A senior United Nations official responsible for freedom of expression has warned that the UK government’s response to revelations of mass surveillance by Edward Snowden is damaging Britain’s reputation for press freedom and investigative journalism.
The UN special rapporteur, Frank La Rue, has said he is alarmed at the reaction from some British politicians following the Guardian’s revelations about the extent of the secret surveillance programs run by the UK’s eavesdropping center GCHQ and its US counterpart the NSA (National Security Agency), it was reported in the Guardian.
“I have been absolutely shocked about the way the Guardian has been treated, from the idea of prosecution to the fact that some members of parliament even called it treason. I think that is unacceptable in a democratic society,” said La Rue.
Speaking to the Guardian La Rue said that national security cannot be used as an argument against newspapers for publishing information that is in the public interest even if doing so is embarrassing for those who are in office.
The Guardian as well as other major world media organizations including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Der Spiegel began disclosing details about the US and UK’s mass surveillance programs in June, after receiving leaked documents from former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.
The publications have sparked a huge global debate on whether such surveillance powers are justified, but in Britain there have been calls for the Guardian to be prosecuted and the editor, Alan Rusbridger, has been called to give evidence to the home affairs select committee.
The Prime Minister David Cameron has even warned that unless the newspaper begins to demonstrate some social responsibility, then he would take “tougher measures” including the issuing of D notices, which ban a newspaper or broadcaster from touching certain material.
While on Friday the New York Times wrote an editorial entitled “British press freedom under threat”. It said, “Britain has a long tradition of a free inquisitive press. That freedom, so essential to democratic accountability, is being challenged by the Conservative-Liberal coalition government of Prime Minster David Cameron.”
The op-ed added that Britain, unlike the US has no constitutional guarantee of press freedom.
“Parliamentary committees and the police are now exploiting that lack of protection to harass, intimidate and possibly prosecute the Guardian newspaper,” the leader read.
Frank La Rue’s intervention comes just days after a delegation of some of the world’s leading editors and publishers announced they were coming to Britain on a “press freedom mission”.
The trip is being organized by the Paris based, World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), and will arrive on UK soil in January. WAN-IFRA says it will include key newspaper figures from up to five continents and that this is the first mission of this kind to the UK ever.
The delegation is expected to meet government leaders and the opposition, as well as press industry figures and civil society and freedom of speech organizations. Their discussions are expected to focus on the political pressure brought to bear on the Guardian.
“We are concerned that these actions not only seriously damage the United Kingdom’s historic international reputation as a staunch defender of press freedom, but provide encouragement to non-democratic regimes to justify their own repressive actions,” Vincent Peyregne, the Chief of the WAN-IFRA, told the Guardian.
newspaper posed a threat to the UK national security.
Also in October, British Prime Minister David Cameron called on The Guardian and other newspapers to show “social responsibility” in the reporting of the leaked NSA files to avoid high court injunctions or the use of D-notices to prevent the publication of information that could damage national security.
La Rue’s remarks come as an international delegation is set to visit Britain over growing concerns about press freedom in the country and a government crackdown on media reporting leaks and scandals.
Organized by the World Association of Newspaper and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the delegation, which includes publishers and editors from five continents, will arrive in January.
The team will reportedly meet with government, opposition figures and media representatives.
The successful adoption of the EU-US trade agreement promises both parties massive gains of up to $159 billion, but the profits could come at the expense of the everyday consumer, who could see the quality of their products diminish as a result.
Over 50 US officials are in Brussels to negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which, if signed, will create the world’s largest free-trade area, which has also been dubbed an “economic NATO”. Officials meeting in Brussels this week will hammer out details to reduce trade limiting regulations.
The new round of talks will focus on reducing trade barriers on investment, energy, services, and raw materials, and key agreements will be announced Friday.
‘Non-tariff barriers’ increase the cost of business, whether it’s adjusting the voltage on an electronic device, changing a car’s exhaust system to comply with local environmental regulations or a difference in opinion of which chemicals are “harmful” or “hazardous” in the respective territories.
By limiting health, safety and environmental regulations in order to boost trade, the US and EU are “putting the corporation above the nation,” Glyn Moody, journalist and author, told RT in an on-air interview.
“That’s a very big assumption. People may not want to have their food less safe or environment polluted for the sake of more money,” Moody told RT.
Moody also warns the trade agreement could behoove giant corporations like Monsanto, who could use the new ‘de-regulation’ to sue the EU for billions of dollars if they refuse to import GMO products
The EU says the TTIP could bring annual benefits of $159 billion (€119 billion) to its 28 member states. This breaks down to an extra $730 (€545) in disposable income for a family of four in Europe and an extra $875 (€655) per family in the US, according to a March 2013 study on “Reducing Transatlantic Barriers to Trade and Investment”.
There would be fewer constraints and companies will benefit, but “the public will pay in terms of regulation reduced protection and that is never calculated in these trade agreements, it’s always about the bottom lines of the big companies,” Moody said.
The week-long round of negotiations were originally scheduled for October but postponed due to the US government shutdown.
On December 16-20 officials will meet in Washington DC for another round of talks. The first round was held in Washington in July after the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland.
The trade flow of goods and services between the two blocs reached about $2.7 billion per day in 2012, according to the US Office of Trade and Commerce. Total trade in 2012 was $647 billion.
The agreement could boost employment on both sides of “the pond”, as increasing exports usually creates more jobs.
The European Commission has brazenly promised the deal could boost gross domestic product in the dilapidated EU by 1 percent.
Auto trade will especially benefit from jettisoning regulations. Turnover between the US and Germany could double if the trade agreement makes more umbrella standards- for example, if a car is crash-tested in America, it need not be again tested in Europe.
North America is an important destination for Foreign Direct investment, and is home to about one third of European foreign direct investment. Investment activity between the EU and US suffered after the financial crisis in 2008, and both sides will also try to find a balance on trade regulation to save big bucks.
Limited trust over the fall out of the NSA spying scandal may also put a hamper on negotiations between the trade giants.
The feasibility of the deal came under question after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked information showing the extent of espionage on allies abroad. France announced the wanted to temporarily postpone the talks over snooping, but they proceeded as planned.
The spying row shouldn’t affect US-EU trade talks, US Secretary of State John Kerry said as the trade partnership is “really separate from any other issues”. The US hasn’t provided any guarantees it will curb spying on its allies.
Iran was once a great power, and though invaded by Greeks, Arabs, Turks, and Mongols and exploited by imperialist powers in the modern era, it has continued to assert its national identity and its people have developed a special sensitivity to interference with its sovereign rights. This concern on the part of Iran does not represent some overwrought sensitivity but is actually a realistic assessment of its history over the past century, as this article will delineate. While professing idealistic principles in international relations, European powers ignored these principles in their violations of Iran’s sovereign rights, which in at least one case led to human suffering on par with the most tragic events of the twentieth century.
(In the outside world Iran was known as “Persia” until 1935, although people within the country used the term “Iran.” This article will use the term “Iran” except when using actual names or quoting from other sources.)
During the nineteenth century, Russia and Britain competed for power and influence in Central Asia, in what was known as the Great Game. Needless to say, it was neither great nor a game for those countries, such as Iran, which were treated like pawns on a chessboard by the two great powers. By the turn of the twentieth century, Russia had come to dominate the northern part of Iran while Britain dominated the south. The two powers formalized this division in the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, which segmented Iran into three parts—a Russian zone in the north, in which Russia was to have exclusive political and economic control; a British zone in the southeast, in which Britain had the sole right to exercise political and economic control; and a neutral “buffer” zone in the rest of the country, in which both the British and the Russians shared power.
