They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Blair: War was right

Tony Blair has said going to war over [fill in blank] took "political courage" and was "the right thing to do". Interviewed for the Downing Street website the prime minister said there had been a "principle at stake". Link

Tony Benn beats John Bolton to a pulp

5 Minute Video
BBC Question Time. Click to view

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Shah's nuclear erections

Friday, March 23, 2007

Parick Cockburn: Welcome to Iraq, Mr. Ban

A rocket or mortar bomb exploded 50 yards from the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, as he was telling reporters in Baghdad that he was thinking of boosting the UN presence in Iraq because of improved security.

A startled looking Mr Ban ducked as if for cover behind the artificial flowers decorating the podium as the roar of the explosion reverberated through the hall where he was giving a press conference, standing beside Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

It was Mr Ban's first visit to Iraq and like all other visits by senior international dignitaries to the Iraqi capital it was a "surprise", in a bid to get in and out of the country before insurgents could react.

In Mr Ban's case their response was immediate and highly accurate: the blast was close enough to the conference hall to bring down pieces of debris from the ceiling while outside it slightly wounded two security guards.

Iraqi officials were reassuring. "This was not a security breach," said the Interior Minister, Jawad Bolani. "Things like this happen in Baghdad once or twice a week." In reality, they happen every few hours outside the Green Zone, which few government ministers ever leave. The zone itself comes under regular mortar fire and is sometimes hit by Katyusha rockets, a favourite spot for launching them being the Dohra area in southern Baghdad. Link

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Iraq: A country drenched in blood

By Patrick Cockburn

"I have fled twice in the past year," said Kassim Naji Salaman as he stood beside his petrol tanker outside the town of Khanaqin in central Iraq this weekend. "I and my family used to live in Baghdad but we ran for our lives when my uncle and nephew were killed and we moved into a house in the village of Kanaan in Diyala."

Mr Salaman hoped he and his family, all Sunni, would be safer in a Sunni district. But almost everywhere in Iraq is dangerous. "Militiamen kidnapped my brother Natik, who used to drive this tanker, and forced him into the boot of their car," he continued. "When they took him out they shot him in the head and left his body beside the road. I am frightened of going back to Kanaan where my family are refugees because the militiamen would kill me as well."

Iraqis expected their lives to get better when the US and Britain invaded with the intention of overthrowing Saddam Hussein four years ago today. They were divided on whether they were being liberated or occupied but almost no Iraqis fought for the old regime in 2003. Even his own Sunni community knew that Saddam had inflicted almost a quarter of a century of hot and cold war on his own people. He had reduced the standard of living of Iraqis, owners of vast oil reserves, from a level close to Greece to that of Mali.

No sooner had Saddam Hussein fallen than Iraqis were left in no doubt that they had been occupied not liberated. The army and security services were dissolved. As an independent state Iraq ceased to exist. "The Americans want clients not allies in Iraq," lamented one Iraqi dissident who had long lobbied for the invasion in London and Washington.

Guerrilla war against the US forces by the five million strong Sunni community erupted with extraordinary speed and ferocity. By summer 2003, whenever I went to the scene of a bomb attack or an ambush of US soldiers I would find jubilant Iraqis dancing for joy around the pools of drying blood on the road or the smouldering Humvee vehicles.

For Iraqis, every year has been worse than the last since 2003. In November and December last year alone 5,000 civilians were murdered, often tortured to death, according to the UN. This toll compares to 3,000 killed in 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland. Many Iraqis have voted with their feet, some two million fleeing - mostly to Syria and Jordan - since President George Bush and Tony Blair ordered US and British troops across the Iraqi border four years ago today.

So dangerous is it to travel anywhere in Iraq outside Kurdistan that it is difficult for journalists to provide evidence of the slaughter house the country has become without being killed themselves. Mr Blair and Mr Bush have long implied that the violence is confined to central Iraq. This lie should have been permanently nailed by the Baker-Hamilton report written by senior Republicans and Democrats, which examined one day last summer when the US military had announced that there had been 93 attacks and discovered that the real figure was 1,100. In other words the violence was being understated by a factor of 10.

