The 2004 Sydney Peace Prize lecture by Arundhati Roy

This is the 2004 Sydney Peace Prize lecture delivered by Arundhati Roy, at the Seymour Theatre Centre, University of Sydney.

Peace & The New Corporate Liberation Theology

It's official now. The Sydney Peace Foundation is neck deep in the business of gambling and calculated risk. Last year, very courageously, it chose Dr Hanan Ashrawi of Palestine for the Sydney Peace Prize. And, as if that were not enough, this year - of all the people in the world - it goes and chooses me!

However I'd like to make a complaint. My sources inform me that Dr Ashrawi had a picket all to herself. This is discriminatory. I demand equal treatment for all Peace Prizees. May I formally request the Foundation to organize a picket against me after the lecture? From what I've heard, it shouldn't be hard to organize. If this is insufficient notice, then tomorrow will suit me just as well.

When this year's Sydney Peace Prize was announced, I was subjected to some pretty arch remarks from those who know me well: Why did they give it to the biggest trouble-maker we know? Didn't anybody tell them that you don't have a peaceful bone in your body? And, memorably, Arundhati didi what's the Sydney Peace Prize? Was there a war in Sydney that you helped to stop?

Speaking for myself, I am utterly delighted to receive the Sydney Peace Prize. But I must accept it as a literary prize that honors a writer for her writing, because contrary to the many virtues that are falsely attributed to me, I'm not an activist, nor the leader of any mass movement, and I'm certainly not the "voice of the voiceless". (We know of course there's really no such thing as the 'voiceless'. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.) I am a writer who cannot claim to represent anybody but herself. So even though I would like to, it would be presumptuous of me to say that I accept this prize on behalf of those who are involved in the struggle of the powerless and the disenfranchised against the powerful. However, may I say I accept it as the Sydney Peace Foundation's expression of solidarity with a kind of politics, a kind of world-view, that millions of us around the world subscribe to?

It might seem ironic that a person who spends most of her time thinking of strategies of resistance and plotting to disrupt the putative peace, is given a peace prize. You must remember that I come from an essentially feudal country -and there are few things more disquieting than a feudal peace. Sometimes there's truth in old cliches. There can be no real peace without justice. And without resistance there will be no justice.

Today, it is not merely justice itself, but the idea of justice that is under attack. The assault on vulnerable, fragile sections of society is at once so complete, so cruel and so clever - all encompassing and yet specifically targeted, blatantly brutal and yet unbelievably insidious - that its sheer audacity has eroded our definition of justice. It has forced us to lower our sights, and curtail our expectations. Even among the well-intentioned, the expansive, magnificent concept of justice is gradually being substituted with the reduced, far more fragile discourse of 'human rights'.

If you think about it, this is an alarming shift of paradigm. The difference is that notions of equality, of parity have been pried loose and eased out of the equation. It's a process of attrition. Almost unconsciously, we begin to think of justice for the rich and human rights for the poor. Justice for the corporate world, human rights for its victims. Justice for Americans, human rights for Afghans and Iraqis. Justice for the Indian upper castes, human rights for Dalits and Adivasis (if that.) Justice for white Australians, human rights for Aboriginals and immigrants (most times, not even that.)

It is becoming more than clear that violating human rights is an inherent and necessary part of the process of implementing a coercive and unjust political and economic structure on the world. Without the violation of human rights on an enormous scale, the neo-liberal project would remain in the dreamy realm of policy. But increasingly Human Rights violations are being portrayed as the unfortunate, almost accidental fallout of an otherwise acceptable political and economic system. As though they're a small problem that can be mopped up with a little extra attention from some NGOs. This is why in areas of heightened conflict - in Kashmir and in Iraq for example - Human Rights Professionals are regarded with a degree of suspicion. Many resistance movements in poor countries which are fighting huge injustice and questioning the underlying principles of what constitutes "liberation" and "development", view Human Rights NGOs as modern day missionaries who've come to take the ugly edge off Imperialism. To defuse political anger and to maintain the status quo.

It has been only a few weeks since a majority of Australians voted to re-elect Prime Minister John Howard who, among other things, led Australia to participate in the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. The invasion of Iraq will surely go down in history as one of the most cowardly wars ever fought. It was a war in which a band of rich nations, armed with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world several times over, rounded on a poor nation, falsely accused it of having nuclear weapons, used the United Nations to force it to disarm, then invaded it, occupied it and are now in the process of selling it.

I speak of Iraq, not because everybody is talking about it, (sadly at the cost of leaving other horrors in other places to unfurl in the dark), but because it is a sign of things to come. Iraq marks the beginning of a new cycle. It offers us an opportunity to watch the Corporate-Military cabal that has come to be known as 'Empire' at work. In the new Iraq the gloves are off.

As the battle to control the world's resources intensifies, economic colonialism through formal military aggression is staging a comeback. Iraq is the logical culmination of the process of corporate globalization in which neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism have fused. If we can find it in ourselves to peep behind the curtain of blood, we would glimpse the pitiless transactions taking place backstage. But first, briefly, the stage itself.

In 1991 US President George Bush senior mounted Operation Desert Storm. Tens of thousands of Iraqis were killed in the war. Iraq's fields were bombed with more than 300 tonnes of depleted uranium, causing a fourfold increase in cancer among children. For more than 13 years, twenty four million Iraqi people have lived in a war zone and been denied food and medicine and clean water. In the frenzy around the US elections, let's remember that the levels of cruelty did not fluctuate whether the Democrats or the Republicans were in the White House. Half a million Iraqi children died because of the regime of economic sanctions in the run up to Operation Shock and Awe. Until recently, while there was a careful record of how many US soldiers had lost their lives, we had no idea of how many Iraqis had been killed. US General Tommy Franks said "We don't do body counts" (meaning Iraqi body counts). He could have added "We don't do the Geneva Convention either." A new, detailed study, fast-tracked by the Lancet medical journal and extensively peer reviewed, estimates that 100,000 Iraqis have lost their lives since the 2003 invasion. That's one hundred halls full of people - like this one. That's one hundred halls full of friends, parents, siblings, colleagues, you. The difference is that there aren't many children here todaylet's not forget Iraq's children. Technically that bloodbath is called precision bombing. In ordinary language, it's called butchering,

Most of this is common knowledge now. Those who support the invasion and vote for the invaders cannot take refuge in ignorance. They must truly believe that this epic brutality is right and just or, at the very least, acceptable because it's in their interest.

So the 'civilized' 'modern' world - built painstakingly on a legacy of genocide, slavery and colonialism - now controls most of the world's oil. And most of the world's weapons, most of the world's money, and most of the world's media. The embedded, corporate media in which the doctrine of Free Speech has been substituted by the doctrine of Free If You Agree Speech.

The UN's Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix said he found no evidence of nuclear weapons in Iraq. Every scrap of evidence produced by the US and British governments was found to be false - whether it was reports of Saddam Hussein buying uranium from Niger, or the report produced by British Intelligence which was discovered to have been plagiarized from an old student dissertation. And yet, in the prelude to the war, day after day the most 'respectable' newspapers and TV channels in the US , headlined the 'evidence' of Iraq's arsenal of weapons of nuclear weapons. It now turns out that the source of the manufactured 'evidence' of Iraq's arsenal of nuclear weapons was Ahmed Chalabi who, (like General Suharto of Indonesia, General Pinochet of Chile, the Shah of Iran, the Taliban and of course, Saddam Hussein himself) - was bankrolled with millions of dollars from the good old CIA.

And so, a country was bombed into oblivion. It's true there have been some murmurs of apology. Sorry 'bout that folks, but we have really have to move on. Fresh rumours are coming in about nuclear weapons in Eye-ran and Syria. And guess who is reporting on these fresh rumours? The same reporters who ran the bogus 'scoops' on Iraq. The seriously embedded A Team.

The head of Britain's BBC had to step down and one man committed suicide because a BBC reporter accused the Blair administration of 'sexing up' intelligence reports about Iraq's WMD programme. But the head of Britain retains his job even though his government did much more than 'sex up' intelligence reports. It is responsible for the illegal invasion of a country and the mass murder of its people.

Visitors to Australia like myself, are expected to answer the following question when they fill in the visa form: Have you ever committed or been involved in the commission of war crimes or crimes against humanity or human rights? Would George Bush and Tony Blair get visas to Australia? Under the tenets of International Law they must surely qualify as war criminals.

However, to imagine that the world would change if they were removed from office is naive. The tragedy is that their political rivals have no real dispute with their policies. The fire and brimstone of the US election campaign was about who would make a better 'Commander-in-Chief' and a more effective manager of the American Empire. Democracy no longer offers voters real choice. Only specious choice.

