Monday, 26 June 2017

2017: The Coming US War with Iran.

'There is a geopolitical conflict with Washington and Tehran on opposing sides of the chessboard. Trump is risking war not to prevent the expansion of Iranian influence, but rather to eliminate it. Knowing this, Iran’s missile strikes were in part to send a message: “We will not allow Syria to leave our orbit for yours.”'
-Reza Marashi of the National Iranian-American Council.
The war in the Greater Middle East has continued throughout 2017. While Russia gained the decisive upper hand in Syria by late 2016 after crushing the Sunni rebel forces there, the US accelerated its military response in Iraq and north-east Syria in bombarding ISIS in Mosul through up into the capital of the Islamic State in Raqqa.

While the Western media focused on east Aleppo as a humanitarian tragedy and carried daily reports of men carrying injured and dead infants out of dusty and rubble strewn streets, there has been almost no mainstream media attention on the civilian casualties of the US campaign, despite the UN claiming that war crimes had been committed.

One reason is that the Western led cause is regarded as a just war because while Russia's hit Sunni jihadists rebranded as 'moderate rebels', the US is attacking an ISIS that supposedly is not a splinter group from the very same pool of Al Qaida affiliated groups that Russia was fighting. The double standards require Russia's enemy to be 'moderate'.

The civilian casualties of Trump's decision to 'let the generals off the leash', which increased by 60% in 2017, are not considered worthy of such media focus as east Aleppo was. But the shift has been reported in the mainstream US liberal media, probably because Trump is attacking it daily and because of the 'collusion with Russia' theory.

USA Today reported,

 'A British-based human rights monitoring group estimated Friday that U.S.-led coalition strikes had killed almost 500 civilians in the past month —more than any month since... U.S. bombing began. A United Nations commission of inquiry concluded that coalition airstrikes have caused a "staggering loss of civilian life." The carnage is sufficiently embarrassing that "the Pentagon will no longer acknowledge when its own aircraft are responsible for civilian casualty incidents," Micah Zenko of the Council of Foreign Relations recently noted. U.S.-led forces are reportedly bombarding the besieged city of Raqqa with white phosphorous, a munition that burns intensely and is prohibited by international law from use against civilians'.

The increased bombardment is about Trump being able to pose as strongman alternative to the weak Obama. The second purpose is to build on the renewed affirmation of Saudi Arabia's status as first ally in the region that was witnessed at the May Riyadh Summit, where Trump accused regional rival Iran supporting 'terrorism'.

This was followed by President Trump supporting Saudi Arabia's declaration of diplomatic warfare and blockade on the tiny gas rich emirate, one he tweeted was about Qatar's support for 'terrorism' and 'extremism'. 'Extremism' tends to mean any violent military group that does not fit in which US geopolitical interests while 'moderates' do.

The Qatar-Saudi Crisis: Fears of a Qatari Tilt Towards Tehran.

The Saudi ultimatum to Qatar is of a piece with the scaling up of US military action in eastern Syria throughout June 2017 against Iranian backed forces and those of Assad. The Saudis have every interest in ratcheting up the pressure on Qatar as the crisis broke after Doha and Tehran decided to develop new Persian Gulf gas reserves.

This has incensed Saudi Arabia because Qatar put a moratorium in 2005 on developing the North field that it shares with Iran which calls it the South Pars. Even before this, Qatar had been unwilling to supply its GCC neighbours with gas or to develop the field to supply them with discount price gas. It lifted that moratorium in April 2017.

The issue at stake is whether Qatar lifting it is connected to a 'tilt' towards Tehran in co-operating with the development of South Pars. Contacts and talks between the two countries geared at boosting cooperation in gas exploration and production have occurred before when Rouhani was elected in 2013.

The moderate Rouhani was elected again in May 2017. Saudi fears that Qatari independence, based on its gas wealth, could lead to it taking over as a rival pole of regional power is considered a threat by the Saudi led GCC countries to their hegemony, not least when set against the background of Iranian ascendency in Syria and Iraq.

The lifting of the self-imposed ban came as Iran's extraction rates caught up with Qatar's and created a fear that Qatar had bended to Iran's concerns before in not developing the fields while under US sanctions and without the ability to draw on Western expertise to develop them. The Obama nuclear deal ended those sanctions in 2014.

Instead of pursuing nuclear power, the compensatory benefit was that corporations such as Total moved in to help Iran develop its South Pars gas fields. Given that Qatar was non-committal towards the GCC states and had rivalled them for dominance over the Sunni rebels in Syria until 2014, their defeat has led to Qatar dropping their cause.

Turkey, which is aligned in a rival Sunni axis with Doha, realigned towards Russia in Syria to balance itself between a German dominated EU critical of his consolidation of domestic powers and shift towards authoritarian rule on the Putin model in Moscow. Qatar balanced Turkish support with realigning towards Tehran against Riyadh.

The Saudis and other GCC states ranged against Iran have feared Qatar's support for Islamist groups in the region could lead to disaffected Shias rising up, as was clear in Bahrain back in 2012 after the Arab Spring broke out. They have also failed to contain Houthi forces in Yemen since 2015 which they regard as an Iranian front.

Hizbollah and Prospect of Third Lebanon War.

Hizbollah has been active in Yemen and in the clashes in eastern Syria. Nasrallah has already boasted that after defeating ISIS it could send 'hundreds of thousands' of Shia Islamist fighters to Southern Lebanon if war were to break out between it and Israel. A Third Lebanon War could break out in the summer of 2017.

Tensions have been ready to boil over throughout the course of 2017 as Trump has swung wholly behind Netanyahu's right wing Likud government while Obama had had frosty relations with Tel Aviv. Israel's position towards the Syrian conflict was hostile both to Iran's for backing Hizbollah and towards Qatar for backing the Muslim Brotherhood.

Israel's stance was that the Sunni-Shia conflict was its problem: it had advantages in splitting the Islamist threat between Shia Hizbollah and Sunni Hamas and its attitude is quite similar to Henry Kissinger's during the Iraq-Iran War when he opined 'it's a pity they can't both lose'. But with Iranian backed forces ascendant, tensions have risen.

One reason seldom mentioned is the scramble to control the offshore gas fields off Israel and Lebanon which straddle the maritime borders and, of course, Southern Lebanon where Hizbollah has its power base. The US had previously mediated to prevent disputes over Eastern Mediterranean breaking out, but not now.

Israel could well see a US military push back again Iran in the region as a pretext for launching a Third Lebanon War to secure these gas reserves and destroy Hizbollah's rocket stocks, as well as to degrade its military out of fear it could grow as a disproportionate threat as Shia fighters refocus upon Israel with ISIS defeated.

The US-Saudi Fear of Russo-Iranian Regional Hegemony

The Hizbollah 'threat' to Israel and Yemen, in addition to the US fear of a land bridge opening up between eastern Syria, Iraq and Iran is one factor behind the escalation of US backed forces and fighters in that region. The Caliphate is crumbling and the Saudis are more concerned with Iranian and Qatari regional 'terrorism'.

The prestige and regional power of the Gulf States would come under threat from the construction of a 'Shia Crescent' stretching from Tehran through to the Eastern Mediterranean. For Charles Krauthammer, writing in the Washington Post, this crystallises the new civilizational threat of Russo-Iranian hegemony.

'Arrayed on the other side of the great Muslim civil war are the Sunnis, moderate and Western-allied, led by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan — with their Great Power patron, the United States, now (post-Obama) back in action. As the Islamic State is driven out of Mosul, Iranian-controlled militias are taking over crucial roads and other strategic assets in western Iraq. Next target: eastern Syria (Raqqa and environs).'

Krauthammer conflates the GCC states with 'moderates', as if to imply the 'extremists' were on the Iranian side and that the Sunni forces that lost in the course of 2015 were heroic democrats rather than jihadi militias. some aligned with Al Qaeda. Saudi Arabia is a leading exporter of  jihadi-salafist ideology of the sort that spawned IS.

Krauthammer claims Russia would be the 'outside hegemon' and Iran is in 'an alliance' with it. However, Iran has quite different ambition that Russia in Syria. One ambition behind Putin's military intervention was to block off a Persian Gulf gas pipeline between it and the Eastern Mediterranean either a rival Qatari or Iranian one.

The next part is the usual shifting op-ed line designed to justify US military intervention : 'The Iranian-Russian strategy is a nightmare for the entire Sunni Middle East. And for us, too. The Pentagon seems bent on preventing it. Hence the Tomahawk attack for crossing the chemical red line. Hence the recent fighter-bomber shootdown'.

What's interesting about Krauthammer's propaganda is that the Great Power political basis for the Tomahawk attack is admitted as being in reality about power political games rather than out of any humanitarian concern for the victims of any chemical weapons attack or actually establishing the truth as to what exactly happened.