Diyala is one of the most violent provinces. It used to be one of the richest, with rich fruit orchards flourishing on the banks of the Diyala river before it joins the Tigris south of Baghdad. But its sectarian geography is lethal. Its population is a mixture of Sunni and Shia with a small Kurdish minority. For at least two years it has been convulsed by ever-escalating violence.

It is impossible for a foreign journalist to travel to Diyala from Baghdad unless he or she is embedded with the US forces. I knew, having made the journey before, that it was possible to get to Khanaqin, in the Kurdish controlled north-east corner of Diyala by taking a road passing through Kurdish villages along the Iraqi side of the Iranian border.

We started in Arbil, the Kurdish capital, and drove through the mountains to Sulaimaniyah three hours to the east. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the party of Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi President, arranged a guide who knew the road to take us on to Khanaqin the following morning. We drove out of the mountains through the Derbendikan tunnel and then followed the right bank of the Diyala river, swollen by torrential rain, until we got to the tumble down town of Kalar. It is important here to turn right over a long bridge across the Diyala because the next town on the road, Jalawlah, is contested between Kurds and Arab Sunni. The road then goes in the direction of the Iranian border until it reaches Khanaqin, which is under PUK control.

We met a tribal leader from Jalawlah called Ghassim Mohammed Shati, who was also a police captain. He said: "The centre of the town is safe enough but my his father and brother and aunt were murdered on the outskirts in March 2005." Surprisingly Mr Shati did not favour shooting the insurgents who had killed his relatives. "The only solution is to give employment to the police and army officers who were sacked and now support al-Qa'ida. If they get jobs they will stop," he said. Everybody agreed the situation in Diyala was worse than ever. And the insurgents say they are setting up the Islamic emirate of Diyala.

Earlier this month the US, with much fanfare, sent 700 soldiers to Diyala to restore government authority. It fought a ferocious battle with insurgents in which it lost two armoured "Stryker" vehicles. But, as so often in Iraq, in the eyes of Iraqis the presence or absence of American forces does not make as much difference to who holds power locally as the US military command would like to believe. Supposedly they are supporting 20,000 Iraqi security forces, but earlier this year it was announced that 1,500 local police were to be fired for not opposing the insurgents. At one embarrassing moment US and Iraqi military commanders were claiming at a video-link press conference that they had a firm grip on the situation in Baquba when insurgents burst into the mayor's office, kidnapped him and blew it up.

Power in Diyala is fragmented. As in the rest of Iraq it is difficult to know who is in charge. The Iraqi government, whose ministers issue optimistic statements about the improving state of their country when on visits to London or Washington, carries surprisingly little weight outside the Green Zone in Baghdad. Often its interventions do nothing but harm. For instance the main source of employment in Khanaqin is the large border crossing from Iran at Monzariyah. Cross-border traffic provided 1,000 jobs. But the government has closed the crossing point and the road that used to be crowded with trucks a few months ago is now empty.

No rations, on which 60 per cent of Iraqis depend, have been delivered in Diyala for seven months. Those delivering them say it is too dangerous to do so since the drivers of trucks containing the rations are often deemed to be collaborators by insurgents and shot to death. In Mr Salaman's village of Kanaan, five men were burnt to death for guarding two petrol stations.

A difficulty in explaining Iraq to the outside world is that since 2003 the US and British governments have produced a series of spurious turning points. There was the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003, the supposed hand back of sovereignty in June 2004, the two elections and the new constitution in 2005 and - recently - the military "surge" into Baghdad. In all cases the benefits of these events were invented or exaggerated.

After Sunni fundamentalists blew up the golden-domed Shia al-Askari shrine in Samarra in February last year, central Iraq was torn apart by sectarian fighting. Baghdad broke up into a dozen hostile cities, Sunni and Shia, which fired mortars at each other. Government ministries, if controlled by different communities, fought each other. The Shia-controlled Interior Ministry kidnapped 150 people from the Sunni-held Higher Education Ministry and killed many of them.

