Search Results for : salman


Mohammed Bin Salman: The Truth Behind The Reformist Facade

There was a revealing coincidence of timing yesterday. Philip Hammond made a speech in which he pleaded with the EU to allow the UK continued free access to their financial services markets, on the basis of mutually recognised standards. At the same time, Theresa May met the Saudi Crown Prince in Downing Street and discussed specific legal reductions of those standards in the City of London, to allow for the stock exchange flotation of part of Saudi state oil giant Aramco.

It is symbolic because the toxic addiction of the ruling classes to Saudi cash has been lowering British standards of basic decency for generations. The most blatant example was when Tony Blair as Prime Minister intervened directly in the justice system to prevent the pursuit of corruption charges against the stench-ridden arms dealers of BAE, on grounds of “national security”. The myths about the impartiality of British justice have seldom been so comprehensively exposed. Where there is really dirty money, Blair is seldom far away.

The use of British supplied weapons by the Saudis to maim and kill children in Yemen on an industrial scale has penetrated public consciousness despite the best efforts of mainstream media to sideline it, and Jeremy Corbyn was absolutely right to highlight the involvement not just of arms manufacturers but of the British military. The government and royal fawning has been accompanied by an extraordinary deluge of pro-Saudi propaganda from the mainstream media this last two days for Saudi Arabia and its “reforming” Crown Prince.

There is no doubt that Mohammed Bin Salman has shown a ruthless genius in internal power consolidation in Saudi Arabia, with rivals arrested, shaken down or dying by accident. That he is seeking to end corruption appears less probable than that he is seeking to monopolise its proceeds and thus concentrate power, but time will give a clearer picture. There is no evidence whatsoever that Saudi Arabia is stopping its funding of Wahabbist jihadism across the Middle East and South Asia; indeed it has been stepped up by him, as has the bombing of Yemen.

Bin Salman may have a slightly different take on religion to those previously controlling Saudi Arabia, but in fact he is a much more dangerous fanatic. He is an extreme Sunni sectarian, driven by a visceral hatred of Shia Muslims. This is expressed in an aggressive foreign policy, causing a further destabilisation of the Middle East which threatens to tip over into catastrophe, as Bin Salman seeks to turn up the heat against Iran in proxy conflict in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere. That he is doing so in active and functional alliance with Israel is the world’s worst kept diplomatic secret. Saudi/Israeli cooperation in Lebanon and Syria is to my mind the most dangerous global flashpoint at present.

But despite his fawning reception in London, Bin Salman is not having it all his own way. I returned from Doha two weeks ago and in Qatar, Bin Salman has seriously overreached. Angry at Doha’s lack of hostility to Iran, including revenue sharing agreement on cross-border fields, Saudi Arabia has blockaded the small Emirate of Qatar for six months now. The excuse given to the West – that Qatar funds jihadist terrorism – is perhaps the worst example of the pot calling the kettle black in History. But the Saudi demands, including the permanent closure of Al Jazeera, expulsion of Arab dissidents and removal of a Turkish military base, reveal an altogether different agenda.

Qatar has proved much more resilient than anybody expected. The blockade has caused some economic damage but it has been survivable, and the effect has been entirely counter-productive for Bin Salman. Qatar has become closer economically to Iran and has developed new port facilities which reduce import reliance on Saudi Arabia and its satraps. The Saudis had massed troops on the border and threatened invasion, but the Qataris vowed to fight.

Then something remarkable happened which the world mainstream media has almost entirely ignored. Despite Saudi sponsored adverts all over US media portraying named senior Qataris as terrorist sponsors, and despite strong Israeli pro-Saudi lobbying, Donald Trump suddenly called Bin Salman to heel. With Saudi troops massed on the Qatari border, on 30 January the United States signed an agreement with Qatar “to deter and confront any threat to Qatar’s territorial integrity”. This was a massive slap in the face to Bin Salman from Donald Trump, and a result of Tillerson recognising the real threat to the world from Bin Salman’s extreme ambition.

I can only conjecture this received none of the publicity it deserved from the corporate media because it went against the prevailing narrative that Trump can never, in any circumstance, do anything strikingly good, and because it was a blow to Israel. The uber-hawk Clinton would certainly not have crossed Saudi Arabia and Israel in this way. It is an important sign that there is more to Tillerson’s Middle Eastern diplomacy than the stupid decision, motivated by US domestic politics, to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The elite loves Saudi money all around the world. But the UK is unique in allowing that to blind them absolutely to human rights abuses, the appalling bombing of Yemen, and the extreme dangers posed by Bin Salman’s hyperactive regional aggression towards Shia Muslims. We should be used to seeing Tories kowtowing to money by now. But this week makes me still more sick than usual.

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UK Killing Civilians for Oil Again in the King Salman Canal Project

The UK government insists on continuing the massive supply – £2.8 billion since the start of the attack – of high tech weapons for Saudi Arabia to use against civilians in Yemen, despite opposition from the EU Parliament and every major human rights group. Furthermore UK special forces are operating inside Yemen in support of the onslaught. Thousands of civilians have died as a result, including many children.

Given this is not exactly popular in the UK, and that after the law takes its tortuous course there will very probably be embarrassment for the government down the line, the prize which Cameron perceives must be great. Of course, western elite support for the appalling Saudi regime is a given, because Saudi cash pumps primarily into banking, armaments and high end property, the three areas most dear to the interests of the 1%.

Yemen of course has very little oil of its own. But where the West gets involved in conflict, it is almost always at base either about oil resources (eg Kuwait, Libya, Syria, Iraq) or oil routes (eg Afghanistan, Georgia, Balkans). It turns out that Britain’s unflinching military support of Saudi Arabian aggression in Yemen is about oil routes.

hormuzcanal

Last year the Saudis announced a plan to drive a ship canal through Saudi desert, Oman and Yemen to the Gulf of Aden, bypassing the straits of Hormuz. This would reduce ship journeys by approximately 500 miles, and limit any potential physical threat to shipping from Iran. It is worth noting that Iran has stated it will not block the strait of Hormuz, and is a signatory to the UN Law of the Sea Convention which would make that illegal. Iranian control of the strait of Hormuz has long been the nightmare of the American right.

The canal project is moving forward in the Saudi governmental system and has now formally been assigned to the Ministry of Electricity, after an internal royal family wrangle as control of the mega project will obviously bring massive opportunities for self enrichment. It is now to be associated with the construction of nuclear power plants, which it is difficult to believe are unrelated to Saudi desire for nuclear weapons. It is to be called the King Salman canal.

Oman would probably welcome the canal, but Yemen is much more problematic. There would need to be a Yemeni government not only willing to agree, but both able and willing to enforce security on the canal. And given that the eastern Yemeni regions through which it would pass are predominantly Shia, this is a major problem for the Saudis. A problem that could only be resolved by taking effective military control of Yemen.

The United Kingdom is supporting yet another war for oil. But don’t worry about it, the corporate media is full of the Queen’s birthday! Stop thinking and shout hurrah!

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“Sir” Salman Rushdie

I can talk about Salman Rushdie’s honour with a certain earned hauteur, having in the course of my life turned down three honours myself (LVO, OBE and CVO, since you ask). I have never understood why people accept honours when there is so much more social cachet in refusing them.

People in the FCO always imagined I turned them down because of a vague egalitarianism. Actually it is because, as a good Scot, I felt no need to accept anything from a provincial German family notable for lack of intellectual distinction. The Queen asked me, in Warsaw, why I refused, and I replied it was because I am a Scottish nationalist. She replied “Oh good” with a charming smile.