The idea Russia and Iran are colluding to prevent the US plan for cantonisation of Syria as part of a peace plan is fiction. It was actually Russia that proposed this after the US in April 2017 used the alleged gas attack and dead infants propaganda asset as a pretext to fire the Tomahawks and place the US back as a player on the Syrian chessboard.

The loss of the Sunni jihadist groups in Syria in east Aleppo in December 2016 was a blow for Saudi prestige. The GCC alliance is feeling humiliated and has every interest in the US being lulled into a clash with Iran. Trump has failed to offset Saudi aggression by tilting towards Tehran as Obama did in order to defeat ISIS and rein in Riyadh.

Trump's staunch support for the Saudis saw him fall right into the trap they set for him in placing his credibility solely on support for an Arab NATO and leaning towards them and Egypt rather than the rival Turkey-Qatar axis. As Qatar leant towards Iran, and with Assad ascendant in Syria, Trump's administration is targeting Iran.

Despite the contradictory statements to those of Trump emanating from Tillerson and Mattis, in their determination to balance support for Riyadh with acting as honest brokers over its unfortunate diplomatic war with Doha, the Trump administration is unified in regarding the degradation of Iranian regional power as a major ambition.

At present, American foreign policy looks in disarray but Trump's administration is not prepared to have Iran determine any post-ISIS political settlement and, more disturbing, it seems utterly uninterested in engaging in diplomacy with Iran. This has led Iranian diplomats to question whether the nuclear agreement would last.

The Shift Towards a Regime Change Stance Towards Iran.

A US War with Iran in the summer of 2017 is a developing prospect. Russia remains a power it can do nothing about in Syria but it would be in a stronger position vis-à-vis Moscow if Tehran's regional power was diminished and it could try military strikes and support for the MeK as means to do so and promote 'regime change'.

Certain strategic analysts have seen parallels to Trump's approach and that in the run up to the Iraq War in 2003. Additional sanctions are being pushed through on Iran. Tillerson called in words for regime change', though 'peaceful'. MeK spokesmen are being courted in Washington warning of Iran's ballistic missile sites.

MeK supported Iraqi forces in the Iran-Iraq War and carried out terrorist attacks inside Iran. It's on and off the list of official terrorist groups according to geopolitical circumstances. They are a well funded lobby group supported by the US which hosts speakers from the US political establishment and themselves in Washington.

Rex Tillerson in front of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee proclaimed 'Our policy towards Iran is to push back on this hegemony, contain their ability to develop obviously nuclear weapons, and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government'.

While Tillerson has sought to reassure Qatar that the US stands by it, with the State Department even criticising the Saudi ultimatum, Trump has tweeted continuous criticisms of Doha's support for 'terrorism' to show Israel and Saudi Arabia that there is no shade of grey between Islamist terrorism on the one hand and them on the other.

This has been seen as evidence of a polycratic chaos within the US stimulated by Trump's administration and bungling amateur approach to world politics. But while there are contradictions and mixed signals, the idea the US is being 'sucked' into eastern Syria is facile. It's part of Trump's military first approach to power politics.

This was apparent from Michael Flynn's comment, as Trump came to power, that Iran was being 'put on notice'. Trump let the generals 'off the leash' so that they could bomb their way to victory and to smash ISIS in northern Iraq the way Russia and Assad crushed the Sunni rebels. Once destroyed, then Iran's militias would be next.

There is consistency in having Iran portrayed as the 'new threat' because, prior to Trump taking over in January 2017, the US had been humiliated over Syria. Obama's policy was in ruins as east Aleppo fell and the aim under Trump has been to reposition the US under him as credible heavyweight player prepared to wage absolute war.

Given that it cannot go to war with Russia in Syria, targeting Iran offers a way of reuniting the Gulf States together under a US aegis and to prove the value of the strategic partnerships. Meanwhile, Iran can be portrayed as the rogue state trying to draw Qatar into its orbit and destabilise the Middle East by its actions and 'threats'.

Any war with Iran would be portrayed as a result of 'Iranian aggression', of a new 'terrorist threat' emerging to take over from ISIS and being sponsored by Iran in every country in the region. The Saudis under the new Crown Prince Salman are already gloating about their ability to 'reach inside' Iran ( hint: through terrorist attacks).

The provocation is about forcing Iran to overstep the mark so that the US then would have a pretext to act against it in defence of both Israel and the Gulf States. Riyadh appears to be trying to push this, while flattering Trump's ego as a Great Leader. Analysts even think the stepping up of  military action in eastern Syria is designed to do this.

Trita Parsi refers to the 'explosive'. circumstances in the Greater Middle East 'An impression is given that this is an accidental escalation, but I'm not sure. Look at the totality of the Trump administration's statements on Iran – sanctions, hints of regime change, no diplomacy … these were the ingredients of the Iraq war.'
 

A War with Iran as 'Escape Forwards' for the US and Britain.

The war with Iran could be triggered in tandem with a Third Lebanon War between Israel and Hizbollah , clashes in eastern Syria, and the tilt of Qatar towards Iran being portrayed as yet more Iranian plots to break up the unity and regional hegemony of the Gulf States in partnership with the US and United Kingdom.

A full scale crisis could break out in July and then there would be in Britain the controversy whether to align with the US as a time of domestic political turbulence within over Brexit. May is weak and backed by the DUP in Northern Ireland, a party of Christian-Zionists who extol Israel as a Chosen State and People like their own.

Foreign Secretary Johnson visited Israel in February and concurred with Netanyahu's concern over Iran's ballistic missile capability. Already it has fired them in June 2017 against targets in eastern Syria that the Western media has doubted were 'terrorist'. If the US started a move to war, Johnson would support Washington.

Johnson's a right wing populist emulating Trump's readiness to do and say whatever's necessary for power. He had criticised Trump consistently for his demagoguery only to do a U turn after he became President, to praise his 'exciting agenda' and claim the special relationship was bigger that the particular PM and President.

One benefit of an Iranian threat and British military intervention would be to seal the US-UK partnership and for the Tories to be able to portray Corbyn as both unpatriotic defender of Sinn Fein, sympathiser with Hizbollah and Iran and to split the PLP over whether to align behind its US partner or to betray the 'special relationship'.

Into this renewed and fired up cultural warfare would come Michael Gove, who's returned back to the Cabinet and regards Iran as a 'mountain fortress of terror' and part of a global 'seamless totalitarian movement'. In late 2016, as east Aleppo fell, he castigated British 'appeasers' of Iran as 'Iran is Smiling at the Blood Spilt in Syria'.

Gove's neoconservative ideological fanaticism is a clear indication of where the Conservative Party hierarchy is as regards Syria and Iran. Gove is a close ally of Boris Johnson over the Leave campaign and a staunch Atlanticist of like-minded view to the Foreign Secretary and Dr Liam Fox.

Gove neatly encapsulates one Anglo-American worldview.

'For the Iranian regime, the West’s agreement to a nuclear deal was another sign of weakness, irresolution and short-termism. Iran will be free from any constraint after 15 years, and indeed it can prepare for the rapid acquisition of nuclear capability well before then. And all the time it can use, and has used, western danegeld to build up the armed forces now merrily slaughtering Syrian civilians...I strongly support any action to counter Iran’s advance and help Syria’s innocents but I fear that the moment of greatest opportunity passed in 2013. If Iran now wins its war in Syria it will turn its attentions more widely. It is already supporting the Houthi takeover of Yemen, fomenting unrest in majority-Shia Bahrain, funding Islamic State’s offshoot in the Sinai, extending its hold over Iraq’s political culture and seeking to radicalise Shia minorities in other states such as Saudi Arabia. Iran has rekindled its relationship with Hamas and will deploy Hezbollah to terrorise Israel from the bases that it will shortly control on the Lebanese and Syrian borders.”

Gove is a friend of media magnate Rupert Murdoch who lauded the Iraq invasion as one that would ensure petrol prices would go down and so would be as popular as a tax cut. He is also a middle man between both of them and President Trump. This, and the bid for Murdoch to re-take control over SKY News, would help war propaganda.

Gove is Environment Secretary but he is also a potential leadership contender for becoming the next PM should a weak May fall. She would need to defer to his views as well as those of Johnson, another contender who has considered himself to have 'The Churchill Factor', so much so that he wrote a book about his projected alter ego.

Britain is also toxically dependent upon the Saudi 'security partnership' after Brexit as a market for lucrative BAE arms deals and London as an investment destination for recycled petro-currency. Projecting the 'terror threat' on to Iran would deflect attention from the domestic failure to prevent jihadi-terrorist attacks in 2017.

The suppression of the 2015 government commissioned report into Saudi funding for jihadi ideology in British mosques, for containing material 'too sensitive', led to Corbyn demanding its publication. Being able to portray Corbyn as 'enemy within' for opposing war with Iran would be useful in upholding the sanctity of the national security state.

