Middle East Eye: Peter Oborne reviews Jeremy Corbyn’s foreign policy     

July 2, 2017

Last month’s statistics show visitors from seventeen countries, with  ‘Neutral or non-aggressive countries and states’ as the most widely read entry and twice as many readers from the United States as from UK. Today we draw on Peter Oborne’s article about the foreign policy of the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

After a reference to the ‘colossal debt of gratitude for restoring genuine political debate to Britain’ and ‘his extremely brave and radical decision to break with the foreign policy analysis of Blair and his successors’ Oborne considers the Labour (pre-general election) manifesto: ‘a well-argued and coherent critique of the foreign policy consensus which has done so much damage over the last quarter of a century’ – stating that it offers a serious alternative to the catastrophic system of cross-party politics that gave the world the Iraq, Afghan and Libyan calamities.

He compares the Conservative manifesto, which ‘contains no specific foreign policy pledges and no mention of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Palestine or the Middle East at all’, with Corbyn’s promise to implement the will of parliament and recognise the state of Palestine.in a vote three years ago.

The Labour position on the Yemeni bombardment is described as admirable and that of the last two administrations condemned:

“Under Cameron, and now Theresa May, Britain has thrown its weight behind the Saudi bombing campaign. I am afraid that Michael Fallon . . . recently said that the murderous Saudi bombing raids have been carried out in “self-defence”. This comment was frankly obscene, and Fallon owes an apology to the thousands of Yemeni families who have been bereaved as a result of Saudi attacks . . . his approach is sadly typical of the series of misstatements and lies emanating from the British government over this terrible Yemen business”. (Below, a ruined hospital, one of 20 filed photographs of the onslaught on Yemen)

Oborne points out that Corbyn demands comprehensive, independent, UN-led investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen, including air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition and the suspension of any further arms sales for use in the conflict until that investigation is concluded.

He continues: “Needless to say, the British media (and in particular the BBC, which has a constitutional duty to ensure fair play during general elections) has practically ignored Corbyn’s foreign policy manifesto”. Oborne also adds that, as Mark Curtis has pointed out, the BBC website carried only 10 articles on Yemen but 97 on Syria in the six weeks to 15 May “focusing on the crimes of an official enemy rather than our own”. Further:

“His manifesto pledges to ‘commit to working through the UN’ and to ‘end support for unilateral aggressive wars of intervention’. We have been waiting to hear a mainstream British politician say this for years, and at last Corbyn (supported by his capable foreign affairs spokesperson Emily Thornberry) has spoken out against the pattern of illegal intervention favoured by the United States and its allies.

“Corbyn has also had the moral courage to highlight the predicament of the Chagos Islanders, supporting their right to “return to their homelands. He bravely but correctly compares the British betrayal of the Chagossians – deprived of their Indian Ocean home as a result of a squalid deal between Britain and the US in the 1960s – with our national loyalty to the Falkland Islands, the South Atlantic territory that Britain sent a taskforce to recapture following an Argentinian invasion in 1982. But it is deeply upsetting that the BBC has betrayed its own rules of impartiality and ignored Corbyn’s brave stand on this issue”. He concludes:

“Jeremy Corbyn has raised matters of deep importance that go right to the heart of Britain’s role in the world, and in particular the Middle East. Yet his radical and brave manifesto is being traduced, misrepresented, and ignored. That is wrong – and a betrayal of British democracy”.

Peter Oborne was named freelancer of the year 2016 by the Online Media Awards for an article he wrote for Middle East Eye. He was British Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015- see his blistering account of his reasons here

His books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, and Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran.

 

 

 

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‘War is out – definitely out’: ‘the only winning move is not to play’

May 25, 2017

In the Friend many years ago, a Yorkshire solicitor, Leonard Bird – author of Costa Rica-The Unarmed Democracy – wrote that ‘War is out – definitely out’. He could not understand any justification for war which ‘increases deaths, mutilation, refugees and intensifies human suffering’.

