Potential failure to reach an interim agreement at the P5+1 negotiations in Geneva this week can be attributed to various factors: The lingering damage to confidence caused by the French spoiler lobbed into the previous round earlier this month; the subsequent lack of commitment by the US to pursue the undoubted progress that had been achieved towards closing a deal; and the intrusive lobbying by Israel and its formidable American supporters in Congress creating unhelpful background tensions.
But another major factor is this: Western arrogance. The United States, Britain and France are still behaving as hegemonic powers whose arrogance blinds them to their own outrageous double standards and hypocrisy, and prevents them from treating Iran with mutual respect.
Without this basic ingredient of mutual respect, any negotiations will continue to be frustrated.
French arrogance was perhaps most salient at this particular time. Three days before the opening of the third round of P5+1 talks in Geneva, French President Francois Hollande travelled to Israel in a display of pathetic kowtowing.
On the eve of sensitive talks in Geneva, Hollande’s theatrical rhetoric about “taking a tough stance in support of Israel against a nuclear-armed Iran” was a reckless confidence-sinking salvo.
But more than this, the French leader betrayed the kind of counterproductive arrogance that characterizes the Western attitude generally towards Iran. This hegemonic mentality is at the root of ongoing political deadlock and the continued imposition of unethical economic sanctions on the Iranian population.
Why should France be allowed to have some 60 nuclear power stations operating on its territory supplying 80 per cent of that country’s total energy needs? Why should France be allowed full control of all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment to unrestricted concentrations? Why should France possess up to 500 nuclear weapons? Yet when Iran asserts its legally entitled right to develop peaceful atomic technology, France and the other Western powers impede with unreasonable objections.
Such thinking – displayed by the French, but pervading the other Western powers too – is surely the apex of arrogant doublethink. And it is this mindset that must be addressed if the P5+1 talks are to progress.
This astounding Western arrogance was again revealed in the preposterous claim by the French leader before the Israeli parliament that his country stands against proliferation of nuclear weapons. How can a Western leader spout such arrant nonsense without being ridiculed and held to account? It is a well-known historical fact that it was France that played a crucial role in illegally proliferating nuclear weapons in the Middle East by arming Israel during the 1950s and 60s.
Washington and London also share due blame for creating this dangerous and criminal double standard of nuclear weaponry in the Middle East.
Countless investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency verify Iran’s claims of pursuing legitimate civilian nuclear energy. Iranian assurances have been issued numerous times, most recently this week, by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
Nevertheless, the Western powers continue to thwart progress towards a mutual settlement by a) not acknowledging Iran’s fundamental legal right to enrich uranium as bestowed to all signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty; and b) by continuing to cast aspersions on Iran’s avowed nuclear plans.
This attitude of the Western powers is arrogant and insulting to the integrity of Iran and its revered leader; it is hegemonic and presents an unreasonable, unlawful block on resolving the dispute.
The Western hegemons’ opinions and prejudices are simply being allowed to warp what is a legal process enshrining inalienable rights.
Hollande’s words and actions this week are ample proof of that. But here is another illustration of the Western arrogance from a quarter that shows how deep and problematic that mindset runs. In a debate televised earlier this week on Press TV between Iranian Professor Mohammad Marandi and American commentator Lawrence Korb, it was notable just how regressive Western thinking is. The more troubling aspect perhaps is that Mr Korb is considered to be a voice of reason among the Washington establishment, who is in favor of diplomatic rapprochement and a deal at the P5+1 talks.
Korb sought to make an equivalence between the US and Iran, saying that “mistakes have been made on all sides.” He cited in particular the siege of the American embassy in Tehran some 34 years ago as an example of alleged Iranian transgressions.
As Prof Marandi cogently pointed out, there is no comparison between Iran and US “mistakes.” The crimes committed by the US against the people of Iran are incomparable and inordinate, including the installation of the vicious CIA-backed police state of the Shah until 1979, the downing of an Iranian civilian airliner with the loss of hundreds of lives, the US-backed Iraqi war on Iran between 1980-88, including the American-assisted use of chemical weapons against Iranian civilians. Plus the ongoing raft of economic sanctions that target sick children and terminally ill cancer patients.
In all these crimes committed against the Iranian nation, the US has been supported directly by Britain and France.
Americans, including many supposedly progressive voices, are oblivious to the scale of horror that their country has inflicted on Iran (and many other nations besides). This obliviousness is the blind outlook of arrogance that infects the brain of Washington, London and Paris, and a good many of their citizens.
Americans need to listen more and talk less; they need to do some serious soul-searching instead of pontificating all the time.
Until that arrogance is eradicated, negotiations with these powers will always prove to be frustrating and may be even futile.