This agreement was intended to put an end to open conflict between the two powers and establish stability in the country. With the dramatic rise in power of Germany in Europe, which was also starting to penetrate Central Asia, Britain and Russia realized that it was necessary if not to completely put away their rivalry, then at least to lessen tensions. This development, however, did not bode well for Iranian sovereignty since the formal division made it appear that the imperial control would be lasting.
This foreign domination essentially meant that the resources of Iran were under the control of the two imperial powers and that the purpose of whatever economic development took place was primarily for the benefit of those powers and not the Iranian state or people. The central government in Tehran did not even have the power to select its own ministers without the approval of the British and Russian consulates.
While Iran had traditionally been an absolute monarchy, revolutionary agitation in 1905 forced the Shah to allow for a relatively free press and accept a constitution reducing his power. The elected parliament, the Majlis, would formally have considerable power, although in actuality government decisions had to be amenable to the two dominant powers who essentially controlled what took place within their respective zones and heavily influenced developments elsewhere in the country.
Both Britain, with some qualifications, and Russia looked negatively on this new liberal political body, preferring to deal with a small number of people who could more easily be coerced or bribed to advance their imperialist goals, which very likely went against public opinion in Iran that shaped the new parliamentary body. Although the imperial powers could, if they exerted themselves, overcome opposition from the Majlis, it did make things more troublesome.
In 1911, Iran’s nascent constitutional government appointed an American, E. Morgan Shuster, anoted lawyer, civil servant, and financial expert, to help organize the country’s finances, which were in a perilous situation at that time due largely to heavy indebtedness to Russia and Britain. While his proposed reforms were embraced by the Iranians, they were vehemently opposed by the two European powers who feared that these might serve to reduce Iranian dependence on them.
Almost immediately upon arriving in Iran, Shuster became involved in a dispute with Russia over customs policy, in which he requested, and was given, plenary powers by the parliament. At Russia’s behest, backed up by its moving troops to Tehran (which was within the Russian zone), he was ultimately forced to leave Iran in January 1912. Upon his return to the United States, he wrote a heated indictment of Russian and British exploitation of Iran, titled “The Strangling of Persia,” which he dedicated to “The Persian People.” In a much-quoted passage, Shuster summed up the malicious impact of the two Great Powers thus: “[I]t was obvious that the people of Persia deserve much better than what they are getting, that they wanted us to succeed, but it was the British and the Russians who were determined not to let us succeed.”
As bad as it was for Iran at the beginning of the twentieth century, things would become infinitely worse during World War I. Hoping to avoid entanglement in the war, Iran declared its neutrality on November 1, 1914. (The British and Russians had entered the war against Germany and Austria two months earlier.) Nevertheless, the country became a battleground between Russia and Britain (who were allies), and Turkey (a German ally) and its local Muslim supporters. And when the Turks were not in the country, the two European powers were involved in fighting against tribes and groups of nationalists who were stirred into action by the war and the occupiers’ wartime depredations.
According to historian Mohammed Gholi Majd: “World War One was unquestionably the greatest calamity in the history of Persia, far surpassing anything that happened before. It was in WWI that Persia suffered its worst tragedy in its entire history, losing some 40% of its population to famine and disease, a calamity that was entirely due to the occupation of Persia by the Russian and British armies, and about which little is known. Persia was the greatest victim of WWI: no country had suffered so much in absolute and relative terms. As I have shown in another study there are indications that 10 million Persians were lost to starvation and disease. Persia was the victim of one of the largest genocide [sic] of the twentieth century. (Majd, “Persia in World War I and Its Conquest by Great Britain,” 2003, pp. 3-4)
What caused a famine of such horrific proportions? The Russians and, even more so, the British used Iran as a base for their war effort; and Majd finds the British to be principally responsible for the famine. Local transportation, land and river, was taken over by the British for the movement of war materials, which meant that farmers had a difficult time marketing their produce inside Iran. At the same time, significant amounts of food were purchased or confiscated by the British to supply British troops, both within Iran and in the Middle East region as a whole. Moreover, Britain prohibited Iran from importing food from its neighbors—India and Mesopotamia (Iraq), where grain was plentiful–and from the United States. The British used various reasons, including the alleged sabotage of an oil pipeline, to justify the withholding of most oil revenue to the Iranian government (Iran had recently become a major oil producer) during the war years, which reduced the ability of Iran to purchase food. (Majd, “The Great Famine & Genocide in Iran: 1917-1919,” Second Edition, Chapters 5-7.)
It seems unlikely, however, that the British intentionally sought to commit genocide against the Iranian population, as Majd sometimes implies, but rather that the British were solely concerned about their own war effort, pursuing it at the expense of the Iranian people, who died off in the process. But there is no need to debate British intent, or their degree of culpability, to illustrate the point that Iran endured appalling suffering from the actions of other countries during World War I. The same could be said if the death figures Majd provides are excessive and did not actually exceed Holocaust-like levels, though Majd’s analysis of population statistics, which indicate a huge decline in population between 1910 and 1920, seems to substantiate his numbers. (Majd, “Great Famine & Genocide in Iran: 1917-1919,” pp. 77-87)
Furthermore, Majd does show that other observers noted that Iranian civilians perished as a result of the war in massive numbers, if not necessarily in the astronomically high numbers that Majd arrives at. A report submitted by the Iranian delegation to the General Assembly of the League of Nations, dated December 6, 1920, states: “At the beginning of the war of 1914-1918, the Persian government, anxious to continue its historic traditions, solemnly declared its neutrality . . . . Despite her neutrality, Persia has been a battlefield during the world cataclysm. Her richest provinces in the north and north-east have been ravaged, divided and disorganized by the Turco-Russian forces. Many are the ruins which cover Persian territory from Makou (a town lying in the extreme north of Persian province Azerbaijan), to the very south. Towns and villages have been pillaged and burned, and hundreds of thousands of men were compelled to say a lasting farewell to their beloved homes and to find death from hunger and cold far from their native provinces. At Teheran, a city of about 500,000 inhabitants, 90,000 persons died of famine for want of bread; since the big lines of communication were cut by the invaders. All the governments which followed each other during the war were faced with insurmountable difficulties which arose from the violation of Persian neutrality. The food providing provinces of Persia –such as Mazenderan, Gilan, Azerbaijan, Hamadan and Kirmanshahan— which were rich in corn, rice and other cereals, were unable to produce anything, owing to the lack of labour and the want of security: famine, that pitiless scourge, ruled over the greater part of the country and spread ruin and death among its people . . . . It is with deep emotion that we mention the high figure of our loss in man-power—a cruel loss of 300,000 men, massacred by the sword of the invader.” (Majd, “Great Famine & Genocide in Iran: 1917-1919,” p. 8)
In his 1934 biography of the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, Harold Nicolson, who had served as a British diplomat in Iran during the 1920s, wrote:“Persia, during the war, had been exposed to violations and sufferings not endured by any other neutral country.” (Majd, “Great Famine & Genocide in Iran,” p. 8, quoted from Nicolson, “George Curzon: The Last Phase,” 1934, p. 129)
In a memorandum of August 13, 1941, the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, Wallace Smith Murray, wrote: “During the late World War, despite Iran’s declared neutrality, she was invaded by both the Great Powers, which resulted in untold misery to the Persian people. It is estimated that during the famine of 1917-1918, caused by the chaotic conditions of the country, approximately one third of the population perished.” (Majd, “Great Famine & Genocide in Iran,”p. 8). In a note to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, dated August 21, 1941, which includes Iran’s reply to the Anglo-Russian ultimatum of August 16, 1941, the Iranian minister to Washington, Mohammad Schayesteh, wrote: “The Iranians remember with sorrow the great misfortunes of the last war, the unbelievable number of the population which died as a result of famine and epidemics caused by foreign interference in Iran.” (Majd, “Great Famine & Genocide in Iran,”pp. 8-9)
That virtually no one in the United States, and much of the overall West, would know about the famine in Iran is quite understandable. Britain controlled the news about the war and most of the American elite that shaped the news tended to be Anglophile. Once America entered the war, Britain was an ally. And World War I was considered a great moral crusade. It was the war to make the world safe for democracy; it was the war to save civilization. It was, in short, a Manichean war of good versus evil. Atrocities —real, exaggerated, or imagined– could only be attributed to members of the Central Powers. Thus, Germans supposedly engaged in the raping of nuns, the crucifixion of priests and the bayoneting of babies in their invasion and occupation of Belgium. And much was made of the Turks engaging in mass murder against the Armenians—an atrocity that has, in recent decades, been de-emphasized and debated in the United States as Turkey has become an American ally.
