Monthly Archives: September 2012

U.S. imperialism steps up war plans against China

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

Having previously announced a strategic “pivot to Asia”, US imperialism has, over recent months, been engaged in a whole series of military and diplomatic activities, whose common aim is to threaten, encircle and weaken the People’s Republic of China, ultimately preparing for a devastating war against the world’s most populous nation and second largest economy, a course that US imperialism sees as its only way out from its inexorable and deepening crisis.

New missile defence plans

On 23 August, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the US was planning a major escalation of its “missile defence” programme, ostensibly targeted at the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), but in reality leaving China more vulnerable to US nuclear threats.

Adam Entous and Julian E Barnes put matters perfectly succinctly in the opening lines of their article: “The US is planning a major expansion of missile defences in Asia, a move American officials say is designed to contain threats from North Korea, but one that could also be used to counter China’s military.”

Stating that, “the planned build-up is part of a defensive array that could cover large swaths of Asia, with a new radar in southern Japan and possibly another in Southeast Asia tied to missile-defence ships and land-based interceptors”, the WSJ went on to note that:

It is part of the Obama administration’s new defence strategy to shift resources to an Asian-Pacific region critical to the US economy after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The expansion comes at a time when the US and its allies in the region voice growing alarm about a North Korean missile threat. They are also increasingly worried about China’s aggressive stance in disputed waters such as the South China Sea

US defence planners are particularly concerned about China’s development of anti-ship ballistic missiles that could threaten the Navy’s fleet of aircraft carriers, critical to the US projection of power in Asia.

“‘The focus of our rhetoric is North Korea,’ said Steven Hildreth, a missile defence expert with the Congressional Research Service, an advisory arm of Congress. ‘The reality is that we’re also looking longer term at the elephant in the room, which is China’.”

According to the journal, the centrepiece of the new programme would be the deployment of a powerful early-warning radar, known as an X-Band, on a southern Japanese island. The Pentagon is currently discussing that prospect with Japan, one of Washington’s closest allies, which is also embroiled in its own disputes with China over territorial and other issues. According to US officials, the radar could be installed within months of Japan’s agreement and would supplement an X-Band the US placed in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan in 2006.

Officials with the US military’s Pacific Command and Missile Defence Agency have also been evaluating sites in Southeast Asia for a third X-Band radar. According to the WSJ, “this would create an arc that would allow the US and its regional allies to more accurately track any ballistic missiles launched from North Korea, as well as from parts of China.”

In plain words, it would be a further and major step to a military encirclement of China. So far, the most likely site for any third X-Band is the Philippines, one of the south east Asian countries that has, with US instigation and encouragement, taken an extremely aggressive stance towards China over recent months.

Pentagon press secretary George Little claims that: “North Korea is the immediate threat that is driving our missile defence decision making.” But the WSJ report, clearly based on the intimate ties between this right wing newspaper and the US security and defence establishment, continues:

The Pentagon is particularly concerned about the growing imbalance of power across the Taiwan Strait. China has been developing advanced ballistic missiles and anti-ship ballistic missiles that could target US naval forces in the region.

China has between 1,000 and 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, and has been developing longer range cruise and ballistic missiles, including one designed to hit a moving ship more than 930 miles away, says the Pentagon’s latest annual report on China’s military.

The proposed X-Band arc would allow the US to not only cover all of North Korea, but to peer deeper into China, say current and former U.S. officials.

“‘Physics is physics’, a senior US official said. ‘You’re either blocking North Korea and China or you’re not blocking either of them.’”

The WSJ continued: “US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said during a visit Wednesday to the USS John C. Stennis warship in Washington state that the US would ‘focus and project our force into the Pacific’

In addition to the new X-Band site in southern Japan, the US plans to increase the number of marines in Okinawa in the near term before relocating them to Guam. As the marines are pulled out of Afghanistan, going from 21,000 to less than 7,000, the number of forces on Okinawa will rise, from about 15,000 to 19,000, officials said.”

The report makes clear that a major part of the US strategy is to protect the separatist authorities on the Chinese island province of Taiwan, thereby preventing the Chinese people from realising their cause of national reunification and preserving a pro-imperialist base in the region: “Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia non-proliferation programme at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California, said any missile defence deployments in the Asian theatre will alarm the Chinese, particularly if they believe the systems are designed to cover Taiwan. ‘If you’re putting one in southern Japan and one in the Philippines, you’re sort of bracketing Taiwan,’ Mr. Lewis said. ‘So it does look like you’re making sure that you can put a missile defence cap over the Taiwanese.”

Mr. Hildreth of the Congressional Research Service said the US was ‘laying the foundations’ for a region-wide missile defence system that would combine US ballistic missile defences with those of regional powers, particularly Japan, South Korea and Australia.” (‘US plans new Asia missile defences’, 23 August 2012)

Think tank prepares war blueprint

The news of the enhanced US missile defence programme followed just weeks after a major think tank report outlined US imperialism’s strategic plans for enhanced military confrontation with China.

A paper by the Washington think tank, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), entitled ‘US Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region: An Independent Assessment’, effectively amounts to a blueprint for the Obama administration’s military preparations for conflict with China.

Although the CSIS is officially a non-government body, its assessment was commissioned by the US Defence Department, as required by the 2012 National Defence Authorisation Act, giving its findings and proposals at least semi-official status.

The paper is based, inter alia, on extensive discussions with top US military personnel throughout the Pentagon’s Pacific Command. It was delivered to the Pentagon on 27 June, but gained media exposure only after its principal authors – David Berteau and Michael Green – testified before the US House Armed Services Committee on 1 August.

The CSIS asserts that the underlying US geostrategic objective in the Asia-Pacific region has been to prevent “the rise of any hegemonic state from within the region that could threaten US interests by seeking to obstruct American access or dominate the maritime domain. From that perspective, the most significant problem for the United States in Asia today is China’s rising power, influence, and expectations of regional pre-eminence”. What this means in reality is that US imperialist domination must continue and no power must be allowed to challenge it.

The document is clear that military strategy is bound up with economic needs. It identifies “trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the US-[south] Korea Free Trade Agreement” as crucial to “a sustainable trans-Pacific trade architecture that sustains US access and influence in the region”. Whilst claiming that the US “must integrate all of these instruments of national power and not rely excessively on US military capabilities,” the reality is that it is precisely the USA’s stark economic decline, and the rise of China, that is driving the use of brute military power to maintain imperialist dominance in Asia-Pacific, just as in the Middle East.

The report’s authors reject any suggestion of a power-sharing arrangement with China, or, as described to the armed services committee, “a bipolar condominium that acknowledges Beijing’s core interests and implicitly divides the region”, which some US commentators have advanced as the only means of preventing a major war sooner or later. And the report rejects any pull back by the US from Asia.

Having ruled out peaceful alternatives, the CSIS paper sets out a military strategy. The authors are too clever to openly advocate war with China, declaring, with weasel-like caveats, that “the consequences of conflict with that nation are almost unthinkable and should be avoided to the greatest extent possible, consistent with US interests”.

But they specifically do not exclude the possibility of conflict in the event that US interests are at stake, adding that the ability to “maintain a favourable peace” depends on the perception that the US can prevail in the event of conflict.

US force posture must demonstrate a readiness and capacity to fight and win, even under more challenging circumstances associated with A2AD [anti-access/area denial] and other threats to US military operations in the Western Pacific,” the report states.

Just as Hitler did before them, the US imperialists, whilst mouthing sanctimonious words of peace, are actively preparing for a devastating world war, this time taking China as their main enemy.

The CSIS report approves of the repositioning and strengthening of US military forces in the Western Pacific, a process that has accelerated under the Obama administration’s “rebalance” to Asia. Already this has meant consolidating US bases, troops and military assets in Japan and south Korea; building up US forces on Guam and the Northern Mariana islands, strategically located in the Western Pacific; stationing littoral combat ships in Singapore – relatively small, fast, flexible warships capable of intelligence gathering, special operations and landing troops with armoured vehicles; and making greater use of Australian naval and air bases and stationing 2,500 Marines in the northern city of Darwin. In addition, the paper confirms that the US has held discussions with Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam over possible access to bases and joint training.

The report also reviews US efforts to strengthen military ties throughout Asia-Pacific, from India to New Zealand. Significantly, in ranking military contingencies from low to high intensity, it identifies Australia, Japan and South Korea as critical allies “at the higher spectrum of intensity” – in other words, outright military conflict with China – “with other allies and partners at the lower spectrum of intensity”.

