#BentBritain: #UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications!

UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications ~ and , The Guardian, Wednesday 18 February 2015.

Intelligence agencies have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for past five years, government admits

Abdul Hakim Belhaj and Sami al Saadi
The admission comes ahead of a legal challenge brought on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, over allegations that security services unlawfully intercepted their communications with lawyers.  Photograph: PA & AFP

The regime under which UK intelligence agencies, including MI5 and MI6, have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for the past five years is unlawful, the British government has admitted.

The admission that the activities of the security services have failed to comply fully with human rights laws in a second major area – this time highly sensitive legally privileged communications – is a severe embarrassment for the government.

It follows hard on the heels of the British court ruling on 6 February declaring that the regime surrounding the sharing of mass personal intelligence data between America’s national security agency and Britain’s GCHQ was unlawful for seven years.

The admission that the regime surrounding state snooping on legally privileged communications has also failed to comply with the European convention on human rights comes in advance of a legal challenge, to be heard early next month, in which the security services are alleged to have unlawfully intercepted conversations between lawyers and their clients to provide the government with an advantage in court.

The case is due to be heard before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). It is being brought by lawyers on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, who, along with their families, were abducted in a joint MI6-CIA operation and sent back to Tripoli to be tortured by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2004.

A government spokesman said: “The concession the government has made today relates to the agencies’ policies and procedures governing the handling of legally privileged communications and whether they are compatible with the European convention on human rights.

“In view of recent IPT judgments, we acknowledge that the policies adopted since [January] 2010 have not fully met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically article 8 (right to privacy). This includes a requirement that safeguards are made sufficiently public.

“It does not mean that there was any deliberate wrongdoing on their part of the security and intelligence agencies, which have always taken their obligations to protect legally privileged material extremely seriously. Nor does it mean that any of the agencies’ activities have prejudiced or in any way resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings.”

He said that the intelligence agencies would now work with the interception of communications commissioner to ensure their policies satisfy all of the UK’s human rights obligations.

Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve and one of the Belhaj family’s lawyers said: “By allowing the intelligence agencies free reign to spy on communications between lawyers and their clients, the government has endangered the fundamental British right to a fair trial.

“Reprieve has been warning for months that the security services’ policies on lawyer-client snooping have been shot through with loopholes big enough to drive a bus through.

“For too long, the security services have been allowed to snoop on those bringing cases against them when they speak to their lawyers. In doing so, they have violated a right that is centuries old in British common law. Today they have finally admitted they have been acting unlawfully for years.

“Worryingly, it looks very much like they have collected the private lawyer-client communications of two victims of rendition and torture, and possibly misused them. While the government says there was no ‘deliberate’ collection of material, it’s abundantly clear that private material was collected and may well have been passed on to lawyers or ministers involved in the civil case brought by Abdel hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, who were ‘rendered’ to Libya in 2004 by British intelligence.

“Only time will tell how badly their case was tainted. But right now, the government needs urgently to investigate how things went wrong and come clean about what it is doing to repair the damage.”

Government sources, in line with all such cases, refuse to confirm or deny whether the two Libyans were the subject of an interception operation. They insist the concession does not concern the allegation that actual interception took place and say it will be for the investigatory powers tribunal hearing to determine the issue.

An updated draft interception code of practice spelling out the the rules for the first time was quietly published at the same time as the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruling against GCHQ earlier this month in the case brought by Privacy International and Liberty.

The government spokesman said the draft code set out enhanced safeguards and provided more detail than previously on the protections that had to be applied in the security agencies handling of legally privileged communications.

The draft code makes clear that warrants for snooping on legally privileged conversations, emails and other communications between suspects and their lawyers can be granted if there are exceptional and compelling circumstances. They have to however ensure that they are not available to lawyers or policy officials who are conducting legal cases against those suspects.

Exchanges between lawyers and their clients enjoy a special protected status under UK law. Following exposure of widespread monitoring by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, Belhaj’s lawyers feared that their exchanges with their clients could have been compromised by GCHQ’s interception of phone conversations and emails.

To demonstrate that its policies satisfy legal safeguards, MI6 were required in advance of Wednesday’s concession to disclose internal guidance on how intelligence staff should deal with material protected by legal professional privilege.

The MI6 papers noted: “Undertaking interception in such circumstances would be extremely rare and would require strong justification and robust safeguards. It is essential that such intercepted material is not acquired or used for the purpose of conferring an unfair or improper advantage on SIS or HMG [Her Majesty’s government] in any such litigation, legal proceedings or criminal investigation.”

The internal documents also refer to a visit by the interception commissioner, Sir Anthony May, last summer to examine interception warrants, where it was discovered that regulations were not being observed. “In relation to one of the warrants,” the document explained, “the commissioner identified a number of concerns with regard to the handling of [legal professional privilege] material”.

Amnesty UK’s legal programme director, Rachel Logan, said: “We are talking about nothing less than the violation of a fundamental principle of the rule of law – that communications between a lawyer and their client must be confidential.

“The government has been caught red-handed. The security agencies have been illegally intercepting privileged material and are continuing to do so – this could mean they’ve been spying on the very people challenging them in court.

“This is the second time in as many weeks that government spies have been rumbled breaking the law.”


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#Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the #West’s modern crimes!

Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the West’s modern crimes ~ Ben White, The Nation, February 14, 2015.

Like many children, 13-year-old Mohammed Tuaiman suffered from nightmares. In his dreams, he would see flying “death machines” that turned family and friends into burning charcoal. No one could stop them, and they struck any place, at any time.

Unlike most children, Mohammed’s nightmares killed him.

Three weeks ago, a CIA drone operating over Yemen fired a missile at a car carrying the teenager, and two others. They were all incinerated. Nor was Mohammed the first in his family to be targeted: drones had already killed his father and brother.

Since president Barack Obama took office in 2009, the US has killed at least 2,464 people through drone strikes outside the country’s declared war zones. The figure is courtesy of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which says that at least 314 of the dead, one in seven, were civilians.

Recall that for Obama, as The New York Times reported in May 2012, “all military-age males in a strike zone” are counted “as combatants” – unless “there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent”.

It sounds like the stuff of nightmares.

The week after Mohammed’s death, on February 5, Mr Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast, and discussed the violence of ISIL.

“Lest we get on our high horses”, said the commander-in-chief, “remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

These comments prompted a (brief) media storm, with Mr Obama accused of insulting Christians, pandering to the terrorist enemy, or just bad history.

In fact, the president was simply repeating a point often made by liberals since September 11, namely, that all religions have blots on their copy book through the deeds of their followers.