Even though no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq - stunning new evidence has revealed that Saddam Hussein was planning a weapons programme. (Like I was planning to win an Olympic Gold in synchronized swimming.) Thank goodness for the doctrine of pre-emptive strike. God knows what other evil thoughts he harbored - sending Tampax in the mail to American senators, or releasing female rabbits in burqas into the London underground. No doubt all will be revealed in the free and fair trial of Saddam Hussein that's coming up soon in the New Iraq.

All except the chapter in which we would learn of how the US and Britain plied him with money and material assistance at the time he was carrying out murderous attacks on Iraqi Kurds and Shias. All except the chapter in which we would learn that a 12,000 page report submitted by the Saddam Hussein government to the UN, was censored by the United States because it lists twenty-four US corporations that participated in Iraq's pre-Gulf War nuclear and conventional weapons programme. (They include Bechtel, DuPont, , Eastman Kodak, Hewlett Packard, International Computer Systems and Unisys.)

So Iraq has been 'liberated.' Its people have been subjugated and its markets have been 'freed'. That's the anthem of neo-liberalism. Free the markets. Screw the people.

The US government has privatized and sold entire sectors of Iraq's economy. Economic policies and tax laws have been re-written. Foreign companies can now buy 100% of Iraqi firms and expatriate the profits. This is an outright violation of international laws that govern an occupying force, and is among the main reasons for the stealthy, hurried charade in which power was 'handed over' to an 'interim Iraqi government'. Once handing over of Iraq to the Multi-nationals is complete, a mild dose of genuine democracy won't do any harm. In fact it might be good PR for the Corporate version of Liberation Theology, otherwise known as New Democracy.

Not surprisingly, the auctioning of Iraq caused a stampede at the feeding trough. Corporations like Bechtel and Halliburton, the company that US Vice-president Dick Cheney once headed, have won huge contracts for 'reconstruction' work. A brief c.v of any one of these corporations would give us a lay person's grasp of how it all works. - not just in Iraq, but all over the world. Say we pick Bechtel - only because poor little Halliburton is under investigation on charges of overpricing fuel deliveries to Iraq and for its contracts to 'restore' Iraq's oil industry which came with a pretty serious price-tag - 2.5 billion dollars.

The Bechtel Group and Saddam Hussein are old business acquaintances. Many of their dealings were negotiated by none other than Donald Rumsfeld. In 1988, after Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds, Bechtel signed contracts with his government to build a dual-use chemical plant in Baghdad.

Historically, the Bechtel Group has had and continues to have inextricably close links to the Republican establishment. You could call Bechtel and the Reagan Bush administration a team. Former Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger was a Bechtel general counsel. Former Deputy Secretary of Energy, W. Kenneth Davis was Bechtel's vice president. Riley Bechtel, the company chairman, is on the President's Export Council. Jack Sheehan, a retired marine corps general, is a senior vice president at Bechtel and a member of the US Defense Policy Board. Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who is on the Board of Directors of the Bechtel Group, was the chairman of the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.

When he was asked by the New York Times whether he was concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest between his two 'jobs', he said, "I don't know that Bechtel would particularly benefit from it [The invasion of Iraq]. But if there's work to be done, Bechtel is the type of company that could do it." Bechtel has been awarded reconstruction contracts in Iraq worth over a billion dollars, which include contracts to re-build power generation plants, electrical grids, water supply, sewage systems, and airport facilities. Never mind revolving doors, this -if it weren't so drenched in blood- would be a bedroom farce.

Between 2001 and 2002, nine out of thirty members of the US Defense Policy Group were connected to companies that were awarded Defense contracts worth 76 billion dollars. Time was when weapons were manufactured in order to fight wars. Now wars are manufactured in order to sell weapons.

Between 1990 and 2002 the Bechtel group has contributed $3.3 million to campaign funds, both Republican and Democrat. Since 1990 it has won more than 2000 government contracts worth more than 11 billion dollars. That's an incredible return on investment, wouldn't you say?

And Bechtel has footprints around the world. That's what being a multi-national means.

The Bechtel Group first attracted international attention when it signed a contract with Hugo Banzer, the former Bolivian dictator, to privatize the water supply in the city of Cochabamba. The first thing Bechtel did was to raise the price of water. Hundreds of thousands of people who simply couldn't afford to pay Bechtel's bills came out onto the streets. A huge strike paralyzed the city. Martial law was declared. Although eventually Bechtel was forced to flee its offices, it is currently negotiating an exit payment of millions of dollars from the Bolivian government for the loss of potential profits. Which, as we'll see, is growing into a popular corporate sport.

In India, Bechtel along with General Electric are the new owners of the notorious and currently defunct Enron power project. The Enron contract, which legally binds the Government of the State of Maharashtra to pay Enron a sum of 30 billion dollars, was the largest contract ever signed in India. Enron was not shy to boast about the millions of dollars it had spent to "educate" Indian politicians and bureaucrats. The Enron contract in Maharashtra, which was India's first 'fast-track' private power project, has come to be known as the most massive fraud in the country's history. (Enron was another of the Republican Party's major campaign contributors). The electricity that Enron produced was so exorbitant that the government decided it was cheaper not to buy electricity and pay Enron the mandatory fixed charges specified in the contract. This means that the government of one of the poorest countries in the world was paying Enron 220 million US dollars a year not to produce electricity!

Now that Enron has ceased to exist, Bechtel and GE are suing the Indian Government for 5.6 billion US dollars. This is not even a minute fraction of the sum of money that they (or Enron) actually invested in the project. Once more, it's a projection of profit they would have made had the project materialized. To give you an idea of scale 5.6 billion dollars a little more than the amount that the Government of India would need annually, for a rural employment guarantee scheme that would provide a subsistence wage to millions of people currently living in abject poverty, crushed by debt, displacement, chronic malnutrition and the WTO. This in a country where farmers steeped in debt are being driven to suicide, not in their hundreds, but in their thousands. The proposal for a Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is being mocked by India's corporate class as an unreasonable, utopian demand being floated by the 'lunatic' and newly powerful left. Where will the money come from? they ask derisively. And yet, any talk of reneging on a bad contract with a notoriously corrupt corporation like Enron, has the same cynics hyperventilating about capital flight and the terrible risks of 'creating a bad investment climate'. The arbitration between Bechtel, GE and the Government of India is taking place right now in London. Bechtel and GE have reason for hope. The Indian Finance Secretary who was instrumental in approving the disastrous Enron contract has come home after a few years with the IMF. Not just home, home with a promotion. He is now Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.

Think about it: The notional profits of a single corporate project would be enough to provide a hundred days of employment a year at minimum wages (calculated at a weighted average across different states) for 25 million people. That's five million more than the population of Australia. That is the scale of the horror of neo-liberalism.

The Bechtel story gets worse. In what can only be called unconscionable, Naomi Klein writes that Bechtel has successfully sued war-torn Iraq for 'war reparations' and 'lost profits'. It has been awarded 7 million dollars.

So, all you young management graduates don't bother with Harvard and Wharton - here's the Lazy Manager's Guide to Corporate Success: First, stock your Board with senior government servants. Next, stock the government with members of your board. Add oil and stir. When no one can tell where the government ends and your company begins, collude with your government to equip and arm a cold-blooded dictator in an oil-rich country. Look away while he kills his own people. Simmer gently. Use the time collect to collect a few billion dollars in government contracts. Then collude with your government once again while it topples the dictator and bombs his subjects, taking to specifically target essential infrastructure, killing a hundred thousand people on the side. Pick up another billion dollars or so worth of contracts to 'reconstruct' the infrastructure. To cover travel and incidentals, sue for reparations for lost profits from the devastated country. Finally, diversify. Buy a TV station, so that next war around you can showcase your hardware and weapons technology masquerading as coverage of the war. And finally finally, institute a Human Rights Prize in your company's name. You could give the first one posthumously to Mother Teresa. She won't be able to turn it down or argue back.

Invaded and occupied Iraq has been made to pay out 200 million dollars in "reparations" for lost profits to corporations like Halliburton, Shell, Mobil, Nestle, Pepsi, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Toys R Us. That's apart from its 125 billion dollar sovereign debt forcing it to turn to the IMF, waiting in the wings like the angel of death, with its Structural Adjustment program. (Though in Iraq there don't seem to be many structures left to adjust. Except the shadowy Al Qaeda.)

In New Iraq, privatization has broken new ground. The US Army is increasingly recruiting private mercenaries to help in the occupation. The advantage with mercenaries is that when they're killed they're not included in the US soldiers' body count. It helps to manage public opinion, which is particularly important in an election year. Prisons have been privatized. Torture has been privatized. We have seen what that leads to. Other attractions in New Iraq include newspapers being shut down. Television stations bombed. Reporters killed. US soldiers have opened fire on crowds of unarmed protestors killing scores of people. The only kind of resistance that has managed to survive is as crazed and brutal as the occupation itself. Is there space for a secular, democratic, feminist, non-violent resistance in Iraq? There isn't really.