As the partisanship of World War I died down, no one in the United States really knew or cared much about the strange, faraway country of Iran. And Britain remained a close ally of America’s in the fight against the Axis and during the Cold War. Today as the American government and an American media (both heavily influenced by the Israel lobby) have presented U.S. war policy in the Middle East in a good versus evil dichotomy, the depiction of Iran as the victim at any time in its history would not mesh with current policy needs.
With the revolution in Russia in March 1917, the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky would forswear all concessions made to Tsarist Russia in Iran. The armistice agreement between Bolshevik Russia and the Central Powers was concluded on December 15, 1917, which included the provision that Russia would evacuate its forces from Iran, which did take place. (Martin Sicker, “The Bear and the Lion: Soviet Imperialism and Iran,”1988, p. 29.) With the fall of the Central Powers in November1918, however, Bolshevik Russia would state that the terms of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, which ended Russia’s war with those countries, were null and void, though continuing to profess that it did not have designs on Iran. Some of its actions, however, as we shall see, would soon belie this pledge of non-interference.
With Soviet Russia’s official departure, Britain was now by default the overwhelmingly dominant foreign influence in Iran. By virtue of this monopoly power and bribery, Britain was able to get the Iranian government to sign the Anglo-Iranian Agreement of 1919, which essentially would make Iran a protectorate of Britain. In return for a loan of two million pounds for the development of Iran’s railroad system (and also financial inducements to leading government officials), the treaty would give Britain a monopoly over the supply of arms, military training, infrastructure construction, and advisers for Iran. It also would have the sole right to develop a committee to revise the Iranian tariff–which would, of course, be to Britain’s advantage. Influenced by popular outcries by all segments of the Iranian population, the Majlis refused to ratify the treaty. Nonetheless, the British acted as if the treaty were in effect, as they shaped the Iranian army and developed a tariff law that favored British imports.
It should be pointed out that, during this period of British dominance, Soviet Russia, though pulling out its troops and officially renouncing the imperialist concessions held by the Tsarist government, did not lack interest in Iran. The new Bolshevik government, with its professed belief of world revolution, sought to spread radical revolution to Asia, including Iran, which was illustrated by the First Congress of the Peoples of the East, which was held in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, in September 1920.
After the collapse of Tsarist Russia, an Azerbaijan Democratic Republic came into being on May 28, 1918 in what had been part of the Russian Empire. It would be invaded by Soviet Russia on April 25, 1920 and in three days would be under the complete control of Moscow, though Soviet Russia retained the fiction that although Azerbaijan had become a Soviet state, it had remained independent.
The Baku Congress brought together Communists and radical nationalist forces in Asia and discussed a united effort between the two groups in support of national revolutions against foreign imperialism, though the Communists saw this as a necessary stage for the ultimate sovietization of these lands. Iran, in large part because of its proximity to the Indian subcontinent, was seen by a number of Russian Bolshevik thinkers as the key to the spread of radical revolution in Asia. For example, Konstantin Troyanovsky, in his book “Vostok i Revolutsiya” (“The East and the Revolution”), published in 1918, wrote: “The Persian revolution may become the key to the revolution of the whole Orient, just as Egypt and the Suez Canal are the key to English domination in the Orient . . . . The political conquest of Persia . . . is what we must accomplish first of all. This precious key to all other revolutions in the Orient must be in our hands, come what may.” (Quoted in Shireen Hunter, “Islam in Russia: The Politics of Identity and Security,” 2004, 316-17)
Soviet policy toward Iran thus would essentially run on two tracks. One track, reflecting the Communist’s official repudiation of traditional Western imperialism, consisted of establishing good official state-to-state relations between the Soviet government and the Iranian government, in which the latter was formally treated as an equal, sovereign nation. The other track involved support for the revolutionary nationalist movements in northern Iran closest to Soviet Russia, the most important of which was the Persian Socialist Soviet Republic (widely known as the Soviet Republic of Gilan) in the Iranian province of Gilan, which lasted from June 1920 until September 1921.
The densely forested mountainous region of Gilan and Mazanderan provinces along the shores of the Caspian Sea had been beyond the control of the Iranian government for some time. It was here that the Jangal (Jungle or Forest) movement arose, which was anti-Western, pan-Islamic, socially radical and fought against both the foreign occupiers and the Iranian government in Tehran. It was led by a charismatic land owner and Muslim cleric, Mirza Kouchek Khan.
The Soviet conquest of what had been the Russian portion of Azerbaijan would serve as a springboard for moving into northern Iran. The Soviet army, which had departed Iran in 1919, would reappear there in 1920 at about the same time as preparations were being made for the Baku conference. The reason given for this military action was to apprehend the remnants of the counterrevolutionary White army of Admiral Deniken, which had fled Russia after being defeated in the Russian Civil War and found sanctuary under British protection in the Gilan port city of Enceli on the Caspian Sea, which was not yet under the control of the Jingali secessionists. Claiming that the White army remained a threat to Soviet Russia, the Soviet army attacked. Facing a much superior force, the British retreated and the Whites once again fled. The Soviet army then would move through Gilan province and link up with Kouchek Khan’s Jingali.
Soviet Russia provided arms and soldiers to help Kouchek Khan in his revolutionary endeavor. By the end of 1920, his military force was so successful that it was preparing to march on Tehran. (Ervand Abrahamian, “Iran between Two Revolutions,” 1982, p. 116)
Faced with this threat from the military forces of the Soviet Republic of Gilan, with its large Soviet Russian contingent, along with discontent and rebelliousness in other parts of the country, a crisis feeling developed in Tehran among Iranian supporters of the national government and the British. Concerned about the weakness of the existing Iranian government and its seeming inability to suppress Soviet-backed revolutionaries, the British supported a coup d’état by a military officer named Reza Khan who entered Tehran on February 21, 1921 with a force of 3000 soldiers and seized control of the government, assuring the Shah that he took this action to protect the monarchy from revolution.
Meanwhile, in the Soviet Republic of Gilan, strong differences arose between the non-Communist Jangali and the Iranian Communist Party, causing Mirza Kouchek Khan to quit the government and withdraw with his group back into the forest. The Communists now were in charge and, influenced by ideologues from Soviet Russia, tried to establish a full-scale dictatorship of the proletariat that soon alienated much of the local population.
However, at this time higher level officials in Moscow, including Lenin, saw this open support for revolutionary action in northern Iran as premature and counterproductive to the long-term success of world revolution. They were especially interested in improving state-to-state relations with non-communist states in order to strengthen Soviet Russia; for example, the Soviets were negotiating a loan from Britain, which could be undermined by such overt revolutionary action. (Sicker, p.43)
This new position of the Soviet Union and that of the new government of Iran under Reza Shah harmonized and they made a treaty of friendship, as the latter nullified the highly unpopular 1919 treaty with Britain (which had never been ratified by the Majlis). In the Soviet-Iranian Treaty of 1921, the Soviet Union pledged to withdraw its military forces from Gilan and officially cancelled the Iranian debt and concessions to the Tsarist regime. As quid pro quo, Iran guaranteed that its territory would not be used for attacks on the Soviet state.