Donald Trump is likewise besieged by sniping critics trying to use his alleged Russian connection during his Presidential campaign as a pretext to impugn his patriotism and thus bring down a President who humiliated Republican contenders and Hillary Clinton, indeed, the entire Washington establishment by winning against them.

The only moment so far when the Washington establishment rallied round Trump was when he fired the Tomahawk missiles against Assad's airbase. A war with Iran is one of the few ways in which he could unite both Republican and Democrat politicians who have otherwise regarded him as pro-Russian as it's aligned with Iran over Syria.

Both the US and UK governments are threatened at home by enemies. Both contain 'patriots' ready to see military action as a way to 'escape forwards' and portray internal opponents and the hostile media as 'enemies within' and 'unpatriotic'. This was one of the reasons why the Great Powers blundered towards war in Europe in 1914.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit Ambiguity and the Idea of a National Government

Jeremy Corbyn keeps insisting he is a PM in waiting and for another election, though he would be best off not pushing that too hard at the present due to voting fatigue and because Brexit is a poisoned chalice. As Larry Elliott puts it 'the Tories own it', so it would be best to ascertain what's on offer from the EU.

The danger to Corbyn could that splits are opining up with the PLP over Brexit, as much of the 'right' of the party still resent his being leader and would prefer a 'soft Brexit' to soft that it doesn't amount to Leave. The voting base is divided between working class Leavers and middle class Remainers or Soft-Brexit 'Re-Leavers'.

Corbyn has hedged his position on Brexit. His middle class leftist populism has him as a radical totem pole for those wanting 'a different and better world' and to campaign 'as if' Brexit was secondary. He's offering a socialist commonweal as a substitute for a resurgent British patriotism and Global Empire 2.0 vision.

That is useful for fudging Brexit and tacking towards social and economic transformation as the only way forward to remove the grievances that led to Brexit. A socialist millennium would offer 'hope' and a substitute for the radical right wing populism of UKIP and the right-wing of the Conservative Party.

The new bourgeois Corbynites in the PLP have embraced the vision as it's roused dormant youthful radical dreams. This is one reason Peter Mandelson celebrated the 'political earthquake' of Corbyn's relative success in challenging May. But much of the vote was about sabotaging Theresa May's 'give me the mandate'.

The scene is set in the second part of 2017 for some vicious cultural warfare. This is why the Archbishop of Canterbury is calling for a National Government to heal divisions over Brexit. The right of Labour would be positioning themselves in this regard with the left of the Tories to have a National Unity Government.

This National Government could be pushed by those comparing 2017 to 1931 and the impact of the Great Depression and the threats of dangerous political polarisation. The problem with it is it would be seen as part of a plot to downgrade and exclude not just the Tory right but also as a move against the anti-Establishment Corbyn.

Nick Cohen : Post -Truth Politics and Internal Exile.

'Internal exiles are still agitated by political ideas. They have little in common with the apathetic citizen who takes no notice of the news. Internal exiles back away from public life because they see no chance of their ideas ever winning, however much energy they devote to the fight. They are not apolitical but anti-political. Their former campaigning energy has diminished to sitting in front of the television and swearing at the news.'
-Nick Cohen, The Observer

Nick Cohen has an interesting point on the idea of 'internal exile' and how it differs from gormless idiotic apathy. There are those who don't vote who are very alive to current ideas and politics . But they regard themselves as permanently alienated from the absurd and outdated two and a bit party politics Britain has.

Cohen's an internal exile from the Leave referendum result, Brexit and the way both political parties have accepted the verdict. He lumps Corbyn together with 'radical Islam, Trump and Putin as illiberal threats to Western civilisation from within and without, the better to position himself and the centrist liberal consensus as 'rational'.

The problem is that it is not clear it was 'rational'. Cohen thought Tony Blair was rational when he launched the Iraq War with George Bush, because no matter the divisions between a liberal-left PM and a right-wing President, both were united in defending the principles taking out 'new Hitlers' such as Saddam Hussein.

Cohen is convinced Brexit and Trump's election saw the victory of post-truth politics. But his own obsession with spinning it this way is mostly about veiling his own role in supporting the irrational politics of Blair in the run up to Iraq, putting forward a fictionally simplified comic book world of global and baddies.

As John Gray has pointed out, post-truth politics preceded Brexit. It was in overdrive in the run up to the Iraq War with the WMD pretexts for invasion, the '45 minute warning', portrayal of the oil rationale as a 'conspiracy theory' and Blair's declaration in 2004 that 'I only know what I believe', that intuition and beliefs mattered, facts less.

The spin and deception accompanying the Iraq War was replicated numerous times thereafter. The Libyan War and Syria policy of aiding 'moderate rebels' ( Sunni jihadists ) is a piece with the idea of wish thinking, sincere at times, replacing intelligent fact based calculations and decisions. What mattered was the will to believe.

Britain has an infantile political culture that works against the idea of unwelcome truths and reality being faced. The majority of politicians have every self interest in colluding with illusions of either a resurgent UK as Global Empire 2.0 after Brexit or else as one that under Corbyn could End Empire and transition to a socialist commonweal.

Corbyn has surged as it appears as a genuine alternative and because this would have been on offer years ago in Britain at the time of the Iraq War in 2003 had Britain a proper representative democracy for the 21st Century. That way his ideas and party manifestos would have had proper scrutiny and he would have had to take responsibility.

As it is, his past positions that do not fit in with the image of a responsible statesman in waiting to be PM have been consigned to Orwell's memory hole. Corbyn's support for Hugo Chavez's 21st Century Socialism experiment has been disappeared from his website and his role in the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign ignored and downplayed.

With proportional representation, the Brexit referendum as a revolt against the Westminster elites would not have happened or, if it had, there would have been a more sensible and informed debate and a more effective representative democracy taking into account those not in favour of Leave. As it stands, millions feel disenfranchised.

Proportional representation would have ensured Corbyn was leader of a Socialist Party in Parliament. Farage would have been with UKIP instead of being the free floating political wing of the tabloid media, using his MEP status as part of a 'Daniel in the Lion's Den' act and resigning from leader of UKIP once it he'd used it to get Brexit.

Britain has an absurd nineteenth century system suitable for empire and a vanished period when Prime Ministers had to be global leaders. It produces absurd figures such as Tony Blair, dramatic ham actors obsessed with their 'decisive' and 'tough' political 'interventions' as shoddy mini-me versions of the US President.

Increasing numbers are fed up with the entire system and the childish lack of maturity it encourages. Few, even Tories, take seriously the absurd pantomime version of Dame Judi Dench's 'M' that Theresa May is playing. Though it's heresy to say it, those who are not fans of Corbyn are alienated from his secular saint status.

Those 'Corbynites' behind Him are so desperate for the socialist millennium, that any criticism that isn't demonization is seized upon and slammed as if the critic had a mental illness, is a 'secret Tory quisling', a 'crypto-Blairite', a relic of the past about to be 'beaten' and thrown into the dustbin of 'History' along with the 'bloody Tories'.

Cohen himself might want to go into 'internal exile' but many have been in such as place since the Blair regime was established in 1997. The contribution of this regime, one Cohen was critical of for its venality, to the current discontents on both populist right and left is clear, not least for its contribution to post-truth politics.

Progressive liberals bemoan Brexit and post-truth politics hypocritically when once they aligned behind 'the master' who was Blair. The Iraq War wasn't just a 'mistake' by Blair but the necessary consequence of his Presidential style of government, the use of spin and of 'shaping the media narrative' and other mechanisms.

The Brexit revolt was, amongst other factors, a rejection of the idea of that the electorate could be cajoled by fears and threats if they did not choose to align behind what their elite betters were telling them to do-or else the alternative would be a disaster. It was a rejection of this 'either/or' form of manipulation.

The snap General Election proved much the same. May was attempting to fight for an elite led populist Brexit by appeal to some non-existent centre ground that no longer exists as once it did under Blair. Cohen senses this has disintegrated, that the centre no longer holds but he simply blames it on politicians playing with populism.

Again, Britain has polarised between rightist and leftist populisms but populism is being used as if this was new and that Blair's regime was not based on populism either when it's clear it was, as evinced in the weird political cross dressing of the Millennium period, as with 'left-wing cases for neo-conservatism' and so on.

The result of the Blair era and successive incompetence in foreign policy and a failed economic order hitting home in the last decade, has been the desire for a new purified creed to identify with and baddies to fight. In this sense, Corbynstas are quite similar to those like Cohen with the baddies and goodies reversed around.

The Coming War with Iran as New Higher Cause of Western Unity.

