VIDEO: Syrian Opposition Studies Terror Tactics in Kosovo

Originally aired on Russia Today, May 4, 2012

The same horrors that were witnessed during the war in Kosovo are now apparently being prepared for the multi-confessional Syrian population by Islamist Syrian Liberation Army trained in Muslim Kosovo in the middle of Europe.

The Syrian Liberation Army group that actually formed the delegation to Kosovo has been fighting with the Syrian government for over a year now. This stand-off has claimed well over 9,000 lives, about half of them Syrian servicemen, law enforcers and officials.

Lately, the militants have been squeezed out of the Syrian cities and their positions along the Syrian-Turkish border. Being unable to turn the tide independently, the Syrian Liberation Army has been addressing to its foreign sponsors to start a military intervention into Syria to topple President Bashar Assad.

However, researcher and GlobalResearch.ca contributor Benjamin Schett told RT the Syrian rebels would not learn much in terms of military tactics from the KLA.

“The so-called Kosovo Liberation Army — this terrorist group — had in fact already been defeated by the Serbian army in 1998.”

Schett says that once Serbia agreed on a ceasefire, pulled back troops, and let in OSCE observers, the KLA used this situation to intensify their attacks so as to provoke a military reaction.

He continued that by presenting themselves as freedom fighters and victims to the Western media, the KLA secured a Western intervention in March 1999 after they staged a fake massacre in Račak.

Schett believes the Syrian rebels would go to Kosovo for knowledge in public relations techniques. He says despite their lack of military prowess, they were adept at making the Western public believe they were fighting for a justified cause amid reports they had committed a slew of war crimes and human rights abuses.

In 1998-1999 Kosovo separatists started an armed conflict with Belgrade to split the Kosovo region from Serbia. The war in the region was marked with mass atrocities and executions of the civilian population. Most of the Serbs that used to live in Kosovo became refugees.

In 2008, 10 years after the beginning of armed conflict with Serbia, Kosovo unilaterally proclaimed independence from Belgrade. Kosovo’s independence has been recognized by leading Western countries, most members of NATO and countries associated with the bloc.

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VIDEO: Iran P5+1 Talks: Last Chance for Diplomacy?

Originally aired on Press TV, April 14, 2012

Interview with Phil Wilayto, Chris Bambery and Benjamin Schett

After over a year hiatus, talks between Iran and the P5+1 group will be taking place in Istanbul on Sat. Going into the talks, it was reported that the White House officials were confident that Iran is not engaged in making nuclear weapons. This is while prior to that, the US had opted to sanction Iran’s oil exports, not that it was successful. Fast forward one week: Iran has answered US-led sanctions with counter sanctions against countries like Germany and Spain, prior to that France and the UK and Greece. And it is within this context that the stage was set for these talks.

For transcript, visit http://www.presstv.ir/detail/236228.html

 

 

 

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From Bosnia to Syria: Is History Repeating Itself?

Anyone closely following the ongoing crisis in Syria will notice that the desire for reforms is coming from a large part of the Syrian population which has no ties to the armed insurgency supported by foreign powers. These groups, many of them Wahhabi or Salafi terrorists, constitute a serious threat to the unity of Sunni, Shia, Alawite, Christian and Druze living together in a sovereign secular state.

In fact, reports suggest that in places where the armed insurgents have managed to gain control, the actions being carried are tantamount to “ethnic cleansing”. However, as long as those allegedly responsible are acting in a way which serves US-NATO interests, their various undertakings go unreported and media attention is strategically diverted.
(See: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=29842)

In reality, many Syrians who are demanding reforms are not opposed to President Al Assad, and in fact believe in his commitment to implement change. Such reforms, however, require time to be carried out in the face of certain obstacles. Indeed, after decades of Baath rule, certain factions within the current regime have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo rather than having their privileges threatened by major changes brought about through reforms.

Moreover, there is also a peaceful opposition within the country that stands for change through dialogue with the government, knowing that sudden provocations could plunge the country into chaos. In an interview with “Syria Comment” from October 2011, writer Louay Hussein, an outspoken and longstanding opponent of the Syrian government, warned of further escalation:

“I believe there are two reasons why demonstrations will significantly diminish; first, the violent oppression by the authorities recently and second, the increase in the number of armed operations by groups opposed to the authorities such as ‘The Free Syrian Army’. This is why I expect more bloodshed in Syria. Moreover, I worry that if we fail to reach a homegrown settlement of the conflict very quickly, we will clearly witness different aspects of a civil war in the near future.”
(See: http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=12507&cp=all)

The mainstream media has dismissed this assessment and ignored these basic facts. Media attention has focussed on the exiled “opposition” group, the “Syrian National Council” (which is already breaking apart thanks to the domineering role of the Muslim Brotherhood) and the “Free Syrian Army”, supported covertly by the West. In addition, one of Western media’s favourite sources of information is the small, London-based organization called the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, whose claims, though unverified, have nevertheless been broadly quoted.

