Friday, 21 December 2012

War of Pipelines

British Prime Minister Cameron is visiting the troops in Afghanistan just before Christmas. Still the British public is routinely lied to about the real geopolitical ambitions in this war to build a rival pipeline as part of a plan to blockade Iran and it's regional ambitions.

 Dr Ikramul Haq has, however, written a piece for Pakistan's The International News which sets the war in context in a way absent from Western media,

 "US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson’s statement on December 10 against the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline (IP) was not a mere reiteration of the economic interests of the United States and its allies; it has serious political connotations, in an area that has always been the battlefield in the Great Game. The expression of concern by Olson came just two days after President Asif Ali Zardari skipped his scheduled visit to Tehran to finalise the project with his Iranian counterpart. The US has been opposing the pipeline since its inception and favouring the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi)"

The IP, a $1.2 billion project, has been lingering since 1995 when a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Iran and Pakistan. The Iran-Pakistan Working Group was formed in 2003 to move the project forward. Islamabad told Tehran that in case India was unwilling to join in, the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline would be pursued as an independent project. But in 2005, a memorandum of understanding was signed to include India. In 2007, India and Pakistan provisionally agreed to pay Iran $4.93 per million British thermal units, but India subsequently withdrew from the deal, ostensibly over concerns about the price and security but in fact due to opposition from the US. Under the accord signed in June 2010, Iran was to provide about 21.5 million cubic metres of gas a day to Pakistan for 25 years. The deal is extendable by five years and volumes can rise to 30 million cubic metres a day. The project is now in doldrums.

The projected 1,680-kilometre Tapi gas pipeline is backed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It has the potential to bring 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day (bcfd) from Turkmenistan’s gas fields passing near the cities of Herat and Kandahar, crossing into Pakistan near Quetta and linking with existing pipelines at Multan.

After India’s withdrawal from the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, China showed interest in it. In October 2011 Dr Asim Hussain said, “Our dependence on Pak-Iran pipeline is very high and there is no other substitute at present to meet the growing demand of the energy.” This statement irritated the US, which has been pleading the case for Tapi since the 1990s. Tapi was initially designed to provide Turkmen gas to Pakistan through Afghanistan. In April 2008, India was also invited to join in. Pakistan’s cabinet gave approval to the Gas Pipeline Framework Agreement (GPFA) for Tapi in its meeting on October 27, 2010. On November 13, 2011, Pakistan and Turkmenistan initiated the Gas Sales and Purchase Agreement (GSPA), which is likely to make the multi-nation project operational by 2016.

From the very beginning, the US and its allies wanted Pakistan to abandon the project with Iran, which wants to diversify gas sales to Asian markets. Tehran’s projection of IP as a “peace pipeline” has the support of Russia and China. While regional powers desire to find a stable, reliable source of gas supplies, America and allies want to destabilise the entire region using militancy as a tool. The tussle over the Iran-Pakistan gas project and Tapi is not a mere economic battle but has far-reaching geopolitical dimensions.

It is a matter of record that the US and its Nato allies had decided to invade Afghanistan much before 9/11. The decision to this effect was taken in Berlin during the joint meeting of the council of ministers held in November 2000 in the wake of apprehensions regarding Tapi, in which powerful corporate entities, which actually rule the US and other capitalist countries, had financial interests. George W Bush appointed Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, former aide to the American oil company Unocal, as special envoy to Afghanistan, nine days after the US-backed interim government of Hamid Karzai took office in Kabul. This appointment underscored the real economic and financial interests at stake in the US military intervention in Central Asia.

Khalilzad was intimately involved in the long-running US efforts to obtain direct access to the oil and gas resources of the region, largely unexploited but believed to be the second-largest in the world after those of the Persian Gulf. During the Bush government the state department was exploring the potential for post-Taliban energy projects in the region, having more than six percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and almost 40 percent of its gas reserves. On December 15, 2001, in an article titled ‘As the war shifts alliances, oil deals follow,’ the New York Times reported that during a visit in early December to this region, Secretary of State Colin L Powell said he was particularly impressed with the money that American oil companies were investing there. He estimated that $200 billion could flow into this region within the following decade.

As an advisor for Unocal, Khalilzad drew up the risk analysis of a proposed gas pipeline from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan across Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. He participated in talks between Unocal and Taliban officials in 1997, which were aimed at implementing a 1995 agreement to build the pipeline across western Afghanistan. Unocal was the lead company in the formation of the CentGas consortium behind Tapi.

The Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline and Tapi are symbols of the New Great Game – the main goal of which is gaining control of oil and gas reserves in this region. As Frank Viviano wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle on September 26, 2001: ‘’The hidden stakes in the war against terrorism can be summed up in a single word: oil/gas. The map of terrorist sanctuaries and targets in the Middle East and Central Asia is also, to an extraordinary degree, a map of the world’s principal energy sources in the 21st century. It is inevitable that the war against terrorism will be seen by many as a war on behalf of America’s Chevron, Exxon, and Arco; France’s TotalFinaElf; British Petroleum; Royal Dutch Shell and other multinational giants, which have hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in the region.’’

This is the ugly reality of the ongoing war over gas pipelines in our region – US and its allies want to grab oil and gas resources for their economic interests benefiting huge multinational corporations in which the western ruling elites have substantial interest. In an article in Global Research, ‘Balochistan: Crossroads of Proxy War,’ Eric Draitser wrote on July 1: “China’s insatiable thirst for oil and gas makes the development of pipelines from Central Asia, Iran, and elsewhere invaluable to them. The Iran-Pakistan pipeline, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) pipeline, and other projects all serve to increase the importance of Balochistan in the eyes of the Chinese. Additionally, the Chinese-funded Pakistani Gwadar Port is the access point for Chinese commercial shipping to the Indian Ocean and on to Africa. With all of this as a backdrop, one can begin to see just why Balochistan is so significant to the Chinese and, conversely, why the United States and its western puppets seek to destabilise it.”

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

One Year On: Chaos in Libya

With news of civilians being massacred in Bani Walid in Libya, there has been a resounding silence on human rights abuses and lawless militias. This is despite the intervention being justified by the USA, France and UK governments on 'humanitarian' grounds.
Vijay Prashad has written an interest article in The Hindu on the current situation in Libya a year on,
'Hanging over the Libyan security situation is the lack of accountability for war crimes during the February-October revolution of 2011. On May 2, 2012, the Libyan National Transitional Council granted blanket amnesty to those who committed crimes during the revolution, including murder and forced displacement. Law 38 (On Some Procedures for the Transitional Period) essentially allowed the militias the confidence of impunity. It emboldened them to disregard the war crimes conducted last year, and to consider that their actions in the present will also be similarly forgiven. The danger of “victor’s justice” is that it creates a political grammar that affects the new terrain, allowing the militias institutional support for their lawless behaviour.