From the Iranian perspective, there was one discordant note in this otherwise favorable treaty, for it granted Soviet Russia the right to intervene in Iran if it considered events there to be threatening to its own national security. Obviously, this could be used by Soviet Russia not only to defend itself from counterrevolutionary threats but for offensive reasons as well. The possibility that the Soviets might use this provision to justify an attack on Iran was disturbing to members of the Iranian government and they demanded an explanation from the Soviet government, but they were willing to accept an unwritten, oral response that the Soviet Union would not intervene unless there were some overt military threat to its security. (Sicker, p. 44-45)
Lacking the critical support from the Red Army, the Soviet Republic of Gilan fell to the military forces of the Iranian government. And after the fall of the Gilan, the Communist Party of Iran would follow the Soviet party line and support the strengthening of the central government in Tehran, which was now perceived as being beneficial to the Soviet Russia. (Abrahamian, “Iran between Two Revolutions,” p.128). In 1923, for example, while Reza was Prime Minister, the Comintern had praised him for “his progressive and anti-imperialist orientation.” (Quoted in Sicker, p. 47) Though an anti-Communist, Reza, as a nationalist, temporarily served Soviet interests because he sought to reduce British influence in southern Iran and the Persian Gulf—and the Soviet Union then regarded Britain as its primary foe. Moreover, heavy trade existed between the Soviet Union and Iran, with the Soviets being Iran’s major trading partner until 1939. But while the Soviet Union put aside its interest in Iranian territory for the present, it had not been abandoned and would resurface during World War II.
In voiding the (never ratified) Anglo-Iranian Agreement of 1919, the Iranian government placated the British by requesting that British advisers remain behind to help reorganize the Iranian army and civilian administration. Moreover, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC), which was partly owned by the British government and a major provider of oil for the British Navy, still controlled the oil industry in southern Iran. This was about as much influence as Britain could expect to exercise since being deeply in debt from World War I, the British government, pursuing a policy of economic austerity, removed its troops from Iran in 1921.
Reza Khan gradually consolidated his power, ultimately proclaiming himself monarch in 1926 under the name Reza Shah Pahlavi. Reza Shah sought to establish a modern, centralized state, with Kemal Atatürk’s Turkey serving as a model. His programs helped to bring about improvements in agriculture, public health, education, transportation and industry and women’s rights while curtailing the power of the Islamic religious leaders. In achieving these ends, however, Reza Shah exercised ruthless, dictatorial powers, turning Iran into a despotic state.
In regard to foreign relations, Reza Shah sought a modern industrial third party state to serve as an economic counterweight to the Soviet Union and Britain, both of whom he regarded as threats to Iranian sovereignty, despite the existence of treaties of amity. His first choice was the United States, but it did not show much interest. After that he looked to Germany, which had shown interest in Iran since the first decade of the twentieth century.
Nazi Germany responded positively. Germany certainly sought profitable commercial relations with any country, especially one open to large scale investment such as Iran. Furthermore, Iran could provide the oil which Germany desperately needed. Moreover, economic connections could be used to enhance German political and military interests. Iran provided a strategic location from which German agents could stir up oppressed Muslim and other Third World nationalities under the control of the Soviet and British empires. Consequently, by the eve of World War II, Germany had become Iran’s largest trading partner. And an influx of German technicians and consultants had entered the country.
On September 4, 1939, three days after the war commenced, Iran officially declared its neutrality. And five days after Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union on June 21, 1941, Iran reaffirmed its neutrality in the conflict.
Nonetheless, Soviet and British troops invaded Iran on August 25, 1941, on the grounds that Iran was harboring German agents. Reza Shah appealed to U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt under the idealistic Atlantic Charter, which Roosevelt (and Churchill) piously claimed would be the basis for the future world order, and which included such ideals as the protection of smaller and weaker countries from the powerful. The U.S., however, failed to respond positively to the Shah’s request and, without any outside support, the limited resistance put forth by Iran was overwhelmed by Soviet and British forces in less than a week.
Shortly after the invasion, Reza Shah, being perceived as pro-German, was pressured to abdicate and was replaced by his son Mohammed, only 21 years old, and a constitutional monarchy was reestablished. Political parties were allowed to operate and a multitude of parties arose reflecting various segments of the Iranian population. The removal of Reza Shah “unleashed pent-up social grievances” that could not be expressed during his reign. (Ervand Abrahamian, “Iran between Two Revolutions,”1982, p. 169) However, while elections took place, Iranian government officials were not allowed to interfere with the rule of the occupying powers.
While using the alleged existence of numerous German agents to justify the invasion, Britain and the Soviet Unionhad decided to occupy Iran for multiple reasons. Iran was a major producer of oil, which the Allies wanted to exploit and concomitantly prevent Germany from accessing. Furthermore, in a region seething with anti-colonial passions, Allied control of Iran would serve to protect India, which was an indispensable cog in the British Empire. And most importantly, Iran provided a secure conduit for sending vital war supplies to the beleaguered Soviet Union, which had very few other access routes, and none as viable.
Although Britain and Russia guaranteed Iran’s sovereignty, they took over most significant functions of the country, many of which had heretofore been in private hands. First, they exercised control of all political institutions in their respective zones. And important economic activities —such as banking, oil production, and transportation— fell under their dominion. Furthermore, the occupying powers commandeered food products, fuel, and other essentials, causing famine in the land—though nothing comparable to the human catastrophe that took place duringWorld War I. Once again, Iran was being used as a mere instrument for the interests of foreign countries.
Now it might be assumed that the Allies were fighting for the universal interests of all humanity (the “Good War” concept), and that this took precedence over Iranian sovereignty and its rights as a neutral—that Iran should have willingly acquiesced to this greater good. But it needs to be pointed out that the United States never accepted this concept when it was a weak country and the great powers of that day violated American neutral rights in order to purportedly advance some higher principles. The United States was not even willing to accept a curtailment of its right to trade with belligerents, much less accede to an occupation by foreign countries.
For example, republican France in the 1790s saw itself fighting for the rights of mankind and expected support (though not demanding direct military involvement) from its fellow republic, the United States, in its war of survival against the monarchical powers of Europe; but no such support was forthcoming, even though the two countries had a formal “perpetual” alliance concluded during the American Revolutionary War, in which France had played a major role in bringing about American independence. Instead, the United States, emphasizing its rights as a neutral, continued to trade with monarchical Britain and ultimately fought an undeclared naval war with France —the Quasi-War, 1798-1800— because of French naval efforts to interfere with that wartime trade.
Similarly, during the Napoleonic wars, Britain presented itself as fighting for ordered liberty and the independence of other countries against Napoleon’s tyrannical effort to control Europe, but the United States claimed the right to trade with France, opposing British naval interference, and ultimately going to war with Britain in 1812 — a war that lasted until the end of 1814— thus from the British perspective, aiding Napoleon.
The Tehran Conference (28 November to 1 December 1943), which was the first of the major World War II conferences in which the leaders of the three main Allied powers –Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill— met together, focused on the broad issues of the war and the future peace, but also included a declaration that they all shared a “desire for the maintenance of the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Iran.”
Stalin, however, had somewhat different plans for Iran. As the German threat to the Soviet Union receded, the Soviets virtually sealed off the northernprovinces from officials from Britain, the United States, and even Iran. After 1942 no member of the foreign media was allowed to enter the Soviet zone to report on conditions there. Moreover,the Soviet Union gave open support to the Communist Party of Iran, which used the press to promote pro-Soviet propaganda, a considerable proportion of which attacked the Iranian government in Tehran. It would justify its control of Iranian territory by citing the 1921 treaty with Iran that gave it the right to intervene in Iran in order to protect its own security. (Sicker,pp. 61-80)
When the war ended, the U.S. and Britain would withdraw their troops from Iran, but Soviet forces would remain. Moreover, the Soviet Union was organizing separatist movements in its northern zone that could be used to declare independence and join the Azerbaijan SSR.