He saw the tacit acceptance of war as the consequence of the tremendous pressure of generations of belief in militarism and war, believing that ‘Friends’ task is to question and challenge this – and whatever excuses and apparent justification may be offered – on all occasions.

In effect Britain has been at war since 1991, using military and economic weapons, with several areas of the Middle East beset by aerial bombing aided by British information and ‘logistical support’. Why is there not a strong enough movement in our country to put an end to this criminal waste of lives and resources?

By chance the writer came across a photograph (below) which dispels the idea of resistance by solitary individuals as the numbers marching can be seen far into the background – no mean feat to gather such numbers when communication was limited to the telephone – and ‘ordinary people’ had no such luxuries in their homes.

It would be comparatively simple now to communicate with thousands, but feelings of powerlessness still lead the majority of people to accept the status quo – as long as their immediate family does not suffer. No such feelings hamper the vested interests who perpetuate these conflicts which assist their acquisition of money and power.

Those who accept war, despite its consequent  deaths, mutilation, refugees and intensified human suffering’ may listen with more respect to the pragmatic approach taken by former Indian Army officer Raghu Raman who worked in the corporate sector before joining the Indian Government as CEO of the National Intelligence Grid:

“In the 1983 film WarGames, a nuclear war simulation is accidentally started by a supercomputer designed to take over in the event of the Cold War spiralling out of control. After evaluating all the possibilities, the computer declares that “war is a strange game, in which the only winning move is not to play.”

Raman ends: “That advice is possibly truest for India right now”.

And further:  a universal truth for all countries.

 

 

 

 


Japanese people are proud that their defence forces have not fired a shot to kill the citizens of other countries: Tatsumi

May 9, 2017

Earlier in May, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cited regional security concerns as one reason to revise the country’s war-constitution. He spoke at a rally on Constitution Memorial day, the national holiday marking the 70th anniversary of the US-drafted and imposed document that has shaped Japan’s domestic and international politics since 1947. He hopes to effect this change by 2020, when the Olympic Summer Games will be held in Tokyo.

In 2015, when changes were made to Japan’s Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) by laws passed permitting the force to fight overseas for the first time since the second world war, there were reports of 100,000 protesters in the streets outside Japan’s parliament (above). An estimated 25,000 people also gathered at the Shibuya crossing in central Tokyo. The most recent polls on the issue, conducted by Nikkei, showed 46% against change versus 45%.

Will Japanese forces ever conduct the types of operations that the United States undertakes in the Middle East?

Defenders of the post-war constitution cite the positive role Article 9 has played in ensuring 70 years of peace and increasing prosperity since the end of World War II. Yuki Tatsumi, a senior associate and director of the Japan program at the Stimson Centre in Washington DC says that ‘red line’ is whether to allow the JSDF to conduct the types of operations that the United States undertakes in the Middle East, which may require them to use force. “Japanese people have been proud that their defence forces have not had to fire a shot to kill the citizens of other countries up to this point, even with their participation in UN peacekeeping operations,” she said

“I think they would very much like to continue to keep it that way.”

The editor of Japan’s Asahi Shimbun emphasises that Article 9 in no way bans the government from using armed force to protect the lives and freedom of its people from foreign attacks, which is its most important responsibility, according to the government’s traditional interpretation of the Constitution.

He stresses due process: in the first place a formal debate on an amendment to the Constitution should have been held at the Commissions on the Constitution in both houses of the Diet and ends, after hearing Shinzo Abe’s announcement:

“We cannot support his proposal, which could fundamentally change Japan’s identity as a pacifist nation”.