Rights report on militias

A new report from Human Rights Watch (Death of a Dictator: Bloody Vengeance in Sirte, October 2012) details how the main Misrata-based militias (al-Nimer, Tiger Brigade, al-Isnad, Support Brigade, al-Fahad, Jaguar Brigade, al-Asad, Lion Brigade, al-Qasba, Citadel Brigade and Ussoud al-Walid, the Lions of the Valley Brigade) not only conducted extrajudicial assassinations of Muammar Qadhafi and his son Mutassim, but also killed over 66 prisoners in the Mahari hotel in Sirte on October 20, 2011. Two NATO air strikes had already killed about 103 members of Qadhafi’s convoy (many of them wounded patients from the Ibn Sina hospital, trying to flee the scene of the battle). Cellphone images and photographs, as well as interviews with survivors, showed the investigators that the dead were killed in custody. Human Rights Watch’s investigation is clear that war crimes had been committed at Sirte. The Misrata chief prosecutor balked at an inquiry, saying that it would be too “dangerous” to “carry out an investigation in Sirte at the time,” a situation that seems unchanged.
The Misrata militias are particularly prone to lawlessness. They are accused of the forcible displacement of the 30,000 dark-skinned residents of the town of Tawergha, and in the cellphone images from Sirte, their members routinely use racist epithets (“black snake,” for example) against their prisoners. There has been little attempt to resettle Tawergha.
The Misrata militia has laid siege to the city of Bani Walid, where there has been less enthusiasm for the new Libya, and whose citizens have been accused of kidnapping and killing Omar Bin Shaaban, a 22-year-old Misratan credited with the murder of Qadhafi. Misrata’s militias are acting with the authority of the government, which passed Resolution 7 on September 25 to allow them to go in and capture those who killed Bin Shaaban. The militias are not constrained to simply go and arrest the accused. They want to subdue Bani Walid. As Mohammed el-Gandus, a spokesperson for the militias put it, “If we win this fight, Libya will finally be free.”
The atmosphere of impunity does not only shroud the activities of the militias. The passage of Resolution 7 and Law 38 demonstrate that the Libyan government has not taken the regime of human rights seriously. The International Criminal Court (ICC), so eager to enter the conflict in February 2011, has also taken a back seat. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970 gives the ICC jurisdiction over the Libyan theatre at least during the conflict phase; it has utterly failed to honour these obligations. Furthermore, NATO entered the Libyan conflict to protect civilians in the name of the human rights regime. Nevertheless, NATO and the Atlantic powers have refused to allow any evaluation of their use of firepower against Libya with resulting civilian casualties whose numbers are unaccountable (as I showed in “When Protector Turned Killer,” The Hindu, June 11, 2012). NATO’s casualties include the dead in Sirte. Its drones struck the convoy, leaving them at the will of the Misrata militias'.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Iran is Targeted for Regime Change.

'And think what a regime change in Tehran would mean: no more threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. Instead, there would be a democratic state to oppose rather than support the Assad regime in Syria, and to give Iraq a chance to find the democracy that tens of thousands died for'

Opines Alex Carlile, Liberal Democrat peer in The Guardian, on news that the US has removed the Iranian opposition party the MEK from its status as a terrorist organisation. In accordance with Orwellian doublethink, the movement that once backed Saddam Hussein is now a beacon of freedom.

Iit is interesting that the response to the Iraq debacle,in which the deaths run into hundreds of thousands , if not a million( not tens of thousands ) , is to shift the blame for that on to Iran and to propose the same approach to Iran as was done with Iraq in the run up to war in 2003.

Sanctions are already affecting the civilian population badly. The idea will be to impoverish Iranians so that the degree of popular support the current government in Tehran has will be sapped and then a popular momentum for "regime change" can be hijacked by the US for its benefit ( enter the MEK ).

Such strategies seem doomed to backfire. One reason Iran could be developing nuclear weapons is that it fears what happened to Iraq. And yet Iran is a semi-democratic autocracy and not a dictatorship.

Potentially the situation could be very dangerous if Tehran reacts to the collapse of Assad's regime in Syria by intensifying its backing for Shia movements in countries where they form a majority whilst governed by undemocratic Sunni elites such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

This is the view, moreover, of leading Iranian-Americans who think the delisting is insane and counter-productive. Presumably, they may well have more knowledge of this than the witless Lord Carlile. The National Iranian American Council (NIAC)  states it,

...deplores the decision to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. The decision opens the door to Congressional funding of the MEK to conduct terrorist attacks in Iran, makes war with Iran far more likely, and will seriously damage Iran’s peaceful pro-democracy movement as well as America’s standing among ordinary Iranians.
"The biggest winner today is the Iranian regime, which has claimed for a long time that the U.S. is out to destroy Iran and is the enemy of the Iranian people. This decision will be portrayed as proof that the U.S. is cozying up with a reviled terrorist group and will create greater receptivity for that false argument,” said NIAC Policy Director Jamal Abdi.

A Note on Iran and The Media

Glenn Greenwald wrote last week in The Guardian,
The US has Iran virtually encircled militarily. Even with the highly implausible fear-mongering claims earlier this year about Tehran's planned increases in military spending, that nation's total military expenditures is a tiny fraction of what the US spends. Iran has demonstrated no propensity to launch attacks on US soil, has no meaningful capability to do so, and would be instantly damaged, if not (as Hillary Clinton once put it) "totally obliterated" if they tried. Even the Israelis are clear that Iran has not even committed itself to building a nuclear weapon.
It is evident that mainstream US TV journalists are not going to challenge the bi-partisan consensus on American Foreign policy. Firstly, in the context of presidential elections foreign policy is not considered that important by most American citizens. Secondly, the idea is to get a mere statement of their position.

Both presidents aim to compete on how tough they are on Iran in order to get votes and get into office. And it is in neither of their interests nor that of major TV networks to ask fundamental questions about foreign policy nor to understand the basis of what is driving it in the Middle East and Central Asia.

One of the main reasons , of course, is that the plan to encircle and throttle Iran is part of the USA's ambition to gain hegemony over the region in order to control the oil and gas. This is something necessitated by the USA's overdependence upon it to fuel a high octane car based consumer economy.

The fact that Iran has, in Greenwald's words, 'shown no propensity to launch attacks on US soil' is, therefore, largely irrelevant. It stands in the way as the only Power that can challenge US hegemony in both the Middle East to the west of Iran ( through the support of Syria and backing Hezbollah ) and in Central Asia to the east.

In Afghanistan, the war has been mostly about the geopolitical advantages of securing the construction of the TAPI pipeline, one that will block off the rival IPI project and ratchet up the pressure on Iran's economy and society by reducing the revenue from gas exports to Pakistan and India.

If Greenwald is going to criticise Establishment journalism for not probing on foreign policy, then there should be at least some alternative attempt to understand why the USA has become so fixated on targeting Iran as the main threat to its interests in the Middle East and Central Asia. And that is something those opposed to Us foreign policy seldom often dwell on.

Populist journalism can be as tedious as Establishment journalism as it allows radical critics of US foreign policy to feel a frisson of superiority to the people in power without any recognition that if American consumer lifestyles, even of "anti-war" protesters, are to be preserved, then this foreign policy is inevitable.

The problem with those complaining about the US or Britain meddling in the Middle East and Central Asia is that, even when they criticise the US for invading Iraq for oil or targeting Iran to get 'regime change' ( also ultimately about control and protection of oil supplies ) , they seem oblivious to what actually powers their economy.

That is not to state that US foreign policy is "right" but to present in stark terms the nature of what US foreign policy has really been increasingly concerned with since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, increased competition with Russia and China and, with the opening up of the post Soviet "stans" to investment and oil development, a New Great Game.

Friday, 12 October 2012

A Note on the Term "Islamophobia"

David Miller of SpinWatch has written in The Guardian ,
There seems to be some suggestion that the review of the BBC may also examine religion in general, and Islamophobia in particular. No shortage of material there. A variety of academic studies has examined how the BBC and other media have covered Islam, especially since September 2001. One found that "the framing of Islam as a security threat can be inferred from the very large numbers of news items in which Muslim political and military or paramilitary actors have been shown in postures of hostility towards aspects of [western] societies".

The authors contend that "while distinctions are made between dangerous, fanatical, politically driven Islamism and Islam as a religion, these distinctions are not always made clear, so there is a persistent danger of conveying the issues in terms of an all-embracing clash of civilisations". Not a lot of support in these studies for the contention in a Daily Mail leader column last week that the BBC "consistently attacks Christianity (though never Islam)".
On the notion of spin and framing, the term "Islamophobia" is one that itself makes no distinction between Islamism as a political ideology or trend, Islam as a religion and Muslims as individuals, estimated some 1.6 billion of whom live on the planet and are as diverse in outlook.

The problem with "Islamophobia" is that it fails to distinguish between criticism of politicised versions of a particular, and often apocalyptic reading of the Qu'ran, and those who hold only to the religion without any belief in the Islamism of ideologues such as Qutb or Maududi.

There is, of course, hatred of Muslims which can be concealed behind the idea that Muslims as some lumpen mass consist of a potential enemy within" all believing that Islam must dominate and control any land where Muslims are present.

In which case, the term has to be 'anti-Muslim sentiment'. Words and their meaning matter. Which is why "Islamophobia" is so hopeless as a catch all description of anyone who is deemed , in some way, to be hostile to Islam.