Cohen might despair that the old control levers are snapping in elite hands. But the next shock to the existing system is going to be the looming prospect of a US war with Iran. Trump's administration is escalating the war in eastern Syria and heading towards a clash with Iran that could trigger off a direct confrontation.

The summer could end with stormy confrontations within Britain. If the UK could sit it out, the better but it has a special relationship, much of the PLP is Atlanticist and Corbyn is anti-war and, it is thought, pro-Iran. Both parties could be split over whether to align with Trump over Iran. Interesting, if bleak times.

It would be grimly amusing to witness how columnists who advocated the Iraq War, such as Nick Cohen, would then swing back around to the idea of backing another war against Iran as 'radical Islamist threat' as the IS Caliphate crumbles through Russian and US bombardment and Iranian backed militias seizing its territory.

Cohen is already toying with the idea he needs a higher cause to fight and write for, one linked to his his need to 'take a stance' and defend Civilisation as he knows it ' I should end with a rousing call to fight. I could do it because with Brexit, radical Islam, Trump, Corbyn and Putin, I have never felt a more urgent need to write'.
It's hardly as good as George Orwell's Why I Write. All these seamlessly integrated illiberal evil forces conspiring as one against the good and decent once more. What Cohen needs is a War that would  It's always like 1939, in fact it's been like we've been stuck in 1939 since 2003 or 2001 on the brink of a Global War against Evil.

Cohen need not worry too much. There is a war with Iran coming, so there's going to be a need for a new War of Civilisation, even if it's led by Trump, it should be possible to rummage around for some stock clichés such as 'a stopped clock is right once' or some other phrases calling for alignment with the US against 'Islamofascist' Iran.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Glastonbury: Britain, War and 'Empire is No More'.

'Tens of thousands gathered to watch Corbyn in the mid afternoon, a crowd of the size typically reserved for Glastonbury headliners. Almost all watching were fans; many wore T-shirts bearing his face or name, and there were banners of appreciation in the crowds. 
“When Theresa May called the snap election, going back on what she said previously, Corbyn had a right to challenge that,” said Danny Owen, 27.  
“He’s been challenged by his own party twice and over came it. He galvanised it and Labour made inroads because of Corbyn and his manifesto. He’s become a figurehead now. He’s relatable. People say he’s radical, but I don’t think he is – he wants fair wages and outcomes and well funded social services. The fact people see that as radical is a sad indictment of our society.'
Corbyn is radical in the fundamental sense of being a politician with an ideological vision of Britain that requires root and branch reform, even one of democratic social and economic revolution. This is to achieved by transforming Britain from a post-imperial state into a radical socialist commonweal 'for the many, not the few'.

Shelley was much like Corbyn, a radical anti-Establishment figure who himself came from the privileged class and rebelled against the class hierarchies and cruelties of the British Imperial state in the age of falling wages, impoverishment and huge debts racked up by involvement in the Napoleonic Wars.

Parliament, as in 2017 as two centuries before saw social hardships, mass demonstrations and a drive towards radical reform. This was an age of revolution and Corbyn is knowingly tapping into this vein of native British radicalism in offering his 'alternative vision', one appealing to students as much as heritage radicals.

Corbyn, after all, comes as the ultimate alternative to Tony Blair who came to power in 1997 and fought wars in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and, fatefully, the catastrophic invasion of Iraq. It's been a period of war in the Middle East and what Corbyn has portrayed as a growing cycle of violence and 'inevitable' terrorist blowback.

Wars and the 'war on terror' are interconnected just as they were for radicals in the 1830s who were feared as surging mobs waiting to murder the elites and overthrow the existing order. As Adam Zamoyski has related, old regime states then conjured up exaggerated plots so as to justify increased police and surveillance powers.

This is very much true of Theresa May whose cold, pale and remote visage and 'dead eyed' callous demeanour is considered like those thundered against by Shelley in the Masque of Anarchy ( 1819 ). With riots predicted after the Grenfell Tower fire, London could well be heading for a time of violence and police repression.

Billy Bragg has long been an ally in this radical plebeian English challenge to 'the Establishment' Britishness he opposed in the early 1980s when he and Paul Weller launched 'Red Wedge'. He now plays at venues in Dorset celebrating the Tolpuddle Martyrs of 1834 and then retires to his large village house.

Politics has been galvanised once more by Brexit towards issues of identity and power politics as well as the prospect of polarisation between rival left and right nationalism. May's Brexit is a post-imperial one that draws on Britain's supposed Great Power role in the world whereas Corbyn's Labour wants a socialist commonwealth.

Both visions are very British ones, though Corbyn's is anti-nationalist in so far as it is against the idea of Britain being an imperialist state one that 'turns swords into ploughshares' and through a great abnegation of its power would act to promote true 'internationalism' by ending empire and being a force for peace in the UN.

The irony of this is that it implies in no way Britain simply adapting after Brexit to the diminished position in the world both Leaving the EU and rejecting the US 'special relationship' would mean. The US is heading towards a war with Iran and this could mean rejecting Trump entirely and Saudi Arabia.

The vision also is antiquated because Britain simply isn't that important any more, so the abnegation and moral example setting advocated by radicals in the 1960s and 1970s by those like Tony Benn is even less relevant in 2017 than it was when Corbyn was his model pupil and greatest fan in Parliament.

Glastonbury as a concert and heritage spectacle harks back to the long peace after the Second World War and the 1960s spirit of youthful optimism. Wilson kept Britain out of Vietnam but this was back in the day when Britain did not have such a toxic and close connection with Saudi Arabia and integrated arms deal connection.

This summer is destined not to be 'one of love' but more like one of emerging terror and tension as Trump escalates hostilities towards Iran, Britain proceeds with Brexit and is faced with the potential for a decision as to whether back Trump or stay out. It's going to be fateful if this looks to be the case, not least as riots are predicted already.

Any attempt by Great Game playing politicians such as Foreign Secretary Johnson to align behind Trump would lead to direct confrontation on the streets between anti-war protesters, those angered and incensed by the decaying neoliberal regime of austerity and the fraying fabric of social infrastructure on the brink of collapse.

Trump has already put off a state visit to Britain through 'fear' of mobs and demonstrations that called upon a 'British resistance' to his 'regime' and May being an uncritical and slavishly obedient client. Tony Blair is universally loathed for the Iraq War and a war on Iran would be even more controversial given the effect Blair's war had.

Britain as a Tired Global Player.

Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, has come under fire for calling on broadcasters to be “a bit patriotic” in their Brexit coverage.
Politics is a game, despite May's attempt to pretend it isn't while acting very much so as though it is. What Leadsom is doing is trying to play a slightly UKIP line about the media not being free and dominated by a sinister liberal elite. The accusation, then from Farron, that Leadsom is 'sinister' means then, that Farron is 'sinister'.

Calling for the media to be 'a bit patriotic' implies the idea it is trying to sabotage Leaving the EU, one which might have an element of truth as many liberals are very unhappy and resentful about it and so want to balance the right wing media bias for Leave with 'a bit' of its own bias in showing May in every photo looking deranged.

'But she is deranged and evil !' squeal the detractors. The point, however, is that it's a sign of a lack of confidence in arguments and reason for the liberal media and politicians to start playing the same subtle mass media conditioning mechanisms as the Daily Mail, the Daily Express or other abysmal 'newspapers'.

May is a sinister authoritarian but the trend towards that was set in motion long ago by the Blair regime and its spin machine and post-truth politics. Brexit has only given an added impetus to the potential for a melding of media and political power towards a model that exists in Putin's Russia. But it wasn't the cause of it.

Certain liberal progressives are just in a tantrum because the politics of mass manipulation and conditioning of opinion on no rational and post-truth grounds has been seized upon with greater zeal by the populist right in Britain. When New Labour was at it, it was at best mildly criticised and seen as a regrettable necessity in modern politics.

Unfortunately, liberal progressives are reaping the consequences of the post-truth politics they pursued with patronising disdain for 'the masses' in their heyday during the Blair years. The lack of public confidence in a relentlessly bland and manipulative set on 'on message' clone MPs and the Iraq War discredited them entirely.

It set the way forwards for a populist 'tell it like it is' anti-liberal establishment politicians like Nigel Farage to rise and push Brexit as a 'solution'. The Iraq War was unpopular not only with the left and liberals who suddenly discovered Blair was into manipulation and deception but also with the populist right who saw him as 'Bliar'.

The hard truth is Britain's dysfunctional political system barely works any more and it could be heading for a crisis of legitimacy as economic volatility increases. The EU is not actually in broad sunlit uplands either and this could make for a period of political turbulence and also a renewed upsurge in nationalism, not least in Britain.

'British nationalism' is a paradox as Britain is actually the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There is no 'British nation' but a dynastic state that unified multiple 'nations' together under one crown from the Tudor period onwards or, from arguably, an earlier time. Even so Britain is not a nation.