One of the consequences, however, of this invocation of the Crusades – unintended, and all the more significant for it – is to seal away the West’s “sins”, particularly vis-à-vis its relationship to the Middle East, in events that took place a thousand years ago.

The Crusades were, in one sense, a demonstration of raw military power, and a collective trauma for the peoples of the regions they marched through and invaded.

In the siege of Jerusalem in 1099, a witness described how the Europeans ordered “all the Saracen dead to be cast outside because of the great stench, since the whole city was filled with their corpses”.

He added: “No one ever saw or heard of such slaughter of pagan people, for funeral pyres were formed from them like pyramids.”

Or take the Third Crusade, when, on August 20, 1191, England’s King Richard I oversaw the beheading of 3,000 Muslim prisoners at Acre in full view of Saladin’s army.

Just “ancient history”? In 1920, when the French had besieged and captured Damascus, their commander Henri Gourard reportedly went to the grave of Saladin, kicked it, and uttered: “Awake Saladin, we have returned! My presence here consecrates the victory of the Cross over the Crescent.”

But the US president need not cite the Crusades or even the colonial rule of the early 20th century: more relevant reference points would be Bagram and Fallujah.

Bagram base in Afghanistan is where US soldiers tortured prisoners to death – like 22-year-old taxi driver and farmer Dilawar. Before he was killed in custody, Dilawar was beaten by soldiers just to make him scream “Allah!”

Five months after September 11, The Guardian reported that US missiles had killed anywhere between 1,300 and 8,000 in Afghanistan. Months later, the paper suggested that “as many as 20,000 Afghans may have lost their lives as an indirect consequence of the US intervention”.

When it was Iraq’s turn, the people of Fallujah discovered that US forces gave them funerals, not democracy. On April 28, 2003, US soldiers massacred civilian protesters, shooting to death 17 during a demonstration.

When that city revolted against the occupation, the residents paid a price. As Marines tried to quell resistance in the city, wrote The New York Times on April 14, 2004, they had “orders to shoot any male of military age on the streets after dark, armed or not”.Months later, as the Marines launched their November assault on the city, CNN reported that “the sky…seems to explode”.

In their bombardment and invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US and UK armed forces rained fiery death down on men, women and children. Prisoners were tortured and sexually abused. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. No one was held to account.

It is one thing to apologise for the brutality of western Crusaders a thousand years ago. It is quite another to look at the corpses of the victims of the imperialist present, or hear the screams of the bereaved.

In his excellent book The Muslims Are Coming, Arun Kundnani analysed the “politics of anti-extremism”, and describes the two approaches developed by policymakers and analysts during the “war on terror”.

The first approach, which he refers to as “culturalism”, emphasises “what adherents regard as inherent features of Islamic culture”. The second approach, “reformism”, is when “extremism is viewed as a perversion of Islam’s message”, rather than “a clash of civilisations between the West’s modern values and Islam’s fanaticism”.

Thus the American Right was angry with Mr Obama, because for them, it is about religion – or specifically, Islam. Liberals, meanwhile, want to locate the problem in terms of culture.

Both want to avoid a discussion about imperialism, massacres, coups, brutalities, disappearances, dictatorships – in other words, politics.

As Kundnani writes: when “the concept of ideology” is made central, whether understood as “Islam itself or as Islamist extremism”, then “the role of western states in co-producing the terror war is obscured”.

The problem with Mr Obama’s comments on the Crusades was not, as hysterical conservatives claimed, that he was making offensive and inaccurate analogies with ISIL; rather, that in the comfort of condemning the past, he could mask the violence of his own government in the present.

The echoes of collective trauma remain for a long time, and especially when new wounds are still being inflicted. Think it is farfetched that Muslims would still care about a 1,000-year-old European invasion? Then try asking them about Guantanamo and Camp Bucca instead.

Ben White is a journalist and author of Israeli Apartheid

Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the West’s modern crimes
Pep Montserrat for The National

| Paralysed Saudi Arabian man’s tweet asking for someone to visit him in hospital becomes most retweeted message in Saudi Arabian Twitter history!

Paralysed Saudi Arabian man’s tweet asking for someone to visit him in hospital becomes most retweeted message in Saudi Arabian Twitter history ~ JACK SIMPSON, The Independent.

Bedbound and paralyzed as the result of a car accident over half a year ago, he had not had a visitor from his family in months and was in desperate need of life-changing surgery that the Saudi Arabian could not afford.

Alone and isolated, there was not too much joy in Ibrahim’s life.

That was until he posted a tweet aimed at encouraging one of the few followers he had to come and visit as he lay paralysed in his bed.

With his tweet he hoped that at least one sympathetic person might hear his call and provide some much craved company for him.

What he did not expect was the social media storm that it would create.

Within one day Ibrahim’s tweet became the most retweeted message in Saudi Arabia’s Twitter history.

The hashtag #VisitIbrahim circulated through social media circles and within just 24 hours it had been retweeted over 200,000 times.

Not only that, but Ibrahim got a lot more than he bargained for when hundreds of people from all over Saudi Arabia came to visit him.

The Ritadh hospital had to stop visitors after they began affecting the work of staff

Clutching flowers, pizza and other gifts there were cues of hundreds of people outside the King Khalid University Hospital in the country’s capital Riyadh, all with the aim of meeting Saudi’s latest social media star.

The hospital became so busy that its officials had to put a temporary ban on all of its visitors as the number of people in the building was affecting the work of its staff.

Some even resorted to feeding Ibrahim

Yet Ibrahim did not only benefit from the tweet in terms of footfall and flowers, so compelled were the Saudi Twitter community by Ibrahim’s story that they contributed financially towards the life-changing surgery Ibrahim dreamed of.

The surgery which would cost $130,000 and involve Ibrahim travelling to Germany was quickly covered by the generous donors from the oil rich middle-eastern country.

Pictures showing visitors posing, talking to and even feeding the paralyzed man were posted on Twitter.

It is now hoped a trip to Germany can be organised soon so that that Ibrahim can get the surgery he is so in need of.

| US is a knuckle-dragging, low grade moronic culture – George Galloway!

The US is a knuckle-dragging, low grade moronic culture – George Galloway ~  John Robles, The Voice of Russia.

The high point of the American Empire has passed and mercifully we have emerged intact from the 20 very dangerous years during which the United States was the sole superpower in the world. We must never allow ourselves to endure that trial again. Power in the world is now passing to the East, to China, to Russia and to other rising nations as the United States is an aging tiger whose teeth are falling out.

This was stated in an interview which outspoken and brutally honest British MP George Galloway granted to the Voice of Russia’s John Robles. With regard to US surrogate NATO which is circling both Russia and China with bases and nuclear weapons, he labeled it an “imperial war machine” and called it “the greatest danger to peace and security in the world.” Mr. Galloway was also candid on his assessment of Saudi Arabia which he called a “gangster state” with Prince Bandar acting as chief capo who delivers severed horse’s heads into the bed of whomsoever they wish to intimidate.