That is why it falls to those of us living outside Iraq to create that mass-based, secular and non-violent resistance to the US occupation. If we fail to do that, then we run the risk of allowing the idea of resistance to be hi-jacked and conflated with terrorism and that will be a pity because they are not the same thing.

So what does peace mean in this savage, corporatized, militarized world? What does it mean in a world where an entrenched system of appropriation has created a situation in which poor countries which have been plundered by colonizing regimes for centuries are steeped in debt to the very same countries that plundered them, and have to repay that debt at the rate of 382 billion dollars a year? What does peace mean in a world in which the combined wealth of the world's 587 billionaires exceeds the combined gross domestic product of the world's 135 poorest countries? Or when rich countries that pay farm subsidies of a billion dollars a day, try and force poor countries to drop their subsidies? What does peace mean to people in occupied Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir, Tibet and Chechnya? Or to the aboriginal people of Australia? Or the Ogoni of Nigeria? Or the Kurds in Turkey? Or the Dalits and Adivasis of India? What does peace mean to non-muslims in Islamic countries, or to women in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan? What does it mean to the millions who are being uprooted from their lands by dams and development projects? What does peace mean to the poor who are being actively robbed of their resources and for whom everyday life is a grim battle for water, shelter, survival and, above all, some semblance of dignity? For them, peace is war.

We know very well who benefits from war in the age of Empire. But we must also ask ourselves honestly who benefits from peace in the age of Empire? War mongering is criminal. But talking of peace without talking of justice could easily become advocacy for a kind of capitulation. And talking of justice without unmasking the institutions and the systems that perpetrate injustice, is beyond hypocritical.

It's easy to blame the poor for being poor. It's easy to believe that the world is being caught up in an escalating spiral of terrorism and war. That's what allows the American President to say "You're either with us or with the terrorists." But we know that that's a spurious choice. We know that terrorism is only the privatization of war. That terrorists are the free marketers of war. They believe that the legitimate use of violence is not the sole prerogative of the State.

It is mendacious to make moral distinction between the unspeakable brutality of terrorism and the indiscriminate carnage of war and occupation. Both kinds of violence are unacceptable. We cannot support one and condemn the other.

The real tragedy is that most people in the world are trapped between the horror of a putative peace and the terror of war. Those are the two sheer cliffs we're hemmed in by. The question is: How do we climb out of this crevasse?

For those who are materially well-off, but morally uncomfortable, the first question you must ask yourself is do you really want to climb out of it? How far are you prepared to go? Has the crevasse become too comfortable?

If you really want to climb out, there's good news and bad news.

The good news is that the advance party began the climb some time ago. They're already half way up. Thousands of activists across the world have been hard at work preparing footholds and securing the ropes to make it easier for the rest of us. There isn't only one path up. There are hundreds of ways of doing it. There are hundreds of battles being fought around the world that need your skills, your minds, your resources. No battle is irrelevant. No victory is too small.

The bad news is that colorful demonstrations, weekend marches and annual trips to the World Social Forum are not enough. There have to be targeted acts of real civil disobedience with real consequences. Maybe we can't flip a switch and conjure up a revolution. But there are several things we could do. For example, you could make a list of those corporations who have profited from the invasion of Iraq and have offices here in Australia. You could name them, boycott them, occupy their offices and force them out of business. If it can happen in Bolivia, it can happen in India. It can happen in Australia. Why not?

That's only a small suggestion. But remember that if the struggle were to resort to violence, it will lose vision, beauty and imagination. Most dangerous of all, it will marginalize and eventually victimize women. And a political struggle that does not have women at the heart of it, above it, below it and within it is no struggle at all.

The point is that the battle must be joined. As the wonderful American historian Howard Zinn put it: You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train.

Arundhati Roy

Published on SMH on November 4, 2004


The US increasingly turning into a fascist state

The USA is a fascist beast. Yes, the country which likes to lecture everybody about liberty, democracy and human rights has become viciously totalitarian.

Every sane person knows this is true about the USA at home. The government spies on everyone; people are beaten up; in the airports people are sexually humiliated to get them used to being controlled; the mainstream television channels spew lies; thousands of drones will soon be in the skies (and who would be so foolish as to claim that they will not be armed?); and the Homeland Security Agency has bought 1.4 billion dum-dum (expanding) bullets, that’s four for every man, woman and child. The controversy over gun control is really an early manifestation of America’s coming civil war. 

Abroad, there are aggressive military operations. The latest expansion is into thirty or more countries in Africa and that’s on top of the increasingly aggressive attitude taken towards China which America now openly views as an enemy. Furthermore, as everybody knows, American foreign policy is controlled by Zionism which means attacks on Islamic countries, particularly on the way to trying to achieve regime change in Iran. 

Yes, you might say confidently, but the USA truly is the upholder of democracy, is it not? Hilary Clinton says so. 

It must be, you continue to say but not quite so confidently, or it would be the greatest liar the world has ever known, and that includes the infamous propagandist Joseph Goebbels (one of Hitler’s sidekicks). 

Er, sorry, but you are wrong and the truth is being stated by a Brookings Institution ghoul, one with thirty years’ experience of CIA ghouling. Working in the section of Brookings which is funded by an extreme Zionist, as all of the American political structure is funded nowadays, Bruce Riedel wants an attack on Iran. This would be done by means of false flag activity which can then be construed (by the mainstream media, of course) as an “unprovoked act of Iranian aggression”. 

Cunning stuff. Well done, Brucie. 

But there’s nothing cunning about his recent memorandum to President Obama about Saudi Arabia. It proposes straightforward anti-democratic, vicious authoritarianism and on a scale which has not existed before, even in Saudi Arabia. It notes that Saudi Arabia is “the world's last absolute monarchy", which is not true, think of those Persian Gulf emirates, for example, but you get what he means and he then reminds that the Saudi king, like the French Louis XIV before the French Revolution, has complete authority. Louis XIV said, “L’état, c’est moi ? I am the state” which is as clear as it ever gets but, further spelling it out, Riedel says that "the Saudi royal family has shown no interest in sharing power or in an elected legislature." 

Yes, exactly. The Saudi Wahhabi regime not only represses its own people but also maintains tyranny in the neighboring states, for example, in Bahrain where there is a Saudi army of occupation. Indeed, the Saudis have helped ensure that revolution has not unseated any Arab monarch.

With the trenchant insight of the typical fascist who hates democracy Riedel goes on to observe that "the other monarchs of Arabia would inevitably be in jeopardy if revolution comes to Saudi Arabia" and that "the Sunni minority in Bahrain could not last without Saudi money and tanks. Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are city-states that would be unable to defend themselves against a Saudi revolutionary regime, despite all their money." 

Riedel then gives his advice to the USA government which turns out to be exactly the same as the policy which the USA follows at present i.e., to work hard to strengthen the Saudi regime as well as the neighboring tyrannies in order to crush the “Arab Awakenings" thereby ensuring that democratic revolution cannot succeed in those nations. 

Riedel’s justification for this out-and-out repression is very interesting and very revelatory. It is that Saudi Arabia is "America's oldest ally in the Middle East, a partnership that dates back to 1945." Thus, "since American interests are so intimately tied to the House of Saud, the US does not have the choice of distancing the United States from it in an effort to get on the right side of history." 

Get on the right side of history? Well I never! Brutal Brucie really does understand that the USA is NOT on the right side of history. In fact, the USA is on the wrong side of history about as far as it is possible to be. 

Which, believe it or not, is what Brutal Brucie wants. And it is what Obsolete Obama, another one who is on the wrong side of history, wants as well. In fact, it’s what the whole American government wants, apparently. Although, to be fair, there are undoubtedly some decent, sane people in the State Department who really do understand that the USA is bent on bringing fascism to the world and are doing their best to prevent it. 

It is time that the USA ends its imperial mind-set and comes to understand that Saudi oil will not disappear if America leaves the Persian Gulf and decides to support a modern, democratic state in the Land of the Arabs. That state will want to sell its oil on the international markets in exactly the same way as do other states. 

All this supporting of fascism in Saudi Arabia merely serves to make the USA hated by everybody throughout the world. 

