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.