Yesterday, while taping a discussion of the latest round of P5+1 nuclear talks with Iran on Russia Today’s CrossTalk that was broadcast today (see here or, on You Tube, here), Flynt said, “I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not particularly optimistic about a deal being reached this week. I don’t think that there’s been a lot of progress on the issues that kept agreement from being reached the last time the parties convened in Geneva:
–There’s the issue of Iran’s nuclear rights, and how they get acknowledged or not acknowledged in an interim agreement.
–There is disagreement about how to handle, during an interim deal, this heavy water reactor facility at Arak which the Iranians are building.
–There are still disagreements about the disposition of Iran’s stockpile of near-20 percent enriched uranium.
I don’t really see much sign that either the United States or the French are backing down from some of the positions they took on those issues ten days ago—and if there’s not some give on that, I don’t know how the Iranians will be in a position to accept the P5+1 proposal.”
On the positions that the United States and France took on these issues in the November 7-9 Geneva talks, Flynt recounts,
“Going into the last round at Geneva, I think the Iranians anticipated getting a draft from the P5+1 where they had clearly worked out understandings about how some of these contentious issues—about Arak, about the 20 percent stockpile, about some acknowledgement of Iran’s nuclear rights; the Iranians had expectations from their previous discussions about the kind of proposal they were going to see. And, basically, the United States and France reneged on those understandings. And so the draft proposal that went in front of Iran was different from what Foreign Minister Zarif and his team were expecting to see, and they weren’t in a position to accept that.
Unless the P5+1—in particular, the United States and France—are willing to stick to understandings that the Iranians thought they had reached, at least verbally, on some of these issues, I don’t think that the Iranians are going to feel, either in terms of substance or in terms of the atmosphere of trust, they’re not going to feel comfortable with going ahead with an agreement.”
Currently, the most fundamental sticking point in Geneva is—as we have long anticipated—the Obama administration’s refusal to recognize Iran’s clear legal right to enrich uranium under safeguards and to acknowledge that the Islamic Republic will have to be treated like any other NPT party. As we’ve written before, see here, Iran and all other states have a sovereign right to pursue indigenous fuel cycle capabilities—a right recognized in Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as an “inalienable right,” which non-nuclear-weapon states pledge to exercise in line with Article II (where non-weapons states commit not to build or obtain nuclear weapons) and Article III (where states commit to conducting their nuclear activities under safeguards to be negotiated with the International Atomic Energy Agency).
As Flynt explains, the Obama administration—like the George W. Bush administration before it—resists recognizing this legal reality:
“There are basically four countries in the world that try to deny that the NPT recognizes the right of a non-nuclear weapon state like Iran to enrich uranium under safeguards. Those four countries are the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Israel, which isn’t even a signatory to the NPT. Those are the only four countries that take this position. The rest of the world—the BRICS, the Non-Aligned Movement, key U.S. allies like Germany and Japan—have held consistently that the Treaty recognizes a right to enrich. And what is so perverse is that…when the U.S. and the Soviet Union first opened the NPT for signature in 1968, senior U.S. officials testified to Congress that the NPT recognized a right to safeguarded enrichment. That was the position of the United States until the end of the Cold War—and then we decided to try to unilaterally rewrite the Treaty because we didn’t want non-Western countries getting fuel cycle capabilities.”
We’ll see if the Obama administration can do any better this weekend.
Tehran will be “very skeptical” about the intentions of the six world powers during next week’s P5+1 talks in Geneva, after the initial text of a deal on Iran’s nuclear program was “gutted” following objections from France, historian Gareth Porter said.
The six world powers are gearing up for yet another round of talks with Iran to curb its nuclear program on November 20. The previous round, which took place last weekend, failed to strike an accord limiting Tehran’s uranium enrichment in exchange for an easing of Western sanctions.
US Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Iran for the failure, saying the six world powers were unified on the nuclear deal, but that the Iranians were unable to accept it “at that particular moment.” He denied reports that the US and France had differences regarding the agreement, saying that “the French signed off on it, we signed off on it.”
Iran pointed the finger at Western powers. The country’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said on Twitter that “No amount of spinning can change what happened within 5+1 in Geneva from 6PM Thursday to 545 PM Saturday. But it can further erode confidence.”
He also appeared to blame France for “guttering over half of US draft.”
Still, Zarif said on Friday that he was hopeful ahead of next week’s fresh talks. “It is not possible to drive ahead without hope,” he told Fars news agency, as cited by AP. “Of course, hope doesn’t necessarily mean going without open eyes,” he added.
Zarif reiterated Tehran’s demand for its rights to nuclear energy. “Any agreement that does not recognize the rights of the Iranian people and does not respect these rights has no chance.”
Meanwhile, another political battle has unfolded in the US, as Congress debates whether to impose additional economic sanctions against Iran. Israel – America’s key ally in the region – dispatched its economy minister, Naftali Bennett, to Washington to lobby for the sanctions.
However, US President Barack Obama sought on Thursday to convince Capitol Hill hard-liners to go forward with negotiations with Iran and to not impose new sanctions.