By Prof. Rodney Shakespeare


Prof. Rodney Shakespeare is a visiting Professor of Binary Economics at Trisakti University, Jakarta, Indonesia. He is a Cambridge MA, a qualified UK Barrister, a co-founder of the Global Justice Movement, a member of the Christian Council for Monetary Justice. His main website is Shakespeare is also Chair of the Committee Against Torture in Bahrain. More articles by Rodney Shakespeare

WikiLeaks exposes Australia's role in Iran lies, crippling sanctions

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - By Linda Pearson

On Monday 7 January, Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced that Australia has been chosen to head the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions committees on Iran, and on the Taliban al-Qaeda. The committees are tasked with monitoring the implementation of UNSC sanctions and recommending further measures.

Carr trumpeted the news as a “big vote of confidence” in Australia’s “diplomatic pull” in the area of weapons non-proliferation. The Murdoch-owned The Australian echoed Carr's tone, describing Iran as a “rogue state” with an “undeclared program to develop nuclear weapons”.

In relation to Iran, the move is better seen as a big vote of confidence in Australia’s willingness to pursue the US goal of forcing regime change through sanctions and other destabilising measures. Four days later on Thursday 10 January, Carr announced that Australia would be adopting further unilateral sanctions against Iran to bring Australia in line with those recently imposed by the European Union (EU) and the US.

Carr said the new sanctions will “further increase pressure on Iran to comply with its nuclear non-proliferation obligations and with UN Security Council resolutions and to engage in serious negotiations on its nuclear program”.

However, the allegation that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program remains unsubstantiated after 10 years of investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). “Serious negotiations” have been precluded by the West’s insistence that Iran relinquish its legal right to a civilian nuclear energy program.

The IAEA and the UNSC

Since details of Iran’s previously undeclared nuclear program emerged in 2002, the US and its allies have used the issue to demonise Iran. Iran’s referral to the UNSC and subsequent sanctions reflect the power of the US to influence decision-making in international organisations like the IAEA and United Nations, rather than any threat to international peace and security posed by Iran’s nuclear program.

The decision of whether to refer a state found to be in non-compliance with its IAEA safeguards agreement to the UNSC is at the discretion of the IAEA Board of Governors. In 2004, Egypt and South Korea were found to have had carried out undeclared nuclear activities but neither state was referred to the UNSC.

In his memoirs, then IAEA director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, recounts the US’s “eagerness to promote unverified intelligence as evidence”, in order to push the IAEA to report Iran to the UNSC from the outset. When no “actionable information” was found during initial investigations, “[t]he only US strategy”, according to ElBaradei, “was to put pressure on Iran, through the IAEA and the press, in the hope that damning evidence would come to light or that an informant would come forward with a ‘smoking gun’.”

Between 2003 and 2006, Iran implemented the IAEA’s optional Additional Protocol, allowing the agency’s inspectors unprecedented access to Iranian sites. By the time the IAEA referred Iran to the UNSC in Feb 2006, most of the questions over Iran’s nuclear facilities had been resolved. No evidence of diversion of nuclear materials for military purposes had been found.

In ElBaradei’s words, the UNSC referral was “primarily an attempt to induce the Security Council to stop Iran’s enrichment program, using Chapter VII of the UN Charter to characterize Iran’s enrichment – legal under the [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] – as a threat to international peace and security”. Iran’s nuclear program was at that stage a small, pilot-scale centrifuge cascade, a long way from the industrial-scale enrichment required to produce nuclear weapons.

UNSC Resolution 1696 made suspension of Iran’s enrichment activities mandatory, paving the way for future sanctions when Iran refused to comply. The resolution came at a time when Israel was waging war on Lebanon. The US and the UK prevented the UNSC from passing a resolution calling for a cease-fire until after more than 1,000 Lebanese had been killed and over 700,000 Lebanese civilians had been displaced. The double-standard was clear: the West was unwilling to characterise Israel’s aggression as a threat to peace and security, whilst condemning Iran on the basis of unproven allegations.

The IAEA investigation into Iran’s nuclear program has continued in parallel with negotiations between Iran and the UK, Germany and France (the EU-3), which were joined by the US and Russia in 2006 (the P5+1). These negotiations are ostensibly aimed at resolving concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, but the US and EU-3 have pushed for increasingly tough sanctions in disregard of the outcome of IAEA investigations.

In August 2007 the IAEA and Iran agreed to a three-month “work plan” in order to resolve all outstanding issues. Rather than welcoming an initiative which could enable the IAEA to conclusively determine whether Iran’s nuclear program had a military dimension, the US condemned the IAEA for “striking its own deal”. ElBaradei believed, “[t]he plan made them nervous: an uptick in Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA weakened the chance of prodding China and Russia into imposing any further sanctions”.

A September 2007 cable from the US Embassy in London published by WikiLeaks reports that British officials were concerned about the work plan, telling their US counterparts: “Do not let the IAEA timetable interfere with ours”. The cable reports Antony Phillipson, Iran Coordinator at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as saying “that it was important to not permit the IAEA’s workplan to slow down or interfere with the EU3's own agenda. For instance, bowing to pressure to put off submission of a [UNSC] resolution pending some IAEA report or visit would weaken our efforts”.

The P5+1 ultimately endorsed the work plan. However, its successful implementation and subsequent positive IAEA Board of Governors report on Iran were soon followed by another UNSC resolution which imposed more sanctions.

In 2010 Iran, Turkey and Brazil announced they had reached an agreement would have seen most of Iran’s low-enriched uranium shipped to Turkey. Again, the apparently positive news was greeted with the announcement that another draft UNSC resolution with more sanctions had been agreed upon. ElBaradei accused the West of “not accepting yes for an answer”.

UNSC sanctions resolutions initially imposed a ban on the supply of nuclear-related materials and technology, and froze the assets of entities and individuals related to Iran’s nuclear program. The measures now restrict dealings with banks deemed to be connected to the program, and prohibit the provision of financial services, which “could contribute to Iran*s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities”.

Unilateral sanctions

The US has been able to further attack Iran’s economy without needing the approval of other UNSC members, through the imposition of far-reaching unilateral sanctions.

The US began sanctioning Iran after the revolution of 1979 which deposed the Western-backed shah. A full trade embargo was imposed in 1995. In 1996, the US moved to partially extend the embargo to other countries via legislation which penalised foreign companies and individuals that invested $20 million or more in one year in Iran’s energy sector, or sold amounts of refined petroleum to Iran above a designated amount.

In 2007 the Bush administration began blacklisting Iranian banks. As well as locking the Iranian banks out of the US financial system, this move served to deter non-US financial institutions from dealing with Iran. In 2011, President Obama passed legislation which restricts the access of foreign banks to the US financial system if they do business with the Central Bank of Iran, effectively leaving them with a choice of doing business with Iran or the US. In July 2012 Obama announced sanctions against foreign banks which process Iranian oil transactions.

The US has gone into diplomatic overdrive to ensure that its allies adopt similar measures. However, the pursuit of regime change in Iran has necessitated charting a careful course between harsh sanctions and protecting the interests of Western corporations.

Since Iran’s economy is heavily dependent on exports of crude oil, the US has pushed hard for sanctions in this area. However, such measures threatened to drive up the global price of oil, which EU countries feared would damage their own economies.

Amidst escalating rhetoric about Iran’s nuclear program, the EU was finally persuaded to impose an oil embargo on Iran in July 2012. Prior to the embargo taking effect, the US threw its political weight behind measures designed to avoid an “oil shock”.

US diplomats persuaded Saudi Arabia to increase output to a 30-year high by May 2012. The US also used its new-found leverage in war-torn Iraq and Libya to persuade those countries to increase oil production: by September 2012 Iraq was producing 500,000 more barrels per day than a year earlier, and Libya's production had increased from 200,000 barrels to 1.5 million per day.

In order to ensure that the damage to Iran’s economy was not offset by oil exports to other countries, Obama set up a committee in January 2012 to persuade other major consumers of Iranian oil to reduce their imports. Iranian oil exports to China and India had reportedly fallen by just over 30% by September 2012.

The US has also urged EU countries to use measures to restrict trade with Iran beyond the level required by sanctions. A 2007 cable from the US Embassy in London reported that US Treasury official, Patrick O'Brien, “suggested the UK increase its regulatory and licensing surveillance against UK-based Iranian banks. By strictly enforcing bank reserve requirements, and fit and proper determinations - among other safety and soundness regulations - UK regulators may be able to further curtail the activities of Iranian banks and entities”.

Another cable from the US Embassy in Berlin lauded the “bureaucratic means” employed by the German government to make trade with Iran more difficult, including delaying expert permits, cutting export credit guarantees and increasing customs controls. The cable reported that the German government “is quietly making trade with Iran so costly that many German exporters are simply walking away”.

The US can count on Australia

Successive Australian governments have supported the US's campaign against Iran, pressing for tougher UNSC sanctions and introducing unilateral sanctions in line with the US and the EU since 2008.