As for Ukraine Mr. Galloway put the situation into stark perspective by saying: “Can you imagine what would happen if President Putin went to the streets of Toronto on street demonstrations whipping up anti-American feeling, in neighboring country. And yet this is precisely what is happening on the front line in Kiev now,” he added; again President Putin has again played a masterful diplomatic game. As for declining US hegemony he stated: “… they are losing and losing and losing. … they are losing because their power is waning, because hard power is waning, their financial power is defunct and their soft power, their cultural power is virtually non-existent. Anyone who takes a look at John McCain and thinks that that is a cultural soft power icon to desire, to head towards, would need their head examined. This is knuckle-dragging, low grade moronic culture,” he stated.

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This is John Robles, you are listening to an interview with George Galloway, a member of the British Parliament. This is part 3 of an interview in progress. You can find the previous parts of this interview on our website at voiceofrussia.com

Part 1,  Part 2

Robles: Another country that, I just want to add to your list, was Saudi Arabia when Prince Bandar threatened terrorist attacks on the Olympic Games in Sochi. Russia would have had every right to just wipe it off the map.

Galloway: Well, Saudi Arabia is a gangster state and Bandar is increasingly the chief capo. He is the man who goes around delivering the severed horse’s headinto the bed of whomsoever they wish to intimidate.

They try bribery first of all and then they try browbeating, and finally they are ready to bully through the use of their surrogate auxiliary terrorist army.

And they found that President Putin could be neither bribed nor bullied, and he was sent away with a flea in his ear. But he was very lucky; it was only a flea in his ear. Frankly if he’d tried it with me he’d have gone home without an ear.

Robles: Yeah, I mean, you don’t threaten a nuclear superpower, I’m sorry, the West can say whatever they want but Russia is still a nuclear power. You don’t tell a president: “We are going to unleash Al Qaeda; we control your Chechen terrorists”. What about Scotland? You are Scottish, yes, sir?

Galloway: Yes, I am, yes.

Robles: What about Scottish independence? Do you think that will happen? How is it going?

Galloway: I don’t think it will happen and I don’t want it to happen. I’m against the breakup of states. This small country has been one country for more than 300 years. We speak the same language, we have a common language, a common culture, a common economic situation and once upon a time, if only briefly, we did some good things in the world, particularly in 1940 and 1941 when we stood alone against Fascist barbarism,and we didn’t ask the people who did so whether they were Scottish or whether they were English.

And I just think that working people divided are always weakened, working people together will be stronger. So, I was against the breakup of Yugoslavia, I was against the breakup of the USSR, I can hardly be in favor of the breakup of this small country.

Robles: Ok. Can you give us your opinion of sovereignty in the EU with regard to, for example, Ukraine and how much do countries lose in terms of sovereignty in your opinion when they join the EU?

Galloway: Before I answer that, let me just make this point. Can you imagine what would happen if President Putin went to the streets of Toronto on street demonstrations whipping up anti-American feeling, in neighboring country. And yet this is precisely what is happening on the front line in Kiev now. European and North American politicians are on the streets of Russia’s neighboring country whipping up anti-Russian feeling. But it seems to me, maybe I’m wrong – you will know better than I – but it’s running out of steam.

Again President Putin with his economic arrangements that he has now made with the President of Ukraine has again played a masterful diplomatic game. And the European Union, virtually bankrupt, is not in a position to match what Russia can do to help Ukraine in this terrible economic situation that it is in.

But to answer your point, the European Union is a good idea in principle. It has stopped the countries of the west of Europe in the first instance, from attacking each other, and murdering each other in their millions, which they did from 1870 until 1945, three times at least. And that is a good thing.

It is a good thing if working people in the European continent, not only within the boundaries of the European Union but throughout the European continent, can reach a common agreements on social policy, on environmental issues, on issues of social security and even common defense. There is nothing wrong with any of these things.

But the European Union is utterly dysfunctional when it comes to the manner in which it is run and the free market banking principles on which it is based.

We have a Reganite-Thatcherite European Central Bank which sets monetary and fiscal policy for the Franco-German center and not for the periphery even of Western Europe, never mind Central and Eastern Europe as they become more often members of the European Union.

So it is a very dysfunctional organization, it is broke and it ought to fix its own problems rather than sticking its nose into the problems of Ukraine and the Ukraine’s relationship with Russia.

Robles: I see. And by extension – NATO, what is your opinion about NATO and their expansion?

Galloway: Well, NATO is an imperial war machine; its name is increasingly of course a misnomer. The North Atlantic has been stretched as a geographical definition as far as the desserts of North Africa. And the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is circling both Russia and China with bases and nuclear armed warships and airplanes and so on. And it is the greatest danger to peace and security in the world.

And one of the many reasons why I find the call for Scottish independence implausible is that the Independence Party plans on making the independent Scotland a member of NATO which makes a mockery of its professed intention to be rid of nuclear weapons. You cannot be rid of nuclear weapons whilst joining a nuclear armed club.

Robles: Do you see NATO weakening or just growing and growing beyond all control?

Galloway: No, no, they are definitely weakening. The high point of the American Empire has passed as the high point of the British Empire before it passed.

Power is passing to the East, to China, to Russia and to other rising countries in the East and the South. I wouldn’t say as Chairman Mao said 30 years or 40 years, prematurely, that the United States was a paper tiger, but it is definitely an aging tiger whose teeth are beginning to fall out.

Robles: I see. Very well put, thank you sir – brilliant.

Galloway: Thank you.

Robles: If I could last, very last point and then I’ll let you go: Ukraine, right; Syria, we think Ukraine it was like revenge for their loss in Syria, right? Now if they lose in Ukraine what is the next hot spot going to be in your opinion?

Galloway: Well, the thing is they are losing and losing and losing. Now that might make them more angry but it doesn’t make them more able to win. They are losing because they are losing, they are losing because their power is waning, because hard power is waning, their financial power is defunct and their soft power, their “cultural power” is virtually non-existent.

Anyone who takes a look and a listen to John McCain and thinks that that is a cultural soft power icon to desire, to head towards, would need their head examined. This is knuckle-dragging, low grade moronic culture. And I don’t think that the great people of the Ukraine or in many other places are attracted to the soft power of the United States. The United States doesnot have the financial and economic wherewithal to make it worth their while.

So people are increasingly looking to themselves I hope, and looking elsewhere to other rising powers in the world. And let’s hope that in the next year and the next decade we have a number of great powers in the world.