RT spoke with historian and investigative journalist Gareth Porter about the possible outcomes for the nuclear talks and America’s role in the negotiations.
RT: Pleas from John Kerry and Joe Biden haven’t gained much traction among some Congress members. What kind of impact do you think Obama’s speech will have? Do you think it could ensure that no further sanctions are imposed?
Gareth Porter: No, I don’t think the president’s statement or speech is going to hold off the members of the Congress who are determined to go ahead with this move. The question is whether they will be able to muster a majority in the Senate. I think the House is more likely to be responsive to Israel’s urgings on this and is most likely to go ahead with sanctions. But I think the Senate may possibly constitute a rollback to going ahead with much harsher sanctions. By which I mean there will be sanctions from which the legislatures have stricken any reference to national security away, or taking away the last bit of responsibility that President Obama would have.
RT: So this is all about Israel then? These members will push through with what Israel wants?
GP: This is the track record that both the majority of the Senate and the majority of the House have compiled in recent years, which is to say that they have been responsive whenever the AIPAC, the lobbying organization devoted to Israel, has put forward legislation. The majority in both Houses of Congress have been responsive. I think that definitely has to be the working assumption for this week.
RT: If the sanctions are imposed, will Iran likely say they are not going to talk any further? Is it realistic to believe the White House would then begin considering military action?
GP: I don’t think it’s realistic that Iran is simply going to walk away from the table. But it is definitely realistic to expect that Iran is going to take a much tougher position in the talks next week than they did in a last round. After all, Iran was under the firm impression that they had an understanding and agreement on a text with the United States.
As Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted in the last 40 hours – from late Thursday of last week to late Saturday – is that he was turned upside down. He claims that as much as 50 percent of the text they agreed upon was essentially gutted, as he put it, by the objections coming from France, in particular. So definitely the Iranians are going to be very skeptical about the intentions of the six powers in these negotiations. They are going to insist on guarantees that it will not happen again. Obviously, they are going to insist that the text be returned at least substantially to what was before this sabotage took place over the weekend.
RT: The White House is saying to members of Congress that military action could be possible if diplomacy fails. Do you think Washington will stand behind that statement?
GP: There is grandstanding in the United States. I can guarantee that the United States is not going to war anytime soon over Iran. I don’t think they will ever go to war over Iran, but certainly not in the present circumstances. The US military certainly exercises very powerful influence over the policy of the White House on this, and the Pentagon and the military service heads are adamantly opposed to the US going to war. They don’t see any reason to do so under present circumstances.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said amendments made by a member of the six world powers to a US-proposed draft proposal during the recent Iran nuclear talks in the Swiss city of Geneva spoiled efforts to reach a deal.
Lavrov, who is on a visit to Egypt, said on Thursday that Iran and six world powers were close to reaching an agreement on a deal during their talks in Geneva, but last-minute amendments to the draft document blocked a deal, AP reported.
He expressed hope that representatives of the six countries will not abandon “agreements that already have been shaped” and strike a pact with Iran during next week’s talks.
A member of the Iranian delegation in nuclear talks with six world powers says Tehran did not block an agreement in last week’s negotiations in Geneva.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran did not prevent a final deal in Geneva,” Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht-e Ravanchi said Friday. “We do not want to go into the details of the issues…, but it is clear who ultimately blocked a final agreement,” he added.
On November 7, Iran and the six world powers – the US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany – kicked off intense discussions in Geneva which stretched into a third day. The two sides did not reach an agreement, but stressed that significant progress had been made and expressed optimism about the prospect of a possible deal in the future.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a November 9 interview that “Israel’s concerns” must be taken into consideration in the course of the negotiations, adding that there is “no certainty” whether Iran and six powers will reach an agreement at the current stage.
Since the formation of Israel and even before that, Tel Aviv has always resorted to lobbying to pursue its illegitimate objectives, including efforts to earn recognition for its so-called government.
Israel’s most active lobby is in the US, but it is also highly active in European countries such as Britain, Germany, France and even Italy and Spain.
This article seeks to discuss the influence of the Zionist lobby and France-Israel ties.
After a book by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt about the influence of the Israeli lobby on US foreign policy was published in 2007, French daily Le Monde published an article in October that year describing the Zionist lobby in France as a non-transparent and deceitful group. From that point, the issue of the Zionist lobby in France and its influence on the country’s foreign and domestic policy has been taken into consideration.
The Zionist lobby in France has extensive influence in three areas: A: Media and their affiliate companies, including Eutelsat; B: Political parties who receive campaign funding and media sponsorship from the Zionist lobby; C: Oil and arms companies
The history of Zionist lobby in France
The Zionist movement led by Joseph Fisher started its activities in France between the first and second World Wars. Later in 1949, Fisher became Israel’s ambassador to Belgium. France had incurred heavy losses during World War II and that laid the groundwork for the presence of affluent Jews in different economic, social, judicial, cultural, religious and political arenas of the country.