Few would describe Richard Dawkins as "Christianophobic" for his dislike of Christian doctrines and dogmas. Likewise, it is wrong to term somebody "Islamophobic" for criticising the history and practice and dogmas of Islam. The best term would be "critic of Islam" or "anti-Islamic".

Even those hostile to Islam or anti-Islamic are not "Islamophobic" , a term that implies the person has some sort of pathological hatred for both Islam as a belief system and necessarily those who believe in Islam or are born into a family and background that is Muslim.

The term for those who oppose Islamist ideology should be anti-Islamist. Even better, for clarification, it would simply be better to describe those who oppose certain forms of Islamism precisely. A Palestinian secular Arab hostile to Hamas would be simply be described as anti-Hamas.

If the notion of some essential "clash of civilisations" is to be avoided, then these sort of nuances are essential to take into account. Otherwise, the danger is that fanatics, zealots and those who believe they are eternally victimised, the better to advance power hungry agendas and mendacious propaganda will win.

Fool Britannia.

As David Cameron announces financial commitment to commemorating World War One by 2014 on the hundredth anniversary of its outbreak, the hard-left Richard Seymour has commented,
.. 2014 is being scheduled as another zenith of nationalist pride. The government is investing £50m in commemorating the centenary of the first world war, and a further £5m in the redevelopment of the Imperial War Museums. At a time of deep spending cuts, it's instructive to see what cultural formations the Conservatives are interested in supporting.
The attempt by PM David Cameron to keep this Olympian "feel good factor" going on a continuous stream, as well as the attempt to harness history as propaganda by bigging up this "Britishness" theme, is part of what is known these days as "Public Diplomacy". Cameron is, after all, a man who made his money in PR. Britain must sell itself.

Whilst the reality underpinning historic Britishness has largely vanished with a vote on Scottish Independence coming, he wants to stress it as a consumer brand.

Not only that, it is connected to this notion of Britain as a Global Player. With both New Labour and the Conservatives still committed to "staying the course" in Afghanistan till 2014, a flourish of kitschy nationalism is, of course, helpful in that ties in with the notion that Britain actual has an independent foreign policy and that the sacrifice has been somehow 'worth it'.

The problem is that a considerable number of British people were left cold by the Olympics and disturbed by the fact that this kitschfest involved a massive military presence in London ( one that saw more troops deployed than in the entire Afghanistan War ) . The media and politicians insist on pushing the spurious drivel over "The Legacy".

This is despite the fact it created around 10,000 jobs for local inhabitants after spending £9bn on the Olympic Village, the Stadium and a grotesque piece of architectural computer aided design trash called ArcelrMittal Tower. The Olympic Venue and related construction projects also ramped up house prices and, along with racketeering, driving out Eastenders from areas as Hackney.

The hysteria over the Olympics and it tenuous connection to sense of "Britishness" that we can all somehow be "Team GB" shows a disturbing symbiosis between sport and propaganda, where those who challenged the Olympic Project were seen as un-British or "out of touch". Where a man was arrested whilst watching the Olympic cycling event for 'not smiling'.

The idea that a nation's worth can be assessed on its sporting acheivements is, ironically, similar to that of the Soviet Union.

The problem with this PR version of Britishness is that the ersatz nationalism it conjures up is a form of collective media induced hallucination that is actually at odds with a more rigourous patriotism. For this would involve looking at Britain, and the nations that consist this decayed remnant of a multi-national dynastic state, far more realistically.

For a start, England in 2012 consists largely of retail outlet clone towns as documented brilliantly by Paul Kingsnorth in Real England. The main obessive preoccupation is with consumerism and shopping. There is little sense of higher purpose that visiting huge out of town shopping centres and yelling and screaming at pub telescreened football after four pints of industrially produced lager.

Britain has become weirdly deracinated and denaturalised. It seems that people are so terminally bored, that they are awaiting some collective experience that will unite them, whether sports fanaticism, anti-paedophile outrage, baying EDL flashmob crowds, fanatical Islamism, carnival style anti-capitalist activism with slogans that will be smoothly absorbed into next years T shirt range.

Britishness has a residual appeal to those supporting the military in Afghanistan as that blends with the 'entertainment and sport economy' through the paralympics, ITN's Night of Heroes, the ex-Tv soap opera star and actor Ross Kemp's posturing on Sky TV and numerous macho-war books such as Bullet Magnet by a certain Andy McNab.

The fact the war is about securing the TAPI pipeline as part of a geostrategic plan to control oil and gas is not mentioned as it does not fit the "patriotic" notion of benevolent sacrifice which is being put forth as a way of rationalising the deaths of British troops in a war that has nothing at all to do with national defence

The institutions that defined Britishness have crumbled. the Westminster Parliament is full of bland careerist nonentities and there is little real political debate between two ideologically similar parties that indulge in political cross dressing. Real debates over the War aims in Afghanistan do not happen. There is no attempt to probe or ask forensic questions about the reason for the war.

The decline of Britain into a listless consumer zone of colossal steel sheet warehouses complete with chain link fencing, CCTV cameras, legoland housing estates and motorway towns with flagpoles everywhere and the flag flying is actually, in historical terms, rather un-British. As civic participation and institutions have declined, this new form of demonstrating identity grows.

Flags used to fly from civic buildings and bunting would be put up on special occasions. Yet every second house seems to have a flagpole now. Much of this had to do with football fever and the hype over England's performance in either the World Cup or the European Championships. "Come on England" posters in windows of every retail outlet, even estate agents.

Whether the British or English St George flag is flown, the recent fetish for flagpoles seems to yet another import from the USA. Britishness now seems to have become a sort of Americanised version of Britishness, with the new trend towards school Prom Nights and special Landau Forte Academies, indeed many schools, flying the Union Jack outside.

The strange thing is that Britishness is, actually, increasingly more American than British in the old sense as Britain becomes a neo-liberal version of Orwell's Airstrip One.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

A Note on the Taliban.

The Taliban's shooting of  Malala Yousafzai, for standing up for the right of girls to be educated in Pakistan's northern Swat region, has been denounced by Pakistani politicians and by human rights groups across the world. As repellent as such an attack is, the idea has been put forward that the attack is one of pure pathological woman hatred and is not political.

Unfortunately, the targeting of Malala Yousafzai is political in that she exemplifies what is regarded as part of the propaganda in what is sold as a 'humanitarian war' in Afghanistan as it fans across the borders into Pakistan. The Taliban does treat women as mere chattels and baby producers but that does not mean such vicious attacks are only psychotic outbursts of violence against what they hate.

The Taliban's aim is to thwart the West's geopolitical ambitions and to derail the project to construct the TAPI pipeline. The Taliban was backed by Pakistan as a means of actually advancing this essential energy project well into the 1990s ( some say there are shady elements in Pakistan's elites that still do ).

This, from Kamila Shamsie in The Guardian, is not quite true,
Because the state of Pakistan allowed the Taliban to exist, and to grow in strength, Malala Yousafzai couldn't simply be a schoolgirl who displayed courage in facing down school bullies but one who, instead, appeared on talk shows in Pakistan less than a year ago to discuss the possibility of her own death at the hands of the Taliban...the Taliban exists because of political decisions dating back to the 1980s; and of course the mess that is the "war on terror" has only added to the TTP's ranks.
The Taliban exists as a force in its own right that wants to protect its part of north Pakistan and South Afghanistan but it also is there to advance an agenda whereby, without having any political role in Afghanistan, it will use the most savage force to destroy 'nation building' funded by Western involvement.
There's no need for the Taliban to invent propaganda against the American and Pakistan state (although they do) – both governments supply an excess of recruitment material for those who hate them. So if you view the Taliban simply through the prism of the war on terror and Pakistan and the United States, it's possible to think the process can be reversed; policies can be changed; everyone can stop being murderous and duplicitous
The reason is because the US is continually Drone bombing the Af-Pak frontier and most of the political elite in Pakistan seem willing to accept that if they get the aid and investment. And a large part of that is about US  realpolitik and the need to secure the region for the strategically vital TAPI pipeline.