For a brief moment last November, after the mid-term elections in the US and the Baker-Hamilton report, it seemed that the US was going to be start negotiations with its myriad enemies in around Iraq. But in the event President Bush refused to admit failure. Some 21,500 troop reinforcements are being sent to Baghdad and Anbar province to the west. So far there is little sign that the "surge" will really change the course of the war.

Diyala, its once-prosperous villages now becoming heavily armed Sunni or Shia fortresses, is a symbol of the failure of the occupation that began four years ago. From an early moment it was evident that only the Kurds in Iraq fully supported the US and British presence.

The invasion four years ago failed. It overthrew Saddam but did nothing more. It destabilised the Middle East. It tore apart Iraq. It was meant to show the world that the US was the world's only superpower that could do what it wanted. In fact it demonstrated that the US was weaker than the world supposed. The longer the US refuses to admit failure the longer the war will go on. Link

Monday, March 19, 2007

18 percent of Iraqis expressed confidence in U.S. forces and 69 percent said their presence made security worse

[We will prevail]

More worthless US torture confessions

It's two-for-one day:

YOU GET THIS >>>>> .... confessed to plotting the bombings of the USS Cole and two U.S. embassies in Africa, killing hundreds, according to a Pentagon transcript of a Guantanamo Bay hearing.

YOU ALSO GET THIS >>>>> .... "I was the link between Osama bin Laden and his deputy Sheikh Abu Hafsd Al Masri," who took over the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq after its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike last June. Link

db: Whatever, just stop the pain

"Prevailing in Iraq is not going to be easy." Link

Iraq 4 years on: One third of children malnourished

Caritas Internationalis and Caritas Iraq say that malnutrition rates have risen in Iraq from 19 percent before the US-led invasion to a national average of 28 percent four years later.

Caritas says that rising hunger has been caused by high levels of insecurity, collapsed healthcare and other infrastructure, increased polarisation between different sects and tribes, and rising poverty.

Over 11 percent of newborn babies are born underweight in Iraq today, compared with a figure of 4 percent in 2003. Before March 2003, Iraq already had significant infant mortality due to malnutrition because of the international sanctions regime. Link

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Crusader cash brings joy to bereaved Afghans

Lt. Col. Brian Mennes, commander of a paratrooper regiment in the 82nd Airborne Division, said "I doubt many countries in the world, particularly that have been fighting here, go to these lengths to show the people we're sorry when bad things happen, even in very complex situations when you have the enemy fighting among the people," Link

db: Makes you kind of proud? It would if you were American. There they are, in harms way, killing civilians by the dozen yet even in the 'fog of war' have the presence of mind - 'grace' if you will - to stop the slaughter long enough to hand out some cash.

We weep with patriotism at this point.

The Lt. Col. refers to an "enemy fighting among the people". Could it be that the enemy are the people? We conveniently label them all Taliban, especially when dead.

Senlis Council: "the term 'Taliban' is now being used as a catch-all term for many other groups who would otherwise consider themselves and each other as 'civilian' groups."

Link to Senlis Council

US torture brings worthless confessions

The first confession released by the Bush regime’s Military Tribunals – that of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – has discredited the entire process. Writing in Jurist, Northwestern University law professor Anthony D’Amato likens Mohammed’s confession to those that emerged in Stalin’s show trials of Bolshevik leaders in the 1930s.

That was my own immediate thought. I remember speaking years ago with Soviet dissident Valdimir Bukovsky about the behavior of Soviet dissidents under torture. He replied that people pressed for names under torture would try to remember the names of war dead and people who had passed away. Those who retained enough of their wits under torture would confess to an unbelievable array of crimes in an effort to alert the public to the falsity of the entire process.

That is what Mohammed did. We know he was tortured, because his response to the obligatory question about his treatment during his years of detention is redacted. We also know that he was tortured, because otherwise there is no point for the US Justice (sic) Dept. memos giving the green light to torture or for the Military Commissions Act, which permits torture and death sentence based on confession extracted by torture.

