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Talk on Alexander Burnes in Montrose Tonight 7.30pm

UPDATE: Video now available

My talk from the George Hotel Montrose will be livestreamed here this evening courtesy of Independence Live.

I feel quite emotional to be giving a talk tonight on Alexander Burnes, just across the road from the home where he was born. At the time of his birth his grandfather, mother and father, three aunts, an uncle and four siblings all lived in the house. The aunts and uncle all died in their early twenties without ever marrying or leaving home. Alexander was to have eleven siblings who survived into adulthood. He used to tend the garden and keep a pet cat and a pet crow(!) along with his favourite little brother Charlie, nine years younger. His proudest moment was when he secured Charlie a cadetship to join the East India company. They were to die together, hacked down in a Kabul garden.

Alexander Burnes and his great-uncle Robert Burns both died at the tragically young age of 37. Robert of course left the greater legacy, but Alexander certainly inherited some of that genius, and in his lifetime had greater fame (and sold more books!) I spent eight years of my life in digging up old records to try to rescue Alexander’s memory from neglect and even malice, and give a fair assessment of his life and tarnished reputation. The great difficulty was the disappearance of so many prime sources.

I shall not be repeating the contents of the book in my talk this evening, but rather talking about my quest and why I thought it was important. I shall be explaining some of the extraordinary things I discovered about the key role of the small burgh of Montrose in the development of British India. And examining why the themes of Burnes’ life keep recurring, and governments fail to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Being a sentimental old fool I like to think Alex and Charlie – who have no known grave or memorial – will be standing at the back of the room smiling with approval.

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Stunning Admission from Obama on Wikileaks

In his final press conference, beginning around 8 minutes 30 seconds in, Obama admits that they have no evidence of how WikiLeaks got the DNC material. This undermines the stream of completely evidence-free nonsense that has been emerging from the US intelligence services this last two months, in which a series of suppositions have been strung together to make unfounded assertions that have been repeated again and again in the mainstream media.

Most crucially of all Obama refers to “The DNC emails that were leaked”. Note “leaked” and not “hacked”. I have been repeating that this was a leak, not a hack, until I am blue in the face. William Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA, has asserted that were it a hack the NSA would be able to give the precise details down to the second it occurred, and it is plain from the reports released they have no such information. Yet the media has persisted with this nonsense “Russian hacking” story.

Obama’s reference to the “the DNC emails that were leaked” appears very natural, fluent and unforced. It is good to have the truth finally told.

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Chelsea Manning Adds a Glow to the Day

I cannot tell you how delighted I am that Chelsea Manning is going to be released. Having done so much to reveal the truly sordid nature on the ground of the USA’s neo-Imperial aggression, Manning is a true hero. It is a shame that Obama is forcing her to undergo another five months of a truly hellish prison sentence, but still there is now an end in sight.

All of which adds to the mystery of Obama. He launched the most vicious War on Whistleblowers ever in American history. Obama’s people even went for whistleblowers like Bill Binney and Tom Drake of the NSA, whose whistleblowing happened pre-Obama but who Bush had not sought to persecute. So freeing a whistleblower is the least likely act of clemency to be expected.

Of course this all feeds in to the question of whether Obama is a good man frustrated or a charlatan all along, as a tick in the good man frustrated column. I still tend to the man with decent instincts who at the end of the day didn’t care enough to really fight for them.

The other good news is that Abdel Hakim Belhadj has been granted permission by the Supreme Court to sue Jack Straw and Mark Allen for his extraordinary rendition and torture. The unanimous dismissal of the argument of sovereign immunity is extremely important, as it rolls back the assertion that we have no protection from the state.

It is worth recalling Jack Straw lying through his teeth to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on 24 October 2005. Every single statement on the substantive issues which Straw makes here is now known to be an outright lie:

Q105 Sandra Osborne: I would like to ask you about the issue of extraordinary rendition. In response to this Committee’s report of last year on the war against terrorism, the government said that it was not aware of the use of its territory or air space for the purposes of extraordinary rendition. However, it appears that there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the UK air space is indeed being utilised for this purpose, albeit mainly in the media. Some of the suggestions seem to be extremely detailed. For example, the Guardian has reported that aircraft involved in operations have flown into the UK at least 210 times since 9/11, an average of one flight a week. It appears that the favourite destination is Prestwick Airport, which is next to my constituency, as it happens. Can you comment on that? What role is the UK playing in extraordinary rendition?

Mr Straw: The position in respect of extraordinary rendition was set out in the letter that the head of our parliamentary team wrote to Mr Priestly, your Clerk, on 11 March; and the position has not changed. We are not aware of the use of our territory or air space for the purpose of extraordinary rendition. We have not received any requests or granted any permissions for use of UK territory or air space for such purposes. It is perfectly possible that there have been two hundred movements of United States aircraft in and out of the United Kingdom and I would have thought it was many more; but that is because we have a number of UN air force bases here, which, under the Visiting Forces Act and other arrangements they are entitled to use under certain conditions. I do not see for a second how the conclusion could be drawn from the fact that there have been some scores of movements of US military aircraft – well, so what – that that therefore means they have been used for rendition. That is a very long chain!

Q106 Sandra Osborne: The UN Commission on Human Rights has started an inquiry into the British Government’s role in this. Is the Government co-operating fully with that inquiry? Why would they start an inquiry if there were no reason to believe that this was actually happening?

Mr Straw: People start inquiries for all sorts of reasons. I assume we are co-operating with it. I am not aware of any requests, but we always co-operate with such requests.

Q107 Mr Keetch: They are not flying under US military flags; these are Gulfstream aircraft used by the CIA. They have a 26-strong fleet of Gulfstream aircraft that are used for this purpose. These aircraft are not coming into British spaces; they are coming into airports. Some are into bases like Northolt, and some into bases like Prestwick. Whilst it is always good to have the head of your parliamentary staff respond to our Clerk, Mr Priestley, could you give us an assurance that you will investigate these specific flights; and, if it is the case that these flights are being used for the process of extraordinary rendition, which is contrary to international law and indeed contrary to the stated policy of Her Majesty’s Government, would you attempt to see if they should stop?

Mr Straw: I would like to see what it is that is being talked about here. I am very happy to endorse, as you would expect, and I did endorse, the letter sent by our parliamentary team to your Clerk on 11 March. I am happy, for the avoidance of any doubt, to say that I specifically endorse its contents. If there is evidence, we will look at it, but a suggestion in a newspaper that there have been flights by unspecified foreign aircraft in and out of the United Kingdom cannot possibly add up to evidence that our air space or our facilities have been used for the purpose of unlawful rendition. It just does not.

Q108 Mr Keetch: I accept that, but if there were evidence of that, you would join with us, presumably, in condemning —–
Mr Straw: I am not going to pre-judge an inquiry. If there were evidence, we would look at it. So far there we have not seen any evidence.
Q109 Richard Younger-Ross: Our former Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has stated in a document to us: “I can confirm it is a positive policy decision by the US and UK to use Uzbek torture material.” He states that the evidence is that the aircraft that my colleague referred to earlier, the Gulfstreams, are taking detainees back to Uzbekistan who are then being tortured. Is that not some indication that these detainees are being transferred through the UK?

Mr Straw: It is Mr Murray’s opinion. Mr Murray, as you may know, stood in my constituency. He got fewer votes than the British National Party, and notwithstanding the fact that he assured the widest possible audience within the constituency to his views about use of torture. I set out the British Government’s position on this issue on a number of occasions, including in evidence both here and to the Intelligence and Security Committee. I wrote a pretty detailed letter to a constituent of mine back in June, setting out our position. As I said there, there are no circumstances in which British officials use torture, nor any question of the British Government seeking to justify the use of torture. Again, the British Government, including the terrorist and security agencies, has never used torture for any purpose including for information, nor would we instigate or connive with others in doing so. People have to make their own judgment whether they think I am being accurate or not.