All this bears a striking resemblance to events leading up to last year’s NATO attacks on Libya, in which tens of thousands of Libyan civilians were killed. But there are two key differences:

1. This time Russia and China have been playing a more decisive role. They have expressed their opposition to actions which might lead to aggression against Syria.

2. The so-called Libyan “rebels” had some kind of a stronghold in the city of Benghazi in the East of the country, from where NATO could bomb their way into Tripoli. Comparable conditions do not prevail in Syria.

Might this be a reason for the Syrian insurgents to increase violence by carrying out bomb attacks and provoking shootings, in order to cause severe reactions from government troops and destabilize the country, and thereby reinforce sectarian conflicts? Namely, until the situation escalates to the point that Western powers feel they can “justify” the need for intervention?

The efforts for a peaceful solution made by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan would only stand a chance if Western countries and their Saudi and Qatari allies stopped their unilateral support for anti-Assad armed insurgency.

The Lessons of History: Yugoslavia

Historically, this situation is not unique and prompts us to consider how similar events have played out in the past, particularly during the civil war in Yugoslavia in the 1990s which set a historical precedent for armed Western intervention. These tragic conflicts, especially in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, served as a playground for exercising the destabilization of an entire region, manipulating public opinion in order to start a war of aggression, and carrying out regime change and economic (and partly territorial) colonization. (See: Michael Parenti’s incisive speech on the destruction of Yugoslavia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEzOgpMWnVs)

Given the extent to which insurgents in Syria can count on full support from the outside, some parallels to the outbreak of the Bosnian civil war (1992 – 1995) are worth emphasizing. Consider the following: during the war, the leader of the Bosnian Muslims, Alija Izetbegovic, supported covertly by the West, set as a priority the creation of an independent Bosnian state under Muslim rule. However, he had to deal with the problem that his vision did not represent the will of Bosnia’s majority population: according to a 1991 census, 44% of the population considered themselves Muslim/Bosniak, 32.5% Serb and 17% Croat.

While quite accurately all of Bosnia’s Serb population (one of the three constitutional nations within the republic) did not wish to leave the Yugoslav federation, the Croat side did support the holding of a referendum on an independent Bosnia. However, anyone familiar with the political aspirations of Croatia’s then president Franjo Tudjman and his Bosnian Croat allies will understand that the Croatian side certainly did not favour Bosnia’s independence because they wanted to live in such a state; rather, breaking Bosnia apart from Yugoslavia was supposed to be the first step in amalgamating the Bosnian territories having a Croatian majority population within the Croatian “motherland”.

Facing these facts and knowing that civil war had already broken out in Croatia in 1991, the only reasonable way to prevent a catastrophe in Bosnia would have been through sincere negotiations on all sides. This, in fact, was the goal of the most popular Bosnian Muslim politician at the time, Fikret Abdic, who considered himself pro-Yugoslav and received the most votes in Bosnia’s 1990 elections. Nevertheless, Izetbegovic – the candidate favoured and supported by U.S. officials – seized the Bosnian presidency instead. (Incidentally, the fact that Izetbegovic had been in prison for having disturbed the order of the Yugoslav state by stating there could be “no peace or coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic social and political institutions” in a text called the “Islamic Declaration” did not seem to pose a problem to Washington.)

In March 1992, a peaceful solution for Bosnia finally seemed to be within reach. All three Bosnian leaders (Alija Izetbegovic/Muslim, Radovan Karadzic/Serb and Mate Boban/Croat) signed the so-called Lisbon Agreement, which proposed ethnic power-sharing on all administrative levels and the delegation of central government to local ethnic communities. However Izetbegovic withdrew his signature only ten days later, after having met with the U.S. ambassador to Yugoslavia, Warren Zimmermann. It has been widely confirmed that the U.S. was pushing for an immediate recognition of Bosnia at that time. (See short clip from “Yugoslavia – An Avoidable War”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Iobb8xMFRc)

A few weeks later, war broke out, and the West was one step closer to achieving its goal of nationwide destabilization. Could the same fate be in store for Syria given the parallel involvement of the West in Syria?

