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VIDEO: Libya’s Destabilization Serves Western Political Agenda

Originally aired on Russia Today, September 12, 2012

 

Washington continues to support militant Islamist groups as long as it’s politically expedient to do so, says global affairs researcher Benjamin Schett.

US military adventurism, and the war crimes committed by the country’s forces, impoverish the entire region and ultimately lead to a rise in the number of Islamic militant groups, he told RT. Such groups, he says, can end up posing a threat to US citizens.

Schett spoke to RT about the killing of American Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other embassy staff in Libya.

RT: Ambassador Stevens was responsible for building Washington’s relations with the Libyan post-revolution interim leadership. Does that indicate that the people behind the attack are of a very different mindset to Libya’s current rulers?

Benjamin Schett: Not necessarily. The United States supported militant extremist Islamic groups in order to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi last year. And one example is the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. It is, according to the Washington Post, a terrorist organization with links to al-Qaeda. Nevertheless, in 1996, they received support from British Secret Service MI6 to kill Gaddafi, which did not work out, as we know. After 9/11, in 2001, they still got support from Western powers during the so-called uprising in Libya last year and the NATO bombing campaign. They got support from the US and Saudi allies, so obviously the US never stopped supporting militant Islamist groups as long as it’s in their geopolitical interests.

RT: What does this attack say about the authorities’ grip on security in post-Gaddafi Libya?

BS: It shows that Libya is part of a broader balkanization of the Middle East and South and Central Asia, which is a direct result of US policies. We saw what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq after the US invasion – the clashes between Sunnis and Shias. We see what’s happening now in Syria, where the sectarian violence is being supported from the outside – from the Gulf states, from the US, and from France. And it’s what’s happening in Libya – all these different militias that received support in order to fight against Gaddafi are now turning against each other and are pushing for a tribalization of Libya.

RT: It’s believed the attacks were a response to this US film deemed offensive to Islam. But could it also be a side effect of US foreign policy in the region?

BS: Definitely. The whole story of the clash of civilizations and Christianity versus Islam – all these stories, they don’t show the real picture. The real picture is that the majority of Muslims are as peaceful as the majority of Christians or Jews or whoever. The policy of supporting militant extremist Islamist groups as long as it serves geopolitical interests and fighting secular independent governments in the Middle East, or direct military intervention and war crimes, impoverishing of the whole region – certainly this leads to an increase of Islamic militant movements, which can turn out to be a threat to US citizens, as we’ve just seen.

RT: It’s the first death of a high-profile US diplomat on duty abroad since 1979. Could this killing affect future policymaking in the State Department?

BS: The US official propaganda has a very cynical term regarding civilian deaths during a bombing campaign, called “collateral damage.” Of course, they wouldn’t use this term when it comes to the death of a US citizen. But I think in the mindset of the US establishment, in a certain way this also was collateral damage because it won’t make them stop their policies in the Middle East, even if it threatens the lives of American citizens.

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US Sponsored “Islamic Fundamentalism”: The Roots of the US-Wahhabi Alliance

The alliance between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia helped spread the ideology of fundamentalist Sunni Islam all over the globe. The majority of its victims are not citizens of Western countries, but citizens of countries that U.S. elites consider a threat to their economic and geopolitical interests. Many victims of Sunni extremism (often called Wahhabism or Salafism[1]) are in fact Muslims (often with a secular leftist or nationalist political background), moderate Sunni or members of Shiʿite Islamic faith.

This article addresses the history of Wahhabi fundamentalism and the examples of Afghanistan in the 80s, as well as the current situation in Syria. Both cases illustrate America’s responsibility for the destruction of secular, socially progressive societies in the Islamic world and elsewhere.