Q110 Mr Illsley: Foreign Secretary, the letter which you supplied to the Committee in March which gave the conclusion that the British Government is not aware of the use of its territory or air space for the purpose of extraordinary rendition was taken at face value by most members of the Committee at that time, before the election. We took that to mean that we were not aware of any extraordinary rendition, and that it was not happening. The press reports were therefore something of a surprise. Would our Government be contacted by any country using our airspace, taking suspects to other countries? Would we be asked for permission or would there be any circumstances where we would be contacted; or is it the case that it could well be happening but that our Government is not aware of it simply because we have not been informed, or our permission is not necessary?

Mr Straw: Mr Illsley, on the precise circumstances in which foreign governments apply for permission to use British air space, I have to write to you, because it is important that I make that accurate. What Mr Stanton on my behalf said in the letter is exactly the same: why would I, for a second, knowingly provide this Committee with false information, if I had had information about rendition? We do not practise rendition, full-stop. I ought to say that whether rendition is contrary to international law depends on the particular circumstances of the case; it depends on each case, but we do not practise it. I would have to come back to you on that question.

Chairman: We will expect a letter. Thank you very much

Yesterday, we had Theresa May’s unremitting hard Brexit speech, which made plain that pandering to racism on immigration was going to be the priority over every possible interest in her approach to negotiations on leaving the EU. The pound stirred slightly on hopes that her announcement that Parliament would be given a vote on the final deal, could give hope that the whole thing might be avoided. However it is plain that she meant that Parliament could vote on a leaving with a deal or just leaving with no deal.

I feel pleased with May’s speech on two grounds. The first is that its contemptuous dismissal of the views of the 2 to 1 majority in Scotland which wishes to remain in the EU, brings Scottish Independence palpably closer. Even after three centuries of subservience, at some stage a natural reaction to having your face ground into the dog food must set in. A second Independence referendum is now inevitable.

Secondly, the EU is actually an extremely successful union and the euro an extremely successful currency, perceptions which a rabid nationalist UK media have successfully distorted. It is impossible that the UK will find replacement relationships in fields from trade to external relations to security to education and scientific research, which are anything like as economically beneficial. It is not just internal EU trade – the EU’s external market access will never be bettered by the UK, and the common external tariff is much more liberal than commonly realised. For example there are effectively no tariffs on manufactured goods from Africa. I confidently predict a Brexit Britain will both impose and face higher external tariffs than the EU.

My optimism arises from the fact that the May thesis is so barmy – that all of this should be sacrificed to pander to the daft xenophobia of the English and Welsh who don’t like “foreigners coming in” – that I still cannot believe that the political system will allow it to happen. The idea that the basis of the country’s economy can be destroyed on the basis of the sloganizing of the semi-educated, will meet institutional resistance. I want Scotland independent, but I also want England to avoid the self-harm of leaving the EU. I am farily confident both options are simultaneously achievable.

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Speaking Engagements

I am happy to say a busy time ahead:

18 January in Aytoun Village Hall, Berwickshire at 7pm for Yes Berwickshire documentary film London Calling talking about BBC Bias in the Independence Referendum, and how to prevent and counter it next time.

19 January Montrose, George Hotel, 7.30pm talking about Alexander Burnes just fifty yards from the family home where he was born

21 January 2pm Perth, Soutar Theatre, for Yes Perth City. London Calling, post film discussion also with Alan Knight and Allan Grogan. Register here.

23 January 2.30pm Jaipur India Sikunder Burnes. Talk at the Jaipur Literature Festival – the World’s largest with 330,000 visitors.

27 January 7.30pm Edinburgh for Edinburgh SNP Club. Talk on the situation in Iraq and Syria.

As I visit London, frankly, as seldom as possible, I thought I might give an early shout out for what seems to be an excellent event on 25 February at University College, London, a colloquium entitled “Noam Chomsky: The Responsibility of Intellectuals”. Half hour papers will be presented by Neil Smith, Milan Rai, Hilary Rose, Chris Knight, Krizta Szendroi, Nicholas Allott, Jackie Walker and finally by me; I am genuinely worried about following some brilliant minds. After which Noam Chomsky will respond by video-link. I can’t let this pass without noting my book Murder in Samarkand has an American edition, Dirty Diplomacy, which has strong cover quotes from Harold Pinter and Noam Chomsky commending it. My Edinburgh publisher wouldn’t put the Chomsky quote on the UK edition, arguing that nobody had heard of him!

The perceptive among you may have noted that I face a hell of a dash from Perth to Jaipur. It is however possible. But yesterday I received an email from Jaipur stating that they had changed my talk from 23rd to 20th, when I will get a larger audience. I have replied that this is impossible for me. I am waiting to hear back, but this has potential to go wrong.

When I published my offer to take over Bella Caledonia if the alternative was it folding, I received a surprisingly large number of offers from Independence supporters offering to write. Some – but by no means all – were excluded from writing for Bella because of what many perceived as that website’s rather specific ideological focus. As there are a number of good pro-Independence people anxious to express themselves in writing but with no outlet, I was wondering about starting up a new pro-Indy compendium site that gives a voice to every shade of opinion supporting Independence, providing it is not racist. It would run on the basis of minimal cost and not paying anybody, including me. I probably need friends to talk me out of this venture!

One place I am not speaking is at today’s Scottish Independence Convention. I asked but was turned down. This saddens me as I addressed the SIC by invitation twice when it was a bit in the doldrums, years before the referendum. I fear that this is another example of ideological narrowness taking hold.

I hugely enjoy speaking and the intellectual interaction of discussion with people in a meeting, and please do invite me to talk to your group. I do not charge any fee. I am however horribly disorganised, so do not be scared to keep sending me constant reminders. It is helpful rather than annoying. I am pretty sure for example there are engagements in Lanark and Aberystwyth I have lost touch with. Anybody expecting me do get repeatedly in touch!

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Good Riddance to Tristram Hunt

Super-posh Tristram Hunt was famously imposed on his Stoke on Trent constituency – with which his only connection is inheriting a lot of fine porcelain – by the Labour National Executive Committee as a “Mandelson ask”. A number of good local candidates were blocked from standing. A scion of Progress, he was the epitome of the decline of the UK political system into a choice between two groups of Tory, with the New Labour Tories being more right wing than the Conservative Tories.

Hunt always did have a sentimental attachment to supporters of political change, and he wrote about them. He liked them as long as they were Victorian and safely dead, plus with some additional attribute. They had to be literary like Thomas Carlyle, or arty crafty like William Morris, or very rich like Friedrich Engels. Hunt sent himself up as a kind of sanitised E P Thompson, writing romantically laced histories of pioneers of Victorian social progress, only leaving out the oiks of whom he found Thompson unaccountably fond.

Now he has resigned from parliament and will be paid £160,000 a year to potter round the Victoria and Albert looking at arty crafty things. I very much doubt we will see him much at the V&A’s new ghetto in Dundee.

Parliament is well-rid of him. A third rate posh historian and a fourth rate right wing politican.

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How Wikileaks Keeps Its 100% Accuracy Record

When I resigned as Ambassador to blow the whistle on UK/US complicity in torture and extraordinary rendition, I had a number of official documents I wished to leak to prove my story. They were offered to WikiLeaks through two friends, Andrew and Jonathan. WikiLeaks declined to publish them because they could not 100% verify them.