At present, there are over 100 Jewish organizations and societies in France and all of the active Israeli parties have offices in Paris. In 1977, different Jewish groups in France merged and formed the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (Le Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF)).
The group is tasked with pursuing the interests of Israel inside France and its foreign policy. The group which owns a myriad of newspapers, magazines, TV networks and satellite service providers, has extensive influence in France’s political and legal bodies. Moreover, the Zionist lobby has a lot of lucrative businesses and financial institutions under its control.
The Zionist lobby in Israel has also formed certain groups for defaming, suing and even bringing to trial the individuals and groups which do not assert Israel’s interests. The French Union of Jewish students, the union of Jewish merchants in France, the SOS Racisme (established by the French Socialist Party to curry favor with Israel), the Organization of Lawyers without Borders France and the Anti-Defamation League are some examples.
French parties and the Zionist lobby
In domestic politics, some of the political parties are in competition with each other to forge friendly ties with Israel due to their need of pro-Israeli funds for victory in elections.
One of the examples of the Zionist Lobby’s sway in France is the naming of one the key roundabouts in Paris as David Ben-Gurion by the council of the city, which is comprised of rightist and socialist parties. Interestingly, the socialist mayor of Paris performed the ceremony with Shimon Peres.
Moreover, there are other Parisian squares named after the Zionist leaders such as Theodor Herzl and Yitzhak Rabin.
In 2012, around 112 French lawmakers, both rightists and leftists, held a festival in support of Israel. The move was aimed at opposing Palestine’s UN membership. The French parliamentarians stood up singing Israel’s national anthem.
The influence of the Zionist lobby in France reaches its peak during the election campaign in the country where each candidate competes with the others to ingratiate itself with Israel.
Among the French parties, the Socialist party has the closest ties with Israel and it adjusts most of its work plans, particularly vis-à-vis foreign policy, with the officials in Tel Aviv. The recent stance of Socialist French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius regarding the nuclear talks with Iran was aligned with his illogical compliance with Tel Aviv’s policies towards Tehran.
Israel-France intelligence and security cooperation
Apart from the poisoning of Yaser Arafat, the former president of the Palestinian National Authority, and his hospitalization at a military hospital in Paris — which was a sort of French-Israeli intelligence and security coordination – the history of Paris-Tel Aviv ties is fraught with such cooperation.
From the outset of the fake Israeli regime, the French government authorized its intelligence apparatus to cooperate with the Mossad elements in assassinations of Arab and Palestinian fighters.
In 1965, under the presidency of Charles De Gaulle, Mossad abducted Mehdi Ben Barka, an opponent to King Hassan II, in cooperation with the French intelligence service. In 1972, Mossad killed Palestine Liberation Organization’s Representative to Paris, Mahmoud Al-Hamshri in cooperation with French intelligence elements.
Moreover, in the judiciary section, the French government has always acted in accordance with the interests of the Zionist lobby, the trial of Roger Garaudy, the writer of The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics, being an example.
Most of the world media are under the Zionist lobby’s sway and, using this powerful tool, they have managed to control world public opinion. That’s why when a media outlet moves in the path of actually informing the public, they spare no effort to prevent its activities.
The Zionist lobby in France puts pressure on the companies which provide services to the anti-Zionist satellite networks. The pressures by the Zionist lobby on the French Satellite service provider Eutelsat to stop the broadcasting of al-Manar, al-Alam, Press TV, Sahar and other networks is another example of such media sway.
Generally speaking, the Zionist lobby in France is enormously powerful in different spheres, despite its unpopularity among the French public. It has tried hard to portray Israelis as oppressed people. However, given the growth in public awareness, the information revolution and expansion of information dissemination tools, Zionism can no longer dominate public opinion.
The domineering and greedy nature of the Zionist regime and the futility of its claims about its opponents are being unmasked on a daily basis. This will lead to mounting pressure of public opinion’s pressure on the politicians. Nonetheless, for the time being, the majority of French politicians need the money and economic leverage of the Zionist lobby for the achievement of their objectives and the French media have to keep silent in order to survive and avoid the anti-Semitism tag.
In other words, at present France is under the domination of Zionists and their supporters, but the French public is gradually becoming aware of the fact.
Tahmineh Bakhtiari is an Iranian journalist and an expert on the Middle East and Latin America. Her writings have appeared in many print and online journals and newspapers including The Khorassan Daily, Jam-e Jam, Jomhuri Islami and Aftrab-e Yazd. Her book ‘The Genealogy of Zionism’ was published in 2001. Bakhtiari has a master’s degree in international relations.
America and France are playing ‘good cop-bad cop’ in the P5 + 1 talks with Iran over its nuclear program, so that Washington’s position would sound more reasonable, Robert Harneis, a journalist and political analyst has told RT.