On two occasions I received a very pleasant personal gift from the Queen instead – a solid silver armada dish, and a piece of Linley joinery. This is in practice a much better deal, because with the higher awards, when you die you have to give them back (honest – there is a little label on the back that says so). The gifts, you can sell – and as I am now completely on my uppers, I am going to. Any offers?

I do have one honour – I am an Officier de l’Ordre du Mono.of the Republic of Togo. This was given me by the late President Eyadema, who as far as I know was the only recent Head of State who strangled his predecessor with his own hands. It was for my role in a surreal – and terrifying – peace negotiation with the Sierra Leonean rebels, which will turn up in a future volume of my memoirs. I would have refused the medal, but the FCO ordered me not to as, in the unusual circumstances, it might give unhelpful offence. In thanking President Eyadema, I asked him if the next up was l’Ordre du Stereo. Whether he understood my joke, made in bad French, I don’t know, as he replied, memorably, that I should drink coconut milk to make me piss. That may be a Togolese insult.

Anyway, back to Rushdie. I am afraid I believe that if people wish to insult religion, they should be allowed to. Freedom of speech is vitally important. Those Muslims shouting against him have every right to be offended, and every right to express their view, but must acknowledge Rushdie’s right to express his. If the Muslims are right, Rushdie will get his come-uppance eternally, which should be enough vengeance for anybody. You can’t make eternity last longer by killing someone quicker.

But I am astounded at the decision to give him a knighthood. Why? His corpus of work is just not that good. Midnight’s Children was readable, but a bit formulaic. Rushdie’s prose has all the cutting edge of a damp cloth. Satanic Verses may be shocking, but has little else to recommend it.

Who nominated Rushdie, and why? If we really felt the need to create a new literary knight, why not Alexander McCall Smith or George MacDonald Fraser? Both of them are much more original and prolific writers than Rushdie. Both actually live in this country, unlike Rushdie.

McCall Smith, certainly, has devoted a significant proportion of his time and his literary earnings to charity, something one could never accuse Rushdie of. If Salman Rushdie has an interest in life other than Salman Rushdie, it is not readily discernible.

Rushdie simply does not deserve to be elevated above a score or more of other writers in this country who are not knights. I am having dinner tomorrow in Dundee with Phillip Pullman and Jacqueline Wilson, both of whom I prize above Rushdie. This is a political, not a literary, award and Muslims have a right to be angry about that. But the answer is a political response, not violence. If Lord Ahmed is genuine, he should jump off the New Labour gravy train.

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The USA Doubles Down on its Saudi Allegiance

For the United States to abandon proxy warfare and directly kill one of Iran’s most senior political figures has changed international politics in a fundamental way. It is a massive error. Its ramifications are profound and complex.

There is also a lesson to be learned here in that this morning there will be excitement and satisfaction in the palaces of Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Tehran. All of the political elites will see prospects for gain from the new fluidity. While for ordinary people in all those countries there is only the certainty of more conflict, death and economic loss, for the political elite, the arms manufacturers, the military and security services and allied interests, the hedge funds, speculators and oil companies, there are the sweet smells of cash and power.

Tehran will be pleased because the USA has just definitively lost Iraq. Iraq has a Shia majority and so naturally tends to ally with Iran. The only thing preventing that was the Arab nationalism of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Socialist Party. Bush and Blair were certainly fully informed that by destroying the Ba’ath system they were creating an Iranian/Iraqi nexus, but they decided that was containable. The “containment” consisted of a deliberate and profound push across the Middle East to oppose Shia influence in proxy wars everywhere.

This is the root cause of the disastrous war in Yemen, where the Zaidi-Shia would have been victorious long ago but for the sustained brutal aerial warfare on civilians carried out by the Western powers through Saudi Arabia. This anti-Shia western policy included the unwavering support for the Sunni Bahraini autocracy in the brutal suppression of its overwhelmingly Shia population. And of course it included the sustained and disastrous attempt to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria and replace it with pro-Saudi Sunni jihadists.

This switch in US foreign policy was known in the White House of 2007 as “the redirection”. It meant that Sunni jihadists like Al-Qaida and later al-Nusra were able to switch back to being valued allies of the United States. It redoubled the slavish tying of US foreign policy to Saudi interests. The axis was completed once Mohammad Bin Salman took control of Saudi Arabia. His predecessors had been coy about their de facto alliance with Israel. MBS felt no shyness about openly promoting Israeli interests, under the cloak of mutual alliance against Iran, calculating quite correctly that Arab street hatred of the Shia outweighed any solidarity with the Palestinians. Common enemies were easy for the USA/Saudi/Israeli alliance to identify; Iran, the Houthi, Assad and of course the Shia Hezbollah, the only military force to have given the Israelis a bloody nose. The Palestinians themselves are predominantly Sunni and their own Hamas was left friendless and isolated.

The principal difficulty of this policy for the USA of course is Iraq. Having imposed a rough democracy on Iraq, the governments were always likely to be Shia dominated and highly susceptible to Iranian influence. The USA had a continuing handle through dwindling occupying forces and through control of the process which produced the government. They also provided financial resources to partially restore the physical infrastructure the US and its allies had themselves destroyed, and of course to fund a near infinite pool of corruption.

That US influence was balanced by strong Iranian aligned militia forces who were an alternative source of strength to the government of Baghdad, and of course by the fact that the centre of Sunni tribal strength, the city of Falluja, had itself been obliterated by the United States, three times, in an act of genocide of Iraqi Sunni population.

Through all this the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi had until now tiptoed with great care. Pro-Iranian yet a long term American client, his government maintained a form of impartiality based on an open hand to accept massive bribes from anybody. That is now over. He is pro-Iranian now.

Such precarious balance as there ever was in Iraq was upset this last two months when the US and Israelis transported more of their ISIL Sunni jihadists into Iraq, to escape the pincer of the Turkish, Russian and Syrian government forces. The Iranians were naturally not going to stand for this and Iranian militias were successfully destroying the ISIL remnants, which is why General Qassem Suleimani was in Iraq, why a US mercenary assisting ISIL was killed in an Iranian militia rocket attack, and why Syrian military representatives were being welcomed at Baghdad airport.

It is five years since I was last in the Green Zone in Baghdad, but it is extraordinarily heavily fortified with military barriers and checks every hundred yards, and there is no way the crowd could have been allowed to attack the US Embassy without active Iraqi government collusion. That profound political movement will have been set in stone by the US assassination of Suleimani. Tehran will now have a grip on Iraq that could prove to be unshakable.

Nevertheless, Tel Aviv and Riyadh will also be celebrating today at the idea that their dream of the USA destroying their regional rival Iran, as Iraq and Libya were destroyed, is coming closer. The USA could do this. The impact of technology on modern warfare should not be underestimated. There is a great deal of wishful thinking that fantasises about US military defeat, but it is simply unrealistic if the USA actually opted for full scale invasion. Technology is a far greater factor in warfare than it was in the 1960s. The USA could destroy Iran, but the cost and the ramifications would be enormous, and not only the entire Middle East but much of South Asia would be destabilised, including of course Pakistan. My reading of Trump remains that he is not a crazed Clinton type war hawk and it will not happen. We all have to pray it does not.

There will also today be rejoicing in Washington. There is nothing like an apparently successful military attack in a US re-election campaign. The Benghazi Embassy disaster left a deep scar upon the psyche of Trump’s support base in particular, and the message that Trump knows how to show the foreigners not to attack America is going down extremely well where it counts, whatever wise people on CNN may say.