Mercifully we have emerged intact from the very dangerous twenty years in which the United States was the sole superpower in the world, we escaped that and we must never allow ourselves to endure that trial again.

Robles: I see. Can we finish up with your film? Can you give us a few details maybe plug it if you want to, tell us where can we go.I understand, your film its very unique in that it’s being funded by the people.

Galloway: Yes, the Killing of Tony Blair began on Kickstarter, which is a crowd-funding mechanism. We asked for £50,000 and we got £160,000. And the money is still coming in, it can’t come in now by Kickstarter but you can still support us through PayPal, you can go to theblairdoc.com.

You can follow us on Twitter at the @TheBlairDoc. There are many many ways, if you forget any of those, just go to George Galloway MP on Facebook or follow me @George Galloway on Twitter and I’ll put you in the right direction. The film should be out next autumn, and it is coming to a cinema near you.

Robles: OK. I’m sure it will be very popular in Russia; hopefully we can get a Russian version.

Galloway: I hope so. Thanks very much indeed, John.

Robles: Ok, thank you, sir, it was an honor and a pleasure, and thanks for your time.

Galloway: My pleasure, my pleasure, thanks, bye.

Robles: Ok, bye-bye.

That was the end of Part 3 of an interview with British Member of Parliament George Galloway. You can find the previous parts of this interview on our website at voiceofrussia.com. Thank you very much for listening and as always I wish all the best and happy holidays wherever you may be.

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| The Mad Prince of Saudi Arabia: Bandar’s Reign of Terror!

The Mad Prince of Saudi Arabia: Bandar’s Reign of Terror ~ AHMAD BARQAWI, Counterpunch.

Lesson of the day; don’t piss off a spoilt, insufferable Saudi Prince on a fool’s mission to bring about regime change in Syria; lest he’ll literally blow the whole damned world up to kingdom come.

Meet the man behind every terrorist-bombing breaking-news from the Middle East nowadays; he is the man who is elbows deep in the bloody “Balkanization” of Iraq, subsequent “Iraqization” of Lebanon, current ”Lebanonization” of Syria… and the intended “Syrianization” of Egypt. He’s the guy in one famous picture you see sitting casually on a sofa’s arm in the oval office looking down on Georg W. Bush, probably plotting together the then impending rape of Iraq. Usually if his name is mentioned, it is most commonly in connection with stirring a sectarian mini-civil war or enabling an American invasion somewhere in the region. Saudi spy chief Bandar Ben Sultan a.k.a. Bandar Bush.

You can tell that Prince Bandar has been quite busy ever since his appointment as head of the Saudi Intelligence Agency in the summer of 2012 (though to use the term ‘intelligence’ in the same sentence with the man who threatened to torpedo the upcoming Sochi winter Olympics with terrorist attacks if Moscow didn’t jump on board with Riyadh regarding Syria- is the mother of all contradictions); a quick scan over the news headlines of the past year or so is enough to know that not only does Bandar Bush take his new post seriously; but he does it with such a reckless abandon and more alarmingly, with a chronic dependency on Islamic extremist groups of the Al-Qaeda variety which, for all intents and purposes, have always been one of Saudi Arabia’s main calling cards in advancing its vile excuse for a foreign policy since the 1980s (a colleague of mine once hit the nail on the head when he remarked that; ‘Al Qaida is nothing more than Saudi Arabia’s secret army’).

Terrorist attacks have double-timed their callous, sectarian pace in Iraq this year with last October being the deadliest month with more than 1,000 civilian deaths resulting from car blasts and suicide attacks which have become a daily reality for most Iraqis to the extent where their occurrence is not deemed news-worthy anymore.

Syria -where the bitter rub is for the house of Saud these days- has become a popular destination for a slew of brainwashed, trigger-happy Jihadi fighters eager to meet their maker and claim the lives of hundreds of people in the process; terrorist networks metastasized remarkably in the war-torn country ever since Riyadh took complete hold over the “Syrian Revolution” dossier from Doha and showered these fanatic groups with an endless stream of cash, weapons, logistical support, unprecedented diplomatic clout and ideological guidance. In short; Syria metamorphosed -into an even bleaker version of late 1980s-early 1990s Afghanistan thanks to Saudi petro-dollars and heavy sectarian indoctrinations on a scale rarely seen against Shiites and Alawites (of course the Saudis are going to resort to sectarianism; it’s the only weapon in their god-forsaken armory. How else were they going to effectively mobilize and steer hordes of Islamic militants and new recruits towards holy Jihad on Syrian soil?).

Like flies on meat, these crazed Jihadi groups and Takfiri fighters started pouring into Lebanon in their hundreds, it was neither a mere spell-over of the Syrian war nor a result of sheer coincidence; bringing Al-Qaeda and its affiliates into Lebanon was a deliberate, calculated move by the Saudi-American-Israeli axis and its silly coterie of the Lebanese pro-western March 14th movement, with the sole objective of weakening Hizbollah (regardless of the party’s military involvement in Syria, contrary to what is being constantly purported in the mainstream media) by hitting the Lebanese resistance where it hurts most: its public base of supporters.

Of course in the twisted mind of this Axis and its regional implantations that could only mean one thing: targeting predominantly Shiite areas inside Lebanon in a flamboyant attempt to: a) instigate a sectarian armed conflict between Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon, and b) turn the Lebanese people against Hizbollah and strong-arm the party’s political leadership into making concessions that would downsize its growing regional role and leave it but a declawed lion, thus rockets and mortars started falling on the town of Hermel and other mostly Shiite-populated villages all along the Syrian-Lebanese border courtesy of Syrian opposition military groups, it wasn’t long before these sporadic attacks morphed into more sophisticated, large-scale car-bombings reminiscent of Al Qaida’s own handiwork in Iraq, in the heart of Hezbollah’s strongholds in the Southern Suburb of Beirut, one of which claimed the lives of 27 and wounded more than 300 last August.

The dual bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut last week which left 23 dead including the Iranian cultural attaché, fits in an entirely different bracket; it marked the first time in this litany of Saudi-sponsored terrorism that suicide bombers were used in a meticulously planned terrorist attack directly targeting official Iranian interests in Lebanon; the fact that a couple of 21-year-olds so indoctrinated and filled with hatred towards fellow Muslims that they strapped themselves with explosives and drove kamikaze-style towards the Iranian embassy with hopes of martyrdom is indicative of how rotten the fruits borne out of over 10 years’ worth of Saudi Arabia’s unrelenting sectarian incitement and hysterical anti-Shia propaganda have become; transforming a sizable portion of today’s youth into sectarian-time-bombs waiting to go off; what comes next is anybody’s guess.