Six major world powers and Iran are holding negotiations in Geneva over Tehran’s highly-disputed nuclear program.
RT: France seems to be the most skeptical of the negotiating nations about the outcome of the talks. What’s behind its skepticism?
Robert Harneis: It is always a little difficult to understand the position of the French here. They seem to take an extreme position all the time. There are a number of reasons for this. The first is that they are playing ‘good cop-bad cop’ with the Americans. Obama is suddenly being much more reasonable in his attitude with the Iranians, and the French are out there on the flank saying “Oh, you mustn’t agree too easily, Israel must be protected,” and so on. In a sense that’s, if you like, playing the game of the Americans so that they can sound more reasonable, the French sound more unreasonable.
There is another factor, which is that everybody knows the enormous pressure of the Israeli lobby in America. It’s not quite so well-known that it’s pretty considerable in France as well.
RT: The French Foreign Minister said Israel’s position must be taken into consideration. Why such concern for Israel when even Washington called Netanyahu’s condemnation of the deal ‘premature’?
RH: Yes, it’s interesting, isn’t it, that Mr. Netanyahu has said that the deal had been concluded. Everybody else is saying it hasn’t. At any rate, the position of the French, I think, is to say things that the Americans don’t want to say at the moment. I think that’s at the bottom of it, because frankly this posturing by the French President and the French Foreign Minister makes France look pretty ridiculous on the domestic front. There is a great deal of mockery of Laurent Fabius and his very aggressive statements internally in France.
RT: We’re used to the US being one of Tehran’s harshest opponents. Do you feel that Washington’s stance is genuinely changing?
RH: Well, one would like to hope – let’s put it this way – that this is a real diplomatic revolution. The Americans ever since 1979, when the embassy drama took place in Iran, have had this slightly ridiculous, slightly vengeful obsession about dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.
As far as anybody can tell and as far as the American security services themselves say, there is no Iranian nuclear threat. The Israelis, on the other hand, have 300 nuclear weapons. So the situation is a trifle absurd as it often is with western foreign policies.
And there are signs Obama is trying to put American foreign policy on a more sensible track. Why not have sensible relations with Iran – this is being asked in the US after all. For years, with the threat of the Soviet Union, they had no difficulty negotiating with [Mikhail] Gorbachev and men a lot more difficult than him. So, why can’t we negotiate with Iranians? Why do we have to take this ridiculous attitude that they cannot have what France, Britain, the US have – which is nuclear protection. And the Iranians say they don’t want it anyway.
So, it’s a difficult one to quite work out. But it could be that there is a real revolution taking place and the Americans are going to change their stance because they need to do business with Iran really.
RT: Finally, what are your personal predictions? Will the sides involved manage to overcome their disagreements and strike a deal in the near future?
RH: Well, if I had to take my reputation as profit on the line, I would say that there is going to be a deal. Because they are, after all, talking only about a six-month deal, as far as we can understand it. A suspended sentence, so to speak. With the problems of gas pipelines from Iran to Europe, which Europe needs badly for its Nabucco pipeline – which has no gas without the Iranians – I think there is a very strong probability. And they’d just love to get in there and have all the contracts for rebuilding Iran. So, I hope it’s a real revolution.
British intelligence agency GCHQ has helped counterpart entities in France, Germany, Spain, and Sweden develop methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic in the last five years, a new report reveals.
Documents supplied by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to the Guardian show the UK Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) enormous influence throughout Europe. The documents detail how the agency developed and promoted spying processes, built relationships with telecommunication companies, and evaded national laws that constrain the surveillance powers of intelligence agencies.
In the wake of outrage expressed over the past week across Europe regarding newly exposed NSA surveillance of European countries – including intercepted communications and the monitoring of phones belonging to officials such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel – documents released Friday by the Guardian show major European countries’ culpability in mass surveillance efforts shepherded by the GCHQ.
The GCHQ is part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing partnership between Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.
US intelligence officials said the monitoring that received so much indignation from powers like Germany and France was carried out by those countries’ own intelligence agencies and later shared with the US.
In June, the Guardian revealed the GCHQ’s Tempora program, in which the agency tapped into transatlantic fiber-optic cables to execute bulk surveillance. Germany’s justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, said at the time that the program sounded “like a Hollywood nightmare” and warned that free societies and actions hidden under “a veil of secrecy” are not compatible.
A nation-by-nation scorecard
In a 2008 survey of European partners, the GCHQ marveled at Germany’s capabilities to produce Tempora-like surveillance. The British service said the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) had “huge technological potential and good access to the heart of the internet – they are already seeing some bearers running at 40Gbps and 100Gbps.” The term ‘bearers’ refers to the fiber-optic cables. Gigabits per second (Gbps) measures the speed at which data runs through them.