So what happens now? Consolidating power in Iraq and finishing the destruction of ISIL in Iraq will be the wise advance that Iranian statesman can practically gain from these events. But that is, of course, not enough to redeem national honour. Something quick and spectacular is required for that. It is hard not to believe there must be a very real chance of action being taken against shipping in the Straits of Hormuz, which Iran can do with little prior preparation. Missile attacks on Saudi Arabia or Israel are also well within Iran’s capability, but it seems more probable that Iran will wish to strike a US target rather than a proxy. An Ambassador may be assassinated. Further missile strikes against US outposts in Iraq are also possible. All of these scenarios could very quickly lead to disastrous escalation.

In the short term, Trump in this situation needs either to pull out troops from Iraq or massively to reinforce them. The UK does not have the latter option, having neither men nor money, and should remove its 1400 troops now. Whether the “triumph” of killing Suleimani gives Trump enough political cover for an early pullout – the wise move – I am unsure. 2020 is going to be a very dangerous year indeed.

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Beneath Contempt

The ruling caste of Saudi Arabia present the most striking example in world history of the extreme combination of avarice and personal cowardice. They are gagging for a war with Iran so long as somebody else fights it for them. Due to a dispute over who ought to have been Caliph 1400 years ago they are absolutely champing at the bit for somebody to massacre the Shia in the Shia heartland, provided they don’t have to do the massacring. It is not that they object to blood on their pure white robes, they often get that when executing a bound prisoner or raping the housemaid. But the thought of their own blood being spilt is an abomination. Let some helpful young Israelis or Americans risk fighting the Iranians, while the Saudi rulers sniff their cocaine in their London penthouses.

It is not that Saudi does not have its own military – bombing civilian Shia Houthis from a great height with no chance of retaliation is great sport. And there were some actual Saudis in some of the tanks sent in to massacre the unarmed democracy demonstrators of Bahrain. But the world’s greatest spender per capita on weapons systems has no intention that its own elite should do any fighting. No matter how relentlessly Israel, abetted by the United States, persists in the slow genocide of the Palestinian people, Saudi will always remain a firm US and Israeli ally, because the biggest coward always hides behind the biggest bully. From that position Saudi Arabia will use all its money and influence to promote military action against Iran – by others.

The British government, having armed, supplied, trained and lent special forces to the enduring Saudi massacre of Houthi civilians in Yemen, is horrified and full of condemnation that the Houthis have the temerity to hit back at an oil facility. The attack by drones was a brilliant bit of assymetric warfare that shows money is not everything in war. For US Vice President Mike Pence, after meeeting Mohammed Bin “Chopper” Salman, to denounce this attack as “An act of war” is pretty otiose. There are many thousands of mutilated or orphaned Houthi children who could have told him there was a war on, had he bothered to talk to them rather than their oppressor.

It is an act of massive folly for the West to get drawn in to the Sunni/Shia small wars that rage across the Middle East and risk blowing them into something much larger. We do not have a “side” in an Islamic sectarian divide which everybody should be seeking to heal, not to exacerbate. There is no genuine western interest at play here other than a desire to bolster Israel and its Saudi alliance. The demonisation and crippling by sanctions of Iran, with its profound and ancient culture and massive human capital and economic potential, is a major mistake.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Has the Elite’s Slavish pro-Israel Agenda Finally Gone Too Far?

Hezbollah’s defeat of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the July war of 2006 was heroic and an essential redress to the Middle East power balance. I supported Hezbollah’s entirely defensive action then and I continue to applaud it now. That, beyond any shadow of a doubt, makes me guilty ofn the criminal offence of “glorifying terrorism”, now that Sajid Javid has proscribed Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation. I am unrepentant and look forward to the prosecution.

A large majority of the public, and certainly almost everyone who remembers that 2006 invasion, would revolt from my being prosecuted on those grounds. The very absurdity of it is a sure measure that Sajid Javid has simply gone too far in naming Hezbollah – the legitimate political party representing in parliament the majority rural population in Southern Lebanon – as a terrorist organisation.

Together with the largely manufactured “Corbyn anti-semitism” row, Javid’s move is aimed at achieving in the UK the delegitimisation of political opposition to Israeli aggression and absorption of the occupied territories and the Golan Heights, in the way that has been achieved in the USA. However, there is a much better educated population in the UK and a great deal of popular awareness of decades of Israeli crimes. In fact, the continuing resilience of the Labour vote shows that at least over a third of the British population does not buy the “anti-semitism” tag applied to all those concerned at the continued plight of the Palestinians.

Hezbollah has never been implicated in any terrorist attack on the UK. Its military posture in Southern Lebanon vis a vis Israel is entirely defensive; it evolved as a military force in reaction to wave after wave of Israeli invasion of Lebanon, in which the Israeli “Defence” Force casually decimated Shia communities en route to attacking Palestinian refugee camps. Hezbollah has never invaded Israel. Hezbollas played an effective and laudable role in assisting the defeat of Isis and their Jihadist allies in Syria.

Oh look, I just “glorified terrorism” again.

Javid’s move is primarily aimed at pleasing Israel and looking to score political points over Jeremy Corbyn, whose past contacts with Hezbollah can now be deemed terrorist. But it is also a move to please the UK elite’s other paymaster, Mohammed Bin Salman, by further forwarding his attempt to delegitimise and to subjugate Arab Shia communities. Coupled with the irony of announcing DFID support of £200 million for Yemeni victims of our very own bombs and “military support”, this is a shameful week for British foreign policy.

I first became devoted to the Palestinian cause as a first year student at Dundee University, when I watched a film about Israeli destruction of Palestinian olive trees in the occupied territories, to devastate their economic base and force families to leave. That film made me cry.

It is a matter of despair that, 42 years later, this practice continues, and indeed has been ongoing for that entire time. I find this almost as heinous as the continuing killing and imprisonment of Palestinian children. I find it a useful exercise every morning to ask yourself this question:

How many children has the Israeli “Defence” Force killed since the MSM last reported one?

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The Blog That Reaches The Parts

Delighted to be back in Edinburgh after a fascinating three weeks in Pakistan. I left Pakistan two days after the Kashmir flare-up and just as Mohammed Bin Salman arrived, and you will be hearing my thoughts on this much neglected but vital country further over the next few days.

As I return, the Corrupt Seven are leaving the Labour Party and being much feted for their general Toryness, a quality they hold in common with the large majority of remaining Labour MPs, who calculate staying on is a better bet to preserve their incomes at present. I have missed an appalling official report from Frances Cairncross, who advocates that in order to ensure that we get our proper dose of official propaganda we should be obliged to pay with our taxes to subsidise newspapers which nobody wants to buy. This ties in with the report yesterday by MPs advocating more governmental control of Facebook to tighten the permitted narrative still further.

Much for me to get my teeth into; just give me a chance to unpack.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the articles, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Continued American Occupation of the Middle East Does Not Suppress Terrorism, It Causes It

Even the neo-con warmongers’ house journal The Guardian, furious at Trump’s attempts to pull US troops out of Syria, in producing a map to illustrate its point, could only produce one single, uncertain, very short pen stroke to describe the minute strip of territory it claims ISIS still control on the Iraqi border.

Of course, the Guardian produces the argument that continued US military presence is necessary to ensure that ISIS does not spring back to life in Syria. The fallacy of that argument can be easily demonstrated. In Afghanistan, the USA has managed to drag out the long process of humiliating defeat in war even further than it did in Vietnam. It is plain as a pikestaff that the presence of US occupation troops is itself the best recruiting sergeant for resistance. In Sikunder Burnes I trace how the battle lines of tribal alliances there today are precisely the same ones the British faced in 1841. We just attach labels like Taliban to hide the fact that invaders face national resistance.

