Spieth’s Shocking Surrender!

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With 9 holes to go at Augusta National Jordan Spieth looked on course to win consecutive Masters titles and his 3rd major championship in 12 months. With 4 consecutive birdies on the final holes on the front 9 he established a 5 shot lead. Many thought the remaining 9 holes would be a coronation, with Spieth cruising to victory, what unfolded however was a capitulation of epic proportions.

By his own admission Spieth hadn’t produced his best golf all week, his ball-striking was inconsistent and his driving was errant, but Spieth who is renowed for his clutch putting managed to hold onto his lead by making key putts when he needed them most. There were signs throughout the week that Spieth was uncomfortable with his game, a sloppy finish on Friday cut his lead to one, and on Saturday after restoring a sizeable advantage he faltered late in the round playing the final two holes in 3 over par. Despite this, mentally he looked unflabbable, driven by sheer determination to win his 2nd Masters despite the obvious shortcomings in his game. But on the 12th hole it all caught up with him and the weaknesses were exposed in the most brutal fashion imaginable. Amen Corner which is notorious for its perilous and merciless layout had claimed another victim. Spieth arrived at the breathtakingly beautiful 12th at Augusta on the back of consecutive bogeys at the 10th and 11th, his lead had been cut to only a solitary shot. Despite the intense pressure few would have expected him to have folded under these circumstances, after all Spieth had demonstrated all week his ability to bounce back from bogeys and he has proven his competence at the highest level in this game with two major championships.
Spieth struck his shot aiming to play a fade, but long before the ball found the creek Spieth recoiled in digust, certain of the outcome. If Spieth could have mitigated the damage and salavaged a bogey or a double-bogey a recovery would have not been inconceivable, but he compounded his error by finding the water again with his 3rd shot from the drop zone. He hit the shot so fat and atrociously that the ball barely even reached the hazard, Spieth visibly furious turned his back and couldn’t even bear to watch. He finished the hole with a quadruple-bogey and faced a deficit of 3 shots. In a testament to Spieth’s mental strength he responded remarkably well, birdying 2 out of the next three holes and gave himself a slim chance of catching the leader, Danny Willett but the damage was too extensive, there was to be no revival. The old adage that “the Masters doesn’t really begin until the back nine on Sunday” was most certainly true today. Golf has seen its fair share of meltdowns over the year, Greg Norman in 96 at the Masters, Jean van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999, Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot in 2006 and Mcilroy at the 2011 Masters but Spieth’s was arguably the most astonishing considering how impervious he appeared to the pressure most of the week.

Spieth was gracious in defeat, and in accordance with Masters tradition draped the green jacket on Danny Willett and congratulated him on his victory. Willett who nearly missed the Masters because of the birth of his child was the worthy winner. He shot an almost immaculate bogey-free 67 which included 5 birdies and he displayed tremendous nerve on the 17th to scramble an unlikely par. Willett’s victory will inevitably be overshadowed by Spieth’s collapse, but this was one of the best final round performances you’re likely to see at Augusta National.

Spieth understandably will be reeling from this loss for a while, but he can take great solace in the fact that he came so close to creating history. He’s played 3 Masters and his record is T2nd, 1st & T2nd which includes leading in 7 consecutive rounds. In addition he’s becoming scarily consistent in the majors, since the beginning of 2015 his record in the majors is 1st, 1st, T4th, 2nd & T2nd and yet he’s still only 22 years old.
There is no reason to suspect Spieth won’t bounce back from this, if anyone is mentally equipped to deal with a diaster of this scale, it is him. Champions overcome adversity, and Spieth is a champion. He will comeback from this nightmare.

Reflections On Obama’s Cuba Visit

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The shot of Air Force One coming into land in Havana was iconic and the perfect way to begin this new chapter in relations between the US and Cuba. There are moments in history you don’t want to miss, and this momentous visit by Barack Obama was undoubtedly one of them.