The documents also show the British were advising German counterparts on how to change or evade laws that restricted advanced surveillance efforts. “We have been assisting the BND (along with SIS [Secret Intelligence Service] and Security Service) in making the case for reform or reinterpretation of the very restrictive interception legislation in Germany,” the survey says.
The report also lauds the GCHQ’s French partner, the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), especially for its cozy relationship with an unnamed telecommunications company.
“DGSE are a highly motivated, technically competent partner, who have shown great willingness to engage on IP [internet protocol] issues, and to work with GCHQ on a ‘cooperate and share’ basis.”
The GCHQ expressed desire to benefit from the DGSE’s relationship with the company.
“We have made contact with the DGSE’s main industry partner, who has some innovative approaches to some internet challenges, raising the potential for GCHQ to make use of this company in the protocol development arena.”
The GCHQ’s work with its French counterpart led to improved capabilities to carry out bulk surveillance, despite growing commercial emphasis on encryption.
“Very friendly crypt meeting with DGSE in July,” British officials said. French intelligence officials were “clearly very keen to provide presentations on their work which included cipher detection in high-speed bearers. [GCHQ's] challenge is to ensure that we have enough UK capability to support a longer term crypt relationship.”
New opportunities in future partnerships
GCHQ ties to Spain’s intelligence service, the National Intelligence Centre (CNI), were bolstered by Spain’s connections to an unnamed British telecom company, giving them “fresh opportunities and uncovering some surprising results.
“GCHQ has not yet engaged with CNI formally on IP exploitation, but the CNI have been making great strides through their relationship with a UK commercial partner. GCHQ and the commercial partner have been able to coordinate their approach. The commercial partner has provided the CNI some equipment whilst keeping us informed, enabling us to invite the CNI across for IP-focused discussions this autumn,” the survey said. It reported that the GCHQ “have found a very capable counterpart in CNI, particularly in the field of Covert Internet Ops.”
When Sweden passed a 2008 law allowing its National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) to execute Tempora-like surveillance via fiber-optic cables, the GCHQ said in the report that “FRA have obtained a…probe to use as a test-bed and we expect them to make rapid progress in IP exploitation following the law change.” The GCHQ went on to express delight in future partnerships with FRA after the law passed.
The survey found strong ties between the GCHQ and Dutch external and internal intelligence services MIVD and AIVD, respectively.
“Both agencies are small, by UK standards, but are technically competent and highly motivated,” British officials said.
The GCHQ also helped AIVD in handling legal constraints to spying.
“The Dutch have some legislative issues that they need to work through before their legal environment would allow them to operate in the way that GCHQ does. We are providing legal advice on how we have tackled some of these issues to Dutch lawyers.”
Contrary to the other nations’ positive marks, the GCHQ country-by-country scorecard shows Italy’s intelligence agencies to be riddled with internal strife.
“GCHQ has had some CT [counter-terrorism] and internet-focused discussions with both the foreign intelligence agency (AISE) and the security service (AISI), but has found the Italian intelligence community to be fractured and unable/unwilling to cooperate with one another,” the report said.
A follow-up six months later noted the GCHQ still saw legal constraints in Italy as hampering AISI’s ability to cooperate.
This latest disclosure calls into question how involved the countries were in the overall surveillance of global citizens and world leaders led by the NSA and GCHQ.
With European auto sales near a 20-year low, it’s unthinkable that an automaker would willingly cut ties with its largest foreign client. But in February 2012 Peugeot did just that by severing ties with Iran. The move was forced by its new partner, General Motors, which had just been bailed out by the US government.
The decision has cost an estimated €4 billion in lost sales and helped force 8,000 job cuts. In France’s first such industrial closure in two decades, the last car has just rolled off the line at a plant located in a heavily-Muslim suburb of Paris.
Via a partnership with automaker Iran Khodro, in 2011 Iran accounted for 13% of Peugeot’s annual sales. The cars were assembled in Iran, giving domestic autoworkers valuable experience and helping Iran to become one of the world’s top 20 auto-producing countries.
The French press has largely remained silent on the key role Iran sanctions have played in damaging Peugeot, despite pleas from union leaders.
Ironically, giving up the Iranian market seems to have been in vain, as multiple sources have reported that GM has significantly scaled back its alliance with Peugeot. If the sanctions on Iran were designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain on Peugeot, they may have achieved their goal.
Glenn Greenwald has published in LeMonde, yet another eye-popping story about the NSA. But in this case, it turns out the NSA was not the culprit. Look no farther than the Mossad for the presumably guilty party. In 2012, during the French presidential elections, which Nicolas Sarkozy would go on to lose to Francois Hollande, French counter-intelligence discovered that a foreign intelligence agency had penetrated the computer systems of the Elysee Palace, the French White House. A French magazine blared that it was an NSA job. French intelligence apparently believed this and took the NSA to the woodshed. Relations were very tense between these otherwise strong allies.
