Obviously horrifying is the news of the death and destruction caused by airstrikes carried out by countries including America, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Britain and Israel.
Recent news in the American press included a June report by VOA, part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, a government funded agency that oversees all non-military, U.S. international broadcasting, that at least 160 civilians have been killed and hundreds more wounded in fighting over recent weeks between Syrian forces and armed Saudi-backed ISIL rebels.
The United Nations is demanding an immediate end to indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure in northwest Syria, warning the warring parties their actions might amount to war crimes.
Friendly fire kills in two incidents in Afghanistan
In March, a US-Afghan convoy came under fire from friendly forces positioned near an Afghan National Army check point in the Uruzgan province, US and coalition officials read more here. American forces launched two “self-defense” airstrikes near the checkpoint, mistakenly killing five Afghan soldiers and wounding 10 more, according to the Afghan government and coalition.
CNN also reported that Afghan security forces personnel were also killed by US airstrikes in the middle of May – read more here.
The American and Israeli press publish such news- rarely seen in British papers, unless Russia is involved. Searching for news about Britain’s activities, the writer looked at the government website which has given information about the RAF’s airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2015
28,670 people have now signed the following petition:
The Ministry of Defence has not updated its monthly list with information on RAF airstrikes this year – see snapshot from its site. We are therefore no longer aware of the damage done to human beings, their hospitals homes and schools by the RAF in Iraq and Syria.
Is this the Secret State in action – or incompetence – or indifference?
Deliberately down-played? Belatedly, MSM publishes limited accounts of a government-funded thinktank’s dubious activities
On the 2nd December the Daily Record revealed that Gateshead Mills in Fife, which ‘presents’ as a small ‘design and creativity charity’ operating from an old Victorian mill in Fife, has been revealed in leaked documents passed to the Sunday Mail – the sister paper of the Daily Record – as the base for The Institute for Statecraft, whose Integrity Initiative is run by military intelligence specialists and receives £2million from the Foreign Office.
Spokesman Stephen Dalziel said: “It (the IFS) was set up 14 years ago and the Integrity Initiative programme was started three years ago to look at disinformation and malign influence on democratic societies and it just so happens it’s the Russians who are doing most of that at the moment . . . What we have done is to set up this network across Europe of people who understand what the problem is”.
The Integrity Initiative claims to have built a network of networks of people who operate to counter Russia’s ‘disinformation’. The UK cluster has staff from the Institute for Statecraft, people representing hedge fund interests, think tanks like DEMOS, RUSI, Henry Jackson Society, European Council on Foreign Relations, and Chatham House, as well as from the Ministry of Defence (including EU Joint Headquarters at Northwood), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and several journalists.
The link to the Daily Record article is no longer accessible but one dated a week later – and far less revealing – may be read here. Another article, first seen in NY Herald Tribune, reproduced with permission from the UK Column, presents a fully illustrated and even more revealing information and – to date – its link works.
Back to the currently inaccessible Daily Record. The leaks detail Government grant applications and the Foreign Office has now confirmed that they provided substantial funding to the Integrity Initiative. In response to a parliamentary question, Europe Minister Alan Duncan said: “In financial year 2017-18, the FCO funded the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative £296,500. This financial year, the FCO are funding a further £1,961,000. Both have been funded through grant agreements.” A Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “The Integrity Initiative is a programme already in the public domain. Our funding helps ensure it can continue producing important work to counter disinformation and other malign influence.”
The investigation has found evidence that the programme’s official Twitter account has been used to attack Corbyn, his strategy and communications director Seumas Milne, the Labour Party and its officials.
Further leaked documents appear to indicate that the Integrity Initiative’s “Spanish cluster” swung into action on hearing that Pedro Banos was to be appointed director of the national security department. The papers detail how the Integrity Initiative alerted “key influencers” around Europe who launched an online campaign against the politician.
The manager of the Integrity Initiative ‘appears to be’ Christopher Donnelly.
