In an interview with Vox last month Barack Obama said: ‘We occasionally have to twist the arms of countries that wouldn’t do what we need them to do.’ He elaborated, stating that “if it weren’t for the various economic or diplomatic or, in some cases, military leverage that we had — if we didn’t have that dose of realism, we wouldn’t get anything done, either.”
Thanks to a cache of intelligence cables that were leaked to the Guardian, we now have an example of one such occasion. The leaked documents revealed that Barack Obama once “threatened” Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. This was in relation to the 2012 bid by the Palestinian Authority to seek ‘non-member observer status’ at the United Nations. The article states:
A South African state security agency report from November 2012 records a Palestinian intelligence officer handing over a memo detailing a phone call made by the US president to the Palestinian leader “where President Obama threatened President Abbas if he goes ahead with the UN bid”.
Abbas pressed ahead with the application to the UN, and a fortnight later the general assembly backed the bid, which smoothed the way for the Palestinians to attempt to bring cases against Israel at the international criminal court.
The nature of Obama’s threat isn’t expanded upon in the cables, however that the administration sought to punish Abbas and the Palestinians for seeking to use the appropriate and legal international bodies as a means of establishing their state says a lot about the White House’s disregard for democracy and human rights – despite the constant invoking of such principles by the administration as a reason for bombing non-compliant nations, or applying sanctions etc.
Surely this proves once and for all that the U.S. is not a neutral mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. If anyone needs to be threatened, Obama should be telling Netanyahu that he will no longer be receiving $3 billion of aid every year until Israel proves itself willing to return to the pre-1967 borders, and commit to a meaningful resolution to the conflict.
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When I first heard Obama actually admitting to twisting arms, I immediately thought of the US’s insistence that the EU impose sanctions on Russia following the downing of MH17 last summer. Despite – almost a year later – no investigation apportioning blame having been published, within hours of the crash Obama had proclaimed Vladimir Putin to be personally responsible. New sanctions were implemented, and the EU soon followed suit. This definitely seemed like a case of arm-twisting; Joe Biden even said that the White House had had to “embarrass” European leaders into imposing the sanctions.
For months now the behaviour of Angela Merkel and others has been so at odds with reality, that blackmail seems like the only credible reason for this. It seems like the NSA certainly picked up some good dirt on Merkel while bugging her phone. When she and Hollande flew to Moscow to meet with Putin in January, the lack of an American or British presence was telling. So was the fact that the three leaders spoke for hours without aides. Then, when Merkel visited the White House the week after, some incriminating photographs of her with a group of skinhead/neo-Nazi types were published only hours before she and Obama met. Anonymous took credit for this, however due to the decentralized nature of the group, it would be possible for anyone with an agenda to have published these photos on behalf of the hacker collective.
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Obviously this is all just speculation, but as Obama has admitted to using coercive means to achieve his objectives – as is evidenced by his threatening of Mahmoud Abbas – it seems likely that he and his administration have issued threats to the EU.
Thus the lofty statements made by the White House, State Department etc alluding to the importance of democratic principles, self-determination, human rights, freedom of speech and so on become rather meaningless when these are not backed up by actions to support them.
Sadly there is another parallel to be drawn from the current situations in Palestine and Ukraine. While Russia receives sanctions for its so-called “annexation” of Crimea – despite the peninsula voting overwhelmingly to rejoin its homeland – Israel receives billions of dollars in aid every year to maintain their occupation of Palestine, when it can be guaranteed that given the choice, no Palestinian would choose to live under Israeli rule.
China has announced it will deploy 700 troops to South Sudan, as part of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the fledgling nation. This is the first time Chinese infantry troops have participated in a UN mission; previously the country has contributed engineers, transportation and medical workers. RT reports:
The battalion will be equipped with drones, armored infantry carriers, antitank missiles, mortars, light self-defense weapons, bulletproof uniforms and helmets, among other weapons “completely for self-defense purpose,” commander Wang Zhen said, Xinhua reported.
The deployment comes as CNPC has signed an agreement with oil-rich South Sudan to “stabilize and increase crude output” in the three blocks in the northeastern African country, officials said Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“CNPC will … work with the operators of three blocks to increase crude production in South Sudan, and provide relevant training to the technicians from the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining,” the company said in a statement.
Oil production has fallen by one-third since a civil war broke out in the country last December, after President Salva Kiir accused the then-Prime Minister Riek Machar of plotting to overthrow him.
