From ministerial offices to barricades on the streets, Europe is in open revolt against anti-Russian sanctions which have cost workers and businesses millions of jobs and earnings. Granted, the contentious issues are wider than anti-Russian sanctions. However, the latter are entwined with growing popular discontent across the EU.
Germany’s vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel is among the latest high-profile politicians to have come out against the sanctions stand-off between the European Union and Russia.
At stake is not just a crisis in the economy, of which the anti-Russian sanctions are symptomatic. It is further manifesting in a political crisis that is challenging the very legitimacy of EU governments and the bloc’s institutional existence. The issue is not so much about merely trying to normalize EU-Russian relations. But rather more about preserving the EU from an existential public backlash against anti-democratic and discredited authorities.
Gabriel, who also serves as Germany’s economy minister, said that relations between the EU and Moscow must be quickly normalized. And he called for the lifting of sanctions that have been imposed since early 2014 as a result of the dubious Ukraine conflict. The EU followed Washington’s policy of slapping sanctions on Russia after accusing Moscow of «annexing» Crimea and interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs. The charges against Russia are tenuous at best and are far removed from the mundane pressing concerns of ordinary EU citizens, who are being made to bear a heavy economic price for a stand-off that seems unduly politicized, if not wholly unwarranted.
Russia responded to the sweeping sanctions by implementing counter-measures banning exports from the EU and the US. The stand-off has hit the European economies hardest, with the Austrian Institute of Economic Research estimating that the trade war will cost the EU over €100 billion in business and up to 2.5 million in jobs. By contrast, the US has scarcely felt a pinch from the trade impasse.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy with the largest trade links to Russia, has suffered most from the sanctions rift. Up to 30,000 German businesses are invested in Russia, amounting to as many as half a million jobs in danger and €30 billion in lost revenues, according to the Austrian Institute of Economic Research.
In one German state alone, Saxony-Anhalt, the local economy minister Jorg Felgner says that exports to Russia have been slashed by 40 per cent, with the loss of €200 million to his state. Felgner is among the growing chorus of EU voices who are calling for the anti-Russian sanctions to be lifted when the EU convenes in July to decide on whether to extend its embargo or not.
The EU has been reviewing its sanctions policy on Russia every six months since 2014. To extend the measures, a unanimous decision is required among all 28 member states. It looks increasingly unlikely that the EU will maintain its hitherto unanimity. It can be safely assumed that if Brussels were to end the sanctions, then Moscow will respond in kind to promptly resume normal trade with the bloc.
In addition to the country’s vice chancellor, Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also expressed disquiet with the ongoing EU-Russian tensions stemming from the sanctions. Steinmeier noted that «resistance to anti-Russian sanctions is growing across the EU».
He also reiterated dismay over a fundamental contradiction in EU policy objectives. «How can we expect Russia’s help in solving the Syrian crisis while at the same time imposing economic sanctions on Russia?» asked Steinmeier.
It’s not just Germany that is growing leery with the deterioration in relations with Russia. Hungary and Italy, which have also strong historic trade ties with Russia, are increasingly opposed to the EU’s policy towards Moscow, according to a recent Newsweek report.
Added to the maligned mix is Greece. The country’s six-year economic crisis has been greatly exacerbated by the loss of a once-bustling agricultural export business to Russia. The country’s finance minister Dimitrios Mardas attributed major losses specifically to the anti-Russian sanctions, which have piled on fiscal deficits to the teetering Greek economy. Greece is no isolated problem. It threatens to undermine the whole EU from its chronic bankruptcy.
In France, the National Assembly’s Lower House voted last week by 55 to 44 votes to end the EU sanctions on Russia. The vote is non-binding on the government of President Francois Hollande. Nevertheless, it demonstrates the growing popular opposition to what is widely seen as a self-defeating policy of trade antagonism with Russia.
The cancellation last year by the Hollande government of the Mistral dual helicopter-ship contract with Moscow epitomizes the self-inflicted pain on French workers. The cancellation – cajoled by Washington – cost the French government revenues of over €1.5 billion and has put thousands of shipyard jobs at risk. Paris claims to have since directed the ships’ order to Egypt, but that remains doubtful.
The economic losses from anti-Russian sanctions have rebounded severely on French farmers too. Dairy, meat, vegetable and fruit exports to the once lucrative Russian market have been pummeled. Hollande recently vowed to release €500 million in state aid to placate angry farmers. The absurdity is not lost on the French agricultural sector that such state handouts would not be necessary if the Hollande government hadn’t sabotaged Russian markets in the first place by following US hostility towards Moscow, as in the case of the Mistral fiasco.
France’s economic problems, as with the rest of Europe, are not entirely related to the downturn in relations with Russia. But there seems little doubt that the issues intersect and are compounded. And the public knows that.
Hollande – the most unpopular French president since the Second World War – is ramming through draconian labor reforms. The president and his truculent prime minister Manuel Valls claim that the retrenchment of workers’ rights will boost the economy and reduce France’s soaring unemployment rate of 10 per cent nationally and 25 per among French youth.
In opposition to the French government’s deeply unpopular assault on workers’ rights, the country is to observe nationwide strikes this week. The protests have been going on now for several months and seem set to escalate, as Hollande’s administration digs its heels in and refuses to relent.
Among students and farmers joining France’s nationwide strike are workers in the transport sectors of road haulage, rail, shipping and airports. With exports to Russia slashed due to the French government-backing of EU sanctions, the transport sectors are among the hardest hit. The Hollande government’s attempt to force through labor cuts, purportedly to reinvigorate the economy, is seen as it trying to offload responsibility for economic woes on to workers and businesses. If Hollande did not pick a fight with Russia – at Washington’s goading – then the country’s economy wouldn’t be under such duress.
Across Europe, the popular revolt against economic austerity is bound up with the EU’s self-defeating sanctions on Russia. And it is leading to a crisis of authority among EU governments who are held with increasing disdain by their citizens. More enlightened political leaders like Germany’s vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are obviously aware of the geopolitical connection that citizens are making.
As Europe’s economic crisis deepens, the policy of anti-Russian sanctions is tantamount to the EU cutting off its nose to spite its face. The growing public disaffection is also fueling the electoral rise of anti-EU political parties in Germany, France, Britain, Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and other member states.
Mainstream EU parties like the ruling coalition government in Berlin realize that the EU’s trade war with Russia is simply becoming untenable. It is an ideologically driven and dubious antagonism that the EU can ill-afford. That policy speaks to EU citizens of a political leadership that is losing legitimacy from its fundamentally wrongheaded and anti-democratic governance. As well as from slavish pandering to American hegemonic ambitions.
Brussels, in following Washington’s hostility to Moscow, is inflicting further economic pain on the bloc’s 500 million citizens. Something has to give way if Europe is not to implode, or explode, from popular fury. Normalizing relations with Russia is not the whole solution to Europe’s economic and political crises. But such a move would certainly alleviate. And is long overdue.
EU governments are thus facing a stark choice. Are they to continue on the path of destruction at Washington’s reckless behest, or can they find an independent policy of pursuing mutual relations with Russia? Undoing the crass anti-Russian sanctions is taking on an urgency – before such a policy leads to the undoing of the EU itself.
There is a simple explanation why Washington refuses to proscribe the militant groups Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham as terrorist. Because Washington relies on them for regime change in Syria.
Therefore, Washington and its Western and Middle East allies cannot possibly designate Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham as terrorist; otherwise it would be a self-indicting admission that the war in Syria is a foreign state-sponsored terrorist assault on a sovereign country.
This criminal conspiracy is understood by many observers as an accurate description of the five-year Syrian conflict and how it originated. Syria fits into the mold of US-led regime change wars in the Middle East and elsewhere. However, Washington and its allies, assisted by the Western corporate news media, have maintained a fictitious alternative narrative on Syria, claiming the war is an insurgency by a pro-democracy rebel movement.