It cannot be emphasised enough that the instability on the Af-Pak frontier has been exacerbated by the pathological conflicts over these pipeline routes. There is even some evidence that Iran is funding the Taliban, after having been against it in the 1990s, because TAPI is meant as a substitute to the IPI pipeline.
But then there's Malala Yousafzai, standing in for all the women attacked, oppressed, condemned by the Taliban. What role have women played in creating the Taliban?
None. But shoddy US realpolitik, greed for resources, political corruption and fundamentalist ideas have all come together is a poisonous whirl in a region considered strategically vital for the US to control in order to advance its hegemonic goals in Central Asia and, through throttling Iran from the east, to harm civilians.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Myth of the Western Powers "Doing Nothing" over Syria.

"Something must be done" is often the refrain of those who tend to use humanitarian catastrophes, such as that happening in Syria amidst a bloody and brutal civil war, to advocate military intervention or else to portray "the West" as not doing enough. On Syria, the Guardian's Simon Tisdall has written,
.. the do-nothing, hand-wringing favoured by Turkey's international allies may not be politically sustainable much longer as the Syrian crisis inexorably expands not just into Turkey but into Iraq, Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The fact is that the USA is not taking a "do-nothing" approach to the Syrian Civil War. It already has tacitly allowed Saudi Arabia and Qatar to pour in weapons and finance for Sunni fundamentalists, has CIA advisers on the ground to co-ordinate them and has remained firm on the call for Assad's regime to be destroyed from the outset.

That aim is one in line with its geopolitical interests in removing Iran's main ally in the Middle East in Syria which Russia and China do not want. The US approach is not based on doing nothing ( that has been more Russia's and China's position ). The US and Britain want to steer the war to the pursuit of its interests by backing proxies on the ground.

Whether hundreds of thousands of ordinary Syrian civilians perish is of less interest other than as material for propaganda. As with British Foreign Secretaty William Hague, they will robotically repeat the same line "Assad must go". That was the game plan from the beginning and not a ceasefire that could have saved many lives.

The wider plan stretching from the Middle East into Central Asia is to curtail Iranian influence to the west by toppling the Assad regime and to the east by maintaining a Afghan client state and blocking off Iranian gas exports to Pakistan and India by getting the TAPI pipeline constructed. This dovetails with the sanctions policy.

Syria is a proxy war in the contest for hegemony over the oil and gas of the Middle East and Central Asia. Iran is the ultimate target for regime change and with the challenge posed by Russia and the growing power and wealth of China, they will pursue "pro-active" foreign policies to do so. This is the lethal consequence of overdependence upon oil to fuel high octane consumer economies.

The TAPI Pipeline: Choking Iran Financially and "The Economic Front".

The fact that US and UK troops are to subject to "drawdown" , as Philip Hammond puts it, as opposed to withdrawal indicates that Western Powers with an interest in ensuring the construction of the TAPI Pipeline will continue to fund and train the Afghan Army after 2014.

The way forward in struggles for control over pipeline routes and diversifying energy supplies globally is to have special advisers to train forces to protect them against sabotage. That interest remains the reason why British troops have "stayed the course".

As Tye Sundlee writes in Business Insider ( Everyone's Competing For Access To This Country's Natural Gas Reserves, Oct. 4, 2012),
The US is backing the TAPI pipeline as preferable to the IPI line because it would choke Tehran financially and, it hopes, delay its suspected nuclear weapon program.
It also views Southeast Asia-South Asia and Central Asia as the regions that should play a crucial role in stabilization and peace in the Asian Continent. In this broad connectivity scheme, Afghanistan stands out as the tenuous bridge between Eurasia and the South and South East Asia. That is why Washington encourages the installing gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan. The more nations with vested economic interests in making Afghanistan a stable, viable transit country, the less resources the US will have to devote to its military and drone campaigns.Turning to the economic front, on September 14th Turkmenistan offered U.S. energy majors their first access to the Central Asian state. As Reuters reported in August,
State television named Chevron Corp (CVX.N), ConocoPhillips (COP.N), Houston-based TXOil Ltd and Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Oil and Gas as the preferred bidders for two offshore oil blocks within Turkmenistan's portion of the Caspian Sea. ExxonMobile, Shell, Chevron, Petronas and Temasek of Malaysia were all present at the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline roadshow which began on September 17th. After the road show, the delegation moved to Ashgabat on September 22-23 for the Technical Working Group (TWG) and Steering Committee (SC) meetings of the project.
The Afghanistan War has been fought as part of the New Great Game in Central Asia in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the race to exploit the oil and gas of the Central Asia "stans". Once this fact is recognised, then there can be a real discussion of what is at stake.

When Afghanistan is mentioned, it is always somehow in isolation from the regional struggle for control of oil and gas routes that drives an increasingly dangerous and pathological competition. The War in Afghanistan is to secure the TAPI Pipeline as part of it's strategy to throttle Iran.
The construction of the TAPI Pipeline is a vital war objective in Afghanistan and explains much as to why the remaining NATO powers have remained there eleven years. This geopolitical fact has, in Orwellian style, been simply airbrushed out of most attempt to provide reasons why Britain and the US is there.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

On Qatar by Mark Almond

LONDON’S newest landmark, the Shard, is more than Europe’s tallest building – it is a symbol of a dramatic shift in world power.

Owned by the tiny Gulf state of Qatar, the Shard is the tip of cash-rich Qatar’s investment iceberg in Britain.

With an income which makes Bob Diamond seem like a Big Issue seller, Qatar had enough cash to buy 20 per cent of Barclays while adding other blue chips to their portfolio.

In London alone, the Muslim emirate has been buying up everything from Chelsea Barracks to the new Olympic Village.

Qatar failed in its bid to stage the Olympics but it will be home to the World Cup in 2022. Its own teams haven’t made a mark on the world of soccer but sponsorship of Barcelona has made Qatar a global footie brand.

With billions in revenue from natural gas, Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family could have been just rich Arabs on a buying and bling spree.

Of course, like other rich Arabs in London, the Qataris go in for plenty of the “off with the chador” and foot down on the pedal of the Lamborghini but the tiny emirate punches above its weight in world politics. Britain used to “protect” the Persian Gulf state. Now the Emir helps our economy out in return for backing his foreign policy.
Read the rest of Mark Almond's piece on Qatar here

Bahrain, Britain and Strategic Interests.

Britain's co-operation in protecting the government in Bahrain has come under criticism for suppressing demonstrations for full democracy, whilst elsewhere it staunchly defends the rebels in their fight against dictatorships. Of course, Bahrain is not a dictatorship but a strong monarchy.

Even so, Louisa Luckless wrote recently in The Guardian,

The British government has supplied the security forces of Bahrain with crowd control weapons and British advisers have been co-opted into the abortive reform process. But British involvement doesn't there, our oldest institutions continue to train a steady stream of Bahraini nationals for active service. 

According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, this training comes at a high cost to the British state. Although it costs £78,000 to train a single recruit, Bahrain only pays £48,400 an individual. The Ministry of Defence has therefore subsidised Bahraini military training with at least £380,000 in the past three years alone.

The reason is that Bahrain is of strategic importance to the USA and Britain due to the need to retain the regional balance of power in the Middle East and to support Saudi policy. That, in turn, is made necessary by the over dependence of Western nations upon oil.

Unless, the Western nations find an alternative to the oil of Saudi Arabia, it is far more convenient to shore up these undemocratic regimes with a profitable arms trade and lucrative defence deals. No amount of dissent in Britain is going to change that if the root cause of the foreign policy is not addressed.

The fear is that as both the King of Saudi Arabia and King Hamad of Bahrain rule in the name of Sunni Islam over territories were most are Shiite Muslims and, set against the growth of Iranian influence in the region, especially Bahrain of 1.2 million population approximately 70 per cent is Shiite.

With the Arab Revolutions, the Western powers have tried to tilt the balance of power their way ( for example in Libya and Syria ) but where democracy threatens to bring in a Shiite Islamist state based on "General Will" principles they will do everything to prevent the creation of states friendly to Iran.