Cables from the US Embassy in Canberra reveal the lengths to which Australian officials have been prepared to go to support the US position, including conspiring with the US to oust ElBaradei from his position as director general of the IAEA.

Discussing Iran’s nuclear program in October 2009, First Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Patrick Suckling, told the US that Australia was "completely aligned" with the US position, adding: “Australia wants the most robust, intrusive and debilitating sanctions possible."

When the US sought to ramp up UN sanctions against Iran a few months later, US Ambassador Bleich confidently reported that Australian officials, “will follow the U.S. lead on Iran and would be receptive to any input on how best to proceed. Australia can be counted as a strong supporter of whatever course the United States chooses to pursue.”

In January 2012, shortly after the EU announced its plan to implement an oil embargo against Iran, then-foreign minister Kevin Rudd promised that “we in Australia will undertake precisely the same parallel action”. New sanctions were put in place prohibiting the import, purchase or transport of specified Iranian crude oil, petroleum or petrochemical products.

The latest round of sanctions announced by Foreign Minister Carr include an embargo on natural gas imports from Iran, and prohibit Australian individuals and entities from engaging in financial transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.

Collective punishment

Sanctions against Iran purportedly target WMD proliferators but the result is an impending humanitarian catastrophe on the scale of that suffered by Iraqis in the 1990s.

Lost oil revenue means less money for health, education and infrastructural work. Import and banking restrictions and a sharp decline in the value of Iran’s currency have made it increasingly difficult for Iran to import essential goods.

A shortage of medicines and medical supplies is threatening the lives of tens of thousands of patients suffering from serious conditions including cancer, AIDS and haemophilia. The decline in industry and resulting unemployment, coupled with an estimated 70% rise in the price of basic food prices, are forcing many Iranians into poverty.

The people of Iran, who were already suffering under a repressive theocracy, have become “collateral damage” in the West’s economic war on Iran. As one Iranian put it in a New Year message by the Voices From Iran: “The Islamic Republic of Iran is screwing us, sanctions imposed by western governments or Iran are screwing us ten times harder.”

German Left Party defends its support for war against Syria

By Johannes Stern - 14 January 2013

Two weeks after top German Left Party officials signed a statement calling for intervention in Syria , Neues Deutschland, the Left Party's main newspaper, published a comment by its editor-in-chief, Tom Strohschneider, reiterating its support for the war against Syria.

Strohschneider begins his article, entitled “We have to talk: on the debate about the Syria appeal Freedom Needs Assistance,” by praising the Syrian opposition as a progressive movement that must be supported. He writes that people “had the courage to go into the streets against [Syrian President] Assad, to protest for their rights, for democratic reforms and social equality.”

He adds that the “Freedom Needs Assistance” statement—signed by leaders of the Left Party, the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD), and the Greens—was issued to build support for “civilian resistance” in Syria: “It was about solidarity with the local coordination committees, Kurdish initiatives, student groups and Palestinian youth who reject the military logic.”

This is a falsification. The opposition forces praised by Strohschneider, such as the Local Coordination Committees (LCCs), support the military operations of NATO and its Islamist proxies to oust Assad and install a pro-Western puppet regime in Syria.

The LCCs are part of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCSROF), the Western-backed umbrella organization of the Syrian opposition. The NCSROF was cobbled together by Washington in Doha last November and is considered the “legitimate representative of the Syrian people” by the NATO powers and the Gulf States. Dominated by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, it calls on its supporters to “bring down the regime” through armed struggle carried out alongside Islamist terrorist forces.

The so-called “Adopt a Revolution” (AaR) initiative, which, together with the human rights group Medico International, issued the “Freedom Needs Assistance” statement, raises funds for the Syrian opposition. Its founders and leaders include members of the Islamist-dominated Syrian National Council such as Rami Nakhle, Ferhad Ahma and Hosan Ibrahim. They have all repeatedly called for foreign military intervention in Syria.

Backed by the CIA, Al Qaeda-type forces like the Al-Nusra Front and other Islamist brigades are waging a sectarian war against religious minorities, setting off car bombs in civilian areas and murdering and torturing suspected supporters of the Assad regime. Since the war began, tens of thousands of Syrians have been killed and hundreds of thousands more turned into refugees. Much of Syria’s cultural heritage, including World Heritage Sites such as the historic s ouk (market) in Aleppo, has been destroyed.

Strohschneider is trying to defuse broad public opposition to foreign intervention in Syria and help rally political and financial support for the Western-backed armed opposition. He does this by posturing as an advocate of an all-sided debate on the political “left” about supporting the AaR initiative.

He writes: “We have to talk. Without a self-critical debate about the conflict in Syria that seriously addresses different standpoints, the left in this country will repeat an oft-made mistake: it will become politically entrenched. This neither helps the left nor, and this is more important, helps the people in Syria or anywhere else whose pursuit of liberation, self-emancipation, democracy, and social justice has a right to be taken seriously and not be dispersed in the intricacies of great world interpretations.”

The entire so-called “debate” proposed by Strohschneider is in bad faith. Far from being “self-critical” or left-wing, it obscures and dismisses the central issue in the war: the role of the imperialist powers in arming and promoting murderous, right-wing opposition forces in Syria.

Strohschneider's demand that the “left” not become “politically entrenched” or get “dispersed in the intricacies of great world interpretations” reflects the Left Party's hostility to any firm political principles in general, and to Marxism in particular. Opposing any concrete analysis of the political situation in Syria, the class character of the opposition and the role of imperialism, Strohscheider promotes the lie that democracy in Syria can be achieved by right-wing forces allied to imperialism.

Strohschneider baldly states: “Yes, Syria is at the mercy of international interests. As cracks grow in the political order, regional powers want to seize their chance; behind the call for human rights stand murderous regimes, arms traders and religious leaders. All this is true, but it doesn't relieve us of the responsibility for those who are fighting for a better world—not despite this reality, but because of it. With all the mistakes one can make. In Syria and here.”

This debased statement exposes the deeply reactionary character of the Left Party, which functions as a political agency of German imperialism. Strohschneider knows that the Left Party’s promotion of the Syrian war as a war for human rights is a political cover for the bloodstained regimes of the NATO powers, Turkey and the Persian Gulf feudal regimes, as well as the arms dealers and Islamist fanatics with whom they work. He proudly supports the war nonetheless.

As he covers for the Left Party's support for a US-led imperialist war, Strohschneider concocts the most incoherent lies. He claims that the forces he is promoting, who are armed and financed by imperialism, are fighting for “a better world,” not only against Assad but also apparently against their own imperialist backers!

The position which emerges out of Strohschneider's arguments is no different from the claims of US imperialism that by invading and occupying virtually defenseless countries and installing puppet regimes it is spreading democracy and human rights. Strohschneider would have us think that the horrendous crimes carried out by the Bush and Obama administrations in the neocolonial wars against Iraq and Afghanistan are mere “excesses” or “mistakes” in the pursuit of “a better world.”

A man who can write such things is capable of supporting any crime carried out by German imperialism. He lies about the war against Syria without seeing any need to justify his arguments because he and his party instinctively support the interests of German imperialism.

Strohschneider's statement must be taken as a warning by the working class in Germany. As its support for an imperialist crime of such monstrous proportions shows, the Left Party has nothing to do with left or progressive politics. It will stop at nothing to defend German capitalism against any revolutionary threat from the working class.


US covers up Islamist involvement in Aleppo bombing

By Oliver Campbell -  22 January 2013

Two bomb blasts at the University of Aleppo on January 15 killed at least 87 people, and wounded dozens more. The US State Department denounced the bombing as a “deadly attack,” claiming it was “carried out by the Syrian regime.” The evidence strongly suggests, however, that the atrocities were inflicted by Al-Nusra, an organisation with links to Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The massacre highlights the hypocrisy of the major powers, who are stoking up a sectarian civil war aimed at ousting the Assad regime, under the banner of “humanitarianism” and the “protection of the Syrian people.” In reality, the war is largely being fought by Islamists, seeking to establish a state based on sharia law.

The support given by the US and its allies to the Syrian opposition again demonstrates that the difference between “freedom fighters” and “terrorists” depends entirely on the geostrategic and economic interests of the major powers. The collaboration with Islamic fundamentalists and cover up of its atrocities in Syria stands in contrast to the denunciations of the Al Qaeda-linked Islamists responsible for last week’s hostage crisis in Algeria.

The bloody denouement to that crisis saw Algerian forces storm the natural gas facility where hostages were being held, resulting in the deaths of 48 hostages, and as many as 32 Islamist fighters—a high death toll, but still less than that of the Aleppo massacre.