That narrative has strained credulity over the years as the putative “secular rebels” have either vanished or turned out to be indistinguishable from extremist groups like al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra and so-called Islamic State (also known as Daesh).
Washington asserts that it only supports “moderate, secular rebels” of the Free Syrian Army. British Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed that there are 70,000 such “moderate rebels” fighting in Syria against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. But no-one can locate these supposed pro-democracy warriors.
All that can be seen is that the fight against the Syrian government is being waged by self-professed extremist jihadists who have no intention of establishing “democracy”. Instead, they explicitly want to carve out an Islamic state dominated by draconian Sharia law.
In addition to Jabhat al-Nusra and Daesh, the two other major militant groups, Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, are vehemently committed to forming a Caliphate based on Salafi or Wahhabi ideology. That ideology views all other religious faiths, including moderate Sunni Muslims, as well as Shia and Alawites, as “infidels” fit to be persecuted until death.
Leaders of both Jaysh and Ahrar have publicly declared their repudiation of democracy.
Yet these two groups are nominated as the Syrian “opposition” in the Geneva talks, as part of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC). The HNC was cobbled together at a summit held in the Saudi capital Riyadh in December ahead of the anticipated negotiations to find a Syrian political settlement.
The HNC is endorsed by Washington as official representatives of the Syrian opposition. It is supported by Saudi Arabia, or indeed more accurately, orchestrated by the Saudi rulers since the main components of the HNC are Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham. Other major sponsors of the militant groups are Qatar and Turkey.
Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Syria, also plays an important part in the charade of furnishing an opposition composed of extremists who demand the Syrian government must stand down as a precondition for talks. This maximalist position is one of the main reasons why the negotiations have come unstuck, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Another basic reason is that the HNC members have been involved in breaching the cessation of violence the US and Russia brokered on February 27, as a confidence-building measure to assist the talks process in Geneva.
That Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham have not observed the shaky ceasefire is a corollary of the fact that both groups are integrated with al-Qaeda-affiliated terror organizations, al Nusra and Daesh, which are internationally designated terrorist organizations.
The UN excluded al-Qaeda franchises from the ceasefire when it passed Security Council Resolution 2254 in December to mandate the purported Syrian peace talks. In that way, Syria and its foreign allies, Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have been legally entitled to continue offensive operations against the extremists in parallel to the Geneva process.
The offensive on the terror groups should include HNC members Jaysh and Ahrar. Both groups have publicly admitted to fighting alongside both Nusra and Daesh in their campaign against the Syrian army. All of these organizations have been involved at various times in bloody feuds and turf wars. Nevertheless, they are at other times self-declared collaborators.
Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are also well-documented to having engaged in massacres and barbarities as vile as the other higher profile terror outfits.
Only last week, Ahrar al-Sham was responsible for the massacre of women and children in the village of Al-Zahraa, near Aleppo, according to survivors. The group has carried out countless no-warning car bombings in civilians neighborhoods. It claimed responsibility for a bombing outside the Russian base at Idlib earlier this year, which killed dozens.
Jaysh al-Islam has publicly admitted using chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in recent weeks, also near Aleppo, Syria’s second city after the capital Damascus, and currently the key battleground in the whole conflict.
The same jihadist militia is allegedly linked to the chemical weapon atrocity in August 2013 in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, when hundreds of civilians, including children, were apparently killed from exposure to Sarin gas. That attack was initially blamed on Syrian government forces and it nearly prompted the Obama administration to order direct military intervention on the pretext that a “red line” was crossed. Until that is, Moscow steered a ground-breaking deal to decommission chemical weapons held by the Syrian state. It later transpired that the more likely culprit for the East Ghouta atrocity was the Jaysh al-Islam militants.
A former commander of the group, Zahran Alloush, once declared that he would “cleanse” all Shia, Alawites and other infidels from the Levant. Many Syrian civilians later rejoiced when the “terrorist boss” – their words – was killed in a Syrian air force strike on December 25. Notably, Saudi Arabia and Turkey vehemently protested over Alloush’s death.
It is irrefutable from both their actions and self-declarations that Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are by any definition terrorist groups. Certainly, Russia and Iran have officially listed both as such.
But not so Washington and its allies. Earlier this month, a Russian proposal at the UN Security Council to proscribe Jaysh and Ahrar was blocked by the US, Britain and France. An American spokesperson told the AFP news agency that it rejected the Russian motion because it feared the tentative Syrian ceasefire would collapse entirely. This is an unwitting US admission about who the main fighting forces in the Syrian “rebellion” are.
This week US Secretary of State John Kerry made an extraordinary claim which, as usual, went unnoticed in the Western media. Kerry said the US “still has leverage in Syria” because if the Syrian government does not accept Washington’s demands for political transition then the country would face years of more war.
Kerry’s confidence in threatening a war of attrition on Syria is based on the fact that the main terror groups are directly or indirectly controlled by Washington and its regional allies in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham are essential to the terror front that gives Washington its leverage in Syria. But the charade must be kept covered with the preposterous denial that these groups are not terrorists.
The violence in France today might be organized provocation, said Bruno Drweski, Nat. Inst. of Languages and Eastern Civilizations. It is easy to manipulate people’s discontent, especially in the current situation of hopelessness, he added.
A number of French cities were hit Thursday by violent protests over government plans to reform labor laws.
RT: Do you think the government will be forced to listen to the peoples’ demands?
Bruno Drweski: You really don’t know what the government will do. Anyway we have in France very strong discontent. To a certain extent the way the manifestations are unorganized, it’s helping the government in a certain way. There is no organized movement, organized strong social movement and organization against the law on labor regulation, which is very unpopular. So I don’t exclude the government is using violence as a pretext to force its policies.
RT: Following weeks of protests the French government still managed to survive a no-confidence vote, does that mean support for President [Francois] Hollande is still in a reasonable state?
BD: I think the government is forced to a certain extent to introduce this law because of the European Union laws. The French government has no real power anymore – it’s decided at the Brussels level. So they will be forced to organize that process of desocialization of the working laws. In that situation violence is helping them to a certain extent.
I don’t exclude even that quite a lot of that violence is a kind of organized provocation. And it is not only limited to France. Two or three years ago I met suburban militants, which were trained in the US by [George] Soros foundations to fight against what they call ‘French police violence’. So in a certain sense it has already been planned for a long time.
RT: And if it is working, do you think violence could escalate?
BD: Yes, of course it can escalate, because it is to a large extent an unorganized movement. And with an unorganized movement it is very easy for a provocation group to do what they want. You have a lot of people, and especially young people, which are strongly discontent about the situation in France. They tempt to violence.
It is very easy to manipulate their discontent, especially in the situation of hopelessness. And we are in a situation of hopelessness, because it is obvious that the French government doesn’t lead the policies in France. France is part of the globalization; France is part of the EU process; people know that the different political parties existing now in France are not able to change anything.
Israel’s latest display of misplaced ire at the UN Security Council has provided a succinct illustration of how criticism of settler colonialism, even by Israeli NGOs, remains a cloistered subject. Following a presentation by Yesh Din, in which the NGO’s legal adviser Michael Sfard presented statistical information regarding Israeli settler terror, both Sfard and Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, retaliated against Venezuelan Ambassador Rafael Ramirez’s criticism of their country’s slow extermination policies.
According to Haaretz, Ramirez challenged the UN Security Council to ponder the information, asking: “What does Israel plan to do with the Palestinians? Will they be disappeared? Is Israel trying to impose a ‘final solution’ on the Palestinians in the West Bank?”
Right-winger Danon — who has advocated punitive attacks on the civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip — promptly resorted to the clichéd “anti-Semitism” accusation: “These are blunt anti-Semitic statements coming from the Venezuelan ambassador towards the Jewish nation.”