The potential for Saudi Arabia to become destabilised was on the minds of Bush and Blair even before the Arab Revolutions and dates back to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when strategic planners wanted to secure the oil of that nation and ensure a diversified supply of oil.

In addition, Bahrain accommodates the US Fifth Fleet to patrol the Gulf through which 40% of the world's oil is transported. Any collapse in the balance of power could lead to oil prices rocketing and to wreck the struggling economies of the West in the aftermath of the 2008 crash.

These are the strategic realities underlying the double standards of British foreign policy in the region. The pressing need is to find alternatives and to try to restructure the Western economies so as to retain a degree of energy independence and not get trapped into potential conflicts in the Middle East.

As Mark Almond puts the dilemma,

    ...if we remain unmoved while a brutal crackdown silences the Bahraini people’s demands for democracy and human rights, Iran will crow about Western hypocrisy...So we face a choice between our principles, and our security and economies.

Ultimately, dissent over foreign policy and its double standards are needed. Yet few of them seem to have any realistic notion of how the West can extricate itself from this lethal quagmire without there being a global oil price shock that would lead to even more poverty and unemployment.

The Afghanistan War: Pipeline, Energy Corporations and Baking Interests.

Why is the US and UK still in Afghanistan ? What are the real war objectives beneath the "Public Diplomacy" that spins this as a war of Defence" against international terrorism ? What geopolitical ambitions does the US have in Central Asia ?

The strategic significance in securing the construction of the TAPI pipeline is the ambition that underlies the West being in Afghanistan. A war to advance a pipeline seems less heroic than a war against terrorism and difficult to justify. Yet it is the reason US and British troops have stayed the course.

There is almost nothing in the Western media about this.It is not regarded as news but the TAPI pipeline is crucial to the nature of the USA's foreign policy in Central Asia and it has to be asked whether it is right that British troops be asked to die for a geostrategy that is about protecting energy supplies.

Western journalists need to set the Afghanistan War in context.Resource Struggles over access to oil and gas are set to become increasingly common with the rise of China and India and the need of the west to retain control of supplies against the competition.

Here are some facts.

1) The Aghanistan War is about energy diversification away from Russian and Chinese control of Turkmen gas.

2) The Afghanistan War is part of a strategy to block off a rival Iranian IPI pipeline by forcing the TAPI Pipeline on Pakistan.

3) The TAPI pipeline is strongly backed by the US as a way of integrating south Asian nations under Western auspices.

4) The TAPI pipeline is likely to benefit Western financial interests and energy corporations.

This is news in Asia. It is not news in Britain. It does not fit in with the narrative the public is to be fed, though many people in Britain are still at a loss to know what the war is about. Responsible journalism ought to be be probing into the TAPI pipeline and its role in the Western nation's decision to "stay the course".

The Nation reported today,
The Hindu/Business Line referred to sources close to the negotiations and Shell is amongst the companies that have expressed an interest in the project. According to reports, the project which has US backing had initially seen interest from Chinese and Russian firms. Road-shows were also held to invite financiers to the project.

According to The Hindu/Business Line, the participants included amongst others, SBI, US EXIM, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Macquarie Bank. The decision with regard to the consortium leader and investors which will be made jointly by member countries in consultation with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), is expected to be completed in a year’s time.

“The work on the network is expected to start in 2015,” The Hindu/Business Line said. ‘The pipeline is expected to be operational in 2018 and supply gas over a 30-year period.”

The Turkmen side conducted several international road shows for TAPI in September with the participation of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It was reported that Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP, BG Group, RWE, Petronas and other companies became familiarised with the main terms of the project implementation and expressed an intention to participate in it.
The Asian Development Bank is a cousin of the World Bank and predominantly it reflects the investments of Western nations ( despite its convenient title as an Asian bank ). The central role of the TAPI pipeline in the US and UK strategy in Afghanistan provides the missing explanation for why we are still there.

Clearly British newspapers do not think British people should know that.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Droning On on the Af-Pak Frontier

A vitally important and thoroughly documented new report on the impact of Obama's drone campaign has just been released by researchers at NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School. Entitled "Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan", the report details the terrorizing effects of Obama's drone assaults as well as the numerous, highly misleading public statements from administration officials about that campaign. The study's purpose was to conduct an "independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians".
Reports Glenn Greenwald today,

The fact is that the Drone Attacks are simply not going to destroy the Taliban. If anything, the evidence is that, even in Afghanistan, the attempt to use aerial force to defeat enemies simply ends up hitting the civilian population and creating more recruits.

The Afghanistan War is not winnable and is being fought so ferociously in order to facilitate US geopolitical interests in Central Asia: a very important part of this is the construction of the TAPI pipeline which will, as the middle two letters of the acronym make clear, will go through Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Drone Casualties are a price Washington thinks is worth it. Business as usual. And the business of war across "Af-Pak" is clearly the TAPI Pipeline, something both evident from what leading figures in Washington have said ( though never Obama himself ) and from numerous strategic studies.

Why the TAPI Pipeline is Part of a Strategy to Isolate Iran.

Is this what the conflict is all about, to get India on side for Iran, giving them an alternative source of gas, you think?
I think Pakistan is probably more important to get on side for any further action against Iran. Yet, as power cuts in India have recently shown it too is facing an energy shortage. Certainly, US/NATO strategy in Afghanistan is primarily about maintaining a stake in the New Great Game in Central Asia.

The evidence points to a geopolitical strategy of encircling Iran and destroying its regional influence both in the east towards Central Asia and the west towards the Middle East. As regards Afghanistan, the TAPI Pipeline is vital if Iran is not going to benefit from gas exports east.

There are, in my view, numerous reasons,

1) TAPI will integrate Afghanistan into the region economically, freezing out Iran and damaging its economy . That, in turn, will ramp up pressure for "regime change" in Tehran to get one that can no longer get in the way of US policy in the Middle East.

2) TAPI will guarantee that, after eleven years of warfare, that a key goal of Western strategy is attained. If the US/NATO were to leave without guaranteeing the security for the pipeline project, it would have acheived little beyond the initial aim of driving out Al Qaida.

3) TAPI will bind Pakistan closer to the Western Powers at a time when Pakistan faces potentially destabilising energy shortages. As the West seeks to isolate Iran, not least due to concerns over its nuclear programme, it has to stabilise Pakistan by providing energy without involving Iran.

These are the realities behind the surge, the investment of vast amounts of money and the willingness to sacrifice lives. The West would prefer not to sacrifice soldiers lives recruited by the state and want to use trained Afghans to do the job along with mercenaries and "special troops".

But this is what is at stake. One day, we might have a serious discussion about it.

Why The TAPI Pipeline is a Geopolitical Strategy not a "Conspiracy Theory"

For those in some sort of parallel universe where the TAPI Pipeline simply is not a strategic calculation within the overall war aims of the Western Powers in Afghanistan, it needs to be understood that those who support the US/NATO effort assume that the TAPI Pipeline is a vital interest ( even if hazardous ).

Alexandros Petersen wrote, ( TAPI pipeline: Bigger is not better Tuesday, June 12, 2012 )
TAPI has received strong support from the United States as part of Washington's "New Silk Road" strategy to bring development to Afghanistan through regional infrastructure connections, and as an alternative to the proposed Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline.
Petersen assumes the TAPI is an ambitious project but he does not write it off at all. He is author of the The World Island: Eurasian Geopolitics and the Fate of the West and Advisor to the European Energy Security Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
TAPI must also maintain a reasonable scope. The construction of a record-breaking pipeline through a conflict zone with too many regional cooks in the kitchen is an insurmountable task. A relatively modest gas link with sound commercial underpinning and adequate security provisions may stand a chance at becoming reality.
Petersen does not want the TAPI pipeline to be "politicised" ( as if this would not happen or as if it is purely a commericial venture ) , despite the fact the insistence on the Afghan route from Turkmenistan is obviously political for those in Pakistan who would prefer the Iranian option which would provide gas four times cheaper.

