Category Archives: Media

Response to BBC Panorama Documentary on North Korea

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The following statement below was originally published by The Pyongyang Project:

Fellow traveler and Citizen Diplomat to North Korea, Michael Bassett, hugging a 1st Lieutenant (상위) of the KPA.  For more photos by Michael Bassett, click here.

Fellow traveler and Citizen Diplomat to North Korea, Michael Bassett, hugging a 1st Lieutenant (상위) of the KPA.
For more photos by Michael Bassett, click here.


Response to BBC Panorama Documentary on North Korea

April 16, 2013

Recent news surrounding the dispute between John Sweeney, the London School of Economics (LSE), and the Panorama documentary on North Korea offers us an opportunity to evaluate the different ways we as foreigners can choose to approach North Korea.

On the one hand, we can follow Mr. Sweeney’s lead and adopt the attitude of an investigative reporter in search of ever more astonishing reminders that North Korea is indeed a whole lot different from “us”—and not in the good way. The depiction of North Korea as a nation of irate soldiers, inflammatory propaganda and oppressive brainwashing is hackneyed and simplistic at best, and both irresponsible and harmful at worst.

Mr. Sweeney and his crew visited North Korea as part of a highly restricted tour that over forty thousand other foreigners take every year.  It is entirely naïve for Mr. Sweeney and his crew to assume that observations from this standard tour, specifically intended for foreign tourists, allowed them to draw meaningful conclusions about daily life in North Korea. To suggest as much, on a national stage, is extremely misleading. In an interview with the BBC, Mr. Sweeney claimed that North Korea is “more like Hitler’s Germany than other state in this world…extraordinarily scary, dark and evil.” This is a prime example of how simplistic and sensational characterizations absorb public attention away from the far more complex challenge of how to encourage productive engagement.

Criticism of Mr. Sweeney’s actions—that he placed LSE students at potential risk while also damaging LSE’s academic credibility—has been given much attention in the media and rightfully so. It should also be noted that concocting the identity of a professor and filming a documentary without permission might well have had repercussions in North Korea as well. By betraying the trust of their North Korean hosts, Mr. Sweeney and his crew unwittingly put their tour guides in personal danger. Mr. Sweeney’s claims that his actions “only deceived the government” are erroneous and betray his overly simplistic understanding of North Korea; it is false to again assume the “Government” is one cohesive unit.

For those of us who have spent years working with various North Korean ministries, bureaus, companies, institutions, committees, and universities, we understand that organizations operate with relative independence; the only group deceived would have been the tourism operator and agent with whom they arranged their tour. Should the Panorama documentary provoke negative backlash against North Korea, these tour guides may bare the brunt of the blame and the punishment. Considering the extent to which Mr. Sweeney compromised the safety of both his hosts and fellow travellers, it is disappointing that his ruse failed to reveal anything more constructive.

There are more creative ways to approach North Korea. Through our organization we have been working regularly with North Korean students, professors and professionals for the last five years; bringing them abroad for educational enrichment programs, and organizing exchange activities with them in North Korea. We have also brought many Western students to North Korea, South Korea and Northeast China to participate in study tours, language learning programs, and athletic exchanges. What we see is the dedication our North Korean students have for their studies, waking up everyday at six in the morning to prepare for class, asking for extra classroom time and homework to reinforce their lessons, making the most of the opportunity to study abroad under foreign professors. What we do is bring together different viewpoints of Chinese, South Korean, North Korean, and Western professors and practitioners to examine the issues in Korea from as many angles and standpoints as possible. The result: extreme complexity, high emotions, and a very human will to empathize with one another. It is time to be responsible and act constructively; and to stop using the misfortune of others as an entertaining horror show.

Here in Canada alone, there are universities and non-profit organizations implementing educational exchange projects to train North Korean students and professors in economics and humanities. There are also organizations working actively to provide humanitarian assistance to people throughout the North Korean countryside. Can Mr. Sweeney’s eight days looking at the country from a very limited lens rife with preconceived notions and half-baked analysis shed as much light on the reality of life in North Korea as years of on the ground experience?

In the face of heightened geopolitical tension the last thing the world needs is more fodder for the fire. With the increased media scrutiny, Mr. Sweeney has a unique opportunity to shift focus away from the customary narrative of North Korea as an irascible pariah state and elicit conversation on what can be done to make things better.

Pyongyang Project Management Team

DPRK’s “State of War” Declaration Is a Faulty Translation: Not an Official Policy Statement from Kim Jung Un

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Ed. Note: Since re-publishing this article from Global Research, and after several back and forth conversations on Facebook regarding this particular translation, I’ve since been informed that the English translation may, in fact, be accurate and not manufactured. The source of this comes from someone who’s spent time in the DPRK and has traveled alongside that of The Pyongyang Project, participating in their programs. The source wishes to remain unnamed, but I can verify that he is very knowledgeable and well-studied in Korean language.

When asked if the picture’s (shown below) claim of the English translation being inaccurate was true, this is what the source had to say:

‘This is not correct. The statement read: “이 시각부터 북남관계는 전시상황에 들어가며 따라서 북남사이에서 제기되는 모든 문제들은 전시에 준하여 처리될것이다.” The translation provided on the English version of Rodong Sinmun is: “From this moment, the north-south relations will be put at the state of war and all the issues arising between the north and the south will be dealt with according to the wartime regulations.” This is an accurate translation. Moreover, the English title of the announcement is “North-South Relations Have Been Put at State of War: Special Statement of DPRK”. The only media outlet manufacturing these claims is Rodong Sinmun.’

Korean: http://www.rodong.rep.kp/InterKo/index.php?strPageID=SF01_02_01&newsID=2013-03-30-0065
English: http://www.rodong.rep.kp/InterEn/index.php?strPageID=SF01_02_01&newsID=2013-03-30-0013&chAction=S Read the rest of this entry

RT Interviews President Lukashenko – ‘I have no resources to be a dictator’

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The following interview below was originally published by Russia Today

March 18, 2013

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko

His reputation precedes him: The long-time Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko has been often referred to in the Western media as ‘Europe’s last dictator’. But he insists he doesn’t have the means to be one as RT sits down with the President.

“In order to be a dictator and dictate one’s will one has to have the resources: economic, social, military, population, and so on. But we have none. And I am being objective about it,” Belarusian president told RT’s Sofiko Shevardnadze.