Their reasons were firstly that they were suspicious of me and whether I was a plant; British ambassadors are not given to resigning on principle. Secondly a few of the copies were my own original drafts of diplomatic communications I had sent, not the document as it printed out at the other end.

That is how scrupulous they are. I can vouch for the fact that their record for 100% accuracy is no fluke, it is safeguarded by extreme caution and careful checking.

In the end we launched the documents through mass blogger action on the web, on hundreds of independent sites simultaneously. You can still see them all for example on William Bowles excellent blog, and they are worth a read, even a decade on. I think over that decade I persuaded WikiLeaks I am genuine too!

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Julian Assange Not Charged With Anything

Contrary to mainstream media fake news, Julian Assange has never been charged with any sexual offence. His status was that he was wanted for questioning. But the questioning by Swedish police and prosecutors took place exactly two months ago in the Ecuadorean Embassy, at length over several days. So he is no longer wanted for questioning, yet is still not charged. The pretence there is any kind of genuine criminal investigation in progress, already transparently thin, is now in shreds.

The Swedish police and prosecutors have had over six years to gather and assess all the evidence. The only missing piece was the further interrogation of Assange, which happened in November. After six years of preparing the jigsaw, they have had two months to slot the last piece into place. Policemen are used to having to prepare a case for charging within days, not months. What is more, the remaining charge (the minor ones having time expired) is a single, extremely simple incident in which there is nothing else left to investigate.

I think we are entitled to conclude that the Swedish prosecutor is behaving in a disgraceful manner.

These are the facts of the incident in question. It is undisputed by anyone that Julian Assange and Sofia Wilen went to bed in Sofia Wilen’s bed and had enjoyable, consensual sex on multiple occasions. What is in dispute is whether, when one of these sex acts commenced, Sofia Wilen was awake, asleep or, as she tweeted to a friend, half-asleep, and therefore whether she was in a position to consent to sex on that occasion.

The statement Julian Assange gave to prosecutors two months ago states:

91. This is false. I was certain “SW” was not asleep. I was also certain she expressly consented to unprotected sex before such intercourse started. This is also evidenced by “SW”’s own text messages. For example, my lawyers refer me to the following text message to her friend:
— 17 August, 08:42 am: JA did not want to use a condom.
92. Then a day later she explicitly texts her friend that she had not, in fact, been asleep.
— 18 August, 06:59 am: I was half asleep.

You can read the full text of Assange’s statement here.

Sofia Wilen did not view what had happened to her as rape and was to text on 20 August 2010 at 14.26 that she “did not want to put any charges on Julian Assange” but that “the police were keen on getting their hands on him” (14:26) and at 22:25 that it was “the police who made up the charges”.

Unsurprisingly on 25 August 2010 the Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm Eva Finne announced that “The conduct alleged disclosed no crime at all and that file (K246314-10) would be closed”.

In Sweden’s extraordinary justice system, a second prosecutor then took up the case, crusading third wave feminist Marianne Ny. For six years, Ny has milked all the political capital possible out of the case while refusing actually to question Assange to move it forward. After the Swedish Supreme Court ordered her to get on with the questioning, she now stands at the Rubicon where she has had more than enough time to try to build credible charges from the situation outlined above, yet plainly no credible prosecution is possible.

The senior international lawyers of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded with good reason that Assange was being illegally detained – and further rejected the appeal by the UK – because there is no real case and no real investigation in progress against Assange. But the mainstream media will never give you any of the flavour or facts outlined above, being interested in nothing but character assassination of Assange who is perceived as a threat to the neo-liberal world order.

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The Lobby

36 hours after I first asked the FCO Media Department for a statement clarifying Shai Masot’s immigration and visa status, given that he was not on the Diplomatic List, the FCO has still not responded, despite my putting my request in writing as they asked. I am going to phone the FCO again in a few minutes, and I am very much afraid I may become heated and impolite.

Part 1 of Al_Jazeera’s excellent documentary on the bribing activities of the Israeli Embassy is absolutely essential viewing.

UPDATE The FCO told me they did not receive my questions in writing, and on checking that appears to be true, though I don’t know why. I have resent and they confirm they have now received.

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Bella Caledonia Continues

I am genuinely delighted that the Bella Caledonia website is continuing and my offer to take it over is not needed. We need all the resources arguing for independence that we currently have and more.

We are however entitled to be somewhat perplexed by their statement today that

“Bella is not in debt, there is no prospect of bankruptcy, and there is no immediate appeal planned for cash. Any new donations will be transferred into the new company.”

This appears completely incompatible with an entire series of desperate appeals for cash immediately prior to the apparent closure, which stated in terms that unless large and urgent amounts of cash were stumped up the website would have to close. Just three days ago they published:

“The Advisory Board of Bella Caledonia confirms we are going to have to make the decision to close, unless an urgent fundraising appeal can be met. Mike Small has advised that despite his commitment to Bella, he will have to step down as editor as the position is too financially precarious and he is actively seeking other work. The Board is looking at other funding models.”

These two statements do not match. One of them is untrue.

My friendly advice is this. Folk are extremely committed to Independence, and many folk in Scotland are extremely committed to radical politics. Committed to the extent they will put their hands in their pockets to support you. But if you give the impression you are not being entirely straight whilst asking them for money, you are in great danger of seeing future funds dry up, especially where the money is being asked to pay your own salary.

If the “other funding models” means a search for state or institutional sources of cash, you will soon find that he who pays the piper…

Anyway, best of luck to Bella and I hope it goes serenely on and from strength to strength. I also hope that this episode has taught a little humility and a little less antagonism in their attitude to other independence campaigners and independence websites who do not share their precise viewpoint. No fellow campaigner for Independence anywhere in the broad range – including Stuart Campbell, James Kelly, Tommy Sheridan, Angus Robertson or even just me – should be attacked until we have defeated our real enemies.

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International Observation for Indyref2

I believe international observation to be absolutely essential to another independence referendum. This is the submission I just submitted to the Scottish government’s consultation on rules for the next referendum. I do urge everyone to contact their MSP and support it.

I believe it is essential to add an element of independent international observation of the referendum process.

The referendum is about the creation of a new nation state. Neither the referendum itself can create a nation state, nor the subsequent negotiation between Scotland and Westminster. The nation state is only created by recognition by the United Nations. The international community therefore has a strong interest in the process.

There was a great deal of disquiet in Scotland over the fairness of the referendum campaign in 2014, and particularly the role played by the broadcast and print media, and especially the state media. There is significant public perception of BBC bias against Independence.

Electoral monitoring of the referendum should be undertaken by the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The Scottish Government should write to ODIHR and OSCE and request such monitoring, and at the same time write to the UK government and ask them to support such request. The request must be supported by the UK government to be accepted by OSCE, but it would be politically very difficult, and look suspicious to members of the international community, if the UK government refused it when the Scottish government believed it to be necessary.

Not only will the OSCE send a large team to observe the conduct of the campaign and physical balloting and counting process, they will send an advance team of experts with international experience in monitoring media bias in campaign situations, with a particular emphasis on state media. These experts will produce a careful and scientific quantitative and qualitative analysis of the extent of media bias, and this analysis will be presented to all the member states of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe. The very presence of the international monitoring team will be a strong deterrent to bad media behaviour, and will boost public confidence in the process.

I wish to strongly commend this work by the ODIHR and I believe this proposal is essential to another referendum campaign.

http://www.osce.org/odihr/92057?download=true

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The Steele Dossier or the Hitler Diaries Mark II

The mainstream media’s extreme enthusiasm for the Hitler Diaries shows their rush to embrace any forgery if it is big and astonishing enough. For the Guardian to lead with such an obvious forgery as the Trump “commercial intelligence reports” is the final evidence of the demise of that newspaper’s journalistic values.