“Decree of the CC CPSU Politburo to Mir Bagirov CC Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, ‘Measures to Organize a Separatist Movement in Southern Azerbaijan and Other Provinces of Northern Iran’” July 06, 1945, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive,
“Secret Soviet Instructions on Measures to Carry out Special Assignments throughout Southern Azerbaijan and the Northern Provinces of Iran in an attempt to set the basis for a separatist movement in Northern Iran.,” July 14, 1945, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive,
Thus, the Soviets installed the Communist Cafer Pisaveri as the head of the secessionist Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan, which declared its independence on December 12, 1945. Pisaveri had played a role in the Republic of Gilan of the post-World War I years and later found refuge in the Soviet Union during part of the interwar period. (Sicker, pp. 70-71) Pisaveri was Communist and, despite anAzeri nationalist inclination, saw therevolutionary government in Azerbaijan as the first step toward Communist revolution throughout the rest of Iran. (M. Reza Ghods, “Iran in the Twentieth Century,” 1989, p. 172)
Also supported by the Soviet Union, a Kurdish independence movement emerged in the region around the town of Mahabadin northwestern Iran, and in December 1945, a Kurdish Peoples Republic was established there under Soviet auspices. (p.71, Sicker) The Kurdish Peoples Republic’s emphasis was on Kurdish nationalism rather than on Communism with the establishment of Kurdish as the national language. Although there was redistribution of unoccupied land, the republic lacked the social radicalism that would loom large in the Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan.
Although these secessionist regimes had substantial support from their inhabitants, at least in their early stages, archival evidence shows that the Soviet Union was directly behind the development of these governments and was necessary for their perpetuation.
It should be observedthat the Soviet Union was following its usual modus operandi toward the two secessionist states. In most of central and eastern Europe occupied by the Red Army after World WarII, Communist regimes and societies were not established immediately but came into being by a gradual process, so that this would not indicate the lack of Soviet control of the two secessionist states nor the Soviet Union’s ultimate goal of sovietization.
The United States and Britain started to become deeply disturbed by the Soviet actions in northern Iran and supported efforts on the part of the Iranian government to reestablish its control in those break-away areas. However, when Iranian military forces tried to move into Azerbaijan and Kurdistan, they were blocked by Soviet forces.
On January 19, 1946, Iran lodged a complaint to the newly-established United Nations Security Council that the Soviet Union was aiding the Azeri and Kurdish secessionists and thus was illegally interfering in Iran’s internal affairs. The Soviet Union responded that it was simply acting in accord with the Soviet-Iranian Treaty of 1921, which gave it the right to intervene if there were threats coming from Iran, and thus it was legal for its military to remain there to protect Azerbaijan’s petroleum, which, it claimed, was endangered.
After lengthy negotiations, the Iranian government and the Soviet Union made a sweeping agreement in which the Soviets would receive a 51% share of the petroleum in northern Iran in exchange for the withdrawal of its troops from Iran. The agreement also stated that the Soviets would establish joint petroleum companies with Iran and accept the secessionist uprisings as strictly Iranian domestic matters in which it would not interfere. The oil agreement, however, would not be put into effect until after its approval by the Iranian Majlis.
Believing that it had received what it wanted, the Soviet Union started to withdraw its troops from Iran on May 9, 1946. Without Soviet military support, the secessionist regimes, against which large-scale popular rebellions had broken out, surrendered to the Iranian government in December 1946. (M. Reza Ghods, “Iran in the Twentieth Century,” 1989, p. 175)
During this time period, elections took place in Iran and the newly-elected Majlis wasn’t able to come together effectively until 1947 to vote on the oil agreement with the Soviet Union. The U.S. government, fearful of Soviet control of Iranian petroleum, informed Iran that if it would reject the petroleum agreement, and the Soviet Union then pressured and made threats against it, America would come to its defense. With this pledge of protection, the Majlis refused to ratify the Soviet oil agreement on October 22, 1947 by the overwhelming vote of 102 to 2.
The Soviet Union essentially accepted this decision, although not without strong threats and some minor hostile acts toward Iran. The reason for Stalin not doing more is beyond the purview of this essay. But it can be briefly stated that Stalin, at that time, apparently did not want to intensify anti-Soviet feeling in the United States or Iran, because of the negative impact this would have on other objectives deemed more important than the petroleum agreement, and that the ultimate unpopularity of the secessionist governments in northern Iran would have made their restoration much more difficult than their initial creation.
The history of the twentieth century has clearly illustrated that Iran has been forced to relinquish its sovereign rights in order to serve the needs and desires of other, more powerful nations, often couched in the name of some universal good, and that it has suffered severely as a consequence. It is thus understandable why Iran would resist this approach at the present, and expect to have the same rights as those who would try to place restrictions on theirs, with the United States and Israel being the major countries currently taking this anti-Iranian stance. Furthermore, while the past suffering of Jews is continually mentioned in the West and is often used to justify special privileges for Israel —for instance, its right to have a Jewish supremacist state and nuclear weapons— the past suffering of Iran caused by other countries is completely ignored and thus plays no part in international decision-making today. Simple justice would seem to dictate that the United States change its current approach and allow all countries to have the same sovereign rights as guaranteed by international law—no more and no less.
The British government has launched a new debate on reintroducing mandatory National Service, or conscription, for the 18 to 26-year-olds, 50 years after the last conscripted British soldier ended his service.
The bill was tabled by Conservative MP Philip Hollobone, who said the service can inspire young people with “self-respect, personal reliance, discipline and behavior.”
The legislation was introduced to the parliament for debate on June 24, which is considered its first reading though no debate took place at that stage.
MPs are expected to hold a second reading debate on the bill on February 28, 2014.
The bill predicts the introduction of a year-long charitable or military service that could involve care for the elderly or the disabled, work for the emergency services or service in the armed forces with a necessary “residential element” that requires participants to live away from their homes.
“Every individual who has attained the age of 18 years, and who has not attained the age of 26 years, shall be liable to serve one year of national service at some point between these years unless exempt,” the bill reads.
“Regulations shall provide that the scheme must extend the scope of the National Citizen Service and include the following elements,” it adds.
The bill, if voted into law, makes it a criminal offense to skip National Service.
The reference in the text of the proposed law to the National Citizen Service (NCS), which was introduced by Prime Minister David Cameron for the 16 and 17-year-olds in 2010, raises suspicion that the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has been planning to reintroduce the long-forgotten National Service early after taking office.
NCS is now in full swing in England and offers voluntary short-time tours for individuals to take part in team projects away from home to help their community.
London first introduced conscription during the First World War in 1916, which lasted until 1919.
Another forced service was launched in 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War, continuing until 1960, with the last conscripted soldiers ending their service in 1963.
The recruitment was named War Service or Military Service during the wars and National Service, as formulated by the National Service Act 1948, between 1948 and 1960.
The second national service period that started in 1939 lasted beyond the World War II (1939-1945) partly because of Britain’s involvement in the Korean War of the 1950’s.
That could be adequate precedence for the British public to fear a decade of military adventurism, including the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – not to mention the saber-rattling against Syria — has triggered the renewed call for a national service.
Indeed, the public opposition to the bill emerged from the very onset after an e-petition was launched demanding the government to “stop the National Service Bill 2013-2014”. The petition has already collected over 27,000 signatures.
It rejects the mandatory service as “unacceptable”, calling on the government to reject the bill “in its entirety” and “reassure us that non voluntary service and any residential or military style training, or service, will always be a freedom of choice”.
Under the Coalition agreement any e-petition attracting more than 100,000 signatures becomes eligible for a Commons debate.
The public concern over the new initiative has been clearly reflected in the e-petition.