The interpretations that can come from the fact of TAPI is an important strategic consideration are various. To deny that one of the main goals of Western geopolitics is to promote and facilitate the TAPI Pipeline is not. But it is difficult to sell that to the electorate in Western democracies so other narratives are sold ( "war on terror)

Newspapers and the BBC need journalism critical of the TAPI pipeline project that links it firmly in the context of the Afghan War. More transparancy is needed and the media ought to be doing its job , especially in outlining the true stakes in this war instead of those commenting only on military strategy.

For those who warble on about TAPI being a "conspiracy theory", it is curious that leading figures in Washington would seem to back up the fact that the pipeline is strategically valuable and that if Afghanistan had remained unstable or a haven for Al Qaida, it would have no chance of being built. Victoria Nuland, a State Department 'spokesperson', said this on May 23 2012,
"Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI gas pipeline) is a perfect example of energy diversification, energy integration done right. We are very strong supporters of the TAPI pipeline. We congratulate the (four) countries that signed (the agreement on) it..We consider it a very positive step forward and sort of a key example of what we're seeking with our New Silk Road Initiative, which aims at regional integration to lift all boats and create prosperity across the region....I frankly don't know whether we have commercial involvement in this, but we have been supportive politically and we stand by to be supportive in other ways if asked,"
This directly and flatly contradicts the "think tank" position of Petersen, who is not a government spokesman, and who thinks that the commericial viability and not the politics of a "peace pipeline" is the main issue.

The fact is that TAPI is part of a geopolitical strategy in Central Asia and is commercially valuable, though only a conspiracy theorist would have it that the war in Afghanistan was launched to get gas or enrich Halliburton-the Michael Moore line that makes it easy to write off the TAPI pipeline as so central to the war

That isolating Iran is a strategy behind the promotion of the TAPI Pipeline ( and it could not be built without Western troops providing security ) is clearly outlined by Nuland. Robert Blake who is responsible for the region has again and again said what is expressed here,
"We have been very clear about how we feel and how the international community feels about those kinds of investments Iran has historically been unreliable as a global partner...In this case, the case of the TAPI pipeline, you've got private sector investment, you've got new transit routes, you've got people-to-people links, you've got increased trade across a region that historically has not been well-linked, where there have been historic antipathies which are now being broken down by this positive investment project that's going to give jobs, it's going to give more energy, it's going to give more technology to the people of all of these countries...If Iran wants to come back into compliance with its international obligations, the whole picture's going to look different in terms of the way we feel about investments.."
Comment is Free . Facts are Sacred. So said C P Scott of The Manchester Guardian and these words are the masthead of the online site of that newspaper today. And so it should be If the facts are even reported, of course, in the mainstream Western media.

At least those facts which are inconvenient and euphemised only as "vital interests".

Monday, 24 September 2012

Why are British Troops still in Afghanistan ?

The reason British troops are in Afghanistan is to provide the security environment for the construction of the TAPI Pipeline. This strategic war aim has little to do with corporate profits, though these are a potential beneficial spin off as recent successful bids by Western energy giants to construct it show.

As Business Recorder reports, ( TAPI gas pipeline project: Singapore, NY, London road shows ‘well received’ September 24 2012 ), the Asian Development Bank, the "Transaction Advisor" or  "TA", is there to fund the project and "gauge the market resoponse",
The New York road shows were attended by world leading IOCs such as Chevron and Exxon Mobile and leading financial institutions Citi Group and US Exim. All participants expressed a keen interest in the project. In the London Road Show, TAPI Parties met with representatives of British Petroleum, Shell, British Gas and Morgan Stanley. Invitees for upcoming shows are Mubadala Group, Macquarie, RWE and Deutsche Bank.
It should be noted that the Asian Development Bank is mostly controlled by Western interests. It is a cousin of the World Bank. Key players are the US, Australia and the UK. The bank exists to facilitate Western financial interests in Afghanistan's "nation building".

The idea this war is about " international terrorism", as Foreign Secratary Hammond claimed a few days ago is not true. The Taliban was never the same as Al Qaida and many Taliban factions even back in 2001 were hostile to it. More so today as the Taliban is only partly made up of members prominent then.

The war is for the strategic benefits of the TAPI Pipeline, curtailing Iranian gas exports to the Indian subcontinent and maintaining a stake in carving up the mineral wealth of Afghanistan against the ival attempts of China to gain concessions in mining. Afghanistan has $1trillion of Lithium reserves.

These war aims are euphemised as "International Development" , "Nation Building" or "Infrastructure Projects". The reality is that these are all interconnected with NATO geopolitical strategy, as is evident from the stated intentions of Hillary Clinton and Robert Blake to create "A New Silk Route".

The TAPI pipeline is important as part of the aim of isolating Iran. The IPI Pipeline has already been largely built on the Iranian side and would supply gas to an energy hungry Pakistan four times cheaper than from Turkmenistan and Afghanistan to the north and with less domestic discontent.

No war, the Fourth Afghan War included, is ever only "about" one thing. The importance of the Trans Afghan Pipeline was there from the outset of the War. Preventing Al Qaida from having a base in Afghanistan was also an original war aim of the Bush II administration.

As the war has dragged on and Washington becomes more concerned over Iranian ambitions, and its ability to exercise influence in the Middle East and Central Asia grows stronger as Shia movements gain power and influence, blocking a lucrative Iranian pipeline to the east has become ever more important.

The TAPI pipeline's construction would offset the need for Iranian gas exports, entrench the sanctions regime already in place and, possibly, destabilise the government in Tehran and help bring about "regime change". The alleged nuclear programme of Iran is also a consideration here.

In a nutshell, the governments of NATO nations keep giving contradictory statements as the real objectives are thought to be ones that are difficult to explain to the publics of democratic states and so the usual "politically correct" ones are given-development, women's rights, protection from terrorism etc

John Foster, a former World Bank economist and expert in energy geopolitics, has at length argued the central importance of the TAPI pipeline in "staying the course" in Afghanistan. The most detailed treatment is his seminal 'Pipeline Through a Troubled Land.

The fact that is, as British soldiers continue to be repatriated in body bags, that there is no debate in Parliament about the war aims. This makes it all the more important that those who oppose this war actually understand what the true stakes in the conflict are.

Friday, 21 September 2012

How to Rationalise Violence in the Name of a Peace Movement.

As malign as Blair is, he has been given a "peace making" role in the Middle East as the Quartet Representative, and so the BBC is bound to ask him his opinion. This, in itself, is too much for Lindsey German, a leading member of the SWP, StWC and RESPECT.

German proves why extra-parliamentary opposition to the political elite fails so miserably. An article for the Guardian,(  Why is the deluded, self-justifying Tony Blair given airtime? ), German has nothing to offer apart from trying to rationalise the often violent protests against the idiotic 'The Innocence of Muslims' film
The man who has done more than most to contribute to anti-western feeling among Muslims in the Middle East and Asia is called upon to tell us why Muslims shouldn't be angry about anything.
Well, since the StWC believes its mission is to harness the resentment of British Muslims against British foreign policy-as Muslims singled out for fiendish treatment both abroad and at home-the fact Blair has spoken about the halfwits protesting about a stupid amateur film made about Mohammed is good.

It means that the propaganda can be ramped up about how persecuted all Muslims are both at home and abroad in a dastardly process of "demonisation",
So while Blair dismissed the film as "laughable", he claimed that those who reacted against it by demonstrating were "very dangerous and wrong". He seems to think that the film can be judged by the standards of the Cannes film festival and, once found wanting, can be dismissed by all right-minded people.
This is the ad hominem fallacy. The fact that Blair has said the film is 'laughable' does not mean it is not. It is. It was posted on Youtube and now deranged mobs seem intent on degrading the image of their religion around the world.
Why are Muslims so sensitive on this question? Maybe the answer comes not just from one crude and racist film, but from long years of hurt caused by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, imprisonment without trial by western-backed dictators, extraordinary rendition and torture
This crude lumping together of what are often aggressive mobs with "Muslims" is an insult to to Muslims. If one said of the deranged US Christian fundamentalists bombing abortion clinics as "Christians", this would be an insult to all decent sincere Christians or those from a Christian background.
..the objection to the film is not about its quality, but its intent of slandering and insulting Muslims across the world.
But Blair said the film was appalling. The question is why politicians are latching on to this to exploit the hysteria for their own ends ( including some in the British "anti-war" movement ) who crave outrage and fan it out to upgrade their own power hunger.