We are now told that the reports were written by Mr Christopher Steele, an ex-MI6 man, for Orbis Business Intelligence. Here are a short list of six impossible things we are asked to believe before breakfast:

1) Vladimir Putin had a five year (later stated as eight year) plan to run Donald Trump as a “Manchurian candidate” for President and Trump was an active and knowing partner in Putin’s scheme.
2) Hillary Clinton is so stupid and unaware that she held compromising conversations over telephone lines whilst in Russia itself.
3) Trump’s lawyer/adviser Mr Cohen was so stupid he held meetings in Prague with the hacker/groups themselves in person to arrange payment, along with senior officials of the Russian security services. The NSA, CIA and FBI are so incompetent they did not monitor this meeting, and somehow the NSA failed to pick up on the electronic and telephone communications involved in organising it. Therefore Mr Cohen was never questioned over this alleged and improbable serious criminal activity.
4) A private company had minute by minute intelligence on the Manchurian Candidate scheme and all the indictable illegal activity that was going on, which the CIA/NSA/GCHQ/MI6 did not have, despite their specific tasking and enormous technical, staff and financial resources amounting between them to over 150,000 staff and the availability of hundreds of billons of dollars to do nothing but this.
5) A private western company is able to run a state level intelligence operation in Russia for years, continually interviewing senior security sources and people personally close to Putin, without being caught by the Russian security services – despite the fact the latter are brilliant enough to install a Manchurian candidate as President of the USA. This private western company can for example secretly interview staff in top Moscow hotels – which they themselves say are Russian security service controlled – without the staff being too scared to speak to them or ending up dead. They can continually pump Putin’s friends for information and get it.
6) Donald Trump’s real interest is his vast financial commitment in China, and he has little investment in Russia, according to the reports. Yet he spent the entire election campaign advocating closer ties with Russia and demonising and antagonising China.

Michael Cohen has now stated he has never been to Prague in his life. If that is true the extremely weak credibility of the entire forgery collapses in total. What is more, contrary to the claims of the Guardian and Washington Post that the material is “unverifiable”, the veracity of it could be tested extremely easily by the most basic journalism, ie asking Mr Cohen who has produced his passport. The editors of the Washington Post and the Guardian are guilty of pushing as blazing front page news the most blatant forgery to serve their own political ends, without carrying out the absolutely basic journalistic checks which would easily prove the forgery. Those editors must resign.

The Guardian has published a hagiography in which it clarifies he cannot travel to Russia himself and that he depends on second party contacts to interview third parties. It also confirms that much of the “information” is bought. Contacts who sell you information will of course invent the kind of thing you want to hear to increase their income. That was the fundamental problem with much of the intelligence on Iraqi WMD. Highly paid contacts, through also paid third parties, were inventing intelligence to sell.

There is of course an extra level of venial inaccuracy here because unlike an MI6 officer, Steele himself was then flogging the information for cash. Nobody in the mainstream media has asked the most important question of all. What was the charlatan Christopher Steele paid for this dossier?

As forgeries go, this is really not in the least convincing. It was very obviously not written seriatim on the dates stated but forged as a collection and with hindsight. I might add I do not include the golden showers among the impossible aspects. I have no idea if it is true and neither do I care. Given Trump’s wealth and history, I think we can say with confidence that he has indulged whatever his sexual preferences might be all over the world and not just in Russia. It seems most improbable he would succumb to blackmail over it and not brazen it out. I suppose it could be taken as the sole example of trickledown theory actually working.

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Britain’s Most Undesirable Immigrant: Why Was Shai Masot Given a Visa?

UPDATE
For over twelve hours there has been stunned silence from the FCO media department in reply to my questions about the Shai Masot case – I am an NUJ member, and I think the idea of a British journalist actually doing real journalism and asking real questions has astonished them. They have now asked me to put them in writing, and I have just done so. This is what I have submitted.

I am investigating the status of Shai Masot, the Israeli Embassy officer caught plotting against Alan Duncan and who was very active with UK political parties.

I appreciate the FCO line is that the case of his conduct is now closed. But I am not investigating his conduct, I am investigating the improper conduct of the FCO in granting him a visa and residency status in the first place.

My initial questions are these:

1) On what basis was Mr Masot in the UK?
2) He was not on the Diplomatic List, but plainly was a senior officer (an ex Major and current executive in the Directorate of Strategic Affairs) and therefore not qualified in the normal categories of technical and support staff. What precise visa and residence status did he hold?
3) How many more officers does the Israeli Embassy have with that same visa and residence status?
4) Has the FCO connived with the Israeli Embassy to allow many more Israeli intelligence operatives residence in the country than the official and reciprocated diplomatic staff allocation of the Embassy?
5) Did MI5, MI6 or any other of the security services have any input into Mr Masot’s acceptance and visa/residency status?

It is over 12 hours since I contacted the FCO’s media people with these questions. I would appreciate your earliest contact. My number is …

Craig Murray

Do not hold your breath

Astonishingly, the Israeli Embassy’s Senior Political Officer Shai Masot, implicated in a plot against the Deputy Foreign Minister, was not on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Diplomatic List, the Bible for the status of accredited diplomats. This opens up a number of extremely important questions. Who was he, what was his visa status and why was he resident in the UK? It is very plain that the work he was doing as “Senior Political Officer” would equate normally to senior diplomatic rank.

He was a major in the Israeli Navy – in the FCO’s own table of equivalent rank, Major equates to Second Secretary in the Diplomatic Service. After that he went on to apparently executive positions in the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, before moving to the Israeli Embassy in London. There he held many recorded meetings with politicians, including giving briefings in parliament and at party conferences, and acted in a way that in general would accord with a rank around First Secretary to Counsellor.

So why exactly has he never featured in the FCO’s Diplomatic List? He very plainly outranks many of those Israeli diplomats who are featured. It should be noted it is perfectly normal for diplomats not to come from a country’s foreign affairs ministry. For one example Ivan Rogers who spectacularly resigned recently as Britain’s Ambassador to the EU, was from the Treasury not the FCO. Several people in the Israeli Embassy, who are on the Diplomatic List, are not from the foreign service. So that is not the reason.

This is not an obscure point. As a former diplomat, my first instinct was to look him up on the Diplomatic List. Every country in the world controls the number of permitted foreign diplomats very closely, for two reasons. Firstly it confers an immigration residency status, and secondly it confers tax exemption and an immunity from prosecution. The Diplomatic List is therefore not a loose thing – there is an entire section of good employees in the FCO tasked with policing it in close liaison with the Home Office.

Embassies are allowed a very small number of technical and support staff – IT people and cleaners – in addition. But these must be what they say they are. Plainly Masot was not in reality one of these, and plainly the official Israeli Embassy explanation that he was a “junior member of staff” is a lie. The Israeli Embassy is not given visas for “junior members of staff” except in very specific job categories which Masot plainly does not meet.

It is a lie in which the FCO must have been absolutely complicit in organising his immigration residency status in the UK.

I have contacted the media office of the FCO to query Masot’s immigration status, and so far received no reply. But the key questions are these:

Shai Masot was not on the Diplomatic List. What kind of visa and residence status did he have in the UK?
How many other operatives does the Israeli have with the same UK residence status as Masot?
Why is the British Government granting Israeli intelligence operatives false residency immigration status in the UK based on a deliberate lie about their role and position?
How many other Israeli intelligence officers are active in the UK with a false immigration status?
Who, specifically, authorised Masot’s visa, and why?

My advantage as an ex-British Ambassador is that I know the bureaucratically correct questions to ask to get to the heart of a matter. Please do ask them of your MP, and get them to demand answers from the FCO.