The 58-year-old former head of a state-owned farm told RT he has no intention to hand over power to any of his sons. “I swore I would never delegate the reins of power to any of my relatives, loved ones or children. It’s out of the question,” Belarusian leader emphasized.  “Who wins a fair election will have the power. Like I did when I won the race as a candidate from the opposition,” he added.

The Belarus leadership has repeatedly been the target of fierce criticism from the EU over its crackdown on the opposition and lack of respect for democracy and human rights. Up to 250 Belarusian officials, including President Aleksandr Lukashenko, and 32 companies are currently subject to travel bans and asset freezes within the EU.more

For more on this as well as Lukashenko’s view on relations with Russia and international community, his presidency and successors, and the overwhelming economic crisis and Belarus’ fate read the full interview below.

Read the rest of this entry

The DPRK Did Not “Vow Nuclear Attack on Washington”: On Preemptive Strikes

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The following article below was originally published by the Return to the Source news blog: 

March 8, 2013

Former Chicago Bulls Forward Dennis Rodman became the first US citizen to meet DPRK Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, and in doing so, he set a standard for international solidarity that the US Left should learn from.

Fox News, CNN, the BBC, and a host of other Western news outlets were aflame yesterday – no pun intended – after a representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) said that their country would launch a preemptive strike against US aggression. The sensationalist headlines kicked into high-gear, with Fox News reporting, “‘North Korea vows nuclear attack on US, saying Washington will be ‘engulfed in a sea of fire.’” Almost 60 years after the armistice that ended the Korean war, the US media seems more eager than ever to make people believe that a nuclear strike by a small, partitioned nation is likely.

For all of the venom the Western press has spilled over the DPRK’s latest comments, it’s incredibly difficult to find the full quote or the context of such a statement. Also absent from any of the reporting is a real definition of the term “preemptive strike,” compared to a “preventative strike.”

University of Chicago Professor of Korean History Bruce Cumings famously said that reading the DPRK’s official news network gives you a better understanding of the truth in the Korean Peninsula than reading the South Korean or US press. This is indeed the case.

The Korean Central News Agency published the statement by the Foreign Ministry that caused so much controversy in the US. Entitled, “Second Korean War Is Unavoidable: DPRK FM Spokesman,” the statement details the multitude of ways that the US is trying “to ignite a nuclear war to stifle the DPRK.” Since the US and European media refuse to quote the piece in context, we will quote it at some length:

The U.S. is now working hard to ignite a nuclear war to stifle the DPRK.

Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises kicked off by the U.S., putting the situation on the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war, are maneuvers for a nuclear war aimed to mount a preemptive strike on the DPRK from A to Z.

The U.S. is massively deploying armed forces for aggression, including nuclear carrier task force and strategic bombers, enough to fight a nuclear war under the smokescreen of “annual drills.”

What should not be overlooked is that the war maneuvers are timed to coincide with the moves to fabricate a new “resolution” of the UN Security Council against the DPRK, pursuant to a war scenario of the U.S. to ignite a nuclear war under the pretext of “nuclear nonproliferation”.

It is a trite war method of the U.S. to cook up “a resolution” at the UNSC to justify its war of aggression and then unleash it under the berets of “UN forces.”

That is why the U.S. is hurling into the war maneuvers even armed forces of its satellite countries which participated in the past Korean War as “UN forces”.

After directing the strategic pivot for world hegemony to the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. regards it as its primary goal to put the whole of the Korean Peninsula under its control in a bid to secure a bridgehead for landing in the Eurasian continent. It also seeks a way out of a serious economic crisis at home in unleashing the second Korean war.

The U.S. is, indeed, the very criminal threatening global peace and security as it is staging dangerous war drills in this region, the biggest hotspot in the world and a nuclear arsenal where nuclear weapons and facilities are densely deployed.

Ignoring this context changes the entire message of the article. If we took the US media’s claims at face value, many are led to believe that DPRK Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un woke up on the wrong side of the bed and haphazardly declared his intent to bomb Washington D.C. An actual study of the KCNA statement paints a different picture, namely one in which the US is the primary aggressor whose bellicose military exercises and insistence on debilitating sanctions on the DPRK are bringing the region closer to war.

The statement goes on to address the DPRK’s response to the aggressive war games that the US carries out in the Korean Peninsula. We quote it here:

The DPRK has so far made every possible effort while exercising maximum self-restraint in order to defend the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.

The U.S. is, however, responding to the DPRK’s good will and self-restraint with large-scale nuclear war maneuvers and the “annual” war drills are developing into a real war. Under this situation the opportunity of diplomatic solution has disappeared and there remains only military counteraction.

Is the statement really incorrect? The DPRK is surrounded by US warships containing nuclear missiles. They have pushed for dialogue with the international community about their nuclear weapons program, but Washington has rebuffed their attempts and responded with harsher sanctions, which is a form of economic warfare. Former US President George W. Bush once said that North Korea is “the most sanctioned country in the world,” Independent scholar Stephen Gowans explains the terms of these sanctions, which restrict “the export of goods and services,” the “blocking of any loan or funding through international financial institutions,” and a “ban on government financing of food and medicine exports to North Korea.” Rather than attempting good-faith rapprochement with Pyongyang, the US continues to point its most deadly weapons at the small country and heavily sanction its access to essential goods and industrial equipment.

Let’s now look at the statement in controversy from the Foreign Ministry of the DPRK:

First, now that the U.S. is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war, the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK will exercise the right to a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to defend the supreme interests of the country.

The Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army declared that it would totally nullify the Korean Armistice Agreement (AA) from March 11 when the U.S. nuclear war rehearsal gets into full swing. This meant that from that moment the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK will take military actions for self-defence against any target any moment, not restrained by AA.

Contrary to the media’s fixation on the phrasing of the first statement, it is actually the following paragraph that explains the DPRK’s understanding of a preemptive strike. Joe Barnes of Rice University describes the difference between a ‘preemptive strike’ and a ‘preventative strike’ in a March 2007 paper entitled, “Preemptive and Preventative War: A Preliminary Taxonomy.” The following quote from Barnes’ paper illustrates the ‘right to a preemptive nuclear attack’ that the statement alludes to:

The two categories of national strategy are preemption and prevention. Preemption is the taking of military action against a target when there is incontrovertible evidence that the target is about to initiate a military attack. Prevention is the taking of military action against a target when it is believed that an attack by the target, while not imminent, is inevitable, and when delay in attacking would involve greater risk.