The UK, however, was an imperial state in which 'Britishness' was fostered as a project of unionism and as a Great Power to which allegiance and affection could be nurtured. The closer integration with the EU, for good or ill, had tended to water this down a lot by the 1990s with Blair's devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Leave vote in the 2016 referendum shakes all this once more. As Brexit proceeds in turbulent times, any deterioration of EU-British relations could well lead to a resurgence of Britishness once more. The indications are this could have been a factor in the Tory success in the June 2017 election which saw 'indyref2' decisively rejected.

Politics has been galvanised once more by Brexit towards issues of identity and power politics as well as the prospect of polarisation between rival left and right nationalism. May's Brexit is a post-imperial one that draws on Britain's supposed Great Power role in the world whereas Corbyn's Labour wants a socialist commonweal.

Both visions are British ones, though Corbyn's is anti-nationalist in so far as it is against the idea of Britain being an imperialist state and one that turns swords into ploughshares and through a great abnegation of its power would act as a Great Power promoting true 'internationalism' by ending empire and being a force for peace in the UN.

The irony of this, as AJP Taylor once pointed out as regards CND and the peace campaigners, is that it depends on Britain retaining this status as a Global Player. It might be that if Brexit, soft or hard or however 'staged', means a turn away from Great Power status through nuclear weapons and military power, then it effectively means no global role.

Britain, in other words, under Corbyn would be better off simply permanently renouncing its status as a Global Player and becoming a nation as insignificant as Switzerland or Norway. This would imply a certain determination to break with the post-1945 US led Western order and imply the final conclusive end to Britain's imperial story.

Of course, that isn't what Corbyn is openly calling for as it certainly is not want the PLP would want with so many of it having geared their careers and status up towards strutting around as Global Players. But, as Linda Colley has made plain, it is time that the British might have to learn to let go of their sense of entitlement in the world.

While that would appear to be clear with the stalling elite Brexit populist project offered by May, it seems less the case with Corbyn's alternative Bennite vision of the socialist millennium which implies it could afford both Brexit, though a 'soft one', a social and economic programme of nationalisation and social welfare spending.

The Labour manifesto, though 'costed', depended on the economy ticking along without the cost of Brexit. If that's on the agenda, then Colley suggests Labour would really have to consider whether it could really afford Trident renewal. Corbyn was against but he puts out controversial decisions to 'collegiate' ones when they threaten his leadership.

Britain is best by two competing visions of the future, neither of which from either party is connected much to the reality of priorities or of telling the British public that if it wants Brexit, it cannot remain a Global Player and its decline to a more insignificant offshore island means getting used giving up on a lot of its influence in the world.

Many in Britain might accept this as a cost for splendid isolation'. There is barely any appetite for military interventionism or the idea of making the globe safe for democracy elsewhere. The Blair, Brown and Cameron years and the folly and waste of the Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya Wars have put an end to this.

Even so, the elites are loath to give up on their status through self importance and obsessive arrogance and careerism, as well as the liberal idea Britain is an internationalist force, a microcosm of multi-culti harmony and diversity that could act as a model for how the world ought to be and could be if only we willed it into existence.

The irony is that Corbyn believes this just as much as any Conservative believes in it. It's just that the Tories realise a military is needed to sit 'at the top table' and be in a position to 'intervene' to make the world 'better' for the sake of those suffering under tyrannies that impede its geopolitical interests and those of its American partner.

The only possibility this could finally be ended would be is President Trump decides to scale up the drive towards a war against Iran over geopolitical clashes in eastern Syria, a Third Lebanon War between Hizbollah and Israel and the looming diplomatic crisis over Saudi Arabia's ultimatum to Qatar over its tilt towards Tehran in the Gulf.

With Corbyn as long term anti-war politician who rose to the top by being the ultimate nemesis of Tony Blair and opponent of his wars with the US, the stage could be set for stormy political confrontation over the 'special relationship' with the US and whether it would be prepared to oppose the US over military action against Iran.

The post-1945 US led order is beginning to fragment. Trump has already shown disinterest in the EU and of NATO and any multilateral model in international power politics preferring to strike bilateral deals with independent Global Powers. This indicates a reversion to a more nineteenth century approach to Great Power politics.

These sea changes are set to be dramatic and potentially traumatic. The US remains the Global Superpower but a Brexit Britain would be globally less able to play its old role as 'bridging power' between the US and EU. At best, Britain would become Norway or more like Singapore, a rich trading state but no diplomatic weight.

Shifting away from the EU might, in reality. mean deepening the military alliance as a mini-me version of the US and that would mean even more lack of manoeuvre in opposing US wars and willingness to go along with them, not least as the US-Saudi alliance is central to the US-UK military industrial complex of which BAE is part.

All these possibilities and drawbacks, some might argue new opportunities, are there but the realities need to be confronted clearly without illusions or even delusions. This means a return to proper political arguments, debates based on facts, evidence and putting the case of alternatives before the British electorate beyond media propaganda.

Britain needs a more 'grown up' political and media culture, one that isn't based so obsessively in 'shaping the narrative' and spin. If one good thing could come out of Brexit and the rise of Corbyn's leftist populism, it is that political discussion is going to have to revert more to logical and reasoned political arguments and less choreography.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Boris Johnson as Potential Third World War Leader ?

'Second favourite ( Boris Johnson ) remains Britain’s foremost stupid-person’s-idea-of-a-clever-person... If I understand this theory correctly, Johnson deliberately sabotaged himself this week because he knows that the favourite never wins in a Tory leadership contest.'
Boris Johnson is positioning himself to takeover as PM but circumstances and events will determine who steps in. The US at present is heading for a conflict with Iran, one that is not being reported in the British media at all, until it suddenly breaks as a main news item once the crisis spirals up 'out of nowhere' and dominates the agenda.

Then Johnson as Foreign Secretary would take centre stage in aligning firmly behind Trump as most of the Westminster establishment will over Iran's dangerous use of ballistic missiles and WMD threat. Depending on how the media tries to 'shape the narrative', Johnson could well pose as staunch patriot against Corbyn as 'enemy within'.

It would be reassuring the think that the majority of the British public would not fall for the pretexts about an 'Iranian threat' replacing that of the crumbled and disintegrated Caliphate. But given the 'special relationship' remaining popular, despite Trump being regarded as an unstable loon, it would depend on public opposition.

This is depressing but a war with Iran is increasingly probable and the evidence is pointing towards Trump's administration gearing up for conflict over clashes in eastern Syria. Saudi Arabia's ultimatum to Qatar, one driven partly by its tilt towards Tehran over their joint new gas project in the Persian Gulf, is raising the stakes.

The US is reported to be blundering in to conflict over Syria while escalating hostilities towards Iran over its ballistic missile program and for firing one at eastern Syria a few days ago. In February 2017, Johnson was sharing Netanyahu's concern over Iran's missile program and is firmly aligned behind Trump's foreign policy.

If a war were to break out later in the summer of 2017, Johnson, who sees himself as having 'the Churchill factor', would be at the forefront of the drum beat towards British military intervention and using it to present himself as an Anglo-American 'strongman' who is 'shoulder to shoulder' with Trump's administration.

In these circumstances, Parliament would see stormy sessions and it would be up to Corbyn to take the anti-war stance. The question then would be whether the PLP would all align behind Corbyn on whether they would see an attempt to express solidarity with the US as a pretext to discredit and bring down Corbyn.

All of this is extreme speculation. But it's worth getting psychologically prepared for as geopolitical and foreign policy experts are extremely worried about both the seemingly blind drift towards conflict with Iran and the way US politicians are starting to rationalise the prospect of conflict as a way of regaining hegemony.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

The Media and Government: Hand in Velvet Glove Against Terrorism.

One of the reasons May is able to push through these snooping laws and advance the power of the authoritarian national security state is because journalists are not doing their job in holding its power to account as and when it immediately matters. In particular, the media accepts government claims of 'terrorist attacks'.

With regard the Westminster Bridge Attack, there is very little evidence is was a 'terrorist attack' and more that Khalid Masood was simply a deracinated drifter with a history of drug addiction and violence who branded himself a foot soldier of jihad simply in order to have a cause that he could die for instead of living for nothing.

The fact IS claims those such as Masood a one of its own and that May's surveillance and security state claims that too is quite convenient if the aim is to use what would be remembered as 'a summer of terrorism' to claim amplified powers to monitor all forms of 'extremism', depending on what's 'extreme'.

The danger is that 'extremism' could be extended down in a sliding scale to those considered enemies for questioning government media narratives designed to 'shape perceptions' and augment unaccountable power so as to 'keep us safe'. The surveillance would be extended to investigative journalists and truth activists.