According to Yesh Din’s lawyer, the Venezuelan ambassador’s use of the phrase ‘final solution’ is “offensive, angering and completely incorrect.” Sfard made this claim despite telling the Security Council: “Yesh Din vigorously and unequivocally condemns all human rights violations and all international law infractions. There can be no justification for attacks on civilians no matter who the perpetrators are and whatever the identity of the victim is.”
According to YNet news, the Israeli delegation demanded immediate condemnations following Ramirez’s remarks, and was gratified by the US, Britain and France issuing — predictably — “decisive” statements. Danon also called on Ramirez to apologise for his use of the phrase “final solution” with its obvious connotations with the Holocaust; his apology was met by a demand for a more public version.
Israel thrives upon the blatant contradiction of committing human rights violations openly and without remorse, while resenting criticism of such illegal actions. Furthermore, this episode at the UN is evidence of the cycle of hypocrisy plaguing such organisations which are, allegedly, standing up for Palestinian rights; they fail to act on the evidence, no matter how strong it is, and this exposes their allegiance to the colonial state of Israel as well as the terrorism of its illegal settlers. However, the tactic has now been perfected to project blame elsewhere to the point where logical condemnation of colonial violence is deemed to be offensive, but the violence itself isn’t. This is despite the fact that Israel is adhering publicly to the implementation of Zionism’s ideological goal of “Greater Israel” by continuing its territorial expansion, ethnic cleansing and — yes — slow extermination of the Palestinian population.
Ramirez’s comments expose Israeli state terror, incorporating historical memory and exposing a colonial cycle that has not yet reached its completion. Israel has applied various forms of human rights violations against Palestinians, all geared towards a system that leaves no recourse, thus isolating Palestinians and creating a perpetual implosion. State policies reflect impunity while Israeli ministers such as Naftali Bennett have spoken openly about “disappearing” Palestinians. Hence, nothing in Ramirez’s speech can be construed to be within any context other than that of the reality on the ground. If anything, the Venezuelan’s words portray an awareness that is common to both Palestine and South America, both having experienced colonial and imperialist violence.
Nobody should take offence at what was said by the ambassador from South America. The incident should be seen as an educational experience of how the interpretation of colonial violence through time has navigated the perpetually-changing circumstances and, as a response, carved out a niche that encourages selective remembrance and memory of genocide in order to allow for a new form of genocide to be carried out within the framework of the ambiguities of international law. As Rafael Ramirez has found to his cost, Israel is allowed to commit genocidal crimes with impunity; it is those who condemn them who have to apologise.
On March 23, 2011, at the very start of what we now call the ‘Syrian conflict,’ two young men – Sa’er Yahya Merhej and Habeel Anis Dayoub – were gunned down in the southern Syrian city of Daraa.
Merhej and Dayoub were neither civilians, nor were they in opposition to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They were two regular soldiers in the ranks of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).
Shot by unknown gunmen, Merhej and Dayoub were the first of eighty-eight soldiers killed throughout Syria in the first month of this conflict– in Daraa, Latakia, Douma, Banyas, Homs, Moadamiyah, Idlib, Harasta, Suweida, Talkalakh and the suburbs of Damascus.
According to the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the combined death toll for Syrian government forces was 2,569 by March 2012, the first year of the conflict. At that time, the UN’s total casualty count for all victims of political violence in Syria was 5,000.
These numbers paint an entirely different picture of events in Syria. This was decidedly not the conflict we were reading about in our headlines – if anything, the ‘parity’ in deaths on both sides even suggests that the government used ‘proportionate’ force in thwarting the violence.
But Merhej and Dayoub’s deaths were ignored. Not a single Western media headline told their story – or that of the other dead soldiers. These deaths simply didn’t line up with the Western ‘narrative’ of the Arab uprisings and did not conform to the policy objectives of Western governments.
For American policymakers, the “Arab Spring” provided a unique opportunity to unseat the governments of adversary states in the Middle East. Syria, the most important Arab member of the Iran-led ‘Resistance Axis,’ was target number one.
To create regime-change in Syria, the themes of the “Arab Spring” needed to be employed opportunistically – and so Syrians needed to die.
The “dictator” simply had to “kill his own people” – and the rest would follow.
How words kill
Four key narratives were spun ad nauseam in every mainstream Western media outlet, beginning in March 2011 and gaining steam in the coming months.
– The Dictator is killing his “own people.”
– The protests are “peaceful.”
– The opposition is “unarmed.”
– This is a “popular revolution.”
Pro-Western governments in Tunisia and Egypt had just been ousted in rapid succession in the previous two months – and so the ‘framework’ of Arab Spring-style, grass roots-powered regime-change existed in the regional psyche. These four carefully framed ‘narratives’ that had gained meaning in Tunisia and Egypt, were now prepped and loaded to delegitimize and undermine any government at which they were lobbed.
But to employ them to their full potential in Syria, Syrians had to take to the streets in significant numbers and civilians had to die at the hands of brutal security forces. The rest could be spun into a “revolution” via the vast array of foreign and regional media outlets committed to this “Arab Spring” discourse.
Protests, however, did not kick off in Syria the way they had in Tunisia and Egypt. In those first few months, we saw gatherings that mostly numbered in the hundreds – sometimes in the thousands – to express varied degrees of political discontent. Most of these gatherings followed a pattern of incitement from Wahhabi-influenced mosques during Friday’s prayers, or after local killings that would move angry crowds to congregate at public funerals.
A member of a prominent Daraa family explained to me that there was some confusion over who was killing people in his city – the government or “hidden parties.” He explains that, at the time, Daraa’s citizens were of two minds: “One was that the regime is shooting more people to stop them and warn them to finish their protests and stop gathering. The other opinion was that hidden militias want this to continue, because if there are no funerals, there is no reason for people to gather.”
With the benefit of hindsight, let’s look at these Syria narratives five years into the conflict:
We know now that several thousand Syrian security forces were killed in the first year, beginning March 23, 2011. We therefore also know that the opposition was “armed” from the start of the conflict. We have visual evidence of gunmen entering Syria across the Lebanese border in April and May 2011. We know from the testimonies of impartial observers that gunmen were targeting civilians in acts of terrorism and that “protests” were not all “peaceful”.
The Arab League mission conducted a month-long investigation inside Syria in late 2011 and reported:
“In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the observer mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.”
Longtime Syrian resident and Dutch priest Father Frans van der Lugt, who was killed in Homs in April 2014, wrote in January 2012:
“From the start the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”
A few months earlier, in September 2011, he had observed:
“From the start there has been the problem of the armed groups, which are also part of the opposition… The opposition on the street is much stronger than any other opposition. And this opposition is armed and frequently employs brutality and violence, only in order then to blame the government.”
Furthermore, we also now know that whatever Syria was, it was no “popular revolution.” The Syrian army has remained intact, even after blanket media coverage of mass defections. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians continued to march in unreported demonstrations in support of the president. The state’s institutions and government and business elite have largely remained loyal to Assad. Minority groups – Alawites, Christians, Kurds, Druze, Shia, and the Baath Party, which is majority Sunni – did not join the opposition against the government. And the major urban areas and population centers remain under the state’s umbrella, with few exceptions.
A genuine “revolution,” after all, does not have operation rooms in Jordan and Turkey. Nor is a “popular” revolution financed, armed and assisted by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the US, UK and France.
Sowing “Narratives” for geopolitical gain
The 2010 US military’s Special Forces Unconventional Warfare manual states:
“The intent of US [Unconventional Warfare] UW efforts is to exploit a hostile power’s political, military, economic, and psychological vulnerabilities by developing and sustaining resistance forces to accomplish US strategic objectives… For the foreseeable future, US forces will predominantly engage in irregular warfare (IW) operations.”
A secret 2006 US State Department cable reveals that Assad’s government was in a stronger position domestically and regionally than in recent years, and suggests ways to weaken it: “The following provides our summary of potential vulnerabilities and possible means to exploit them…” This is followed by a list of “vulnerabilities” – political, economic, ethnic, sectarian, military, psychological – and recommended “actions” on how to “exploit” them.
This is important. US unconventional warfare doctrine posits that populations of adversary states usually have active minorities that respectively oppose and support their government, but for a “resistance movement” to succeed, it must sway the perceptions of the large “uncommitted middle population” to turn on their leaders. Says the manual (and I borrow liberally here from a previous article of mine):
To turn the “uncommitted middle population” into supporting insurgency, UW recommends the “creation of atmosphere of wider discontent through propaganda and political and psychological efforts to discredit the government.”
As conflict escalates, so should the “intensification of propaganda; psychological preparation of the population for rebellion.”
First, there should be local and national “agitation” – the organization of boycotts, strikes, and other efforts to suggest public discontent. Then, the “infiltration of foreign organizers and advisors and foreign propaganda, material, money, weapons and equipment.”
The next level of operations would be to establish “national front organizations [i.e. the Syrian National Council] and liberation movements [i.e. the Free Syrian Army]” that would move larger segments of the population toward accepting “increased political violence and sabotage” – and encourage the mentoring of “individuals or groups that conduct acts of sabotage in urban centers.”
I wrote about foreign-backed irregular warfare strategies being employed in Syria one year into the crisis – when the overwhelming media narratives were still all about the “dictator killing his own people,” protests being “peaceful,” the opposition mostly “unarmed,” the “revolution wildly “popular,” and thousands of “civilians” being targeted exclusively by state security forces.
A man rides a bicycle near a building damaged during the Syrian conflict between government forces and rebels in Homs, Syria May 13, 2014 © Omar Sanadiki
Were these narratives all manufactured? Were the images we saw all staged? Or was it only necessary to fabricate some things – because the “perception” of the vast middle population, once shaped, would create its own natural momentum toward regime change?
And what do we, in the region, do with this startling new information about how wars are conducted against us – using our own populations as foot soldiers for foreign agendas?
Create our own “game”
Two can play at this narratives game.
The first lesson learned is that ideas and objectives can be crafted, framed finessed and employed to great efficacy.
The second take-away is that we need to establish more independent media and information distribution channels to disseminate our own value propositions far and wide.
Western governments can rely on a ridiculously sycophantic army of Western and regional journalists to blast us with their propaganda day and night. We don’t need to match them in numbers or outlets – we can also employ strategies to deter their disinformation campaigns. Western journalists who repeatedly publish false, inaccurate and harmful information that endanger lives must be barred from the region.
These are not journalists – I prefer to call them media combatants – and they do not deserve the liberties accorded to actual media professionals. If these Western journalists had, in the first year of the Syrian conflict, questioned the premises of any of the four narratives listed above, would 250,000-plus Syrians be dead today? Would Syria be destroyed and 12 million Syrians made homeless? Would ISIS even exist?
Free speech? No thank you – not if we have to die for someone else’s national security objectives.
Syria changed the world. It brought the Russians and Chinese (BRICS) into the fray and changed the global order from a unipolar one to a multilateral one – overnight. And it created common cause between a group of key states in the region that now form the backbone of a rising ‘Security Arc’ from the Levant to the Persian Gulf. We now have immense opportunities to re-craft the world and the Middle East in our own vision. New borders? We will draw them from inside the region. Terrorists? We will defeat them ourselves. NGOs? We will create our own, with our own nationals and our own agendas. Pipelines? We will decide where they are laid.
But let’s start building those new narratives before the ‘Other’ comes in to fill the void.
A word of caution. The worst thing we can do is to waste our time rejecting foreign narratives. That just makes us the ‘rejectionists’ in their game. And it gives their game life. What we need to do is create our own game – a rich vocabulary of homegrown narratives – one that defines ourselves, our history and aspirations, based on our own political, economic and social realities. Let the ‘Other’ reject our version, let them become the ‘rejectionists’ in our game… and give it life.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani
The British try out a new version of free speech
Political purges are not new. Trotsky was purged from the Soviet Communist Party and Ernst Rohm was purged by the Nazis. Currently we are witnessing the spectacle of “progressive” groups ostensibly dedicated to the cause of Palestinian rights turning on long time advocates of that cause because they are not viewed as sufficiently engaged in demonstrating that they are not anti-Semitic. Indeed, demonstrating one’s anti-anti-Semitic credentials seems to have become a sine qua non for establishing the bona fides of any friend of Palestine, apparently more important than actually doing anything for the Palestinians, who have been losing land continuously to the Israelis and regularly getting killed whenever they resist.
That the Palestinians have been victimized by the self-designated Jewish State funded by Jewish organizations and enabled through Jewish manipulation of America’s legislature and media would appear to be an irrelevancy to the self-righteous standard bearers adhering staunchly to what they choose to describe as their “anti-racist principles.” In a recent disagreeable incident involving the Students for Justice in Palestine at Stanford University a Nakba survivor Palestinian woman speaker was actually disinvited because it was feared that she might verbally challenge the legitimacy of the Zionist occupation of her former home. One wonders if the students would have censored an anti-Apartheid speaker from South Africa in a similar fashion in the 1980s?
I have sometimes noted how the Zionist conspiracy is international in nature, with hate crime legislation strictly enforced in places like France to sanction any criticism of Israel, which has been conveniently and incorrectly conflated with anti-Semitism. The latest focal point for making any critique of the Zionist enterprise unacceptable is Britain, and more particularly in the Labour Party, which once upon a time was viewed as the most progressive of the country’s three major parties. It also has long included Jewish Britons in senior party and government positions and is home to two formidable pressure groups, the Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement.
Some recent Labour Party history is required. In September 2015 Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the parliamentary Labour Party to replace Ed Milliband. Corbyn, who has a long history as a human rights advocate and anti-interventionist in his foreign policy views, was considered a long shot when he began his leadership campaign but eventually won with nearly 60% of the vote due to “anti-establishment” fervor similar to what is taking place in the United States currently. Along the way, his campaign was assailed by a number of Jewish organizations in Britain based on allegations that he was hostile to Israel.
Corbyn had indeed been outspoken on Middle East policy as a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, condemning the Israeli handling of the conflict in Gaza and denouncing what he describes as apartheid in Israel. He has supported a selective boycott of Israel and believes that weapons sales to it should be blocked. Asked by an interviewer in July 2015 why he had referred to both Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”, Corbyn replied, “I use it in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk. Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No. What it means is that I think to bring about a peace process, you have to talk to people with whom you may profoundly disagree … There is not going to be a peace process unless there is talks involving Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas and I think everyone knows that.”
Corbyn also supported the lifting of sanctions as part of a negotiated agreement to dismantle the Iranian nuclear program, and the initiation of steps to place Israel’s nuclear arsenal under Non-Proliferation controls. Though one would think that the statements were pretty mild stuff relatively speaking, Corbyn continues to be assailed as being tolerant of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party as a consequence.
Observers in Britain believe that much of the behind the scenes anti-Corbyn agitation within the Party is being orchestrated by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who wants to see Corbyn replaced by someone closer to his brand of political centrism. One longtime Blair supporter and major Labour donor David Abrahams apparently agrees, ending his financial support of the party over its alleged anti-Semitism, declaring it “a plague that has to be stamped out.”
Britain is going to the polls on Thursday in local and municipal elections. It is perhaps no coincidence that the attacks on Labour have intensified in the past several weeks and polls are now suggested that the Party might well lose “hundreds” of local government seats at least in part due to the apparent turmoil reflected in media coverage of the anti-Semitism issue.
The wave of attacks on Labour members deemed to be too hostile to Israel actually began in August 2015 with widely publicized but later discredited claims that the Oxford University Labour Club was dominated by anti-Semites. As it turned out, Alex Chalmers, the student who made the allegations, was a member of Britain’s Israel lobby. Currently it is being fueled by appearances in the national media by Israel’s Ambassador Mark Regev and also by former associates of Tony Blair who are demanding a thorough review of possible anti-Semitism within the party. They have focused on two Labour notables, Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone, “Red” Ken, who have been suspended over comments and social media postings relating to Israel.
Naz Shah, a member of Parliament, reportedly made a Facebook post before she was elected to office that copied a graphic of Israel superimposed on to a map of the United States with the message “Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict – Relocate Israel into United States” with the additional notation by Shah “Problem Solved,” a joke intended to demonstrate that if the U.S. and Israel love each other so much they should collocate, solving the Middle East conflict as a consequence. The graphic was copied from American professor Norman Finkelstein’s blog.
Shah has apologized four times for her transgression.
Ken Livingstone reportedly told the BBC that Adolph Hitler had supported Zionism in that he negotiated with German Zionists to transfer Europe’s Jews to Palestine in the event of a German Army defeat of the British in the Middle East, a victory that never materialized. Livingstone, well known for inserting his foot in his mouth, was, in fact correct in his comment, which he later declared as “historical” in nature. Under attack, Livingstone defended himself by declaring that the truth about Hitler and Zionism is “not taught in Israeli schools.”
Corbyn and other members of the Labour Shadow Cabinet have repeatedly stated that any party member who makes anti-Semitic or racist comments will be expelled. He has responded to the demands in the media and from within the party by initiating an official inquiry into possible racism headed by Shami Chakrabarti, a highly regarded former head of a civil rights charity called Liberty.
The disturbing aspect of the current purge underway in Britain is not only about racism, if that is indeed how one should define anti-Semitism. It is over the extent to which one can criticize the state of Israel without suffering consequences and also over the degree to which any such criticism should or can be equated with anti-Semitism. It is in the interest of Israel and its supports to make the two issues one and the same and they have had considerable success in making the distinction between the two largely invisible. Corbyn’s comments on the Middle East are decidedly progressive but not necessarily wrong. Naz Shah played with a graphic on Facebook expressing her views, which were not genocidal or racist, in a silly fashion that most Facebook users have likely emulated at one time or another. Ken Livingstone has a history of shooting from the lip and turning him into a whipping boy for an ill-advised comment that had no racist overtones or that did not in any way call for violence is more than a bit of overreach. None of the three attacked Jews either as an ethnicity or as a religion but they were criticized as if they had done so.
Critics of Israel in the United States, possibly to include the Stanford University Students for Justice in Palestine, should learn from what happens in Europe. Once you start your critique with an apology lest you offend someone you have already lost the argument. Refusing to listen to speakers who just might upset part of the audience is self-censorship, designed to go along to get along and in the end it is self-defeating. If you want to tie yourself in knots over avoiding the anti-Semitism label, which is routinely used to silence and destroy critics including yourself, you will never see a country called Palestine or a United States that is free from the manipulation by the Israel Lobby.
Supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have stormed Baghdad’s highly fortified, US established Green Zone, also home to the US Embassy, uninvited, the biggest in the world.
All staff of the Japanese, French, British, Australian, Jordanian, Emirates and Saudi Arabia Embassies have moved in to into the American Embassy, it is being reported.
Entrances have been reported sealed and tight security imposed to protect the Iraq Central Bank and other government banks, says an unconfirmed report. However, the Guardian contradicts stating that: “A guard at a checkpoint said the protesters had not been searched before entering. About ten members of the armed group loyal to Sadr were checking protesters cursorily while government security forces who usually conduct careful searches with bomb-sniffing dogs stood by the side.”
Moreover: “Rudaw TV showed protesters chanting and taking selfies inside the parliament chamber where moments earlier MPs had been meeting.”
As Al Jazeera explains: “It is the climax of weeks of political turmoil in Iraq that has seen MPs hold a sit-in, brawl in the parliament chamber and seek to sack the speaker, stalling Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s efforts to replace party-affiliated ministers with technocrats.”
The further chaos comes just two days after US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Baghdad in a situation so chaotic for the US’ puppet government that as the New York Times described it (28th April 2016) “… the political situation in Iraq has become so fluid that Mr. Biden’s team has sometimes been unsure whether officials he planned to meet with would still be in office when he arrived.”
America’s fortress Green Zone has been breached with thousands of protestors breaking in, with one shouting: “You are not staying here! This is your last day in the Green Zone”, according to Al Jazeera who reported that in Parliament: “… some rioters rampaged through the building and broke into offices, while other protesters shouted: “peacefully, peacefully” and tried to contain the destruction …”
Barbed wire was pulled across the road leading to the Green Zone exits: “preventing some scared lawmakers from fleeing the chaos.”
The hated US imposed and fortified Zone – which was simply central Baghdad for all to wander under Saddam Hussein has finally been breached after thirteen years. Where another period of chaos will end, who knows, but meanwhile diplomats cower in the US Embassy, as factions Iraqis patience finally runs out over the tragedy and disaster that is the US and UK’s illegally imposed “New Iraq.”
“Iraqis are very quick to revolt”, former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Tareq Aziz, told me in an interview before the invasion, listing the years and the fate of those the uprisings had been against. The decimation since has delayed a further one, but it seems it’s time has arrived.
As for the outcome, updates follow. As we have wondered before in these columns, Embassy roof time for the residents and guests of the US Ambassador – again? Vietnam’s spectre hovers?
Since the re-election on the 20th of March of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso for a controversial third term, the government of the Republic of Congo has been criticised by the international community for its alleged bombing of ‘civilian neighborhoods’, following post-election terrorist attacks in the country’s capital, Brazzaville. In reality, however, the West African nation is currently fighting the early stages of a US/French or NATO-backed insurgency – an attempt by NATO to destabilize a country moving closer to the BRICS sphere of influence. In this report, I examine the geopolitical and historical background of a West African political crisis of global significance.
In the aftermath of presidential elections on the 20th of March, which saw the controversial re-election of President Denis Sassou Nguesso with over 60 percent of the vote, there has been increasing instability in the Republic of Congo. Opposition candidates have vociferously contested the election results. This contestation has been encouraged by the French Government, the European Union, and the United States, who have all backed opposition candidates, in particular, Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, who came in second during the elections with 15% of the vote.
On the nights of the 4th and the 5th of April, terrorists attacked the country’s capital city Brazzaville killing seventeen people. Six police stations, two customs control stations, and the city hall were burned down. The terrorists were members of the Ninja Nsiloulhou organisation which is headed by Pastor Ntoumi, an old enemy of the president, and supporter of the losing opposition candidate Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas.
Brutal crackdown on civilians?
On the 5th of April immediately after the attacks, the Congolese military conducted an anti-terrorist operation in the region of Pool, in the South of the country – a stronghold of the Ninja Nsilouhou terrorists and their political representatives. The terrorists had fought against Sassou-Nguesso’s forces during the civil war of 1998 to 2002. The Ninja Nsilouhou militia are composed of sectarian adventurists and mercenaries with connections to American and French intelligence.
Pastor Ntoumi, who is from the majority Congo ethnic group, has formed a new and surprisingly well-equipped army the Forces armées républicaines pour l’alternance au Congo (FARLC), the Republican Armed Forces for Regime Change in Congo. Ntumi’s forces have no economic programme for change. They are, rather, more concerned with ousting the Northern Mbochi from power, the president’s ethnic group, a minority in the country.
Western imperial domination of Africa has traditionally relied on empowering minority ethnicities and tribes. However, over time, many of those regimes have overcome tribal divisions; thus depriving imperialism of the advantages of keeping subject nations divided. Although the Mbochi only constitute 12 percent of the country’s population, they occupy over 40 percent of government posts – a source of ethnic tension currently being instrumentalised by imperialism.
Amnesty International’s history of lies and war propaganda
Given the hostility of Western governments to the reelection of Sassou Nguesso, it should not be surprising to find that the first reaction of the French establishment media to the Congolese government’s crackdown on the Ninja terrorists came in the form of a condemnatory report by Amnesty International. The human rights organisation strongly condemned what it described as the bombing of civilian targets by the Congolese military. However, Amnesty International’s report admits that the organization did not have access to the area in question and that they have not been able to confirm any of the accusations made by their anonymous sources in the Pool region.
The government of the Republic of Congo has issued a firm condemnation of Amnesty International’s report, stating that the dossier is not based on any evidence. Furthermore, Amnesty’s accusations have been contradicted by the Catholic humanitarian organization Caritas – who have also visited Pool and have not documented any military targeting of civilians. One of the lies told by Amnesty International about the Congolese military operation in Pool has already been exposed.
The human rights organisation claimed that a primary school in Soumouna was bombed. However, photographs dated from the 18th of April prove that the school was not bombed. One of the key ‘sources’ for Amnesty’s report is Monsignor Louis Portella, a close confidante of Pastor Ntumi, the aforementioned terrorist tracked by the Congolese military.
Amnesty’s report has provided ammunition for the opposition’s anti-Nguesso rhetoric , who are referring to the anti-terrorist operation in Pool as “genocide.” Although widely considered to be a reliable, objective and respectable organisation, Amnesty International has a long history of legitimising war propaganda on behalf of the United States and its allies.
The human rights group was instrumental in the assassination of Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkumra when he was being targeted by the CIA. Amnesty International have been accused of complicity in Nkumra’s assassination; they have also been accused of complicity in the death of Patrice Lumumba, first president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Zbigniew Brzezinski (former U.S National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter) was among the former board members of Amnesty International; this was at a time when the human rights organisation was publishing reports condemning the democratic government of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the CIA-backed Mujahadeen, part of Brzezinski’s ‘Arc of Crisis’ strategy, massacred the Afghan population with little or no criticism from Amnesty International.
Amnesty International’s record in exposing the crimes of Zionism is no better; the organisation helped cover up Israeli massacres in Shabra, Shatila, and Jenin in 1982.
In 1986, the human rights organisation published a damning report against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua which was used by the Reagan administration to justify more aid to the contra terrorists who would eventually destroy that country.
In the run-up to the Gulf War in 1991, Amnesty International colluded with the US military in orchestrating a fake story about Iraqi soldiers taking 312 newborn babies out of incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals and throwing them on the floor. The story, which shocked the world, provided the propaganda the US government needed to bomb Iraq – a bombing followed by crippling sanctions that murdered over 500,000 babies; it was the beginning of the destruction of the Middle East’s wealthiest and most advanced countries. The story was entirely fabricated by the US military. Amnesty International was the key agency behind the fraud – a dirty lie created to justify war and genocide.
Amnesty International colluded in the demonisation of Hugo Chavez by US-backed Putschists in the run-up to the 2002 coup in Venezuela. During years of brutal Apartheid rule in South Africa, Amnesty never condemned the brutal racist system.
In 2011, Amnesty International validated fake reports of ‘African mercenaries’ in Libya who were said to be committing massacres. The reports, entirely fabricated, were used to justify war against Africa’s richest and most democratic nations, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and an ongoing refugee crisis of catastrophic proportions.
Since the outbreak of NATO’s war against Syria, Amnesty International has produced nothing but lies and calumny against the democratic institutions of the Syrian Arab Republic. With a record like that, it is hardly surprising to find Amnesty International publishing another damning report against an African government Western imperialism is attempting to overthrow by force. (Read more here)
Why must Sassou Nguesso go?
Although nominally independent from France since 1958, the republic of Congo did not embark upon a true path of independence until the accession to power of Marien Ngouabi in 1968. For 9 years until his assassination in 1977, Ngouabi laid the basis for Africa’s first socialist state. The charismatic communist leader managed to align the People’s Republic of Congo with both the USSR and China, in spite of the ideological split between the Soviet revisionists and Maoist China.
Ngouabi also formed close links with Cuba. The communist revolutionary, who had an advanced degree in physics, was passionate about education and was arguably the greatest leader of African national liberation; but the dream came to a tragic and abrupt end in 1977 when he was murdered by a group of army officers most likely led by Joachim Yhombi-Obango; the assassination had the blessing of French and American intelligence. Both countries resumed diplomatic relations with Congo-Brazzaville immediately after Ngouabi’s murder.
Opango was deposed in 1978 by Denis Sassou-Nguesso; the new leader collaborated to a large extent with French neocolonial interests – a policy euphemistically referred to as ‘la Françafrique.’ Rumours about Nguesso’s role in the murder of Ngouabi have proliferated over the years, but there is still no conclusive evidence linking him to the communist leader’s death.
With the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the French government forced the Congolese state to open up to multi-party-ism – a disastrous policy which led to the highly corrupt reign of French puppet Pascal Lissouba until Denis Sassou-Nguesso resumed power again in 2002 after a four-year civil war. Over the last decade, President Nguesso has brought the country closer to China, Russia, Brazil, and Cuba – old cold war allies (Brazil excepted) in anti-colonialist struggle.
Building blocks of independence
Although Denis Sassou-Nguesso is certainly no angel and his regime may be guilty of serious crimes over the years, he does have some notable achievements under his belt; he has managed to restore peace to a war-torn country. His government has also overseen a period of steady economic growth. President Sassou Nguesso has initiated major economic projects designed to build up the country’s industrial base. In the next few months, an oil pipeline between Point Noire, Brazzaville and Oyo will be built by the Russian government. Moscow will also help construct two major hydroelectric dams in Sounda and Cholet. The Sounda region in the isolated north of the country is now connected with a new highway.
The Sassou-Nguesso administration has overseen significant advances in transport provision. Brazzaville’s state-of-the-art Maya Maya airport hosts a largely state-owned airline EC AIR, providing new direct transport routes to major world commercial destinations such as Dubai. The Maya Maya airport is set to become the biggest and busiest airport in Central Africa. The upgrading of the airport was carried out by Chinese company Weihei International, Economic and Technical Cooperative Co.Ltd.
In Pointe Noir, the country’s second principal city, the Augustino Neto airport is currently under construction. On the 22nd of February 2016, the Congolese government signed a contract with the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), for the construction of a new deep sea port in Pointe Noire. The port is expected to lead to significant economic development in the country. At the contract signing, the Chinese ambassador to the Republic of Congo reiterated his country’s commitment to the industrialization of the Congolese economy.
New road networks are under construction throughout the country. A monumental road and rail bridge is will connect Brazzaville and Kinshasa, as part of the Trans-African Highway Network. The Chinese are reportedly planning the construction of a new railway line from Brazzaville in the South to Ouesso in the North and from Djambala in the centre of the country to Pointe Noire on the coast; the project promises to be a major boost to trade and industrial development.
Many new public administration buildings are under construction in the country’s capital as part of the government’s drive to strengthen the efficiency of state institutions, improving public services and affirming national sovereignty. Sassou-Nguesso’s administration also intends to construct a 4 km bridge across the Congo River connecting Brazzaville to Kinshasa, capital of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Congolese government plans to reduce dependence on oil export revenues by developing its agricultural industry. Meetings between the Congolese minister of agriculture and his Brazilian counterpart took place in both Brazil and the Republic of Congo in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Japan has also significantly increased investment in the Congolese Republic agribusiness.
As part of its preparations for hosting the Panafrican Music Festival, new cultural centres, theatres and cinemas are scheduled to be built. The new Sports Complex currently under construction in Kintélé will enable the country to host events of international stature, increasing investment revenue and promoting job creation.
Although modest, the Congolese government has shown some commitment to reducing poverty by building over 10,000 new social units. The country, which currently has only one university named after Marien Ngouabi, is soon to have another when the Denis Sassou Nguesso university is completed in Kintele.
Sassou-Nguesso’s administration has initiated an ambitious project to provide free potable water to the country’s population. The project named ‘Water for All’ is being implemented in conjunction with Brazilian company Asperbras – one of the world’s leading specialists in the provision of public service infrastructure and heavy industry equipment. Asperbras is also constructing fourteen top-class hospitals throughout the country as part of the government’s project ‘Health for All‘.
Since the visit by Brazilian president Lula Ignacio da Silva to Brazzaville in 2007 (he opened Brazil’s first embassy in the country) Brazzaville and Brasilia have strengthened ties. There have been several visits by Congolese ministers to Brazil and the presidents of the two countries have met twice since 2012.
Nguesso’s government has benefited from significant Chinese investment in the oil industry. The Chinese have also invested in the construction of major industrial projects such as the business center in Mpila, and impressive viaducts in Brazzaville and Talangai.
Although the ruling Party of Labour abandoned their adherence to Soviet revisionist Marxism-Leninism in 1992, embracing official social-democracy and multi-party politics, Nguesso has continued to maintain strong ties with left-leaning countries such as Cuba, Brazil, China, and Russia.
The Western media portray Nguesso as a corrupt, power-hungry dictator siphoning off the country’s resources for his own clan or tribe, and some of these accusations may, in fact, be true. But the infrastructural projects mentioned above show that the country is building the basis of national independence through Chinese, Russian, and Brazilian investment in heavy industry. Such investment threatens Western neocolonial interests; those interests require the maintenance of Africa in a state of constant underdevelopment and dependence so that its natural resources can be pillaged by Western corporations.
Nguesso’s ties with Cuba go back to the Cold War era when the Caribbean nation played a key role in African liberation struggles – a fact acknowledged by Nelson Mandela. Cuba’s socially-oriented economy has been subject to incessant demonisation for over half a century by the international corporate press, but not even they can deny the extraordinary achievements of the Cuban government in the provision of free education and health care of the highest standard.
The Republic of Congo’s Party of Labour has shown some fidelity to Ngouabi’s Marxist principles by sending 280 students to Havana to train as doctors. Cuban educators have been invited to the Congo to bring pedagogical methodologies with a view to improving the country’s education system.
The Empire’s strategic horizon: war
In April 2012, the French Ministry of Defense published a report ‘Horizons stratégiques’ that described the future of French interests in Africa. The report stated that competing powers such as China, India, Russia and Brazil, coupled with the rise of Pan-Africanist nationalism, pose the greatest threat to French interests on the continent.
The report indicates that problems such as ethnic conflict and religious terrorism will require the continued military presence of French troops in Africa and that those troops will liaise, not with sovereign states, but local private contractors. In other words, the future of French neocolonial interests in Africa depends on the fomentation of civil wars and the total privatisation of African nation-states.
Over the past 5 years, I have maintained that Western imperialism in this era is proceeding on the basis of leftist symbology. The CIA-backed Arab Spring people-power coups of 2011 testify to that fact. But the Arab Spring was only the beginning. Mathieu Pigasse the director of the Lazard Bank, confidante of President Hollande, and proprietor of the newspaper Le Monde, stated in 2012 that he wanted to see the Arab Spring ideology spread all over Africa. French companies, he argued, would in future only deal with ”civil society” organisations, rather than ”corrupt” African governments. What that ultimately means is that the oligarch Pigasse wants to see all African nation-states erupt in chaos so that their resources can be privatised by Western banks and corporations in the name of freedom, democracy, and the oligarchy’s newest slogan ‘popular revolution’.
The pseudo-leftist opposition media in France have been at the forefront of disinformation about the Republic of Congo. They frequently express outrage at the French government for supporting such a ‘genocidal’ regime in Africa, when in fact the French and U.S. governments are supporting its opponents.
We have already mentioned the lies validated by Amnesty International about Colonel Gaddafi’s recruitment of ‘African mercenaries’ who were reported to have massacred ‘peaceful demonstrators’ during the 2011 insurgency in Libya.
Similar stories have recently been concocted by powerful French interests. But some of those lies have backfired. The former director of the French giant oil company ELF Loïc Le Floch-Prigent and his lawyer Norbert Tricaud have been brought before a French court for defamation after they claimed French mercenary Patrick Klein had been recruited by the Congolese government to massacre political opponents. Klein has denied the accusations and taken Le Floch-Prigent to court for defamation.
It is interesting to note that attorney Norbert Tricaud has managed to recruit the granddaughter of Marien Ngouabi in his campaign to accuse President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of her grandfather’s assassination; yet in his interviews,Tricaud completely ignores the role of the CIA and French intelligence in Ngouabi’s murder. Nor is there any mention of the fact that Ngouabi’s French wife, the grandmother of Tricaud’s client, was in fact a French spy! No French or American officials have ever been prosecuted for the assassination of African leaders, in spite of the fact that the secret agencies of the United States and France were behind the murder of dozens of African revolutionaries and heads of state.
Tricaud claims, in one of his interviews, to be a lawyer engaged in the struggle against slavery and indigenous rights. He refers repeatedly to the government of Sassou-Nguesso as a ‘dictatorship’ notwithstanding the fact that Sassou-Nguesso’s administration was the first in Africa to pass laws giving rights to indigenous pygmy peoples, who for centuries have been enslaved by Bantou colonial settlers. It is important to study the deceptive methodology used by people like Tricaud. He appears to be critical of Western foreign policy of propping up of dictators in Africa, while simultaneously promoting imperial military intervention in the guise of humanitarianism.
On his Facebook page Norbert Tricaud (the man determined to find out who killed the communist revolution Marien Ngouabi) boasts of lobbying on behalf of the ultra-right wing General Mokoko with an advisor of US Secretary of State John Kerry, and various ‘NGOS’. Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko attempted a coup d’Etat against the government of the Republic of Congo earlier this year and claimed to have the French government on his side.
A video posted on line shows Mokoko in the offices of Sylvain Maier planning a coup d’etat against Sassou-Nguesso with DGSE (French secret service) agent. In the film, the French secret service agent warns Mokoko” if you betray me, I’ll kill you” The DGSE agent hands over flight tickets and an envelope of cash to Mokoko. The DGSE agent explains how French intelligence will orchestrate the media coverage of the coup d’etat so as to convince Congolese citizens that Mokoko is a democrat. He also explains how French intelligence will organise the post-coup state of emergency and military curfew, joking that ”most African’s are cowards” and will turn to the Putschists for protection.
The video was shot in the offices French lawyer Sylvain Maier, who has been prosecuted for money laundering.
Radio France Internationale, French state media, were able to confirm the authenticity of the video and did their best to distract from the disgraceful proof of the French neo-colonial conspiracy by claiming that the document was being used by the dictator to discredit a ‘serious’ opponent.
Also on his Facebook page, Tricaud calls for a ‘humanitarian corridor’ in Pool, to ‘protect civilians’. The phrase ‘humanitarian corridor’ was coined by Dr. Bernard Kouchner in 1968, when France was attempting to create a client state in Biafra, Nigeria. Kouchner, who had set up ‘Doctors without Borders’ called for such a corridor to be established in the country so as to help the civilians allegedly bombed by the Nigerian government. Ultimately thousands of weapons were smuggled in ambulances to the French-backed insurgents.
Norbert Tricaud recently joined a delegation of 19 Congolese politicians to lobby the US congress and the National Endowment for Democracy, a think tank closely linked to the CIA and a chief sponsor of ‘civil society’ led ‘popular uprisings’. These meetings prove that US/French-backed regime change in Brazzaville is now at an advanced stage of planning. Denis Sassou-Nguesso will indubitably become the next African leader to face mass media demonization and information warfare as a proxy war of aggression waged by mercenaries in the pay of France and the United States looks increasingly likely.
Sassou-Nguesso’s emphasis on heavy industry, public infrastructure, strengthening the authority and role of the state, while attracting more investment from emerging global powers, are the factors that have made him an enemy of the Empire. In his inauguration speech, Denis Sassou Nguesso pledged to combat corruption and nepotism. He said this term would be the beginning of a major rupture with the past. The Congolese president may have been referring to the fact that the balance of power in the world is shifting in favour of China, Russia, and the BRICS world order, and that such a seismic shift in the distribution of imperial power is good news for Africa.
Although, French government representative Jean-Luc Borloo unctuously described the president’s speech as a ”monument of vision,” it is clear that the French government and media establishment are backing the pseudo-opposition and their terrorist militia in a desperate attempt to save the old, crumpling, and utterly rotten colonial order.
The current concrete choice facing the people of Congo Brazzaville is relative peace and economic progress under Sassou Nguesso or chaos, war and death under his Western-backed opponents.
Congolese citizens would be well advised to ignore the Western-backed conspiracy theories surrounding Marien Ngouabi’s death and follow instead the path of Sassou Nguesso, who, despite his many shortcomings and alleged crimes, is doing more to revive the spirit of Marien Ngouabi than any of his opponents. The question now is not who killed Ngouabi but who among the country’s youth will fulfill his legacy.
In a remarkable spectacle of money-grubbing over arms deals, this month saw a parade of Western leaders jettisoning any pretense of upholding vaunted “liberal values” to court despotic Mideast regimes.
Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister who sent liberal hearts aflutter when he was elected in November, with his espousal of feminism among other progressive causes, is the latest Western leader to show where real priorities lie. Trudeau signed off on an $11 billion deal with Saudi Arabia to export armored vehicles to the blood-soaked repressive regime.
With astounding cynicism, the 44-year-old Canadian premier said he was duty-bound to fulfill the arms contract drawn up by the previous administration as “a matter of principle” in order to demonstrate that his country’s “word means something in the international community.”
This week also saw US President Barack Obama in Saudi Arabia where he glad-handed King Salman and other Gulf monarchs, lauding them as partners in maintaining regional stability and fighting against terrorism. Conspicuously, Obama made little or no mention of human rights violations in the oil-rich kingdom where mass beheadings are a common method of capital punishment.
Western media talked about “strained relations” between Obama and his Saudi hosts. But underlying the superficial optics it was business as usual. Big business. US military affairs publication Defense One reported that high on Obama’s agenda was securing a $13 billion contract for warships and submarine-hunting helicopters with the House of Saud.
Before Obama touched down in Riyadh, his administration had angered American families by announcing that it would veto a bill going through Congress that could enable relatives of the 9/11 terror attacks to sue the Saudi rulers for their alleged involvement in sponsoring that atrocity. The topic didn’t even arise for discussion during Obama’s visit, indicating the president’s real concerns in meeting the Saudi and other Gulf rulers.
France has also nabbed market share from Western rivals in the Persian Gulf where over the past year Paris has sold billions of dollars’ worth of its Rafale fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Similar prevarication over human rights is brazenly shown by the British government of David Cameron in its arms dealing with Saudi Arabia and the wider region. The Saudi-led war in Yemen has been a boon for British sales of bombs and missiles, even though as many as 9,000 Yemenis have been killed over the past year, many of them civilians from aerial bombing by Saudi warplanes.
Britain’s foreign minister, Philip Hammond, has dismissed condemnations by human rights groups in regard to Yemen, claiming that British weapons exports meet tough standards of international law. Britain, like Canada and other Western governments, makes the cynical claim that its military exports are not used for “internal repression” and that if it is proven that weapons are being used to kill civilians in Yemen then trade licenses will be canceled.
So what is Saudi Arabia dropping on Yemen? Cuddly British-made toys?
Duplicity of Western governments doing business with despotic regimes is nothing new. The Middle East’s absolute monarchs have long been a staple of American and other Western so-called “defense industries.” In 2010, the Obama administration signed a $60 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia – the biggest in US history.
During the 1980s, Britain under Margaret Thatcher won a comparable mammoth contract with Saudi Arabia known as the Yamamah deal.
Massive arms sales to tyrannical regimes give the real meaning to hackneyed euphemisms spouted by the likes of Obama, Cameron, Hollande and Trudeau, when they cite “regional partners for stability.” What they mean by stability is uninterrupted orders for weapons.
What is new, though, is the lack of discretion in how the West now pursues arms deals in the Mideast.
Western governments are apparently falling over themselves to bid for business. Yet this unseemly rush for arms selling is sharply at odds with not only intensifying repression within Middle Eastern “partner” regimes; it has also become abundantly clear that some of these same regimes are directly responsible for sponsoring terrorism in the region. The case of Saudi Arabia and its sponsorship of Wahhabi terror proxies in Syria, Libya and Iraq is perhaps the most glaring.
Part of the burgeoning Western race for arms business is related to the historical demise of their capitalist economies and the emergence of military industries as key components in whatever remains of gutted manufacturing sectors.
No doubt, critics will point out that Russia is also a major arms supplier to Middle Eastern regimes. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Russia is indeed a prominent weapons exporter to the region and globally.
However, there is an important distinction. Western governments never cease to proclaim democracy, human rights and international law as foundational policies. Washington, London, Paris and so on continually invoke such rights as criteria by which they sanction, censure and even invade other countries to ostensibly uphold.
What is therefore more transparent than ever from Western countries soliciting arms deals in the Middle East is their shameless, sordid hypocrisy.
That Canada’s fresh face of “liberal values,” Justin Trudeau, has joined the throng of Western leaders cutting deals with tyrants and dictators just goes to show how cosmetic Western noble pretensions are.
Why should citizens in these countries believe anything that their governments tell them on any issue? Their governments all too evidently do not have a scrap of integrity or principle.
Official Western treachery, duplicity and hypocrisy have become a chronic condition that is no longer veiled by lofty rhetoric, as it once was. So-called liberal values are being stabbed in the back – left, right and center.
The longstanding Israeli/Palestinian peace process is the greatest hoax in modern times, repeating on and off for decades, dead-on-arrival each time, accomplishing nothing.
Obama hopes to lay the groundwork for another round of sham talks after he leaves office. France proposed an international conference in Paris this summer, presenting general ideas and principles only. Solutions remain elusive.
Months of John Kerry’s mediated talks collapsed in April 2014. America is no honest broker, one-sidedly supporting Israel, spurning Palestinian rights.
France’s position is no different. Israel rejects Palestinian self-determination. Liberation depends on resistance, not more talks achieving nothing.
A Paris meeting later this week is expected to involve high-level international diplomats, according to Palestinian ambassador to France Salman al-Harfi.
Israeli and Palestinians representatives aren’t attending. Objectives include agreeing on a way to achieve Palestinian statehood within pre-1967 borders, Jerusalem as a shared capital for both states, and resolving the right of return issue.
Mahmoud Abbas’ draft Security Council resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlements was withdrawn. It wasn’t a serious effort in the first place, having no chance to pass.
Netanyahu criticized the French initiative. Israel rejects Palestinian self-determination. It wants full control over future talks – to manipulate them to its advantage.
It long ago declared Jerusalem its exclusive capital, categorically rejects the right of diaspora Palestinians to return home.
It wants endless war and turbulence. Peace and stability defeat its imperial aims.
On Saturday, it approved stealing another 1,250 acres of privately owned Palestinian land, declared “state land” under full military control.
It’s intended for expanding illegal settlements – more proof Israel wants continued conflict, not peace.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”