While broadly dealing with all contingencies, the CSIS assessment is mainly focussed on “high intensity”. Its recommendations involve the further development of military agreements with South Korea, Japan and Australia, and also between these allies.

The CSIS document couches its statements as recommendations and it considers all scenarios, including maintaining the status quo and drawing back US forces from the Asia Pacific region. However, it rejects both of these options. Rather, it details a substantial list of steps that could be taken to markedly strengthen the US military throughout the region.

As well as basing a US nuclear aircraft carrier in Western Australia, they include: doubling the number of nuclear attack submarines based at Guam; deploying littoral combat ships to south Korea; doubling the size of amphibious forces in Hawaii; permanently basing a bomber squadron on Guam; boosting manned and unmanned surveillance assets in Australia or Guam; upgrading anti-missile defences in Japan, south Korea and Guam; and strengthening US ground forces. While recommending consideration of all these options, the CSIS specifically calls for more attack submarines to be stationed at Guam, within easy striking distance of vital Chinese shipping routes as well as the country’s key naval bases.

The CSIS assessment points to potential flashpoints, from the Korean peninsula and the Taiwan Straits to the South China Sea and the disputed border between India and China. It clearly represents widespread thinking within the Obama administration, as well as top US military and intelligence circles, which are recklessly preparing and planning for a war against China.

South China Sea – an American lake?

Besides the Korean peninsula and the Taiwan Straits, the South China Sea, where a number of countries have territorial disputes with China, constitutes an increasingly important front in the US war plan against the People’s Republic.

At an ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) summit in 2010, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated for the first time that the US had “a national interest” in ensuring “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. She also offered to “mediate” in the territorial disputes, thereby effectively undermining a decade of Chinese diplomacy aimed at resolving the outstanding issues peacefully and bilaterally with its neighbours without outside interference.

Under the spurious signboard of “freedom of navigation” (which nobody except the US is threatening), the US is seeking to reassert its naval dominance over strategic waters close to the Chinese mainland and, in doing so, is encouraging countries like the Philippines and Vietnam to more aggressively press their territorial claims against China.

Clinton has hinted on several occasions that the US would come to the aid of the Philippines under their Mutual Defence Treaty in the event of conflict with China.

And the Obama administration has been actively strengthening the Philippines armed forces. In a recent confrontation with China over the disputed Scarborough Shoal (known in China as Huangyan Island), the vessel first deployed to the area was a former US coastguard cutter that had been supplied to the Philippines last year. Another is due to be provided soon, along with more sophisticated warplanes and other military hardware.

Clinton made clear Washington’s support for the former American colony, and present-day neo-colony, when she visited Manila last November. Amid rising tensions with China, she reaffirmed the 1951 US-Philippines mutual defence treaty, declaring that “the United States will always be in the corner of the Philippines”. Clinton also pointedly referred to the South China Sea as the “the West Philippines Sea”, a new name recently minted by chauvinists in Manila.

Washington is also in discussions with Manila over an agreement to access Philippine military bases. This will be along the lines of the agreement announced last November in Canberra that stations marines in Darwin and expands the US use of Australian naval and air bases. These and other moves are all part of a comprehensive strategy, in keeping with which Defence Secretary Panetta has announced plans to station 60 percent of US naval forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

US naval dominance of the South China Sea, as well as key “choke points” through South East Asia, such as the Malacca Straits, poses a direct threat to China, which relies on these shipping routes to import energy and raw materials from the Middle East and Africa. In the event of a conflict, the US could impose an economic blockade on China.

By such means, the Obama administration has transformed what were previously relatively minor maritime disputes into a major international issue involving the world’s two largest economies.

The divisions this has opened up were evident at July’s ASEAN ministerial summit. On one side, the Philippines and Vietnam, supported by the US, pressed for a discussion on a regional “code of conduct”. The Philippines even insisted that its dispute with China over the Scarborough Shoal be mentioned in the final communiqué. Cambodia opposed these proposals and, for the first time in ASEAN’s 45-year history, no final joint statement was issued.

A speech in Singapore

The announcement that the United States will deploy the majority of its naval forces to the Asia-Pacific region over the next decade was made by Defence Secretary Panetta in a 2 June speech to the annual Shangri-La security conference organised in Singapore by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS).

The mobilisation of warships will be accompanied by an increase in the number of military exercises conducted by the US in the region, involving air, sea and land forces. Most will be carried out in conjunction with countries that are openly or tacitly allied with the US against China, including Japan, south Korea, Australia and the Philippines.

In his speech, Panetta elaborated on the “pivot to Asia” announced by Obama last year, in which he indicated that the withdrawal of most US forces from Iraq and the beginning of a similar withdrawal from Afghanistan would allow the US military to deploy far greater resources to the Far East.

All of the US military services are focused on implementing the president’s guidance to make the Asia-Pacific a top priority,” Panetta said, adding: “While the US military will remain a global force for security and stability, we will of necessity rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region.”

The current deployment of the US Navy is approximately a 50-50 split between the Atlantic and Pacific. This will change by 2020 to a 60-40 split in favour of the Pacific, Panetta said: “That will include six aircraft carriers in this region, a majority of our cruisers, destroyers, littoral combat ships, and submarines.” He called these forces “the core of our commitment to this region”.

Panetta singled out for praise the agreement reached last autumn with the Australian government for the deployment of US Marines in northern Australia, calling it “a critical component” of the US military build-up.

This Marine Air-Ground Task Force will be capable of rapidly deploying across the Asia-Pacific region,” he said, thereby confirming that it will be able to be deployed in any confrontation with China.

He reconfirmed that the US is negotiating a similar agreement for stationing ground forces on a rotating basis in the Philippines and that it is pursuing such arrangements with other countries in the region, although he did not name them. In 2011, the US military conducted 172 military exercises in the Asia-Pacific region, a number that will be surpassed this year.

And, just in case anyone had any doubts as to the point of all this military build-up, Panetta closed his address with this invocation of the history of US wars in the region:

Over the course of history, the United States has fought wars, we have spilled blood, we have deployed our forces time and time again to defend our vital interests in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Panetta followed his appearance in Singapore with visits to Vietnam, where he became the highest-ranking US official to visit the strategic port of Cam Ranh Bay since the end of the Vietnam war in 1975, and to India.

Speaking to the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi, Panetta stated:

In particular, we will expand our partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia,” thereby almost perfectly describing an encirclement of China from the east, south and west.

For the last more than two decades, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has plunged headlong into one war after another, in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere, in an attempt to preserve its hegemony and reverse its economic decline. However, Obama’s “pivot” to Asia has dramatically raised the stakes, by removing any shadow of doubt that the US’s main target is a nuclear power, the People’s Republic of China.

As in the 1930s, imperialism perceives that its only way out is war. The duty of the entire international working class is to do everything in its power to prevent that war of aggression and to pursue unto victory its own war against imperialist and capitalist barbarism. US imperialism’s selection of China is not by chance – it is the main and most powerful force standing in the way of US domination of the planet.

Notwithstanding the very real issues and concerns regarding many of the internal developments in China’s economy and society, the communist and workers’ parties of all countries should unite in common struggle, demanding:

Hands off China!

Death to US imperialism!

Inside The Anti-Japanese Protests in China

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The following article below was originally published by Counterpunch. For those readers whom are interested in acquiring more information regarding China’s sovereign history over the Diaoyu islands and subsequent struggles against Japan and U.S. imperialism, I’d highly recommend you reading the recently published white paper issued by the Chinese govt., “Full Text: Diaoyu Dao, an Inherent Territory of China“: 

Territories Stolen from the Chinese

By Gary Leupp
September 27, 2012

Chinese citizens demonstrating in front of the Japanese embassy in China, upholding their sovereignty over the Diaoyu islands.

They’ve drawn far less attention in the U.S. media than the wave of anti-U.S. protests throughout the Islamic world responding to the infamous online anti-Muslim movie trailer. But the anti-Japanese protests in China might have more enduring significance. These are the largest in the postwar (post-1945) period, involving hundreds of thousands, causing Japanese owned factories and retail shops to shut their doors and even consider closing down permanently. Even Chinese-owned Japanese restaurants are posting Chinese flags and patriotic messages on their doors, hoping to avoid attack.

