British government faces legal challenge over flogging of prison services to Saudi Arabia

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Saudi blogger Raif Badawi receives his first flogging

The British government is facing another High Court challenge from human rights activists, this time regarding the Ministry of Justice’s decision to sell prison services to Saudi Arabia and Oman.

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) launched their challenge today, alleging that the MoJ has no legal power to provide such profit-making services. The so-called MoJ’s commercial arm – ironically titled ‘Just Solutions International’ – was revealed earlier this year but remains shrouded in secrecy, as next to nothing is known about it other than that it has submitted a £5.9 million proposal to Saudi Arabia and a similar bid to Oman. Lawyers for GCHR assert that providing such services overseas is not a “governmental purpose”.

Notably – just as with the announcement of the Royal Navy’s new naval base in Bahrain – there has been no parliamentary debate or vote on the subject, suggesting that the government does not want to draw attention to the matter. GCHR advisory board member Melanie Gingell states that:

“It seems to us that far from improving human rights standards in the detention systems of these undemocratic states, the UK is more likely to be simply improving the efficiency of the systems within which these notorious abuses are being carried out. The British public has been horrified by the public beheadings and floggings carried out in Saudi Arabia, and now mirrored by ISIS, and they have a right to know exactly what role the UK government is playing in these systems.”
She added, “We fear that the driving motivation behind these bids is purely commercial, and the veil of secrecy that has been drawn over them simply serves to deepen our concerns that the UK is making money out of the worst aspects of these states, that it condemns in public, but is happy to give support to in private.”

GCHR have submitted several Freedom of Information requests to the MoJ regarding JSi’s schemes, but all have been rejected. A week ago the Financial Times revealed that new Justice Secretary Michael Gove is planning to clamp down on Britain’s FoI laws, in order to make the process of obtaining information from government agencies much harder for citizens. This contrasts with the “revolution in government transparency” that David Cameron promised in 2011. Writing in the Telegraph, the PM stated:

“Information is power. It lets people hold the powerful to account, giving them the tools they need to take on politicians and bureaucrats.”

Such a reversal of policy is yet another nail in the coffin for Britain’s democracy.

GCHR is crowdfunding to cover the costs of their High Court application. To donate please visit: http://www.gofundme.com/saudiprisons

SaudiLeaks: ‘Syrian regime must be overthrown to avoid revenge for what we’ve done to them’

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A new cable released by Wikileaks says that the ‘Syrian regime must be overthrown to avoid revenge for what we’ve done to them’.

Notably the Saudileaks have received next to no media attention, likely because they reveal the extent to which the medieval Kingdom bribes journalists in order to receive positive coverage and suppress negative stories.  This could also account for the media blackout on the Saudi-led siege of Yemen.

Realistically, it seems that continuing the destruction and bloodshed is what is most likely to result in harm to Saudi Arabia itself; it already having experienced two suicide bombings within a week of each other in May. Overthrowing “the regime” in Syria is not going to save the country from attacks now that the takfiri genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

The Saudi Cables
Over half a million cables and other documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry
https://www.wikileaks.org/saudi-cables/doc110212.html

Iran is the Future

BRAZIL - JUNE 21:  Iran fans cheer during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Argentina and Iran at Estadio Mineirao on June 21, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 491933191
BRAZIL – JUNE 21, 2014: Iran fans cheer during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Argentina and Iran at Estadio Mineirao 

This is a comment I posted on a Guardian article reporting on King Salman’s decision not to attend the GCC meeting with Obama at Camp David. It sum’s up what I think are the real motivators behind the Persian Gulf countries, and Israel’s, fear of the Iran nuclear deal:

How exactly does a deal to LIMIT Iran’s (peaceful) nuclear programme harm the GCC? Iran isn’t the one bombing it’s neighbour and covertly waging a war against Iraq and Syria. The only aid Iran has given the Houthis is financial, as well as negotiating food imports into the country, and a new airline linking Sanaa to Tehran. The Houthis, like everyone else, are fighting with American-made weapons. By the way, I just read that Yemen is on its way to becoming the worst man-made crisis of the 21st century, due to the blockade making it impossible to get fuel and food (90% of Yemen’s food is imported).