Mohammed’s confession of crimes and plots is so vast that Katherine Shrader of the Associated Press reports that the Americans who extracted Mohammed’s confession do not believe it either. It is exaggerated, say Mohammed’s tormentors, and must be taken with a grain of salt.

In other words, the US torture crew, reveling in their success, played into Mohammed’s hands. Pride goes before a fall, as the saying goes.

Mohammed’s confession admits to 31 planned and actual attacks all over the world, including blowing up the Panama Canal and assassinating presidents Carter and Clinton and the Pope. Having taken responsibility for the whole ball of wax along with everything else that he could imagine, he was the entire show. No other terrorists needed. Link

Sunday, March 11, 2007

An open Letter to Tony Blair

Dear Prime Minister

We the undersigned believe that the military covenant is a cornerstone of our democracy, a mutual obligation between the nation, the armed forces, and every serviceman and woman. It is a common bond of identity, loyalty and responsibility that has sustained the armed forces - and the country - throughout an often difficult history. In practice, this means that governments make the decisions, and the armed forces implement them. In return, the armed forces have:

* the right to expect any war to be lawful;

* the right to have adequate resources to carry out the tasks the politicians demand of them;

* the right to be properly cared for in the event of injury;

* the right to know that, in the event of their death, their families will be looked after properly.

This is a terrible war that has led to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians being killed, maimed or displaced. At best, the legality of the war is dubious. Britain's hard-pressed armed forces have been denied the support they require; in some circumstances, service personnel have paid with their lives because of this failure to make required equipment available.

Accommodation for many of the armed forces and their families back home is, as General Sir Mike Jackson, former chief of the general staff, says, "frankly shaming". Military hospitals in this country have been closed while they have never been more essential, and wounded soldiers evacuated from the battlefield suddenly find themselves on civilian wards and at risk of physical or verbal attack from members of the public.

Servicemen and women are receiving insufficient treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and many are desperately ill, out of work, homeless, and even suicidal. We also believe that the Government is failing properly to look after the British widows and the children left behind.

We believe that the military covenant is broken, and that you have neglected the young men and women who carry out your orders in our name. At a time when the country is asking so much of our overstretched forces, it is failing to play fair by them. In this, you have prime responsibility, and you should at the very least meet the families of the bereaved to discuss their concerns. We call on you to reconsider your approach towards our military personnel, to restore the vital covenant, and to deliver to our men and women the just and proper treatment they deserve.

Yours sincerely

Debbie Allbutt, wife of Cpl Stephen Allbutt, 35, of the Queen's Royal Lancers, died 25 March 2003;Anna Aston, wife of Cpl Russell Aston, 30, of 156 Provost Company, died 24 June 2003;Roger and Maureen Bacon, father and mother of Matthew Bacon, who died in Iraq in 2005;
Iain Banks, author;Billy Bragg, musician;Vince Cable, Lib Dem MP;Simon Callow, actor;Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats;Dominic Cooke, artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre;Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP;George Crabb, formerly flight sergeant, RAF aircrew;James and Ray Craw, parents of L/Cpl Andrew Craw, 21, of 1st Battalion, Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, died 7 January 2004;Andy de la Tour, actor, playwright;Brian Eno, musician;Rose Gentle, mother of Fusilier Gordon Gentle, 19, of 1st Battalion, Royal Highland Fusiliers, died 28 June 2004;Richard, Karen and Catherine Green, parents and sister of Lt Philip Green, 30, of 849 Squadron, died 22 March 2003;Katharine Hamnett, fashion designer;Ed Harcourt, musician;Mike Hancock, Lib Dem MP and member of Commons defence committee;Nick Harvey, defence spokesman, Liberal Democrats;Sharon Hehir, wife of Sgt Les Hehir, 34, of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, died 21 March 2003;Pauline Hickey, mother of Sgt Chris Hickey, 30, of 1st Battalion the Coldstream Guards, died 18 October 2005;Bianca Jagger, human rights campaigner;Carol Jones, mother of Sgt John Jones of 1st Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, died 20 November 2005;Reg Keys, father of L/Cpl Thomas Keys, 20, of 156 Provost Company, RMP, died 24 June 2003;Peter Kilfoyle, Labour MP and former armed forces minister;George and Ann Lawrence, parents of Lt Marc Lawrence, 26, of 849 Squadron, RNAS Culdrose, died 22 March 2003;Ernie Morton, father of current serving member of the Parachute Regiment;Tracy, Tony and Mair Pritchard, wife and parents of Cpl Dewi Pritchard, 32, of 116 Provost Company (volunteers), died 23 August 2003;Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru MP;Janet Lowrie, secretary for Military Families Against the War;John McDonald, Labour MP;Natasha McLellan, partner of Matthew Bacon;Patrick Mercer, Conservative MP and former soldier;Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan;Harold Pinter, Nobel laureate and playwright;Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP and defence spokesman;Mark Thomas, comedian;Arthur Smith, comedian;Sue Smith, mother of Pte Philip Hewett, 21, of 1st Battalion, Staffordshire Regiment, died 16 July 2005;Janet Suzman, actress;
Ben Wallace, Conservative MPand former soldier;Susannah York, actress.