At the height of the violence,” reports the Los Angeles Times, “dozens of Japanese businesses were attacked, including a Panasonic plant in Qingdao, a Toyota dealership and 7-Eleven shops. Hundreds of Japanese model cars were overturned or burned.” Reuters reports that 41% of Japanese firms feel affected by the protests and are considering altering their plans for investment in China. As of last week Japanese automakers had lost $ 250 million in output due to the protests; Nissan, Toyota and Honda have suspended some operations.

There is a looming general crisis in the economic and political relationship between the world’s second and third largest economies. These have been one another’s top trading partners for some years now. Their total annual two-way trade is around $ 345 billon. Theirs is arguably the most important bilateral trade relationship in the world, after the Sino-U.S. relationship. But plans for a gala event to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and China have been postponed. This is all pretty serious.

What occasions the nationwide protests and unprecedented bilateral tensions? Five small uninhabited islands and three rocky outcroppings northeast of Taiwan and southwest of the Ryukyu island chain, which both China and Japan claim as theirs. The Chinese call them the Diaoyu Islands, the Japanese the Senkaku Islands. Some westerners have dubbed them the Pinnacle Islands. Strategically located in the South China Sea, surrounded by rich fisheries, they are thought to hold huge natural gas and oil reserves. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the seabed around them may hold as much as 100 billion barrels of oil. Sovereignty over them affects control over 21,000 square nautical miles.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has indicated that it does not want the territorial issue to become a “disturbing factor” in the mutually lucrative bilateral relationship with Japan. But the Japanese government has made it such. By moving to purchase three of the islands from their current private Japanese owner, following a campaign by Tokyo’s right-wing governor Ishihara Shintaro, the Japanese government has inflamed the situation.

The Japanese government insists that “there is no dispute” about sovereignty over the islands. By this it means that Japan has a clear-cut claim based on international law, specifically the Shimonoseki Treaty signed in 1895 after Japan had defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War. (That is, it was legitimate war spoils, rather like, say, Guam which was won by the U.S. during the Spanish-American War of 1898.) This legalistic argument not only assumes the respectability of imperialism but ignores important details of postwar legal history.

Some relevant historical facts about the issue:

1. Chinese records dated 1403 and 1534 mention the islets, referring to the largest one as Diaoyu and naming two others. The latter text, ARecord of the Imperial Envoy’s Visit to Ryukyu, documents the visit of a Chinese diplomatic mission to the Ryukyu Island kingdom (centered on Okinawa), which was then not a part of Japan and never had been. Ming-era officials, en route to the investiture ceremony of the Ryukyuan king, regarded the isles as the border between the province of Taiwan and the Ryukyus, which had a tributary relationship with the Ming court. Neither the Ryukyuans nor the Chinese regarded the Daioyu cluster as part of the Ryukyus. They were obviously part of China.

The Record describes the islands as the “border that separates Chinese and foreign lands.” Contemporary Taiwan gazetteers state “Diaoyu Island accommodates ten or more large ships,” indicating that it was visited by Chinese junks. Another record of an embassy in 1561 mentions the islands as landmarks passed on the final stage of the voyage from Fuzhou to Okinawa. There is no record of Japanese visits to the Diaoyu islands or even Japanese knowledge of them as of the sixteenth century.

2. In the 1590s, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the warlord who had re-united Japan after centuries of division, sought to make the Ryukuan kingdom a vassal-state and cooperate in an invasion of Korea. The Ryukyuan king refused. But in 1609, forces from Satsuma, one of the many Japanese baronies of the time, invaded the Ryukyu kingdom and kidnapped the king, Sho Nei. They brought him to Japan and forced him to acknowledge both the daimyo of Satsuma and the Japanese shogun as his overlords. From that point the Ryukyus paid tribute to both China and Japan. Japanese officials saw the Ryukyus as a vassal-state—foreign, not part of Japan proper, but obliged to provide such goods as sugar-cane, tobacco, and products from China and Southeast Asia to Japan.

But the Japanese did not view the Diaoyu islands as part of this Ryukyuan vassal-state. Eighteenth century maps produced in both China and Japan plainly show the Diaoyu isles as Chinese territory. A map drawn up in 1785 by Hayashi Shihei, a military scholar in the castle-town of Sendai, in his Illustrated Survey of the Three Countriesrendered the islands in the same color as that used for China rather than that used for the Ryukyu kingdom. Japan did not claim sovereignty over the Diaoyu islands during the Edo period (1603-1868).

3. Japan did not assert or obtain internationally recognized sovereignty over the Ryukyus until 1872, when it pronounced the former kingdom ahan (barony) under its ruler Sho Tai. In 1879 this became Okinawa Prefecture and Sho Tai was forced to relocate to Tokyo. (He was granted a noble title and disencumbered of any further role in the governance of the islands his ancestors had ruled for over 400 years.) One might say Okinawa was the first Japanese colony. (The Ryukyuans, ethnically distinct from the Japanese of the main islands, and speaking a language incomprehensible to the latter, did not necessarily welcome the regime change.)

Still, Tokyo did not at that point assert sovereignty over the Diaoyu islands south of the Ryukyus. In 1885 the governor of the prefecture proposed that it do so, but the Japanese foreign minister, Inoue Kaoru, and Prime Minister Yamagata Aritomo, refused the suggestion. They felt that since the islands had Chinese names and were considered Chinese by the Qing court, Japan should not lay claim to them. This may have been a purely pragmatic decision, motivated not by any respect for Chinese sovereignty but concern for Japan’s international reputation. In any case, the Japanese rulers did not at that time consider the small islands part of their new prefecture but Chinese territory.

4. In 1894-5 Japanese and Chinese forces fought a war in Korea and Manchuria. China had

responded to the Korean king’s request for assistance in repressing a huge peasant rebellion. Citing an earlier agreement with China, Japan dispatched troops too. They kidnapped the Korean king and forced him to issue an edict terminating existing Sino-Korean agreements and authorizing the Japanese to expel Chinese troops from the country (even though the rebellion had been quelled and the Chinese had pledged to withdraw).

Most historians believe that Japanese forces provoked the Chinese in July 1894, triggering the Sino-Japanese War and a crushing Chinese defeat. (About 35,000 Chinese dead or wounded, compared to 5,000 Japanese, although twice that many Japanese died from disease.) China sued for peace and was obliged to pay Japan an indemnity, cede control over the Liaodong Peninsula in southern Manchuria, and hand over the island of Taiwan (Formosa) and Penghu (Pescadore) islands west of the island to Japanese colonization. (The Liaodong Peninsula was soon returned to China due to intervention by the Russians, French and Germans.)

Taiwan became, in the words of Diet member and historian Takekoshi Yoshisaburo, Japan’s “colonial university” in which administers honed their skills at civilizing “barbarians.” After 1905 Japanese carefully studied British colonial policies in Africa and elsewhere, the better to administer the Japanese Empire expanding to include Korea, southern Sakhalin, Shandong, the Northern Marianas, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Manchuria, China.

The Shimonoseki Treaty of 1895 specified that “the island of Formosa, together with all islands appertaining or belonging to the said island of Formosa” would be ceded to Japan. It did not mention the Diaoyu group by name. But the Japanese claim to sovereignty rests almost entirely on this clause—in an agreement imposed upon China following a war of imperialist aggression.

Tokyo also claims that Japan “discovered” the islands as of 1884 when it carried out a survey. An academic accorded them the name Senkaku in 1890. In January 1895 the Japanese government erected a marker on the Senkaku islands and incorporated them into OkinawaPrefecture as part of Ishigaki City.

5. The establishment of Japanese control over the Ryukyus (1872) and Taiwan and the Diaoyu islands (1895) were all part of a continuum of imperialist expansion appropriately condemned by the Allies in World War II and formally repudiated by postwar Japanese leadership.Following defeat in the Second World War, the Japanese government was forced to accept the Allies’ decision expressed in the Cairo Declaration of 1943 which stated that “Japanshall be stripped of … all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese,such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, [which] shall be restoredto the Republic of China.” The Potsdam Declaration of 1945 had reiterated that “Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.” That is to say: the Allies did not acknowledge Japanese sovereignty even over the Ryukyu Islandsmuch less the Diaoyu group.