The Origins of Wahhabism

Wahhabi ideology serves U.S. interests for several reasons. Its followers’ archaic perception of society makes them reject any kind of progressive social change. Therefore they are well equipped to push back socialist, secular or nationalist movements, whose independence-oriented policies are a threat to America’s geopolitical agenda. Although Wahhabism certainly is not representative of the majority of Sunni Muslims, Wahhabi Muslims are Sunni extremists, which causes them to maintain an extremely hostile stance towards Shi’te Islam.

After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which brought down the secular-nationalist regime of Saddam Hussein (a Sunni), the influence of Shi’ite-dominated Iran increased and caused a certain power shift in favor of Shiʿite Islam in the region. Due to this strengthened Shiʿite representation, American activities in the Middle East in recent years have been almost exclusively directed against Shiʿite interests. The emancipation of deprived Shiʿite masses in Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen or Lebanon are contrary to aspirations from the side of the U.S., whose main allies in the region (next to Israel) consist of repressive Sunni regimes and terror groups.

In the case of Syria, President Bashar Al-Assad (an ally of Iran) and the secular Syrian society particularly evoke the hatred of extremists. The fact that Al-Assad belongs to the Alawite minority (a mystical religious group and a branch of Shiʿite Islam) makes him unacceptable to Wahhabi purists.

Portraying Syria ruled solely by its Alawi minority (as some mainstream journalists tend to do) would nevertheless be wrong. As Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya pointed out, among the Syrian top officials killed by a terrorist attack on July 18, 2012, Sunnis and Christians could be found among the Alawites.[2]

It is therefore worth examining the background of these enemies of secularism, multi-faith society and progress. Wahhabism is a puritanical branch of Sunni Islam that was founded in the middle of the 18th Century by Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab, a theologian who propagated holy war and the “purification” of Islam. One of his inspirations was Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328), an early Islamic fundamentalist scholar who opposed any kind of intellectual debate that differentiated between the word of god and its interpretation.

Al-Wahhab and his ideas might have been forgotten by history if he hadn’t made a pact with Muhammad ibn Saud, emir of Al-Diriyah and ruler of the first Saudi state in 1744.

According to Robert Dreyfuss, the Saudi-Wahhabi alliance:

“…began a campaign of killing and plunder all across Arabia, first in central Arabia, then in Asir in Southern Arabia and parts of Yemen, and finally in Rhiadh and the Hijaz. In 1802 they raided the Shiite holy city of Karbala in what is now Iraq, killing most of the city’s population, destroying the dome over the grave of a founder of Shiism, and looting property, weapons, clothing, carpets, gold, silver and precious copies of the Quran.”[3]

In order to keep the faith “pure”, influences from Greek philosophy, Christianity and Judaism had to be exterminated. Intellectuals, artists, scientists and progressive rulers were declared enemies with no right to live.

It goes without saying that the idea of representing the pure teaching of Islam was fanatically pursued; in fact, Wahhabi warriors were fighting in order to spread the most archaic lifestyle that could be found within Arab culture.

In the second half of the 19th century, British imperialism discovered the house of Al Saud as a potentially useful ally in its attempt to gain influence in the Middle-East.

Riadh had been invaded by the Ottoman sultan in 1818. The Al Saud returned to power in 1823, but its area of control was mainly restricted to the Saudi heartland of the Nejd region, known as the second Saudi State. In 1899 the British helped the Al Saud establish a base in its protectorate of Kuwait, in order to reconquer Riadh, at that time ruled by the pro-Ottoman Al Rashid dynasty.

Originally Great Britain’s motivation to gain influence in the Middle-East was caused by their view of Arabia and the Gulf as being “one link in a chain that ran from Suez to India, the two anchors of the empire.”[4] Vast oil reserves would be discovered in the 1930s.

Great Britain became the first country to recognize the new Saudi Arabia as an independent state, establishing its current borders in 1932. A “Treaty of Friendship and Good Understanding” between the British Crown and the Saudi monarch was signed already in 1927. The 1924 integration of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina into the kingdom through military conquest inevitably contributed to firmly entrenching Al Saud’s authority in the Muslim world.