Neo-Labour Sleaze: Blair's inner circle sweat

Lord Levy has fuelled fears he is about to turn on the Labour Party after telling friends he is furious at the lack of public support from senior ministers.

The cash-for-honours investigation increasingly threatens to split Tony Blair's inner circle asunder in a welter of recrimination.

Friends and family of the two key suspects, Lord Levy and Ruth Turner, fought a battle for public sympathy last week as the show of unity began to unravel.

Now a cabinet minister close to Tony Blair's chief fundraiser has raised the stakes, telling The Independent on Sunday that Lord Levy "feels badly let down".

"He feels that he has given the party everything. He's helped raise between £60m and £80m for us. Without that money we might not be in government, and yet people are not standing by him." Link

db: Mobster politics. This appeal for the Neo-Labour party to 'stand by' Levy - simply because he was successful at raising cash - is similar to the appeal the other day from former Neo-Labour Cabinet Minister Stephen Byers concerning loyalty to the arch criminal himself, Blair - "This is the time for the Labour Party to stand united and show loyalty to the man who led us to three election victories."

Cash + Power = Everything

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Iraq: Encouraging signs, havoc, mayhem

President Bush on Tuesday cited "encouraging signs" of military and political progress in Iraq.

Following are security developments in Iraq, reported by Reuters, as of 1855 GMT on Saturday:

* BAGHDAD - The bodies of 15 people were found shot dead in different parts of Baghdad on Saturday, a police source said.

* BAGHDAD - Gunmen opened fire on a police patrol in the Abu Ghraib district on the western outskirts of Baghdad, killing one policeman and two civilians, a police source said.

BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomber killed six Iraqi soldiers and wounded some 20 civilians when his car was stopped by a military checkpoint at an entrance to the Shi'ite slum of Sadr City, the U.S. military said. Iraqi sources gave widely differing numbers of casualties in the blast, as is common in Iraq.

* BAGHDAD - U.S. forces opened fire on a car they said failed to stop at a checkpoint in Adhamiya in northern Baghdad, killing three people and wounding three on Friday.

BAGHDAD - A Katyusha rocket killed one pilgrim and wounded five others when it landed in Baghdad's Shi'ite Kadhimiya district, police sources said.

KIRKUK - A rocket killed three people and wounded 36 when it hit a bus station in a mostly Kurdish area of the northern city of Kirkuk, a hospital source said.

BAGHDAD - Two blasts that sounded like mortars rocked the building where delegates from regional and world powers were meeting to discuss stabilising Iraq, Reuters witnesses said. There was no immediate word on casualties.

KERBALA - One person was killed and 11 wounded when they were crushed in a crowd of pilgrims commemorating the Shi'ite religious rite of Arbain in Kerbala, police said. Officials said 6 million pilgrims had visited the town in the past 10 days.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen killed two pilgrims and wounded four when they attacked their vehicle near Sadr City, police said.