The secret to ending the strength of ISIS in Syria is not the continued presence of American troops. It is for America’s ever closer allies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to cut off the major artery of money and arms, which we should never forget in origin and for a long time had a strong US component. The US/Saudi/Israeli alliance against Iran is the most important geo-political factor in the region today. It is high time this alliance stopped both funding ISIS and pretending to fight it; schizophrenia is not a foreign policy stance.

There has been no significant Shia Islamic terrorist or other threat against the West in recent years. 9/11 was carried out by Saudi Sunni militants. Al Qaida, ISIS, Al Nusra, Boko Haram, these are all Sunni groups, and all Saudi sponsored. It is a matter of lunacy that the West has adopted the posture that it is Iran – which has sponsored not one attack on the West in recent memory – which is the threat in the Middle East.

The origin of this stance appears to lie in the fact that the Shia group Hezbollah proved to have the only military force among Israel’s neighbours capable of halting an Israeli invasion. After the disastrous invasion of Iraq resulted in an Iran friendly regime in Baghdad, the US decided for balance of power reasons to back Saudi regional power plays, only for Saudi Arabia to fall into the hands of the psychopathic warmonger Mohammed Bin Salman who escalated an already flawed policy to breaking point.

The chaos of this incoherent and counterproductive strategy is, peculiarly enough, what the neocons actually want. Perpetual war and destabilisation in the Middle East is their goal. One of the findings I had not expected to discover in writing Sikunder Burnes was that the British had been deliberately exploiting and exacerbating the Shia/Sunni divide as early as 1836 to the Imperial purpose. Today, by keeping Arab populations poor and politically divided, the neo-cons believe that they enhance the security of Israel, and they certainly do facilitate the access of western companies to the oil and gas of the region, as we see in destabilised Iraq and Libya.

The Clintons and Blair were the apotheosis of the capture of the mainstream “left” political parties by this neo-con Imperialist agenda in the Middle East. Sanders, Trump and Corbyn were the first politicians with any chance of power for many decades who did not pay lip-service to the neo-con agenda. Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for Cold War politics has been neutralised from any possible action on his part by the ludicrous lie that Russia hacked his election. Furthermore his greed has led to deals with Saudi Arabia which have largely undercut his declared preference for non-interventionism. And now in Syria, the very hint that Trump may not be fully committed to the pursuit of perpetual war has the entire neo-con establishment, political media and NGO, screaming in unison, both sides of the Atlantic.

I have written before that Trump may be a rotten President for Americans, but at least he has not initiated a major war; and I am quite sure Hillary would have done by now. For a non-American, the choice between Hillary and Trump ended up in balancing on one side of the scale the evil of millions more killed and maimed in the Middle East and the launching of a full on, unreserved new Cold War, against on the other side of the scale poorer Americans having very bad healthcare and social provision and America adopting racist immigration policies. I do hope that the neo-con barrage today arguing for more American troops in the Middle East, will help people remember just how very unattractive also is the Hillary side of the equation.

It is also very helpful in revealing the startling unanimity of our bought and paid for political, media and NGO class here in the UK.

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Khashoggi, Erdogan and the Truth

The Turkish account of the murder of Khashoggi given by President Erdogan is true, in every detail. Audio and video evidence exists and has been widely shared with world intelligence agencies, including the US, UK, Russia and Germany, and others which have a relationship with Turkey or are seen as influential. That is why, despite their desperate desire to do so, no Western country has been able to maintain support for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. I have not seen the video from inside the consulate, but have been shown stills which may be from a video. The most important thing to say is that they are not from a fixed position camera and appear at first sight consistent with the idea they are taken by a device brought in by the victim. I was only shown them briefly. I have not heard the audio recording.

There are many things to learn from the gruesome murder other than the justified outrage at the event itself. It opens a window on the truly horrible world of the extremely powerful and wealthy.

The first thing to say is that the current Saudi explanation, that this was an intended interrogation and abduction gone wrong, though untrue, does have one thing going for it. It is their regular practice. The Saudis have for years been abducting dissidents abroad and returning them to the Kingdom to be secretly killed. The BBC World Service often contains little pockets of decent journalism not reflected in its main news outlets, and here from August 2017 is a little noticed piece on the abduction and “disappearance” of three other senior Saudis between 2015-17. Interestingly, while the piece was updated this month, it was not to include the obvious link to the Khashoggi case.

The key point is that European authorities turned a completely blind eye to the abductions in that BBC report, even when performed on European soil and involving physical force. The Saudi regime was really doing very little different in the Khashoggi case. In fact, inside Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi was a less senior and important figure than those other three abducted then killed, about whom nobody kicked up any fuss, even though the truth was readily available. Mohammed Bin Salman appears to have made two important miscalculations: he misread Erdogan and he underestimated the difference which Khashoggi’s position as a Washington Post journalist made to political pressure on Western governments.

Khashoggi should not himself be whitewashed. He had a long term professional association with the Saudi security services which put him on the side of prolific torturers and killers for decades. That does not in any sense justify his killing. But it is right to be deeply sceptical of the democratic credentials of Saudis who were in with the regime and have become vocal for freedom and democracy only after being marginalised by Mohammed Bin Salman’s ruthless consolidation of power (which built on a pre-existing trend).

The same scepticism is true many times over when related to CIA Director Gina Haspel, who personally supervised torture in the CIA torture and extraordinary rendition programme. Haspel was sent urgently to Ankara by Donald Trump to attempt to deflect Erdogan from any direct accusation of Mohammed Bin Salman in his speech yesterday. MBS’ embrace of de facto alliance with Israel, in pursuit of his fanatic hatred of Shia Muslims, is the cornerstone of Trump’s Middle East policy.

Haspel’s brief was very simple. She took with her intercept intelligence that purportedly shows massive senior level corruption in the Istanbul Kanal project, and suggested that Erdogan may not find it a good idea if intelligence agencies started to make public all the information they hold.

Whether Erdogan held back in his speech yesterday as a result of Haspel’s intervention I do not know. Erdogan may be keeping cards up his sleeve for his own purpose, particularly relating to intercepts of phone and Skype calls from the killers direct to MBS’ office. I have an account of Haspel’s brief from a reliable source, but have not been updated on who she then met, or what the Turks said to her. It does seem very probable, from Trump’s shift in position this morning to indicate MBS may be involved, that Haspel was convinced the Turks have further strong evidence and may well use it.

Meantime, the British government maintains throughout that, whatever else happens, British factories will continue to supply bombs to Saudi Arabia to massacre children on school buses and untold numbers of other civilians. Many Tory politicians remain personally in Saudi pockets, with former Defence Minister Michael Fallon revealed today as being amongst them.

It is of course extraordinary that Saudi war crimes in Yemen, its military suppression of democracy in Bahrain, its frequent executions of dissidents, human rights defenders, and Shia religious figures, even its arrests of feminists, have had little impact in the West. But the horrible murder of Khashoggi has caught the public imagination and forced western politicians to at least pretend to want to do something about the Saudis whose wealth they crave. I expect any sanctions will be smoke and mirrors.

Mohammed Bin Salman is no fool, and he realises that to punish members of his personal security detail who were just following his orders, would put him in the position of Caligula and the Praetorian Guard, and not tend to his long term safety. Possibly people will be reassigned, or there will be brief imprisonments till nobody is looking. If I were a dissident or Shia in Saudi Arabia who bore any kind of physical resemblance to any of the party of murderers, I would get out very quick.