Likewise, France’s invasion of Mali, launched on January 14, has been carried out on the spurious pretext of combating Islamist forces in the north, many of whom were involved in the US-NATO overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. France’s intervention is not about “terrorism” but reasserting French interests in North Africa amid an accelerating scramble for the continent’s resources.

Washington blacklisted Al-Nusra as a terrorist organisation last December. The move was no more than a ploy in response to growing revelations about the extent of Islamist participation in the Syrian opposition, and has not altered the Obama administration’s support for the opposition forces. In an acknowledgement that Al-Nusra is playing a critical role in the conflict, other Syrian opposition groups opposed its blacklisting.

Al-Nusra has carried out similar atrocities to that at Aleppo university before, including car bombings in Aleppo on October 3 that resulted in 48 deaths and more than 122 serious injuries. It has also been linked to other prominent terrorist attacks in Syria, including:

* A suicide bombing in Damascus in December 2011, which killed 44 people and wounded 166 others.

* The murder of 13 men in execution-style killings in the Deir ez-Zor, a city in Syria’s east, last April.

* An attack on a government TV station in Drousha, south of Damascus, and the killing of seven people, including three journalists, last June.

* The kidnapping and execution of a government TV news reporter in July.

Much of the American and international media has uncritically repeated opposition claims that the Syrian government carried out the attack on Aleppo university. They have been unable to explain the basic rationale for such an attack.

As Bill Neely, the international editor of Britain’s ITV news, commented: “The obvious question is why would a government warplane attack a government university in a government held area of the country’s biggest city? There is no logical answer. There was no threat at the university at the time to the army.”

Neely noted that the hesitancy of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to describe the attack as a war crime was bound up with the likelihood that the bombings were carried out by the Syrian opposition, which is backed by the “international community.” Instead Ban cautiously described the bombings as “heinous” and said attacks on civilians in general constituted war crimes.

According to the AsiaNews website, some members of Al-Nusra claimed responsibility for the attack on Aleppo university. “Fearing reprisals, the rebels have denied it but they cannot hide the fact of their presence on the ground. Pick-ups and cars with black flags with religious inscriptions are visible in the streets,” the report stated.

Despite evidence to the contrary, Syrian opposition groups have continued to claim that the bombing was the work of the Assad regime, underscoring the importance of Al-Nusra’s activities to the “rebel” forces as a whole.

Al-Nusra played a leading role in this month’s capture of the Taftanaz air base, in the northern province of Idlib. The base, the first of its kind captured by the rebels, had been the scene of fierce fighting for months, and appears to have been seized primarily as a result of the efforts of Al-Nusra and other Islamist militias. Tanks, ammunition and rocket launchers at the base are now in the control of opposition groups.

Following bread shortages, blamed by many on corruption and the theft of flour by opposition Free Syrian Army forces, Al-Nusra has taken over the distribution of flour to bakers in opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo. Along with three other Islamist groups, Al-Nusra has also set up a sharia court in Aleppo.

In an interview with the BBC, Abu Lokman, an emir and senior Al-Nusra commander, spelled out the group’s reactionary ideology and political program. “People here are fed up with socialist and secular regimes,” he said. “They are all looking forward to an Islamic state. It is impossible there could be anything else in Syria.”

When asked whether Al-Nusra would support a bombing campaign by the US and its allies, Lokman did not oppose direct imperialist intervention. “We are not campaigning for or against this. Of course, if they destroy the regime’s military posts, that is in our favour,” he declared. Far from opposing imperialism, Al Qaeda and its offshoots simply represent the interests of sections of the Arab bourgeoisie seeking a more favourable accommodation with imperialism.


The Endgame in Syria: Strategic Stage in the Pentagon’s Covert War on Iran

“The siege against Syria is a front in the covert multi-dimensional war against Iran.”

Since the kindling of the conflict inside Syria in 2011, it was recognized, by friend and foe alike, that the events in that country were tied to a game plan that ultimately targets Iran, Syria’s number one ally. [1] De-linking Syria from Iran and unhinging the Resistance Bloc that Damascus and Tehran have formed has been one of the objectives of the foreign-supported anti-government militias inside Syria. Such a schism between Damascus and Tehran would change the Middle East’s strategic balance in favor of the US and Israel.

If not accomplishable, however, then crippling Syria to effectively prevent it from providing Iran any form of diplomatic, political, economic, and military support in the face of common threats has been a primary objective. Preventing any continued cooperation between the two republics has been a strategic goal. This includes preventing the Iran-Iraq-Syria energy terminal from being built and ending the military pact between the two partners.

All Options are Aimed at Neutralizing Syria

Regime change in Damascus is not the only or main way for the US and its allies to prevent Syria from standing with Iran. Destabilizing Syria and neutralizing it as a failed and divided state is the key. Sectarian fighting is not a haphazard outcome of the instability in Syria, but an assisted project that the US and its allies have steadily fomented with a clear intent to balkanize the Syrian Arab Republic. Regionally, Israel above all other states has a major stake in securing this outcome. The Israelis actually have several publicly available documents, including the Yinon Plan, which outline that the destruction of Syria into a series of smaller sectarian states is one of their strategic objectives. So do American military planners.

Like Iraq next door, Syria does not need to be formally divided. For all intents and purposes, the country can be divided like Lebanon was alongside various fiefdoms and stretches of territory controlled by different groups during the Lebanese Civil War. The goal is to disqualify Syria as an external player.

Since 2006 and the Israeli defeat in Lebanon in that year there was renewed focus on the strategic alliance between Iran and Syria. Both countries have been very resilient in the face of US designs in their region. Together both have been key players for influencing events in the Middle East, from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. Their strategic alliance has undoubtedly played an important role in shaping the geo-political landscape in the Middle East. Although critics of Damascus say it has done very little in regard to substantial action against the Israelis, the Syrians have been the partners within this alliance that have carried the greatest weight in regards to facing Israel; it has been through Syria that Hezbollah and the Palestinians have been provided havens, logistics, and their initial strategic depth against Israel.

From the beginning the foreign-supported external opposition leaders made their foreign policy clear, which can strongly be argued was a reflection of the interests they served. The anti-government forces and their leaders even declared that they will realign Syria against Iran; in doing so they used sectarian language about returning to their “natural orbit with the Sunni Arabs.” This is a move that is clearly in favour of the US and Israel alike. Breaking the axis between Damascus and Tehran has also been a major goal of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Arab petro-sheikhdoms since the 1980s as part of a design to isolate Iran during the Iraq-Iran War. [2] Moreover, the sectarian language being used is part of a construct; it is not a reflection of reality, but a reflection of Orientalist conjecture and desires that falsely stipulate that Muslims who perceive themselves as being Shia or Sunni are inherently at odds with one another as enemies.

Among the prostrating Syrian opposition leaders who would execute the strategic goals of the US has been Burhan Ghalioun, the former president of the Istanbul-based and foreign-sponsored Syrian National Council, who told the Wall Street Journal in 2011 that Damascus would end its strategic alliance with Iran and end its support for Hezbollah and the Palestinians as soon as anti-government forces took over Syria. [3] These foreign-sponsored opposition figures have also served to validate, in one way or another, the broader narratives that claim Sunnis and Shiites hate one another. In synchronization the mainstream media in the countries working for regime change in Damascus, such as the US and France, have consistently advertized that the regime in Syria is an Alawite regime that is allied to Iran, because the Alawites are an offshoot of Shiism. This too is untrue, because Syria and Iran do not share a common ideology; both countries are aligned, because of a common threat and shared political and strategic objectives. Nor is Syria run by an Alawite regime; the government’s composure reflects Syrian society’s ethnic and religious diversity.