 

Sources include:

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705090021.html

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-03/japans-anti-war-constitution-to-be-debated-amid-korea-tensions/8491834

https://www.ft.com/content/a4d2aaa0-2fd9-11e7-9555-23ef563ecf9a


Paul Rogers’ January article has a bearing on yesterday’s London attacks

March 23, 2017

A Yardley Wood reader draws our attention to an article by Paul Rogers, professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, openDemocracy’s international security adviser

Some points made:

Rogers refers to the bombings of London’s transport network on 7 July 2005 (correction), when fifty-two people were killed on a bus and three underground trains. (The four perpetrators also died), describing it as “the defining event for Britain in relation to political violence, closely connected to the Iraq war although this was strenuously denied by the Blair government at the time”. He continues:

“This “disconnect” has remained a feature of British attitudes to al-Qaida, ISIS and other extreme Islamist groups, even if some people pointed out at the time that the loss of life on “7/7” was no higher than the daily loss of life in Iraq.

“Now, nearly twelve years later, the war goes on with a similar disconnect – there is simply no appreciation that Britain is an integral part of a major war that started thirty months ago, in August 2014. It may take the form of a sustained air-assault using strike-aircraft and armed-drones, but its intensity is simply unrecorded in the establishment media. This is a straightforward example of “remote warfare” conducted outside of public debate.

“Thus, when another attack within Britain on the scale of 7/7 happens, there will be little understanding of the general motivations of those responsible. People will naturally react with horror, asking – why us? Politicians and analysts will find it very difficult even to try and explain the connection between what is happening “there” and “here”.

“The straightforward yet uncomfortable answer is that Britain is at war – so what else can be expected? It may be a war that gets little attention, there may be virtually no parliamentary debate on its conduct, but it is a war nonetheless”.

He lists some of the factors which underpin this approach:

  • The post-9/11 western-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya have left three countries as failed or failing states, killed several hundred thousand people and displaced millions. This causes persistent anger and bitterness right across the Middle East and beyond.
  • While the Syrian civil war started as the repression of dissent by an insecure and repressive regime, it has evolved into a much more complex “double proxy war” which regional rulers and the wider international community have failed to address. This adds to the animosity.
  • The situation in Iraq is particularly grievous, given that it was the United States and its coalition partners that started the conflict and also gave rise directly to the evolution of ISIS. The Iraq Body Count project estimates the direct civilian death-toll since 2003 at more than 169,000. After a relative decline over 2009-13, an upsurge in the past three years has seen 53,000 lose their lives through violence.
  • Since the air-war started in August 2014 the Pentagon calculates that over 30,000 targets have been attacked with more than 60,000 missiles and bombs, and 50,000 ISIS supporters have been killed.
  • But there is abundant evidence that western forces have directly killed many civilians. AirWars reports that:”As ISIL was forced to retreat in both Iraq and Syria, the year [2016] saw a dramatic jump in reported civilian deaths from Coalition airstrikes. A total of between 2,932 and 4,041 non-combatant fatalities are alleged for 2016, stemming from 445 separate claimed Coalition-caused incidents in both Iraq and Syria.”
  • ISIS, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), and other groups have no air-defence capabilities yet are determined to continue the war, seeing themselves as guardians of Islam under attack by the “crusader” forces of the west. At a time of retreat they will be even more determined than ever to take the war to the enemy, whether by the sustained encouragement and even facilitation of individual attacks such as Berlin or Nice, or more organised attacks such as in Paris and Brussels.

These groups seek retribution via straightforward paramilitary actions, responding especially to the current reversals in Iraq. They want to demonstrate to the wider world, especially across the Middle East, that they remain a force to be reckoned with.

Rogers thinks that a repeat 7/7–level attack in Britain is probable, although when and how is impossible to say.  Again, it will not be easy to respond. But in trying to do so, two factors need to be born in mind:

The aim of ISIS and others is to incite hatred. Politicians and other public figures who encourage that is doing the work of ISIS, adding “This can and should be said repeatedly”.

And the links between the attack and the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria must be made: “That Britain is still at war after fifteen years suggests that some rethinking is required” and ends:

“Politicians who make these points will face immediate accusations of appeasement, not least in the media. But however difficult the case, it needs to be made if the tide of war is to be turned”.