In Syria as in Bosnia, efforts to find a compromise would mean putting pressure on both sides to reach an agreement. But if one side already has full support from the West, what incentive is there in pursuing a compromise with the government? In Syria, the insurgents had foreign support from the outset, automatically sabotaging the possibility of real negotiations.

Further exacerbating the situation, the mainstream media has been aggressively building the case for intervention in Syria. Several statements made by Syrian government opponents and some Western media blame the Syrian government of being responsible for the bloody terrorist bomb attacks in Damascus and Aleppo that took place on the weekend of March 17 and 18. But they were stuck for an answer regarding why it would be in President Al Assad’s interest to cause an escalation in the two largest cities of the country where he is still enjoying the support of a majority of the population.

If we go back to the Bosnian example, we can see who has historically taken advantage of such events. On May 27, 1992, a massacre took place in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, killing many innocent people waiting in line to get some bread. The terrible event was immediately and repeatedly broadcast across the world. Just four days later, on May 31, harsh UN sanctions were imposed on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. For Western decision-makers, it was clear that the Serbs were responsible for the crime. Many experts disagreed with the finger-pointing, and reference should be made particularly to Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, then Commander of the Bosnia UN troops:

“The streets had been blocked off just before the incident. Once the crowd was let in and lined up, the media appeared but kept their distance. The attack took place, and the media were immediately on the scene. The majority of the people killed are alleged to be ‘tame Serbs’.” (http://www.srpska-mreza.com/Bosnia/Sarajevo/breadline.html)

Similar events took place in 1994 and 1995 (See for example “Yugoslavia – An Avoidable War”, in its entirety: http://video.google.de/videoplay?docid=5860186121153047571#)

This finally caused the NATO bombing campaign against Bosnian Serbs, carried out between August 30 and September 20, 1995, as justified by Western calls for “humanitarian intervention”. Following from the Damascus and Aleppo attacks, could a similar “justification” be around the corner for Syria?

A great irony, of course is the hypocritical stance taken by the U.S. government, which calls for peace on the one hand and is a leading global supplier of weapons on the other. While the Obama administration might have called on the Syrian rebels to lay down their arms, there is a vast difference between official statements and what is being carried out on the ground. Indeed, there is currently a multi-billion dollar deal underway between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia (a leading arms supplier for the Syrian rebels) for the sale of US advanced weapons. (See: http://rt.com/news/saudi-arabia-protests-piety-514/)

This double standard was certainly applied in Bosnia, where the CIA was secretly smuggling weapons into the area despite an arms embargo officially being in place. (See: “Wie der Dschihad nach Europa kam: Gotteskrieger und Geheimdienste auf dem Balkan” [“How Jihad Came to Europe: Holy Warriors and Secret Services in the Balkans“] by Jürgen Elsässer, 2008)

It is worth noting that in the cases of both Syria and Bosnia (among other examples), Al Qaeda-affiliated mercenaries from several Arab countries were involved. In Syria, they integrated the “opposition”, heralded by the Western mainstream media as the victims of the government crackdown.

This should come as no surprise. Those who operate under the “Al Qaeda” label are often serving the interests of Washington. In Bosnia, where Mujahideen fighters trained Bosnian soldiers and fought against Serbs and Croats, the Al Qaeda leadership had to approve military actions by the Bosnian Muslim Army. (See: Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, http://www.bim.ba/en/79/10/4113)

One of the Bosnian Muslims who refused to fight against the Serbs, the previously mentioned Fikret Abdic, created his own safe haven by making a peace agreement with the Serbian side and by forming the “Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia”, located in the area of Velika Kladusa. British diplomat David Owen described him as “forthright, confident and different from the Sarajevan Muslims. He was in favour of negotiating and compromising with Croats and Serbs to achieve a settlement, and scathing about those Muslims who wanted to block any such settlement.” (David Owen, “Balkan Odyssey“, 1995, S. 82)

In August 1995, under a joint attack carried out by Izetbegovic’s troops and the Croatian army (both Western allies), Abdic’s peaceful, autonomous province collapsed.

Often in the media, conflicts are portrayed with reference to “good guys versus bad guys”, peacekeepers versus terrorists, us versus them. As this example from Bosnia shows, the full story cannot be accurately conveyed using these stylized concepts; not all Muslims were automatically against the Serbs, and certainly not all were interested in having Izetbegovic as president.

And in Syria, it is clear that not all of those who are demanding democracy are enemies of the Al Assad government. However, delving into the “grey area” of the good/evil dichotomy puts into question the clear-cut “justification” for intervention, and casting such doubts is certainly not in the interest of the mainstream media and the Western interests they serve.