U.S. interest in Saudi Arabia started to grow as well around the same time, and a treaty with the California Arabian Standard Oil Company was agreed upon in 1932. It was the first such agreement created in cooperation with a western oil company.

In the following years and decades, the increasing revenues in oil business enabled the Saudi financing of religious institutions worldwide, propagating extremist interpretations of Islam. The flow of petro-dollars was of great importance to Saudi elites, who adapted a luxurious lifestyle and at the same time maintained an alliance with the Wahhabi base.[5] They also maintained ties to U.S. state officials, who welcomed Saudi oil as well as radical Islam, as long as it was directed against those standing in the way of America’s geopolitical agenda.

“Foreign aid” financed by the Kingdom was tremendous, according to U.S. “anti-terror” expert Alex Alexiev (though he doesn’t acknowledge the U.S. involvement in spreading Wahhabi terror):

“Between 1975 and 1987, the Saudis admit to having spent $48 billion or $4 billion per year on ‘overseas development aid’, a figure which by the end of 2002 grew to over $70 billion (281 billion Saudi rials).These sums are reported to be Saudi state aid and almost certainly do not include private donations which are also distributed by state-controlled charities. Such staggering amounts contrast starkly with the $5 million in terrorist accounts the Saudis claim to have frozen since 9/11.”[6]

A report from September 2009, made by the United States Government Accountability Office, points out the historical relevance of U.S.-Saudi relations:

“Relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia have a long historical context. Since the establishment of the modern Saudi state in 1932, and throughout the Cold War, the governments of the United States and Saudi Arabia developed a relationship based on shared interests, including energy production and combating communism. For instance, both Saudi Arabia and the United States became major supporters of the Afghan Mujahideen’s struggle against the Soviet invasion in 1979.”[7]

Saudi-backed archaic ideology served as an incentive to thousands of confused young men to receive military training in Pakistan in the 1980s, from where they were sent to Afghanistan in order to kill Russians.

America’s ‘Holy War’ against the USSR in Afghanistan

In a famous interview from 1998, former National Security Advisor to President Carter and geopolitical strategist, Zbigniew Brzezinski, openly admitted that the hidden agenda of U.S. involvement in the war between Soviet troops and Afghan Mujahideen (1979-1988) was about “giving to the USSR its Vietnam war.” He also admitted that American covert support of Islamist fighters in Afghanistan had already started six months prior to the beginning of Soviet intervention in order to create a trap that would eventually lead to the collapse of the USSR. Nothing about this is worth regretting, according to Mr. Brzezinski, not even the U.S. alliance with radical Islam:

“What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”[8]

In addition, the former Pakistani regime under General Zia Ul Haq, whose political program consisted of a plan of “Islamisation” of the country, was the main American ally when it came to training Islamist fighters. This happened under close cooperation between the CIA and the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence). The ideological indoctrination of the people supposed to fight against the Soviets was being delivered by Pakistani madrassas, schools of radical (Wahhabi) Islam, financed by Saudi Arabia.[9]

While U.S. officials justified their support for the Mujahideen by presenting them as some kind of supposed freedom fighters, their Islamist allies showed less restraint in revealing their plans for Afghanistan. One example was the ISI Director General at the time, Akhtar Abdur Rahman Shaheed, who expressed his opinion quite undiplomatically: “Kabul must burn! Kabul must burn!”[10]

While Brzezinski achieved his goal, the fate of Afghanistan is well known: decades of civil war, brutality, analphabetism, the worst possible violation of women’s rights, extreme poverty and sectarian violence. Not to mention pollution by depleted uranium causing a sharp increase in cancer rates thanks to the U.S. bombing campaign from October 2001.

United States and Saudi Arabia against Secular Syria

Many other scenarios involving CIA/Saudi-sponsored terrorism took place in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union (e.g. in Chechnya, Bosnia, Libya etc.).