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Scotland’s Stolen Seas: The Technical Explanation

I do not think that any work I have done has brought me as much abuse as that on the transfer of 6,000 square miles of Scottish sea to England in 1999, effected by New Labour by Order in Council literally the day before the Scottish Parliament came into being.

Some of this criticism has been utterly bizarre, including a strange contention that the whole thing did not happen and the legislation does not exist. A marginally more rational criticism has been the contention that the new boundary – which at its extreme limit eastwards runs north of Carnoustie – reflects a genuine median line influenced by the shape of the coastline.

With thanks to this map kindly sent by Dave Philip, I wish to explain why the new boundary is not legitimate.

I do urge you to pay attention. This is important but complex.

This map shows internal waters and the territorial sea. Internal waters are, for legal jurisdictional purposes, land. The territorial sea extends for twelve miles and the law of the coastal state applies within this area. There are two further zones not shown on this map. The Exclusive Economic Zone extends for 200 miles or to a boundary with another state, and as the name says confers on the coastal state the exclusive right to the resources of the sea and seabed. Beyond that can stretch the continental shelf, where the seabed mineral resources are still available to the coastal state where there is a geological continuation.

The area of England/Scotland potential dispute is in the North Sea and relates particularly to the Exclusive Economic Zone. This simply extends out much further than the territorial sea but on the same contours. It is not shown on this map but the baselines from which it is measured are.

The Territorial Sea and Exclusive Economic Zone are measured out from the coastline. But where a coastline is either a) archipelagic or b) highly indented, the coastal state is entitled under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to draw straight baselines between coastal points and measure its territorial sea/exclusive economic zone from those baselines rather than from the coast.

This is the key point at issue here. The extraordinary northward trend of the 1999 England/Scotland is caused solely by the massive indentation of the Lothian coastline as it curves into the Firth of Forth. Now look closely at the map. In Western Scotland, there are straight baselines in places far out to sea, and huge areas of sea are designated as “internal waters”. By comparison, in Eastern Scotland the straight baselines are extremely small and conservative by international standards and very little sea is designated as internal water.

The Western baselines have almost no impact on the Scottish/England boundary because of the position of Northern Ireland. But in the North Sea, where they would impact massively on the England/Scotland border in Scotland’s favour, they take a markedly minimalist approach in stark contrast. Remember, we are talking about the Exclusive Economic Zone not shown on the map. extending out 200 miles from the baselines.

After independence I would make a maximalist claim and draw a straight baseline from Eyemouth to Peterhead, enclosing the highly indented coastline. Then measure and delimit the seas from there. This would straighten the England/Scotland border back towards the traditional East West alignment. In so doing, I would make plain that this would not involve any claim to push the outer limits of Scottish seas further or to adjust the boundary with countries across the North Sea; it would merely affect the angle of the England/Scotland border and where the England/Scotland border strikes the tripoint. I would be prepared to pull back that baseline a bit in negotiation. I am a former Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and have actually negotiated maritime boundaries for the UK in real life. These things are very much a negotiation, which infuriates the academics who like to believe they are issues of pure geometry.

There are two other points worth considering:

1) The UK has never claimed international boundaries are a matter of pure geometry. Its boundaries are always officially characterised as a modified median line, to acknowledge the give and take of negotiation.
2) The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea does not mandate that the boundary has to be a median line. Other factors may be taken into account including historical jurisdiction. This is a major further argument in Scotland’s favour.

I apologise for the length and detail of this, but the facile and ill-informed criticism had become somewhat annoying.

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An Open Letter to the Board of Bella Caledonia

Bella Caledonia is folding. It has been an important, broadly (though not sufficiently) pro-Scottish Independence new media outlet in Scotland for a decade. As far as it reveals to an outsider, it is closing solely for financial reasons.

I confess to being confused by this. So far as I can judge, this blog has a slightly larger readership than Bella Caledonia (which stated its highest monthly readership was 370,000), and the total costs of this blog amount to £700 a year.

My offer to you as a Board is this. I am prepared to take over as editor and as host and continue to run Bella Caledonia as the major pro-independence blog you made it. The spare capacity of my blog servers will cope with your readership with no extra cost. We can still have a board, and any members of the existing board who wish to continue, can do so with my hearty good wishes. I shall be editor. I shall invite five new people to join the board and contribute as core writers (they don’t know it yet, but the first people I shall ask are Andy Myles and Hugh Kerr. Both campaign for Indy, but one being ex-Lib Dem and one ex-Labour then SSP gives an indication of the breadth I would aim for). We will continue to use many of those who have written before for Bella, but drop any antagonism to any other pro-independence website or group.

The difference visible to a reader will be nil. The difference behind the scenes is that nobody will be paid, including me.

If you wish to take up this offer, what we would need is of course full control of the website and its social media, and preferably access to the contacts address book for inviting writers. If Bella Caledonia really is the new media title it aspired to be, it should not fold when an editor leaves.

You can contact me via the contact button above.

Craig

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Those Diplomatic Expulsions

There is a fascinating precedent for Putin’s refusal to retaliate for the expulsion of 32 Russian diplomats by Obama, an easy diplomatic win on the international stage. In 1985, my first year in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Margaret Thatcher expelled 25 Soviet diplomats identified as spies by a defector (from memory Gordievsky), and later a further six.

In return, the Soviets expelled 25 British diplomats – all of whom were not spies. This was a brilliant move which caught the British government completely on the hop. Such a high percentage of our “diplomats” in Moscow were spies, that it was a practical impossibility to accidentally expel 25 who were not. In other words the Soviets had just informed us that they knew exactly who our spies in Russia were. That sent such a juddering shock though the FCO it even reached this bewildered new entrant. Secondly, spies of course do nothing useful or practical, and expelling 25 actual diplomats was a much more crippling blow to the work of the Embassy. The FCO does not have lots of Russian speakers standing around doing nothing, ready to step in and replace.

I don’t claim any great reason for retelling this, except it is interesting and I have never seen it published elsewhere.

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Why Has Israeli Spy Shai Masot Not Been Expelled?

There is no starker proof of the golden chains in which Israel has entangled the British political class, than the incredible fact that “diplomat” Shai Masot has not been expelled for secretly conspiring to influence British politics by attacking Britain’s Deputy Foreign Minister, suggesting that he might be brought down by “a little scandal”. It is incredible by any normal standards of diplomatic behaviour that immediate action was not taken against Masot for actions which when revealed any professional diplomat would normally expect to result in being “PNG’d” – declared persona non grata.

Obama has just expelled 35 Russian diplomats for precisely the same offence, with the exception that in the Russian case there is absolutely zero hard evidence, whereas in the Masot case there is irrefutable evidence on which to act.

To compare the two cases is telling. Al Jazeera should be congratulated on their investigation, which shames the British corporate and state media who would never have carried out such actual journalism. By contrast, the British media has parroted without the slightest scrutiny the truly pathetic Obama camp claims of Russian interference, evidently without reading them. When I was sent the latest “intelligence report” on Russian hacking a couple of evenings ago, I quite genuinely for several minutes thought it was a spoof by the Daily Mash or similar, parodying the kind of ludicrous claims that kept being advanced with zero evidence. I do implore you to read it, as when you realise it is supposed to be serious it becomes still more hilarious.

The existence of a natural preference in Russia to see a US President who does not want to start World War III is quoted as itself evidence that Russia interfered, just as the fact that I could do with some more money is evidence I robbed a bank. The fact that Russia did not criticise the electoral process after the result is somehow evidence that Putin personally ordered electoral hacking. Oh, and the fact that Russia Today once hosted a programme critical of fracking is evidence of a Russian plot to destroy the US economy. Please do read it, I promise you will be laughing for weeks.