South Sudan is the world’s youngest state, having gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. China has invested heavily in South Sudan’s oil fields, and the civil war that has ravaged the country for the past twelve months is largely viewed as a proxy war being waged on China by the US. Wikileaks documents have shown that both sides of the conflict are on the CIA’s pay roll, and America is easily circumventing the UN’s arms embargo by going through neighbouring Ethiopia.
The US’s only objective in South Sudan is to deprive China of Africa’s natural resources, therefore China’s decision to now send its own forces to guard the oil fields is an interesting turn of events. China’s long-term foreign policy is one of non-interference in other countries affairs, however it looks like the emerging superpower – having now overtaken the US as the world’s largest economy – is finally going to start defending its interests abroad. It is highly unlikely that China will be involving itself in various conflicts, but this new move shows that it is not going to allow America to continue sabotaging its investments.
This new assertiveness has also been made evident through the recent news that China offered military assistance to Iraq, at the UN general assembly in September. As the world’s largest net importer of crude oil and with several state-owned energy companies working in the war-torn country, China has a particular interest in Iraq’s stability. This is also true of Syria, as China has already pledged to invest heavily in post-war reconstruction efforts.
Therefore, while Xi’s government is likely to maintain its peaceful foreign policy strategy, China – like everyone else – can see the havoc being waged all over the world by the US in order to maintain its global hegemony. However with the imperial dollar in decline, coercive diplomacy is no longer viable, and a multipolar world is now all but inevitable.
It’s often pointed out that the US/UK policy towards the Middle East and our ‘War on Terror’ is highly hypocritical. Our politicians cosy up with the Gulf monarchies – undoubtedly the most oppressive regimes in the world – and trip over themselves to please Israel, whilst simultaneously condemning the more liberal countries in the region.
An often-quoted example of this double standard is the lack of acknowledgment by the Bush administration – or indeed any high-ranking US politician – that the majority of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, not Afghanistan. However not only is the KSA the birthplace of al-Qaeda, the country’s population are indoctrinated with the intolerant Wahhabi breed of Islamic fundamentalism from a young age.
Schoolbooks in Saudi Arabia are written entirely from a religious perspective: teaching creationism, as well as the virtues of jihad. A 2011 survey found that 75% of Saudi citizens deny the theory of evolution. Maps inside geography textbooks do not include Israel, and instead children are taught that they will one day reclaim Jerusalem from the evil Zionist colonisers. One might think that Washington would strongly object to this seemingly fundamental clash of interests between itself and its foremost Arab ally – following 9/11 George W. Bush did make a halfhearted attempt to address the schoolbook issue – but it seems that this matter is not of great importance when considering that the US government has itself produced such texts.
Between 1984-1994 the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) spent millions of dollars producing textbooks for Afghan children. These books were used to convey militant Islamic teachings and promote violence in order to indoctrinate a generation of kids with hateful and intolerant ideology, instilling in them the belief that communists were infidels. This was part of the Pentagon’s policy to bankrupt the Soviet Union by drawing them into a long and un-winnable conflict against the mujaheddin. A 2002 article in the Washington Post stated:
The textbooks [were] part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation. For instance, children are taught to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles, and land mines. In the absence of any alternative, millions of these textbooks continue to be used long after 1994, and the Taliban were still using them in 2001. In 2002, the US has started making less violent versions of the same books, which Bush touts will have ‘respect for human dignity, instead of indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry.’ Bush fails to mention who created those earlier books.
Washington Post, 23/03/02
However it should be pointed out that while the Soviet-Afghanistan war has been framed as an invasion/occupation, the Soviets actually became involved at the request of Afghanistan’s communist government, who were themselves under attack by US and Pakistani-backed insurgents.
While it is now accepted that the CIA provided covert support for the Afghan Mujaheddin during the eighties, that they also poured their efforts into raising a whole new generation of extremists is further evidence that radical Islam is being used as an external threat to justify military operations abroad and curtail civil liberties at home.
Additionally, the Pentagon has also infiltrated the US education system with its ‘Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps’: a school programme sponsored by the military in order to ‘instill in students in [United States] secondary educational institutions the values of citizenship, service to the United States, and personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment’. While JROTC’s official aim is not army recruitment, between 30-50% of those who take part do end up joining the military. In reality, JROTC instills young students with militaristic thinking and the blind following of authority; preparing them for future participation in America’s imperial adventures. One quote from a JROTC textbook reads:
Americans generally place a high value on human life. This may not necessarily be the case in other cultures or countries that might be willing to gamble lives for political or economic gains. Certain of the terrorist-sponsoring nations of the Middle East may display such behavior.
This is essentially a form of propaganda that teaches American students that they are exceptional and other cultures – specifically those of the Middle East – are inferior. Such teachings work to discourage critical thinking, and limit resistance to the US government.