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Conceding the EU’s shortcomings, as individuals and as a nation we have much to gain from continued membership

June 16, 2016

A clear and persuasive article in the Friend, 17 June 2016

 

Over the years my wife and I have been to Vienna, Strasbourg, Prague, Amsterdam and Florence and walked across a Rhine footbridge into Germany into the small German town of Kehl. In all these places we were genuinely welcomed and felt a real sense of being Europeans.

While conceding that the EU has its shortcomings, we believe that as individuals and as a nation we have much to learn and to gain from continued membership. This view is shared by many financial, medical, cultural, trade and human rights organisations with a much greater insight than we can claim.

We would be deeply concerned if, in event of Brexit, the UK became even more dependent on the expansionist foreign and military policy of the United States, which, I believe, has a long record of ousting elected democracies by force.

The US accounts for almost half of all global spending on weapons; it sells to the UK the missiles needed for our Trident weapons of mass destruction, and it provides huge military support to Saudi Arabia and Israel, two countries that, arguably, have fomented instability in the Middle East.

We believe it would be much harder to solve problems diplomatically if the UK were to leave the EU, and that such an exit would itself trigger serious political/financial instability within Europe, to the great cost of ordinary people.

The EU can do much to improve employment conditions and human rights, which could be greatly furthered by further international research and development collaboration, projects in transport, education and climate change prevention.

Ken and Kay Veitch

Cheshire East Area Meeting


Is soft power undermining Iran after force failed?

May 30, 2015

Mission accomplished? After an unsuccessful eight year proxy war , money and commodities poured from the United States into the Middle East and, in the name of normality and freedom, all but the strongest young people are being remade in the image of the Western consumer.

iran younger gen

Hard power is exerted by financial inducements, invasion and remote killing by drone aircraft. Soft power sounds quite benign, but as Joseph Nye points out in The Future of Power (2011), it can be wielded for good or ill: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all possessed a great deal of soft power.

He adds: “It is not necessarily better to twist minds than to twist arms”.

Leading where?

roula khalafRecent ‘advances’ in Iran are being celebrated and underpinned by the FT’s Roula Khalaf (left), who was invited to speak in April’s economic summit for female executives akaGlobal Female Leaders‘. She records that the boys and girls of the Islamic Republic watch western television and Iranian expatriate channels beamed from Los Angeles, Washington and London. “The youth are different from 10 years ago,” says Hamid-Reza Jalaipour, a professor of sociology at Tehran University, “Individualism is high . . . they do what they want”.

Soft power ‘achievements’ of satellite channels, social media and clothes designers noted:

  • Instilling a sense of inferiority: “Iranians aren’t known in the world. We’re not a reference for progress. The US is. Europe is”.
  • The rate of divorce has been steadily rising, up more than 5% in the past Iranian year that ended in March.
  • One young man stopped praying and lost faith that the goals of the 1979 Islamic revolution could be achieved. “They were good for 1979 — slogans like oil for free, free housing, equality”.
  • The hijab comes in all colours and patterns. Some don’t even bother tying it around the neck. The jackets that are supposed to conceal their bodies are tighter and the hems are rising up.
  • They spend their lives on social media — Viber is the latest craze, and a forum for jokes about their leaders. According to the ministry of communications’ April figures, 20 million Iranians have smartphones.

Encouraged by the Daily Mail

iran younsters d mail

  • “In downtown Tehran” Ms Khalaf is told, “the kids, aged 16 to 25, call themselves Sholex. They are like a street gang. They come from poor families, and live on the streets, drinking, smoking (tobacco and hashish) and wasting time . . . an outcast society, separated from the rest, living in a world they made up themselves.

In short, exhibiting the downside of Western societies

Surely with some justice, Islamic leaders ‘regularly blame the west for corrupting [the under 40s]. Ms Khalaf continues: “In a recent statement, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader and highest authority, hinted at his frustration. “They [the youth] are intellectually exposed to dangerous threats — the ways of corrupting them are many, there are communications media that can . . . spread a wrong thought or comment”. He continues: “Today the country is not involved in the military war but it is involved in political, economic and security wars — and, above all, the cultural wars.”