The reestablishment of bilateral ties between the two countries faced many obstacles, most prominently Cuba’s well grounded suspicion of the US government. The breakthrough came in late 2013 when anti-apartheid revolutionary and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela died. Mandela held the Castro brothers in great esteem and was grateful for their contributions in facilitating the defeat of the apartheid government in South Africa which Reagan’s administration embraced. Both Raúl Castro and US president Obama were invited to the funeral which put the US president in an invidious position. Be courteous towards Castro and face the wrath of extremists back home, or snub the Cuban president and disrespect Mandela’s family. Obama thankfully chose the former and recognised that Cuba’s president had a right to attend the event. This then provided the foundation for the relationship to develop with Castro expressing his appreciation for Obama’s civility at the funeral.

Obama’s politics are odious, of that there is little doubt but as a politician he is remarkably competent. It was clear that throughout the visit to Cuba, Obama was totally in his element – you could readily discern that he was fully enjoying being a part of this historic visit. Obama honoured Cuban hero José Martí and laid a wreath at his memorial. Amusingly during the ceremony, a mural of Che Guevara loomed large in the background, quite expectedly US Republicans reacted with fury. During Obama’s press conference the condescension about human rights was accompanied by praise of what Obama called Cuba’s “enormous achievements” in healthcare and education, and their humanitarian contributions in east Africa where their doctors have put their lives on the line to alleviate the suffering of people who contracted Ebola. Castro maintained that the occupation of Guantánamo Bay and the inhumane embargo would remain as impediments to full normalisation of relations. The trip ended on a good note, where both Obama and Castro attended a baseball game between Cuba and The Tamba Bay Rays. Many must have thought their eyes were deceiving them when Obama and Castro participated in the Mexican wave, which again aroused rage from Republicans. Raúl Castro then travelled with Obama to the airport and waved goodbye as Obama departed to Argentina.

While’s Cuba’s grievances with the United States cannot end during one visit, there is now a path towards reconciliation which is a step in the right direction. Neither Cubans nor the vast majority of Americans have much interest in a return to violence, and a majority of Americans want the deplorable embargo to be lifted. It would be nice for both countries if ‘American democracy’ delivered what their people want.

Obama In Havana

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Barack Obama visits Cuba this week which marks the first time in 88 years that a sitting US president has visited the island. With increasing pressure exerted on the US by several Latin American countries and with mediation from Pope Francis, Obama has taken steps to normalise diplomatic relations, has eased trade restrictions on Cuba and has advocated an end to the Cuban embargo which requires approval from US Congress.