As regards Masood, he spent five years in Saudi Arabia and yet no media organisation nor the government appeared to ask questions as to what he might have been doing there apart from teaching English. Flowers were laid, the usual bizarre grief cult was put into action, with vigils and printed posters deployed.

Then it was, as the old Blairite refrain went 'time to move on'. Until the Manchester terrorist attack, one which heightened surveillance powers were claimed might have prevented but which was actually far more of a 7/7 attack and connected to jihadi networks that reached from Manchester into Libya.

Media attention on that then, after May fumed at the US leaks, went down the Orwellian memory hole once the government sought to reshape the narrative once more in claiming Abedi would seem to have acted alone. The emphasis shifted to him as more on a 'lone actor' despite the weight of evidence to the contrary.

The claim for heightened surveillance powers is a sinister one made by authoritarians such as May and that could be pushed not for reasons purely of domestic security but because of reason's of state that are not to be mentioned openly, such as , perhaps, knowledge that foreign policy and Saudi connections are a factor in terrorism.

Britain 2017 : 'A Summer of Terror' and Political Polarisation.

Amber Rudd, Home Secretary, has opined, as regards the white van attack outside Finsbury Park mosque that 'police were on the scene and responded within one minute. Within eight minutes they had declared it a terrorist attack.' There is as yet no evidence this was a 'terrorist attack' rather than a straightforward hate crime.

There is no evidence he was part of a group with an ideology or any far-right ultranationalist movement that parallels Al Qaeda or that was the motive was political. The same is true of Khalid Masood, the Westminster Bridge attacker. He came as though out of nowhere, ran down five people, murdered a police officer and was shot by police.

Masood spent five years in Saudi Arabia but he was barely known at any mosque and was a convert with 'anger management issues', a low life deracinated drifter who self-identified as a jihadist and a history of violence and drug use. There was barely any dissent as to whether this really was a terrorist attack or if it was not.

One reason is this weird collective flower bearing and grief culture, one in which narcissism and emotion prevails over reason and evidence, of asking the necessary sceptical and probing questions that would put terrorism in its proper context. The Manchester Terrorist Attack was clearly just that, though. oddly, it's not emphasised.

Terrorism is a method and it's used to advance a political or politico-religious goal or set of goals. IS blows up targets to stimulate outrage against Muslims so it triggers off polarisation between the West and Muslim World, an end-time war. That may well appeal to rootless drifters and those who regard themselves as foot soldiers in a cause.

But unless they are actually connected to networks, they are more like free lance psychopaths self identifying with a cause so they can die for something rather than nothing. In the case of Masood and the Westminster Bridge Attack, IS claimed it but it claims every free lance one for it even if it doesn't not know who they are.

In which case, without evidence the 'lone attacker' is connected to a network, they are not terrorists. It might be proved Masood had connections to jihadi groups while spending five years in Saudi Arabia as an English teacher. But that isn't a fact the media or government thinks is worth investigating, for some odd reason.

Masood should not be given the title 'terrorist' just because IS wants to claim it. There is a weird symbiosis often. The government wants just as much as IS to claim these attacks are 'terrorist' when it is not clear why they are and to play down as 'lone wolf' those that obviously are jihadi terrorist attacks such as the Manchester Terrorist Attacks.

It's all about 'shaping the narrative' to the government's political ends and that the police and security services are in on these acts should raise disturbing questions. Within days of Salman Abedi's suicide bomb blast, the media was focusing more on 'his last movements' after a flurry of arrests yielded no network and on him as 'lone agent'.

This was convenient given the obvious fact Abedi was part of long term jihadi networks facilitated by the government in its geopolitical game against the Libyan state of Colonel Gaddafi, one where jihadists could be deployed as 'assets' in that struggle to oust him by assassination, as in the 1990s, or by military uprising, as in 2011.

While Abedi and the British-Libyan network has virtually been given no media attention and has been eclipsed by that old Blairite imperative 'it's time to move on' with the Grenfell Tower Block fire or with the Finsbury Park attack or any other mass media covered disaster as spectacle and drama to be pointlessly covered 24/7.

Bigging up these attacks into 'terrorism' just contributes to an exaggerated menace, justifying greater powers for the authoritarian national security state. This Darren Osbourne, the attacker, could well be a psychopath with drug abuse issues and voices in his head. It's far too early to conclude it's a 'terrorist attack'.

As regards the jihadi-salafist ideology that drives terrorism, Amber Rudd stated at the start of June the government report of 2015 into Saudi funding of this ideology in Britain was only an 'internal report'. Nothing has been mentioned on that, it's conveniently slipped down the memory hole as the election ended and more events followed.

To Jeremy Corbyn's credit, he has demanded the report published. However, it is not clear whether he is genuinely interested in 'the truth' of Saudi funding of jihadi ideology or whether he would prefer to attack one basis for the US and UK strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia and align more towards both Russia and Iran in the Middle East.

Even if this were the aim, the demand the report is published and not suppressed is a serious test of whether Britain is going to move closer towards a more Kremlinoid model of a national security state or whether facts inconvenient to a corrupt and deeply corrupting 'special relationship' are going to be prevented from entering the public domain.

The reason why the attack on Finsbury Park mosque was designated 'within eight minutes' as a 'terrorist attack' was purely political in so far as any attack on Muslims in Britain had to be regarded as that given the Westminster Attack by Khalid Masood was so designated too. Britain is engaged in a media narrative war with IS.

If the Finsbury Park attack had not been termed 'terrorist', as a purely objective assessment of the crime scene the attack would not have, then the fear, and it is a fear, would be that IS or other jihadi Islamist groups would exploit the double standards to portray British Muslims as second class citizens who are not victims.

The problem with creating a state of emergency and of fear of terrorism is that it could be counter-productive in politically turbulent times. The politicisation of terrorism, the coopting of 'terror' to bolster certain foreign policy and domestic security agendas could well be, with Corbyn's controversial ideas, playing with fire.

The Rising Prospect of Political Polarisation and Cultural Warfare

There is a lot of hatred and vitriol out there and social media is multiplying the psychopathology. The stage is being set for vicious cultural warfare and not only from 'extremists' but also between large numbers identifying with mutually polarised political positions, right and left following the Leave vote and Brexit.

Corbyn's spin doctor is Seumas Milne, a public school boy Leninist who framed the 9/11 terrorist attacks simply as what was 'visited upon them' because of US foreign policy. This came out even before Al Qaeda was formally identified as the perpetrators and was written to insinuate 'they had it coming' as a historical inevitability.

Milne's view of terrorism is that it is merely a part of the blowback cycle of violence that necessarily comes from an 'imperialist' western foreign policy, which is actually not that far from that of jihadi Islamist groups themselves. Anger at the undoubted hypocrisy of the British state shaded into a form of moral nihilism

Indeed, Corbyn is positioned as 'man of peace' but, of course, by that he means that the terrorist threat would simply 'stop' when 'the war' stops. But that war means not just Iraq or Libya but even theatres where Britain has had no military role such as with Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. It's all interconnected.

Wherever any force considered 'Western' is in conflict with any force considered 'Islamic Other', one 'othered' by Milne and other leftist radicals for the convenience of the battle lines being drawn up, then Corbyn has tilted towards rationalising the violence as a mere reflex action against 'our imperialism' and state policies.

This is subsumed within the twin concepts of 'racism' and 'Islamophobia' meaning that any criticism of jihadi movements, no matter now much antisemitism or occidental hatred that fuels them, or criticism of intolerant forms of Islam, are to be proscribed as a deflection away from the prime responsibility of the West and 'Imperialism'.

The other side to that was the obvious fact there was this daft rhetoric of 'liberal humanitarian intervention' and 'liberal imperialism' touted by opinion formers in the early 2000s in the run up to the war in Iraq. The idea that military intervention was about taking on 'terrorism' was a staple claim in the 'war on terror'

It was in reaction to the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars that the StWC developed and a lot of its protests were not back then, as Corbyn is pretending now, about citing expert opinions that it would practically enable jihadist groups to spread and gain ground. In fact, back then Corbyn and the hard left were making different claims.

It was about opposing Britain as an 'imperialist power' and using the outrage at an attack on a 'Muslim country' to ramp up the outrage so as to use it to build a popular front run by the hard left ranged against the British state. These details are forgotten now that Corbyn is positioning himself as a responsible statesman

The Desperation of Hope over Experience.

Corbyn is presented in 2017 as though a Nordic style social democrat, though he's far more of a far left socialist ideologue who rebranded himself as offering a kinder and warmer, more inclusive sort of politics in which Britain would remodel itself as a universal force for love, open borders, anti-imperialism and, of course, hope.

As John Gray pointed out, this is a form of populism for the middle classes, especially those based in London and other fortresses of globalised multi-culti 'at-oneness' and searching for salvation through a new secular saint and messiah that offers utopia as a substitute for the populist nationalism that accompanied the Brexit vote.