“We do not want our children and grandchildren to fight and die in wars, or in training that they or we have no control over,” the petition says.
There are also concerns that the forced conscription is against the idea of a free society as compulsory recruits will have to spend a year in service with minimum wage at the end of their high school or college, when they could rather start a job or begin university education in anticipation of a difficult future amid Britain’s economic woes.
The issue of Syria has demonstrated the massive gap that has opened up between the elite and ordinary people in both the US and Britain.
Poll after poll after poll shows very large majorities against strikes on Syria. People are war-weary, and the last thing they want is for their countries to become embroiled in another Middle-East war.
One Congressman in the US tweeted earlier this week that he had asked 200 people if they supported strikes on Syria and only four said ‘Yes’- that’s just 2 percent. Another said that 99 percent of calls to his office were against military action.
Let’s get one thing straight: the only people who are keen on war with Syria in the US and UK are the elites. Ordinary people on both sides of the Atlantic want absolutely nothing to do with it.
In Britain, the overwhelming majority of people were delighted that our parliament voted against war last week and that enough of our legislators finally listened to the people to defeat the serial warmongers.
A BBC poll showed that 71 percent of people thought parliament had made the right decision. Yet our neocon/’liberal interventionist’ elite is furious that legislators listened to the views of ordinary members of the public and not them. “You’re a disgrace,” screeched neocon Minister Michael Gove at MPs who voted against the government. Behaving like spoilt brats having a temper tantrum because they were not allowed to get their own way, the Permanent War brigade have been calling for a “second vote” in parliament, showing arrogant contempt for the views of the majority of ordinary people who don’t want war with Syria.
Neocon historian Andrew Roberts threw a hissy fit in a newspaper column last Sunday, attacking the “hideously amoral selfishness” of “new Britain” for not supporting war with Syria. Serial warmonger and drama queen Lord Paddy Ashdown declared “In 50 years trying to serve my country I have never felt so depressed/ashamed” – after parliament finally listened to public opinion and not to warmongers like Ashdown.
Nick Cohen, poster boy for Britain’s pro-war faux-left tweeted “Can’t help thinking that the British parliament’s vote will be remembered as a low and mean point in our history.” Have you got that? Parliament listening to ordinary members of the public is a “low and mean point.” Such is the fundamentally undemocratic neocon/liberal interventionist mindset, which says that no point of view on foreign policy counts except their own and that of their neocon pals.
Since last week’s parliamentary vote, UK establishment figures have been lining up to give Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, a jolly good thrashing for daring to defy the War Party’s line on Syria. Writing in The Times, aptly described as ‘The Warmongers Gazette’ by anti-war conservative writer Peter Hitchens, David Aaronovitch called Miliband a ‘political vulture’. Aaronovitch’s attack on Miliband was hailed as ‘devastating’ by Ian Katz, the editor of Newsnight, the BBC’s flagship Current Affairs program, which wheeled out a ‘Dr. Rola’ from ‘Hand in Hand For Syria’ to criticize Miliband’s failure to back the government.
Since the vote Newsnight has promoted a series of pro-intervention figures, seemingly desperate to try and get us plebs to change our minds. What part of ‘WE DON’T WANT WAR WITH SYRIA’ do our elite not understand? Now the high priest of ‘Liberal Interventionism’, the multi-millionaire war criminal Tony Blair, has joined the ‘Get Miliband’ lynch mob, saying that he was “disappointed” that parliament hadn’t supported the government, adding, “This is something where I just have to disagree with the leadership of the [Labour] party.”
For our neocon/liberal interventionist elite, Miliband is a shocker, a bounder, a rotter, and a ‘political vulture’. But most ordinary people in Britain are very pleased that he and his party listened to the public and opposed the government on Syria. You’d never have known it from listening to neocon newspaper columns, but after last week’s vote, bookmakers shortened the odds of Labour winning the next election to 8-13.
If Miliband and his party had voted the way the neocons wanted, then it’s highly likely that earlier this week US and British forces would have launched their attack on Syria. Which is why of course the Permanent War gang are so angry with him.
The pro-war lobby may be numerically tiny, but in both the US and UK it is massively overrepresented in the mainstream media. Despite the Iraq debacle, the same columnists who urged on that particular catastrophe, are still in front of their keyboards, propagandizing for yet another Middle East ‘intervention’, and are still treated with enormous deference whenever they appear on the likes of CNN or the BBC. Which is very, very often.
“Did you know there are people who supported the Iraq War getting invited on news programs to talk about Syria?” tweets comedy writer Graham Linehan. S’TRUE!!!
The disproportionate voice that necons and ‘liberal interventionists’ have in the UK and US media makes it appear that their views are more widely held in the public at large than they are. But in fact their extremist pro-war views are very rarely found outside elite, Establishment circles.
The gap between the elites in the US and the UK is now larger than at any time in the last 100 years. If we do go to war with Syria, despite the overwhelming public opposition, then it will show that democracy is well and truly dead in both our countries.
Are we countries where the views of the majority are listened to, or are we countries where a tiny, unrepresentative, pro-war clique always gets their way? We’re about to find out.
Opposition to a possible military intervention in Syria has intensified in Britain with the Labour party demanding that the government “make their case” before the parliament.
An alleged chemical attack hit parts of the Syrian capital Damascus on Wednesday killing hundreds of people.
Foreign-backed terrorists in the country claimed that the government forces were behind the assault in the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar while medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, which treated those affected in the attack, said it cannot even “scientifically confirm” the use of chemical weapons.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said on Monday that the cabinet has to “make their case” in the parliament before they can make a decision whether to go to a new war, if any such decision is to be made.
“Given both the seriousness of the reported chemical weapons strikes in Syria, and the enduring and complex nature of the conflict itself, ahead of any action being taken I would fully expect the Prime Minister to make his case to Parliament,” Alexander said.
“[The Prime Minister must be] open about the objectives, the legal basis, and the anticipated effect of any [British military action],” he added.
Meanwhile, British Conservative MP John Baron, who is leading MPs’ demands for a parliamentary session on the matter, expressed serious concerns about Britain going to war without the approval of the UN Security Council because of a Russian opposition to military intervention in Syria.
“Essentially, it is a civil war. If the West intervenes without a UN resolution … I think there is a more serious risk of this escalating beyond Syrian boundaries,” he said.
This comes as legal experts have seriously questioned the legality of a military move against Syria, saying it would create a “controversial situation”.
“The difficulty here is there’s no threat as I understand it to the security of this country or the United States and therefore on what basis can we intervene?” Michael Caplan, an international lawyer, asked during an interview on BBC Radio 4.
Following the alleged chemical attack in Syria, which government forces say was a false flag attack by foreign-backed militants, Britain, the US and France have been beating drums of war to punish what Washington described as a “moral obscenity” by Bashar al-Asad government in Syria.
Russia has demanded evidence from the three on their claims but no proof has yet been presented or even announced to exist.
The situation has sparked fears that Britain is assisting the US to justify another war based on totally unfounded claims after former British PM Tony Blair tampered with evidence related to Iraq weapons of mass destruction to facilitate the invasion of the country in 2003.
The fears are especially strong because the Syrian government cannot have sensibly carried out a large-scale attack when UN weapons inspectors were stationed almost 20 kilometers away from the site of the attack, waiting to probe earlier claims of poisonous gas strikes.
Qualms are also fueled by sporadic reporting of Syrian foreign-backed militants being in possession of chemical weapons, including a Twitter post by Abdola Al-Jaledi, a former high-ranking member of the Jabaht al-Nusra militant group, which said his colleagues were in possession of chemical weapons.
- Syrian war drums beat ever louder (morningstaronline.co.uk)
Britain has a CCTV camera for every 11 people, a security industry report disclosed, as privacy campaigners criticized the growth of the “surveillance state”.
Britain has a CCTV camera for every 11 people including 750,000 in “sensitive locations” such as schools and hospitals, British Security Industry Authority (BSIA) says.
The BSIA said there are up to 5.9 million closed-circuit cameras across Britain dramatically raising the previous estimates that put the number of cameras somewhere between 1.5 million and four million.
“Because there is no single reliable source of data no number can ever be held as truly accurate however the middle of our range suggests that there are around five million cameras,” Simon Adcock, of the BSIA, said.
The revelations drew angry criticism from privacy campaigners Big Brother Watch who described the CCTV culture as a sign of an ailing democracy in Britain.
“This report is another stark reminder of how out of control our surveillance culture has become,” Big Brother Watch director Nick Pickles said.
“With potentially more than five million CCTV cameras across country, including more than 300,000 cameras in schools, we are being monitored in a way that few people would recognize as a part of a healthy democratic society,” he added.
Pickles also compared the situation to the dystopia represented in George Orwell’s 1984 novel.
“This report should be a wakeup call that in modern Britain there are people in positions of responsibility who seem to think ‘1984’ was an instruction manual,” he said.
The novel pictures a society where every single private move of the citizens in the then future Britain of 1984 is monitored by the eye of the state.
Democracy : Citizens Watch Government. Tyranny : Government Watches Citizens.
In some of Shakespeare’s plays there was ambivalence about spying on people, but in one instance there has been an obvious follow-on to modern times, when in Hamlet he has Polonius demand of his servant Reynaldo that he should act as a spy and
Inquire me first what Danes are in Paris;
And how, and who, what means, and where they keep
What company, at what expense.
Which was a bit like the Brits’ comically amateur efforts at spying on foreign missions before and during the G20 International Summit in London in 2009, after which the intercept spooks boasted in a bizarre Power Point Presentation about
What are our Recent Successes?
Blackberry at G20
Delivered messages to analysts at the G20 in near real-time
Provided timely information to UK ministers
Enabled discovery of 20 new e-mail selectors
Gee Golly Gosh. Oh what fun, you must have had, you pointy-headed tummy-rubbing finger-lickin’ techno-dweebs, listening to all the foreign delegates’ Blackberry transmissions, and, as your Power Point had it, “reading people’s email before/as they do.” What were your orders? No doubt something like
Inquire me first, what Foreigners are in London;
And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,
What company, at what expense.
The orders, barely believably, came from the British government, and it’s sad to realize that it ordered spying on its allies, because Turkey — a main target of British G20 spookery — is, after all, a longtime fellow member of Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But that sort of association is meaningless when the Brits want, as the orders went : “to establish Turkey’s position on agreements from the April London summit” by spying on this faithful military partner which has a thousand troops in Afghanistan.
Britain, and all the other G20 members boast that their Group is “the premier forum for our international economic development that promotes open and constructive discussion between industrial and emerging-market countries on key issues related to global economic stability.” But how on earth can you have “open discussion” when you can’t trust the host country of the gathering? How could you be “constructive” with Britain when you know its spooks are bugging your BlackBerry? And what else are they finding out from your conversations that will be most useful to other spooks?
There is no loyalty and no allegiance among allies in the Brave New World of BlackBerry buggers. The old-fashioned ideas of having honorable union to join in defending freedom is ditched in the interests of knowing what an ally might think or plan — in order that these thoughts and plans can be destroyed by the friend who spies on an ally.
Britain and Turkey signed the Nato Treaty which says, with optimistic ingenuousness, that
The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations . . . They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.
But the principles of democracy, rule of law, and all that sort of starry-eyed stuff are thrown out of the window when it’s considered necessary by the Brits to find out what is being done by Turkey. And by who else, one wonders? If you can spy on one Nato ally, you are probably spying on others. Or all of them?
And you wonder about the people who do all this stuff. What can they be like, deep down, these operatives who have cast aside all moral scruples? What do they look like, these programmed robots who consider themselves above the laws of nations and immune to the ideals of humanity and decency? Do they ever think, as Shakespeare had Polonius say to his son, that
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
And speaking of being false, it seems to have been forgotten that a British Cabinet Minister stated on February 26, 2004, that her country was spying on the UN Secretary General. This barely believable admission of criminality was only a five-minute wonder, of course, but it’s no less serious for that. The Minister, Clare Short, was being questioned by a BBC interviewer about the squalid deception leading up to the war on Iraq by America and Britain. In the course of discussion she was asked if US and UK pressure was being brought to bear on nations and individuals to fall in with their war plans, and part of her reply was that “The UK in this time was also getting spies on Kofi Annan’s office and getting reports from him about what was going on . . . These things are done and in the case of Kofi’s office, it was being done for some time . . . Well, I know — I’ve seen transcripts of Kofi Annan’s conversations.”
Then she was asked “So in other words British spies — let’s be very clear about this in case I’m misunderstanding you — British spies have been instructed to carry out operations inside the United Nations on people like Kofi Annan?” She answered “Yes, absolutely.”
So Britain, which signed the United Nations Charter almost 70 years ago “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person,” chose to show its concern for fundamental human rights by planting listening devices in the office of the UN Secretary General. And Washington was in all this, right up to its earphones.
The interview with Clare Short came after dismissal of a criminal charge against a British government employee who informed the public in 2003 that a US National Security Agency official had asked British Intelligence to tap the telephones of UN Security Council delegates during the lead-up to the war on Iraq.
The person whose conscience would not permit her to accept a national policy of criminality was Katherine Gun, and she was charged with disclosing information contrary to national security. To be sure, she wasn’t treated as brutally and despicably as the pitiable Bradley Manning, against whom the mighty United States has brought all its power to crush. She wasn’t menaced by gigantic intimidating prison guards, or kept in solitary confinement, or subjected to a regime of endless menace that would have excited the admiration of any Nazi interrogator seeking to destroy the mind and body of a Jew or a Gypsy. No : she couldn’t be thrown in jail while awaiting trial, because Britain still has some citizens, thank God, who have a robust sense of decency and fair play — as well as a few most energetic newspapers. The slavering hyenas who rip at the body and mind of the vulnerable and wretched Manning wouldn’t get away with such persecution in Britain — not yet, anyway.
So after many months of waiting, Katherine Gun was brought to trial — and the case against her was dropped and she walked free. The charges were not publicly heard, examined and judged upon, as they should be in a democracy. Of course not — because that would have drawn the government and its pathetic little techno-dupes from the murky shadows into the light of truth and decency and open justice. And the really funny thing — the only funny thing, in fact, about the whole farcical shambles — was the statement by the prosecution (in Britain called ‘The Crown’), about its reason for refusing to go any further. The little puppet prosecutor told the judge that “You will understand that consideration had been given to what is appropriate for the Crown to say. It is not appropriate to give further reasons. I am reluctant to go further than that unless the court requires I do.” And the judge caved in. The Regime of secrecy and deception had won yet again, and justice suffered another blow.
After Clare Short’s disclosure that Britain spies on the UN Secretary General the then prime minister of Britain, the devious liar Tony Blair, pronounced that “I really do regard what Clare Short has said this morning as totally irresponsible.” And he justified his stance by declaring “she must know, and I think everyone knows, you can’t have a situation where people start making allegations like this about our security services.”
His message was clear, and remains clear from the recent statements by James, the Happy Clapper, the director of US national intelligence who lied to the Senate about spying on American citizens and then told the world that he gave the “least untruthful” answer to Senate questions because, of course, the end justifies the means. He knows that the intelligence industry will never be held accountable for breaking the law and spying on allies and fellow citizens — because the intelligence industry gets its orders from government.
As an anti-Obama placard had it in Berlin the other day : “Democracy: Citizens watch government. Tyranny: Government watches citizens.” We now realize that tyranny is approaching, in Britain and America. So be afraid; Be very afraid — because many of the people in power in our very own democracries intend that their fellow citizens should believe, in the words of Orwell, that “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.” And they’re getting there.
