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Reality check for Mr Osborne please

When it comes to the Middle East, George Osborne seems as confused as ever suggests Steve Beauchampé.

The final reflections:

Syria, for all of its horrors, is not the West’s fight and to imply that we ought to have done something more militarily is to imply that there was more we could have done. But the Syrian civil war is a complex, multi-layered web of both centuries old religious, tribal and ethnic disputes and divides and modern day political and territorial opportunism that those recent western military escapades, enthusiastically supported both in opposition and in office by the likes of George Osborne, have exacerbated.

The fall of Aleppo will not end the Syrian civil war, merely change its dynamics. Britain’s best and most productive response must continue to be seeking as peaceful a resolution to the conflict as possible, providing humanitarian aid and bolstering the role of the United Nations.

Read the whole article here. It was first published in the Birmingham Press.

 

 

 

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Media 65: Reporting events in Syria – Felicity Arbuthnot crystallises the misgivings in many hearts and minds

Condensed and edited from this article by Felicity Arbuthnot:

As the US heaps blame and accusations on Russia and Syria for the alleged air strike on the aid convoy on Monday 19th September, there are more questions than answers – and whatever US spokespersons state, absolutely no certainties.

The only undeniable fact is that another tragedy killed at least twenty Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers and the organisation’s local Director Omar Barakat, father of nine. At least eighteen of the thirty one-truck convoy were destroyed with the warehouse where humanitarian aid was stored.

The Russian Defence Ministry has categorically denied any attack and – in a Reuter report – gives evidence that the convoy caught fire:

“We have studied video footage from the scene from so-called ‘activists’ in detail and did not find any evidence that the convoy had been struck by ordnance”, commented Igor Konashenkov, a Ministry spokesman.

Photographs of the affected lorries show burned out vehicles, metal skeleton intact.

syria-lorry

Burnt not bombed http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-23/destroyed-aid-trucks-western-aleppo-syria/7870646 – Reuter photo

“There are no craters and the exterior of the vehicles do not have the kind of damage consistent with blasts caused by bombs dropped from the air.” His observations are hard to challenge, anyone who has studied the assaults of the “international community” on far away countries over the last decades knows what a bombed truck looks like – what fragments remains of it.

Konashenkov said that damage visible in footage was instead the result of cargo igniting – “oddly” occurring at the same time as militants (formerly Nusra Front) had started a big offensive in nearby Aleppo, backed by tanks, artillery and other heavy equipment. He added: “Only representatives of the ‘White Helmets’ organization close to the Nusra Front who, as always, found themselves at the right time in the right place by chance with their video cameras can answer who did this and why.”

Read a disturbing account of the “White Helmets” here.

They call themselves the Syrian Civil Defence Force but are seemingly neither Syrian, nor Civil, nor Defence. Vanessa Beeley points out. “This is an alleged ‘non-governmental’ organization … that so far has received funding from at least three major NATO governments, including $23 million from the US Government and $29 million (£19.7 million) from the UK Government, $4.5 million (€4 million) from the Dutch Government. In addition, it receives material assistance and training funded and run by a variety of other EU Nations.”

United Nations rowed back from describing the attack on the aid convoy as air strikes

Felicity comments: “What better chance to push “the No Fly Zone scenario” than arriving within “moments” of the convoy tragedy, filming it and creating a propaganda scenario before any meaningful forensic investigation could even be started, since the trucks were still burning. And of course, the “White Helmets”, aka “Syrian Defence Force”, were filming rather than attempting to put out the fire and rescue those in the burning trucks”.

The Russian Defence Ministry subsequently caused outrage by claiming that drone footage: “shows bombed Syrian aid convoy included truck full of militant fighters carrying mortar guns. . . The footage emerged as the United Nations rowed back from describing the attack on the aid convoy as air strikes, saying it did not have conclusive evidence about what had happened.”

  1. http://katehon.com/article/attack-aid-convoy-kills-twenty-destroys-aid-and-obliterates-us-war-crimes
  2. http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/06/21/who-are-the-syria-white-helmets/

3.  http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/drone-footage-shows-bombed-syrian-8879319

 

 

 

 

As the poorest Britons struggle to cope with ever-reducing incomes the PM focusses on the intervention-induced chaos in Syria

Reports of cables between Britain and Saudi Arabia, proposing secret vote-trading deals, shed light on Saudi Arabia’s ludicrously inappropriate appointment as chair of the UN Human Rights Council. They will lead many to feel even more Dazed and Confused than Steve Beauchampé.