The Daily Beast reported earlier this year that the State Department produced a comprehensive study of Saudi school books at the end of 2012, but the contents of this have so far been kept under wraps from the public. A June 2006 cable from the US embassy in Riyadh released by WikiLeaks gives an example of contemporary Saudi educational material. An eighth grade textbook says: ‘God will punish any Muslim who does not literally obey God just as God punished some Jews by turning them into pigs and monkeys’. Elsewhere Christians were likened to apes. As with the missing pages of the 9/11 Commission Report that are said to implicate Saudi in the Twin Tower attacks, Washington seems determined to keep information regarding their close ally’s links to Islamic terrorism a closely guarded secret.
The creation of an external threat through the covert sponsoring of religious fundamentalism, in conjunction with the psychological conditioning of the American population to ensure support for the government and military, are likely a long-term strategy in an attempt to retain the US’s global hegemony.
As Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s newly formed People’s Party ended up taking the largest number of votes at last month’s parliamentary elections – 22.2% to the Poroshenko Bloc’s 21.8% – we should also take a moment to recognise those responsible for Yatsenyuk’s appointed leadership, particularly The US Department of State’s Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland.
Nuland is a career neocon, who has worked for both Republican and Democrat administrations. Stephen Lendman has noted her previous roles:
Early in her career, she covered Russian internal politics at Washington’s Moscow embassy. She served on Washington’s Soviet Desk. She worked in the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. She served in Guangzou, China. She was Deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for the Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union. She directed a task force on Russia, its neighbors and an expanding NATO. She was Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott’s chief of staff. She was Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO. She was a National War College faculty member. She was Obama’s Special Envoy for Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. On September 18, 2013, she was appointed Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
Her husband is Project for the New American Century (PNAC) co-founder Robert Kanan. He’s a neocon foreign policy theorist/hardliner. He advised John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. He served on Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board. The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) is PNAC’s current incarnation. He’s a board of directors member. He represents the worst of America’s dark side.*
Additionally, Nuland’s brother-in-law Frederick Kagan is a ‘resident scholar’ at neocon think tank The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, who along with Robert and their father Donald, are all signatories to PNAC’s manifesto Rebiulding America’s Defences. Frederick’s wife Kimberley founded the Institute for the Study of War, a foreign policy think tank funded through donations by defense giants such as General Dynamics and Raytheon. What a family! This is truly a shining example of the military-industrial-complex in action.
Nuland gained attention due to her prolific appearances at Kiev’s Independence Square earlier this year, where she and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt handed out cookies to protesters. However the full extent of her involvement in the Ukraine crisis only came about following the interception and leaking of the following phone conversation between herself and Pyatt:
Nuland: What do you think?
Pyatt: I think we’re in play. The Klitschko piece is obviously the complicated electron here. Especially the announcement of him as deputy prime minister and you’ve seen some of my notes on the troubles in the marriage right now so we’re trying to get a read really fast on where he is on this stuff. But I think your argument to him, which you’ll need to make, I think that’s the next phone call you want to set up, is exactly the one you made to Yats. And I’m glad you sort of put him on the spot on where he fits in this scenario. And I’m very glad that he said what he said in response.
Nuland: Good. I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s a good idea.
Pyatt: Yeah. I guess… in terms of him not going into the government, just let him stay out and do his political homework and stuff. I’m just thinking in terms of sort of the process moving ahead we want to keep the moderate democrats together. The problem is going to be Tyahnybok and his guys and I’m sure that’s part of what Yanukovych is calculating on all this.
Nuland: [Breaks in] I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the… what he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know. I just think Klitsch going in… he’s going to be at that level working for Yatseniuk, it’s just not going to work.
Pyatt: Yeah, no, I think that’s right. OK. Good. Do you want us to set up a call with him as the next step?
Nuland: My understanding from that call – but you tell me – was that the big three were going into their own meeting and that Yats was going to offer in that context a… three-plus-one conversation or three-plus-two with you. Is that not how you understood it?
Pyatt: No. I think… I mean that’s what he proposed but I think, just knowing the dynamic that’s been with them where Klitschko has been the top dog, he’s going to take a while to show up for whatever meeting they’ve got and he’s probably talking to his guys at this point, so I think you reaching out directly to him helps with the personality management among the three and it gives you also a chance to move fast on all this stuff and put us behind it before they all sit down and he explains why he doesn’t like it.
Nuland: OK, good. I’m happy. Why don’t you reach out to him and see if he wants to talk before or after.
Pyatt: OK, will do. Thanks.