In order to avoid misunderstanding, the people on all sides suffered terribly in the Bosnian civil war. But as in Syria, it is important to establish who has an interest in triggering increased social chaos and violence.

Throughout the entire Yugoslav civil war, separatist forces served the Western agenda which consisted in destabilizing and destroying an entire country. Yugoslavia had free education, an equitable distribution of income. It preserved its independence by being a key player within the Non-aligned Movement. In turn, this historical stance by Yugoslavia served as an example for other countries of the Non-aligned Movement which refused to accept the neoliberal diktats of the IMF.

In the context of the Balkans, the Serbian people bore the brunt of the blame from the West, and were vilified largely because they firmly opposed the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Serbia was the largest Yugoslav nation and suffered heavily during World War Two, when the Croatian fascist Ustasa movement systematically slaughtered Croatia’s and Bosnia’s Serb population. It was largely this trauma that made the idea of living in the independent states of Croatia and Bosnia, both led by extremists, unbearable for most Serbs. A realistic image of Serbia’s role in the Yugoslav wars was given by then Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, in an interview made during the Kosovo war:

“We are not angels. Nor are we the devils you have made us out to be. Our regular forces are highly disciplined. The paramilitary irregular forces are a different story. Bad things happened, as they did with both sides during the Vietnam War, or any war for that matter.” (See: http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/MiloInt.html)

All facts considered, the same could easily be said of the Syrian army and other groups fighting on Al Assad’s side. But maintaining an ambivalent position on current events in Syria, as is the trend among many mainstream liberal-leftist circles, means giving in to the neo-colonial and imperialist agenda of Western powers and their pseudo-humanitarian justification. And this despite the fact that they have actively stirred up ethnic and/or religious hatred and ignored reasonable voices, in Yugoslavia as well as in Syria, in order to follow the old Latin concept of “divide et impera“.

Author’s Note: According to the latest reports, Syria’s government has accepted Kofi Annan’s 6-point peace plan. On April 1, the “Friends of Syria” will be meeting in Istanbul, bringing together mostly Arab and Western countries favouring stronger action against President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Time will tell how these developments will impact the Syrian crisis and the potential effectiveness of the peace plan, knowing that so many outside players are acting in the background.

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VIDEO: US/NATO Proxy War in Syria Follows Precedent Set in Bosnia

Interview on Russia Today, March 19, 2012

In the wake of recent violent clashes in the Syrian capital Damascus, the country’s government has accused Western powers of assisting Qatar and Saudi Arabia with supporting and financing terrorism and further militarizing the region. While accusations abound on purported weapons shipments and the training of insurgents, it is clear that Western involvement in Syria appears to follow a precedent set years ago during NATO intervention in the war in Bosnia, when weapons were being covertly shipped into the region despite an official arms embargo.

According to Benjamin Schett, an independent political researcher based in Vienna, “It might be a repetition of this game in Syria.”

This proxy war with Western powers is being waged amid speculation that Syria is being turned into a terrorist hub and as Schett confirms, “There is an interest in turning Syria into big chaos.”

But claims that Syria’s government is bombing its own people and security buildlings don’t add up. As Schett explains, “I think that doesn’t sound very plausible because the ongoing destablization and increase of sectarian violence in Syria is not so much in the interest of Assad but more in the interest of the insurgents in order to provoke harsh reactions from the Syrian government troops, which finally could provoke foreign intervention.”

 

 

 

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VIDEO: Obama Desperate for Excuse to Attack Iran

Interview on Russia Today, March 7, 2012

RT: Israel says it is unlikely Iran will give up its controversial nuclear activity without “a real military alternative.” The statement comes from the PM’s top adviser after the six powers agreed to resume talks with Iran over its nuclear program.

“It should be clear that without a real military alternative, the Iranians will not relent in the negotiations. And without there being a serious alternative, they will not enter the negotiations, and in any event there has to be readiness for the negotiations failing,” Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror, said on Wednesday.

Although he added that there “will be no one happier” than Israel “if it emerges that in these talks Iran will give up on its military nuclear capability.”

Speaking during a news conference in the White House, US President Barack Obama said there is a “window of opportunity” to solve the tension around Iran’s nuclear program peacefully.

However, some, like global affairs researcher Benjamin Schett, are skeptical about this. He believes the U.S. could be waiting for an excuse to attack.

“It seems to be some kind of theater that the Israeli or American officials are playing,” Schett told RT.

He adds that “Obama’s soft power that he is using to meddle in Iran’s interior affairs probably will not succeed, not with economic sanctions. Although they will hit Iran hard, there are still countries like China, India, even Japan and South Korea and others who are still importing Iranian oil. “

“So, probably at some point the American administration will say well, we tried everything in diplomacy and they will of course support Israel’s attacks,” Schett speculates.