LATIFIYA - Gunmen killed one Shi'ite pilgrim and wounded three others in the town of Latifiya, just south of Baghdad, as they were returning to the capital from a major Shi'ite event in Kerbala, police said.

TAJI - U.S. forces killed one insurgent and arrested 18 in Taji, a small town just north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement.

RAMADI - A roadside bomb killed three policemen and wounded one in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on Friday, police said.

MAHMUDIYA - Police said they found the bodies of two men in the town of Mahmudiya, just south of Baghdad. The unidentified victims died from gunshot wounds.

BAGHDAD - Iraqi security forces captured 31 insurgents in Baghdad's southern Rasheed district on Friday, the government said in a statement.

BAGHDAD - A suicide car bomber killed one soldier and wounded two others when he blew up his vehicle at an Iraqi Army checkpoint in western Baghdad's Jamia district, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded two others when it blew up in a central Baghdad intersection, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb wounded two Iraqi soldiers when it blew up near their patrol in western Baghdad's Yarmouk district, police said.

RAMADI - Police captured four al Qaeda militants in Ramadi on Friday, police said. BAGHDAD - Iraqi soldiers captured six "rogue" militiamen suspected of "death squad" activities in Baghdad's Sadr City, the U.S. military said in a statement.

BAGHDAD - A senior figure of an al Qaeda-led militant group was arrested on Friday, military spokesman Qassim Moussawi said. He denied reports that the man captured in a raid on Baghdad's outskirts was Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Gorbachev attacks UK Trident plans

Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev hit out at the British government's "astonishing" intention to replace its ageing nuclear deterrent in a letter to the Times newspaper.

Gorbachev wrote that a decision to replace the Trident missile would "be in contradiction to the spirit of the agreements that helped to end the Cold War".

He called on Prime Minister Tony Blair's government to postpone a decision on the future of Britain's nuclear arsenal at least until 2010, when the next review conference of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty takes place.

"The UK government's rush to deploy nuclear missiles whose service life would extend until 2050 is, to say the least, astonishing," the former president wrote.

"There is a real danger of proliferation of nuclear weapons." Link

Noam Chomsky: A predator becomes more dangerous when wounded

In the energy-rich Middle East, only two countries have failed to subordinate themselves to Washington's basic demands: Iran and Syria. Accordingly both are enemies, Iran by far the more important. As was the norm during the cold war, resort to violence is regularly justified as a reaction to the malign influence of the main enemy, often on the flimsiest of pretexts. Unsurprisingly, as Bush sends more troops to Iraq, tales surface of Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Iraq - a country otherwise free from any foreign interference - on the tacit assumption that Washington rules the world.

In the cold war-like mentality in Washington, Tehran is portrayed as the pinnacle in the so-called Shia crescent that stretches from Iran to Hizbullah in Lebanon, through Shia southern Iraq and Syria. And again unsurprisingly, the "surge" in Iraq and escalation of threats and accusations against Iran is accompanied by grudging willingness to attend a conference of regional powers, with the agenda limited to Iraq.

Presumably this minimal gesture toward diplomacy is intended to allay the growing fears and anger elicited by Washington's heightened aggressiveness. These concerns are given new substance in a detailed study of "the Iraq effect" by terrorism experts Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, revealing that the Iraq war "has increased terrorism sevenfold worldwide". An "Iran effect" could be even more severe.

For the US, the primary issue in the Middle East has been, and remains, effective control of its unparalleled energy resources. Access is a secondary matter. Once the oil is on the seas it goes anywhere. Control is understood to be an instrument of global dominance. Iranian influence in the "crescent" challenges US control. By an accident of geography, the world's major oil resources are in largely Shia areas of the Middle East: southern Iraq, adjacent regions of Saudi Arabia and Iran, with some of the major reserves of natural gas as well. Washington's worst nightmare would be a loose Shia alliance controlling most of the world's oil and independent of the US.

Such a bloc, if it emerges, might even join the Asian Energy Security Grid based in China. Iran could be a lynchpin. If the Bush planners bring that about, they will have seriously undermined the US position of power in the world.

To Washington, Tehran's principal offence has been its defiance, going back to the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 and the hostage crisis at the US embassy. In retribution, Washington turned to support Saddam Hussein's aggression against Iran, which left hundreds of thousands dead. Then came murderous sanctions and, under Bush, rejection of Iranian diplomatic efforts.

Last July, Israel invaded Lebanon, the fifth invasion since 1978. As before, US support was a critical factor, the pretexts quickly collapse on inspection, and the consequences for the people of Lebanon are severe. Among the reasons for the US-Israel invasion is that Hizbullah's rockets could be a deterrent to a US-Israeli attack on Iran. Despite the sabre-rattling it is, I suspect, unlikely that the Bush administration will attack Iran. Public opinion in the US and around the world is overwhelmingly opposed. It appears that the US military and intelligence community is also opposed. Iran cannot defend itself against US attack, but it can respond in other ways, among them by inciting even more havoc in Iraq. Some issue warnings that are far more grave, among them the British military historian Corelli Barnett, who writes that "an attack on Iran would effectively launch world war three".

Then again, a predator becomes even more dangerous, and less predictable, when wounded. In desperation to salvage something, the administration might risk even greater disasters. The Bush administration has created an unimaginable catastrophe in Iraq. It has been unable to establish a reliable client state within, and cannot withdraw without facing the possible loss of control of the Middle East's energy resources.

Meanwhile Washington may be seeking to destabilise Iran from within. The ethnic mix in Iran is complex; much of the population isn't Persian. There are secessionist tendencies and it is likely that Washington is trying to stir them up - in Khuzestan on the Gulf, for example, where Iran's oil is concentrated, a region that is largely Arab, not Persian.

Threat escalation also serves to pressure others to join US efforts to strangle Iran economically, with predictable success in Europe. Another predictable consequence, presumably intended, is to induce the Iranian leadership to be as repressive as possible, fomenting disorder while undermining reformers.

It is also necessary to demonise the leadership. In the west, any wild statement by President Ahmadinejad is circulated in headlines, dubiously translated. But Ahmadinejad has no control over foreign policy, which is in the hands of his superior, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The US media tend to ignore Khamenei's statements, especially if they are conciliatory. It's widely reported when Ahmadinejad says Israel shouldn't exist - but there is silence when Khamenei says that Iran supports the Arab League position on Israel-Palestine, calling for normalisation of relations with Israel if it accepts the international consensus of a two-state settlement.

The US invasion of Iraq virtually instructed Iran to develop a nuclear deterrent. The message was that the US attacks at will, as long as the target is defenceless. Now Iran is ringed by US forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and the Persian Gulf, and close by are nuclear-armed Pakistan and Israel, the regional superpower, thanks to US support.

In 2003, Iran offered negotiations on all outstanding issues, including nuclear policies and Israel-Palestine relations. Washington's response was to censure the Swiss diplomat who brought the offer. The following year, the EU and Iran reached an agreement that Iran would suspend enriching uranium; in return the EU would provide "firm guarantees on security issues" - code for US-Israeli threats to bomb Iran.

Apparently under US pressure, Europe did not live up to the bargain. Iran then resumed uranium enrichment. A genuine interest in preventing the development of nuclear weapons in Iran would lead Washington to implement the EU bargain, agree to meaningful negotiations and join with others to move toward integrating Iran into the international economic system. Link

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Iraq: Sunni group warns of oil rip-off.

"We caution the parliament that it is faced with a historical responsibility and it will have to choose between: siding by the people in preserving its right and the right of its future generations from squandering and exploitation by the pharaohs of the age, and siding by the occupier and its conspiracies to seize this great national wealth," the Association of Muslim Scholars said in a statement posted Tuesday on its Web site.

The AMS, which calls "the highest Sunni authority in Iraq," urged any law governing Iraq's vast oil and natural gas reserves to preserve nationalization and limit foreign ownership.