This is what the Arab world has come to cope with; higher (and more lethal) degrees of Saudi Arabia’s political insanity, and with the newly signed Iranian nuclear deal and Geneva II conference looming in the distance practically obituarizing the Kingdom’s failed attempts at overthrowing Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, things could only get worse; Saudi Arabia has become so completely unhinged from reality (and humanity) that it might decide to go for broke on the Iraqi-Syrian-Lebanese front; upping the ante in its confrontational escapades against the “Shiite threat” and leaving a scorched path of countless of civilian deaths in its wake from Iraq to Lebanon under the destructive captaincy of Bandar Ben Sultan.

Even though Prince Bandar is the current face of Saudi Arabia’s madness; he is by no means ploughing a lone furrow here in his aggressive no-holds-barred-type of approach towards Syria, Hizbollah and Iran, this is in fact a matter of official policy for Saudi Arabia -endorsed by the entire upper echelons of power in the Kingdom- supposedly to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region; a policy that has unleashed this unstoppable freight train of terrorism and sectarian hatred that is steering the entire Arab World on a bound-collision course, Prince Bandar was entrusted with overseeing and implementing this sorry-mess-of-a-policy because of the intimate network of connections that he enjoys in Washington (thanks to his 22 year-service as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States) and all the clout and power that the Saudis were hoping he could wield on some American politicians and western policy-makers to rally the west into heavily arming the Syrian opposition and/or bombing Syria all together; but these are different times, and it would appear that Bandar’s “charms” do not have as much of a hold over Obama as they once did over the Bush clan.

While the entire world heaved a collective sigh of relief after the Iran nuclear deal, two of America’s ardent regional allies were left stomping around like spoilt children, throwing hissy fits over the U.S’s sudden “about-face”, the coming days will see greater cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel; working together in an ironclad alliance to swing the region’s pendulum back in favor of missile diplomacy and military interventions, with Al-Qaida at their disposal. Let that mental image sink in for a second; Israel’s intelligence capabilities, Saudi Arabia’s petro-dollars and Al-Qaeda’s explosive ideology. The worst is yet to come.

Ahmad Barqawi, a Jordanian freelance columnist & writer based in Amman, he has done several studies, statistical analysis and researches on economic and social development in Jordan.

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| Greedy France wrecks P5+1 Deal for Arab money!

Finian Cunningham: France Wrecks P5+1 Deal for Arab Money ~  .


The French deal-breaking intervention at the P5+1 negotiation with Iran may have been motivated by France wanting to ingratiate itself with the Persian Gulf monarchies for strategic economic reasons.

Negotiations to resolve the nuclear deadlock and lift economic sanctions on Iran appeared to be near a breakthrough agreement after three days of talks in the Swiss capital, Geneva, over the weekend.

The hasty arrival of US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany raised expectations that a potential deal was in the offing. But it was the French diplomat, Laurent Fabius, who threw a spanner in the works at the last-minute.

Fabius invoked “security concerns of Israel” and announced that his country was not going to sign a draft agreement. The French intervention appeared to catch participants by surprise.

An unnamed Western diplomat told Reuters, “The Americans, the EU and the Iranians have been working intensively for months on this proposal and this is nothing more than an attempt by Fabius to insert himself into relevance late in the negotiations.”

However, contrary to Fabius’ words and speculation by some analysts, the French motive seem less about appeasing Israel and France’s formidable Jewish lobby, and more to do with pandering to the Persian Gulf Arab monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Israeli opposition to any deal with Iran over the 10-year nuclear dispute is, of course, obvious. On the eve of the latest talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was almost apoplectic in urging Western states to reject “a deal of the century for Iran.”

Equally as disconcerted about a possible accord were the Wahhabi monarchies led by Saudi Arabia, which view Shia Iran as an archenemy for influence in the Middle East. Only days before the latest round of P5+1 talks in Geneva, former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al Faisal told the Washington Post in an interview that his country was opposed to lifting sanctions on Iran.

One of the most striking political developments in recent months is the alignment of Israel with the House of Saud and the other Persian Gulf Arab regimes in terms of foreign policy objectives and adversity towards Iran.

Another salient development has been the strategic economic cooperation between France and the Persian Gulf oil kingdoms. Major sectors of interest include energy, water and electrical infrastructure, construction and weapons sales.

The French government has been embarking on an aggressive bilateral investment drive with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.

In April this year, Paris hosted a Saudi-French Business Opportunities Forum attended by 500 businessmen from both countries.

French ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Bertrand Besancenot, said, “Saudi Arabia is a strategic partner of France in the region and the bilateral relationship is of paramount importance in the economic field,” pointing out that bilateral trade has doubled over the last five years.

In July, French company Veolia won a $500 million contract to build and operate water desalination plants in Saudi Arabia. That contract is reckoned to be the biggest of its kind in the Middle East, and from the French point of view, it is a model for the future, given that water and electricity infrastructure right across the Persian Gulf oil kingdoms is a vital development need for decades to come.

France is also courting capital investment and commerce from Qatar and the UAE. At stake is the purchase of French Rafale fighter jets worth billions of dollars underlined by the fact that France is in sharp competition with arms exporters from the US, Britain and Germany.

Another lucrative sector that the French are eyeing in the Persian Gulf Arab countries is nuclear energy. French nuclear company Areva is vying with Western competitors to build and operate nuclear energy plants in the UAE, which is something of an irony given France’s apparent objections to Iranian plans for the same technology.

“France calls for increased investment from Qatar,” read a headline in the Financial Times on 24 June.

The report said, “French President François Hollande used a weekend visit to Qatar to call for more investment from the gas-rich Gulf state to boost job creation in France.”

The FT added, “Mr Hollande told business leaders he hoped more Qatari money could be lured into France’s services and industrial sectors, with a reciprocal rise in French companies implementing the grand development ambitions of this fast-growing Gulf state.”

And the Qataris have obliged Hollande’s plea for funds. The two countries have set up a joint investment vehicle worth some $400 million to direct Qatari petrodollars towards French businesses. So far, Qatar’s total investment in France has reached an estimated $15 billion, with shares in flagship French companies, such as energy giant Total, construction firm Vinci, media business Legardere, water and electricity supplier Veolia, and even football team Paris Saint Germain.

Qatar’s ruling Al Thani dynasty has also been buying up luxury Paris real estates.

When France’s Hollande visited Qatar in June, he brazenly pitched his country as an alternative foreign investment destination to Britain and Germany.

France’s deteriorating economic situation and Hollande’s slump in the polls – he is the most unpopular French leader ever – can only but intensify the French dependence on Persian Gulf Arab money. This week, the international credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s downgraded France for the second time on the back of ballooning national debt, trade deficit and unemployment.