With every sympathy for his horrible murder, Khashoggi and his history as a functionary of the brutal Saudi regime should not be whitewashed. Mohammed Bin Salman is directly responsible for his murder, and if there is finally international understanding that he is a dangerous psychopath, that is a good thing. You will forgive me for saying that I explained this back in March whilst the entire mainstream media, awash with Saudi PR cash, was praising him as a great reformer. For the Americans to deploy Gina Haspel gives us a welcome reminder that they are in absolutely no position to moralise. Whatever comes of this will not be “justice”. The truth the leads can reveal is much wider than the narrow question of the murder incident, as I hope this article sketches out. That the fallout derails to some extent the murder machine in Yemen is profoundly to be hoped.

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Why the “Two State Solution” is Apartheid


I expect you are all familiar with the maps showing the radical shrinking of Palestinian land over 70 years due to the expansion of colonial Israeli settlement. Startling and appalling, yes, but to me they bring back strong memories of other maps, in a precisely analogous situation, which goes to the heart of why Israel is an apartheid state.

The original apartheid state of South Africa created “homelands”, known colloquially as “bantustans”, and proposed that, as the apotheosis of apartheid, these “homelands” would become independent states and house the majority black population of the country in fenced-off areas which had been too arid, rocky or commercial mineral free to attract significant white settlement over three centuries of theft. South Africa actually did recognise some of these as Independent states, while the rest were supposed to be on a course to recognition.

The maps really do bring out the startling similarity between these two attempts to formalise the dispossession of the original people. Thankfully, even though the “Homelands solution” had its supporters including Thatcher, it never achieved support beyond what was then an extreme right wing view, and none of the “independent states” ever achieved international recognition.

I worked in the FCO as the South Africa (Political) desk officer from 1984-6, and seeing off right wing Tory lobbying to adopt the Homelands policy was a major problem. It is simply symptomatic of the extraordinary right wing shift in western politics over the intervening three decades, that a “Bantustan” solution for Palestine, laughably called a “two state solution”, is now the accepted wisdom of the political and media class.

The proposal is precisely analogous to South Africa not only because of the displacement of the original population into separated enclosures, but because it leaves the bulk of the land in the hands of a colonial population, whose identity and exclusivity is specifically enshrined in law by ethnicity. Israel’s adoption this year of a new nation state law putting the state on an officially racist basis only confirmed the reality encapsulated in a raft of hundreds of other laws and regulations. The harsh discriminatory regime faced by non-Jews in Israel has been exhaustively documented, and it is not my purpose to repeat it here. I recommend this lecture by Ben White:

Many of the practices Ben describes have strong echoes of the apartheid regime, as do the disregard for Black/Palestinian life, the regular use of disproportionate lethal force against protestors, the mass arrests and detentions, the impunity for both law enforcers and “master race” civilians who attack blacks/Palestinians. These features are highly analogous.

But what I want to address here is the striking similarity between the arguments used by supporters of apartheid, with which I dealt every day at the FCO, and the arguments used today by supporters of Israel. They came by post thirty years ago not internet, and we did not use the word meme, but the key arguments are exactly the same.

We are outnumbered, we will be murdered in our beds.

Supporters of apartheid argued constantly that, as there were more black than white people in South Africa, they would be powerless in a single, democratic South Africa and would be dispossessed and murdered. Bloodcurdling quotes from black nationalists, some real, some invented, would be recycled continually as evidence that a peaceful united South Africa was not possible. A unitary democratic state, it was frequently asserted, would inevitably be followed by a massacre of the white population.

I think it is extremely important to state that the white South Africans arguing this, and their overseas supporters, genuinely believed it at the time. In 1984-6, they really did think majority rule would mean massacre.

I hear precisely the same argument from Israelis and their supporters today. A single state encompassing Israel and Palestine is not possible because they would be outnumbered. Exactly as in South Africa then, these assertions are often accompanied by an obsession with racial demographics and birth rates. And exactly as in South Africa then, the Israelis today really have been taught actually to believe this – that they will all be massacred unless the original population is corralled and viciously controlled.

In fact, of course, no such thing occurred in South Africa. The capacity of a subject people for forgiveness once released is generally surprising. It turns out that it is vicious racial overlordship, as opposed to subjection, which sooner develops psychopathy in a nation. Indeed, remarkably the South African government is only now taking the first tentative steps towards long overdue land reform.

The Land Was Empty Before We Colonised It

White supremacists had put an enormous amount of effort into arguing that the part of Africa most free of disease and amenable to human population, was remarkably free of humans before the arrival of the colonists. The amount of historical distortion involved in this was mind-boggling, and it has been comprehensively debunked since.

It is however remarkable how exactly the same arguments are repeated by Israelis and their supporters who make a variety of ahistoric claims: that the Naqba never happened, that the Palestinians always lived herded together in the Gaza strip, that there is no such thing as a Palestinian identity, and that illegal West Bank settlements are built upon previously unoccupied land.

The Only Democracy in the Region

This claim was made repeatedly by both South Africans and Israelis. It depended on the notion that black South Africans were not South African citizens, but could exercise their democratic rights within the “Homelands”, precisely as Israel argues that the millions of displaced Palestinians are not Israeli citizens but can exercise their democratic rights within the Palestinian occupied territories they were herded to. And again, this argument was rejected with derision by the Western media and political class in the South African case, but to query it in the Israeli case is well outside the Overton window.

The Original Population Are Better Off

A rehash of the Imperial argument that governance by the master race brings economic benefits to the colonised, it was continually asserted that Black South Africans enjoyed better working conditions than any other Africans. Similarly Israel claims that by permitting its caged Palestinian labour force to commute into Israeli factories from their camps, it is helping the Palestinian people.

If you scroll down the replies to this tweet, made at the time of the Gaza demonstration massacre, you will find numerous examples of all of the above arguments being put forward by supporters of Israel. I really had not expected to find myself still fighting apartheid in 2018, let alone in a situation where it is viewed by the Establishment as the acceptable solution.

I do not accept the arguments of any proponent of a “two state solution”, any more than I accepted the arguments of the supporters of apartheid South Africa. It is an essential work to convince people that, despite the massive backing of the media and politicians for it, the “two state” solution represents nothing but the ultimate sanctification of apartheid Israel.

The disgraceful shift of Saudi Arabia to close alliance with Israel and the USA to pursue an obsessive fight against the interests of Shia Muslims everywhere, has hopefully lost some traction after it has become impossible to deny that Mohammed Bin Salman is the psychopath his actions, especially in Yemen but also against peaceful democratic dissidents, had long revealed him to be. The Salman/Kushner plan for an ultra-fragmented Palestinian “state” with its capital in an obscure outer suburb of Jerusalem may have been dealt a mortal blow in the diplomatic world.

The only potential resolution of the situation in Palestine must involve justice and dignity for all. That solution requires the abolition of apartheid Israel and its replacement by a unitary, democratic state blind to race and religion. That is no more impossible in Palestine than it was in South Africa. The fears of those who believe it is not possible, are just as implausible as the fears of apartheid supporters 30 years ago,

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Importing Jihadi Terror to the UK – Cui Bono?

If Osama Bin Laden was not sufficient warning that decades of money, arms and other support from the Western security services does not render a jihadi a friend of the West, then the Manchester bomber, Salman Abedi, should have opened British eyes forever to the danger. In collaboration with MI5, Abedi had been fighting in the ongoing proxy war for Western oil interests in Libya, before being rescued by the Royal Navy. Back home in Manchester, he carried out an attack of appalling violence against a primarily young and female target group.

So it would be very foolish indeed to rely on the fact that the jihadi logistic support and propaganda group the White Helmets is largely British government funded, to expect its members who are now, like Abedi, being brought into the UK, to behave as quiet citizens. The links of the White Helmets to Al-Nusra and Al-Shams and other jihadi groups are deep – they chose to be evacuated to Idlib together from numerous sites. The reason there is no substantial corpus of independently filmed evidence of the White Helmets’ work is that they co-operate with people who would chop off western journalists’ heads on sight. In many well-attested cases, they are the same people.