From the beginning of the Occupation in 1945, the main islands of Japan and the Nansei Shoto (“Southwest Group,” the islands between Kyushu and Taiwan including the Ryukyus) were administered separately by U.S. forces. The Ryukyus became a U.S. “trusteeship,” the main island of Okinawa covered (to this day) with U.S. military bases. Taiwan reverted to Chinese sovereignty and from 1949 became the headquarters of the routed Guomindang, viewed by Beijing as a “renegade province.”

In the spirit of Cairo and Potsdam, the Diaoyu islands between the Ryukyus and Taiwan might have been returned to Chinese control at the end of the war in 1945. Instead the U.S. military treated them as the defense perimeter of the occupied Ryukyus, in effect recognizing the legitimacy of the Japanese claim. In other words, while denying Japanese sovereignty over the Ryukyus, which had been established in 1872 in relatively peaceful fashion, the U.S. recognized the incorporation of the Diaoyu isles into Okinawa Prefecture dating to 1895, established (let us repeat) as the result of a predatory war. It apparently did not regard these islands as “territories…stolen from the Chinese” to be “restored to the Republic of China.”

7. In the San Francisco Treaty of 1951, which formally ended the war and paved the way for the return of sovereignty to the Japanese government, Japan agreed to “concur in any proposal of the United States to theUnited Nations to place under its trusteeship system, with theUnited States as the sole administering authority, Nansei Shotosouth of 29 degrees north latitude (including the Ryukyu Islandsand the Daito Islands).”

Japan thus acceded to the indefinite U.S. colonization of Okinawa and adjoining islands, including Diaoyu/Senkaku.

In its dispute with Beijing, Tokyo can point out that China did not attend the San Francisco conference that formally ended the war. The U.S. did not invite representatives of the newly founded People’s Republic, causing the Soviets and some of their allies to boycott the proceedings or refuse to sign the peace treaty. The Japanese government argues that, having made no agreement with China over the dispensation of the islands, its claim to sovereignty dating to 1895 still holds and that its agreement to return Taiwan to Chinese sovereignty does not include what it calls the Senkaku islands because they’re actually part of Okinawa Prefecture.

8. The Occupation ended formally in 1952, and sovereignty was restored to Japan. (This sovereignty was and is shaped by a “security treaty” with the U.S., the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops, and virtual U.S. veto power over Japanese foreign policy.) But the U.S. continued to administer the Nansei Shoto including Okinawa Prefecture up until 1972, when following a long campaign by the Japanese people and Diet, sovereignty over Okinawa Prefecture as well as the Diaoyu islands was restored to Japanese control. (Again, a limited sovereignty. Japanese leaders have sought in vain to significantly reduce the unpopular U.S. military presence on Okinawa.)

Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty plainly states: “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.”

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Such are the basic historical facts pertaining to the conflicting territorial claims. What of the future?

By the terms of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, the U.S. must help defend the security of all Japanese territory. Would it challenge a Chinese effort to seize control of these tiny islands? Washington sends mixed signals.

On the one hand, U.S. diplomats have stated repeatedly that the U.S. takes no position on the sovereignty issue. In Sept. 1996 a State Department spokesman proclaimed the U.S. “neutral” on Senkaku. In April 1999 the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Thomas S. Foley, stated, “The United States notes the Japanese claim to these islands, and we are not, as far as I understand, taking a specific position in the dispute…. We do not believe that these islands will be the subject of any military conflict, and so consequently, we do not assume that there will be any reason to engage the security treaty in any immediate sense.” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta again stated in Beijing two weeks ago that the U.S. had no position on the dispute.

On the other hand, in 1996 both Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of defense, and Secretary of Defense William Perry specified that the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty covered the Senkaku Islands. In 2004 Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman at the State Department declared, “The Senkaku Islands have been under the administrative control of the Government of Japan since having been returned as part of the reversion of Okinawa in 1972. Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security states that the treaty applies to the territories under the administration of Japan; thus, Article 5 of the Mutual Security Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands.” In 2006 theU.S. ambassador to Japan, Thomas Schieffer, told Kyodo News that he considered “the islands as territory of Japan.”

Campbell while acknowledging a U.S. obligation to “defend” the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands if attacked, acknowledges that the sovereignty claim of Japan is dubious. “Sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands,” he observed, “is disputed. The U.S. does not take a position on the question of the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. This has been our longstanding view. We expect the claimants will resolve this issue through peaceful means and we urge all claimants to exercise restraint.”

Just two months ago a State Department official repeated, “The Senkakus would fall within the scope of Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security because the Senkaku Islands have been under the administrative control of the government of Japan since they were returned as part of the reversion of Okinawa in 1972.”

In other words: the U.S. doesn’t have a position on the sovereignty issue, but will still fight to defend Japan’s sovereignty claim, as required by treaty. The remote barren rocks, like all of Japan, fall under the U.S.’s “nuclear umbrella.” This position can only embolden those in Japan eager to provoke China by constructing lighthouses (1978 and 1996) and most recently lobbying for the purchase of the islands by the Japanese government.

* * *

Tokyo’s case for sovereignty is meager. The Chinese were there first, visiting, mapping, and defining the isles as the boundary between China and the Ryukyu kingdom from at least the fifteenth century. Japan only acquired the islands as war booty in 1895, and as such, pursuant to the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations, they should have been returned to their rightful owner at the end of the Second World War. However, the U.S. elected to retain them within its security parameters as administrator of Okinawa up until 1972, then turned over primary defense responsibilities to the Japanese “Self-Defense Forces” in that year. The U.S. proclaims itself “neutral” but it’s not. It’s troubled by the rising power of its Chinese rival, worried about conflict in the South China Sea, but committed by treaty and its geopolitical strategy to support its longtime ally Japan.

It’s a dangerous situation. While angry protesters pelt the Japanese Embassy with eggs, waving banners with such slogans as “Kill Japanese Robbers,” China’s most senior military-political commissar, Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, orders the People’s Liberation Army to be “prepared for any possible military combat.” While the likelihood of war seems remote, the Chinese elite has sought to shift attention from the faltering economy by encouraging nationalistic sentiment, especially among the youth who may find in the Diaoyu cause a relatively safe way to vent dissent. Portraits of Mao Zedong have become regular features of mass demonstrations; Mao is remembered as the heroic leader of the struggle against Japanese and later U.S. imperialism—a sharp contrast to the current leadership in their business suits who embrace capitalist-imperialist investment and steer foreign policy to encourage it. The mix of youth, the reverent memory of the eternal rebel Mao, contempt for a corrupt leadership and indignation over historical injuries might have unpredictable consequences.

The Chinese government routinely accuses Japan, more than any other country, of “hurting the Chinese people’s feelings” (shang hai zhong guo ren de gan qing)—an understated way of saying the Chinese people are getting very ticked off every time the Japanese Education Ministry approves a high school history textbook that prettifies the Japanese invasion and occupation of China in the 1930s; or when politicians and academics question whether there was ever a Rape of Nanking (the moral equivalent of Holocaust denial); or when prime ministers visit Yasukuni Shrine where Class A war criminals are enshrined; or when Japan claims territory not on valid historical grounds but on narrow legalistic grounds rooted in a predatory war.

It may seem irrational for protesters to attack (mostly Chinese-owned) sushi restaurants or Japanese-owned factories or retail stores to vent such hurt feelings. The rhetoric heard is often nakedly racist (“Kill all Japanese devils!”)—plain testimony to the fact that the ideal of proletarian internationalism isn’t as prevalent as it should be in a country whose leaders cling to the pretense of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” But for Japan in the face of this wave of hurt feelings to blithely assert that “there is no dispute” is insulting. It compounds the indignation.

And for the U.S. top say simultaneously, “We have no position” and “The Senkakus fall under Article 5 of the Security Treaty” seems illogical, contradictory. Perhaps Washington thinks it can restrain Japan by affecting neutrality in the dispute, while deterring China from action by asserting a treaty obligation to “defend” these islands as Japanese territory. It’s a dangerous game.

* * *

Many are talking about the South China Sea as the “new Persian Gulf.” Unlike the old—clearly demarcated—Persian Gulf, this one is contested between the PRC, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation last year (Sept. 2011) signed an agreement with PetroVietnam to explore for oil in ocean blocks claimed by both Vietnam and China. (India has become closely allied to the U.S., while former foe Vietnam now welcomes U.S. warships to its shores.)