I think the real problem for these despots is what will happen to their economies once sanctions are lifted. 90% of KSA’s income is through oil sales, and it’s population are unskilled and uneducated. Iran’s population is the opposite, and they actually manufacture things, such as cars. Though it’s not reported in the Western press, delegations from all over Europe have been visiting Tehran to sign trade deals in recent months. In fact, there was even a US delegation there yesterday.

Without the sanctions, Iran has the ability to become an economic powerhouse. In fact it is also about to start building hundreds of new hotels to keep up with its blossoming tourist industry. All this strikes fear into the heart of Salman, Netanyahu, Tom Cotton, and the rest.

One further point is, how will lessening restrictions in Iran’s energy sector affect the price of oil? The market is currently flooded with Saudi oil, what happens when it’s also flooded with Iranian oil?

It can’t be emphasised enough how much potential there is for Iran. If you read Fars News or Press TV there are almost daily articles reporting on economic delegations from Poland, visits to Tehran by French car manufacturers, meetings between Iranian ministers and Swiss ministers, and so on. The power they exert is very much in the Chinese tradition, ie. investing in infrastructure rather than selling weapons and dropping bombs, as the American’s and the Saudi’s do.

I probably wouldn’t have started this blog if it wasn’t for the sudden interest I found in Iran last year. Having researched women’s rights in the Middle East, I couldn’t believe that the country so demonised for its human rights abuses was Iran, whose women seem so fiercely independent, and not Saudi Arabia, which goes to extraordinary lengths to keep their women segregated from men, and whose  women must cloak themselves in black tents, while the Persians put Western women’s dress sense to shame. I actually started trying to copy some of the looks I found, which can be seen in my post: Iranian Street Style.

While human rights in KSA are regressing – they have just fired their first female minister – human rights in Iran are making slow but welcome progress – they have just appointed their first female ambassador to represent them abroad. Iran is the future, while the Americans and their Gulf cronies are on a sinking ship.

The Pentagon: Promoting Fundamentalism Abroad and Mindless Militarism at Home

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

U.S. Keeps Saudi Arabia’s Worst Secret
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/03/25/u-s-keeps-saudi-arabia-s-worst-secret.html

Leo Strauss, Neo-Cons, Religion and the Middle East

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In his book Petrodollar Warfare, William R. Clark discusses the influence of nineteenth century Jewish philosopher Leo Strauss on neoconservative thinking. Strauss stated that societies were divided into three types of people:

There are indeed three types of men: the wise, the gentlemen, and the vulgar. The wise are the lovers of the harsh, unadulterated truth. They are capable of looking into the abyss without fear and trembling. They recognise neither God nor moral imperatives. They are devoted above all to their own pursuit of the “higher” pleasures.

The second type, the gentlemen, are lovers of honour and glory. They are the most ingratiating towards the conventions of their society – that is, the illusions of the cave. They are true believers in God, honour, and moral imperatives. They are ready and willing to embark on acts of great courage and self-sacrifice at a moment’s notice.

The third type, the vulgar many, are lovers of wealth and pleasure. They are selfish, slothful, and indolent. They can be inspired to rise above their brutish existence only by fear of impending death or catastrophe.

(Strauss quoted in Clark, pp. 100-101)

 Strauss claims that only those who realise that there is no such thing as morality – only the right of the superior to rule over the inferior – are fit to govern. However, he also stressed that religion is an essential tool for imposing moral law on the masses, but the wise should not be bound to religion themselves. Which religion is of little consequence. Clark writes that Straussian theory was highly influential on those in the Bush Administration in 2001, and this was apparent in the web of lies concocted in order to wage war on Iraq in 2003. He says:

While the elite are capable of absorbing the absence of any moral truth, Strauss thought, the masses could not be exposed to the truth or they would fall into nihilism or anarchy. His ideology of governing via secrecy, deception, and the imperative of a broad external threat to “inspire the vulgar many” provides a tragic parallel to the neoconservative strategy regarding Iraq.