In ending all funding to the White Helmets, the Dutch government did not wish to be confrontational towards the other neo-conservative governments who are funding and exploiting the propaganda from the White Helmets. Their report was therefore diplomatically phrased. Funding for the White Helmets may have “inadvertently” fallen into the hands of armed extremists, while unacceptable contact between the White Helmets and extreme jihadists was “inevitable” in the areas they operated.

Thanks to social media, there is an awareness among the UK’s general population of who the White Helmets really are, that belies the solidarity of the entire political and media class in maintaining the official fiction. Even the arch government supporting Daily Telegraph in reporting the story of White Helmets’ admittance to the UK, has a majority of readers’ comments pointing out the true nature of the White Helmets. (Being a Tory paper, there are naturally other comments which are simply Islamophobic).

Which is of course the irony of this. Entirely innocent British Muslims face the day to day surveillance state harassment of the Prevent programme, where Muslim students pursuing security studies are reported to the police for reading books on terrorism, and school pupils are reported for expressing opposition to the mass bombing of Libya by NATO or arms sales to Saudi Arabia. I cannot give a talk in a university about Palestine without a Prevent strategy risk assessment being formally compiled by the university authorities and approved by the police.

Yet not only has the largest terrorist attack of the last decade been committed by somebody working with MI5 and brought into the country by the Royal Navy, we are now importing jihadis with no prior connection to the UK other than receipt of British government funding.

Britain has never had larger or better-funded security services. As a major economic interest in its own right, the “security industry” has grown into a major component of the military industrial complex. Just as the arms industry requires external enemies, the security industry requires internal enemies. It is notable that many of the “foiled” terrorist plots of the last decade involved prior MI5 contact, sometimes bordering on agent provocateur operations. “Prevent” produces enemies who are not actually enemies at all.

Nobody has consciously decided to import the White Helmets to maintain the internal terrorist threat in the UK. But institutions, on analysis over time, almost always promote their institutional interest. Increasing the terrorist threat in the UK undeniably serves the economic self-interest of the security industry. Just as the promotion of war and internal tension has always benefited the arms industry and the rest of the military industrial complex. Importing the White Helmets into the UK is obviously nuts if your purpose is to minimise jihadi activity in the UK. So we have to ask, is that really the purpose?

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Trump’s Act of American Hubris

The United States is so far doing virtually no trade with Iran anyway. In 2017 total US exports to Iran were just 138 million dollars, and total imports a mere 63 million dollars, figures entirely insignificant to the US economy. By contrast, for the EU as a whole imports and exports to Iran were each a very much more substantial 8 billion dollars in 2017 and projected to rise to over 10 billion dollars in 2018.

There is one very significant US deal in the pipeline, for sale of Boeing aircraft, worth $18 billion dollars. It will now be cancelled.

Which brings us to the crux of the argument. Can America make its will hold? Airbus also has orders from Iran of over US$20 billion, and it is assumed those orders will be stopped too, because Airbus planes contain parts and technology licensed from the US. It is possible, but unlikely, that the US could grant a waiver to Airbus – highly unlikely because Boeing would be furious.

Now even a $20 billion order is probably in itself not quite big enough for Airbus to redevelop aircraft to be built without the US parts or technology (which constitute about 8% of the cost of an airbus). But the loss of a $20 billion order on such capricious grounds is certainly big enough for Airbus to look to future long term R & D to develop aircraft not vulnerable to US content blocking. And if Iran were to dangle the Boeing order towards Airbus too, a $38 billion order is certainly big enough for Airbus to think about what adaptations may be possible on a timescale of years not decades.

Read across from aircraft to many other industries. In seeking to impose unilateral sanctions against the express wishes of its “old” European allies, the USA is betting that it has sufficient global economic power, in alliance with its “new” Israeli and Saudi allies, to force the Europeans to bend to its will. This is plainly a very rash act of global geopolitics. It is perhaps an even more rash economic gamble.

We are yet to see the detail, but by all precedent Trump’s Iran sanctions will also sanction third country companies which trade with Iran, at the least through attacking their transactions through US financial institutions and by sanctioning their US affiliates. But at a time when US share of the world economy and world trade is steadily shrinking, this encouragement to European and Asian companies to firewall and minimise contact with the US is most unlikely to be long term beneficial to the US. In particular, in a period where it is already obvious that the years of the US dollar’s undisputed dominance as the world currency of reference are drawing to a close, the incentive to employ non-US linked means of financial transaction will add to an already highly significant global trend.

In short, if the US fails to prevent Europe and Asia’s burgeoning trade with Iran – and I think they will fail – this moment will be seen by historians as a key marker in US decline as a world power.

I have chosen not to focus on the more startling short term dangers of war in the Middle East, and the folly of encouraging Saudi Arabia and Israel in their promotion of sustained violence against Iranian interests throughout the region, as I have very written extensively on that subject. But the feeling of empowerment Trump will have given to his fellow sociopaths Netanyahu and Mohammed Bin Salman bodes very ill indeed for the world at present.

I shall be most surprised if we do not see increased US/Israeli/Saudi sponsored jihadist attacks in Syria, and in Lebanon following Hezbollah’s new national electoral victory. Hezbollah’s democratic advance has stunned and infuriated the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia but been reported very sparsely in the MSM, as it very much goes against the neo-con narrative. It does not alter the positions of President or Prime Minister, constitutionally allocated by religion, but it does increase Hezbollah’s power in the Lebanese state, and thus Iranian influence.

Iran is a difficult country to predict. I hope they will stick to the agreement and wait to see how Europe is able to adapt, before taking any rash decisions. They face, however, not only the provocation of Trump but the probability of a renewed wave of anti-Shia violence from Pakistan to Lebanon, designed to provoke Iran into reaction. These will be a tense few weeks. I do not think even Netanyahu is crazy enough to launch an early air strike on Iran itself, but I would not willingly bet my life on it.

The problem is, with Russia committed to holding a military balance in the Middle East, all of us are betting our lives on it.

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Just Who’s Pulling the Strings?

March 4 2018 Sergei and Yulia Skripal are attacked with a nerve agent in Salisbury

March 6 2018 Boris Johnson blames Russia and calls Russia “a malign force”

March 7 2018 Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia arrives in London for an official visit

March 13 2018 Valeri Gerasimov, Russian Chief of General Staff, states that Russia has intelligence a fake chemical attack is planned against civilians in Syria as a pretext for US bombing of Damascus, and that Russia will respond militarily.

March 19 2018 Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia arrives in Washington for an official visit

April 8 2018 Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia arrives in Paris for an official visit

April 8 2018 Saudi funded jihadist groups Jaysh al Islam and Tahrir al-Sham and UK funded jihadist “rescue group” The White Helmets claim a chemical weapons attack occurred in their enclave of Douma the previous day – just before its agreed handover to the Syrian army – and blame the Syrian government.

April 11 2018 Saudi Arabia pledges support for attack on Syria

April 14 2018 US/UK/French attack on Syria begins.

I have always denied the UK’s claim that only Russia had a motive to attack the Skripals. To denigrate Russia internationally by a false flag attack pinning the blame on Russia, always seemed to me more likely than for the Russians to do that to themselves. And from the start I pointed to the conflict in Syria as a likely motive. That puts Saudi Arabia (and its client jihadists), Saudi Arabia’s close ally Israel, the UK and the USA all in the frame in having a powerful motive in inculcating anti-Russian sentiment prior to planned conflict with Russia in Syria. Any of them could have attacked the Skripals.

