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Iran: Western media misreporting the demos fomented by ‘soft power’

The BBC World Service radio this morning, Radio 4’s Broadcasting House – and other mainstream media – offered distorted reporting:

  • first headlining the “iron fist” threat and repeating this several times, before acknowledging its conditionality ‘if political unrest continues’
  • and failing to focus on the far larger rallies supporting the Iranian government

They stressed that the demonstrations erupted over falling living standards, but Iranian interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said that those people in the larger demos realised this was due to imposed sanctions – but the BBC website chose only to report his words about the consequences of damage to public property, disrupting order and breaking the law.

The USA’s use of soft power to foment unrest has been effective with many worldwide

The use of soft power was touched on in a linked site in 2015. We quote: “Hard power is exerted by financial inducements, invasion and remote killing by drone aircraft. Soft power sounds quite benign, but as Joseph Nye points out in The Future of Power (2011, left), it can be wielded for good or ill: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all possessed a great deal of soft power. He adds: “It is not necessarily better to twist minds than to twist arms”.

An illusion of a free society (‘liberating minds’) is presented and a consumerist culture cultivated. One actor in this drive is the Human Rights Foundation, whose approving Wikipedia entry emphasises its insistence on ‘economic freedom’. In Central and South America and the Middle East it has paved the way for the overthrow of regimes which would not co-operate.

Has it escalated in Iran after its threat to further ‘eliminate’ use of the dollar?

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said to Putin in November: “we can nullify US sanctions, using methods such as eliminating the dollar and replacing it with national currencies”. Forbes earlier reported that this policy would be implemented. Several countries have not fared well after ‘ditching the dollar’:

  • In 2002 North Korea’s state-run Korean Trade Bank announced a ban on the use of US dollars in daily payment and settlement for its citizens and foreigners.
  • In 2003 Coilin Nunan wondered: “Could one reason for the US wish for ‘regime change’ in Iraq and unprecedented European opposition to such a project be Iraq’s decision two years earlier to accept euros only as payment for its oil, instead of the customary dollars? Could America’s current focus on Iran be similarly explained?”
  • In 2004 Fidel Castro decreed that the dollar would no longer be legal for commercial transactions.

It should be stressed that the soft power illusions of total normality, freedom and prosperity are a confidence trick. The unmentioned features of the USA, a country which young Iranians and others have been led by soft power to admire as ‘an ideal state of freedom’, include pollution, child abuse, violent pornography, inequality of opportunity, youth unemployment, high cost housing and military aggression.





Great Britain: did our government agree to a “trade for terrorist plan”to secure a massive oil and gas deal for BP?

Readers send many links to news about the revolving door, rewards for failure and the political influence wielded by the corporate world – but all this has been repeatedly covered on this site and it is wearying to continue to print them – just more of the same.

But, today, has a new low been reached?

Even bearing in mind the biased source, this weariness is shattered by the claim of former justice minister Kenny MacAskill, that the UK government made Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi – sentenced to life imprisonment in 2001 for blowing up a Pan-Am airliner over Lockerbie in 1988 – eligible for return to his Libyan home under a “trade for terrorist plan” to try to secure a massive oil and gas deal for BP which was in doubt.

In a new book, Kenny MacAskill says Jack Straw, then UK justice secretary, shared the details in a “highly confidential” telephone call which casts new light on a controversy that has dogged Tony Blair since his 2007 “deal in the desert” with the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddaffi.

blair gaddafi shake hands

That deal was to give British industry access to Libyan oil reserves worth up to £13bn and £350m of defence contracts and involved a prisoner transfer agreement. MacAskill claims Straw warned him that Gaddaffi was threatening to cancel the energy contact and award it to a US firm unless Megrahi was returned under the PTA, after learning the new SNP regime was trying to exempt him.

Within weeks of the UK government agreeing not to exempt Megrahi from the PTA, Gaddaffi ratified the BP deal with Libya’s national oil corporation.