Brian Cloughley’s website is www.beecluff.com
- UK ‘biggest spy’ among the Five Eyes (news.com.au)
A former French foreign minister says Britain had been planning a war against Syria some two years before to the unrest broke out in the Arab country.
The statement by Roland Dumas came during a recent interview with French Parliamentary TV network, LCP.
“I’m going to tell you something. I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria,” said Dumas.
He continued by saying, “This was in Britain not in America. Britain was organizing an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer minister for foreign affairs, if I would like to participate.”
Responding to a question on the motive behind inciting violence in Syria, Dumas said, “Very simple! With the very simple aim! To overthrow the Syrian government, because in the region, it’s important to understand, that the Syrian regime makes anti-Israeli talk,” said Dumas
The former foreign minister added that he had been told by an Israeli prime minister a long time ago that Tel Aviv would seek to “destroy” any country that did not “get along” with it in the region.
Turmoil has gripped Syria since March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of Syrian security forces, have been killed in the unrest.
Damascus says the United States and its allies are seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad by supporting armed terrorist groups operating in Syria.
In May, under pressure from Britain and France, the European Union lifted an arms embargo on the militants in Syria, while maintaining other sanctions on the Syrian government.
ROLAND DUMAS BALANCE SUR L’INTERVENTION OCCIDENTALE EN SYRIE !
The largest criminal organizations in the world are governments. The bigger they are, the more capable of perpetrating atrocities. Not only do they obtain great wealth through compulsion (taxation), they also have an ideological mystique that permits them uniquely to get away with murder, torture, and theft.
The U.S. government is no exception. This is demonstrated by, among many other things, the atomic bombings of noncombatants in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World II. But let’s examine a lesser-known case, one we might know nothing about were it not for David Vine, who teaches anthropology at the American University. Vine has written a book, Island of Shame, and a follow-up article at the Huffington Post about the savage treatment of the people of Diego Garcia, part of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. Americans may know Diego Garcia as a U.S. military base. It “helped launch the Afghan and Iraq wars and was part of the CIA’s secret ‘rendition’ program for captured terrorist suspects,” Vine writes.
What’s not widely known is that the island was once home to a couple of thousand people who were forcibly removed to make room for the U.S. military. The victims’ 40-year effort to return or to be compensated for their losses have been futile.
Great Britain claims the island. According to Vine, African slaves, indentured Indians, and their descendants had been living on the Chagos islands for about 200 years. “In 1965, after years of secret negotiations, Britain agreed to separate Chagos from colonial Mauritius (contravening UN decolonization rules) to create a new colony, the British Indian Ocean Territory. In a secret 1966 agreement, Britain gave U.S. officials base rights on Diego Garcia.”
But it did more than that. Britain “agreed to take those ‘administrative measures’ necessary to remove the nearly 2,000 Chagossians in exchange for $14 million in secret U.S. payments.”
The British kept their end of the bargain. In 1968, Britain began blocking the return of Chagossians who left to obtain medical treatment or to go on vacation, “marooning them often without family members and almost all their possessions,” Vine writes.
British officials soon began restricting food and medical supplies to Chagos. Anglo-American officials designed a public relations plan aimed at, as one British bureaucrat said, “maintaining the fiction” that Chagossians were migrant laborers rather than a people with roots in Chagos for five generations or more. Another British official called them “Tarzans” and “Man Fridays.”
Then, in 1971, the final order came down, reminiscent of a Russian czar expelling Jews from their village. “The U.S. Navy’s highest-ranking admiral, Elmo Zumwalt, issued … a three-word memo.… ‘Absolutely must go.’”
British agents, with the help of Navy Seabees, quickly rounded up the islanders’ pet dogs, gassing and burning them in sealed cargo sheds. They ordered … the remaining Chagossians onto overcrowded cargo ships. During the deportations, which took place in stages until May 1973, most Chagossians slept in the ship’s hold atop guano — bird crap. Prized horses stayed on deck. By the end of the five-day trip, vomit, urine, and excrement were everywhere. At least one woman miscarried.
Arriving in Mauritius and the Seychelles, Chagossians were literally left on the docks. They were homeless, jobless, and had little money, and they received no resettlement assistance.
Remember, this was happening, not in the 18th or 19th century, but in the late 20th century. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the last of the expulsions.
The personal toll has been great. The Chagossians remain poor, and many suffer from illnesses traced to their dispossession. “Scores more Chagossians have reported deaths from sadness and sagren,” or “profound sorrow,” according to Vine.
Five years ago the Chagossians had some ray of hope when three British courts declared the deportations illegal. But the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom overruled the lower courts. “Last year,” Vine adds, “the European Court of Human Rights dismissed the Chagossians’ final appeal on procedural grounds.…”
“A day after the European court ruling, the Obama administration rejected the demands of an online petition signed by some 30,000 asking the White House to ‘redress wrongs against the Chagossians.’”
The British were adequately looking after the matter, the administration said.
Here is government in all its glory.
- Shame, Lies and Secrecy on Diego Garcia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The failure of the European Union to agree on a new arms embargo for Syria is undermining the peace process, Moscow says. But the delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missiles may help restrain warmongers.
The comments come from Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, referring to the results of Monday’s meeting in Brussels. After a lengthy negotiating session, EU governments failed to resolve their differences and allowed a ban on arming the Syrian opposition to expire, with France and Britain scoring an apparent victory at the expense of EU unity.
The EU’s move, which the Russian diplomat branded as an “example of double standards”, opens the door for Britain and France to supply weapons to Syrian rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Criticizing Europe’s decision to open the way for potential arms shipments to Syrian rebels, Russia insists that its own sale of arms to the Syrian government helps the international effort to end the two-year-long conflict, the diplomat added. He was referring to the delivery of the advanced S-300 long-range air defense systems, which Russia is carrying out under a contract signed with Syria several years ago.
“Those systems by definition cannot be used by militant groups on the battlefield,” Ryabkov said. “We consider this delivery a factor of stabilization. We believe that moves like this one to a great degree restrain some hotheads from escalating the conflict to the international scale, from involving external forces.”
The S-300 is a series of Russian long-range surface-to-air missile systems designed to intercept ballistic missiles, regarded as the most potent weaponry of its class. The missiles are capable of engaging aerial targets as far away as 200km, depending on the version used.
Once the Russian SAM missiles are deployed by Syria, it will have a better control of its airspace. The country endured three airstrikes this year, which are widely thought to have been conducted by Israel, but were never officially confirmed as such.
Britain and France have made a commitment not to deliver arms to the Syrian opposition “at this stage,” an EU declaration said. EU officials, however, said the commitment effectively expires on August 1.
London and Paris have argued support for rebels fighting Assad by allowing EU arms deliveries, despite the fact that extremist elements are known to work alongside the rebels.
Other EU governments, led by Austria and Sweden, argued that sending more weapons to the region would increase violence and spread instability.
Russia’s envoy to NATO Aleksandr Grushko said that the abolition of the EU arms embargo on the Syrian opposition will only exacerbate armed conflict in that country.
“We need to refrain from taking steps that would be contrary to this logic. Such steps include armed or non-lethal support to the opposition. This just adds fuel to the fire,” Grushko said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Moscow and Washington remain undecided as to the content of a proposed international conference on Syria, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.
“There remains a gap between the positions of Russia and the US regarding some issues and aspects of this major international crisis,” he emphasized.
“And we, for our part, cannot agree to hold such events [the international conference on Syria] amid a situation where partners and possible participants in such a conference seek to impose solutions on the Syrian people from the outside, as well as predetermine the course of a transitional process, the parameters of which have not been determined yet,” Ryabkov said.