The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded: “China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea… [W]e are opposed to any country engaging in oil and gas exploration and development in waters under China’s jurisdiction.” But it offered “to engage in peaceful negotiations and friendly consultations to peacefully solve the disputes over territorial sovereignty and maritime rights so as to positively contribute to peace and tranquility in the South China Sea area.”

We will see how the claim to “indisputable sovereignty’ over the Diaoyu group and other area islands surrounded by oil and natural gas allows for peaceful solutions with countries backed by the U.S.A. Bloodied by two failed wars, the U.S. is led by officials committed to a treaty that could embroil the country in yet more conflict. It has with some fanfare shifted its “pivot” (or “rebalance of forces”) from Southwest Asia to the Pacific in order to “contain” rising China. On the one hand Defense Secretary Leon Panetta invites China to participate in joint naval operations with the U.S. (such as the planned 2014 Rimpac exercise); on the other hand he tells Chinese vice president (soon to be president) Xi Jinping on September 19 that the Senkaku Islands are covered by the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.

It’s a clear threat to enforce a provision of a shameful treaty signed over a century ago, as Japan and the western powers carved up a weak, demoralized China; ensure that stolen resource-rich territory remains under U.S.-Japanese authority; and remind the peoples of the region that no borders on the Pacific Rim can change without distant Washington’s supervision and approval.

For all their bluster, Chinese officials are unlikely to, as they say, allow Diaoyu to become a “disturbing factor” in the Sino-Japanese relationship (or the Sino-U.S. relationship) at least in the short term. Still, there are those angry Chinese youth demanding action, a modernizing military eager to flex its muscles, and those Taiwanese fishermen planning nonviolent protest with hundreds of fishing boats. Smack in the center of the new U.S. “pivot,” a situation could spin out of control.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

U.S. anti-war, religious leaders meet with Iranian President Ahmadinejad

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The following article below was originally published by Fight Back! News, the news wing of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization

September 26, 2012

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking at the 67th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

New York, NY – 150 prominent anti-war activists, religious leaders and supporters of Iran attended a special here on Sept. 25 with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is in New York to address the opening meeting of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly.

For the past year there have been escalating threats by the U.S. over Iran’s alleged development of nuclear weapons. Many speakers made it clear that Iran has no nuclear weapons and no plan to develop them. In fact, Phil Wilayto, one of the event organizers, said, “Iran has called for a nuclear free Middle East.” Unlike Israel, which has over 150 nuclear weapons, Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and allows inspectors of its nuclear facilities.

According to a number of speakers, the U.S. is already intervening. Economic sanctions are an act of war, according to international law; the U.S. has admitted to carrying out cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear processing facilities; and to having special operation troops on the ground. As with Libya and Syria, the U.S. is also looking for opposition groups to back inside Iran.

In addition, this past week the U.S. government removed the Mojahedin el Khalk from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. It is widely believed that they have carried out assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.

Ironically, two of the anti-war activists attending the meeting – Joe Iosbaker, a key organizer of the Chicago anti-NATO protest and Sarah Martin, a member of Women Against Military Madness and Freedom Road Socialist Organization – have been targets of a grand jury investigation for allegations of “providing material support to terrorist organizations” in Palestine and Colombia.

‘Terrible time in history of America’

Prominent among guests was Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. “This is a terrible time in the history of America. America and Israel are pushing this nation to war with Iran over alleged attempts to build weapons of mass destruction.” He warned, “We have to stand against the war mongers.”

Ramsey Clark, who was U.S. Attorney General when the Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed in 1968, said, “The heart of the treaty was for the nuclear powers to eliminate their nuclear weapons.” He concluded, “The nuclear powers failed,” explaining how the U.S. has not lived up to its end of the deal.

Ellie Ommani, of the American Iranian Friendship Committee congratulated Iran “… for successfully hosting the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned movement with 125 nations. This puts to rest the myth of Iran’s isolation.”

Leah Bolger, president of Veterans for Peace, called for the U.S. to, “Remove carrier battle groups armed with nuclear weapons from the region.” In a proposal to President Ahmadinejad, Bolger also called for a delegation of vets to visit Iran.

In closing remarks, President Ahmadinejad said, “The U.S. wants to expand its hegemony over the center of energy. Iran will not allow this.” This brought cheers from the crowd.

The struggle for hegemony in the Muslim world

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For half of the last century, Arab nationalists, socialists, communists and others were locked in a battle with the Muslim Brothers for hegemony in the Arab world.—Tariq Ali [1]

By Stephen Gowans

The Jihadists who toppled the secular nationalist Gaddafi government—and not without the help of Nato bombers, dubbed “al Qaeda’s air force” [2] by Canadian pilots who participated in the bombing campaign—are no longer disguised in the pages of Western newspapers as a popular movement who thirsted for, and won, democracy in Libya. Now that they’ve overrun the US consulate in Benghazi and killed the US ambassador, they’ve become a “security threat…raising fears about the country’s stability” [3]—exactly what Gaddafi called them, when Western governments were celebrating the Islamists’ revolt as a popular pro-democracy uprising. Gaddafi’s description of the unrest in his own country as a violent Salafist bid to establish an Islamic state was doubtlessly accepted in Washington and other Western capitals as true, but dismissed in public as a transparent ploy to muster sympathy. This was necessary to sanitize the uprising to secure the acquiescence of Western publics for the intervention of their countries’ warplanes to help Islamic guerillas on the ground topple a secular nationalist leader who was practicing “resource nationalism” and trying to “Libyanize” the economy– the real reasons he’d fallen into disgrace in Washington. [4]

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which played a major part in the rebellion to depose Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, may have plotted the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi which led to the death of US ambassador Christopher Stevens, according to US officials.

The uprising of militant Muslim radicals against a secular state was, in many respects, a replay of what had happened in Afghanistan in the late 1970s, when a Marxist-inspired government came to power with aspirations to lift the country out of backwardness, and was opposed by the Mullahs and Islamist guerillas backed by the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and China.

An Afghan Communist explained that,

“Our aim was no less than to give an example to all the backward countries of the world of how to jump from feudalism straight to a prosperous, just society … Our choice was not between doing things democratically or not. Unless we did them, nobody else would … [Our] very first proclamation declared that food and shelter are the basic needs and rights of a human being. … Our program was clear: land to the peasants, food for the hungry, free education for all. We knew that the mullahs in the villages would scheme against us, so we issued our decrees swiftly so that the masses could see where their real interests lay … For the first time in Afghanistan’s history women were to be given the right to education … We told them that they owned their bodies, they would marry whom they liked, they shouldn’t have to live shut up in houses like pens.” [5]

That’s not to say that Gaddafi was a Marxist—far from it. But like the reformers in Afghanistan, he sought to modernize his country, and use its land, labor and resources for the people within it. By official Western accounts, he did a good job, raising his country’s standard of living higher than that of all other countries in Africa.

Gaddafi claimed that the rebellion in Libya had been organized by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, and by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which had vowed to overthrow him and return the country to traditional Muslim values, including Sharia law. A 2009 Canadian government intelligence report bore him out. It described the anti-Gaddafi stronghold of eastern Libya, where the rebellion began, “as an ‘epicenter of Islamist extremism’ and said ‘extremist cells’ operated in the region.” Earlier, Canadian military intelligence had noted that “Libyan troops found a training camp in the country’s southern desert that had been used by an Algerian terrorist group that would later change its name to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.” [6] Significantly, US officials now believe that the AQIM may have plotted the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. [7]

Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the Libyan rebellion’s most powerful military leader, was a veteran of the U.S.-backed Jihad against the Marxist-inspired reformist government in Afghanistan, where he had fought alongside militants who would go on to form al-Qaeda. Belhaj returned to Libya in the 1990s to lead the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was linked to his al-Qaeda comrades. His aim was to topple Gaddafi, as the Communists had been toppled in Afghanistan. The prominent role Belhaj played in the Libyan uprising should have aroused suspicions among leftists in the West that, as Western governments surely knew, the uprising was not the heroic pro-democracy affair Western media—and those of reactionary Arab regimes—were making it out to be. Indeed, from the very first day of the revolt, anyone equipped with knowledge of Libyan history that went back further than the last Fox News broadcast, would have known that the Benghazi rebellion was more in the mold of the latest eruption of a violent anti-secular Jihad than a peaceful call for democracy. [8]

“On Feb. 15, 2011, citizens in Benghazi organized what they called a Day of Anger march. The demonstration soon turned into a full-scale battle with police. At first, security forces used tear gas and water cannons. But as several hundred protesters armed with rocks and Molotov cocktails attacked government buildings, the violence spiraled out of control.” [9]

As they stormed government sites, the rampaging demonstrators didn’t chant, “Power to the people”, “We are the 99 percent”, or “No to dictatorship.” They chanted “‘No God but Allah, Moammar is the enemy of Allah’.” [10] The Islamists touched off the rebellion and did the fighting on the ground, while U.S.-aligned Libyan exiles stepped into the power vacuum created by Salafist violence and Nato bombs to form a new U.S.-aligned government.