... The statement said such a law shouldn't be passed while the country is occupied by foreign forces or while it is in the midst of war. "What is the logic of passing such a law in such circumstances?" it said.

"We caution them that the Iraqi people is watching all these scenes and will not allow anyone to trade in its resources." Link


The debate over oil "privatisation" in Iraq has often been misleading due to the technical nature of the term, which refers to legal ownership of oil reserves. This has allowed governments and companies to deny that "privatisation" is taking place. Meanwhile, important practical questions, of public versus private control over oil development and revenues, have not been addressed.

The development model being promoted in Iraq, and supported by key figures in the Oil Ministry, is based on contracts known as production sharing agreements (PSAs), which have existed in the oil industry since the late 1960s. Oil experts agree that their purpose is largely political: technically they keep legal ownership of oil reserves in state hands, while practically delivering oil companies the same results as the concession agreements they replaced.

Running to hundreds of pages of complex legal and financial language and generally subject to commercial confidentiality provisions, PSAs are effectively immune from public scrutiny and lock governments into economic terms that cannot be altered for decades.

In Iraq's case, these contracts could be signed while the government is new and weak, the security situation dire, and the country still under military occupation. As such the terms are likely to be highly unfavourable, but could persist for up to 40 years.

Furthermore, PSAs generally exempt foreign oil companies from any new laws that might affect their profits. And the contracts often stipulate that disputes are heard not in the country's own courts but in international investment tribunals, which make their decisions on commercial grounds and do not consider the national interest or other national laws. Read more

Bush's Latin America friendship tour underway

Brazilians gather for show of amiability

Bush's Latin America friendship tour draws protests

We don't want your fucking bases

March 5 to 9, 2007

Quito and Manta, Ecuador

We come together from 40 countries as grassroots activists from groups that promote women’s rights, indigenous sovereignty, environmental justice, human rights, and social justice. We come from social movements, peace movements, faith-based organizations, youth organizations, trade unions, and indigenous communities. We come from local, national, and international formations.

United by our struggle for justice, peace, self-determination of peoples and ecological sustainability, we have founded a network animated by the principles of solidarity, equality, openness, and respect for diversity.

Foreign military bases and all other infrastructure used for wars of aggression violate human rights; oppress all people, particularly indigenous peoples, African descendants, women and children; and destroy communities and the environment. They exact immeasurable consequences on the spiritual and psychological wellbeing of humankind. They are instruments of war that entrench militarization, colonialism, imperial policy, patriarchy, and racism. The United States-led illegal invasions and ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were launched from and enabled by such bases. We call for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from these lands and reject any planned attack against Iran.

We denounce the primary responsibility of the U.S. in the proliferation of foreign military bases, as well as the role of NATO, the European Union and other countries that have or host foreign military bases.

We call for the total abolition of all foreign military bases and all other infrastructure used for wars of aggression, including military operations, maneuvers, trainings, exercises, agreements, weapons in space, military laboratories and other forms of military interventions.

We demand an end to both the construction of new bases and the reinforcement of existing bases; an end to and cleanup of environmental contamination; an end to legal immunity and other privileges of foreign military personnel. We demand integral restauration and full and just compensation for social and environmental damages caused by these bases.

Our first act as an international network is to strengthen Ecuador’s commitment to terminate the agreement that permits the U.S. military to use the base in Manta beyond 2009. We commit to remain vigilant to ensure this victory.

We support and stand in solidarity with those who struggle for the abolition of all foreign military bases worldwide.

Foreign Military Bases Out Now!

Manta Si! Bases No

Seven Countries In Five Years

Democracy Now! - An interview with General Wesley Clark

"This is a memo that describes how we're going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran." I said, "Is it classified?" He said, "Yes, sir".

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Transcript at ICH - Link

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Iraq: The Surreal

Republican presidential contender John McCain, facing criticism from Democrats, on Thursday said he regretted using the word "wasted" to describe the more than 3,100 U.S. lives lost in the Iraq war.

"I should have used the word 'sacrificed' as I have in the past" he said. Link