Nuland: OK… one more wrinkle for you Geoff. I can’t remember if I told you this, or if I only told Washington this, that when I talked to Jeff Feltman [United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] this morning, he had a new name for the UN guy Robert Serry did I write you that this morning?
Pyatt: Yeah I saw that.
Nuland: OK. He’s now gotten both Serry and Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.
Pyatt: No, exactly. And I think we’ve got to do something to make it stick together because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude, that the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it. And again the fact that this is out there right now, I’m still trying to figure out in my mind why Yanukovych (garbled) that. In the meantime there’s a Party of Regions faction meeting going on right now and I’m sure there’s a lively argument going on in that group at this point. But anyway we could land jelly side up on this one if we move fast. So let me work on Klitschko and if you can just keep… we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing. The other issue is some kind of outreach to Yanukovych but we probably regroup on that tomorrow as we see how things start to fall into place.
Nuland: So on that piece Geoff, when I wrote the note [US vice-president’s national security adviser Jake] Sullivan’s come back to me VFR [direct to me], saying you need Biden and I said probably tomorrow for an ‘atta-boy’ and to get the deets [details] to stick. So Biden’s willing.
Pyatt: OK. Great. Thanks.
Unsurprisingly, Washington’s response to this conversation was to criticise Russia, with State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki calling it “a new low in Russian tradecraft.” White House Spokesman Jay Carney noted that “it says something about Russia,” that they would tap the phone call (obviously the CIA are above such ploys). Similarly, BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus commented that “The clear purpose in leaking this conversation is to embarrass Washington and for audiences susceptible to Moscow’s message to portray the US as interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs.” The media also chose to focus on Nuland’s “fuck the EU,” rather than the blatant brokering of a post-coup government that made up the rest of the conversation. The utter failure of the corporate media to conduct any analysis of the exchange’s substance once again proves its disinterest in questioning our governments and holding them to account.
It should be noted that the call took place more than two weeks prior to the ousting of President Yanukovych, showing that the 22 February coup was planned well in advance. It is also another example of the increasingly questionable role that embassies and ambassadors play in America’s quest for global hegemony.
Referring to embassies as ‘imperialist outposts’, Norman Pollack states:
Lines are becoming blurred in the table of organization—the State Department, CIA, Pentagon, White House—all, with some rubbing of elbows, have been pressed in the service of imperialism, less cohesive than POTUS would like, but sufficiently unified as to make US embassies active weapons, stalking horses, outposts (whichever you prefer) in establishing, solidifying, and focusing the power of America’s presence in a global geopolitical strategy of military-economic-ideological dominance, loathe, on Obama’s watch, to be relinquished as the world structure itself is in process of decentralizing.
While Pollack’s essay makes reference to the Benghazi embassy incident – where diplomacy functioned as cover for a covert CIA gun-running operation to Syria – his words can easily be applied to the situation in Ukraine, and no doubt in many other countries. In 2009 the US opened its largest embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, which is currently said to employ around 5,500 staff – down from 11,500 in January 2013; it contains a six lane swimming pool, indoor basketball court, and outdoor football pitch. The Green Zone in which this so-called ‘mega-bunker of Baghdad’ is located, is off-limits to most Iraqis. With the US having now “officially” left Iraq, the size of its embassy and its huge number of staff, working inside the sprawling Green Zone, has led Iraqis to question who is actually running their country, the Iraqi government, or America?
Facing an increasingly multipolar world, it is likely that embassies will continue to serve as outposts for espionage and subterfuge, with many new countries seemingly now appearing in line for a dose of Washington’s regime change. These include Russia, Venezuela and Hungary. While America is currently pursuing the opening of diplomatic ties with Cuba, and is hoping to open an embassy in Havana fairly soon, the State Department has said that their policy to overthrow the Castros has not changed, and they will continue to fund covert “democracy promotion” operations in the country.
While Republicans and Democrats come and go, the neocons in the State Department stay the same.
*Stephen Lendman, Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III
Last month, David Cameron held a ‘historic’ meeting with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly in New York; the first such engagement to take place between the two nations since before the Islamic Revolution in 1979. It was reported that Cameron had requested the meeting, and was going to use the opportunity to attempt to convince Rouhani to give up his support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
It seems like he did not get what he was looking for, as he went on to criticise Iran only hours later – stating in his speech to the general assembly:
“Iran should also be given the chance to show it can be part of the solution, not part of the problem. We have severe disagreements. Iran’s support for terrorist organisations, its nuclear programme, its treatment of its people. All these need to change.
Iran’s leaders could help in defeating the threat from Isil. They could help secure a more stable, inclusive Iraq, and a more stable and inclusive Syria. And if they are prepared to do this, then we should welcome their engagement.”