For many Americans Cuba has connotations of dictatorship and association with the Soviet Union. Therefore it should come as no great surprise that a large portion of Americans harbour considerable hostility for the Cuban Government. If you get your knowledge through the lens of the US propaganda system this is an entirely reasonable point of view. From an American perspective, their government has always been a friend to Cuba, assisting them in their liberation from Spanish colonialists in 1898, and supporting their government up until the revolution. Then suddenly all this cooperation and friendliness was disturbed by a group of guerrilla fighters who overthrew the government which was our ally and could be relied upon to serve our interests whatever they may be. They then punished US businesses operating in Cuba, and allied with our great enemy the Soviet Union, compounded by their request to bring nuclear missiles into Cuba which led to the missile crisis and threatened the peace and security of Americans. Again, the conclusion that the Cuban government are the embodiment of anti-Americanism and that the revolution brought regression to Cuba is quite logical within this framework. The only problem? It’s utterly antithetical to reality. To understand the US’ paternalistic relationship with Cuba you really have to have an awareness of the Monroe Doctrine which played an instrumental role in the formation of American policy in Latin America. The doctrine essentially stated that the Western Hemisphere was to be exclusively the domain of the United States, President Monroe declared that the traditional imperial powers in Europe should not intervene in the affairs of Latin American countries and the mercantilist policies pursued by the Spanish and Portuguese should end because it prevented American economic expansion in the region. The Monroe Doctrine was established in 1823 during a time when the British reigned supreme in much of the world, for this reason exerting US influence in Latin America and implementing the doctrine was not achievable because of the deterrent of the British fleet. But as British power gradually waned and the Spanish and Portuguese lost their grip on the colonies, an opportunity for the US to impose its will on the southern hemisphere opened up. In 1898 the US acted to prevent the Cuban liberation from the Spanish, and turned it into a virtual US colony ensuring that legitimate independence would have to wait. Instead of outright annexation the US decided to grant Cuba partial independence under terms set by the US government which would guarantee a system of control for the US. In the years that followed America would exercise almost complete economic and military dominance over the island, intervening militarily in Cuban affairs several times to maintain its control over the country. The treaty Cuba signed under military occupation in 1903 is still used by the US today as a justification for the occupation of Guantánamo Bay where they operate a naval base. Guantánamo Bay has become notorious for the torture camp established during the War On Terror in 2003, it’s often criticised by rights groups and the international community, but what’s often neglected in the discussion about the torture camp is that the US occupation of Guantánamo has no legitimacy. The Cuban government has repeatedly exhorted the US government to return the territory to Cuba and has refused to accept the rent checks from the US, but the US cite a provision from the treaty which requires mutual agreement before the lease of Guantánamo ends. The way the US government phrases their argument makes it sound like the Cuban people consented to the leasing of the land to the US which suffice to say is ludicrous. Under international law treaties imposed by force are illegal, in addition the terms of the treaty have been violated by the US which have allowed commercial use of the Bay. One of the most shameful moments in the history of the US’ relationship with Cuba was its support of murderous dictator Fulgencio Batista, the US supplied Batista with everything a tyrant could desire: military, financial and logistical support. Batista neglected the Cuban people displaying apathy towards their wishes for better education, health care and housing and conversely helped the US advance the interests of American corporations which saw their profits rise; US influence was so dominant that the US ambassador to Cuba said: “Until Castro, the U.S. was so overwhelmingly influential in Cuba that the American ambassador was the second most important man, sometimes even more important than the Cuban president.” The worst crimes Batista’s forces committed were the murders of thousands of Cubans with US backing. The US’ position of supporting Batista became so untenable that in 1958 they stopped supplying weapons to him and imposed an arms embargo on Cuba. Castro and his group of guerilla fighters which included Che Guevara fought valiantly and managed to defeat Batista and his forces. In an effort to resolve the US’ economic domination of Cuba they nationalised the exploitative US businesses operating in Cuba which elicited a hostile response in Washington. The US government then imposed a vicious embargo on Cuba and conspired to overthrow the Cuban government by training and arming a paramilitary group comprised of Cuban exiles. It quickly became apparent that the US attempt to overthrow Castro was failing and the Bay Of Pigs invasion became a major embarrassment to the Kennedy administration, in addition to the overt aggression the CIA was also involved in covert plots to assassinate Fidel Castro which thankfully failed. Following the outright aggression from the US, Cuba established ties with the Soviet Union and placed Soviet nuclear missiles on its island feeling it would act as a deterrent against US attempts at regime change. The Soviets later agreed to dismantle their weapons in Cuba in exchange for a promise from the US government that they would not invade Cuba without direct provocation. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 Cuba lost its primary trading partner which resulted in food shortages and a lack of basic goods and was forced to diversify its economy into biotechnology and tourism. In 2006 during the calamitous hurricane Katrina the Cuban government offered to send its health workers to America to help the victims but the US government declined. When Fidel Castro stepped down due to declining health the legislative parliament of Cuba voted for his brother Raul to succeed him.

JFK on the US’ support of Batista:

“Fulgencio Batista murdered 20,000 Cubans in seven years … and he turned Democratic Cuba into a complete police state—destroying every individual liberty. Yet our aid to his regime, and the ineptness of our policies, enabled Batista to invoke the name of the United States in support of his reign of terror. Administration spokesmen publicly praised Batista—hailed him as a staunch ally and a good friend—at a time when Batista was murdering thousands, destroying the last vestiges of freedom, and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the Cuban people, and we failed to press for free elections. I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.”