Israel’s Stake in Syria

Syria is all about Iran for Israel. As if Tel Aviv has nothing to do whatsoever with the events inside Syria, Israeli commentators and analysts are now publicly insisting that Israel needs to deal with Iran by intervening inside Syria. Israel’s involvement in Syria, alongside the US and NATO, crystallized in 2012. It was clear that Israel was working in a conglomerate comprised of the US, Britain, France, Turkey, NATO, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon’s minority March 14 Alliance, and the NATO-supported usurpers that have taken over and wrecked the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

Although it should be read with caution, it is worth noting the release of the hacked correspondence of Strategic Forecast Incorporated’s Reva Bhalla to her boss, George Friedman, about a December 2011 meeting in the Pentagon between herself (representing Stratfor), US, French, and British officials about Syria. [4] The Stratfor correspondence claimed that the US and its allies had sent in their military special forces to destabilize Syria in 2011 and that there actually were not many Syrian anti-government forces on the ground or, as Bhalla writes, “there isn’t much of a Free Syrian Army to train.” [5] The Daily Star, which is owned by Lebanon’s Hariri family which has been involved in the regime change operations against Syria, soon after reported that thirteen undercover French officers were caught by the Syrians conducting operations inside Homs. [6] Instead of a categorical no to the information about the captured French officers, the French Foreign Ministry’s response to the public was that it could not confirm anything, which can be analyzed as an omission of guilt. [7]

Days earlier, Hezbollah’s Al-Manar station revealed that Israeli-made weapons and supplies, ranging from grenades and night binoculars to communication devices, were captured alongside Qatari agents inside the insurgent stronghold of Baba Amr in Homs towards the end of April and start of March. [8] An unnamed US official would later confirm in July 2012 that the Mossad was working alongside the CIA in Syria. [9] Just a month earlier, in June, the Israeli government began publicly demanding that a military intervention be launched into Syria, presumably by the US and the conglomerate of governments working with Israel to destabilize Syria. [10]

The Israeli media has even begun to casually report that Israeli citizens, albeit one has been identified as an Israeli Arab (meaning a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship), have entered Syria to fight against the Syrian Army. [11] Normally any Israelis, specifically those that are non-Jewish Arabs, which enter Lebanon or/and Syria are condemned or prosecuted by Israeli authorities and Israeli news reports focus on this aspect of the story. Yet, it has not been so in this case. It should also be mentioned that the Palestinian opponents of Israel living inside Syria are also being targeted, just as the Palestinians living in Iraq were targeted after the US and UK invaded in 2003.

Syria and the Objective of Making Iran Stand Alone

The journalist Rafael D. Frankel wrote a revealing article for the Washington Quarterly that illustrates what US policymakers and their partners think about in Syria. In his article Frankel argued that because of the so-called Arab Spring that an attack on Iran by the US and Israel would no longer trigger a coordinated regional response from Iran and its allies. [12] Frankel argued that because of the events inside Syria an opportunity has been created for the US and Israel to attack Iran without igniting a regional war that would involve Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. [13]

Frankel’s line of thinking was not lost on circles in either NATO or Israel. In reality his line of thinking springs forth from the views and plans of these very circles. As a psychological enforcement of their ideas, his text actually found its way to NATO Headquarters in Brussels in 2012 for reading material. While the latter, Israel, released its own intelligence report about the subject.

According to the Israeli newspaper Maariv, the intelligence report by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has concluded that Syria and Hezbollah will no longer be able to open a second front against Israel should it go to war with Iran. [14] During the Israeli report’s release, one senior Israeli official was quoted as saying “Iran’s ability to harm Israel in response to an attack on our part declined dramatically.” [15]

Many news wires, papers, and writers with hostile positions towards both Syria and Iran, such as The Daily Telegraph, immediately replicated the Israeli report’s findings about Iran and its regional allies. Two of the first people to reproduce the findings of the Israel report, Robert Tait (writing from the Gaza Strip) and Damien McElroy (who was expelled from Libya in 2011 by that country’s authorities during the war with NATO), summarize how significant the findings of the report are by effectively outlining how Iran’s key allies in the Levant have all been neutralized. [16]

The Israeli report has triumphantly declared that Syria has turned within and is too busy to join ranks with its strategic ally Iran against Tel Aviv in a future war. [17] The ramifications of the Syrian crisis have also placed Iran’s Lebanese allies, particularly Hezbollah, in an unsteady position where their supply lines are under threat and they have been politically damaged through their support of Damascus. If anyone in Lebanon should side with Iran in a future war the Israelis have said that they will invade through massive military operations on the ground. [18]

The new Egyptian government’s role in aiding US objectives under President Morsi also becomes clear with what the Israeli report says about his supportive role: “The foreign ministry report also predicted that Egypt would stop Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement, from helping Iran by launching rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.” [19] This adds credence to the view that Morsi was allowed by the US and Israel to broker a peace between the Gaza Strip and Tel Aviv, which would prevent the Palestinians there from standing with Iran during a war. In other words the Egyptian truce was setup to bind the hands of Hamas. The recent announcements about moves by Morsi’s government to engage Hezbollah politically can also be scrutinized as an extension of the same strategy applied in Gaza, but in this case for unbinding Iran from its Lebanese allies. [20]

There is also clamouring for steps to be taken to de-link Hezbollah, and by extension Iran, from its Christian allies in Lebanon. The German Marshall Fund showcased a text essentially saying that the Lebanese Christians that are allies to Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran need to be presented with an alternative political narrative to replace the one where they believe that Iran will ultimately run the Middle East as a great power. [21] This too is tied to further eroding Iran’s alliance system.

Mission Accomplished?

The conflict in Syria is not merely an Israeli affair. The slow bleeding of Syria has other interested parties that want to smash the country and its society into pieces. The US is foremost among these interested parties, followed by the Arab dictators of the petro-sheikhdoms. NATO has also always been covertly involved.

NATO’s involvement in Syria is part of the US strategy of using the military alliance to dominate the Middle East. This is why it was decided to establish a component of the missile shield in Turkey. This is also the reason that Patriot missiles are being deployed to the Turkish border with Syria. The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) and NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue are components of these plans too. Additionally, Turkey has ended its veto against the further integration of Israel into NATO. [22]

NATO has been reorienting itself towards asymmetrical warfare and greater emphasis is now being put on intelligence operations. NATO strategists have increasingly been studying the Kurds, Iraq, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, and the Palestinians. In the scenario of an all-out war, NATO has been preparing itself for overt military roles in both Syria and Iran.

Iraq is being destabilized further too. While Iran’s allies in Damascus have been weighed down, its allies in Baghdad have not. After Syria, the same conglomerate of countries working against Damascus will turn their attention to Iraq. They have already started working to galvanize Iraq further on the basis of its sectarian and political fault lines. Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are playing prominent roles in this objective. What is becoming manifest is that the differences between Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims that Washington has cultivated since the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 are now been augmented by Kurdish sectarianism.

It appears that many in the Israeli political establishment now believe that they have succeeded in breaking the Resistance Bloc. Whether they are correct or incorrect is a matter of debate. Syria still stands; the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (which was by far the most active Palestinian group fighting Israel from Gaza in 2012) and other Palestinians will side with Iran even if Hamas will have its hands tied by Egypt; there are still Tehran’s allies in Iraq; and Syria is not the only supply line for Iran to arm its ally Hezbollah. What is also very clear is that the siege against Syria is a front in the covert multi-dimensional war against Iran. This alone should make people reconsider the statements of US officials and their allies about having concerns for the Syrian people merely on the basis of humanitarianism and democracy.

# # # #

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a sociologist, award-winning author, and geopolitical analyst. He is a Research Associate at the Centre for Research on Globalization, a Canadian research and media organization based in Montreal, and a member of the Scientific Committee of Geopolitica, an Italian journal of geopolitical science based in Rome. His writing has been published in more than twenty-five languages around the world, including Spanish, Russian, Turkish, German, Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese, and Italian. Among his published works is The Globalization of NATO, one of the most comprehensive and critical books on the military alliance.


[1] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, “Obama’s Secret Letter to Tehran: Is the War against Iran On Hold? ‘The Road to Tehran Goes through Damascus,’” Global Research, January 20, 2012.
[2] Jubin M. Goodarzi, Syria and Iran: Diplomatic Alliance and Power Politics in the Middle East (London, UK: I.B. Tauris, 2009), pp.217-228.
[3] Nour Malas and Jay Solomon, “Syria Would Cut Iran Military Tie, Opposition Head Says,” Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2011.
[4] WikiLeaks, “Re: INSIGHT – military intervention in Syria, post withdrawal status of forces,” October 19, 2012: .
[5] Ibid.
[6] Lauren Williams, “13 French officers being held in Syria,” The Daily Star, March 5, 2012.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Israa Al-Fass, “Mossad, Blackwater, CIA Led Operations in Homs,” trans. Sara Taha Moughnieh, Al-Manar, March 3, 2012.
[9] David Ignatius, “Looking for a Syrian endgame,” The Washington Post, July 18, 2012.
[10] Dan Williams, “Israel accuses Syria of genocide, urges intervention,” Andrew Heavens ed., June 10, 2012.
[11] Hassan Shaalan, “Israeli fighting Assad ‘can’t go home,’” Yedioth Ahronoth, January 3, 2013.
[12] Rafael D. Frankel, “Keeping Hamas and Hezbollah Out of a War with Iran,” Washington Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 4 (Fall 2012): pp.53-65.
[13] Ibid.
[14] “Weakened Syria unlikely to join Iran in war against Israel: report,” The Daily Star, January 4, 2013.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Damien McElroy and Robert Tait, “Syria ‘would not join Iran in war against Israel,’” The Daily Telegraph, January 3, 2013.
[17] “Weakened Syria,” The Daily Star, op. cit.
[18] “Syria and Hezbollah won’t join the fight if Israel strikes Iran, top-level report predicts,” Times of Israel, January 3, 2013.
[19] McElroy and Tait, “Syria would not,” op. cit.
[20] Lauren Williams, “New Egypt warms up to Hezbollah: ambassador,” The Daily Star, December 29, 2011.
[21] Hassan Mneimneh, “Lebanon ― The Christians of Hezbollah: A Foray into a Disconnected Political Narrative,” The German Marshall Fund of the United States, November 16, 2012.
[22] Hilary Leila Krieger, “Israel to join NATO activities amidst Turkey tension,” Jerusalem Post, December 23, 2012; Jonathon Burch and Gulsen Solaker, “Turkey lifts objection to NATO cooperation with Israel,” Mark Heinrich ed., Reuters, December 24, 2012; “Turkey: Israel’s participation in NATO not related to Patriots,” Today’s Zaman, December 28, 2012.