For most US citizens, their first exposure to the term “preemptive war” was when the Bush Administration invoked in in 2003 to justify their imperialist invasion of Iraq. They unleashed brutal war and occupation on the Iraqi people on the basis of a total lie, namely that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and might be a threat to the US. However, if we look at Barnes’ quote, we understand that the war in Iraq was a preventative war, not a preemptive war. There was no “incontrovertible evidence that the target is about to initiate a military attack.” Instead, all of the evidence pointed to Iraq not having weapons of mass destruction, much less having the capability and the will to fire such weapons at the US. As Noam Chomsky puts it:

The grand strategy authorizes Washington to carry out “preventive war”: Preventive, not pre-emptive.  Whatever the justifications for pre-emptive war might be, they do not hold for preventive war, particularly as that concept is interpreted by its current enthusiasts: the use of military force to eliminate an invented or imagined threat, so that even the term “preventive” is too charitable.  Preventive war is, very simply, the “supreme crime” condemned at Nuremberg.

The DPRK has threatened preemptive war, not preventative war. The difference is so glaring that one can only conclude that the US media is knowingly distorting and lying about the DPRK’s military intent. Because the DPRK rightly recognizes the crippling sanctions on itself as a form of economic warfare and they recognize the growing threat of US invasion, they have made a strong statement expressing their willingness to shoot first if “there is incontrovertible evidence that the target is about to attack.” This becomes painstakingly clear in the second paragraph of the statement in question, in which the DPRK claims it will only nullify the armistice “when the US nuclear war rehearsal gets into full-swing.”

Admittedly, the use of the term “when” rather than “if” seems fatalist and damning, but when one considers the 63+ year aggression that the DPRK has continually faced by the US, their cynicism at the US radically changing its pro-war policy seems justified.

This statement is nothing new from the DPRK, which has continually upheld its right to self-defense and self-determination. The DPRK acquired nuclear weapons out of necessary reality, a point further underscored by the US war with Iraq and NATO’s war with Libya in 2011. Again, we quote Gowans about the deterrent provided by nuclear weapons in his article, “Why North Korea Needs Nuclear Weapons“:

Subsequent events in Libya have only reinforced the lesson. Muammar Gaddafi had developed his own WMD program to protect Libya from Western military intervention. But Gaddafi also faced an internal threat—Islamists, including jihadists linked to Al Qaeda, who sought to overthrow him to create an Islamist society in Libya. After 9/11, with the United States setting out to crush Al Qaeda, Gaddafi sought a rapprochement with the West, becoming an ally in the international battle against Al Qaeda, to more effectively deal with his own Islamist enemies at home. The price of being invited into the fold was to abandon his weapons of mass destruction. When Gaddafi agreed to this condition he made a fatal strategic blunder. An economic nationalist, Gaddafi irritated Western oil companies and investors by insisting on serving Libyan interests ahead of the oil companies’ profits and investors’ returns. Fed up with his nationalist obstructions, NATO teamed up with Gaddafi’s Islamist enemies to oust and kill the Libyan leader. Had he not surrendered his WMDs, Gaddafi would likely still be playing a lead role in Libya. “Who would have dared deal with Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein if they had a nuclear capability?” asks Major General Amir Eshel, chief of the Israeli army’s planning division. “No way.”

Rather than threatening to destroy Washington D.C. in a sea of nuclear flames – which even the Western media admits the DPRK has no way of doing, even if they wanted to – the DPRK is once again asserting its right to defend itself and strike first if the US provokes nuclear war. The stakes are too high, and although liberals in the US and Western Europe may complain about these measures, they do so from the safety and comfort of their homes within imperialist countries. The people of the DPRK hang in the balance of a life-and-death struggle against nuclear war with the US. No one in the DPRK wants war, including the leadership. However, the DPRK has made clear that they will not hesitate to retaliate and defend their people from nuclear holocaust.

Once we cut through the lies of the US media, one truth stands above all others for US citizens: The ball is in your court if you don’t want nuclear conflict with the DPRK. Washington has shown a total disregard for human life – whether Korean, Iraqi, Libyan, or even American – when it comes to starting imperialist wars. They have continued economic warfare on the DPRK in the form of sanctions and currently carry on war games in the Korean Peninsula. They are not going to change on their own.

Nuclear war is a disturbing and horrific possibility, and all freedom-loving people should do everything they can to prevent it from happening. In the US, this means organizing and rebuilding the anti-war movement as an anti-imperialist movement. Rather than playing into the racist and chauvinistic rhetoric of US politicians, the US Left should pursue international solidarity with oppressed nations like the DPRK and stand resolutely against any military aggression by their own government.

Incredibly, former Chicago Bulls Forward Dennis Rodman may have set a better line on the DPRK than most of the US Left. His recent travel to Democratic Korea may have irked social-chauvinists like George Stephanopoulos, but Rodman has allowed many people in the US to view the DPRK through a different light. Even Rodman said in his interview with Stephanopoulos that Kim Jong-Un wanted US President Barack Obama to “call him.” The level of distortions and outright falsehoods by the US media is incredible when we consider that the DPRK wants dialogue, not warfare. Anti-imperialists on the US Left must make this clear and challenge the false narrative put forth by the imperialist class.

Ultimately, this is why reactionaries like Stephanopoulos and US politicians decried Rodman’s trip so loudly. Realizing that the DPRK is not a nation hell-bent on destroying the people of the US, but rather a nation that enjoys many of the same things that Americans do, makes it harder for the imperialists to build popular consensus for war. The US Left should commend and learn from Rodman’s example and seek to build greater cultural and political ties with the people of the DPRK while boldly opposing sanctions and military aggression by the US.

BREAKING: North Korea Launches Satellite Missile

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UPDATE: N.Korean satellite successfully launches into space

The following article below was originally published by NK News

BREAKING: North Korea Launches Rocket

December 12, 2012

North Korea launched its rocket just before 10am this morning from its Sohae Satellite Launching Station on the West coast of the Korean peninsula, and has claimed to have successfully put its satellite in orbit . A report from North Korean state moutpiece the KCNA said:

The launching of the satellite ‘Gwangmyongsong-3′ using the “Unha-3″ rocket was a success, and the satellite has entered into its planned orbit.

According to some, it is too soon to feasibly confirm if the satellite launch has been a success, but the KCNA has announced that there will be a special broadcast on state television in the next five minutes.