In passing, allow me to destroy quickly the “we have smoking gun evidence but it’s too secret to show you” argument. Given the Snowden revelations and the whistleblowing of the former NSA Technical Director Bill Binney, for the US government to claim to be hiding the fact that it can tack all electronic traffic in the USA is risible. This is like saying we can’t give you the evidence in case the Russians find out the sky is blue. If there were hacks, the NSA could identify the precise hack transmitting the precise information out of Washington. Everybody knows that. There were no hacks so there is no evidence. End of argument. They are internal leaks.

The two stories – Russian interference in US politics, Israeli interference in UK politics – also link because the New York Times claims that it was the British that first suggested to the Obama administration that Russian cyber activity was targeting Clinton. Director of Cyber Security and Information Assurance in the British Cabinet Office is Matthew Gould, the UK’s former openly and strongly pro-Zionist Ambassador to Israel and friend of the current Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev. While Private Secretary to David Miliband and William Hague, and then while Ambassador to Israel, Gould held eight secret meetings with Adam Werritty, on at least one occasion with Mossad present and on most occasions also with now minister Liam Fox. My Freedom of Information requests for minutes of these meetings brought the reply that they were not minuted, and my Freedom of Information request for the diary entries for these meetings brought me three pages each containing only the date, with everything else redacted.

I managed to get the information about the Gould/Werritty meetings as a result of relentless questioning, where I was kindly assisted by MPs including Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas and Paul Flynn. The woman with whom Shai Masot was conniving to undermine Alan Duncan, was Maria Strizzolo, who works for Tory Minister Robert Halfon. It was Halfon who repeatedly tried to obstruct Paul Flynn MP from asking questions of Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell that threatened to get to the heart of the real Adam Werritty scandal.

Both Robert Halfon and Adam Werrity received funding from precisely the same Israeli sources, and in particular from Mr Poju Zabludowicz. Halfon also formerly had a full time paid job as Political Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel. Halfon’s assistant is now caught conspiring with the Israeli Embassy to attack another Tory minister.

House of Commons Publc Admininstration Committee 24/11/2011

Q Paul Flynn: Okay. Matthew Gould has been the subject of a very serious complaint from two of my constituents, Pippa Bartolotti and Joyce Giblin. When they were briefly imprisoned in Israel, they met the ambassador, and they strongly believe—it is nothing to do with this case at all—that he was serving the interest of the Israeli Government, and not the interests of two British citizens. This has been the subject of correspondence.

In your report, you suggest that there were two meetings between the ambassador and Werritty and Liam Fox. Questions and letters have proved that, in fact, six such meetings took place. There are a number of issues around this. I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service. Werritty is a self-proclaimed—

Robert Halfon: Point of order, Chairman. What is the point of this?

Paul Flynn:> Let me get to it. Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran.

Chair:> I have to take a point of order.

Robert Halfon:> Mr Flynn is implying that the British ambassador to Israel is working for a foreign power, which is out of order.

Paul Flynn:> I quote the Daily Mail: “Mr Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran and has made several visits. He has also met senior Israeli officials, leading to accusations”—not from me, from the Daily Mail—“that he was close to the country’s secret service, Mossad.” There may be nothing in that, but that appeared in a national newspaper.

Chair:> I am going to rule on a point of order. Mr Flynn has made it clear that there may be nothing in these allegations, but it is important to have put it on the record. Be careful how you phrase questions.

Paul Flynn:> Indeed. The two worst decisions taken by Parliament in my 25 years were the invasion of Iraq—joining Bush’s war in Iraq—and the invasion of Helmand province. We know now that there were things going on in the background while that built up to these mistakes. The charge in this case is that Werritty was the servant of neo-con people in America, who take an aggressive view on Iran. They want to foment a war in Iran in the same way as in the early years, there was another—

Chair:> Order. I must ask you to move to a question that is relevant to the inquiry.

Q Paul Flynn:> Okay. The question is, are you satisfied that you missed out on the extra four meetings that took place, and does this not mean that those meetings should have been investigated because of the nature of Mr Werritty’s interests?

Sir Gus O’Donnell:> I think if you look at some of those meetings, some people are referring to meetings that took place before the election.

Q Paul Flynn:> Indeed, which is even more worrying.

Sir Gus O’Donnell:> I am afraid they were not the subject—what members of the Opposition do is not something that the Cabinet Secretary should look into. It is not relevant.

But these meetings were held—

Chair:> Mr Flynn, would you let him answer please?

Sir Gus O’Donnell:> I really do not think that was within my context, because they were not Ministers of the Government and what they were up to was not something I should get into at all.

Chair:> Final question, Mr Flynn.

Q Paul Flynn:> No, it is not a final question. I am not going to be silenced by you, Chairman; I have important things to raise. I have stayed silent throughout this meeting so far.

You state in the report—on the meeting held between Gould, Fox and Werritty, on 6 February, in Tel Aviv—that there was a general discussion of international affairs over a private dinner with senior Israelis. The UK ambassador was present. Are you following the line taken by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who says that he can eat with lobbyists or people applying to his Department because, on occasions, he eats privately, and on other occasions he eats ministerially? Are you accepting the idea? It is possibly a source of great national interest—the eating habits of their Secretary of State. It appears that he might well have a number of stomachs, it has been suggested, if he can divide his time this way. It does seem to be a way of getting round the ministerial code, if people can announce that what they are doing is private rather than ministerial.

Sir Gus O’Donnell:> The important point here was that, when the Secretary of State had that meeting, he had an official with him—namely, in this case, the ambassador. That is very important, and I should stress that I would expect our ambassador in Israel to have contact with Mossad. That will be part of his job. It is totally natural, and I do not think that you should infer anything from that about the individual’s biases. That is what ambassadors do. Our ambassador in Pakistan will have exactly the same set of wide contacts.

Q Paul Flynn:> I have good reason, as I said, from constituency matters, to be unhappy about the ambassador. Other criticisms have been made about the ambassador; he is unique in some ways in the role he is performing. There have been suggestions that he is too close to a foreign power.

Robert Halfon:> On a point of order, Chair, this is not about the ambassador to Israel. This is supposed to be about the Werritty affair.

Paul Flynn:> It is absolutely crucial to this report. If neo-cons such as yourself, Robert, are plotting a war in Iran, we should know about it.

Chair:> Order. I think the line of questioning is very involved. I have given you quite a lot of time, Mr Flynn. If you have further inquiries to make of this, they could be pursued in correspondence. May I ask you to ask one final question before we move on?

Sir Gus O’Donnell:> One thing I would stress: we are talking about the ambassador and I think he has a right of reply. Mr Chairman, I know there is an interesting question of words regarding Head of the Civil Service versus Head of the Home Civil Service, but this is the Diplomatic Service, not the Civil Service.

Q Chair:> So he is not in your jurisdiction at all.

Sir Gus O’Donnell:> No.

Q Paul Flynn:> But you are happy that your report is final; it does not need to go the manager it would have gone to originally, and that is the end of the affair. Is that your view?

Sir Gus O’Donnell:> As I said, some issues arose where I wanted to be sure that what the Secretary of State was doing had been discussed with the Foreign Secretary. I felt reassured by what the Foreign Secretary told me.

Q Chair:> I think what Mr Flynn is asking is that your report and the affair raise other issues, but you are saying that that does not fall within the remit of your report and that, indeed, the conduct of an ambassador does not fall within your remit at all.

Sir Gus O’Donnell:> That is absolutely correct.

Paul Flynn:> The charge laid by Lord Turnbull in his evidence with regard to Dr Fox and the ministerial code was his failure to observe collective responsibility, in that case about Sri Lanka. Isn’t the same charge there about our policies to Iran and Israel?

Chair:> We have dealt with that, Mr Flynn.

Paul Flynn:> We haven’t dealt with it as far as it applies—

Chair:> Mr Flynn, we are moving on.

Paul Flynn:> You may well move on, but I remain very unhappy about the fact that you will not allow me to finish the questioning I wanted to give on a matter of great importance.

It is shocking but true that Robert Halfon MP, who disrupted Flynn with repeated points of order, receives funding from precisely the same Israeli sources as Werritty, and in particular from Mr Poju Zabludowicz. He also formerly had a full time paid job as Political Director of the Conservative Friends of Israel. It is not surprising that Shai Masot evidently views Halfon as a useful tool for attacking senior pro-Palestinian members of his own party.

But despite the evasiveness of O’Donnell and the obstruction of paid zionist puppet Halfon, O’Donnell confirmed vital parts of my investigation. In particular he agreed that the Fox-Werritty-Gould “private dinner” in Tel Aviv was with Mossad, and that Gould met Werritty many times more than the twice that O’Donnell listed in his “investigation” into the Werritty affair. The truth of the Werritty scandal, hidden comprehensively by the mainstream media, was that Werritty was inside the UK Ministry of Defence working for Israel. That is why it was so serious that Defence Minister Liam Fox had to resign

Of the eight meetings of Fox-Gould-Werritty together which I discovered, seven were while Fox was Secretary of State for Defence. Only one was while Fox was in opposition. But O’Donnell let the cat much further out of the bag, with the astonishing admission to Paul Flynn’s above questioning that Gould, Fox and Werritty held “meetings that took place before the election.” He also referred to “some of those meetings” as being before the election. Both are plainly in the plural.

It is evident from the information gained by Paul Flynn that not only did Fox, Gould and Werritty have at least seven meetings while Fox was in power – with no minutes and never another British official present – they had several meetings while Fox was shadow Foreign Secretary. O’Donnell was right that what Fox and Werritty were up to in opposition was not his concern. But what Gould was doing with them – a senior official – most definitely was his concern. A senior British diplomat cannot just hold a series of meetings with the opposition shadow Defence Secretary and a paid Israeli lobbyist.

All of this underlined the pernicious influence that Israel has in the political class, which is founded on the Israeli lobby’s shameless use of cash for influence – as witnessed in the discussion between Shai Masot and Labour Firends of Israel and his flaunting of a million. Attitudes towards the plight of the Palestinians are an extreme example of the disconnect between public opinion and the views of the political class, and Al Jazeera should be congratulated heartily on giving us a peek into that.

No further evidence is required. There could be no more conclusive evidence of Israel’s undue and pernicious influence than the astonishing fact that Shai Masot has not yet been expelled.

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True British Values and the #NHScrisis

The total amount thrown at the banks by the taxpayer to enable their casino banking scams and cocaine fuelled lifestyles to continue, was £1.16 trillion, courtesy of Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. By one of life’s more meaningful coincidences, that is precisely ten times the annual budget of the NHS for the whole UK. Equally neatly, the latest contingency for quantitative easing announced by Mark Carney – money given directly to financial institutions by the central bank in exchange for junk – is £250 billion, which is precisely ten times the total hamstringing debts of the NHS.

It is good to understand what true British values really mean, as people in England die on trolleys in hospital corridors.

Alistair Darling is today a Director of Morgan Stanley bank. Gordon Brown is today a twassock.

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Never Trust a Man without a Waistcoat

Contrary to the usual mainstream media inaccuracy, Sir Ivan Rogers has not resigned from the FCO as he was a Treasury civil servant. The clue is in the phrase “resigned on principle”. FCO people are not big on principles.

Indeed, the FCO was almost as strongly against the Iraq War as it is against Brexit. Yet the only two British diplomats who resigned on principle over the War on Iraq/Terror, those disastrous Blair/Bush policies which have devastated the Middle East and multiplied a hundredfold the terrorist threat, were Carne Ross and myself. We were also among the very few British diplomats I knew of at the time who always wore waistcoats. Which just goes to prove that the lack of a waistcoat is definite evidence of deficient moral character. (I have not forgotten the resignation of Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who was an excellent FCO lawyer but not a diplomat).

Brexit is a disaster for the UK, but probably will not spread as much harm across the entire globe as the invasion of Iraq. I do not expect to see any FCO resignations over it, much as they may mutter in the canteen. The government continuing to pay the fees for their children at the UK’s most expensive boarding schools, continues to be the main motive in life for the vast majority of British diplomats. It is strange to think that 15 years have now passed since my first Ambassadorial appointment, and had I not suffered from a conscience I would now be on my final, and probably very senior, Ambassadorship. Tim Barrow, who takes over as British Ambassador to the EU, joined the FCO two years after me and I knew him slightly. He was a very humorous though somewhat earnest young man. Crucially, I recall he wore a waistcoat.

My two autobiographical books, Murder in Samarkand and The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, rather give the impression that the FCO is full of nasty bastards. In fact this is not true at all. I was just extremely unlucky in my two last postings. Before that I had some really admirable bosses including Brian Barder, Michael Llewellyn Smith and Christopher Hum. Like them, many other prominent FCO types including Jeremy Greenstock, Christopher Mayhew and Charles Crawford (who turns up to criticise this blog from time to time) are among the nicest people you could wish to meet. I am pretty certain all of them are horrified by BREXIT, but I am equally sure the institutional culture is such that their successors will all work on at the FCO to try to make the best of an appalling job. It is rather like a determination to slit your own throat neatly and accurately.

Ivan Rogers’ strictures on the lack of government planning and preparedness are quite correct. Brexit is a seat of the pants exercise resulting from a ruse to hide political divisions in the Tory Party. The only definite principle appears to be that the preservation of a pure stream of racist thinking on immigration is sacrosanct, and every other interest or policy must be sacrificed to that. In Liam Fox and Theresa May, the political leadership lies in the hands of two people lacking totally in the required intellectual capacity, while all the senior civil servants who support them – including Tim Barrow – are engaged in a policy with which they fundamentally disagree. I think we are about to see a pig’s ear of a policy with a pig’s arsehole as a result.

I am now back from holiday, and starting working again, though as you may have gathered still in somewhat whimsical mood.

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Signed First Editions of Sikunder Burnes are now available direct from this blog! You can leave a message naming the dedication you want. Sold at cover price of £25 including p&p for UK delivery or £29 for overseas delivery. Ideal Christmas presents!!

sikunder-burnes-3245635-1-2


Delivery
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Exit Obama in a Cloud of Disillusion, Delusion and Deceit

I had promised myself and my family that on this holiday I would do nothing but relax. However events have overtaken my good intentions. I find myself in the unusual position of having twice been in a position to know directly that governments were lying in globe-shaking events, firstly Iraqi WMD and now the “Russian hacks”.

Anybody who believes the latest report issued by Obama as “proof” provides anything of the sort is very easily impressed by some entirely meaningless diagrams. William Binney, who was Technical Director at the NSA and actually designed their surveillance capabilities, has advised me by email. It is plain from the report itself that the Russian groups discussed have been under targeted NSA surveillance for a period longer than the timeframe for the DNC and Podesta leaks. It is therefore inconceivable that the NSA would not have detected and traced those particular data flows and they would be saved. In other words, the NSA would have the actual hack on record, would be able to recognise the emails themselves and tell you exactly the second the transmission or transmissions took place and how they were routed. They would be able to give you date, time and IP addresses. In fact, not only do they produce no evidence of this kind, they do not even claim to have this kind of definite evidence.