German proves that by trying to elide the protests in majority Muslim capitals with those in Britain,
Many of those opposing US and British policies in the Middle East are young and well educated. They are not religious fanatics but object to the being treated as inferior, and object to the richest countries in the world exploiting their resources and occupying their countries.
Well, some of them are and some of them are not. It is curious that the StWC has no coherent position on Syria at the moment. Many intelligent Muslims and those of other faiths or no faith oppose US and British policies without buying in to the idea that "Muslim countries" are being attacked because Muslim.

After all, when Sunni jihadists ( back by the West ) are trying to overthrow a secular Arab nationalist dictatorship it throws up a dilemma for an anti-war movement led by apologists for totalitarianism. Which is a pity, as a strong movement opposed to interventionist wars is needed.
They see unmanned US drone aircraft killing people in Pakistan and Yemen and wonder what kind of civilisation they are being offered.
They may well do. But "they" are not all one. And any reasonable Pakistani will understand that there as many in the West that oppose their own governments but cannot do much about them. Unless he thinks "the West" is just one Evil Enemy in total from Hollywood, Youtube, Drone Bombs and Irreligion.
Blair opined that "the great debate in the world at the moment is between the open-minded and the closed-minded". As usual, here Blair casts himself in the role of decent liberal. But some of his closest allies in these wars have been the US neocons, known for their narrow conservatism.
Blair is a neoconservative in foreign policy but the neoconservatives are not actually very conservative. Many conservatives opposed both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. And their were liberals who opposed "liberal interventionism". The world is complex. And admitting that is a problem for a propagandist.
Blair himself has refused to ever acknowledge that he has done anything wrong over the invasion of Iraq. His "open-mindedness" never extended to taking on board public opinion, which from that time has been consistently anti-war.
That is made more difficult by the fact that intelligent opposition to these wars is drowned out by those like Galloway and those who oppose the wars partly as a means to vent anti-Western hatred in general. That puts off most British people and means the elites can dismiss it as mere background noise.
Blair also claimed that most of those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq were the victims not of western intervention but of sectarian killings. This is simply not true. Hundreds of thousands have been killed in those wars, large numbers by air strikes, many in sieges such as Fallujah, and millions have been displaced.
Blair started the war and one that was not necessary. It was of dubious legality. That is known. Even so, a tremendous number were killed in Iraq by sectarian killing and murders. The perpetrators did not need to do that. They did not have to muder one another. But it was an inevitable consequence of invading such a state.
Where there are sectarian killings, as in Iraq today, they date from the war and occupation and the policies that helped divide and rule.
Partly the US tacitly allowed Shia militias to carry out ethnic cleansing. Yet the US was not only the sole cause of that-unless it bears the responsibility for invading and causing the mess in the first place. This article denies any sense that Islamist movements have any moral agency.

Tell that to the Iraqi Christians.


Afghanistan is covered in the media in bulletins that report on the progress of this "progressive" war as if role of the US and NATO as peacekeepers and "nation builders" were merely a given fact. No context and no background as to why so much investment of Western resources in "staying the course" is given.

To a certain extent, this is a consequence of journalists focusing on one aspect of a war in aspic. Take for example this recent article in The Guardian,
The ALP was created in 2010 at the request of Gen David Petraeus, the former commander of international forces in Afghanistan and now the director of the CIA. The ALP is a loose network of local defence forces designed to mobilise and arm local civilians to defend their communities from the Taliban in areas where the national police and army have a limited presence.
This means areas such as Helmland through which the strategically vital US backed TAPI pipeline will be constructed. Where the vast majority of British troops involved in protecting what is referred only to merely as an "infrastructure project" have been killed by the Taliban by IED's.

The attacks from the ALP reflect Taliban infiltration. The Taliban are far from unpopular in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan. Partly due to the futile attempts to win a "war on drugs" by destroying poor farmer opium crops and also due to the fact that other ethnic groups control Kabul and potential transit fees from TAPI.
For the US and Nato, with plans to expand the force to 30,000 by the end of 2014, the ALP is a cornerstone of the handover of Afghanistan's security to Afghan forces. It has become an integral part of the international withdrawal strategy, which is one reason why the US and Nato have mostly dismissed concerns raised by human rights groups about the ALP, claiming that abuses were committed by other armed groups or were aberrations that were dealt with.
The US and NATO "withdrawal" ( referred to as "international ) is a strategy that will leave considerable numbers of Western special forces and military advisers on the ground, if indeed that promise to withdraw all troops is even adhered to ( the French and US military have repeated a potentially longer commitment).

As reported by the Natural Gas Europe Journal ( Who Will Be Tapped By TAPI July 23rd, 2012 ) the
In a speech July 12 in Washington at a conference jointly sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake, Jr. mentioned TAPI last, as merely making “progress”. He focused on the US pledge to continue to support the Afghan National Army after NATO withdraws most of its troops in 2014 , but it is not clear which uniformed Afghan force might actually guard the pipeline or when construction could begin. ( my italics )
Facts must be faced: the Afghanistan War has only marginally been concerned with human rights. The reality of the conflict has been brought to the fore far more now than it was from the outset and that reality is the geopolitical significance of the construction of the TAPI Pipeline under Western auspices.

The TAPI Pipeline is vital to Western interests in Central Asia and diverting the supply of gas from Turkmenistan south away from exclusive Russian control and from Chinese pipelines to the east. It also means that Afghanistan will be tied into a regional economic zone that excludes Iran.

This is precisely why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has along with Robert Blake referred to the "New Silk Route" and threatening Pakistan with ominous consequences for wobbling on their commitments to the TAPI project and deciding to back the rival IPI Pipeline with Iranian gas four times cheaper.

From the outset of the TAPI project, the Taliban, which was created in Pakistan, has been determined to benefit from the pipeline or to destroy it if they are not involved in benefiting from it. That is why the ALP has been so deeply infiltrated by Taliban elements and what this war is now about.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

History versus Propaganda: The Uselessness of Seumas Milne.

One of the most depressing trends in British domestic politics is how extra-parliamentary opposition to the dangerous and destabilising foreign policies pursued by the USA ( and ,therefore, by the UK ) consist of the dregs of movements that were largely sympathetic to Global Communism of the Leninist type.

In the shape of the former RESPECT Party until 2007, when it was an alliance of atheist militants of the "Socialist Workers Party" and Islamists, and the "Stop the War Coalition", former advocates of totalitarian style politics continue to offer the leading voices against the "interventions" in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

One of the worst is Seumas Milne. In The Guardian, he starts off from the premise that he hates the USA as the embodiment of Global Capitalist Evil with the fervour of the more cliched kind of activist who seems to get off on ramping up outrage and offering little constructive about what could be done.

That is demonstrated in the very nature of an article today where Milne writes, with reference to the riots and protests by some angry Muslims towards the idiotic portrayal of Mohammed in a low bugdet film shot in the US,
...the only surprise is that there aren't more violent anti-US and anti-western protests in the region.

This merely crude and boringly predictable anti-US sentiment, which Milne shares in Britain on behalf of those Muslims outraged by US foreign policies, is considered to be about decades of intervention, meddling, supporting coups and the more recent direct invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The issue Milne evades is the one of whether the "blowback" from the US and UK policy of sponsoring terroristic Islamist movements as proxies is responsible for the protests across what is simplistically termed "The Muslim World" ( ignoring the nature of the vast differences amongst 1.4 billion people ) .

Do the protests in various cities across North africa and the Middle East and Asia reflect spontaneous eruptions of outrage against the tacky Mohammed film made in the USA ? Or do they come from the carefully co-ordinated manipulation by political actors in these areas?