South Korean government spokesman Kim Min-seok told South Korean media gathered for a press conference at the Ministry of Defence in Seoul:

At 0951 this morning, the [North Korean] rocket was launched from the Tongch’ang-dong Space Launch Center. The rocket was tracked until 0958, when the object passed over the West of Okinawa

Kim also told reporters that there were indications of the launch since yesterday, but this information was not revealed to the public. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has reportedly called an immediate national security meeting and Japan has requested that the UN Security Council convene today [Wednesday] and Japanese Prime Minister Noda has called a national security meeting for 1055 Tokyo time.

Speaking to CNN, a senior US official said that they were “surprised” by the launch and that it was “not expected”.

A Japanese government spokesperson also said they estimate rocket debris to have  fallen in Korean coastal waters at 0958KST, and that the first stage of the rocket is likely to drop in the Pacific Ocean, 300km to the East of the Philippines.

Most analysts had predicted the rocket would not be fired until after December 21st. Only yesterday, South Korean media reported that the rocket had been dismantled, and a North Korean press release announced that they had extended the launch window to December 29th.

Speaking from Seoul, John Swenson-Wright, Senior lecturer in East Asian International Relations at the University of Cambridge told NK News “It’s difficult to determine, at this point, whether the launch constitutes a success, but the range of the missile – with reports indicating that it has overflown Okinawa and landed well east of the Philippines may indicate that Pyongyang has succeeded in its ability to test a long-range rocket.”

“Japan’s decision not to intercept the missile in flight was doubtless a wise-one and will not have raised questions about the reliabilty of its missile defence capabilities in the first instance.”

“The decision by Japan and the ROK leaderships to convene two separate national security meetings is a measure of the gravity of the situation. It is likely that this will be seen as a success on the part of the North Korean leadership, which has again demonstrated its independence and ability to challenge and surprise the international community” said Swenson-Wright, who is also a Senior Consulting Fellow at Chatham House.

Nicholas Hamisevicz, Director of Research and Academic Affairs at the Korea Economic Institute in Washington D.C. said “The launch definitely indicates that Pyongyang has calculated that the immediate benefits from a launch outweigh the perceived gains they may receive in 2013.”

Markets have remained stable in response to the news so far, with the Japanese Nikkei up 5%.

More details to follow on NK News. Follow us on Twitter @nknewsorg for more breaking news updates

No, the North Korean government did not claim it found evidence of unicorns

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The following article below was originally published by the io9 science blog. While the author of the article does appear to show some hostility toward People’s Korea, the re-publishing of this article is solely done so to address all bourgeois media’s hyped propaganda against the nation: 

The Kirin (D&D's Oriental Adventures)

The Kirin (D&D’s Oriental Adventures)

By Lauren Davis
December 1, 2012

Yesterday, we wrote about a story that’s been making the rounds across the blogosphere: that North Korea discovered the lair of a Kirin (or Qilin), a mythical creature often associated with the Western unicorn. However, while North Korea’s claim is about a place called Kiringul, which translates to “Kirin’s Grotto,” the government wasn’t claiming to have found proof of the existence of the mythical beast. But what they are claiming still raises a few archaeological eyebrows.

Top image from D&D’s Oriental Adventures, one example of the Kirin being closely linked to the unicorn.

Sixiang Wang, a PhD student at Columbia University whose focus is Korea-China relations from the 13th to the 16th centuries, wrote in to provide some context for the announcement. North Korea actually announced this discovery in 2011, but only recently released the announcement in English. The English release poorly translated the name of a historical location, Kiringul, as “Unicorn Lair,” a very evocative name for Westerners. But in Korean history, the name Kiringul has a rather different significance. Kiringul is one of the sites associated with King Tongmyŏng, the founder of Koguryŏ, an ancient Korean kingdom. The thrust of the North Korean government’s announcement is that it claims to have discovered Kiringul, and thus to have proven that Pyongyang is the modern site of the ancient capital of Koguryŏ.

Now there are links between King Tongmyŏng and the myth of Kirin; folkloric stories include tales of the ruler riding a Kirin. But Wang notes that it’s important to distinguish historical associations with Kiringul from mythological ones. He likens the association of Kiringul with Kirin to the association of Troy with the mythological aspects of the Trojan war, pointing out that archaeological discoveries surrounding the historical city of Troy don’t result in claims that the warrior Achilles was half-immortal. Today, the name Kiringul is simply regarded as a colorful name, much like “Devil’s Peak” or “Phoenix, Arizona.”

http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/18717hax7noa8jpg/original.jpgBut even though it’s not laying claim to unicorns (or other mythological beasts), North Korea’s claims about Kiringul do raise some questions. For one thing, Kiringul was never lost in the first place. The photo of a man-made tunnel found in Pyongyang described as Kiringul at the left appears in Jeon Kwan Su’s article “Kiringul sinhwa yŏngu” (Study of the Kirin-gul Myth), published in the Korean journal Tongpang Hakji in 2009. The North Korean press release is unclear on exactly what was discovered, whether it was an older inscription marking the location of Kiringul or the cave itself—or whether it is referencing the already documented Kiringul.

And if North Korean archaeologists did discover an older inscription in Pyongyang (and, Wang notes, there is always the possibility that their supposed discovery was fabricated), it may be far newer than the press release would suggest. Wang provides this poem (with his notes) by a famous poet of the Koryŏ dynasty, Yi Saek (1328-1396):

“Last night I passed by Yŏngmyŏng temple (the one mentioned in the North Korean press release),

And for a moment I stood atop the Pavilion of Floating Jade (Bubyokru, mentioned also in the KCNA release).

The city is all empty, under one expanse of moonlight.

The stone is now old; the clouds has passed for a thousand autumns.

The kirin steed has now gone and not returned;

Where now does the scion of the heavens [referring to Tongmyŏng, because of his divine origin] now travel?

I let out a long sigh, and lean next to the wind-blown steps.

The mountains are green, and the river’s water flows on.”

However, the court official Hŏ Pong (1551-1588) reported when traveling through Pyongyang that even the steps in these locations seemed rather new, and doubted that these locations were actually from the time of Tongmyŏng. Similarly, Jeon Kwan Su believes that the Kiringul in the photo is a newer rather than an ancient construction. Kiringul may have simply been an old name applied to a much newer site.

On top of that, many historians doubt that, at the time of its founding, Koguryŏ was even located in Pyongyang. The original location of Koguryŏ is hotly debated, but many believe that the kingdom moved to Pyongyang later in its history.

