT is vulnerable to the upcoming European embargo of Iran. Its corporate leaders, Yawar Shah (Citigroup) and Stephan Zimmermann (UBS), are ingrained in the Atlantic financial architecture and unwilling to stand up to the political pressure from their capitals. Avi Jorisch, a former US Treasury official told Bloomberg, “This is a financial equivalent of warfare.” SWIFT has never before expelled a country in this fashion. 
Commercial fears among Indian traders and political pressure from Washington has moved the Indian government to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Assistant Minister for Petroleum Affairs Abdul Aziz Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz came to India and met India’s Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas, R P N Singh, on February 23. Abdulaziz noted that Saudi would be glad to increase sales of oil to India, and that if India were to approach Saudi Aramco, its needs would be covered. 
India has already begun to “wean” itself off Iran’s oil – it imported 22 million tonnes in 2009-10 and 16 million tonnes in 2010-11. India’s imports from Iran spiked in January because crude to China had to be redirected over a market price dispute. In the short term, India will continue to buy from Iran because its refineries are adjusted to Iranian crude. It will require a financial and technological investment to alter the refining designs. There has been as yet no public discussion about this problem. 
IAEA’s “serious concerns”
Pressure on India ramped up after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team returned from Tehran and delivered its report on February 24. The report does not offer any smoking gun. Iran continues to enrich uranium, which it is technically allowed to do by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), “under Agency safeguards”. The problem lies in “Iraq Territory”: “Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile, about which the Agency has regularly received new information.” 
The IAEA finger points to one location: Parchin, only 20 kilometers southeast of Tehran (not an ideal place to have a nuclear weapons testing site). The IAEA caviled, “Iran did not provide access to Parchin, as requested by the Agency during its two recent visits to Tehran.” 
The IAEA director general’s report is disingenuous in its silence on the previous visits of inspectors to Parchin, as Gareth Porter has noted. (See The cadence behind Iran’s atomic block, Asia Times, February 25). The November 2011 report pointed out that an undisclosed source said that the Iranians have conducted tests at Parchin since 2000. In January and in November 2005, IAEA teams visited Parchin, took environmental samples and left satisfied that the complex did not have any relationship to nuclear weapons. After the second visit, the IAEA noted that there was “no relevant dual-use equipment or materials in the location visited”. Yet, the bugbear of Parchin remains. 
Until 1992, the IAEA was a modest investigatory and verification body in the UN system that made sure that nuclear materials in NPT states did not slip from energy production to the making of nuclear weapons. Article IV of the IAEA Treaty guarantees that a member state might “develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.” 
At a Security Council Summit in January 1992, the Atlantic powers dragooned the IAEA into becoming its “nuclear watchdog”. Non-proliferation of nuclear weapons became its main goal, and not twinned with nuclear disarmament. In other words, the IAEA operated within the confines of “nuclear apartheid”, no longer challenging the nuclear weapons states to roll back their nuclear arsenals. 
In addition, the IAEA investigations began to question the right of certain countries to enrich uranium for energy purposes. The US-EU position is to deny Iran its own enrichment and reprocessing infrastructure, even if it fulfills the IAEA safeguard requirements for verification. Iran’s deliberations with the IAEA are part of an attempt to keep some room for it to negotiate around the maximalist demands of the Atlantic powers. 
Fearmongering about military strikes might be theater for the intensification of the sanctions regime into a full-blown embargo. White House spokesperson Jay Carney’s interpretation of the IAEA report is that Iran has refused “to abide by international obligations”. Actually, it has refused to accept the maximum demands of the Atlantic powers. 
The White House does not seem keen on military action on Iran, with the director of national intelligence telling a Congressional committee on January 31 that Iran has no designs to weaponize its nuclear program. The Obama administration has, however, used dangerous rhetoric (“all options on the table”) to hornswoggle countries like India into the embargo that it wishes to set up by the summer of 2012. 
Burns’ statement that India does not show its “ability to lead” is a threat that the US might not endorse India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. This is a political game, with “Iran” used as a weapon to subordinate countries like India to the economic and political domain of the US. The US is playing with fire, pushing the “Iraq option” in Iran not for regime change necessarily, but in a Cold War against the emergent states (Brazil, Turkey, India, China). 
Vijay Prashad is Professor and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, United States. This spring he will publish two books: Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press) andUncle Swami: South Asians in America Today (New Press). He is the author of Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (New Press), which won the 2009 Muzaffar Ahmed Book Prize. 
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