In this context it becomes clear why France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius acted to scupper the P5+1 talks this weekend in Geneva. By wrecking a potential deal with Iran, Fabius was no doubt bidding to please Saudi Arabia and the other Persian Gulf Arab regimes with a view to securing billions-of-dollars-worth of urgently needed capital.

Mouthing disingenuous concerns, Fabius vandalized with a spanner in one hand and a begging bowl surreptitiously in the other.

File photo showing closed-door talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council on November 9.

File photo showing closed-door talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council on November 9.

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

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| Syria crisis: Saudi Arabia to spend millions to train new rebel force!

Syria crisis: Saudi Arabia to spend millions to train new rebel force ~

Riyadh ‘fighting two wars in Syria’ as new force Jaysh al-Islam excludes al-Qaida affiliates in bid to defeat Assad regime.

Saudi Arabia is preparing to spend millions of dollars to arm and train thousands of Syrian fighters in a new national rebel force to help defeatBashar al-Assad and act as a counterweight to increasingly powerful jihadi organisations.

Syrian, Arab and western sources say the intensifying Saudi effort is focused on Jaysh al-Islam (the Army of Islam or JAI), created in late September by a union of 43 Syrian groups. It is being billed as a significant new player on the fragmented rebel scene.

The force excludes al-Qaida affiliates such as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, but embraces more non-jihadi Islamist and Salafi units.

According to one unconfirmed report the JAI will be trained with Pakistani help, and estimates of its likely strength range from 5,000 to more than 50,000. But diplomats and experts warned on Thursday that there are serious doubts about its prospects as well as fears of “blowback” by extremists returning from Syria.

The Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, is also pressing the US to drop its objections to supplying anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles to the JAI. Jordan is being urged to allow its territory to be used as a supply route into neighbouring Syria.

In return, diplomats say, Riyadh is encouraging the JAI to accept the authority of the US and western-backed Supreme Military Council, led by Salim Idriss, and the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

“There are two wars in Syria,” said Mustafa Alani, an analyst for the Saudi-backed Gulf Research Centre. “One against the Syrian regime and one against al-Qaida. Saudi Arabia is fighting both.”

Saudi Arabia has long called publicly for arming the anti-Assad rebels and has bridled at US caution. It has been playing a more assertive role since September’s US-Russian agreement on chemical weapons – which it saw as sparing the Syrian leader from US-led air strikes and granting him a degree of international rehabilitation.

The JAI is led by Zahran Alloush, a Salafi and formerly head of Liwa al-Islam, one of the most effective rebel fighting forces in the Damascus area. Alloush recently held talks with Bandar along with Saudi businessmen who are financing individual rebel brigades under the JAI’s banner. Other discreet coordinating meetings in Turkey have involved the Qatari foreign minister, Khaled al-Attiyeh, and the US envoy to Syria, Robert Ford.

In one indication of its growing confidence – and resources – the JAI this week advertised online for experienced media professionals to promote its cause.

The appearance of an “Army of Muhammad” – with its equally obvious Islamic resonance – appears to be part of the same or related effort proposed by Syrian Sunni clerics to unite disparate rebel groups into a 100,000-strong force by March 2015.

It is too early, however, to see any impact of the Saudi move on the ground. “Militarily it’s not significant,” said one senior western official.

“I don’t see it producing any dramatic change yet. It’s a political step. These new rebel formations seem to be relabelling themselves and creating new leadership structures. It’s part of a quite parochial political game – and above all a competition for resources.”

But the Saudis are making an energetic case for their strategy – and playing on western anxieties. “The Saudis are saying that if you don’t join the fight against Assad you will end up with a much bigger jihadi problem,” said Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “They are being a lot more proactive. That means taking the rebellion a lot more seriously and trying to develop as many proxies and allies as possible.”

Saudi assertiveness has grown along with unhappiness over US policy towards Syria and Iran, the kingdom’s regional rival. Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, described Obama’s approach to Syria as “lamentable”.

Last month the Saudis cancelled their annual speech at the UN general assembly and turned down their first election to a security council seat in protest over the Syrian situation. The Saudis, like the Israelis, also fear a US “grand bargain” that leaves Iran free to develop nuclear weapons.

Alani, echoing official Saudi views, warned of the risk from an emboldened al-Qaida unless more moderate forces prevailed in Syria. “Al-Qaida is getting stronger,” he said. “It is undermining the Syrian revolution and giving the US an argument for not supporting it. It will backfire against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf sooner or later – like what happened in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.”

Other experts argue that the kingdom is taking risks by being so proactive, relying on funding and weapons for influence, concentrating on military pressure on Assad without developing a clear political strategy and focusing on strengthening groups with an overtly Sunni character.

“The Saudi leadership should be careful what it creates in Syria,” Yezid Sayegh of the Carnegie Foundation warned in a recent commentary.“Muhammad’s Army may eventually come home to Mecca.”

The effort also faces problems of capacity, coordination and delivery. “The Saudis and Qataris lack the means to shape insurgent groups,” suggested Thomas Pierret of Edinburgh University.

“They have a lot of money but very poor intelligence and human resources and organisational skills. They are very dependent on the western military. They are too used to having relationships with clients and using personal networks.

“That’s why they’ve been forced to turn to Syrian groups which already have military credibility. They are becoming less selective and more realistic and putting aside their reservations about who they support. But I doubt they are able to unify the whole thing. The Saudis say ‘you should unite and we will give you money.’ But some will end up getting more money than others and the coalition will break apart.”

A fighter from Jabhat al-Nusra poses at a checkpoint in Aleppo

A fighter from Jabhat al-Nusra poses at a checkpoint in Aleppo. The Saudi effort is focused on Jaysh al-Islam and excludes al-Qaida affiliates such as Jabhat al-Nusra. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters

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| The bursting bubble: Consequences of US decline!

The consequences of US decline ~ Immanuel WallersteinAl Jazeera America.

Commentary: America’s gradual loss of global influence may trigger a chaotic, multipolar power struggle.

I have long argued that U.S. decline as a hegemonic power began circa 1970, and that a slow decline became a precipitate one during the presidency of George W. Bush. I first started writing about this in 1980 or so. At that time, the reaction to this argument, from all political camps, was to reject it as absurd. In the 1990s, quite to the contrary, it was widely believed, again on all sides of the political spectrum, that the United States had reached the height of unipolar dominance.

However, after the burst bubble of 2008, opinion of politicians, pundits and the general public began to change. Today, a large percentage of people (albeit not everyone) accepts the reality of at least some relative decline of U.S. power, prestige and influence. In the United States, this is accepted quite reluctantly. Politicians and pundits rival each other in recommending how this decline can still be reversed. I believe it is irreversible.