But, while North Korea may not have been presenting evidence of Kirin to the world, Wang believes that the link between the creatures and the government’s announcement may not be completely incidental. After all, the Kirin was supposed to appear to wise rulers. North Korean officials may have been hoping to secure Pyongyang’s connection to the ancient kingdom of Koguryŏ, while creating an association between their own president, Kim Jong-un, and the larger-than-life rulers of old.

Huge thanks to Sixiang Wang for all of his help with this!

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez closing rally packs 7 avenues in Caracas

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The following article below was originally published by the Hands Off Venezuela news blog:

October 5, 2012

While the world’s media was looking the other way, a huge sea of red filled the whole of central Caracas last night in the closing rally of the election campaign of Hugo Chávez.

While opposition candidate Henrique Capriles had partially filled the Bolivar Avenue, Chavez supporters packed that and another 6 huge avenues, despite the pouring rain. The world’s media decided to completely ignore the rally or to downplay it by publishing close up shots of Chavez or alleging (without any proof), that those present were state employees who had been forced or paid (or both) to attend.

Here are some pictures which you will not see in the capitalist media, that give a partial impression of the event, starting with a map of the area covered. (All pictures, videos and maps taken from the Patria Grande website)

Syria stands defiant, U.S. imperialism stands exposed

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The following article below was originally published by Lalkar, journal of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist):

Both the military and people of Syria stand with Pres. Assad against imperialism.

Under imminent threat of an external air war being unleashed against Syrian territory, the progressive government of Syria is pressing on with its campaign to deal with the Western-fomented internal rebellion, on the one hand engaging in a systematic mopping up operation against rebel forces in Aleppo and Damascus, and on the other launching a pre-emptive airstrike against insurgents holding to ransom the Northern Syrian town of Azaz.

With the Annan Plan now comprehensively scuttled by Washington and its partners in crime, the truly bestial face of imperialist aggression is exposed for all to see. Let any communists, socialists, anti-war activists or democrats who hitherto doubted the real intentions of the armed “opposition” and its Western backers now open their eyes and rally in support of the brave and beleaguered people of Syria and their anti-imperialist leadership.

The Annan Plan

Enraged at the continuing failure to secure regime change in Damascus, the warmongers achieved the pyrrhic victory of regime change back in New York, where former UN chief Kofi Annan finally buckled under intolerable pressure and opted to quit his post as mediator over the Syria crisis.

The fact that he was charged with this responsibility in the first place can only be explained by the circumstances attending the launch of the Annan Plan. As a lifetime career diplomat at the UN, Annan has on occasion fallen foul of Washington. In 2003 he recognised the illegality of the US and British invasion of Iraq, and last year he criticised NATO’s actions in Libya as going beyond what was mandated by the Security Council. These reproofs, though pathetically mild in their expression, were enough to ensure that Annan would not be Uncle Sam’s first choice to put in charge of any serious piece of international diplomacy, let alone one that potentially interfered with the supposed God-given right of the USA to choose the government of any country on earth. There are flunkeys and flunkeys, and we can assume that Washington would have preferred one less prone to drifting off-message.

The fact is that Annan’s six-point plan for political reconciliation occupied a diplomatic space carved out by just two forces: the patriotic resistance of the Syrian masses themselves and the steadfast refusal of both Russia and China to aid and abet intervention against Syria. Without the interposition of the Chinese and Russian veto, Washington had every hope of keeping the diplomatic initiative and using the UN as a springboard for aggression, just as happened over Libya. The United States, Britain, France and the other imperialist powers had no interest whatever in a diplomatic solution which was not predicated on the ouster of the country’s incumbent president and the violation of its sovereignty, and were aghast to see the diplomatic initiative wrested from the West.

Right from the outset Washington and its allies did everything possible to undermine the Annan Plan, geeing up their proxy fighters to trample over the ceasefire arrangements and running their own ‘Friends of Syria’ circus sooner than accept the lead given by Russia and China in the Security Council and at Geneva. Whilst servile in his efforts to be “even-handed” (between aggressor and victim, be it noted), Annan could not hide his growing irritation with America’s combination of faint praise for “his” Plan and active assistance to the rebellion on the ground. He blurted that “criticism of the international community’s failure to negotiate a political solution has too often focused on Russia” and further ruffled yankee feathers by maintaining that “all these countries say they want a peaceful solution, but they undertake individual and collective actions that undermine the very meaning of Security Council resolutions”.

In his resignation speech he said he had embraced a “sacred duty” but “did not receive all the support that the cause deserved,” complaining that “continuous finger-pointing and name-calling” at the UN Security Council had undermined his efforts. As if in confirmation of his gloomy assessment, Western diplomats queued up to tell Ban Ki-moon why he should not bother finding a replacement for Annan. Whilst Russia, China, South Africa and Pakistan all see the urgent necessity for a replacement to keep open the diplomatic track, according to Reuters on 8 August, “the Americans, council diplomats say, see little point in replacing Annan. They had grown increasingly frustrated with the veteran diplomat’s refusal to step aside… ‘The Americans gave up on the Security Council route back in October after Russia’s first veto and have unenthusiastically supported the European push in New York since then,’ one council envoy said on condition of anonymity. ‘They also feel Annan took too long to concede failure.’” The belated decision to shuffle former Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi into the post is merely intended to give the Annan Plan a quiet burial.

Washington wades deeper into blood

With the West now virtually micromanaging the rebellion themselves and burying diplomacy as fast as possible, the aggression is naked and the democratic mask cast aside. At a recent council of war convened by Hillary Clinton with the Turkish foreign minister, Clinton spoke openly about imposing “no fly zones” over Syrian territory, the same form of words which was used when NATO unleashed eight months of aerial bombardment upon Libya. Clinton announced that “We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning. It needs to be across both of our governments.” To this end she announced the establishment of a working group in Turkey to increase the involvement of the intelligence services and armed forces of both countries, making Ankara’s pretensions to an independent foreign policy look even shakier. To give a “humanitarian” sounding gloss to US support for rebel base camps on Turkish territory, Clinton also announced an extra $5.5 million assistance for Syrians displaced to Turkey. (America’s true sentiments regarding genuine refugee relief may be judged by the treatment reserved for Mexicans who dare cross into the USA in search of work, escaping from the wreckage of a home economy trashed by NAFTA.)