He points out that David Cameron and George Osborne have spent the last two years frustrated by Britain’s inability to attack and overthrow yet another sovereign government in the Middle East:

“They clearly never learn – Cameron and Osborne both voted for the catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003 (ed: & 1991 Gulf War) and were in charge for the almost equally disastrous 2010 NATO intervention in Libya – and it is hard to overstate how bad an outcome might have resulted from further British meddling in the region. Possible consequences include Russian intervention to aid Assad, with the attendant risk of heightened tension, or worse, between east and west; the creation of an even larger vacuum into which Islamic State or any of the other militant terror groups vying for control of Syria would have moved; an earlier and swifter exodus of refugees from an even more war ravaged country”.

Assad No 10 2002

But Britain has long been ‘meddling’ in Syria. For some reason – after a honeymoon with the new leader (above outside No 10 in 2002) – relations soured. The public has never been informed as to the reason for this change of heart, or for the duration or extent of its alliance with ‘our special friend’ to support and give ineffective training to ‘moderate rebels’.

This policy is said to be rebounding on the two inept and inhumane Anglo-Saxon governments concerned

Reuters reports that on Sunday, in an interview with U.S. television networks CBS and PBS released by the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin branded U.S. support for rebel forces in Syria as illegal and ineffective, saying U.S-trained rebels were leaving to join Islamic State with weapons supplied by Washington and adding: “In my opinion, provision of military support to illegal structures runs counter to the principles of modern international law and the United Nations Charter”.

Further reading raises a question: was the Syrian uprising due to eventual outworking of free global market policies adopted by Assad’s father, which everywhere offered the usual benefits to those in power but led to rising inequality/unemployment (see steel plant closure in Teeside)?

It is on record that socio-economic inequality increased significantly after free market policies were initiated by Hafeez al-Assad (the President’s father) in his later years, and accelerated after Bashar al-Assad came to power, (see LA Times). With an emphasis on the service sector, these policies benefited a minority of the nation’s population, mostly people who had connections with the government, and members of the Sunni merchant class in Damascus and Aleppo but the country also faced rising youth unemployment rates. This coincided with the most intense drought ever recorded on Syria which lasted from 2007 to 2010 and resulted in a widespread crop failure, increase in food prices and a mass migration of farming families to urban centers. Syria had also received, in the same period, an additional 1.5 million refugees from Iraq. By 2011, Syria was facing steep rises in the prices of commodities and a clear deterioration in the national standard of living.

A complete volte face by the Prime Minister

Beauchampé looked forward to the speech to be delivered by Cameron at a meeting at the United Nations where – the allies having failed to subdue IS – he did, as forecast, call for Assad to be allowed to remain in power for a transitional period while everyone (including Britain) concentrates on ousting Islamic State.

The idea of a transitional period is ‘for the birds’ he writes, believing that neither President Putin, or the government of neighbouring Iran will accept Assad’s replacement by a regime approved by Britain or the United States.

Even more dazed and confused we await the outcome.

Corbyn a threat? He would have left the Middle East – and us – in relative peace

David Cameron has claimed that Jeremy Corbyn will be a security threat. Is he referring to economic security – the threat to the arms trade?

american hubris2If peacemakers like Corbyn have their way, the profits which flow to the richest individuals and into Britain and American mainstream party coffers would be decimated – the economic security of arms manufacturers and dealers and sympathetic politicians would be threatened.

Starting with the anger aroused by their illegal Iraq war in 1991, the Anglo-Saxon alliance claims to be more at risk from terrorism than ever – but rising tension and conflict opens profitable avenues.

As Sir Simon Jenkins recently wrote, the West’s last seven wars – in Iraq, former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Libya – have ended in disaster; he asks: “Will our messianic leaders ever learn?” But do they want to learn? Their arms companies have made a packet’ (Ed)!

Over the past 15 years, he records that their wars have left an estimated 250,000 people dead, few of whom had any quarrel with the West. It left many more maimed, tortured, impoverished and driven into exile – fear driving mass migrations of peoples into Europe.

Drone strikes damageAnd yet, despite colossal military expense, as Jenkins states, the menace of ISIS in Syria and Iraq is worse than anything posed by the Taliban, Saddam Hussein or Colonel Gaddafi in Libya: “None of the ‘victorious powers’ dare walk the streets in the capitals they claimed to have freed from oppression”.

Revulsion at these policies is leading thousands to sign this open letter to Ban-ki Moon, UN Secretary General – extracts:

  • After 70 years isn’t it time for the United Nations to cease authorizing wars and to make clear to the world that attacks on distant nations are not defensive?
  • The danger lurking in the “responsibility to protect” doctrine must be addressed. Acceptance of murder by armed drone as either non-war or legal war must be decisively rejected.
  • To fulfill its promise, the United Nations must rededicate itself to these words from the U.N. Charter: “All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”
  • To advance, the United Nations must be democratized so that all people of the world have an equal voice, and no single or small number of wealthy, war-oriented nations dominate the UN’s decisions.

Has this revulsion also been one of the major factors in sweeping Corbyn, a peacemaker, to power?

Saudi Arabia: another special friend of whom Britain should be ashamed

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.

saudi tanks

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”.

saudi naval blockadeOn 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”.