A spokesman for BP said the company had no comment on the UK government’s actions or discussions.

MacAskill also admits his decision to free Megrahi was partly motivated by a fear of violent reprisals against Scots if the killer died in Scottish custody. Just a few weeks before the decision was made to free him, UK hostages taken prisoner in Iraq had been murdered and other Western nationals captured in the area were executed. The former Scottish minister writes: “There was hostility to the West and ordinary citizens were becoming targets. Most in North Africa or the wider Arab world neither knew of Scotland nor cared about it. The last thing I wanted was to have Scotland become a place that was demonised and its citizens targeted. I would not allow Scottish oil workers or others, wherever they might be, to face retribution as a consequence of my decision.”

Kenny MacAskill has also argued that a coalition involving Libyan, Syrian, Iranian and Palestinian terrorists were behind the Lockerbie bombing, in revenge for the downing of an Iran Air flight by a US naval ship in July 1988.




As the plight of migrants from destabilised countries dominates the media, our other special friend inflicts a far higher death toll

Will Saudi Arabia’s financial ‘strains’ end their devastation of Yemen?

In June a barrage of news accumulated about Saudi Arabia, aka Britain’s biggest arms market last year, and a brief overview of the last quarter was given on this site.

The Saudi regime is killing thousands and destroying key infrastructure in Yemen - in order to ’protect’ it.

The Saudi regime is killing thousands and destroying key infrastructure in Yemen – in order to ’protect’ it.

A month later, Fahad al-Mubarak, the governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, said in that Riyadh had issued its first $4bn in local bonds. Simeon Kerr and Anjli Raval of the FT see the country’s plan to raise $27bn by the end of the year, as the “starkest sign yet of the strain lower oil prices are putting on the finances of the world’s largest oil exporter”. They add:

“Saudi Arabia’s resort to further domestic borrowing highlights the challenges facing the region’s largest economy amid one of the steepest falls in the oil price in recent decades”.

Economists estimate their deficit will reach SR400bn this year amid falling revenues and spending commitments, including the continuing war in Yemen. Detail here.

Earlier this month the Telegraph surmised that Saudi Arabia might ‘go broke’ before the US oil industry buckles. It quotes the CIA explanation for this aggressive, destructive behaviour:

“The Saudi royal family is leading the Sunni cause against a resurgent Iran, battling for dominance in a bitter struggle between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East. “Right now, the Saudis have only one thing on their mind and that is the Iranians. They have a very serious problem. Iranian proxies are running Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon,” said Jim Woolsey, the former head of the US Central Intelligence Agency”.

Update, destruction and death dealing unabated:

Yesterday, Ben Norton reported that approximately 4,500 people, many civilians, have been killed in Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition began bombing 150 days ago, according to the UN. 23,000 more have been wounded.

13 Yemeni teaching staff and four children were killed by a Saudi air strike on August 20. Two days before, coalition bombing in the Amran province took the lives of 17 civilians, injuring 20 more. UNICEF condemned what it called the “senseless bloodshed.” A Red Cross spokeswoman said the violence in Ta’iz, in southern Yemen, in just one day on August 21 left 80 people dead.

To our shame and theirs, with weapons bought from Britain and other arms dealers and troops also trained by their allies, the Saudis continue to lay Yemen waste.

Incoming government: stop exporting death and destruction in the name of defence and security

Proud to be British?

yemen bombedBritain shares moral responsibility for the cowardly bombing of a country Saudi Arabia has long sought to control. Almost 1,000 people have died and as many as 150,000 have been displaced by the conflict.

The FT’s shockingly bland description of this action is: “the oil-rich Sunni kingdom’s emerging strategy of using its military superiority”, arms industry-speak.

Houthi leaders say they will not negotiate an end to what seems to be a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran until:

  • Saudi-led attacks end
  • The US–Saudi naval blockade is lifted and
  • political dialogue is resumed under the sponsorship of the UN.