These statements are deeply humiliating, and obviously utterly hypocritical; in fact all of these points could equally be applied – if not more than equally – to the UK government. Unlike Iran, we actually have a nuclear weapons programme, and have been funding terrorist organisations in Syria for years now, not to mention our unwavering support for Israel. Our invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq (both share borders with Iran) have caused devastating instability and violence for these countries, as well as having knock on effects on the region as a whole. Unlike the UK, Iran is actually in the Middle East, and therefore it is they who should be dictating to us how we participate in their affairs. This made me think, does Cameron actually know about Britain’s past ‘meddling’ in Iran, which is responsible for our untrustworthy reputation there? This seems unlikely; it’s difficult to understand how he could make such arrogant statements if he held some basic knowledge of recent Iranian history.
For those who don’t know: in 1953 the UK and United States orchestrated the overthrow of the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, and installed the Shah of Iran as an absolute monarch. Mossadegh’s election was a symbol of the deep discontent within Persian society of Britain’s exploitation of Iranian resources: the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) was profiting from the country’s oil and denying any of the profits its people, and in 1951 Mossadegh – with almost full parliamentary support – voted to nationalise the company’s assets and expel the Brits from Iran. Following this, the UK government sought to convince the Americans to assist them in conducting a coup, eventually succeeding with the election of Eisenhower, who was convinced by the CIA that Mossadegh was a Communist threat. As a condition for their participation in reinstating the AIOC, Britain had to end its monopoly over Iran’s oil and allow room for several American petroleum companies. The BBC was a key propaganda tool of the operation, as its BBC Persia service (funded by the Foreign Office) was directed to ‘destroy Persian confidence in the present policy of the Persian government’. The Shah ruled with an iron fist and large US support from 1953 until 1979, when he was deposed by the Islamic Revolution led by the philosopher Ayatollah Khomeini.
‘Operation Ajax’ is a large reason why Tehran is today being run by mullahs, and their anti-Western stance is due to America’s propping up of the Shah’s authoritarian regime. While Obama has admitted his country’s role in the coup – the CIA recently released previously classified documents regarding its role – after doing some brief research, it appears that the UK government has not been as publicly self-reflective.
In 2005 the Foreign Office refused to release documents under the Freedom of Information Act pertaining to the UK’s involvement, and the Foreign Secretary at the time – Jack Straw – denied the BBC’s request for an interview on the subject. A year later however, Straw revealed that the first time he met conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian’s first words to him were about the coup. In 2006, prime minister Tony Blair admitted during an interview with Jon Snow on Channel 4 that he had never even heard of Mohammad Mossadegh. Then in 2009, he made the following statements to Fareed Zakaria on CNN:
ZAKARIA: The supreme leader singled out Britain for special condemnation, interfering with Iranian affairs. Why do you think that is? Is the British embassy in Iran — I mean, you were in effect running it for 10 years, running the whole British government — do you fund espionage activities? Do you do things that — why are the Iranians so focused on you guys?
BLAIR: This is nonsense. I mean, they know it’s nonsense. I guess they’ve got to choose somebody to go after, so they choose us.
And, you know, I have been very clear, obviously, in the statements that I’ve made, both as prime minister and afterwards, that nuclear weapons capability of Iran is the red line, and that Iran should stop exporting terrorism, destabilizing people within the region. I mean, I think that’s pretty obvious to say.
And let me make one thing very clear. For us in Britain, we greatly value Iran as a country, its people as a people, its civilization, which is an ancient and proud civilization, as indeed just that.
But the fact is that there are elements within the Iranian system that do cause genuine instability, and worse, around the Middle East. And what we hope very much, whatever happens over these next weeks in Iran, is that over the time to come that we can have a relationship with Iran in which they are trying to be helpful and constructive and conciliatory.
Our Middle East ‘peace envoy’ peddling the “they hate us for our freedoms” rhetoric in 2013:
Whether Cameron is also genuinely ignorant about this matter is unclear; there is perhaps a sense of embarrassment that Eisenhower was essentially duped into approving this operation on Britain’s behalf – this factor was a later source of anger for Washington.
What is evident is that for any meaningful attempt at peace in the Middle East to be achieved, our leaders must be willing to accept and admit our role in its destabilisation, rather than continue with the current hypocritical and self-righteous attitude. As the spokeswoman (Marzieh Afkham) for Iran’s foreign minister said following Cameron’s speech:
“The speech by the British prime minister at the UN general assembly shows the perpetuation of the egocentric attitude of a government which has a history of [causing] trouble in our region.”