Today, Theresa May is claiming -astonishingly – that the UK attack on Syria is “to deter chemical weapons attacks in Syria and the UK”. I don’t think the motive for a Skripal false flag could be more starkly demonstrated.

We do not yet know how many children and other civilians have died so far in what the media always pretend are magically “pinpoint” attacks on Syria. Denying the “collateral damage” is part of the neo-con playbook. The danger is that they will not stop but continue to push, testing how far they can go in weakening Syrian government forces to promote their jihadist allies on the ground, before they spark a real Russian reaction. That way madness lies.

It is also worth noting that the most ardent supporters of this military action, outside Saudi Arabia and Israel, are the Blairites in the UK and the Clinton Democrats in the USA. The self-described “centrists” are actually the unhinged extremists in today’s politics.

This attack on Syria is, beyond doubt, a huge success for the machinations of Mohammed Bin Salman. Please do read my post of 8 March which sets out the background to his agenda, and I believe is essential to why we find our nations in military action again today. Despite the fact the vast majority of the people do not want this.

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Roll of Shame

These are the 15 countries which shamefully voted against a UN General Assembly Resolution on Thursday which proposed to seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice on Britain’s continued colonial possession of the Chagos Islands. In the most absolute example of ethnic cleansing in modern history, less than 50 years ago the UK deported by force the entire population of the Chagos Islands to make way for the US military base on Diego Garcia, and to this day refuses to allow them to return.

The Dirty 15

USA
UK
Israel
Australia
New Zealand

The above are of course arguably the five countries in the world most profoundly implicated in the usurpation and destruction of native populations

Afghanistan
Albania
Bulgaria
Croatia
Hungary
Japan
Lithuania
Maldives
Montenegro
South Korea

This second small group is dominated by countries with a particularly close security relationship with the United States on which they place particular reliance in relation to a perceived threat.

It must however be heartening that the US and UK could round up so very few supporters for their utterly immoral stance. It is particularly worth noting that none of the major players within the EU backed the UK.

The US and UK are also remarkably silent on the blockade of Qatar by their ally Saudi Arabia. The release of Saudi demands including the closing down of Al Jazeera TV and other media outlets including the excellent Middleeasteye.net show the Saudis’ true motives. Frankly I am shocked by the failure of the mainstream media in the West seriously to question the ludicrous Saudi claim that this attack on Qatar is over support for terrorism.

Mohammed Bin Salman was appointed by his father the King as Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia on 21 June. Bin Salman has been directing the major affairs of the state for the last three years. The ferocity of the prosecution of the war in Yemen is very much his baby. Bin Salman’s master plan, which he has driven through with much skill, is for a far more aggressive Saudi Arabia leading the conservative forces in the Middle East, above all in fierce opposition to Iran and Shia interests. To this end he has forged a conservative alliance incorporating Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and the United States.

US and UK involvement in the war in Yemen goes beyond the enthusiastic supply of the bombs and aircraft which have killed thousands of children. Both have had special forces on the ground, and the CIA has yet again been deeply implicated in the detention, extreme torture and murder of opponents.

The Bin Salman plan is dressed up as “pro-Western” and media hacks paint him as a “reformer” because he wishes to expand a network of McDonalds in the Kingdom. But as Iran slowly does reform, and sticks meticulously to the terms of the internationally guaranteed nuclear agreement, Saudi paranoia towards its regional “rival” becomes ever more dangerous. The Iranians deserve respect for the moderation with which they reacted to the Saudi sponsored terror attack on their parliament itself. But such provocations will increase.

Saudi support for ISIL, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra and the numerous other jihadist groups will only increase as Saudi Arabia seeks to deploy them in its sectarian war against the Shia and their allies. For that reason there is no prospect of terrorist violence in Syria declining. Indeed the United States shooting down of a Syrian jet in “self-defence” was almost certainly an indication that the Syrians were at the time targeting jihadist forces reinforced by US special forces. Israeli bombing and missile sorties against Syrian regime targets in support of jihadist rebels are finally being regularly reported in mainstream media.

I do not hold up Qatar or its ruling aristocracy as a paragon of virtue. But it seeks a more pacific relationship with Iran, and has more developed economic relationships including on shared offshore fields. Qatar has also consistently shown greater interest in the plight of the Palestinians, and more scepticism towards Israel, than Bin Salman is happy with. Qatar also has problems with the brutal military dictatorship of Egypt.

Most worryingly to Saudi Arabia, these slightly more liberal attitudes are closer to the views of the “arab street”, where there is disquiet at Saudi Arabia’s obvious but officially denied relationship with Israel. Qatar also has a media which can reflect these views to a wider Arab audience. Even though, following previous Saudi threats, al Jazeera’s content has been toned down, the Saudis see the station as an intolerable direct threat.

There is public fatigue in the West with regard to the affairs of the Middle East. This is a mistake as the situation is more dangerous than ever. The UK and USA both look likely to support the Saudis and Israel in their determination for conflict with Iran. The EU and Russia – and anybody not harbouring a death wish – will be working to keep the Iranian nuclear deal together. Bin Salman has chosen his time well, with slightly crazed right wing regimes in Washington, London and Tel Aviv willing to back his adventurism. The blockade of Qatar is but a symptom of something much more dangerous.

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COLLECTED WORKS

A volume of speeches, writings and interviews from when I first turned whistleblower is now available on Amazon. Many thanks to Kirsten who conceived and carried through the idea. My contribution was the totally non-controversial title to broaden the appeal! It includes some of the very first articles on this blog, which were only read by about 1,000 people.inBin

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That Critical Threat

The news from Manchester continues to horrify as each individual tragedy gets confirmed in all its heart-rending detail.

In my two posts in the immediate aftermath of the Manchester bombing, I concluded:

If it was a home made bomb, it was a remarkably powerful one. It would be very unusual for a lone terrorist to be able to make a bomb this powerful. It is hard to think of any incident where an individual acting entirely alone has successfully done that.

It has become plain that the reason the critical warning has been declared (which is British for State of Emergency) is that the security services believe such a powerful portable bomb almost certainly requires organisational support to build it. I was subject to accusations that I was secretly suggesting that this attack was perpetrated by the British state, in order to influence the election. It is undoubtedly true that the timing of the attack is remarkable – it came as Tory poll ratings were plummeting, Theresa May had just made the screeching U-turn or pretended U-turn on social care, and then appeared totally out of her depth in the Andrew Neil interview, destroying her “who do you trust” narrative.

In fact, nothing I wrote can in any way be construed as indicating I thought that the British state was implicated in the attack. For the record, I do not think it is remotely likely the British state was implicated in the attack. I knew a lot of senior people in the security services, and a few in special forces, and there is not a single one I suspect would do this kind of thing, or not actively seek to stop it if they came across it. I simply discount the idea.

But the election is the elephant in the room. We cannot pretend this has no impact on the election. Historians will look back at how this did or did not affect the course of the election.

I have a number of concerns. The first is that I argued that the Russian referendum in Crimea was not legitimate because you can’t have a free and fair election with troops patrolling the streets. I still hold that view about the Crimea, and I have real concerns about proceeding with the election during, in effect, a state of emergency.

The second point is that, because I rule out a British government false flag, that does not mean that I rule out the idea that the timing of the attack was an attempt to affect the course of the election. It seems very likely that it was timed to affect the election, especially when you consider that an attack from the same kind of jihadists occurred in France just before their recent election.

You would have expected an attack with such a sophisticated bomb to be part of a pattern of more or less simultaneous attacks using similar technology. That is what the security services did expect; hence the “Critical” warning. The fact there has so far been only one attack suggests to me that it was brought forward quickly to a target of opportunity due to the snap election.