Nazanin is a 28-year-old graphic designer, who describes herself as an outcast. “When foreigners look at TV they don’t see the real Iran. We have the surface society and we have the underground society. We have our parties, we get drunk, nothing is legal. We live like in the west.” The police? “You can get around them, especially if you have money and you can pay bribes.”

Some common sense survives – no ‘Arab Spring’ pawns:

Ms Khalaf asked Afra (who works for a research company) and her friends how they envision Iran changing. Step-by-step reform, they say, not upheaval. One revolution for Iran is enough. “The Islamic revolution made us less developed and we’re afraid another one will take us even further backwards,” says Hamid, a 25-year-old finishing graduate studies in engineering. “Look at the Arab revolutions,” he continues, referring to Syria, Egypt, Libya”.

These illusions of normality, freedom and prosperity are confidence trick. The unmentioned features of the USA, a country which young Iranians and others have been led, by soft power, to admire as ‘an ideal state of freedom’, are military aggression, pollution, child abuse, violent pornography, youth unemployment, high cost of housing and energy and inequality.


Media in Japan and the United Arab Emirates report the UN Review Conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

April 30, 2015

At a time when the future of Trident is an election issue in Britain, it is difficult to get news of this event. The writer was alerted by the mother of one of the delegates to the conference taking place now in New York. She had described the march through the city and only technical reasons have prevented the transmission of a picture taken on the spot.

Atomic bomb survivors and peace campaigners take part in a march through New York last Sunday ahead of the U.N. conference to promote nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation that was to start Monday. | KYODO

Atomic bomb survivors and peace campaigners take part in a march through New York last Sunday ahead of the U.N. conference to promote nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation that was to start Monday. | KYODO

Around 7,500 people carrying banners and signs chanted “No nukes!”, “No more Hiroshima!” and other slogans as they walked about 3 km toward the United Nations,

An account and picture of the march was published in Japan which has experienced the horror of nuclear attacks by America.

At a rally held ahead of the parade, Yuko Nakamura, who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945, recalled that more than 200 students at her school died when the United States dropped the bomb. She was 13 years old at the time.

Toward the end of the event, more than 7 million signatures on petitions from Japan and other countries seeking negotiations to eliminate the world’s nuclear arsenals were submitted to Taous Feroukhi, the Algerian ambassador who will chair the NPT review conference, and Angela Kane, top U.N. official for disarmament affairs. The conference will continue through May 22.

gov uk logoIt was good to find a statement on GOV.UK, a public sector information website, created by the government’s Digital Service. Baroness Anelay, the Minister of State at the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, is attending the UN 2015 Review Conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It opens:

baroness anelay“The United Kingdom remains committed to the Non Proliferation Treaty. It has played an unparalleled role, keeping the world safe and curtailing the nuclear arms race. It is at the centre of international efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, to create a nuclear weapon free world, and to enable access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy”.

And closes: “The United Kingdom will therefore play its part to reach an outcome that best benefits our collective rights to undiminished security, whilst taking us closer to our goal of a world free from nuclear weapons”.

dr al jabarThe only national media report found on the first page of a Google search was by the UEA’s The National: the Emirates’ Minister of State, Dr Sultan Al Jaber, said that the UAE was committed to ensuring global peace and security:

“The UAE attaches high importance to the NPT. It supports the right of countries’ peaceful use of nuclear energy with transparency and abiding by the highest standards of security and safety.”

He cited the UAE’s peaceful nuclear programme as a role model on how non-nuclear countries can utilise the international framework of cooperation, as provided for by the treaty.

Dr Al Jaber made a welcome call for the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide, urging nuclear states to abide by their commitments: “[We] need to adopt practical steps to declare the Middle East as a nuclear weapons free zone”.