Syria’s Hafiz Asad, and other secular nationalists, from his comrade Salaf Jadid, who he overthrew and locked away, to his son, Bashar, who has followed him, have also been denounced as enemies of Allah by the same Islamist forces who violently denounced Gaddafi in Libya and the leaders of the People’s Democratic Party in Afghanistan. The reason for their denunciation by Islamists is the same: their opposition to an Islamic state. Similarly, Islamist forces have been as strongly at the head of the movement to overthrow the secular nationalists in Syria, as they have the secular nationalists in Libya and the (secular) Marxists in the late 1970s-1980s Afghanistan.

As they stormed government sites, the rampaging demonstrators chanted “‘No God but Allah, Moammar is the enemy of Allah’.”

The secular nationalists’ rise to power in Syria was a heavy blow to the country’s Sunni Islamic militants who resented their society being governed by secular radicals. Worse still from the perspective of the Islamists, the governing radicals were mostly members of minority communities the Sunnis regarded as heretics, and which had occupied the lower rungs of Syrian society. From the moment the secular nationalists captured the state, Islamists went underground to organize an armed resistance. “From their safe haven deep in the ancient warrens of northern cities like Aleppo and Hama, where cars could not enter, the guerrillas emerged to bomb and kill.” [11]

In 1980, an attempt was made to group the Sunni opposition to the secular nationalists under an “Islamic Front’, which promised free speech, free elections, and an independent judiciary, under the banner of Islam. When militant Islamic terrorists murdered Egyptian president Anwar Sadat a year later in Egypt, Islamists in Damascus promised then president Hafiz Asad the same fate. Then in 1982, Jihadists rose up in Hama—“the citadel of traditional landed power and Sunni puratinism” [12]—in a bid to seize power in the city. The ensuing war of the Islamic radicals against the secular nationalist state, a bloody affair which costs tens of thousands of lives, convinced Asad that “he was wrestling not just with internal dissent, but with a large scale conspiracy to unseat him, abetted by Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and the United States.” [13] Patrick Seale, a veteran British journalist who has covered the Middle East for decades, described the Islamists’ movement against Syria’s secular nationalists as a “sort of fever that (rises) and (falls) according to conditions at home and manipulation from abroad.” [14]

Media accounts of Syria’s civil war omit mention of the decades-long hostility between Islamists and secular nationalists—a fierce enmity that sometimes flares into open warfare, and at other times simmers menacingly below the surface—that has defined Syria in the post-colonial period. To do so would take the sheen off the armed rising as a popular, democratic, progressive struggle, a depiction necessary to make Western intervention in the form of sanctions, diplomatic support, and other aid, against the secular nationalists, appear just and desirable. Today, only Trotskyists besotted by fantasies that the Arab Spring is the equivalent of the March 1917 Petrograd uprising, deny that the content of the Syrian uprising is Islamist. But the question of whether the uprising was initially otherwise—a peaceful, progressive and popular movement aimed at opening democratic space and redressing economic grievances–and only later hijacked by Islamists, remains in dispute. What’s clear, however, is that the “hijacking”, if indeed there was one, is not of recent vintage. In the nascent stages of the rebellion, the late New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid noted that the “most puritanical Islamists, known by their shorthand as Salafists, have emerged as a force in Egypt, Libya, Syria and elsewhere, with suspicions that Saudi Arabia has encouraged and financed them.”[15]

Secular nationalists, socialists and communists in Muslim lands have struggled with the problem of Islamist opposition to their programs, to their atheism (in the case of communists) and to the secular character of the state they have sought to build. The Bolsheviks, perhaps alone among this group, were successful in overcoming opposition in the traditional Muslim territories they controlled in Central Asia, and improving the lives of women, who had been oppressed by conservative Islam. Female seclusion, polygamy, bride price, child and forced marriages, veiling (as well as circumcision of males, considered by the Bolsheviks to be child abuse) were outlawed. Women were recruited into administrative and professional positions and encouraged – indeed obligated – to work outside the home. This followed Friedrich Engels’ idea that women could only be liberated from the domination of men if they had independent incomes. [16]

Western governments, led by the United States, have made a practice of inflaming the Islamists’ hostility to secular nationalists, socialists and communists, using militant Muslim radicals as a cat’s paw to topple these governments, which have almost invariably refused to align themselves militarily with the United States or cut deals against the interests of their own people to fatten the profits of corporate America and enrich Wall Street investment bankers. But whether Washington aggravates fault lines within Muslim societies or not, the fact remains that the fault lines exist, and must be managed, but have not always been managed well.

For example, no matter how admirable their aims were, the reformers in Afghanistan had too narrow a political base to move as quickly as they did, and they rushed headlong into disaster, ignoring Moscow’s advice to slow down and expand their support. The Carter and Reagan administrations simply took advantage of their blunders to build a committed anti-communist guerilla movement.

Salah Jadid, who Hafiz Asad overthrew and locked away. Jadid pursued an unapologetically leftist program, and boasted of practicing “scientific socialism.” The Soviets thought otherwise. Jadid came to power in a conspiracy and never had more than a narrow base of support.

The leftist Syrian regime of Salah Jadid, which Hafiz Asad overthrew, did much that would be admired by leftists today. Indeed, Tariq Ali, in an apology apparently intended to expiate the sin of seeming to support the current Asad government, lauds Jadid’s regime as the “much more enlightened predecessor whose leaders and activists…numbered in their ranks some of the finest intellectuals of the Arab world.” [17] It’s easy to see why Ali admired Asad’s predecessors. Jadid, who lived an austere life, refusing to take advantage of his position to lavish himself with riches and comforts, slashed the salaries of senior ministers and top bureaucrats. He replaced their black Mercedes limousines with Volkswagens and Peugeot 404s. People connected with the old influential families were purged from government. A Communist was brought into the cabinet. Second houses were confiscated, and the ownership of more than one was prohibited. Private schools were banned. Workers, soldiers, peasants, students and women became the regime’s favored children. Feudalists and reactionaries were suppressed. A start was made on economic planning and major infrastructure projects were undertaken with the help of the Soviets. And yet, despite these clearly progressive measures, Jadid’s base of popular support remained narrow—one reason why the Soviets were lukewarm toward him, regarding him as a hothead, and contemptuous of his claim to be practicing “scientific socialism.” [18] Scientific socialism is based on mass politics, not a minority coming to power through a conspiracy (as Jadid and Asad had) which then attempts to impose its utopian vision on a majority that rejects it.

Jadid backed the Palestinian guerrillas. Asad, who was then minister of defense, was less enamored of the guerrillas, who he saw as handing Israel pretexts for war. Jadid defined the bourgeoisie as the enemy. Asad wanted to enlist their backing at home to broaden the government’s base of support against the Muslim Brothers. Jadid spurned the reactionary Arab regimes. Asad was for unifying all Arab states—reactionary or otherwise—against Israel. [19]

Asad—who Ali says he opposed—recognized (a) that a program of secular nationalist socialism couldn’t be implemented holus bolus without mass support, and (b) that the government didn’t have it. So, after toppling Jadid in a so-called “corrective” movement, he minimized class warfare in favor of broadening his government’s base, trying to win over merchants, artisans, business people, and other opponents of the regime’s nationalizations and socialist measures. At the same time, he retained Jadid’s commitment to a dirigiste state and continued to promote oppressed classes and minorities. This was hardly a stirring program for Marxist purists—in fact it looked like a betrayal—but the Soviets were more committed to Asad than Jadid, recognizing that his program respected the world as it was and therefore had a greater chance of success. [20]

In the end, however, Asad failed. Neither he nor his son Bashar managed to expand the state’s base of support enough to safeguard it from destabilization. The opposition hasn’t been conjured up out of nothing by regime change specialists in Washington. To be sure, regime change specialists have played a role, but they’ve needed material to work with, and the Asad’s Syria has provided plenty of it. Nor did Gaddafi in Libya finesse the problem of mixing the right amount of repression and persuasion to engineer a broad enough consent for his secular nationalist rule to survive the fever of Salafist opposition rising, as Patrick Seale writes, according to conditions at home and manipulation from abroad . The machinations of the United States and reactionary Arab regimes to stir up and strengthen the secular nationalists’ opponents made the knot all the more difficult to disentangle, but outside manipulation wasn’t the whole story in Gaddafi’s demise (though it was a significant part of it) and hasn’t been the sole, or even a large part of the, explanation for the uprising in Syria.