But given Snowden’s recent revelations about the all-seeing NSA, this case was different. The NSA began investigating and discovered that none of its operatives had been responsible (at least in this particular case). Because the case threatened to endanger relations with a U.S. ally, they went so far as to query the intelligence agencies of twenty U.S. allies, who all professed ignorance of the operation. In meetings with their French counterparts, NSA officials revealed all this and swore they were not the culprits. But they tellingly noted that among the nations they had not queried was Israel because, in their words, discussion of matters related to France was not within the purview of the NSA-Mossad relationship. This is the equivalent of what Monty Python called, “Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.”
What specifically did Unit 8200 want to learn about French policy from such an intrusion? According to my own Israeli source, there was no specific mission. Spying was indiscriminate and opportunistic. He would not speaking directly to this particular incident because he did not want to expose a specific operation if there was one. But he would say this:
Unit 8200 and Mossad hack everyone they technically can. You can never know what interesting intelligence will come from a phone call/email of any foreign leader or official – so they spy on anyone possible.
In other words, Israeli intelligence has no restraints, unlike (we hope) spy agencies of other western nations. Where the NSA got into trouble (after Snowden’s revelations were published) was that it was operating as if it were Unit 8200, rather than an American agency restrained by American laws and constitutional practice. At least until recently, the NSA and Israeli cyber-intelligence could’ve been twins.
That is why the recently revealed agreement between the NSA and Unit 8200 to share intelligence (even about U.S. citizens) was no surprise at all. And what 8200 didn’t learn directly from data supplied to them by the NSA it could derive from its own intelligence operations here in the U.S., where the FBI finds Israel to the be the third-most active spy operation of all foreign countries active here.
Mossad’s intelligence method of “flooding the zone” to get whatever information it can from whatever sources it can, further cements the notion that it is not an agency of a truly democratic nation with checks and balances and protections for citizens and non-citizens. There are, or should be, things that allies just don’t do to each other. But for Israel, there is no such thing as an ally. There are nations that further its interests (known in most other countries as ‘allies’) and nations which oppose its interests (enemies). Israel spies on its greatest ally (as we’ve seen) and its greatest enemy. There is hardly a distinction made except that the nature of the information sought is different.
France has called for an explanation for the “unacceptable” and “shocking” reports of NSA spying on French citizens. Leaked documents revealed the spy agency records millions of phone calls and monitors politicians and high-profile business people.
The US Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin was summoned by the French Foreign Ministry to account for the espionage allegations on Monday morning.
“I have immediately summoned the US ambassador and he will be received this morning at the Quai d’Orsay [the French Foreign Ministry],” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told press. He added that “we must quickly assure that these practices aren’t repeated.”
In addition, citing the report on French publication Le Monde, Interior Minister Manuel Valls spoke out on national television against US spy practices.
“The revelations in Le Monde are shocking and demand adequate explanations from the American authorities in the coming hours,” said Valls on television channel Europe 1.
He went on to say that it is totally unacceptable for an allied country to spy on France.
Ambassador Rivkin refrained from commenting on the spy allegations on Monday morning and told Reuters that French-US ties are the “best they have been for a generation.”
Le Monde revealed in a report based on the security leaks of former CIA worker Edward Snowden that the NSA recorded 70.3 million phone calls between December 10, 2012, and January 8, 2013.
The NSA reportedly carries out its espionage in France using a program called ‘US-985D’ which is able to listen in on specific telephone calls and pick up on text messages according to key words used.
Moreover, Le Monde also wrote that it had reason to believe that the spying was not just limited to citizens suspected of being involved in terrorism. According to the data released by Snowden the NSA also eavesdropped on politicians and prominent business figures.
The newspaper did not give any indications as to the identity of the high-profile people.
France is not the only EU nation to be targeted by NSA surveillance. Germany took issue with the US government after it was revealed the NSA was tapping phone lines and recording electronic data in the country.
The EU will take steps to curtail US data mining on Monday in a vote to change data protection rules. The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties is expected to decide on the issue that would authorize fines for violation of EU data protection.
The US maintains that its spying activities are in the interests of national security and protect against terrorism. However, Snowden leaks released by Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald showed the NSA had monitored Brazilian state-owned oil giant Petrobras and infiltrated the electronic communications of the Brazilian and Mexican presidents.
Mexico has also demanded an explanation for reports released by Der Spiegel on extensive spying on Mexican top officials and politicians.
Der Spiegal revealed that former President Felipe Calderon had also been a target for NSA espionage. Citing a classified internal report, it said the US monitors “diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico’s political system and internal stability.”
If the sanctions against Iran are lifted, the Iranians will look mainly towards American firms in the oil and automobile sector to fill the gap, George Malbrunot, a journalist for French newspaper Le Figaro, told RT.