On Tuesday the EU foreign policy head, Catherine Ashton, said that the six big powers, the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, had agreed to resume talks on Iran’s nuclear program and hope negotiation will help to restore “international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program, while respecting Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”

Also on Tuesday Tehran said it would also allow nuclear inspectors to visit a secret military Parchin site, which is yet to be arranged.

“It is not the first time Iran tries to find some kind of compromise with the West. Iran always tried to please the US side,” Schett concluded.

Previous visits by UN atomic officials could not reach any conclusion on the existence of weapons because they were denied access to key facilities.

Source: Russia Today, March 7, 2012

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Debunking Anti-Iran Propaganda: The Myth of the “New Holocaust”

In a pattern of propaganda now well-established in the mainstream media, fear-mongering against Iran is reaching an all-time peak. A case in point includes ongoing accusations that Iran is in violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, despite statements to the contrary from U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta as well as a number of American intelligence officials[1].

In addition, claims that Iran is involved in terrorist activities were released by the Obama administration, fabricating an Iranian conspiracy with the goal to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. (For details, see: http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=27094)

Most recently, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of having planned terrorist attacks in India, Georgia and Thailand. (For details, see: http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=29320)

As it stands, the intensification of propaganda is fuelling an anti-Iranian proxy conflict in Syria and creating the serious danger of aggression against Iran in the coming months by Israel’s extremist government and/or the Obama administration. These media fabrications also do not question why the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran would increase worldwide tensions so much more than the hyper-developed nuclear weapons programs of countries like Israel and the United States. (Notwithstanding the fact that there is no existing proof that suggests that Iran is doing anything other than developing a peaceful civilian atomic program.)

Opponents of possible armed aggression against Iran are regularly accused of repeating the mistakes from the period prior to World War II, namely of not taking seriously the purportedly dangerous eliminatory “anti-Semitism” of the Iranian regime. This charge is echoed by the Anti-Defamation League, one of the biggest pro-Zionist U.S. groups, who is lobbying for taking any “necessary” measures in order to overthrow the Iranian government and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views place him and the Iranian regime among the foremost threats to Jews and the state of Israel.”[2]

Moreover, Israeli President Shimon Peres called Iran a “danger to the entire world” while addressing the German Bundestag in a speech marking Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010.

The symbolism of such actions is clear: whoever refuses to participate in the campaign against Iran is neglecting the threat of a new Holocaust, the insinuation being that if Iran were to get nuclear weapons, it would use them against the state of Israel.

First of all, suggesting that the current situation in Iran is even remotely comparable to the crimes committed by the Nazis inexcusably downplays the suffering of Jews, Roma, Communists, Slavic nations and other victims of Fascism.

In addition, while the strategic motivation behind arguments made by Israeli decision-makers is clear, the facts are not. In fact, the alleged statements made by Ahmadinejad calling for Israel to be “wiped of the map” were proven to be fake thanks to a false translation from Farsi into English. (See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/jun/14/post155) This has been well known already for some time, although it does not seem to faze the war propagandists.

The other question that should be asked by anyone investigating accusations against the Iranian government of being the “foremost threat against Jews” is how do Jews actually live in Iran? If the Iranian president is supposed to be some kind of reborn Hitler, would that not be reflected in imposed anti-Jewish legislature in his country, calls for pogroms, etc.?

The evidence on Jewish life in Iran, from various sources, including Jewish and American mainstream is revealing. For example, a website belonging to the Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture (FASSAC) acknowledges that:

“While Jewish communities in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria have all but vanished, Iran is home to 25,000 – some here say 35,000 – Jews.”[3]

This makes Iran’s Jewish community the largest in the Middle East, outside of Israel. Furthermore, many Iranian Jews show pride in their mixed Jewish-Iranian heritage and would not consider emigration:

“Jewish leaders say their community has far stronger roots in Iran than other Middle East Jewish communities, which were virtually eradicated by massive immigration to Israel in the 1940s and 1950s. Esther, the biblical Jewish queen who saved her people from persecution in the fifth century B.C., is reputed to be buried in Hamadan, in western Iran. The grave of the Old Testament prophet Daniel lies in southwestern Iran.”

As we see, Jewish roots in Iran date back to biblical times: “The Jews trace their heritage in Iran to the Babylonian Exile of the 6th century BC…”[4]. Indeed, several Persian kings enjoy a positive reputation in the Old Testament because of their friendly attitude towards the Hebrew people.