The idea that the Syrian uprising is a popular, democratic movement against dictatorship and for the redress of economic grievances ignores the significant history of struggle between secularist Arab nationalists and the Muslim Brothers, mistakenly minimizes the role of Salafists in the uprisings, and turns a blind eye to Washington’s longstanding practice of using radical Muslim activists as a cat’s paw against Arab nationalist regimes.

The idea that the uprisings in either country are popular, democratic movements against dictatorship and for the redress of economic grievances, (a) ignores the significant history of struggle between secularist Arab nationalists and the Muslim Brothers, (b) mistakenly minimizes the role of Salafists in the uprisings, and (c) turns a blind eye to Washington’s longstanding practice of using radical Muslim activists as a cat’s paw against Arab nationalist regimes that are against sacrificing local interests to the foreign trade and investment interests of Wall Street and corporate America. With Islamists lashing out violently against US embassies in the Middle East, their depiction by US state officials and Western media as pro-democracy fighters for freedom may very well be supplanted by the labels used by Gaddafi and Asad to describe their Islamist opponents, labels that are closer to the truth –“religious fanatics” and “terrorists.”

Reactionary Islam may have won the battle for hegemony in the Muslim world, as Tariq Ali asserts, and with it, the United States, which has often manipulated it for its own purposes, but the battle has yet to be won in Syria, and one would hope, never will be. That’s what’s at stake in the country: not a fragile, popular, egalitarian, pro-democracy movement, but the last remaining secular Arab nationalist regime, resisting both the oppressions and obscurantism of the Muslim Brothers and the oppressions and plunder of imperialism.

1. Tariq Ali, “The Uprising in Syria”, http://www.counterpunch.com, September 12, 2012.
2. Stephen Gowans [A], “Al-Qaeda’s Air Force”, what’s left, February 20, 2012. http://gowans.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/al-qaedas-air-force/
3. Patrick Martin, “Anti-American protests seen as tip of the Islamist iceberg”, The Globe and Mail, September 13, 2012.
4. Gowans [A]
5. Rodric Braithwaite. Afghantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan 1979-1989. Profile Books. 2012. pp. 5-6.
6. Gowans [A]
7. Siobhan Gorman and Adam Entous, “U.S. probing al-Qaeda link in Libya”, The Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2012.
8. Gowans [A]
9. David Pugliese, “The Libya mission one year later: Into the unknown”, The Ottawa Citizen, February 18, 2012.
10. Pugliese
11. Patrick Seale. Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East. University of California Press. 1988, p.324.
12. Seale, p. 333.
13. Seale, p. 335.
14. Seale, p. 322.
15. Anthony Shadid, “After Arab revolts, reigns of uncertainty”, The New York Times, August 24, 2011.
16. Stephen Gowans [B], “Women’s Rights in Afghanistan”, August 9, 2010. http://gowans.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/women%e2%80%99s-rights-in-afghanistan/
17. Ali
18. Seale
19. Seale
20. Seale

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FARC chooses Ricardo Palmera for peace negotiator

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The following article below was originally published by Fight Back! News, the news wing of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization

September 9, 2012

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) have chosen Ricardo Palmera as one of their negotiators for Colombian peace talks. Professor Palmer is a political prisoner held in solitary confinement by the U.S. government in the Florence, Colorado Supermax prison. Palmera’s supporters in Colombia and around the world are demanding that Palmera be set free and that the U.S. government stop interfering in Colombia’s internal affairs. The FARC put Palmera’s name forward as one of the three main negotiators after peace negotiations were announced last week.

Over the past six months the revolutionaries of FARC have held exploratory talks with Colombian government representatives of President Santos. Negotiations will take place in October in Oslo, Norway, to be followed by more negotiations in Havana, Cuba, with Venezuela and Chile acting as observers. The FARC is advancing a people’s agenda that includes land reform for family farms, good jobs, healthcare, education, housing and the eradication of poverty. There is a great need for guarantees concerning the assassination and murder of trade unionists, community organizers and political candidates.

Tom Burke of the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera said, “The U.S. government has no right to put Colombian revolutionaries on trial or in prison. The U.S. should pursue the crimes against and murders of union workers, poor peasants and indigenous people by Chiquita, Coca-Cola, Drummond Coal and big U.S. oil companies. The U.S. government ignores those crimes while militarily fighting the FARC and wrongfully punishing revolutionary leaders like Professor Palmera. The U.S. government should set Ricardo Palmera free immediately so he can plan a role in negotiations.”

The current FARC/Colombian government agreement advocates “Bilateral and definitive cease of fire and hostilities,” so the FARC proposed a bi-lateral cease-fire this week. President Santos immediately rejected it and demanded a one-sided cease-fire by FARC. President Santos’ negative response makes it likely these negotiations will be a contentious process.

The last time peace negotiations took place in 1998-2002, the FARC continued to wage war against the Colombian military. A decade before that, the FARC called a ceasefire in the mid-1980s while negotiating. This ceasefire led to the formation of Colombia’s most successful left political party, the Patriotic Union. However the Patriotic Union suffered close to 5000 assassinations and murders at the hands of the Colombian military and government death squads over the next few years. It was at this time that Ricardo Palmera left the Patriotic Union and joined the FARC in fighting the corrupt Colombian government. The U.S. government continues to spend nearly $1 billion per year funding, arming, training and directing the Colombian military.

Dudley Do-Right Gets the Wrong Man

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By Stephen Gowans
September 10, 2012

Dudley Do-Right was a well-intentioned, but dull-witted Canadian Mountie, who in the late 1960s battled his arch-nemesis Snidely Whiplash on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The Mounties are said to always get their man, but Canada, home of the crime-stopping icon, has recently come up with the wrong man.

Ottawa has severed diplomatic relations with Iran, a country it decries as “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” and it has done so as part of the Harper government’s re-orienting Canada’s foreign policy to more vigorously back Israel. But it is Israel—which daily clamours for an attack on Iran and threatens to undertake one itself—that is the greatest current threat to world peace and international security.

Canada has withdrawn its diplomats from Tehran and ordered Iran’s out of Canada. Ottawa says it has suspended diplomatic relations because Iran is:

 Providing military assistance to the Syrian government;
 Refuses to comply with UN resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program;
 Routinely threatens the existence of Israel;
 Engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide;
 Is among the world’s worst violators of human rights;
 Shelters and materially supports terrorist groups.

Given rampant speculation in Canada about the real reasons Ottawa has suddenly broken off relations with Iran, it’s clear that Ottawa’s purported reasons have been dismissed as empty rhetoric.

And so they should be.

If Ottawa were genuinely concerned about the world’s worst violators of human rights giving military assistance to tyrannical regimes to put down peaceful uprisings, it would have shut its embassy in Saudi Arabia long ago. Human Rights Watch describes rights violations in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that refuses to tolerate meaningful democratic reforms, as “pervasive.” And when Bahrainis rose up in peaceful protest against their country’s despotic rulers last year, Saudi troops and tanks spilled into the country to help Bahrain’s absolute monarchy violently suppress the uprising. Canadian diplomats remain on station in both countries.

The United States refuses to comply with innumerable UN resolutions to lift its illegal blockade on Cuba, and yet Ottawa continues to maintain diplomatic relations with Washington. UN resolutions in connection with the Palestinians are regularly ignored by Israel, but all the same Canadian diplomats are not withdrawn from Tel Aviv.

Indeed, Israel offers multiple reasons for Ottawa to close its embassy in that country and boot Israeli diplomats out of Canada. Human Rights Watch describes conditions in territories occupied by Israel as a “human rights crisis.” Within Israel proper, Arabs are treated as second-class citizens, subordinate to the favoured children, the Jews.