Nor has Obama been content to let Clinton bag all the warmongering ‘glory’, warning of“enormous consequences” should Syria choose to defend herself with the full range of her military options. Obama’s has threatened military action should Damascus exercise her right to deploy her defences as she sees fit – “a red line for us is if we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized”. Lest anyone should doubt the scale of the “enormous consequences” Obama dreams of, a bevy of administration officials is on hand to colour in a scenario for Channel 4 News in which, in addition to massive aerial bombardment, “tens of thousands of ground troops” would “go into Syria to secure chemical and biological weapons sites following the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.”(21 August, ‘Obama warning to Syria on chemical weapons’)

So it is that, maddened by its own economic crisis, US imperialism appears hell bent on persisting in its fascistic designs against the Syrian nation, even if that risks (a) suffering a humiliating rebuff from the patriotic forces of Syria and from her allies, and (b) testing to destruction the willingness of its fellow imperialists to remain in lockstep with a military adventure so uncertain in outcome and so utterly devoid of any legitimacy under international law. The issue is already producing ructions in France, with Sarkozy going head to head with his social democratic successor in the Elysee. The timing of the US denunciation of the British Standard Chartered Bank for allegedly circumventing US sanctions against Iran, a denunciation which wiped millions off its share values, suggests interesting limits to the vaunted “special relationship”. It is significant that that relationship, founded to a degree on a community of interests (guns and oil), should start showing fracture lines in the context of US war plans in the Middle East.

Patriotic resistance versus sectarian provocations

Throughout all this, the resistance of the Syrian nation persists. The Syrian armed forces, described by writer and US war veteran Colonel Doug Macgregor as the most competent and disciplined in the Arab world, have been making life very uncomfortable for the rebels in Aleppo and elsewhere.

Unable to prevail on the battlefield, rebel forces are taking revenge upon helpless civilians. In Jandar village near Homs it is reported that rebel fighters attacked a housing compound inhabited by workers at a power company, killing 16 Syrian civilians, mostly Alawite and Christian by faith. Japanese and Iranian workers in the same compound were reportedly untouched.  Another Alawite, a film director called Bassam Mohieddin, was recently murdered near his home in the suburbs of Damascus. Such sectarian outrages are consistent with sightings of many foreign fighters seen in Aleppo, including Al Qaeda affiliates.

Another target of sectarian hatred has been Shia pilgrims from Iran, 48 of whom were kidnapped by ‘Free Syrian Army’ (FSA) terrorists as their coach was on the way back to the airport. So outlandish are rebel claims that the ‘pilgrims’ represented some kind of military threat that in embarrassment an opposition source hastily briefed Al Jazeera, to the effect that the gunmen were in reality “an extremist Islamist group whose religious discourse is based on inciting hatred against Shias and Alawites,” and supposedly “has no links with themainstream FSA” (emphasis added).. The source claimed that the terrorist’ video “was just a cover-up for the fact that this operation was carried out in order to target Iranian Shias.” In trying to salvage the reputation of the sectarian butchers of the FSA, Al Jazeera only succeeds in confirming the foul reactionary essence of the rebellion. Coming on top of the abduction of eleven Lebanese pilgrims back in May, this outrage against Syria’s close neighbours can only strengthen the resolve of their friends to stand by Syria in her hour of need.

The Iranian Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi pointed out that Iran has no armed forces in Syria, none having been requested by the Syrian government. After all, reasoned Vahidi,“Syria has a powerful military and also enjoys popular support. The Syrians can handle the adventures that foreigners have created in their country.” But the continuing refusal of China and Russia to aid and abet the violation of Syrian sovereignty, coupled with the neighbourly solidarity coming from Iran and the Lebanon, should serve to stiffen the resolve of the Syrian nation – and give pause to the warmongers in Washington, London, Tel Aviv and Paris. It can only fill these circles with gloom to hear Saeed Jalili tell President Assad that Iran and Syria form one single “axis of resistance” that Teheran will not allow to be broken.

Press freedom

Meanwhile, whilst the warmongers routinely berate Damascus for its supposed suppression of democracy, their friends in the opposition death squads are busy demonstrating their respect for the freedom of the press. On 10 August gunmen kidnapped three Syrian TV journalists and their driver who were covering violence on the outskirts of Damascus: their whereabouts are still unknown. A day later someone heading up a department of the Syrian news agency SANA was assassinated in Damascus. Not only are all such journalist deaths the inevitable consequence of the civil war conditions imposed by Western meddling, but on closer examination it turns out too that losses amongst Western journalists are sometimes the direct responsibility of rebels as well. The chief correspondent of Channel Four News, Alex Thomson, reported how he and his crew were intentionally directed by rebels into a zone where their presence would be misconstrued and invite a lethal response from security forces. Having narrowly escaped with his life, Thomson was terse about the near-fatal propaganda trap into which he had fallen. “My point is,” he blogged, “dead journalists are bad for Damascus.” Then came the demise of French journalist Gilles Jacquier. Whilst all the headlines were screaming that the Syrian army was to blame, fellow journalist Georges Malbrunot pointed to insurrectionist fire, a judgement backed up by France’s own intelligence services who concluded that Jacquier had actually been killed by an 80mm mortar fired from rebel lines.

Despite all the unsubstantiated and slanderous opposition twitter “reports” and dodgy mobile phone rushes, endlessly churned around and amplified by the imperialist media in lieu of news, the steadfast resistance of President Assad, the secular coalition government over which he presides and the vast mass of patriotic Syrians which stands behind them cannot be hidden and presents a challenge to all those who identify themselves as anti-imperialists. Support Syria in her hour of need, or forever hang your heads in shame.

Stand with the Syrian nation!

We congratulate the Syrian army for the strenuous measures it has been undertaking in Aleppo and elsewhere against the armed rebellion and its foreign auxiliaries. We applaud the steadfast refusal of both Moscow and Beijing to aid and abet the West’s criminal adventure in Syria, and congratulate them on having decisively wrested the diplomatic initiative from the warmongers, now leaving imperialism with no scrap of a fig leaf to camouflage its warlike intentions.

Now that Iran’s envoy Saeed Jalili has declared that Iran stands with her neighbour in an “axis of resistance” which cannot be broken, let us do the same. Let British workers now stand shoulder to shoulder with Syria in their own unbreakable “axis of resistance”. Let us refuse to cooperate with the criminal aggression against Syria, whether by fighting directly, making or transporting arms, or assisting in the broadcast of slander and lies demonising the Syrian leadership. Be assured that victory for Syria will in turn weaken imperialism’s own axis of oppression, a welcome setback not least for our own British imperialist ruling class.