Depending on how Brexit proceeds, Corbyn could seem to the British public to offer another counter vision of Britain that goes back to the 1970s and, in its own way, clings to a nostalgic idea of a period of lost socialist idealism and Bennite ideas of transforming a declining post-imperial state into socialist millennium.

As the post-1945 global order declines with the US mired in domestic disputes over President Trump's alleged 'Russian connections' and lack of belief in US support for NATO and multilateralism, Corbyn would appear to be a leader that could finally relieve Britain of its post-war role as upholder of a US led world order.

The danger with this is with Britain's potential for absolute decline, whether global events, such as a revived IS or similar organisation or Iran, could  trigger off vicious polarisation within Britain as to its role in  maintaining 'world order'. If Corbyn is regarded as 'threat to the West', all manner of heated attacks are bound to mount up.

It is thought Corbyn has taken a back seat on security and even Brexit in favour of his acting as a radical tribal totem pole for the socially and economically alienated. It would be the PLP that would decide on Trident renewal and on defence. But with Corbyn as potential PM, there would surely be a new approach to defence and foreign policy.

This is why the prospect of war over the Persian gulf could be dangerous. With the Conservatives being cornered by May's desperate coalition with Northern Ireland's Paisleyite DUP, the idea of re-affirmative military action against Iran in some form could offer an 'escape forwards' from the fall out from Brexit is spun a certain way.



Monday, 19 June 2017

A Short Note on Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson only benefits from the idea he might be merely a semi-comic buffoon as well as a wit. Clearly, he has wit but he uses the comic mask as one that enables him to move around behind it in ways that are quite ruthless. If Johnson is both comic and provocative, it means he can portray opponents as boring comic book leftists.

Whether of not Johnson has a 'Churchill Factor' is highly dubious. He's clearly manoeuvring himself towards becoming PM in future and seemed quite amused that the snap election called by May backfired on her badly. He looked quite perky, grinning as he denied any ambition to take over from May.

Even so, Johnson is dangerous. In his foreign policy, he would seem to be quite supportive of President Trump. At present, there is a diplomatic war between Qatar And Saudi Arabia and while he has called for a resolution of this, he has tended to align with both Trump and Netanyahu in regarding Iran as the major threat.

Qatar's tilt towards Iran against Saudi Arabia, and the scramble for control between Iranian backed forces and US supported ones in eastern Syria as the power of ISIS collapses, could mean a clash between the Western Powers an Iran is brewing in the near future. A Third Lebanon War is looming closer as well.

Trump is not well regarded in Britain, so if May and Johnson were to try to pledge British support for US over military strikes against either Assad or Iran, this would detonate controversy within Britain and the opportunity for Johnson, flanked by Gove, to try and bring out divisions within the PLP over the 'special relationship'.

Johnson might be considered a comic figure. But it's in the serious political poses he might strike where he is at his most buffoonish, in line with large number of Britain's incompetent governing elites as they lurch from crisis to crisis domestically. In both the US and Britain, the potential of blundering into war abroad is increasing.

Tony Blair Gets Back in On an Act.

Failed politicians seem to be rebranding themselves as entertainers the better to position themselves for potential comebacks. Ed Miliband is seconding as a DJ. Ed Balls has gone on to Come Dancing. The Great Get Together weekend tried to get politicians in on comedy sketches to make them appear just as human as others.

While it's unpleasant that politicians are quite as disliked as they have been, there seems no reason to have them pose as 'friends of the people' in a chummy, even celebrity way as close friends. This is not required of politicians. They might often be quite bad as actors but they should stop trying so hard to become 'popular' beyond politics.

Before Corbyn's surge as authentic existentialist hero in the election, Tony Blair was regarded as having a "toxic brand". He was keeping silent over terrorist attacks so as to save his 'intervention' as champion of the 48% to get popularity back. The plot to get a new Progress Party going pooped and Blair was silent.

Then he popped back up as part of a comedy sketch at the Great Get Together weekend. It might be that Blair could now pose as tragic and misunderstood, back to a darker version of his 1997 'normal kinda guy' who really just preferred pop music and football to going into politics because he 'really believed in it'.

My prediction is Blair will muscle in next with the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana and his contribution to her canonisation as secular saint. This weird mood of mass grief and emoting over rational thought and action is back in popularity again. This could well be the time for Blair to have an emotional experience.

The US, Britain and the Coming War with Iran

'This is where the United States should be putting its efforts. People in the region understand that until there is a serious US interest in a political solution, it won’t happen. Even if Trump is only interested in “putting America first”, he would do well to stop being involved in dropping bombs on Yemenis' 
-America will regret helping Saudi Arabia bomb Yemen, Guardian, June 20 2017
When it comes to US foreign policy, the 'ought' is very far from the 'is', one reason Washington elites have contempt for him and would prefer it if he was removed. His foreign policy is quite in continuity with that which came before and, if anything, it was probably less aggressive over Syria than Hillary Clinton's.

Had Clinton won the 2016 election, it is possible she would have responded to the alleged Assad gas attacks with much more of a military escalation than Trump's 'shot across the bows' when he fired 59 Tomahawk missiles. Likewise, the US military assistance to the Saudi bombardment of Yemen was Obama's policy.

The problem with Trump is that he doesn't even know how to use US influence to balance between Tehran and Riyadh. The decision to back Saudi Arabia against the Houthis was partly about reassuring Riyadh that Washington was not tilting towards Tehran too much over the 2014 nuclear weapons deal.

This strategy was necessary as Iranian backed forces were needed to shore up the struggle against IS in northern Iraq. It was also about instilling in the minds of the Saudis that while the US was a staunch military and security ally, the tilt towards Tehran mean support for the Saudis was not completely unconditional.

Trump sees Iran as a top US enemy. As the Caliphate disintegrates, the prospect of Iranian backed militias filling the void has led to a scramble for control not just in northern Iraq but also in eastern Syria. If Iranian proxies were to seize that region, Tehran would have a land bridge through to Damascus and Southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah would stand to have a direct supply line from Iran and the 'Shia crescent' is regarded as a direct threat not only to Saudi Arabia but also to Israel where simmering tensions over control over Eastern Mediterranean gas reserves and geopolitical antagonisms have threated to start a Third Lebanon War.

This connects to Yemen as Hezbollah has aligned with the Houthis against the Saudis who all along feared covert Iranian attempts to assert control over the Bab El-Mandheb Strait, a major geopolitically significant chokepoint through which oil tanker traffic flows. It would also threaten the integrity of Saudi Arabia from within.

The Qatari support for democratic Islamism across the Middle East since 2011, but existing before the Arab Spring, created fear of Shia Muslims rising up in eastern oil producing regions within Saudi Arabia. It was for this reason Riyadh rolled the tanks into Bahrain to crush the uprising in 2012 as part of an Iranian plot.

With Syria's Sunni rebels being crushed by decisive Russian and Assad military force in east Aleppo in December 2016, Qatar realigned back towards Iran over developing Persian Gulf gas fields. That, and Qatar's readiness to thumb its nose at the GCC states over democracy promotion, has lead to the diplomatic war and blockade.

Decisive in driving the probability of conflict with Iran, is Trump's demonization of Iran as the regional force plotting against it, even in trying to align with Qatar. As IS becomes less of a threat to regional interests and with Assad ascendant in Syria, Trump and his generals could see degrading Iran's regional force as an aim.

The Globalised Impact of 'Extremism'

The shooting down of a Russian aircraft could be subjected to 'deconfliction' and diplomatic wars of words in so far it has been regarded as newsworthy in the Western media at all. Equally as omitted is the scale of the civilian casualties in letting the generals off the leash as the US bombed its way from Mosul and towards Raqqa in Syria,

The deaths according to Airwars stand at 3,800 and casualties increased by 60% in 2017. As ISIS declines it has lashed out through terror attacks claimed for it in Manchester and London Bridge, though there has generally been a media and political elite consensus that downplays the role of Sunni Salafi jihad in favour of 'extremism'

The reason British PM May goes on about 'extremism' is it doesn't mention the connection between the Wahhabi and Salafi version of Islam promoted by Britain's strategic partner in the Middle East-Saudi Arabia. It's a right wing political correctness that the Conservative Party holds to so as not to defend its lucrative commercial ties.

These include BAE arms deals, the military industrial complex which both it and the US has carefully interwoven together so as to bind the Special Relationship across both Labour and Tory parties. Of course, the big threat to this comes from Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader and who is ranged against both the Saudis and 'US Imperialism'.

The handy rhetoric about 'extremism' is it could be used to conflate domestic political opposition with that of insufficient zealotry for British foreign policies. This is not least the case where Corbyn is assumed to be siding with Britain's enemies, not just the Soviet Union and Russia but Iran and even in the past appearing as a Press TV host.