Currently, Syria’s secular, multi-ethnic and multi-faith society is being targeted by these very same forces, as well as reactionary regimes belonging to the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) and Turkey. As with the war in Afghanistan in the 80s, U.S. involvement in the Syrian crisis is intended to isolate Iran and, once again, target Russia. In conjunction, Wahhabi extremists are carrying out the same work as their forefathers in the 18th Century, namely fighting all tolerant forms of Islam.

Might this have been the reason why insurgents killed the youngest son of Syria’s highest Islamic authority, Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun? Indeed, the position of the Grand Mufti is not aligned with Wahhabi extremism, as was clearly shown in last year’s interview with Der Spiegel:

“I see myself as the grand mufti of all 23 million Syrians, not just Muslims, but also Christians and even atheists. I am a man of dialogue. Who knows, maybe an agnostic will convince me with better arguments one day, and I’ll become a non-believer. And if I’m enthusiastic about the opposition’s political platform, I also might change sides.”[11]

In addition, several events that took place on the day this particular interview are worth noticing:

“During the late afternoon, the grand mufti has other appointments: condolence visits with a Christian and a Muslim family. In the evening, he will have to comfort his wife once again, who is completely distraught over the death of Saria. He was the youngest of the couple’s five sons, and the only one still living at home. Saria’s fellow students are holding a vigil at his stone sarcophagus, even now, four weeks after the murder. The young man’s last resting place can be found in the courtyard of a modest mosque. Sheikh Hassoun visits this sad place every day.”[12]

This certainly does not correspond with the Western media’s picture of fanatical Islamists, who consider the death of their sons a sign of honour and martyrdom, as long as they have died under circumstances that caused the death of “infidels” as well. Such behaviour is encouraged by Saudi Arabia, as can be seen on a shocking video available on YouTube. The shocking footage features a father in Jeddah, selling his son to be sent to Syria as a suicide bomber. Even if one questions the authenticity of the video, the ongoing suicide bombings in Syria are undoubtedly real:

Conclusion

To be sure, the religion of Islam poses just as much or little a threat to the world as the religions of Judaism or Christianity. Nevertheless, certain radical pockets exist who use and abuse religion to justify their disgust for dissent and whose totalitarian practices can only be classified as fascist. Their attempts to destroy reason, progress and humanist ideals make them ideal tools for the most aggressive imperialist factions within the U.S. establishment to push for regime change and implement their exploitative impoverishing agendas.

Notes

1“Wahhabi” is a term usually used in a critical context by Muslims. Salafi means “ancestor” and is most often a term used by Sunni fundamentalists to describe themselves.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=32134.

3 Dreyfuss, Robert: “Devil’s Game: How the United States helped unleash fundamentalist Islam”, New York 2005, S. 37.

Ibid.

5 See: Anhalt, Utz: Wüstenkrieg – Jemen, Somalia, Sudan in der Geostrategie der USA, S. 32.

http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/congress/sc062603_alexiev.pdf.

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09883.pdf.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/BRZ110A.html.

http://www.fpif.org/blog/wikileaks_saudi-financed_madrassas_more_widespread_in_pakistan_than_thought.

10 See: “Silent soldier: the man behind the Afghan jehad General Akhtar Abdur Rahman Shaheed”, by Mohammad Yousaf, Karachi, 1991.

11 http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-syrian-grand-mufti-assad-could-step-down-after-free-elections-a-796363-2.html.

12 Ibid.

Published on:

Global Research, September 7, 2012

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Iran’s Nuclear Program: IAEA Desperate to Find “Smoking Gun”

In its latest report, the IAEA once again repeats the standard accusations about Iran “not providing the necessary cooperation”[1]. Following from this, the agency claims to be “unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”[2]

It is not surprising that mainstream media is gleefully jumping on these claims. Among the usual suspects is the New York Times, pointing out that over the summer Iran has “doubled the number of centrifuges installed deep under a mountain near Qum.”[3]

However, this process is nothing that Iran hadn’t already declared almost three years ago. As we can see in an IAEA report from November 2009:

“The IAEA verified Iran’s declaration that the facility was designed to hold 16 cascades of approximately 3000 P-1 centrifuges, though Iranian officials noted that the plant could be reconfigured to hold centrifuges of a more advanced design should such a decision be taken. Iran stated that the facility will be operational in 2011.”[4]

As the New York Times states, the current number of Fordow-based centrifuges is 2140, not yet the estimated 3000 from the 2009 report.[5]

In addition, the repeated claim of Iran still having an increased stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium can hardly be described as an illegal act. 20 percent enrichment is needed in order to build isotopes serving medical purposes. Gareth Porter points out that Iran has actually been quite cooperative on this matter as well:

“Iran has actually reduced the amount of 20-percent enriched uranium available for any possible breakout to weapons grade enrichment over the last three months rather than increasing it.”[6]

As we see from the IAEA report, all the enrichment taking place in the facilities of Fordow as well as Natanz is being carried out under the use of the so-called IR-1 type of centrifuges. This type of centrifuge is outdated (from the 1970s) and is inefficient for high enrichment of uranium. By using this type of method “you lose a lot of material”, according to Olli Heinonen, former deputy director of the IAEA.[7] In fact, Pakistan replaced these systems back in the 80s in order to develop their own nuclear weapons:

“This is why A.Q. Khan [Pakistani nuclear scientist and founder of the country’s atomic bomb project] in the 1980s himself gave up the P-1 design and developed the more efficient centrifuges used today by Pakistan.”[8]

Christina Walrond, a research analyst for the Institute for Science and International Security, referred to the outdated centrifuges as well. According to The Daily Beast:

“It is interesting to note they have not yet deployed any of the advanced machines despite having worked on them for a long time.”[9]

Might there be a chance that Iran has not yet installed advanced machines in order not to give the US/Israeli warmongering establishment any pretense that they could use as “justification” for their plans to attack? Obviously the factions pushing towards an attack on Iran do not leave any option unexplored when it comes to the creation of accusations, absurd as they may be.

In addition, unlike Israel, Iran has joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This treaty does not allow the creation of nuclear weapons, and enrichment for peaceful purposes is legal. The watchdogs so far have not found any evidence for non-peaceful nuclear enrichment in Iran, and they have permanent access to the country’s nuclear facilities. Despite that, the IAEA demands access to the military site of Parchin. However meeting this kind of requirement is not mandatory, according to the NPT. Iranian MP Jalil Jafari explains the refusal by Iran’s government for IAEA inspections in Parchin as follows:

“In one of the clauses of the report, the issue of inspecting the Parchin site has been stated once again. But the point that should be taken into consideration is that no nuclear activity has been carried out at the Parchin site and the Parchin site is a military site. And permission to inspect military centers has not been granted to IAEA inspectors under any of the articles of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”[10]

Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, members of the Bush administration at least made an effort to invent fake evidence on the alleged existence of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. This time, against Iran, accusations without any basis seem to be sufficient in order justify a pro-war policy.

Notes

[1]     http://www.isisnucleariran.org/assets/pdf/Iran_report_–_August_30_2012.pdf.

[2]    Ibid.

[3]     http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/31/world/middleeast/nuclear-inspectors-confirm-iranian-progress.html.

[4]     http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2009/gov2009-74.pdf.

[5]     http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/31/world/middleeast/nuclear-inspectors-confirm-iranian-progress.html.

[6]   http://therealnews.com/t2/component/content/article/92-more-blog-posts-from-gareth-porter/1237–iaea-report-shows-iran-reduced-its-breakout-capacity.

[7]    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/08/30/the-silver-lining-on-iran-s-nukes.html.

[8]    Ibid.

[9]    Ibid.

[10]   http://www.tehrantimes.com/component/content/article/101155.

Published on:

Global Research, September 5, 2012

 

 

 

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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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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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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

Progressive Radio Network

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