Victory to Syria!

Victory to President Assad!

Death to imperialism!

Iran: Safeguarding its Identity

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By Amal Saad-Ghorayeb
September 3, 2012

A handout picture released by the official website of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows Khamenei delivering his speech at the opening of Non-Alligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran on 30 August 2012. (Photo: AFP – HO – Iranian Supreme Leader’s Website)

While Iran’s presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and its hosting of the summit earlier this week may not lead to a radical breakthrough in the nuclear standoff or to an imminent resolution of the Syrian crisis, it will raise Iran’s international and regional profile. More importantly, the fact that over 100 states participated in the summit, in addition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, against the ardent protestations of the US and Israel, represents a slap in the face for Washington. Not only does the heavily attended summit lend “legitimacy” to Iran’s foreign policy behavior, as former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, noted bitterly, but it also serves as a stark reminder of the abysmal failure of the Obama administration’s policy of “engaging” Iran while revealing its complete miscomprehension of the Islamic Republic’s political rationality.

Obama’s oft repeated call for Iran to meet its “international obligations” (read, submit to US diktat) as a precondition for “rejoining” the “community of nations,” rung hollow as two thirds of the world’s nations – i.e. the actual international community as opposed to the elite club consisting of the US and its UNSC and NATO allies – attended the Tehran summit and in so doing, undermined Washington’s campaign to isolate Iran internationally. The irony was clearly not lost on the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who condemned the way the US and Europe “impose their domineering and illegal demands in the name of the international community,” and use the “obsolete” “dictatorship” otherwise known as the UNSC, to “disguise their bullying” which they pass off as “international law.”

Khamenei further used his inaugural speech to underline another self-evident message conveyed by the summit – that Washington’s coercive diplomacy masked as “engagement” was futile, and only strengthened the resolve of the Islamic Republic whose “successful experience in resistance against the bullying and comprehensive pressures by America and its accomplices has firmly convinced it that the resistance of a unified and firmly determined nation can overcome all enmities and hostilities.”

The rationale behind the Obama administration’s “tough but direct” diplomacy with Iran was to make it clear that its alleged development of nuclear weapons and funding of “terrorist” organizations “like Hamas and Hezbollah,” and threats against Israel were “unacceptable.”

Thus, the engagement pursued by Washington did not aim to defuse tensions or to achieve a mutually acceptable compromise, but rather to persuade and coerce Tehran to relinquish its right to the peaceful use of nuclear technology and to withhold support from resistance movements in the region.

Diplomacy with Iran was essentially war by other means; the offer of dialogue accompanied by threats of a military strike and/or further “crippling” sanctions if the outcome of the “dialogue” was not to Washington’s liking. As spelled out in 2010 by Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, “the priority for President Obama and his administration has been to initiate a dialogue and engagement while at the same time keeping all options on the table. When I say all options on the table, it certainly includes potential military operations.”

Needless to say, Washington’s contemptuous tone and belligerent intent masquerading as diplomacy was not well received by its counterpart in Tehran: “On the one hand, the Americans talk of negotiations. On the other hand, they continue to threaten and say the negotiations must have our desired results or we will take [punitive] measures. We do not want any negotiations the result of which is predetermined by the US,” Khamenei bemoaned.

Besides cajoling and pressuring Iran into concessions, engagement also makes it easier for the Obama administration to rally western support for other punitive measures with which to isolate and sanction Tehran into submission. Obama’s National Security Strategy of 2010 makes no effort to conceal this intent: “And we will pursue engagement with hostile nations to test their intentions, give their governments the opportunity to change course, reach out to their people and mobilize international coalitions.” As Flynt and Hilary Leverett observe, “Obama’s professed interest in engagement is being used to build support for more coercive measures against Iran, not to recast fundamentally the US-Iranian relationship.” Former US State Department official and Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Ray Takyeh, concurs with this view when he acknowledges that “the purpose of such a policy is not to transform adversaries into allies, but to seek adjustments in their behavior and ambitions.”

Despite Obama’s 2009 Nowruz message to the people and leadership of Iran where he called for an “engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect,” US diplomacy was not based on a recognition of Iran as an equal, but on a grudging tolerance of a “rogue” state Washington deemed inferior. In that same speech, Obama condescendingly asserted that while Iran should take its “rightful place in the community of nations…that place cannot be reached through terror or arms,” prompting Khamenei to respond: “Our nation cannot be talked to like this. In the same congratulatory message they (the Obama administration) accuse the Iranian nation of supporting terrorism, pursuing nuclear arms, and such things. What has changed?”

The terms of the “dialogue” were therefore set by Washington and the talks used to dictate its wishes rather than to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. As former US diplomat Chester Crocker writes in his op-ed for the New York Times “Terms of Engagement”: “Engagement is not normalization, and its goal is not improved relations. It is not akin to détente…The goal of engagement is to change the other country’s perception of its own interests and realistic options and, hence, to modify its policies and its behavior.”

The imperialistic hubris inherent in this attitude cannot be overstated for not only does such an approach presume to know what Iran’s interests are, but it also infantilizes the Islamic Republic by suggesting that it neither has a firm grasp of its own reality nor does it know where its true interests lie. This approach is a legacy of the American school of Realism which presupposes a universally valid definition of the national interest that is itself informed by the concept of power. According to this view, states can only have one type of self-interested identity and one understanding of interest defined as physical security, and economic and military power. The fact that states, like other social actors, have variable identities and rationalities which shape their perception of reality and their definition of interests doesn’t figure into the calculations of Realists or US foreign policy makers. Moreover, Realists also overlook the fact that over and above physical security, states also pursue ontological security, that is the security of their identities as particular kinds of actors.

This is particularly relevant in the case of Iran, which derives its identity and hence, its popular and constitutional legitimacy from its jealously guarded independence. The US’ hegemonic role in Iran’s political, economic, military and security affairs, during Reza Shah’s rule, remains firmly embedded in the nation’s political consciousness. Not discounting the multiple social, economic, political and cultural factors which lay behind the Islamic Revolution, it was also in part, a reaction to US hegemony over Iranian affairs. The US’ heavy handed political intervention, security and intelligence penetration, and control of Iran’s economy, particularly its oil industry, rendered it tantamount to an occupying or colonial power in the eyes of many Iranians. The revolution was therefore at the same time a revolt against the monarchy and a war of liberation against US “imperialism,” as embodied by its key catchphrase: “Independence, freedom, Islamic Republic.”