 

A new twist in the TTIP saga

“The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: European Disintegration, Unemployment and Instability”

Dr Clive Peedell, (NHAP), has forwarded information about the work done recently by Jeronim Capaldo, a research fellow at the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University in Boston, highly ranked by QS and Times Higher Education.

According to proponents such as key mover, Stuart E. Eizenstat, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will stimulate growth in Europe and in the US. Eizenstat enthuses at length in AT&T’s international public policy blog.

ttip meetingSome projections endorsed by the European Commission point to positive, though negligible, gains in terms of GDP and personal incomes. Others make greater claims, asserting that the deal will add over £100 billion to the UK and European economies every year.

However, social media has recorded an unprecedented level of opposition to the treaty. One representative example of such thinking by James Bruges may be seen here (scroll down).

Recent literature has pointed out several problems in the most influential assessment of the TTIP’s effects. Projections by different institutions have been shown to rely on the same Computable General Equilibrium model that has proved to be inadequate as a tool for trade policy analysis, ‘lacking microfoundations and the dual instability problem’.

gdae header

Jeronim Capaldo’s Working Paper 14-03 assesses the effects of TTIP using the United Nations Global Policy Model, which is said to incorporate more valid assumptions on global trade, macroeconomic adjustment and employment dynamics.

The UN site explains: “The model allows users to . . .trace macro-economic outcomes over short, medium and long-term timescales. It is a model of the world economy design to simulate the macroeconomic impacts on countries and regions of exogenous shocks to the global economy, the potential effects of ‘sea changes’ in market confidence (such as reversals in financial market confidence following asset price bubbles), changes in international regulation of trade and finance and the international spill-over effects of major policy changes in major economies”.

capaldoCapaldo and his team project that TTIP will lead to a contraction of GDP, personal incomes, employment, an increase in financial instability and a continuing downward trend in the labor share of GDP: “Evaluated with the United Nations model, TTIP appears to favor economic dis-integration, rather than integration, in Europe. At a minimum, this shows that official studies do not offer a solid basis for an informed decision on TTIP”.

A link to his paper is given above and the Executive Summary may be read in alarming detail here.

dr clive peedell 3Dr Clive Peedell’s party has already argued that TTIP poses multiple threats to the UK, opening up the NHS to further and permanent privatisation, removing key social and environmental protections from transnational corporations and allowing corporations to sue the UK under the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause. He adds:

“But this latest research blows a further hole in the economic argument of those who claim the deal will add over £100 billion to the UK and European economies every year. If the entire economic basis of TTIP is also now in question, there seems little reason for the deal to go ahead.”

Jeronim Capaldo (email: jeronim.capaldo@tufts.edu)

Be honest about America’s record – and ours

rogue states coverIn 2000 Chomsky presented an analysis of the United States and its allies as the world’s ‘rogue states’.

George Monbiot continues:

“Obama’s failure to be honest about his nation’s record of destroying international norms and undermining international law, his myth-making about the role of the US in world affairs, and his one-sided interventions in the Middle East, all render the crisis in Syria even harder to resolve.

“Until there is some candour about past crimes and current injustices, until there is an effort to address the inequalities over which the US presides, everything it attempts – even if it doesn’t involve guns and bombs – will stoke the cynicism and anger the president says he wants to quench.” So writes George Monbiot in an article highlighted by a Moseley reader.

It made the following charges:

  • that US used millions of gallons of chemical weapons in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It also used them during its destruction of Falluja in 2004;
  • that the Reagan government helped Saddam Hussein to wage war with Iran in the 1980s while aware that he was using nerve and mustard gas;
  • that the US remains outside the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court;
  • that it committed a crime of aggression in Iraq;
  • that US troops committed war crimes during the invasion and occupation of Iraq;
  • that prisoners were held without trial, abused and tortured in the US run prison in Guantánamo Bay, where – as of August 2013 – 164 detainees remain.

*

Some years ago, Ken Veitch wrote in the Friend:

 rogue states veitch

 

Has Britain been a lesser rogue state?

 

Time for change.

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Further military interventions will “spread peace, prosperity, democracy and security”

 So said the prime minister moving in the same destructive direction as his predecessor.

David Cameron took the stage a week after the misnamed ‘Middle East Peace envoy’ Tony Blair urged the international community to increase pressure on the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad, declaring that “Regime change in Tehran would immediately make me significantly more optimistic about the whole of the region.” 

Cameron instructed world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York that the Arab Spring uprisings and conflict in Libya demonstrated the UN’s need for “a new way of working” – a greater readiness to take action against oppressive [and oil-rich] regimes. 

Though recent interventions have killed many civilians and left countries with seriously damaged infrastructure and civil unrest, he said that these interventions would “spread peace, prosperity, democracy and vitally security”.