Today, Jewish religion and culture is still present in everyday life in Iran:

“Tehran has 11 functioning synagogues, many of them with Hebrew schools. It has two kosher restaurants, and a Jewish hospital, an old-age home and a cemetery. There is a Jewish representative in the Iranian parliament. There is a Jewish library with 20,000 titles…”

It can’t be denied that there must have been considerable concern among Iranian Jews in the time following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, as it was hard to predict how things would develop under the new radically anti-Zionist leadership, and many chose to emigrate on this account. Nonetheless:

“Khomeini [the spiritual leader of the Islamic Revolution] met with the Jewish community upon his return from exile in Paris and issued a ”fatwa” decreeing that the Jews were to be protected. Similar edicts also protect Iran’s tiny Christian minority.”

The Iranian leadership seems to draw a clear line between Zionism as a political ideology (inspired by Western European colonialist ideas in the 19th century), and Judaism. This conclusion can be underlined by several statements President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made throughout recent years. In a Christmas message to the people of Great Britain, broadcast by Channel Four, Ahmadinejad started his speech with the following lines:

“Upon the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, Son of Mary, the Word of God, the Messenger of mercy, I would like to congratulate the followers of Abrahamic faiths, especially the followers of Jesus Christ, and the people of Britain.”

The religious pathos might not be to everybody’s taste, but the more relevant question would be whether these could realistically be the lines of a fanatical preacher of hate, as he is portrayed by mainstream media in the West. In fact, by addressing the “followers of Abrahamic faith”, president Ahmadinejad expresses his respect for the three religions of the book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Critics might argue that a conciliatory message prepared for a Western audience might serve the purpose of leaving the people outside Iran in the dark about its real hidden agenda. Thanks to the Internet, it is not necessary to speak Farsi to get an impression of what Ahmadinejad is saying in front of an audience in his own country. In a speech delivered in May 2007 in the city of Esfahan (available on YouTube with English subtitles), he explains to the crowd what his response is to people who accuse him of being anti-Semitic on account of his heavy criticism of the Israeli regime:

“Some officials from that country (USA)… said all kinds of things. One of them was: “They [the Israeli leaders] are Jewish, why are you anti-Jewish?” I said: I am not anti-Jewish at all… But they are lying. They are not Jewish, but a bunch of corrupt criminals abusing the name of Judaism.”[5]

In May 2006, the National Post published an article claiming that the Iranian parliament had passed a sumptuary law forcing religious minorities, Jews included, to follow a specific dress code:

“It also envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public. The new codes would enable Muslims to easily recognize non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis (unclean).”[6]

However, the story turned out to be a hoax and the National Post issued an apology by its editor-in-chief[7]. But the intention of this falsification is obvious: it was meant to remind people of the yellow star that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi Germany, and thereby create fears of similar events happening in Iran that might lead to some kind of new Holocaust.

One of the particularly critical Jewish responses to this provocation came from Iran’s Jewish Member of Parliament, Moris Motamed. (It should be noted that Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians all have their own guaranteed seat in the Iranian Parliament (Majilis), which is one of the results of Khomeini’s fatwa calling for the protection of these religious minorities). As Motamed outlined in an interview with Counterpunch:

“Unfortunately, this was fake news published in a Canadian newspaper. I considered this news a big insult to the religious minorities of Iran. I refuted the story vigorously, to the point that the source of the news and the Canadian government officially apologized to the Iranian government.”[8]

The same Motamed, who officially represents the Iranian Jewish community, does not criticize Iran’s nuclear program, unlike many foreigners who claim to act in favour of Judaism by encouraging “strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities”:

“As a Jewish Iranian, I consider enrichment of peaceful nuclear technology the obvious right of Iranian society. What is sad here — and I’m so sorry about it — is that before the Islamic Revolution, we witnessed… western Europe and America pressuring Iran to obtain nuclear technology and establish a nuclear power plant. Now the idea is brought up: “Why do you want nuclear technology? What is the point of nuclear technology for you when you have rich resources like fuel and gas and oil?” My question here is why at that earlier time, the problem of natural resources was not brought up?”

