Friday, June 30, 2017

Corbyn And Sanders Most Popular Politicians In Britain And US

Corbyn And Sanders Most Popular Politicians In Britain And US
                                                                              Saeed Naqvi

The recent rise in the electability of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as Britain’s next Prime Minister, according to the latest opinion polls, has not made headline news. This is not surprising because Establishments everywhere, of which the media is a part, imagine that an idea can be made to vanish by playing it down.

The findings of the poll have been published even in conservative newspapers like The Telegraph in London. This virtually amounts to a taboo being lifted from the idea of Corbyn. Call it acquiescence, if you like.

Senior Labour leaders, indeed authors of New Labour, like Tony Blair and Lord Peter Mandelson must be close to a nervous breakdown. Or, they must be working very hard, as Mandelson has admitted in interviews, to “undermine Corbyn”.

The difficulty with mean-minded cribbing by Mandelson is that it generates sympathy among Corbyn’s growing tribe of supporters. Take this quote from a Labour member: “The idea that Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister implementing policies that actually benefit the people terrifies the Establishment. It is no surprise that Mandelson has found space in his busy schedule for spending time on Oligarch’s Yachts to attempt to undermine Jeremy.”

This being the tone of the exchange, Corbyn’s path to eventual success will be made ever more difficult by the Establishment of which Mandelson and the Deep State are parts.

There is, however, a tailwind of recent history particular to Britain, which may be helping Corbyn.

Accelerated globalization after the Soviet collapse, was a shot in the arm for capitalism. This, in its turn, generated arbitrary inequalities which erupted in such movements as “Occupy Wall Street”. The Republican Tea Party was the immediate counter punch.

The popular will adapts to changing climate. Establishments, obstinately resistant to change, begin to strategize: how to channelize or thwart the popular will.

In almost all western democracies the conflict is on: Establishments vs. the people. A Left wing Syriza brought 43 year old Alexis Tsipras to power as Prime Minister of Greece. Germany and the EU broke the movement’s will. Revert to austerity or we shall not pick up your debts.

In Spain, where the ghost of Franco still hovers over public life, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the Right Wing Peoples Party, supervised over such unspeakable corruption (another gift of globalization), that a new communist-inclined party Podemos, under the leadership of 39 year old Pablo Iglesias, burst upon the scene. The resulting stalemate between the Peoples Party, Socialist and Podemos led to a repeat election which yielded more or less the same configuration. The Establishment worked overtime. On the pain of being decimated, Socialists allowed themselves to be persuaded to abstain in a Parliamentary vote. This enabled the corrupt PP hold onto power. The idea is to weaken and eventually erase Podemos by sheer attrition and election fatigue.

In the process of warding off unfriendly political trends, the establishment learnt another lesson. The sprinkling of leaders breaking out of the two party suffocation were all anti austerity, leftists and in their 30s and 40s. Why could not the “right” respond with similar d├ęcor and aspirations?

That exactly is what has been attempted in Spain by launching Ciudadanos, (Citizens) a centrist party with an unusual rise on an anti corruption platform. I met people in Madrid and Barcelona who described the new party as “Podemos of the right”. In terms of youth, Ciudadanos is an improvement. Its leader, Albert Rivera, 35, is four years younger than Pablo Iglesias.

“They are stealing Podemos’ aesthetics” laments Madrid’s Communist Mayor who hung a giant placard outside her office: “Refugees Welcome”. She tweets “We are not going to criminalize the Muslim community” Carmena said. “The response to terror must be solidarity.” Her punchline was “co existence = safer cities”.

The aesthetics which define young leaders in Greece, Spain, Canada appear to have been grafted on France’s Emmanuel Macron too. He is their age and talks of influencing the EU to reduce the burden of austerity. The scale of his success has encouraged him to be openly ambidextrous.  He has invited Donald Trump to the National Day parade on July 14. This despite Trump having withdrawn from the Paris accord on climate change.

In brief, different kinds of gyrations define western democracies today. In this over all confused picture another reality remains largely unnoticed.

A Fox News poll published some months ago (mostly ignored) shows that Bernie Sanders has a +28 rating above all US politicians on both ends of the political spectrum.

The Guardian’s Trevor Timm wrote recently: “One would think with numbers like that, Democratic politicians would be falling all over themselves to be associated with Sanders, especially considering the party as a whole is more unpopular than the Republicans and even Donald Trump right now. Yet instead of embracing his message, the Establishment wing of the party continues to resist him at almost every turn, and they seem insistent that they don’t have to change their ways to gain back the support of huge swaths of the country.”

The moral of the story is this: a rattled Establishment is in many democracies rushing to thwart or redirect the popular will – and with mixed success.

Against this backdrop, there appears on the horizon a certain British exceptionalism. Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader despite Tony Blair, Mandelson, and the Parliamentary party, results of the Brexit referendum, the manner in which Theresa May was trounced in June 8 elections – all point to the Establishment in Britain unlike elsewhere, clearly contained by the people.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Origin Of Saudi-Qatar Spat: What Lies In The Future

Origin Of Saudi-Qatar Spat: What Lies In The Future
                                                                       Saeed Naqvi

The western media, which was shy of mentioning the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to the Saudi regime, has now started describing it as a threat to Riyadh quite as potent as Shia Islam. This change is a major fall-out from the Saudi-Qatari spat.

Qatar for quite some time has patronized the Muslim Brothers, a powerful grass roots force in Egypt and Turkey. It is sufficiently powerful to keep King Abdullah of Jordan on sixes and sevens. Also, one must not forget the Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama, north west Syria, in 1982, which Bashar al Assad’s father, Hafez al Assad quelled with such brute power that the death toll exceeded10,000. In 2011 when Tayyip Erdogan took a more benign interest in Syrian affairs his advice to Assad was straightforward: accommodate the MB in the establishment.

Unbridled MB power is anathema to both: Israel and Saudis. That is why Saudi’s placed $8 billion in Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s hand when he ousted the MB’s Mohamed Morsi. Today, Sisi’s job is on the line.

Israel has nightmares because it fears the MB weed in Egypt and elsewhere will link up with Hamas, another strong MB outfit. When the western media, protective of Israeli interests, list the “Shia axis” inimical to the Jewish state – Iran, Hezbollah, Syria – it mentions Hamas in the same breath without the essential qualification: Hamas is True Blue Sunni. The link up with Iran is political or ideological not religious.

Saudi anxieties are more profound. Remember, from January 1980, the Saudi began to play down the monarchy and focus more on the King’s role as the “keeper of the holy shrines at Mecca and Medina.” This show of humility followed two events, one after the other, which shook the house of Saud.

The Iranian revolution which brought the Ayatollahs to power in Tehran in 1979 coincided more or less with the siege of the Mecca mosque by Juhayman al-Otaybi and hundreds of his supporters, demanding the overthrow of the House of Saud and an end to the “anti Islamic” monarchy in Saudi Arabia.

Taking advantage of these eruptions, the oil bearing Eastern province of Saudi Arabia, the Shia dominated Qatif and al Hasa region rose in rebellion in 1979 against Riyadh’s anti Shia sectarian bias and arbitrary arrests. The uprising lasted a week. Over 100 died in police action.

This regional uprising magnified itself a 100 fold in Saudi eyes because of the emergence of the Ayatollahs in Iran. This also became the source of anxiety to Bahrain where 70 per cent of the population is Shia and locked in a tussle for more rights from the Sunni rulers – the House of Khalifas.

While pointing at the Shia menace, Saudis seldom express their worries about Qatif and Bahrain where they sent their troops to quell the Arab Spring. Those issues could possibly invite a Human Rights scrutiny. Focus on Iran, Hezbollah, Alawite power in Syria is much more beneficial because this axis invokes Israel’s deepest anxieties. The western media is so much more sympathetic for this reason. If the past is any guide, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times should be on his way to Riyadh for yet another exclusive interview with the new Crown Prince.

That Qatar has relations with Iran is disliked in Riyadh, ofcourse, but what causes much deeper anxieties is the material and moral support Qatar can provide to MB which represents all the tendencies that the Otaybi rebellion in 1979 represented.

Riyadh-Doha differences go back to the days when the aging Emir, was ousted by his son, Hamad bin Khalifa. The ousted Emir’s attempted counter coup failed but it had Saudi support.

Osama bin Laden’s war on the house of Saud had a declared reason: Saudis had accorded hospitality to the troops of the “infidel US”. Qatar took advantage of situation and hosted CENTCOM,

Then came another affront to Saudi pride: Al Jazeera TV. When the BBC shut down its Arabic service, trained TV hands became available in the market. At the time the BBC was also in search of funds for its World Service TV. BBC had been left behind by CNN which stole the limelight during Operation Desert Storm in 1992.

Saudi King Fahd’s cousin, Khalid bin Faisal al Saud’s Orbit Communications hired the BBC hands and launched a channel. But it lasted no more than 18 months because editorial freedom clashed with Saudi’s abiding restrictions on issues anchored to Sharia. Riyadh would not allow the new channel to telecast a documentary on public “beheadings”.

That is when Qatar moved into the breach and launched Al Jazeera, first in Arabic. As BBC retirees like Sir David Frost became available, Al Jazeera English made rapid recruitments.

At a time when Osama bin Laden was a news source, Al Jazeera became the channel for all bin Laden interviews and audio statements. Coverage by BBC, CNN, Fox News of all the 9/11 wars acquired a uniformity which strained credibility. Al Jazeera livened up proceedings by bringing into focus “the other” perspective as well. This was not “cricket” for the authors of the new world order. Scholars like the late Fouad Ajami, supportive of George W Bush’s invasion of Iran and Afghanistan, wrote academic papers on Al Jazeera’s perfidy. Allied aircraft even bombed the channel’s offices in Kabul and Baghdad. All of this boosted Al Jazeera viewership sky high.

The late Saudi King Abdullah, much the most supple ruler in recent decades, mended fences with Qatar. We have to be together, otherwise the “spring” will blow away the region’s monarchies, he argued.

Moreover, CNN, BBC propaganda was not being believed in the region during the Syrian and Libyan operations. Al Jazeera’s priceless credibility was commandeered. Qatar succumbed. Both the operations, Syria and Libya have been a disaster from every angle. Additionally they have taken a toll of Al Jazeera’s credibility.

The present spat however has the potential of restoring Al Jazeera’s credibility should deft editorial hands take up the anti establishment position which was Al Jazeera’s forte and which it surrendered under the personal pressure of the late Saudi king.

The larger game now must impinge on Qatar, Iran and Russian gas reserves, the energy of the future. To keep the cohesion of this triangle or to break it must be the preoccupation of regional combatants now and in the foreseeable future.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Western Arms And Islamic Terrorism: An Endless Spiral

Western Arms And Islamic Terrorism: An Endless Spiral
                                                                      Saeed Naqvi

“Udhar rakeeb, idhar hum bulaye jaat hain
Ki daana daal ke murghe laraye jaate hain”
(I am invited, so is my enemy – at the same time.
Sprinkle some grain in the middle:
and the scene is set for an almighty cockfight)

It would be bad form to describe Saudi kings as fools, but the temptation is vastly enhanced by the brazenness with which the Americans dive into Saudi coffers at will and wink at each other.

It turns out that there is a competition on between the Trump administration and its predecessor, the Obama team, as to who made greater fool of the Saudis.

Last month, Trump and his cohorts, after their revelries in Riyadh, announced they had concluded a $110 billion arms deal with their Saudi allies.

Promptly came a rejoinder from a Clinton adviser, Bruce Riedel, now a specialist at Brookings, that President Obama sold the Saudis $112 billion in weapons in 2012 is a single deal negotiated by Defence Secretary, Bob Gates. He then furnished incontrovertible proof that Trump was bragging about a Saudi arms wishlist but no real deals had been concluded.

Riedel’s other argument is a real clincher:
“You will know the Trump deal is real when Israel begins to ask for a package to keep the Israeli Defence Forces’ qualitative edge preserved.”

What seems to be on its way are a billion dollars worth of munitions to help the Saudi Air Force to continue its nearly two year old bombardment of the Arab world’s poorest country – Yemen.

It will take the Saudis millennia to build a civilization like the one they are destroying in Yemen.

And in this destruction, the US is as enthusiastic a participant as the Saudis will ever have. In the vanguard of the US supporters of the Saudi war machine is Republican Senator, John McCain. Thumping the table he told Al Jazeera, “We are in a war.” Then he clarified, “The Saudis are in a war in Yemen and they need weapons.” So Americans must provide (sell) these weapons to the embattled Saudis.

Even though Riedel described the Trump’s arms deal with Riyadh as “fake news”, Trump continues to cast himself as a great salesman.

The last time Trump overplayed his salesmanship was with South Korea. After aggravating tensions with Kim Jong-un in North Korea, he proceeded to be a defender of South Korean interests by promising the state of the art missile defence system. Before his altruism could sink in, he flourished a billion dollar bill for Seoul to pay. The South Koreans promptly voted an anti American President in Seoul. But it would still be premature to cast Trump as a latter day Willy Loman in The Death of a Salesman. Just look at the masterly double dealing he is attempting in Qatar.

Creating confusion, Trump’s patented style of diplomacy (and salesmanship), is on show in Qatar yet again.

After having blessed Saudi king Salman’s so called Sunni Armed Front, Trump watched the Saudi-Qatari falling out with both anger and glee. (Saudi-Qatar antipathy is historic and requires separate treatment.)

Since Trump imagined he had swung a huge arms deal with the Saudis (since debunked), he felt obliged to call the recalcitrant Qatar names. He called it “a high level sponsor of terrorism.”

While he was spewing his anti Qatar expletives, his Defence Secretary, James Mattis was signing a $12 billion arms deal with his Qatari counterpart, Khalid Al Attiyah. The scene is being set for a perfect cockfight, as my opening couplet suggests. Egg the Saudi on to break with Qatar, promptly dispatch Mattis to Doha to squeeze yet another deal with the nervous Qataris. This would prompt Saudis come running for more arms – and so on.

I have always maintained that Americans, protected by the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, will continue to enhance their dependence on what Eisenhower called the military industrial complex.

Retaliatory consequences of their arms sales in the form of increased terrorism will be borne by Europe which has land and Mediterranean Sea links with areas in West Asia most affected by the post 9/11 wars. Manchester and London Bridge are only the most recent manifestations of terrorism as revenge.

When I told a senior French official in Paris recently that terrorism in Europe would be unstoppable so long as Saudis have the money to buy US, French, and British arms, he shrugged his shoulders. “When US arms giants Lockheed Martin and Raytheon sign mega deals with the oil rich GCC, our governments come under pressure from our arms industry which says – please don’t let us fall behind in the global competition.” It is an endless spiral.

Is “revenge” terrorism in the West different from terrorism elsewhere? For instance, 150 members of Afghan police, army and foreigners were killed by suicide bombers outside the German Embassy in Kabul soon after the Manchester attack. The dynamic here is different. Afghan collaborators with a 16 year old US occupation of Afghanistan are under attack from Taliban, falling back on Afghan nationalism.

What is common in Islamic terror everywhere is the technique: suicide bombing.

This genre was patented by Wahabi, Takfiri thought and will continue until the West lays the blame where it belongs. No Iranian or Hezbollah or indeed Shia militant has yet been found to be a suicide bomber.

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