The very existence of the Islamic Republic was somewhat reactive and its identity defensive. Iran became a state preoccupied with protecting its new-found independence and dignity. So deeply ingrained in the political culture was the fear of foreign domination that constitutional safeguards were set up to protect the country from foreign control and to preserve its “metadiscourse” of independence, or “hyper-independence” as one scholar terms it.

In effect, ideological principles such as sovereignty, justice, independence, self-sufficiency and dignity are not abstract values but founding principles and strategic necessities which emerged from Iran’s historical experience of foreign domination. This experience taught Iranians that the politics of dependency practiced by pre-revolutionary Iran was a sure recipe for strategic weakness and domestic collapse, as the Shah’s regime illustrated. Moreover, Iran did not see in the US’ Arab allies a success story worthy of emulation. From Tehran’s perspective, the US uses the political and military assistance it offers these regimes as a tool with which to extract political concessions, making them beholden to it. Moreover, in depending on the US to shore up their regimes domestically, Arab states are viewed as having lost their nations’ sovereignty, independence, and regional power in the process, not to mention their popular legitimacy, as the recent Arab uprisings illustrate. By remaining independent of the west, Iran believes it cannot be blackmailed into anything, as the US’ regional allies have been.

Any fundamental changes in Iran’s foreign policy objectives would essentially mean that the Iranian state would have overturned its founding principles and destabilized its sense of ontological security. As Iranian Ambassador to Syria, Mohammad Reza Shaybani once explained to me: “If we were to become one of America’s moderate allies in the region there would be no meaning for the Islamic Revolution in Iran. If we gave up our principles, the US would support us again, but then there would be no difference between Iran now and what it was before the revolution.” This would be the case not only if Iran were to revert to the foreign policy of the Shah’s era or to transform itself into a “moderate” regime allied with the US, along the lines of Mubarak’s Egypt, Jordan or Saudi Arabia, but even if it were to adopt a politically neutral regional profile, as some observers believe Washington is actually demanding. Viewed from the Islamic Republic’s lens, detachment from current regional conflicts would not only be an abandonment of its ideological principles and strategic interests, but would also undermine its own identity.

This explains why Iran has remained steadfast on the nuclear issue in the face of severe economic and political sanctions as well as threats of a military strike. For Iranian political scientist Homeira Moshirzadeh, Iran’s prioritization of its nuclear program, despite the economic and political costs this has entailed, lies in the fact that “Iran’s nuclear policy has become a matter of identity” and as such, is impervious to Realist and Rationalist deconstruction. Specifically, Iran’s nuclear policy is located in the discourses of independence and justice: “The discourse of hyper-independence gives meaning to the Iranian overemphasis on self-sufficiency and Iran’s rejection of proposals that imply dependence on foreign sources in the nuclear field. The discourse of justice allows us to understand Iran’s continuous reference to double standards in the international system and its demand for an international recognition of its right to nuclear technology.”

The power of these discourses is evident in Ali Asghar Soltanieh’s (Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency), affirmation that “Iran will never give up enrichment at any price, even the threat of military attack will not stop us.” It is also evident in Khamenei’s recent declaration at the NAM summit that Iran “will never give up the right of its people to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” Such intransigence is not confined to Iran’s political class but extends to the general public as well, including supporters of the opposition Green Movement. According to the findings of a poll conducted by the University of Tehran, 78 percent of Mousavi supporters wanted “Iran not to give up its nuclear activities regardless of the circumstances” despite their recognition of the sanctions’ cost (a World Public Opinion poll revealed that 86 percent of this category believed sanctions would increase).

As a matter of both strategy and ontological security, the attempt to goad Iran with incentives or bully it into a dependence on the West for its political, economic, security, or technological needs is fundamentally futile and counter-productive. The perceived loss of national dignity and sovereignty would call into question Iran’s political identity and would also jeopardize its hard-won status as a regional power, owing to its confrontational stands vis-à-vis the US and Israel. Even partial concessions on the nuclear issue and on Iran’s regional policies are seen detrimental to its strategic interests in so far as they are perceived as a sign of weakness and hence a prelude to further concessions.

In the final analysis, the ongoing regional conflict between the US-NATO-Israeli-GCC axis and the resistance front does not leave much room for neutrality. Both Iran’s abandonment of its leading role in this regional front and its relinquishment of its right to a full nuclear fuel cycle would be equivalent to ontological insecurity, ideological betrayal and strategic suicide. So long as Washington requires that Iran stop being Iran, the latter will only continue to defy it and further entrench itself as a formidable power in the region.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb is a Lebanese academic and political analyst. She is author of the book, “Hizbullah: Politics and Religion,” and blogger at ASG’s Counter-Hegemony Unit.

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Qatar’s Aljazeera propaganda network hacked by pro-Assad Syrians

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By Rania El Gamal and Erika Soloman
September 4, 2012

A still-image of the Aljazeera webpage defaced by pro-Assad Syrian hacktivists.

(Reuters) – The website of Qatar-based satellite news network Al Jazeera was apparently hacked on Tuesday by Syrian government loyalists for what they said was the television channel’s support for the “armed terrorist groups and spreading lies and fabricated news”.

A Syrian flag and statement denouncing Al Jazeera’s “positions against the Syrian people and government” were posted on the Arabic site of the channel in response to its coverage of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad which began in March last year.

Al Jazeera took the lead in covering the uprisings across the Arab world, and Qatar, one of the Sunni-led states in the region, publicly backed the predominantly Sunni rebel movement in Syria against Assad’s Alawite-led government.

Opposition activists on Twitter blamed the hacking on Assad loyalists.

Jazeera officials were not immediately available for comment.

The hacking attack, claimed by a group calling itself “al-Rashedon”, is the latest in a wave of cyber attacks on news agencies and energy companies, carried out by hostile governments, militant groups or private “hacktivists” to make political points.

Last month, Qatar’s Rasgas, the world’s second-biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter, found a virus in its office computer network, just two weeks after the world’s biggest oil producer, Saudi Aramco, in neighbouring Saudi Arabia was hacked into.

The blogging platform of the Reuters News website was also hacked last month and a false posting saying Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal had died was illegally posted on a Reuters journalist’s blog.

Although the identity of those hackers is not known, there is an intensifying conflict in cyberspace between supporters and opponents of Assad. Saudi Arabia has emerged as a staunch opponent of Assad.

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