Israel’s record of furnishing military aid to repressive, retrograde regimes is long and shameful. After the Carter administration suspended military aid to the Chilean regime of Augusto Pinochet in 1977, Israel stepped in to become the dictator’s major arms supplier. Israel ran guns to Iran soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, to fan the flames of war between Iran and Iraq, and before that was a major supporter of the Shah’s dictatorial, human rights charnel house. [1] In the 1970s, it entered into a secret military alliance with South Africa’s racist apartheid regime, offering to sell it nuclear weapons.

As for the Canadian government’s professed opposition to nuclear weapons proliferation, Tel Aviv’s nuclear program should be ringing alarm bells in Ottawa. Israel is estimated to have some 200 nuclear weapons. It refuses to hear any discussion about giving them up, won’t join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and bars international inspectors from entering the country.

By contrast, the Iranians have no nuclear weapons—and as US military and intelligence officials continue to affirm—there is no evidence they’re working to acquire them (see hereherehereherehere, and here.) More than that, there is evidence of absence. “Certain things are not being done,” a former US intelligence official told the Washington Post, that would have to be done were the Iranians working to weaponize their civilian nuclear energy program.

And unlike Israel, Iran is a member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Its nuclear facilities are regularly scrutinized by international inspectors. And while it is true that Tehran refuses to comply with some UN resolutions related to its civilian nuclear program, it does so because the resolutions would uniquely deny its right to process uranium—a right the non-proliferation treaty guarantees.

And as for supporting terrorists, in the early 1980s Tel Aviv groomed Christian Phalangist right-wing militias to act as Israel’s proconsul in Lebanon. When a bomb killed the Phalanges’ leader Bashir Jumayal, who had been recently elected president, the militias went on a rampage, terrorizing Palestinians and Shiite Lebanese in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. As the Phalanges rampaged through the camps, killing men, women and children, the Israeli army threw up a cordon around the camps, firing flares into the night sky to provide illumination to help the terrorists do their grisly work. [2]

Far worse is the reality that the Israeli state was founded on terrorism. For one thing, Zionists used terrorism to try to drive the British out of mandate Palestine, bombing the King David hotel, headquarters of the British mandate authority, in 1946. But that was small potatoes compared to what was to come. Exhausted, and no longer willing to administer Palestine, the British transferred responsibility to the UN in 1947. Over the objections of the majority Arab inhabitants, the UN developed a partition plan which would allocate 56 percent of mandate Palestine to a Jewish state. Jews made up only one-third of the population. The Arabs, two-thirds of the population, would receive only 42 percent (Jerusalem, the remaining two percent, would become an international city.) The Jewish state would have a rough demographic balance of 500,000 Jews and 400,000 Arabs (the Arab state 800,000 Arabs and 100,000 Jews.) Recognizing that a democratic Jewish state could not long exist without a preponderance of Jews, Zionists terrorized Arab villages to depopulate them, sending hundreds of thousands of Arab Palestinians fleeing for safety. They were later barred from returning. Zionists claim the Arabs fled only to get out of the way of advancing armies from neighbouring Arab states. But the terror, formalized as Plan Dalet, was well underway before the Arab armies intervened. In end, the Zionists seized 80 percent of Palestinian territory, and were only prevented from seizing all of it by the intervention of Egypt and Jordan. [3]

What’s more, Canada might consider its own support for terrorists. Some Canadian military officers who had participated in last year’s NATO air war against the government of Libya referred to NATO jets bombing Gadhafi’s troops as “al-Qaeda’s air force,” a recognition that Islamist terrorists made up part of the opposition that NATO, with Canada’s participation, intervened on behalf of.

As for the Canadian government’s claim that Iran “routinely threatens the existence of Israel,” this is pure wind. Tehran is certainly hostile to Zionism—the idea that European Jewish settlers, through a program of ethnic cleansing, have a legitimate right to found a state on someone else’s land. And there can be little doubt that Iran is ready to do all it can to facilitate the demise of the Zionist regime. But the notion that Iran has the intention—even the capability—to bring about the physical destruction of Israel is absurd in the extreme. Iran is severely outclassed militarily by Israel, and its possession of a handful of nuclear weapons—if it were ever to acquire them—would be no match for Israel’s hundreds, or the formidable military might of Israel’s sponsor, the United States. The idea that Iran threatens Israel is a silly fiction cooked up by Israeli warmongers to justify an attack on Iran to prevent the latter from ever acquiring even the potential to develop nuclear weapons in order to preserve Tel Aviv’s monopoly of nuclear terror in the Middle East. Canadian politicians simply ape the line that Israel is threatened, a canard Zionists have used since 1948 to justify their aggressions. On the contrary, it is Israel—a super-power-sponsored nuclear weapons state—which threatens Iran, to say nothing of Syria and Lebanon.

So why has Ottawa really suspended diplomatic relations with Tehran? Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi says Canada’s government is “neo-conservative”, “extremist”, and “boundlessly defending international Zionism.” These are apt descriptions. Canada has practically outsourced its Middle East foreign policy to Israel, letting it be known that it will unquestioningly prop up Israeli interests. Extremist? Since Ottawa’s outsourcing of Middle East foreign policy to Israel yokes Canada to a bellicose regime with an atrocious human rights record, how could it be otherwise?

But Salehi’s description, no matter how apt, does not explain why Ottawa has severed ties with Iran now.

Former Canadian ambassador to Iran John Mundy raises the possibility that Ottawa is pulling its diplomats out of the country in anticipation of a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran. Since Canada has offered unqualified support to Israel, Canadian diplomats would be in danger if Israel followed through on its threats. Britain recalled its diplomats when, last November, protesters stormed the British Embassy in Tehran. Canada may be seeking to avoid a similar occurrence. Ottawa may have no specific knowledge of an impending Israeli strike, but may be playing it safe all the same. Or it might be participating in an Israeli-sponsored ruse to ratchet up psychological pressure on Tehran, withdrawing its diplomats to falsely signal an imminent Israeli strike.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that Canada has adopted the extremist position of supporting a rogue regime in Tel Aviv that, to quote Ottawa’s misplaced description of Iran, is “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.”

Perhaps the Mounties always do get their man, but Canada’s extremist, pro-Zionist government, is more apt to nab the victim.

1. Patrick Seale. Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East. University of California Press. 1988.
2. Seale.
3. Ilan Pappe. The Ethnic Cleasning of Palestine. One World. 2006.

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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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Iran plans to deploy warships off U.S. coast

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September 4, 2012

A test firing of an Iranian Nour missile from the Islamic republic’s first domestically-manufactured destroyer, named Jamaran, off the southern shores of the Gulf. This is the first time a Nour missile is launched for testing from the locally-made warship.(AFP Photo / Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran says it will counter US presence in its waters by sending ships to the international waters off the US coast, says Iranian Navy chief Admiral Sayyari.

No specifics were mentioned, but during an interview broadcast on state TV, Sayyari said the plans were aimed for“the next few years.”

In the past two years Iran has broadened the range of its navy, sending ships to the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Sayyari did not deny that the proposed measure was a response to the increase in the number of US vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil passageway off the coast of Iran, which Tehran previously threatened to shut off.

“We will not allow anyone to trespass our country’s waters. There is no need for anyone else to establish security in our region,” said Sayyari.

The US Fifth Fleet is currently located in Bahrain, on the southern coast of the Strait of Hormuz.

More than a third of all the seaborne oil in the world passes through the narrow waterway.

Due to US and EU-led sanctions against the Islamic Republic, which the West suspects of covertly developing nuclear weapons, Iran’s export of oil has halved in the past year.

Financial data company Bloomberg reports that the country is missing out on $130 million a day in lost sales as a result.

In response to the sanctions, Tehran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz. A majority of Iranian parliamentarians voted in favor of the blockade in July, and although the vote was seen as largely symbolic, the option is still on the table.

The US then upped its presence, and currently has two aircraft carriers in the region, also scheduling extensive war games for later this month.

Iranian high command has previously claimed that it will send its ships towards the US, but the threats have not yet resulted in actions.

Tension between the two countries are at a high, as speculation mounts that Washington’s close ally Israel may carry out a (possibly US-supported) strike on Iran to derail its incipient nuclear program.

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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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