Arms promotion tours planned by the current government’s UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation

arms tour 15-16Information supplied on the government’s UK Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation website in February was graphically presented by the able alert, energetic campaigners against the arms trade. See further disturbing information on their website.

And amid the slaughter and mayhem, Britain and other arms exporters ‘laugh all the way to the bank’

Will the British government have to choose between two ‘special friends’?

Saudi security analyst: “We are learning from our enemies now how to treat the United States”

WSJ logo

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Saudi government has made no public comment so far on the phone call between U.S. President Barack Obama, whose country Saudi Arabia sees as the main military protector of its interests, and new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, whose country Saudi Arabia sees as its main threat.

Its journalist, Ellen Knickmeyer, alleges that Sunni-dominated Gulf Arab governments, especially Saudi Arabia, fear that Shiite-ruled Iran wants to use Shia populations in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Yemen to destabilize Gulf Arab governments and try to throw the regional balance of power toward Iran.

Saudi Arabia wanted to do more to boost the power of armed Sunni rebel groups on the ground in Syria but the U.S. declared Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra to be a terrorist organization, while many in the Gulf consider the rebel faction to be a legitimate, predominantly Syrian fighting force against Mr. Assad.

prince saud al faisalPrince Saud al Faisal, speaking to the Friends of Syria group, a coalition of Western and Gulf Arab countries and Turkey, said that Saudi Arabia wants “intensification of political, economic and military support to the Syrian opposition . . . to change the balance of powers on the ground” in Syria.

Ms Knickmeyer reports that the state-run Saudi Press Agency carries a transcript of his remarks.

The Gulf Research Center

The Geneva-based Gulf Research Center is said to ‘maintain cooperation agreements’ with major partners such as Emirates Bank, Shell, Glaxo Smith Kline, the University of Queensland, the Saudi Arabian Marketing and Agencies Company (SAMACO) group, Pakistan’s National Defence College and the FRIDE Foundation.

mustafa alani gulf researchEllen Knickmeyer  reports that Dr Mustafa Alani, Saudi security analyst and Senior Advisor and Director of the National Security and Terrorism Studies Department at the Gulf Research Center, said that Saudis now feel that the Obama administration is disregarding Saudi concerns over Iran and Syria, and will respond accordingly in ignoring “U.S. interests, U.S. wishes, U.S. issues” in Syria:  “They are going to be upset—we can live with that. We are learning from our enemies now how to treat the United States.”

Saudi leverage

Gulf security analysts are reported to have said that Saudi and other Gulf Arab countries have little leverage to advance their aims in any U.S.-Iran diplomacy. Michael Stephens, researcher at the Royal United Services Institute think tank in Qatar, is quoted as saying that Saudis have only a few other means, such as directing more of their arms or energy deals to Asia.

In an ill-judged article by John Stanton (October 30’s English edition of Pravda), he asked, “Why does the world’s most powerful nation bow down before the House of Saud even as it becomes less dependent on Persian Gulf and Saudi oil?”

Other commentators are now saying that the American administration now evidently does feel freer to act, now that its new energy resources have been developed.

Read the full article here:


Oil, blood and the west’s double standards – Philip Stephens

As U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan have entered their third consecutive day, with rockets killing 27 people in northwest Pakistan to date, Pakistani protesters take to the streets, shouting anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration in the city of Multan. They burnt U.S. and Nato flags and held up signs stating ‘America and Nato are war terrorists.’


In NewsX TV’s videoed Pathways to Peace conference last year, there was common agreement, ‘Don’t bring in the US’. The video can be seen by cutting and pasting


A little further afield, Philip Stephens (Financial Times) describes the Middle East as a graveyard for ethical foreign policies. People there habitually talk of the west’s double standards and – setting aside colonisation – examples include the 1953 overthrow toppling by of Mohammed Mossadegh by the US incited by the British. That Iranian prime minister made the mistake of thinking that Iran rather than Britain should own its oil industry.