The real question is what the consequences of this decline are. The first is the manifest reduction of U.S. ability to control the world situation, and in particular the loss of trust by the erstwhile closest allies of the United States in its behavior. In the last month, because of the evidence released by Edward Snowden, it has become public knowledge that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has been directly spying on the top political leadership of Germany, France, Mexico and Brazil among others (as well, of course, on countless citizens of these countries).

I am sure the United States engaged in similar activities in 1950. But in 1950, none of these countries would have dared to make a public scandal of their anger, and demand that the United States stop doing this. If they do it today, it is because today the United States needs them more than they need the United States. These present leaders know that the United States has no choice but to promise, as President Obama just did, to cease these practices (even if the United States doesn’t mean it). And the leaders of these four countries all know that their internal position will be strengthened, not weakened, by publically tweaking the nose of the United States.


Despite its decline, the United States remains a giant, but a giant with clay feet. 

Insofar as the media discuss U.S. decline, most attention is placed on China as a potential successor hegemon. This too misses the point. China is undoubtedly a country growing in geopolitical strength. But accession to the role of the hegemonic power is a long, arduous process. It would normally take at least another half-century for any country to reach the position where it could exercise hegemonic power. And this is a long time, during which much may happen.

Initially, there is no immediate successor to the role. Rather, what happens when the much lessened power of the erstwhile hegemonic power seems clear to other countries is that relative order in the world-system is replaced by a chaotic struggle among multiple poles of power, none of which can control the situation. The United States does remain a giant, but a giant with clay feet. It continues for the moment to have the strongest military force, but it finds itself unable to make much good use of it. The United States has tried to minimize its risks by concentrating on drone warfare. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has just denounced this view as totally unrealistic militarily. He reminds us that one wins wars only by ground warfare, and the U.S. president is presently under enormous pressure by both politicians and popular sentiment not to use ground forces.

The problem for everyone in a situation of geopolitical chaos is the high level of anxiety it breeds and the opportunities it offers for destructive folly to prevail. The United States, for example, may no longer be able to win wars, but it can unleash enormous damage to itself and others by imprudent actions. Whatever the United States tries to do in the Middle East today, it loses. At present none of the strong actors in the Middle East (and I do mean none) take their cues from the United States any longer. This includes Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan (not to mention Russia and China). The policy dilemmas this poses for the United States has been recorded in great detail in The New York Times. The conclusion of the internal debate in the Obama administration has been a super-ambiguous compromise, in which President Obama seems vacillating rather than forceful.

Finally, there are two real consequences of which we can be fairly sure in the decade to come. The first is the end of the U.S. dollar as the currency of last resort. When this happens, the United States will have lost a major protection for its national budget and for the cost of its economic operations. The second is the decline, probably a serious decline, in the relative standard of living of U.S. citizens and residents. The political consequences of this latter development are hard to predict in detail but will not be insubstantial.

Opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Al Jazeera America.

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A group of protesters stand on a US flag in Ankara, Turkey during a protest against a U.S.-produced film mocking Islam on September 16, 2012. 
Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images 

| Robert Fisk’s comedy of errors!

Robert Fisk’s comedy of errors ~ al-bab.com.

The Syrian ‘nuclear stockpile’ and other gaffes!

Robert Fisk, the veteran Middle East correspondent, once offered this advice to would-be journalists:

“If you want to be a reporter you must establish a relationship with an editor in which he will let you write – he must trust you and you must make sure you make no mistakes.”

It was good advice, though perhaps more a case of “do as I say” than “do as I do”. Even if you disagree with Fisk’s articles or find them turgid, there’s still entertainment to be had from spotting his mistakes.

On Wednesday, for instance, anyone who read beyond the first paragraph of his column in The Independent would have found him asserting that Saudi Arabia had refused to take its place among “non-voting members” of the UN Security Council. He described this as an unprecedented step – which indeed it was, though not quite in the way Fisk imagines: the Security Council doesn’t have “non-voting” members (unless they choose to abstain). Presumably he meant “non-permanent members”.

Perhaps that is excusable, since the UN is not Fisk’s speciality. But he does specialise in reporting about the Middle East, and so we find him in a column last year informing readers that Syria had a stockpile of nuclear weapons – or, to be more precise, quoting President Obama as saying that it had:

“And then Obama told us last week that ‘given the regime’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad … that the world is watching’.”

Obama’s actual words were: “Given the regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons, we will continue … etc.”

Fisk is at his most comical when he gets on his high horse and immediately falls off. Writing with (justified) indignation about the killings in Baba Amr last year, he began:

“So it’s the ‘cleaning’ of Baba Amr now, is it? ‘Tingheef’ in Arabic. Did that anonymous Syrian government official really use that word to the AP yesterday?”

Well, no. Obviously a Syrian official wouldn’t use the word ‘tingheef’, since it doesn’t exist in Arabic.

Fisk likes to drop the occasional Arabic word into his articles – they add local flavour and possibly impress readers who are unfamiliar with the language. For those who are familiar with Arabic, on the other hand, it only draws attention to his carelessness.

Fiskian Arabic is often based on mis-hearings or rough approximations of real words. So, for example, a column last June begins:

“The Lebanese army claims there is a ‘plot’ to drag Lebanon into the Syrian war. The ‘plot’ – ‘al-moamarer‘ – is a feature of all Arab states. Plots come two-a-penny in the Middle East.”

As’ad AbuKhalil, who blogs as the Angry Arab, regularly makes fun of these faux-Arabic concoctions. On another occasion, Fisk misquoted a famous Baathist slogan:

“Not for nothing do Syrians shout Um al Arabiya Wahida (‘mother of one Arab nation’).”

The correct phrase is Ummah Arabiyya Wahida (“One Arab Nation”) and Fisk had made the elementary mistake of confusing umm (mother) with ummah (nation/community/people). Apparently unaware of this error, he repeated it in the first paragraph of another column a few months later:

“For Syria – the ‘Um al-Arabia wahida’, the Mother of One Arab People, as the Baathists would have it – is a tough creature …”

Of course, it’s easy to make mistakes when battling against a tight deadline but when writing his books Fisk might be expected to have a bit more time for fact-checking. Here’s Oliver Miles, a former British diplomat, reviewing Fisk’s 2005 tome, The Great War for Civilisation, in the Guardian:

“The book contains a deplorable number of mistakes. Some are amusing: my favourite is when King Hussein’s stallion unexpectedly ‘reared up on her [sic] hind legs’. Christ was born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem. Napoleon’s army did not burn Moscow, the Russians did. French: meurt means dies, not blooms. Russian: goodbye is do svidanya, not dos vidanya. Farsi: laleh means tulip, not rose. Arabic: catastrophe is nakba not nakhba (which means elite), and many more.