Milne, still embittered by the victory of the USA in the Cold War against the USSR that he portrays as a positive check on US Imperialist power, dates the Islamist terror threat ( as opposed to the wider Islamist movements against the US e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood ) back to the Western support for the mujahadeen against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Irrespective of the issues at stake in the NATO occupation of Afghanistan and its failures, Milne has consistently exhibited a certain amount of schadenfreude that the West is being biffed by what he regards as the same forces that inflicted defeat on the Soviet Union.
The US decision to suspend joint Afghan-Nato operations in response to a wave of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on Nato troops cuts the ground from beneath the centrepiece of western strategy
Yet the attacks on NATO troops are mainly from the Taliban who are Afghans in so far as they live in Afghanistan. But , in reality, they are Pashtuns, one ethnic group amongst the many that live in Afghanistan. This is not a nationalist revolt. This is a factual error.
The US-British invasion of Afghanistan was of course launched in response to the 9/11 attacks: the poison fruit of US-led support for the Afghan mujahideen war against the Soviet Union. Why do they hate us, many Americans asked at the time, oblivious to their country's role in decades of coups, tyranny, sanctions regimes and occupations across the Middle East
The 9/11 attacks came from Al Qaida who were a small minority of the former mujahadeen who fought against the Soviet Union. Most of the mujahadeen fought because they detested the Soviet Union for its atheism and for the PDPA's draconian modernisation policies.
True, President Carter's National Security Adviser Brzezinski did in 1979 exploit the situation to help funnel arms and funds to the USA but most of the money and foreign recruits came from Islamic charities such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Sunni movements opposed to the secular Arab nationalist regimes.

The idea the USA singlehandedly destabilised a "promising" Communist regime in Kabul ( and it was only strong in Kabul ) and induced the Soviet invasion is a myth. It was part of the decision to invade but the responsibility for the chaos in Afghanistan belongs to the Communists.
... just as the mujahideen the US backed in Afghanistan later turned their guns on their imperial sponsor in the form of the Taliban and al-Qaida, so many of the Islamists and jihadists who fought against Gaddafi with Nato air cover have their own ideas for the future of their country..
The mujahadeen did not do that as it fragmented into rival factions after the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan. The early 1990s saw warlordism and the Taliban was created by Pakistan to advance its interests in the neighbouring state. Another factual error nailed.
There was no "the" mujahadeen in the 1990s. They turned their guns on one another and Al Qaida was able to find a base there amidst the chaos of a collapsed state. In 2001, the USA backed former factions of the mujahadeen in the Northern Alliance to overthrow the Taliban.

The reason was that the Taliban, by not expelling Al Qaida, were no longer useful in furthering the strategy to build the Trans-Afghan Pipeline from Turkmenistan down through to India, thus blocking off Iranian regional ambitions and diversifying the supply of gas away from Russian control.

The 9/11 Attacks gave the US and NATO a pretext to go into Afghanistan in order to advance its interests and, by extension, build a functioning state. It was an absurdly foolish foreign policy doomed to failure. Yet Milne's grasp of the history of Afghanistan is as shaky as the left wing interventionists he opposes.

Then again, the purpose is not hitorical accuracy or understanding. It is to ramp up pathological hatred.
Western war in the Muslim world has also fed a toxic tide of Islamophobia in Europe and the US. What is it about Muslims that makes them so easily offended, Europeans and Americans commonly demand to know – while Muslims point to cases such as the British 19-year-old who was convicted in Yorkshire last week of posting a "grossly offensive" Facebook message that British soldiers in Afghanistan "should die and go to hell", and ask why they're not afforded that protection.
The police are continually charging people for Twitter comments where no threat or harm to life is present. There is no attempt by British governments to "demonise" Muslims. If anything, they have sought to bend and twist free speech laws to please "the Muslim community".

The fact is, without hyperbole, that the wars in Afghanistan are wars fought to advance strategic interests and control oil and gas supplies. As in the Kosovo War in 1999, the Western Powers will bomb traditional Christian lands to advance their geopolitical interests.

The fact that these wars are interpreted as "anti-Muslim" is only for propaganda purposes and to agitate the Muslim British population in to forming pressure groups to try to change British foreign policy. It should change but not because of pressure, the threat of violence or intimidation in this country.

It should be done by reasoned argument and drawing attention to the dangers in getting dragged into conflicts in the Middle East just in order to engineer the outcome in such a way as benefit our oil interests. Energy independence would avert these hazards and dangers.

Milne never mentions these realities because his ideal is not peaceful co-existence but in sowing antagonistic hatreds of the sort that ideologues on the hard left feed off. It also helps this hack establish his "credibility" , he thinks, amongst British Muslims.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Overpopulation, Suburban Blight and Authoritarianism.

Increased population means overcrowding and even if planning is used to disperse the population elsewhere the potential for turning England ( especially the SE ) into a vast overlit wasteland is going to be a fact, as the evidence of the new Con-Lib testifies in its absurd populist ploy to build yet more houses.

The BBC reported today,

'Just a few months ago the government rewrote the entire planning framework for England, after fierce initial resistance from countryside campaigners.

Now ministers want further changes to planning in England in an attempt to boost house-building and revive the economy.

The announcements come as the economy continues to languish, with the recession now having lasted more than nine months. The construction sector has performed particularly badly.

Mr Cameron said: "This government means business in delivering plans to help people build new homes and kick-start the economy"

Rather as in Capek's R.U.R where the robots have killed off and replaced humans, the robots can only think of measures to keep the economy growing by the promise to "build more houses". The consequences for what England will look like are appalling no less.

New Labour, which intentionally increased the population by relaxing controls on immigration, contributed towards this rising problem.There were hideous new plans afoot back then in 2004 to build a new super city along the M62 in the north of England from Liverpool to Hull.

'Mr Alsop's vision includes innovative solutions to urban sprawl such as extending Liverpool into the sea by erecting buildings on stilts up to a mile from the coast. He also proposes transforming the South Yorkshire town of Barnsley by modelling it on a Tuscan hill village, complete with its own walls. 
Other ideas, such as Stack - a vertical "village" where 5,000 people can live, work, worship and play - offers a twist on the skyscraper solution to population increase. Mr Prescott has said he sees a northern super city as a potential rival to London's economic power and size'.

Those concerned that population control will mean more authoritarianism and "planning", have ignored the fact that overpopulation and the demand that makes on the environment and, indeed, resources, leads ineluctably to authoritarianism anyway.

The construction of more boxy housing estates, such as the "megacity" that has been advocated between Birmingham and Coventry, will mean more road building ( something Cameron favours, and more infrastructure of huge supermarkets and logistics depots and warehouses with chain link fencing.

The Daily Telegraph reported,

Up to 100,000 homes would be built on green belt in the Midlands near the controversial High Speed 2 rail route as part of a dramatic expansion of housing.

    The plan, disclosed by Andrew McNaughton, the chief engineer of HS2, would exploit the new and highly controversial National Planning Policy Framework, which aims to simplify Britain’s planning laws, increase economic growth and provide homes for Britain’s booming population.

    If it goes ahead, the development would effectively obliterate the open countryside east of Birmingham to create Britain’s longest continuous conurbation, stretching 40 miles from Coventry to the far side of Wolverhampton.

    The planning framework will be published on Tuesday by ministers who want a new age of “pro-growth” planning. It was described by one Whitehall source last night as “the most radical business deregulation there has ever been”.

    Meanwhile, new official figures analysed by The Sunday Telegraph show that two million homes are expected to be built by 2020 to meet demand fuelled by a massive population rise. 

The neoliberal economic model has failed Britain completely. The emphasis has to be on sane planning and not this absurd fetish of making a "bonfire of controls". The "homeowning democracy" is a something that needs to go as well. More five storey flats need to be built as in Central Europe.

Successive governments have been responsible for importing the American style high octane consumerism to Britain, the "Great Car Economy" and waves of house building. It is simply not sustainable in England without a real deterioration in the quality of life.

In any democratic society, retaining the power of a sovereign state to decide on immigration and to stabilise numbers is essential precisely if it is not later to slide into authoritarian control. How to do that is the question. Not Utopian fantasies about infinite growth and Progress.

For an increasing population will make more demands on the global environment too. A society based on excessive consumerism and car use requires more petrol and that means greater involvement in struggles for resources which could mean more wars such as Iraq, militarism and authoritarian rule.