Mr Stephens records: 

“The archives of western foreign ministries bulge with evidence of the contradictions and hypocrisies. Diplomats stationed in the region – American and European – have for decades crafted eloquent dispatches questioning whether support for Arab autocrats sat easily with the espousal of universal values; or if one-sided support for Israel did not ignore the legitimate rights of Palestinians. The telegrams went unread. The tyrants had the oil and the Palestinians were powerless. 

The reaction to the Arab spring 

“After some hesitation, western leaders have decided that popular demand for representative government is by and large a good thing. Listening to some of these politicians one could almost imagine that they had always carried a torch for Arab democracy.” 

He points out that support for the uprisings has been selective and conditional: 

“Nato lent its military to the overthrow of Libya’s Muammer Gaddafi. But mention repression of the Shia majority in Bahrain and silence descends.” Why? Much of the world’s oil passes through Bahraini waters. 

“Saudi Arabia is a no-go area. Much of the Islamist extremism within and without the Middle East has its roots in the Wahhabi fundamentalism that flourishes under the House of Saud. But Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter. The Saudis also buy hugely expensive military kit . . . “

Stephens: “ . . . the deeply corrosive effect of the accumulated hypocrisies on the west’s standing and influence” 

“Confronted with charges of double standards, western policy makers tend to shrug their shoulders and reply this is the world as it is. What the realpolitik misses, I think, is the deeply corrosive effect of the accumulated hypocrisies on the west’s standing and influence.”



More on this and allied subjects in due course from Vijay Mehta’s new book “The Economics of Killing: How the West Fuels Wars and Poverty in the Developing World”, Pluto Press/Palgrave Macmillan in February 2012.  Book website


Serious plans for an American, British assisted assault on Iran?

A few hours ago a reader sent a link to another lucid and powerful article by Simon Jenkins 

Plans for British support for an American assault on Iran, revealed in today’s Guardian, are appalling. 

Iran like Pakistan, Britain or Israel, craves the status, prestige and vague security apparently conferred by nuclear weapons 

Iran is a nation of 70 million people, an ancient and proud civilisation with a developed civil society and a modicum of pluralist democracy. Certainly its insecure leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wants a weapons-ready nuclear enrichment programme, as next week’s United Nations report by the International Atomic Energy Authority is expected to repeat. But he leads a country which, like Pakistan, Britain or Israel, craves status, prestige and the vague security that these unusable weapons seem to convey. 

Warheads cost a fortune to develop and keep in service 

Modern anti-western aggression finds it cheaper and more effective to plan terrorist outrages. Nuclear bombs have not made Israel more secure. They have been useless to Pakistan in confronting India, and to North Korea against the south. They did not save apartheid in South Africa, or the Soviet Union from itself. 

Attack plans: missiles and drones to be deployed against nuclear and military targets 

The planned attack on Iran is familiar in form. It is declared exclusively aerial, with missiles and unmanned drones deployed against nuclear and military targets . . .The enemy then digs in and fights back, the tempo of attack has to mount, and ground forces are sucked in . . . 

Mission creep 

The mission will creep from wrecking Iran’s nuclear capability to ensuring it cannot be rebuilt, and then to securing regime change and “freedom”. 

By what right are two nuclear powers using violence to stop someone else joining their club? 

 . . . the rest of the world would ask by what right are two nuclear powers using violence to stop someone else joining their weirdly exclusive club . . . Anyone watching last month’s Republican primary debate in Las Vegas will have been shocked at the belligerence shown by the six candidates towards the outside world. It was a display of what the historian Robert D Kaplan called “the warrior politics … of an imperial reality that dominates our foreign policy”. 

The wars of choice that followed 9/11 have acquired a rhythm of their own – they are a gigantic, historic tragedy 

The outcome might make Israel feel temporarily a little safer, but it would render both Israel and the west more vulnerable to terrorist and other retaliation. 

These wars have not advanced western security one jot.

Read the whole article: