Archive for the ‘Foreign Affairs’ Category

Hague channels Mugabe

The Foreign Office’s threat to lift the Ecuadorian Embassy’s diplomatic status over the Assange affair is a disgrace.  As Carl Gardner points out the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 permits the Secretary of State to withdraw diplomatic recognition from premises for various reasons but ONLY “if he is satisfied that to do so is permissible under international law” – and, in this case, that means the Vienna Convention which requires the UK government to facilitate the acquisition of suitable premises.

It’s impossible to believe that the Government would indulge in such heavy-handed tactics if the affair was really about an incident originally described by the Swedish police as “not a serious enough crime for an arrest warrant.”    What it’s really about is perverting the rule of law for the convenience of an American administration which has been embarrassed by Assange’s activities, wants revenge and is leaning on everyone to get its hands on him.  It’s about a President who is determined to do away with due process and suspend Habeas Corpus all in the name of the War on Terror but really to suppress dissent.

One way and another the UK is heading down a legal and ethical rabbit hole if it persists with this course.

All in all, the UK government has set out on a foolish and ill-considered path.  If it continues it will put Britain in the same class as Mugabe’s Zimbabwe which flouted international norms by opening a British diplomatic bag a few years ago.  Does William Hague really wanted to be classed, along with Mugabe, as someone with no regard for the laws and norms of civilisation?


Bush and Cheney want another war


For some time now there has been a rising tide of ‘chatter’ from segments of the US media that Bush and Cheney are planning another war.  Incredibly, it seems that they are even funding Al Qaeda –linked groups to achieve this as Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh outlines in the New Yorker magazine. (Hat Tip: Jon Taplin)


“Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.”

The funding was eventually approved, although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Presidential Finding, and “there was a significant amount of high-level discussion” according to Hersh’s source.


In recent years the Bush Administration has:

“… conflated what is an intelligence operation and what is a military one in order to avoid fully informing Congress about what it is doing.”  David Obey, a senior Democrat, is quoted as saying, “I suspect there’s something going on, but I don’t know what to believe. Cheney has always wanted to go after Iran, and if he had more time he’d find a way to do it.”

Another source familiar with the contents of the Presidential Finding said:

“The oversight process has not kept pace—it’s been co-opted” [by the Administration].  The process is broken, and this is dangerous stuff we’re authorizing.”

Sadly, the Democrats in the House of Representatives and Senate don’t seem to be awake to what’s going on.


On the ground covert operations are being run by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at the behest of civilians without telling the uniformed military what is going on making it impossible for them to run a coherent strategy – a factor that played a big role in the early retirement of the highly regarded Admiral William Fallon earlier this year and the ongoing chaos in Iraq.  Apparently,

 “When Fallon tried to make sense of all the overt and covert activity conducted by the military in his area of responsibility, a small group in the White House leadership shut him out.” 

The dissident groups Cheney is supporting are by any standards the very last people the US should be funding and arming.  According to Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East,

“The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda.  These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers—in this case, it’s Shiite Iranians.” 

(Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, is a Baluchi Sunni).


Another group, the M.E.K., has been on the State Department’s terrorist list for more than a decade, yet in recent years the group has received arms and intelligence, directly or indirectly, from the United States as have the Jundallah, (also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement) one of the most active and violent anti-regime groups which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran.  According to one of Hersh’s sources,

“This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists. They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture.”

Iran is certainly experiencing an upsurge in violence which is being reported in the Iranian media with increasingly frequent clashes and a growing casualty list.  Of course, US involvement cannot be proved but the Iranians have started blaming the US.


Needless so say, Cheney’s deranged warmongering will only rally support for the Tehran regime and if he is allowed to get away with it the only possible outcome is disaster on an unimaginable scale – not just for Iran and the US but for the whole world.


Just to take one example; Iran could, if it so wished (and as it has threatened to do if attacked) cut the Straights of Hormuz which are just 21 miles wide at one point and thereby cut oil exports from the Persian Gulf.  Even now, with just the looming threat of trouble, oil analysts say the oil price contains a substantial risk premium for this possibility.  In other words, Bush and Cheney’s warmongering is already hurting people around the World.


The UK government should make it very plain to Bush that this is unacceptable behaviour and bring our troops home now.


See also John Perry on this.