Six Reasons the West Wants Assad to Go*

by Jonathan Reynolds

If the title of this article sounds familiar, that's because it should. In 2011, the West (Israel, the U.S., and its loyal tools throughout Europe) booted their long-time Libyan ally Muammar Gaddafi out of power for a list of reasons very similar to the one that follows.

Gaddafi, like Syrian President Bashar al-Assadassisted the U.S. with brutally torturing many innocent people following the attacks of 9/11, a fact that the U.S. and its allies would prefer to be forgotten. All that matters now to the West are Assad's atrocities which, like Gaddafi's atrocities, are immensely overblown by the same unapologetic, complicit news media networks and "journalists" who brought us all those claims about Iraq's WMDs.

These "journalists", like their psychotic government counterparts, embody hypocrisy at its finest. That's because if the West really had an interest in bringing freedom to the oppressed, they would broadly oppose all dictatorships; of course, not all dictators are created equal according to the West. This is why the U.S. supports brutal dictatorships inYemenBahrainSaudi Arabia and elsewhere while simultaneously opposing dictatorships which refuse to go along with their interests. The best dictators do what they're told like good puppets, but since Assad no longer fits this mold, the alleged champions of peace, justice, and freedom in the West are forcing him to step down.

What's particularly disgusting about their efforts to do this is that they are hiding such attempts behind the guise of a supposedly organic rebellion. Yet, according to the United Nations, Syria's "rebels" come from at least 29 different countries. That's hardly "organic". Moreover, these "rebels" are being supported by U.S. intelligence and weaponry, despite overwhelming evidence of their connections to anti-U.S., al-Qaeda-linked elements. But who cares? I mean, we funded those same anti-U.S., al-Qaeda-linked elements during the Libyan coup in 2011 and nothing bad came out of that... right?

In any case, without further ado, here are six reasons why the West wants Assad to Go:

1. The unbreakable, unshakable, Iran-Syria alliance

Confrontation with Iran has been the goal of U.S. foreign policy for decades and Syria is one more strategic stepping stone in the process. Syria is one of Iran's strongest allies in the region and getting rid of Assad will further isolate Iran.

While visiting Iran in 2010, Assad said: "We have stood beside Iran in a brotherly way from the very beginning of the (Iranian Islamic) revolution."

During the visit, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad awarded Assad Iran's highest medal of honor in recognition of his support for Palestinians and Lebanon and his resistance to "global arrogance" -- a term which usually refers to the United States and its allies.

Assad also rejected an offer by the U.S. to have sanctions dropped against his country if Syria ditched Iran as an ally.

2. Assad's failure to sugarcoat critiques of Israel

Bashar al-Assad said in 2009: "How can a state that was founded on illegal occupation and continues to murder the original inhabitants work toward peace? How can a country that has chosen the most extreme government in its history be a partner for peace?"

"We the Arab nations, and especially Syria will not change our view about peace as a strategic goal, including the full return of occupied lands."

Also on the topic of Israel: it was reported in 2003 that in order to secure a pipeline for Israel through Iraq and Syria, regime change must first take place in both countries.

3. Assad goes "South of the Border"

In an effort to boost oil flow into Syria, Bashar al-Assad began strengthening ties with Latin American countries, territory which the U.S. has always been protective of.

As reported by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 2010: "In his recent visit to [Venezuela], Al-Assad signed an agreement for a $100 million trade and development fund with Chávez, established an $11 million fund to finance joint projects, and made plans to jointly invest in a $4.7 billion oil refinery in Syria. In Cuba, the Syrian president signed an understanding memorandum on agriculture to foster cooperation and establish “a common framework for the mutual development of beneficial agricultural actions,” reports the Cuban Headlines website. In his visits to Argentina and Brazil in the following weeks, Al-Assad is looking for similar commitments. Next on his Latin American tour will be Brazil, where Al-Assad is expected to strengthen technology and trade agreements, specifically the burgeoning sugar trade. On the last stop of his tour, the Syrian president will sign similar bilateral agreements with Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez focusing on tourism, culture, and transportation to increase the existing $158 million in trade between the two countries and prevent double taxation of exports to streamline trade. Trade relations between the two countries, which began 75 years ago with the formation of the Arab-Argentine Chamber of Commerce, are likely to continue growing in the coming years."

4. Ties with China and Russia

In 2008, Syria agreed to allow Russian missile defense systems into their country as a counterweight to plans for a United States missile deployment to Poland.

That same year, according to UPI: "Syria is adding the latest Russian MiG-29SMT fighter to 36 Pantsir S1E air-defense systems purchased from Russia, RIA Novosti reported, noting Syria also hopes to buy Strelets short-range air defense systems, Iskander tactical missile systems, Yak-130 aircraft and two Amur-1650 submarines -- all Russian-made."

In terms of the China-Syria relationship: "China has become Syria’s number one supplier. While figures from Syria’s Bureau of Statistics put the value of Syrian imports from China at $691 million, Syrian officials have said the real figure is more likely to be close to double that at around $1.2 billion. What is not in doubt is that China easily outstrips Syria’s other major suppliers Egypt ($553 million), South Korea ($441 million), Italy ($356 million), Turkey ($338 million), Japan ($317 million) and Germany ($308 million). Bilateral trade surged to a record high of $1.4 billion in 2006. [...] China was the second largest non-Arab investor in Syria in 2006, accounting for $100 million out of the $800 million in non-Arab investment funds which flowed into the country. By the end of 2006, Chinese companies had signed project contracts worth $819 million and this amount is virtually guaranteed to be superseded this year with a billion dollar oil refinery deal near completion."

5. A new market for the military-industrial complex

Shortly after former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was butchered in late 2011, the ground below his fresh corpse began rumbling furiously as a money-hungry stampede of Western corporations flooded into the country. Most notable in this crowd were the oil companies eager to capitalize on the largest oil reserves in Africa, but not far behind were the Western defense companies. In 2012 it was reported that "Boeing — the maker of the Chinook — is in discussions with the State Department about “opportunities to provide” used Army CH-47E helicopters to Tripoli."

Further evidence of the Western military-industrial complex monopoly on armaments in the countries it takes over can be found in Iraq, where it was also reported in 2012 that had Iraq canceled a $4.2bn Russian arms deal due to "western pressure", a move that Igor Korotchenko, head of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade, called "absolutely unprecedented in the history of the Russian arms trade".

As mentioned above in reason #4, Syria is a major buyer of Russian armaments, and getting a Western-friendly face in a leadership position there will allow Western defense companies to start selling to the country while simultaneously delivering the boot to Russian defense companies.

6. Syria trashed the U.S. dollar

Ditching the dollar is perhaps the ultimate insult to the United States.

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ditched the dollar back in 2000. Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi talked about dropping the dollar in 2009. During the same year, Iranian leader Muammar Ahmadinejad switched Iran's reserve currency off the dollar.

In 2006, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, Syria "switched the primary hard currency it uses for foreign goods and services from the U.S. dollar to the euro in a bid to make it less vulnerable to pressure from Washington."

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See also:

Six reasons the West wanted Gaddafi to GTFO - Six reasons the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Israel wanted former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi out of power and dead

Four reasons why the U.S. is already at war with Iran - "Wars frequently begin ten years before the first shot is fired" ~ K.K.V. Casey

America's Global Neocon War - Under Obama, Bush-era neocons are still directing foreign policy in the United States, ultimately aiming for conflict with Russia and China

A boy named "Adam" - Largely thanks to a complicit corporate-state news media, the story of a U.S. teenager executed without trial by the government has largely gone under the radar

Rethinking the "non-aggression principle" - The non-aggression principle, if it is truly a policy of non-aggression principle, ought to include other forms of non-human life equally capable of suffering

A brief history of George W. Obama - Has the same U.S. President been in office for the last 11 years? The following timeline covers key events between 2001-2012

(*) Title of the article slightly changed