In further demonizing the Iranian state, Western media and pro-Zionist lobbyists accuse Ahmadinejad of making ambiguous statements about the Holocaust. Clearly, however, holocaust denial does not represent the official position of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Otherwise it couldn’t be explained why in 2007 the Iranian state television broadcast a series emphasising the suffering of Europe’s Jews in the Second World War, in what can be likened to an Iranian version of “Schindler’s List”:

“The central character is an Iranian diplomat, who provides false Iranian passports to enable Jews to flee the Nazi-occupied France, a sort of Iranian Schindler. He even has a love affair with a Jewish woman.”[9]

This Iranian diplomat saving Iranian Jews, named Abdol Hossein Sardari, actually existed in real life and has been honoured in past decades by Jewish organisations, including the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.[10]

It should not be the goal of this article to make a final judgement on Jewish life in Iran, because this would be an almost impossible enterprise without having the personal experience of how life looks when belonging to a religious minority in a very religious country. But it is important to put the collected information into perspective. It is apparent Iranian Jews have the right to freely practice their religion and to maintain their culture and traditions. Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish libraries, hospitals and restaurants are well-established across the country.

By contrast, the impression we get from one of America’s closest Middle Eastern allies, the totalitarian Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (a rival of Iran), looks very different. Neither Jewish nor Christian worship is allowed, and Saudi school textbooks spread hateful messages such as the following, according to Daily Mail:

“In one, for ninth-graders, students are taught the annihilation of the Jewish people is imperative. One text reads in part: ‘The hour (of judgment) will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. There is a Jew behind me come and kill him.'”[11]

This is not the first time that the U.S. government is fighting alongside extremists against states that they perceive as barriers to the proliferation of their economic, geopolitical and imperial agendas, while at the same time pretending to combat “terrorism”, “ethnic cleansing” and other crimes against humanity.

All things considered, the hypocrisy is plainly clear. It is therefore not only necessary but also imperative to oppose the dangerous propaganda and warmongering spread by the most aggressive factions within the U.S. and Israeli establishments, and ensure that truth prevails over rampant militarization.

Notes

[1] http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-01-08/iran-nuclear-weapons/52451620/1.
[2] http://www.adl.org/main_International_Affairs/ahmadinejad_words.htm.
[3] http://www.sephardicstudies.org/iran.html.
[4] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/293359/Iran.
[5] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEDqygQMoZ8.
[6] Original article: http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=398274b5-9210-43e4-ba59-fa24f4c66ad4&k=28534&p=1.
[7] http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=6df3e493-f350-4b53-bc16-53262b49a4f7
[8] http://www.counterpunch.org/2008/07/14/talking-to-iran-s-only-jewish-member-of-parliament.
[9] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7119474.stm.
[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdol_Hossein_Sardari.
[11] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2077658/The-Arabic-textbooks-children-chop-hands-feet-Sharia-law.html.

Published on:
Global Research, March 06, 2012

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Russia’s Elections: Who is Calling the Shots at the Duma?

The Russian elections this month held some unwelcome surprises for the nation’s ruling party, “United Russia”. Administered in tandem by current president Dmitri Medvedev and prime minister Vladimir Putin (soon to be president once again), United Russia found itself receiving significantly lower-than-normal parliamentary results. This, combined with the protests that ensued quickly thereafter, seems to have sparked the corporate media’s hopes for a “colour revolution”.

The situation echoes the Serbian, Georgian and Ukrainian models; in these and several other countries, the governments had to step down after mass protests were organised with the support of US think tanks including the National Endowment for Democracy. These actions, led by the US and several EU countries, were geared toward the installation of leaderships that were more in line with Western agendas than their predecessors, and not necessarily in the interest of the Russian population.

Certainly no effort is being spared to work towards a change of government in Russia.

However, these suggestions of a “colour revolution” do not correspond to Russian realities at all. American and West European media love to project their perceptions of a pro-Western civil society onto the protesters in Russia. Without a doubt, the archetype of the young academic activist who blames the government for being “undemocratic” and who advertises his West-friendly ideas on his internet blog certainly does exist in Russia. And the way the various neoliberal-oriented groups are being financed by the usual suspects is well documented[1]. But even in Western media one can read between the lines and notice that the majority of those expressing their dissatisfaction do not fit this scheme.

First of all it should be mentioned that the composition of the Russian Duma following the election results does in fact represent the will of Russia’s majority as much as it is possible in a system of representative democracy, which mirrors the framework of most Eastern and Western European countries. In the end, the ruling party received 238 of altogether 450 seats, which means a loss of 77 seats and its (up to now) two-thirds majority rule. The strongest opposition party, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), gained 35 seats and raised its total number to 92.[2] Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats, led by the nationalist Vladimir, and a party called “A Just Russia”, which is supposed to be government-friendly and focuses on social issues, are also represented in the new parliament. [3]

The Communist Party leader, Gennady Zyuganov, does not demand a return to Soviet conditions, although this symbolism is being used to feed into nostalgic sentiments amongst the elder generations. His main positions were explained as follows on news channel Russia Today: “Zyuganov focuses on social protection, calling for increased pensions, higher wages for the state sector and re-nationalization of the economy.”[4]

It is doubtful that these ideas by the undisputedly strongest Russian opposition party would please the missionaries of “democracy” of the so-called international community.