“Other mistakes undermine the reader’s confidence. Muhammad’s nephew Ali was murdered in the 7th century, not the 8th century. Baghdad was never an Ummayad city. The Hashemites are not a Gulf tribe but a Hijaz tribe, as far as you can get from the Gulf and still be in Arabia. The US forward base for the Kuwait war, Dhahran, is not ‘scarcely 400 miles’ from Medina and the Muslim holy places, it is about 700 miles. Britain during the Palestine mandate did not support a Jewish state. The 1939 white paper on Palestine did not ‘abandon Balfour’s promise’ (and he was not ‘Lord Balfour’ when he made it). The Iraq revolution of 1958 was not Baathist. Britain did not pour military hardware into Saddam’s Iraq for 15 years, or call for an uprising against Saddam in 1991. These last two ‘mistakes’ occasion lengthy Philippics against British policy; others may deserve them, we do not.”

Now, you might be wondering why editors and sub-editors don’t spot these things and correct them, or at least raise queries before publication. The answer is that Fisk regards editing as unwarranted interference. In his advice to would-be reporters he added this stipulation:

“You must make sure that what you write is printed as you write it. Otherwise you will never recover from that.”


Posted by Brian Whitaker

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| Machiavellian petro-dollar mischief: The self-beheading House of Saud!

The self-beheading House of Saud ~ Pepe Escobar, THE ROVING EYE, Asia Times.

Don’t count on a female Saudi playwright writing a 21st century remix of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger starring a bunch of non-working class Saudi royals. But anger it is – from King Abdullah downwards; not only at the UN’s “double standards” but especially – hush hush – at the infidel Obama administration.

This is the official Saudi explanation for spurning a much-coveted two-year term at the UN Security Council, only hours after its nomination.

No wonder the House of Saud‘s unprecedented self-beheading move was praised only by the usual minion suspects; petro-monarchies of the Gulf Counter-revolution Club, aka Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as well as Egypt, who now depends on Saudi money to pay its bills and barely survive.
Kuwait shared Riyadh’s pain, enough to send “a message to the world”. The UAE said the UN now had the “historical responsibility” to review its role. Bahrain – invaded by the Saudis in 2001 – stressed the “clear and courageous stand”. Cairo said the whole thing was “brave”.

How brave, indeed, to lobby Arab and Pacific nations for two years, and to spend a fortune training a dozen diplomats in New York for months just to say “no” when you get the prize. The House of Saud would have replaced Pakistan with a Pacific seat; Morocco stays until 2015, in an African seat. As early as five months ago the Saudi seat was considered a done deal at the UN.

NSA-worthy torrents of bits have flowed speculating over the Saudi’s alleged “reformist agenda” or “principled position” on R2P (the Responsibility to Protect doctrine), Palestine and turning the Middle East into a weapons-free zone.

To his credit, King Abdullah had advanced a plan for Palestine since 2002 based on a two-state solution and a return to the pre-1967 borders.

But there has been no follow-up pressure on Israel; on the contrary, Riyadh is allied with Tel Aviv on setting Syria on fire. That implies no effort to include nuclear power Israel in a weapons-free Middle East. As for the Saudi version of R2P, it only applies to a sectarian “protection” of Sunnis in Syria.

Apart from a few Middle Eastern spots, no one is seriously losing sleep over the adolescent Saudi move – which displays a curious notion of leverage, as in choosing a PR spin reinventing the corrupt petro-monarchy as the “principled” champions of a cause (UN reform) just as they might have a crack at trying to influence it from within.

That would have implied more scrutiny. For instance, this Monday the Human Rights Council, another UN institution, duly blasted Saudi Arabia on its sterling record of discrimination against women and sectarianism, following reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. As a member of the UN Security Council, the discrepancy between the medievalist reality inside Saudi Arabia and its lofty “reformist” agenda would be even more glaring.

I want my kafir fluid
A bottle of that precious kafir fluid, Chateau Petrus – much prized by itinerant Saudi princes in London – may be bet that the “dump the UN” decision came straight from the leading camel’s mouth. And now that the House of Saud has decided to keep displaying its “influence” from the outside, nothing makes more sense than the resurfacing of Bandar Bush – who this summer was christened by King Abdullah as the man in charge of the Syrian jihad.

The perennial Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal had lunch with US Secretary of State John Kerry at the Prince’s very private luxury digs in Paris this Monday. The mystery is which kafir fluid was consumed; no doubts though in the official, harmless spin; they agreed on a nuclear-free Iran, an end to the war in Syria and a “stable” Egypt. Before the Paris bash, during the weekend, Bandar Bush was already in his trademark full gear, openly announcing to European diplomats in Riyadh that he will buy his Syria-bound weapons somewhere else, will dissociate his scheme from the CIA, and will train “his” rebels with other players, mostly France and Jordan.

The Wall Street Journal has the story, which predictably has not surfaced in Arab media (90% of it controlled by different branches of the House of Saud).

Even more interesting is two other pieces of information leaked by diplomats. The House of Saud wanted the US to provide them with targets to be hit inside Syria when Obama’s kinetic whatever would start. Washington adamantly refused.

Better yet; Washington allegedly told Riyadh the US would not be able to defend the Shi’ite majority, oil-rich Eastern Province if the Tomahawks started flying over Syria. Imagine the horror show in Riyadh; after all, mob protection against petrodollars recycled/invested in the US economy is the basis of this dysfunctional marriage for nearly seven decades.

So that should lead us to the now much hyped “independent Saudi foreign policy posture” to be implemented in relation to Washington. Don’t hold your breath.

As much as the House of Saud is completely paranoid regarding the Obama administration’s latest moves, throwing a fit will not change the way the geopolitical winds are blowing. Iran’s geopolitical ascent is inevitable. A Syrian solution is on the horizon. No one wants batshit crazy jihadis roaming free from Syria to Iraq to the wider Middle East.

The Saudi spin about creating “a new security arrangement for the Arab world” is a joke – as depicted by Saudi-financed shills such as this.

The bottom line is that an angry, fearful House of Saud does not have what it takes to confront benign protector Washington. Throwing a fit – as in crying to attract attention – is for geopolitical babies. Without the US – or “the West” – who’s gonna run the Saudi energy industry? PhD-deprived camels? And who’s gonna sell (and maintain) those savory weapons? Who’s going to defend them for smashing the true spirit of the Arab Spring, across the GCC and beyond?

Perennial Foreign Minister Prince Saud is gravely ill. He will be replaced by a recently appointed deputy prime minister.

Guess who?

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the king’s son. Instead of a “principled” stance against “double standards”, the House of Saud move at the UN feels more like nepotism.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). 

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