RT: Both Iran and the US are signaling a thaw in their political relations – what effect will it this have on economic ties and business? Does it look like the US is attempting to force out other companies from the Iranian market?
George Malbrunot: I think already there have been some secret contacts between US firms and Iranian counterparts in order to prepare, to anticipate the political deal between Iran and the United States. Mainly these contacts have occurred in the automobile sector. For the last year or more there have been some emissaries from General Motors, for example, going to Tehran to see their Iranian counterparts from Iran Khodro, in order to prepare the ground for the [return] of General Motors to Iran, which was very important before 1979.
So there are these kind of contacts with not only GM but other big US companies, also in the oil and gas sectors, which are very important in Iran, and it has been encouraged recently by the executive order that Barack Obama signed on June, 3, which prevents subcontractors dealing with Iranian firms in the automobile sector. And in fact this executive order was deeply targeting the French who are the only one now in the automobile sector in Iran, especially Renault, and the French contractors are very upset about that. And they interpret it as an attempt to clean the Iranian market before the return of US companies in Iran.RT: In your article, you say American companies are securing their positions on the Iranian market – how is this happening?
GM: For the last six months, we’ve heard from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomenei, that we are not any more opposed to direct contacts with the US. The businessmen are always more active in anticipating political deals and to anticipate change. During all these years of bad relations between Iran and the US there have always been some kind of secret contacts between US firms and Iranian firms. And mainly these contacts have been accelerated after the election of President Rouhani in Iran. And we’ve all seen at the last UN General Assembly in New York last month that now the Iranians are talking to the Americans. So there are preparations on the ground in order to go to Iran which is a huge market, 80 million consumers, with huge oil and gas resources, so it’s natural that US businessmen are watching very carefully the developments which happen between Iran and the US.
And not only US businessmen are very [eager] to go to Iran, but you have also the German businessmen, who have always been active, with Siemens for example, and even the British who have no diplomatic relations with Iran are now starting to [study] this market carefully. The Japanese are also very active. And unfortunately for us in France, we are perhaps the last in Europe to try to go to Iran, because for the last [few] years France was extremely active in fighting against Iran. France was exerting the pressure on Iran in order to implement the sanctions. So the French businessmen are very upset with what’s going on now, because for the last 20 years the US was [not in] Iran, and French businessmen had quite a good position in Iran – Total, Peugeot, Renault – and now they are afraid that all these years of efforts will be [wiped away] by the new deal which will happen between the US and Iran.
RT: Do you think we will be seeing an easing of sanctions against Iran soon?
GM: I think so, and the Iranians are a very proud nation and they have been always having very strange relations with Americans, love and hate, and once the sanctions will be lifted I’m quite sure the Iranians will look mainly toward American firms in the oil sector, in the automobile sector to fill the gap. So for sure European companies will be more probably losers in this kind of agreement.
I think that GM and even Chevrolet will go extremely quickly to Iran if there is a political agreement between the US and Iran, if the sanctions are lifted. I’m not sure that the Iranians will give a lot of pieces of the cake to French companies or others on this issue. And this is the reason why French companies are very worried about what’s going on in the shadow of this rapprochement between the US and Iran.
Pope Francis called on world leaders attending the G20 summit in Russia to seek peace in Syria through diplomatic means and to lay aside the “futile pursuit” of a military solution.
In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is hosting the G20 summit, Francis said that lopsided global interests have blocked a diplomatic course in the Syrian conflict and have led to the “senseless massacre” of innocent people.
“To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,” Francis wrote.
The letter follows an announcement earlier this week that the Vatican will host a vigil for peace in Syria in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday.
The Vatican outlined Thursday its position on Syria to ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.
“Confronted with similar acts one cannot remain silent, and the Holy See hopes that the competent institutions make clear what happened and that those responsible face justice,” the Vatican’s Foreign Minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, told the 71 ambassadors regarding the chemical weapons attack that took place outside Damascus on August 21. The US and its allies believe the attack was launched by the Syrian government.
Mamberti said the main priority was to stop the violence which he said is risking the involvement of other countries and creating “unforeseeable consequences in various parts of the world.”
He did not mention possible military strikes by the US, but stressed peace in all facets of a potential solution to the violent conflict.
In addition, Mamberti said the Vatican does not want Syria to be split up along ethnic or religious lines, and that Syrian minorities – including Christians – should have basic rights guaranteed, including freedom of religion.
The Assad regime in Syria has long supported ethnic and religious minorities including Christians, Shiite Muslims, and Kurds. The Assad family and many regime officials are Alawites, followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam, while most rebels and their supporters are Sunni Muslims.
On Wednesday, the head of the Vatican’s Jesuit order, Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, said that military action by the US and France would ultimately punish the Syrian people.
“I cannot understand who gave the United States or France the right to act against a country in a way that will certainly increase the suffering of the citizens of that country, who, by the way, have already suffered beyond measure,” he said.