A website biography states that he is a reserve officer in the British Army Intelligence Corps who previously headed the British Army’s Soviet Studies Research Centre at Sandhurst. Between 1989 and 2003, he was a special adviser to NATO Secretaries General and was involved in dealing with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and reform of newly emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. He left NATO in 2003 to set up and run the UK Defence Academy’s Advanced Research and Assessment Group. In 2010, he became a director of IFS.
UK column adds many other staff names, including that of the active Andy Pryce.
Pryce had been making statements to the press about Russia (well worth reading in the light of this article), where he was described as ‘Head of Counter Disinformation and Media Development’ at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in September 2017. He is said to have taken part in:
- an event called ‘DEMOCRACY AND PROPAGANDA: Can independent media defend universal values?’, said to have been held in the Hilton Hotel in London, though the link advertises a Ukrainian location.. This was organised jointly by the European Endowment for Democracy and the EU Eastern Partnership, which, it turns out, is an FCO programme(link now not working) that “works to counter and reduce the effect of destabilising disinformation”.
- the first round of Ukrainian-British interagency consultationson countering cyber threats held in London in March this year,
- the 2018 EU DisinfoLab, in April and
- in October he took part in the Atlantic Council’s Global Forum on Strategic Communications and Digital Disinformationevent, held in Washington DC. Of note here is that this was a two-day event. Andy Pryce’s contribution came on day two, which has not been made available on video.
UK column journalist Mike Robinson made a FOI request for more information but this was refused on the basis of ‘national security’ – though he noted that the Freedom of Information act says that national security can only be used as grounds for refusal where intelligence services are involved. The FCO’s response is now under investigation by the Information Commissioner.
Some will want to read more about the Integrity Initiative, which appears to be acting in the way that western governments and media claim Russia is doing.
The UK Column adds other staff names, including:
- Ben Bradshaw MP, who has been promoting an anti-Russian outlook, including claiming that Russia “interfered” with the Brexit referendum,
- Sir Andrew Wood, former British ambassador to Russia, and one of the founders of Orbis Business Intelligence, the privatised British intelligence operation which features Christopher Steele, the author of the Trump ‘dodgy dossier’ and
- Oliver McTernan, a former Senior Adviser at the Club of Madrid and a Visiting Fellow, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. In 2002, he initiated and participated in the first official high-level post conflict talks between NATO and the government in Belgrade. For 25 years he was Executive Committee Member, Pax Christi International, responsible for the movement’s East-West Dialogue programme during the Soviet period. He is the founder and a director of the St Sergius Trust Fund based in London and Moscow, and was earlier a Roman Catholic priest based in the diocese of Westminster.
David Miller, noted professor of Political Sociology in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, says that serious questions need to be answered:
“It seems extraordinary that the Foreign Office would be funding a Scottish charity to counter Russian propaganda which, for example, ends up soft-pedalling far-right politicians in the Ukraine because they happen to oppose Putin. It must raise questions with OSCR, the Scottish charity regulator, about breaching charitable rules. It would appear this organisation could have received almost £2million from the FCO, so people have a right to know what’s happening with their money.”
Labour MSP Neil Findlay added: “It would appear that we have a charity registered in Scotland and overseen by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator that is funded by the UK Government and is spewing out political attacks on UK politicians, the Labour Party and the Labour movement. Such clear political attacks and propaganda shouldn’t be coming from any charity. We need to know why the Foreign Office have been funding it.”
Which is worse: hybrid warfare said to challenge Euro-Atlantic security or drone warfare regularly slaughtering civilians?
Redbrick’s Comment Writer Tom Moran argues that NATO must display more willingness to act against hybrid warfare.
Wikipedia describes hybrid warfare as a military strategy that employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy and foreign electoral intervention.
In response to the 2014 conflict in Ukraine, NATO decided to develop ‘a set of tools to deter and defend against adversaries waging hybrid warfare’.
NATO Watch’s latest news on this subject is that US Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Thom Tillis (below) relaunched the Senate NATO Observer Group, a bipartisan group of lawmakers aiming to strengthen congressional ties with NATO, more than a decade after it was disbanded. Shaheen, a Democrat, said “Now more than ever, it’s imperative that the United States work closely with NATO to respond to the ever-evolving threats to Western democracies, particularly from the Kremlin.
The July Brussels Summit Declaration issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council included: “We face a dangerous, unpredictable, and fluid security environment, with enduring challenges and threats from all strategic directions; from state and non-state actors; from military forces; and from terrorist, cyber, and hybrid attacks . . . including disinformation campaigns and malicious cyber activities . . . Russia is also challenging Euro-Atlantic security and stability through hybrid actions, including attempted interference in the election processes’.
Trump’s relationship with NATO and Putin
Probably touching on the Shaheen-Tillis concerns, Tom Moran commented, “NATO’s Brussels summit was hardly short of controversy with Trump, unsurprisingly, at the centre of this; whether that be in his questionable commitment to the alliance, his questionable understanding of it, or shortly following this, his questionable off-the-records meeting with Putin”.
He continues: ‘Russia never really invaded the Crimea; instead they used special forces, cyber-attacks, their “little green men” (to stop political protests) and fake news. Similarly, in Syria there is the same level of confusion. Against whom have Russia carried out attacks? Does Assad still have chemical weapons? And, have they been used since he supposedly gave them up? The ambiguity makes the fake news indistinguishable from the truth and in turn the confusion is the weapon of war’.
Moran is aware that Russian goals have not changed significantly over the last three hundred years: “Imperial, Soviet and modern Russia have all searched to protect their western borders through some form of buffer between them and the rest of Europe . . . NATO expansion since the end of the Cold War has, rightfully, concerned Russia as they no longer have that buffer”.
Despite this awareness, he ends by expressing the belief that it is crucial for NATO to succeed in pursuing their interests (‘expansion’) and continue to curtail Russia gaining both a buffer and further expansion in Eastern Europe.
The only winners following that course of action will be pork-barrel politicians and the arms & ‘defence’ electronics industry.
It’s official: arms trading countries note: “Wars and conflicts are driving hunger in a way never seen before”
In 1991, the writer stopped standing orders to the largest charities after making a report with cut & pasted text and photographs from their own newsletters (pre-computer), documenting a three-year cycle:
- poignant appeals every Christmas for money to help war-torn Sudan, Ethiopia and Mozambique.
- followed by a cease-fire and aid for the victims
- and rebuilding destroyed schools and hospitals
- followed by renewed conflict and destruction
- and further appeals
Only one aid charity said, throughout this period, “there can be no development without peace”.
The reports were sent to the various headquarters and all replied courteously, agreeing that the accounts were correct and giving lip-service to the peace cause. Though there are still low-level conflicts in Sudan, following the first attack on Iraq and the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, there have been increasing levels of death and destruction in the Middle East.
Thousands of air strikes on this region – execution without trial – are killing people. destroying buildings, roads, bridges and damaging the water and electricity supplies. All rarely reported in the mainstream British media – perhaps because the government aids the American ‘coalition’-led onslaught, using ‘special forces’ deployed without parliamentary agreement.
Peter Hitchens summarised our country’s recent record:
“We are not morally perfect ourselves, with our head-chopping aggressive Saudi friends, our bloodstained Iraq and Libyan adventures, and our targeted drone-strike killings of British citizens who joined IS”.
60% of the 815 million chronically hungry people—those who do not know where they will get their next meal—live in areas experiencing armed conflicts.
Jessica Corbett has written an article following the release of the World Food Program (WFP) Global Report on Food Crises on Thursday, which found that “conflict continued to be the main driver of acute food insecurity in 18 countries—15 of them in Africa or the Middle East.”
Addressing the U.N. Security Council by video on Friday, World Food Program (WFP) executive director David Beasley reported that, largely due to armed conflicts, there has been “a staggering and stomach-churning 55 percent increase” in the number of acutely hungry people worldwide over the past two years, according to the head of the U.N. food agency. Millions of people are severely, even desperately, hungry.
Our friend and ally
The globe’s largest arms companies sold $370.7 billion worth of military equipment last year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri). The United States dominates the trade, accounting for $209.7 billion of the global total in 2015.
A warning about mounting conflict in the Sahel
Addressing the U.N. Security Council by video on Friday, David Beasley issued a specific warning about mounting conflicts in Africa’s greater Sahel region, noting, “In the five core countries of the Sahel—Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania—acute malnutrition has risen 30 percent in the past five years.”
– but no reference to the potential consequence of the encirclement and taunting of Russia
As Peter Hitchens said, we have no real quarrel with Russia: “We have made it up out of nothing, and now we are losing control of it. If Britain really wants a war with Russia, as our Government seems to, then Russia will provide that war. But it will not be fought according to the Geneva Conventions. It will be fought according to the law of the jungle”. He asks:
“Before we embark on this, could someone explain why we actually want such a war? We are a minor power on the edge of Europe. What national interest does it serve? What do we gain from it? And will we win it?”
David Beasley said that the Global Report shows the magnitude of today’s crises, but also that “if we bring together political will and today’s technology, we can have a world that’s more peaceful, more stable, and where hunger becomes a thing of the past.” His vitally important message:
“The fighting must stop now and the world must come together to avert these crises happening right in front of our eyes”.
A brief reference on Radio 4’s Today programme (12.04.17) led to an online search. The most prosaic and well-referenced account was found in the Guardian:
In 2009 – the same year former French foreign minister Dumas alleges the British began planning operations in Syria – Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia.
(Ed: It was also reported in Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News that Moscow rejected a Saudi proposal to abandon Syria’s president in return for a huge arms deal and a pledge to boost Russian influence in the Arab world, diplomats told AFP.Turkey’s desire for Qatari gas was recorded in 2009 in an article in United Arab Emirates’ National News. Saudi pipeline above right)
An Agence France-Presse report claimed Assad’s rationale was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s top supplier of natural gas”. Instead, the following year, Assad pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in July 2012 – just as Syria’s civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo – and earlier this year Iraq signed a framework agreement for construction of the gas pipelines. The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a “direct slap in the face” to Qatar’s plans. No wonder Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, in a failed attempt to bribe Russia to switch sides, told President Vladimir Putin* that “whatever regime comes after” Assad, it will be “completely” in Saudi Arabia’s hands and will “not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports”, according to diplomatic sources. When Putin refused, the Prince vowed military action
It is alleged that the U.S., the Saudis and Qataris are using Al Qaeda and other groups to conquer a strip through Syria so that U.S. companies such as Halliburton will be able to place pipelines there, to convey Saudi oil and Qatari gas to be marketed in Europe by U.S. firms such as Exxon.
Is this the real reason for wholesale slaughter and destruction?
*Guardian link failed- alternative source inserted.
British politicians: stop shouting adjectives, banging drums and dropping bombs (Jenkins) and exert unrelenting international pressure for a negotiated settlement (Corbyn)
“It is a war crime to disable, maim or poison a victim by chemical or biological means, yet it is permissible to blow them to bits. Dropping chlorine evokes howls of horror. Dropping bunker busters does not. Cluster munitions, the most horrible of delayed action weapons, remain in the arsenals of NATO armies”.
Paul (left) wrote: “Fair enough, and of course I agree that the war mongering these last two days, particularly by the BBC, is shocking indeed. But to equate CW with other munitions is to miss the point that they are expressly illegal, and we have to be building up stronger humanitarian law piece by piece and defending strongly those pieces already in place”.
The editor replied: “Yes, I think Jenkins could have made a valid point just by referring to conventional bombs”. After checking on the illegality of cluster bombs she asked Paul, “Did US ever sign this?”
He replied, “No, I don’t think the US is a signatory. It certainly hasn’t ratified” and continued:
“I was on Russia Today yesterday saying that the best response for the Russians now would be to strengthen their call for a UN Security Council meeting and present all the evidence they have that the chemical weapons attack was not a Syrian air force one … or to come up with further evidence for their current explanation.
“The worst aspect of the cruise missile attack was the way it by-passed the UN Security Council and was illegal and is a major step in the direction of unilateralism and flagrant use of force.