(Clark, p. 101)

Ex-Deputy Secretary of Defense and prime architect of the Bush Doctrine, Paul Wolfowitz studied under Strauss’ tutorship as a graduate student, and his philosophy is also evident when looking at the careers of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld etc.

Strauss’ principles and their influence on Washington policy-makers are worth bearing in mind when thinking about America’s foreign policy in the Middle East today, specifically its readiness to topple secular governments. Despite Barack Obama being a Democrat president, his administration’s abroad policies continue to toe the neo-con line.

Iraq After the Fall of Saddam Hussein

When Bush and Blair invaded and destroyed Iraq, the war was sold to the public as a preventative measure to eliminate Saddam Hussein’s (non-existent) stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, because of the dictator’s (non-existent) ties to al-Qaeda, and – perhaps most insulting of all – to liberate the Iraqi people. When Obama assumed the presidency in 2008, he promised to be the kind of leader to end wars rather than start them, and to seek solutions based on diplomacy and soft power rather than military might. However, while the current administration maintains this friendly facade, it has in reality gone further than ever before to establish American hegemony, covertly using religion as a tool to achieve this.

The toppling of Saddam Hussein converted Iraq from a secular state into a hornet’s nest of sectarian strife and a breeding ground for militant Islam. While this is often considered to be an unintended consequence of the war, in reality this was the desired outcome for the American elite. A unified, secular country may lead to aspirations which do not conform with US interests (meaning those of Wall Street and the energy sector); religious fanaticism is preferable to nationalism.

This reasoning explains why NATO had to intervene in Libya, in the guise of a ‘humanitarian intervention’. Libya’s secular leader Muammar Gaddafi had transformed the once colonised country into the pearl of Africa, and not long before his death had discussed proposals to create an African gold Dinar currency. Today Libya is a failed state, and its gold reserves have been plundered. Contrary to the western media’s narrative of country-wide protests by the Libyan people that were violently repressed by the Gaddafi regime, such atrocities were in reality committed by violent jihadists in order to sow chaos. Battle-hardened fighters whom had killed American and British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan were now receiving NATO air cover in order to overthrow the country’s leadership. Three years later, Libya has two parliaments rivaling for power, and Islamist militias refuse to disarm.

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 After the ‘successful’ removal of Gadaffi, weapons and al-Qaeda aligned fighters began flowing from Benghazi to Syria, all with the backing of the CIA – in order to destroy the last remaining secular country in the Middle East. As Strauss dictates, the American (and British) public are deceived into believing that our government’s intentions are altruistic. Thus our now open (where it had previously been covert) funding and arming of “moderate” Islamists the Free Syrian Army is portrayed as a move to bring western-style democracy to the Syrian people, rather than continuing to prolong their suffering and fanning the flames of Sunni/Shia sectarianism. Once this operation has been completed, Washington will be well and truly on their Path to Persia. Despite Iran being an Islamic Republic, it remains ambitious, and – compared to say, its regional rival Saudi Arabia – is much more secular in nature; the majority of citizens see themselves as Iranians first, and Muslim second.

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Syria and Iran are two of the world’s remaining nations to have a state-run banking system and gold reserves which fall outside of the global private central banking syndicate; once the removal of their current anti-imperial/anti-Western regimes are removed, the long-term geopolitical goals of America’s neo-cons will be almost complete. By maintaining its covert support for violent jihadism and religious fundamentalism in the Middle East, the US ensures that the vulgar many continue to fight among themselves rather than the corporate interests plundering their wealth and resources, and most importantly of all: prevent the Arab states from uniting and turning their attention to the Zionist occupiers – a simple strategy of divide and conquer.

SOURCES:

Project for the New American Century
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_for_the_New_American_Century

Brookings’ “Which Path to Persia?”
http://landdestroyer.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/brookings-which-path-to-persia.html