Secondly, Bill points out that WikiLeaks is in itself a top priority target and any transmission to WikiLeaks or any of its major operatives would be tracked, captured and saved by NSA as a matter of routine. The exact route and date of the transmission or transmissions of the particular emails to WikiLeaks would be available. In fact, not only does the report not make this information available, it makes no claim at all to know anything about how the information was got to WikiLeaks.

Of course Russian hackers exist. They attack this blog pretty well continually – as do hackers from the USA and many other countries. Of course there have been attempted Russian hacks of the DNC. But the report gives no evidence at all of the alleged successful hack that transmitted these particular emails, nor any evidence of the connection between the hackers and the Russian government, let alone Putin.

There could be no evidence because in reality these were leaks, not hacks. The report is, frankly, a pile of complete and utter dross. To base grave accusations of election hacking on this report is ludicrous. Obama has been a severe disappointment to all progressive thinkers in virtually every possible way. He now goes out of power with absolutely no grace and in a storm of delusion and deceit. His purpose is apparently to weaken Trump politically, but to achieve that at the expense of heightening tensions with Russia to Cold War levels, is shameful. The very pettiness of Obama’s tongue out to Putin – minor sanctions and expelling some diplomatic families – itself shows that Obama is lying about the pretext. If he really believed that Russia had “hacked the election”, surely that would require a much less feeble response. By refusing to retaliate, Russia has shown the kind of polish that eludes Obama as he takes his empty charisma and presentational skills into a no doubt lucrative future in the private sector.

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Joyous News From Palestine

Please do read the full text of Security Council Resolution 2334, passed yesterday:

The Security Council,
Reaffirming its relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 446 (1979), 452 (1979), 465 (1980), 476 (1980), 478 (1980), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003), and 1850 (2008),

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming, inter alia, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force,

Reaffirming the obligation of Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and recalling the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice,

Condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions,

Expressing grave concern that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-State solution based on the 1967 lines,

Recalling the obligation under the Quartet Roadmap, endorsed by its resolution 1515 (2003), for a freeze by Israel of all settlement activity, including “natural growth”, and the dismantlement of all settlement outposts erected since March 2001,

Recalling also the obligation under the Quartet roadmap for the Palestinian Authority Security Forces to maintain effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantling terrorist capabilities, including the confiscation of illegal weapons,

Condemning all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction,
Reiterating its vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,

Stressing that the status quo is not sustainable and that significant steps, consistent with the transition contemplated by prior agreements, are urgently needed in order to (i) stabilize the situation and to reverse negative trends on the ground, which are steadily eroding the two-State solution and entrenching a one-State reality, and (ii) to create the conditions for successful final status negotiations and for advancing the two-State solution through those negotiations and on the ground,

1. Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;

2. Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard;

3. Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations;
4. Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution;

5. Calls upon all States, bearing in mind paragraph 1 of this resolution, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967;

6. Calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism;

7. Calls upon both parties to act on the basis of international law, including international humanitarian law, and their previous agreements and obligations, to observe calm and restraint, and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, with the aim, inter alia, of de-escalating the situation on the ground, rebuilding trust and confidence, demonstrating through policies and actions a genuine commitment to the two-State solution, and creating the conditions necessary for promoting peace;

8. Calls upon all parties to continue, in the interest of the promotion of peace and security, to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final status issues in the Middle East peace process and within the time frame specified by the Quartet in its statement of 21 September 2010;

9. Urges in this regard the intensification and acceleration of international and regional diplomatic efforts and support aimed at achieving, without delay a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East on the basis of the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Roadmap and an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967; and underscores in this regard the importance of the ongoing efforts to advance the Arab Peace Initiative, the initiative of France for the convening of an international peace conference, the recent efforts of the Quartet, as well as the efforts of Egypt and the Russian Federation;

10. Confirms its determination to support the parties throughout the negotiations and in the implementation of an agreement;

11. Reaffirms its determination to examine practical ways and means to secure the full implementation of its relevant resolutions;

12. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council every three months on the implementation of the provisions of the present resolution;

13. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

Given the difficulties of negotiating such resolutions between 15 states, the language is remarkably forthright. The relief of the UN Secretariat itself at the UN acting after eight years of US veto impasse, shines through the accurate but stark headline of the official UN press release on the resolution:

Israel’s Settlements Have No Legal Validity, Constitute Flagrant Violation of International Law, Security Council Reaffirms

In one sense the Resolution is a statement of the blindingly obvious. But it has had such a political impact because Israel, with its politics switched radically to the right by Eastern European immigration, had really come under Netanyahu to believe it could simply strangle the Palestinians acre by acre, and the neo-con political hegemony in the West was so unshakeable there could never be any comeback.

Trump’s apparent hardline Zionism since his election has been a disappointment and was not really prefigured by the balance of his past pronouncements, although as usual with him they are all over the place. But of course he now has no ability to revoke or undermine this resolution; there is no retrospective veto. I retain a hope that Trump will come to regard the US$34 billion a year the USA gives in military assistance to Israel a very strange way to spend the taxpayers’ money.

It might be argued that Obama’s decision not to veto the Resolution shows his true decent instincts once political machination is no longer a factor. I have been undecided whether he is a decent but timid man prepared to go along with the machinations of hard power without any fights that would make his own life less comfortable, or a total charlatan who was always just a puppet of the powerful. It took eight years for me to tend towards the slightly less appalling option. Certainly Hillary, an uncompromising Zionist who refused to condemn illegal settlements when Bernie Sanders did so, would have vetoed the resolution. In a strange way, Trump’s victory allowed it to pass; if Clinton had won, Obama would have very probably felt bound to defer to her wish to veto it.

My own view is that it is too late for a two state solution. I wrote recently of my work on apartheid South Africa, and I find the two state model proposed for Israel/Palestine irresistibly reminiscent of the Bantustan proposals of the apartheid South African government. There is no economically and politically viable state to be constructed out of the overcrowded and cut off territories of the West Bank and Palestine, even without the massive seizures of land and water resources that have occurred within them. To reverse enough of 1967 settlements for a viable Palestinian state in a two state solution wpuld involve an unacceptable further uprooting of people.

This next bit of my opinion angers some – but only some – of my Palestinian friends. I see a single, secular state as the only viable long term solution, but to negotiate this would entail accepting that a large number of post 1967 settlers should stay where they are. Not all, but it is very difficult to see how any agreement could ever be negotiated that does not accept most of the facts on the ground. I see a read across here from the Cyprus negotiations, where Greek Cypriots have a great difficulty in accepting that Turkish settlers must remain. And I believe that like Cyprus, a federal political solution which does not attempt to move populations around further, seems to me the best basis to move forward.

For me, the Security Council’s observation that Israeli settlements “are steadily eroding the two-State solution and entrenching a one-State reality” and the “cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-State solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperilling the two-State solution”, are accurate descriptions of a process which in fact has already gone beyond the point of no return. The irony is, of course, that it is the Israeli government who are horrified by the idea of a single state solution; yet they have made a two state solution impossible. That leaves them the choice of sharing the land with the Palestinians, and a settlement involving massive financial compensation, or continuing complicity in the slow genocide of the Palestinians herded into their ever shrinking territories.

The Security Council has shown Israel that the whole world is horrified by what they are doing to the Palestinians. It will take further time for the Security Council to acknowledge that their own proposed solution really is no longer viable.

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The blog is now essentially closing down for the festive period. I am travelling off to where I shall lie shipwrecked and comatose, drinking fresh mango juice. Barring imminent nuclear war, I am unlikely to post again before the New Year. On the grounds that I am already entirely unfashionable, let me say I saw Status Quo live at the Glasgow Apollo in about 1983, and in Katowice about 1996, and I loved every moment. RIP Rick Parfitt. Merry Christmas everyone!

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