“There are plenty of conspiracy theories going around, but the consequences are that Russia will no longer tolerate US aircraft over Syria and will strengthen the S300-400 systems that appear to have shot a majority of the 59 cruise missiles out of the sky.
“… and I see that Russia is sending its own missile destroyer into the Med today”.
Will parliament stand firm again?
*The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) works to address security challenges by building confidence in a shared, sustainable security agenda. We work in both nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon states, with a specific expert focus on the UK, US, Europe and the Middle East.
Russia? Boris, Andrew: our government continues to aid or participate in killing civilians & suspects in several countries
Foreign secretary Boris Johnson has said that Russia is in danger of becoming a “pariah nation” if it continues to bomb civilian targets in Syria – is he absent -minded or hypocritical?
As Steve Schofield summarises, “Through invasion by ground forces and through air-strikes involving missiles and drones, the US/UK military axis has been responsible for the collapse of societies that has left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead or injured and millions more as refugees.
For years we have assaulted other countries, ruining infrastructure and killing civilians as well as untried suspects; a few examples:
- The FT in 2013 highlighted a report by Amnesty International which concluded that at least 19 civilians in North Waziristan had been killed by just two drone attacks. In July 18 casual labourers, including a 14-year-old boy, were killed near the Afghan border.
- The Bureau of Investigation’s 2014 report: America’s drone war has secretly escalated; it noted that it took President Obama three years to publicly refer to his use of drones.
- In this period Bureau records show drones reportedly killed at least 236 civilians – including 61 children. And according to a leaked CIA record of drone strikes, seen by the McClatchy news agency, the US often did not know who it was killing. In the year after September 2010 at least 265 of up to 482 people killed by drones ‘were “assessed” as Afghan, Pakistani and unknown extremists’.
- Agence France Presse reported from Afghanistan: Afghan officials said that a NATO airstrike Friday killed five civilians and wounded six others. District governor Mohammad Amin said, “At around 3:30 a.m., U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Aab Josh village of Baraki Barak district. The airstrike hit a residential house killing five and wounding six civilians”. Niaz Mohammad Amiri, Logar province’s acting governor, added, “U.S. forces were chasing down Taliban militants, but mistakenly bombarded a house. As a result, civilians were victims of the attack”.
- Edward Luce in the FT pointed out that there is no treaty governing the use of military drones as for the use of nuclear weapons. We summarised his article with added links to Rand Corporation and Stimson Centre.
- For almost ten years the Central Intelligence Agency has been able to strike targets with impunity. At the moment, Barack Obama orders drone assassinations without having to admit it, or explain himself to anyone. Hundreds of militants have been killed in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere. But hundreds more civilians, perhaps thousands, have also been accidentally killed.
- Josie Ensor’s report from Istanbul says that a US air strike killed nearly 60 civilians, including children, in Syria after the coalition mistook them for Islamic State fighters. Some eight families were hit as they tried to flee in one of the single deadliest strikes on civilians by the alliance since the start of its operations in the war-torn country.
- A Saudi-led coalition air strike hit a hospital operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres in northern Yemen, killing at least 11 people and wounding 19, the aid group said. And who is in the coalition? US and Britain have been deploying their military personnel in the command and control centre responsible for Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen, having access to lists of targets.
- The global charity Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) told Reuters news agency that more than 40 civilians, including an eight-year-old in critical condition, were admitted to Abs Hospital after an air strike in the Mustaba district, a region largely controlled by the Iran-allied Houthi militia.
Stuart Richardson, Secretary of the Birmingham branch, offers the sanest contribution from Stop the War Coalition (StWC). StWC is opposing the calls for the implementation of “No-Fly Zones” – after the Libyan disaster – and calls for the bombing of the Assad regime by the RAF and allied air forces. It argues that the only solution is the withdrawal of Russia, US, UK and France leaving the Syrian people to determine their own future.
Whistleblowers 10: as revelations which damage corporate interests are penalised, useful material for ‘Russia bashing’ is rewarded
There have been several general articles about whistleblowing on this site & others focussing on some brave individuals who suffered for revealing unwelcome truths, including Dr Raj Mattu, Julian Assange, Ian Foxley, Peter Gardiner, Bradley Manning, Osita Mba, Jerry Bryzan and the Glaxo 4. Earlier in the century, before the site was set up, there were health sector whistleblowers; Marta Andreasen & Paul van Buitenen also revealed shocking cases of EU financial mismanagement and suffered for it.
This week a reader sent a link leading to news of sentences given to two former PwC employees who leaked data from 45,000 pages of documents which one of them had accessed through a glitch in the company’s servers. They revealed information about Luxembourg’s tax deals with large corporations such as Apple, Ikea, and Pepsi.
Though the revelations prompted parliamentary debates, select committee hearings, and an EU probe into anti-competitive tax deals the two former employees of PWC and a journalist ended up in the dock – not PwC and the tax authority.
As NATO presents Russia as a major threat, every opportunity to confirm this view is embraced
The Russian 800m runner Yuliya Stepanova, was banned from the sport for anomalies in her athlete biological passport in 2013. Yuliya and her husband Vitaly, a former employee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), then made a series of secret recordings and allegations that were broadcast in a German television documentary entitled “Secret Doping Dossier: How Russia Produces its Winners”.
She has now been granted a special dispensation to race again at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as a “neutral athlete” by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) doping review board.
The guilty verdicts for the two former PwC employees are increasing calls for more robust protections for whistleblowers. One of Deltour’s lawyers William Bourdon called the verdict “scandalous”. The message of Luxembourg’s justice system was for multinationals to “sleep tight”, he said.
NB: In Britain whistleblowers are usually made to suffer, despite the nicknamed ‘Whistle-blowers Act’: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/23/pdfs/ukpga_19980023_en.pdf
Several posts on this site about Britain’s ‘special friend’ have referred to the United States of America. Today seeing a barrage of news accumulating about another special friend, Saudi Arabia, aka Britain’s biggest arms market last year, an overview of the last quarter follows.
At the closing session of a two-day Arab League summit held in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt’s president el-Sisi announced that some Arab leaders had agreed to form a united military force to combat the “challenges” the region is facing. A high-level panel would work under the supervision of Arab chiefs of staff to work out the structure and mechanism of the force: roughly 40,000 elite troops, backed by jets, warships and light armour.
At the time, a Saudi-led coalition was already pressing ahead with air strikes against positions of Houthi fighters and their allies in Yemen. The United States voiced support for the intervention and sent two warships to assist with the naval blockade, but it was criticised by the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations. Saudi Arabia had been moving heavy equipment and artillery near its border with Yemen, following the Houthis seizure of the central city of Taiz.
A month later FT View described this ongoing military action as ‘an increasingly aggressive proxy war with Iran in the Middle East, backing Sunni regimes and trying to counter Iranian influence in Syria, Iraq and Bahrain. Several months of war in Yemen have already claimed more than 2,000 lives. The FT writer’s advice:
“[T]he Saudi leadership should think again. In Yemen, Riyadh has given a brutal demonstration of its air power and marshalled a range of Arab nations to back its effort. But air strikes have not weakened the Houthis and a political settlement remains beyond reach. Nor has Saudi Arabia much cause for celebration in its fight against Iran across the region. The kingdom can claim some victories, notably the return of a military-backed government in Cairo. But its lavish funding of proxies has not yielded stability in Syria, Iraq or Libya”.
On May 10th the FT Review reported that the UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen said that “indiscriminate bombing” contravened international humanitarian law, but Riyadh says the naval blockade was ordered by the legitimate Yemeni government of President Abd Rabbu Hadi — in exile in Riyadh — and cited a UN Security Council resolution calling for an arms embargo against the Houthis.
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen has been described as “catastrophic” by the UN with 20 million civilians – 80% of the population – in need of aid. In May and June there were accounts of the suffering caused by the Saudi-led blockade of the country in place since late March, which has nearly exhausted:
- dwindling supplies of fuel, staples such as rice, medicines and other basic goods are so scarce in north Yemen that prices have risen as much as tenfold, according to Oxfam
- fuel shortages, which pose a grave threat to Yemen’s water and electricity supplies, as well as to its transport network.