There are many non-British state and non-state groups which might wish to influence the election. Remember that the very definition of terrorism is violence with a political objective. If it does not have a political objective it is not terrorism. Let me make this observation. The ideology of virtually all “Islamic” terrorism stems from Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is fundamental to the very foundation of the rule of the Saudi royal family. Every known jihadist terrorist group, including ISIS, Al-Nusra, and Al-Qaeda, has received funding from Saudi Arabia. Here is a fascinating article by MI6’s Alastair Crooke on Wahhabism and the “duality” of the superficially hostile ISIS/Saudi relationship. Everything we know about Salman Abedi is consistent with this influence.

Jeremy Corbyn has continually criticised Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record and its devastating attacks on civilians in Yemen. Corbyn has vowed to stop arms supplies to Saudi Arabia. By contrast, Theresa May and her ministers have repeatedly visited Saudi Arabia and positively kowtowed to its rulers, and looked to increase arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Who do you think the Saudi ruling class, the World’s leading sponsors of terrorism, wish to win the General Election?

Furthermore a key part of the Saudi sponsored Sunni terrorist surge is support for Al-Nusra and the other jihadist rebel groups fighting to overthrow Assad in Syria. I do not support Assad, but neither have I ever thought it remotely sane to support a violent conflict to overthrow him and replace him with jihadist head-choppers. Yet the British establishment, and especially the Conservative Party, has been gung-ho to bomb Syria and help the jihadists to replace Assad.

Who has stood against the bombing of Syria and against British military support for the Saudi/jihadist agenda in Syria? Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP.

I have no doubt whatsoever the jihadists would try to influence the election, and try to influence it against Corbyn. As the great journalist John Pilger said yesterday of this possibility that ISIS are trying to influence the election against Corbyn and the SNP:

“They know how to intervene in public discourse every day and in politics every day. So that suggestion may well have a great deal of validity.”

Security issues traditionally play well for the right in an election. At time of attack there is a tendency to rally to authority figures. Rather than a very inadequate politician under fire, the Prime Minister has been able to appear in an entirely unchallenged setting as a figure of patriotism. Let me be 100% clear. It is not that May has done anything wrong; it is just that these effects are what the terrorists are probably counting on.

So in our hearts we must never forget the unfortunate victims of this bombing, so young and with so much talent. We must remember the horribly maimed as well as the dead, and ensure they receive all the support they need. We must condemn without ceasing the disgusting violence that destroys so many lives.

But we must also do something very difficult. We must press in our heads a reset button. We must remain entirely rational in considering the political choices before us, and not allow the incident to affect – in any direction – our political calculation on how to vote. Otherwise that is a major victory for the terrorists.

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But Is Everywhere In Chains

Yesterday 123 people were arrested for demonstrating in St Petersburg and Moscow. They were demonstrating against Putin’s unconstitutional restrictions on freedom of assembly. I have a high opiniion of Mikhail Gorbachev, whose over the top eightieth birthday celebrations were deserved. The truth is that Putin has rolled back almost entirely the personal and political freedoms which Gorbachev initiated. Mary Dejevsky has no problem with this, just as she has no problems puffing the Karimov family. It quite astonishes me that a person holding her opinions is accepted, indeed lionised, in the British media. Mutatis mutandi you could subsititute Putin and Russia for Hitler and Germany in this article throughout.

Yes, we don’t understand why modern Russians love Putin. Nor did we understand why Nazi Germans loved Hitler. And a good thing too.

Talking of eightieth birthdays, it is also this week the eightieth birthday of Dan Ellsberg, who was last week arrested while protesting about the detention conditions of Bradley Manning. The Sam Adams Associates decided to each send Dan, one of our members, a personal congratulatory message. This was mine:

I was sitting in a bar in Kumasi, Ghana, a couple of weeks ago. The bar TV was on Sky News, and a photo flashed up of a distinguished looking gentleman being forcibly led away by an over-armoured policeman.
“Good Lord, that’s Dan!” I said.
“Do you know him?” asked the barman.
“Yes, he’s a friend of mine” I replied. And I felt enormously proud.
I still do.
Your one lifetime has been worth many thousands. Here’s to the next twenty years of telling the truth.

It is quite astonishing that, while we are at war ostensibly to stop abuses of human rights in Libya, the government is pushing legislation to protect the Pinochets of this world – and the Emir of Bahrain, Karimov and all our other allies – from prosecution here for their tortures, rapes, maimings and killings. That this was done by a government including Liberal Democrats beggars belief. There is a good letter in the Guardian:

• We urge MPs to reject clause 152 of the police reform bill tomorrow. Official British statements abroad about our democratic values and commitment to international law are meaningless when our MPs are voting for a clause that would make it considerably more difficult to secure the arrest, in England and Wales, of those suspected of war crimes. We expect our MPs as elected representatives to reject any political interference with the courts and to respect their impartiality.

Our leaders are out of step on this issue: a new ICM poll shows that only 7% of voters would back plans to make it easier for those suspected of war crimes to visit the UK. When citizens are risking their lives protesting for human rights, democratic freedoms, and an independent judiciary in their countries – and especially now Britain’s role in supporting dictatorships is under the spotlight – this is no time to make it harder to arrest suspected war criminals here in the UK.

Bella Freud
Hanif Kureishi
Philip Pullman
Tony Benn
Robert Del Naja
David Gilmour
Polly Sampson
Ahdaf Soueif
Bryan Adams
Karma Nabulsi
Professor Quentin Skinner
John Pilger
Jake Chapman
Vivian Westwood
Noam Chomsky
Ken Loach
Rebecca Hall
Caryl Churchill
Victoria Brittain
Alexei Sayle
Ilan Pappe
William Dalrymple
Bruce Kent
Geoffrey Bindman
John Austin
Baroness Jenny Tonge
Ghada Karmi
Stephen Rose
Hilary Rose
Jeremy Corbyn, MP
Rev Canon Garth Hewitt
Salman Abu Sitta
Kika Markham

Finally, there is an extremely important exchange of articles between George Monbiot and Henry Porter which, if you ignore the personal status battle, makes some truly vital points about Nick Clegg’s failure to deliver on his pledges to roll back New Labour’s assault on personal liberty in the UK. Here are Monbiot and Porter.

It has also become clear that there has been no change in UK collusion with torture abroad. The government has still never said that it will not receive and use intelligence gained by torture abroad, and it will not say so. The much vaunted inquiry promised by Clegg into UK complicity in torture still shows no sign of happening, will be extremely circumscribed in its scope, conducted by the personally compromised commissioner for the intelligence services, and take place largely in secret.

Meanwhile what happened to that other coalition agreement mainstay, a House of Lords wholly elected, by proportional representation? It appears to have been entirely forgotten.

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Torture exportation hides behind ‘extraordinary rendition’

By Salman Rushdie, from The Register Guard

Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the ugliest phrase to enter the English language in 2005 was ”extraordinary rendition.”

To those of us who love words, this phrase’s brutalization of meaning is an infallible signal of its intent to deceive. ”Extraordinary” is an ordinary enough adjective, but its sense is being stretched here to include more sinister meanings that your dictionary will not provide: ”secret,” ”ruthless” and ”extralegal.”

As for ”rendition,” the English language permits four meanings: a performance, a translation, a surrender – this meaning is now considered archaic – or an ”act of rendering,” which leads us to the verb ”to render,” among whose 17 possible meanings you will not find ”to kidnap and covertly deliver an individual or individuals for interrogation to an undisclosed address in an unspecified country where torture is permitted.”

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