Consider the following: 1996 saw the second presidential election since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Western favourite at the time was Boris Yeltsin, who was then the sitting president. His skewed interpretation of “democracy”, however, resulted inter alia in the storming of the Russian parliament in 1993, followed by the creation of a constitution legitimising presidential absolute rule.

In addition, Yeltsin was a puppet of the so-called Oligarchs, people who managed to become incredibly rich using lawless methods during the chaotic period of transition. In treating the country as their personal property, they caused the disintegration of the state and extreme impoverishment of the majority of the population.

In the 1996 election Yeltsin’s challenger was the same Gennady Zyuganov now leading the Communist Party, who was the projected favourite on account of to the president’s countless corruption scandals and unprecedented redistribution of wealth from the bottom sectors of society to the top.

Werner Pirker, Berlin-based junge Welt’s expert on Russia, describes the process that saw Yeltsin win in the end, despite the odds:

“The massive election fraud charged by the Russian communists during the presidential elections 1996, when Yeltsin managed to beat his communist challenger yet again using every administrative recourse and financial support from the oligarchs to the tune of several million, was no problem at all for the West.”[5]

Interestingly, NATO did not reward Yeltsin’s servility and instead expanded along Russia’s borders by pulling former Soviet republics into the NATO alliance.

Yeltsin stepped down at the end of 1999 and named Vladimir Putin as his successor. Choosing not to be a puppet of the oligarchy, Putin turned against his former supporter, Boris Berezovsky, a billionaire who made his fortune thanks to privatisations of state property, and who used to be deeply involved in politics during the Yeltsin era. Berezovsky was later convicted of financial crimes after having already received “political asylum” in Britain.[6]

A noticeable stabilisation of the Russian state was achieved during the years of Putin’s presidency, and these improvements caused the communists to lose many voters to the government party. Part of this process also included an informal agreement with the oligarchs in order to let them keep their largely illegitimately gained fortunes on the strict condition that they stop intervening in politics. This explains the harsh way the Russian state is handling the case against former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who did not respect this deal and tried to organise resistance against Putin’s government. Khodorkovsky will likely spend many years in prison on account of this; in the West, however, he is practically being presented as a glorified dissident by the mainstream media.[7]

Next to many successes, several problems remain. Russia’s prosperity is heavily dependent upon the prices of raw materials, which the country exports. A considerable stagnation cannot be denied, and many people complain about high living expenses.[8] This may well be a large reason for the relative loss of confidence in the government from various sectors of the population.

Next to politicians who are striving for better social conditions and those who are engaged in Western-funded organisations, Russia’s far right movements are also participating in the protests. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the reputed clown of the political spectrum, is one case in point. With his nationalist Liberal Democrats, he enjoys drawing attention to himself by creating sensationalist scandals. On the other hand he regularly votes on the government’s side in the Duma and therefore can be seen as relatively harmless and controllable. In essence Zhirinovsky has no real influence on the ultra-chauvinist movements, who stir up hatred against populations from Central Asia and North Caucasus, and other minorities.

The Guardian stated recently: “Russian nationalism may be the biggest threat to Putin’s power.”[9]

Taking all this into account, the prospect of a unified protest movement – consisting of people going into the streets for improved social conditions, adherents of neoliberalism, and extreme chauvinists – does not appear to be a realistic option.

It is to be hoped that Vladimir Putin, soon returning for another round as president, will be responsive to the people’s wishes for better quality of life. And in the West, those who truly want the Russian people to live in peace and prosperity need turn away from the propaganda spread by self-proclaimed “democracy” exporters and understand what is happening on the ground.

Notes 

[1] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28182.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_legislative_election,_2011.

[3] http://www.ftd.de/politik/international/:russland-russische-opposition-ist-nur-ein-scheingegner/60142044.html.

[4] http://russiapedia.rt.com/prominent-russians/politics-and-society/gennady-zyuganov.

[5] http://www.jungewelt.de/2011/12-09/037.php.

[6] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/nov/30/russia.tomparfitt.

[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/04/opinion/04nocera.html.

[8] http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a4b5c8d0-0945-11df-ba88-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1gXmdvfog.

[9] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/09/russian-nationalism-challenge-putin-power.

Published on:

Global Research, December 22, 2011

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