On June 7th the BBC reported that peace talks between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the government will take place in Geneva on 14 June. UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on all parties to enter the talks in good faith and without pre-conditions. Its Middle East Editor, Sebastian Usher, says that the government – now mostly in exile in Saudi Arabia – and the rebels have confirmed that they will attend the peace negotiations.
But as Owen Jones says, after giving a devastating account of brutality and injustice, such allies “are up to their necks in complicity with terrorism, but as long as there is money to be made and weapons to sell, our rulers’ lips will remain stubbornly sealed”.
Media 37: the most misrepresented major story of 2014 – the gathering crisis between Russia and the West
On August 7th, J Oksana Boyko interviewed former Australian prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, known for his opposition to apartheid in South Africa, his humanitarian commitment to the resettlement of refugees and legislation to give indigenous Australians control of their traditional lands. More recently he has criticised the growing infringements of human rights, the basing of U.S. military forces in Australia, the concept of American exceptionalism and US foreign policy in general.
The nub of the problem according to Fraser – and others: the Ukraine was a traditional area of Russian interest preceding communism and Stalin; however, the United States decided it was going to become an area of western influence, of NATO influence.
Fraser recalls: “President Gorbachev believed that the first Bush administration had agreed that NATO would not move east. NATO had, after all, done its job”.From the website of Pietro Shakarian, an MA graduate student at the University of Michigan: “George H.W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev in Malta in December 1989 (ITAR-TASS). The Bush administration informally promised Gorbachev that NATO would not expand “one inch” beyond East Germany. The promise was never fulfilled. To defuse the Ukraine crisis, a formal, written promise not to expand NATO by Washington to Moscow would do much to build mutual trust and confidence between both countries”. .
Fraser continues: “But then it pushed ahead to the borders of Russia, and I can understand Russians believing that’s a provocative move. There would have been other ways, less provocative ways, of ensuring the security and independence of eastern European states. I think the West then lost an opportunity to really begin to make Russia a collaborative partner . . . I can understand Russia being greatly disturbed about this . . . when (the Soviet Union) disintegrated, the West should have done everything it could to build a collaborative world . . . pushing NATO to the boundaries of Russia, in my view, was bound to do the opposite . . .”
Christopher Booker breaks the silence on evidence that the West has been pouring billions of dollars and euros into Ukraine: not just to prop up its bankrupt government and banking system, but to fund scores of bogus “pro-European” groups making up what the EU calls “civil society”. He cites Richard North’s report on his EU Referendum blog that the true figure, shown on the commission’s own “Financial Transparency” website, approaches €496 million:
“The 200 front organisations receiving this colossal sum have such names as “Center for European Co-operation” or the “Donetsk Regional Public Organisation with Hope for the Future”. The first page found shows how many are in eastern Ukraine or Crimea, with their largely Russian populations – the snapshot below shows 6 of the 30 donations on that page alone.
Booker believes that the West has brought about this crisis, rousing fears that its only warm-water ports in Crimea might soon be taken over by Nato – “a crisis . . . more reminiscent of that fateful mood in the summer of 1914 than we should find it comfortable to contemplate”.
Fraser is constructive: “Great powers very often, too often, interpret international law as what is in their particular interest at the time. Now, we need to try to make rules that everyone will support.
“If the United Nations is ever to work, great powers and lesser powers are all going to have to abide by the rules of the organisation. But it’s the great powers that tend to push the rules aside when it suits their national interests. And therefore, when the United States says that what Russia has done is in defiance of international law, well, that can’t be taken as gospel. The government and the change of power in Ukraine itself was surely in defiance of democratic principles.
“The Ukraine should be told that it can never join NATO, that other means will be found to make sure that the Ukraine remains secure. The West should be persuading those who are now in government in the Ukraine that within Ukraine they must learn the art of compromise. And those who are more inclined to Russia in the Ukraine, should also be persuaded by Russia – you must also learn the art of compromise”.
Will the voices of reason prevail?