Domestic Instability in the 'Anglosphere': Atlanticist Militancy as 'Escape Forwards'.

The probability of a war by the autumn of 2017 cannot be dismissed. Trump is under domestic siege and could see an 'escape forwards' through a conflict against Iran to remove it as an effective player in Syria, not least given the fact that it cannot do so by conflict with Russia, which is a nuclear armed state.

The other factor is the Qatar-Turkish alliance. It would be impossible for Saudi Arabia to invade Qatar if Turkey, a NATO state, had a military presence in addition to the US. The consequence of the widening gulf between the Sunni powers of the Middle East is an upgrade of Russia and Iran's relative bargaining power.

Trump has little understanding of regional complexities between Sunni and Shia. His decision to support Saudi Arabia at the Riyadh Summit in May 2017 and hostile tweets supporting the Saudi's hypocritical attacks on Qatar's support for 'extremism' came as it an the GCC states planned to bring about an 'Arab NATO'.

Naturally, Trump is hardly acting independently and certainly not alone. Much of the hawkish position with regard to Iran is bipartisan as the Saudi lobby is influential in Washington and Trump has surrounded himself by those ageing politicians and generals who take a more aggressive stance towards Iran.

The attempt to push through fresh sanctions on Russia for supporting Assad, is repellently hypocritical given its support for the Saudi regime in a war pushing 17 million to the brink of famine and slaughtering many more as the bombs blast civilian targets relentlessly and ruthlessly. Few take seriously US talk of 'moral leadership' anymore.

The sanctions came with ones on Iran too, having nothing to do with morality but with purely geopolitical power play in the Great Game for predominance in the contest to advance militia assets in Iraq and Syria. The task has been to lever Sunni Arab militias forward against Iranian ones while destroying ISIS.

Once ISIS was destroyed, there is no telling whether the US would not want to take Iranian assets out as part of a regional Cold War style proxy war, with Iran rather than Russia as the object of 'existential struggle'. Propaganda regarding Iran's status as a 'mountain fortress of Islamist extremism' is a staple of the US and UK right.

Iran as enemy since 1979 is one current on the neoconservative right and involves an uncritical support for the Israeli Likud administration under Netanyahu. Typical of this stance is support within Britain for Israel as a form of both foreign policy united to a domestic cultural warfare against the hard left's hostility towards it.

With a DUP-Conservative coalition needed to shore up Brexit, the potential for polarisation and the prospect of figures such Michael Gove, who retains close links to Trump and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, launching attacks on enemies within such as Corbyn, PLP members and Momentum cannot be discounted.

The DUP are ardent Christian Zionists just as much as Corbyn and his allies are sympathisers with Irish Republicanism and Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. The Republicans see in the British state and imperialist entity that was as responsible for the Northern Irish settler state just as much as Israel after the 1914-18 war.

Gove has accused those who blocked military action by Britain to join a 2013 move by the US to launch a military action against Assad's state in Syria as 'smiling over the spilt blood'. The PLP was both anti-Israeli and pro-Iranian and so 'appeasers' of terrorism and state sponsors such as Iran, ignoring the Saudi support for Sunni jihad.

In fact, Iran's backing for Hezbollah or Hamas pales into insignificance when compared with Saudi Arabia's backing for jihadi factions in the Free Syria Army, including those affiliated with Al Qaeda and those which broke from the FSA to join ISIS and to create the Caliphate. It's alleged Riyadh even covertly supported ISIS.

Those in Trump's team remember the heyday of US superpower in the 1980s against the Soviet Union with Saudi Arabia onside and which won against the USSR by supporting Sunni militants in Afghanistan and standing firm against Iran's threat to the Persian Gulf by backing Iraq's war against it between 1980-88.

This is the great danger: ageing paranoid men fearing their superpower status is being menaced and faced with internal domestic threats. The same is true of Britain with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson being a reheated version of a Cold War Warrior against enemies without united to enemies within as a 'seamless totalitarian movement'.

With Brexit stalling, the economy in decline and political turbulence ahead in both Great Powers in the 'Anglosphere', the crisis in the Persian Gulf could be one that precipitates a war as disastrous as the 2003 invasion of Iraq and has global consequences. One of these would be global economic instability due to threats to oil supplies.

The other would be the decline of the post-1945 global order led by the US. In Britain any move towards greater intervention would be deeply contested by Corbyn's Labour in revival of his role as chair of the StWC. It could be that May's national security state would be moved into deeper manoeuvres against Corbyn.

While this is a worst case scenario, a clash with Iran might be averted. But it could be preceded by a Third Lebanon War which would see polarisation in Britain over it and the US position, not least as Corbyn has been part of radical groups supporting Hezbollah and his spin doctor, Seumas Milne, has lauded them as heroic resistance fighters.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Britain in 2017: An Echo of the Politics of the 1970s

There is a big delusion on the Labour left that the social and economic revolution offered by Corbyn's repositioned Labour would remove the real discontent that led to Brexit. The calculation behind the 'hope' is that the working classes were really just rather deluded in suffering from 'false consciousness' in voting for UKIP.

As usual, it's the trap of falling into economic determinism. The workers are just dim and never really wanted to leave the EU. They were tricked by demagogues like Nigel Farage and the tabloids. With Corbyn moving back to a more old left social democratic platform, 'hope will trump hate' and a new state for all is at hand.

To a certain extent, Corbyn's utopian socialist vision comes into play. He fought against May 'as if' Brexit was secondary and that the idea could well be that the verdict is respected only in so far as it represented a revolt against the Establishment. In so far as Corbyn is too, he is the politically correct choice for a New Britain.

Britain in late 2017 could be polarised between two competing visions: 'the pragmatic Brexit' to be fought for and which would see a revival of British Unionism. The 'soft Brexit' which would see Britain as a radically united socialist state in which small nation nationalism and the British Imperial state would be diminished.

This really is a return to the 1970s and 1974 in many ways. May called a snap election as Britain was edging closer to ungovernability based on an ailing social and economic model. As with Heath's gamble, May's backfired but this time the circumstances are in reverse as Britain is leaving the European Union.

Britain's economy is already declining slightly due to political uncertainty and, should Brexit go chaotically, Labour could well be in a position to inherit the poisoned chalice of Brexit if it were to win a second election as did Harold Wilson in 1974. The debates back then were over whether Britain should have joined the EU in 1973.

This time there is no option to resolve them, as in 1975, as there won't be a second referendum. With a declining economy, divisions within Labour Party over the EU would open up about whether to backtrack on Brexit entirely if the social and economic promises are to be kept as it is thought the workers won't care about it any more.

This is a delusion. With Brexit hanging over both parties, the timescale of change for any social and economic end to austerity would be short and with the Tories abandoning it, there is no automatic guarantee why UKIP voters would trust Labour to deliver on Brexit as regards 'Leave meaning Leave', even if 'softly', if that means 'backsliding'.

Anatol Lieven has argued that left wing nationalism would be the future in an EU where the federal project is disintegrating in favour of a shift back towards sovereign states. The question is whether Labour would hold its nerve or whether the PLP would want to scupper Brexit at the slightest sign of intransigence from the EU.

After all, if there is no guarantee a 'soft Brexit' with restrictions on freedom of movement is going to be on the table with a weak and unstable May, there is no reason why it would be with Corbyn's team either. The EU is dealing with a move to Leave on both sides and not with giving British electors a perfectly customised package.

This would generate tensions within Labour between Corbynites, who believe in honouring the referendum and the 'will of the ordinary people', and those who wanted Remain and would prefer a Brexit so soft it ends up being indistinguishable from a real Brexit, thus alienating working class Labour supporters who switched from UKIP.

Corbyn could then develop his Bennite ideal of a sovereign socialist state from the EU capitalist cartel and US Imperial influence on the Venezuelan model. The difference between Benn and Corbyn is that Benn was never more than a high ranking cabinet minister whereas Corbyn is going for Prime Minister. His ideas matter.

UKIP is bound to make a comeback where 'Brexit is in danger'. The prospect of a visceral cultural warfare between Corbyn supporting radical city fortresses and the provinces is quite possible. Corbyn's stance on mass migration and Britain as a sort of European version of a Latin American state could lead to right-wing nationalist resistance.

The Tories too might decide nationalism could be one way to tempt these voters back, with Gove and Farage at the forefront, and this could ratchet up tensions in Northern Ireland that are potentially simmering because of the Conservative-DUP alignment. After all, Corbyn is seen as a supporter of Republican causes, if not exactly the IRA.

There could be a lot of turbulence ahead, even a 'state of emergency' and plots in certain circles for a more forceful restoration of order. The national security state is far more developed than in the 1970s and Michael Gove is certainly a shady operator who likes to ascertain there are enemies within linked to enemies without.