When Obama announced that he was visiting Cuba this month it was accompanied with this assertion: “America will always stand for human rights around the world”
A cursory look at the US’ history in Latin America makes a mockery of that claim.
You’d be hard pressed to find a country in Latin America which has come away unscathed from US interference or intervention. The innumerable crimes have been well documented but today I’ll focus on post World War 2 crimes. Less than a year after the US overthrew the democratically elected prime-minister of Iran they were involved in another coup in Guatemala in 1954. Jacobo Arnetz was democratically elected and was in the process of making gradual improvements to the daily life of Guatemalan people but this conflicted with US corporations who were preoccupied with making as much profit as they could. At the behest of the United Fruit Company the CIA orchestrated the coup and their forces invaded Guatemala bombing the city and conducting a campaign of psychological warfare. The US-backed dictator reversed the reforms, and gathered peasant leaders, executing them and conditions for the people of the country quickly deteriorated. In the years that followed the US would support the repressive authoritarian rulers who committed unspeakable crimes against the people. During this period the Guatemalan army committed genocide against the Mayan people and assassinated several catholic priests and nuns who supported the rights of the Mayan people. Historian Greg Grandin stated that: “There is general consensus today among academics and Guatemalan intellectuals that 1954 signalled the beginning of what would become the most repressive state in the hemisphere, a state responsible for the torture and murder of two hundred thousand of its citizens”
In Chile, president Allende who was also democratically elected was overthrown in a coup in 1973 led by Augusto Pinochet which was supported by the US. During Pinochet’s rule his forces committed sexual abuse, torture and killed thousands of people. While the CIA denied playing any direct role in the coup the years of destabilisation of Allendes’ government provided the conditions required for Pinochet to rise to power. The US also consolidated his power by making Pinochet’s officers into paid members of the CIA and US military. In Nicaragua the US’ interference is particularly sinister. They overtly supported tyrannical ruler Somaza who was overthrown by the Sandinistas in 1979. The US led by Reagan in the early 1980′s authorised a covert war against Nicaragua by funding and training a death squad known as the Contras. The Contras’ crimes were so significant that the US Congress banned support of them, but the Reagan administration defied this and continued to aid the terrorists. Crimes included torture, kidnapping, rape of women and indiscriminate attacks on civilians. Human Rights Watch released a report in 1989 stating: “The Contras were major and systematic violators of the most basic standards of the laws of armed conflict, including by launching indiscriminate attacks on civilians, selectively murdering non-combatants, and mistreating prisoners. The International Court Of Justice condemned the US for its terrorism in 1986 but the US dismissed it and blocked enforcement of the judgement by the UN Security Council thereby preventing compensation to the Nicaraguan people. While all of this was ongoing the US continued to rationalise their policies under the guise of promoting democracy.
“In a 1981 study, human rights researcher Lars Schoultz concluded that US aid “has tended to flow disproportionately to Latin American governments which torture their citizens…to the hemisphere’s relatively egregious violators of fundamental human rights.” In 1998, Latin American professor Martha Huggins stated “that the more foreign police aid given (by the United States), the more brutal and less democratic the police institutions and their governments become.”
These are just a small selection of the extensive list of US crimes in Latin America, and Obama is no doubt aware of them which makes his remarks so contemptible and offensive to people who have suffered and been killed because of the US’ policies. For all the talk from Western media about human rights violations in Cuba, one thing always remains conspicuously absent. The largest human rights violator in Cuba is not the Cuban government itself but the United States who operate a torture camp on the island which is illegal under international law. Many of the detainees are denied a fair trial, and have been subjected to degrading and inhuman torture. In addition the inhumane embargo imposed on Cuba has been repeatedly condemned by the UN, and most states in the world including even the US’ most loyal allies are against the embargo. Since 1992 the UN General Assembly has passed a resolution every year condemning the impact of the embargo and declaring it to be in violation of the charter of the UN and international law.

Marjorie Cohn professor at Thomas Jefferson School Of Law writes in the Huffington Post:

“The U.S. government criticizes civil and political rights in Cuba while disregarding Cubans’ superior access to universal housing, health care, education, and its guarantee of paid maternity leave and equal pay rates. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has committed serious human rights violations on Cuban soil, including torture, cruel treatment, and arbitrary detention at Guantanamo. And since 1960, the United States has expressly interfered with Cuba’s economic rights and its right to self-determination through the economic embargo.
The U.S. embargo of Cuba, now a blockade, was initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower during the Cold War in response to a 1960 memo written by a senior State Department official. The memo proposed “a line of action that makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and the overthrow of the [Castro] government.” That goal has failed, but the punishing blockade has made life difficult in Cuba. In spite of that inhumane effort, however, Cuba guarantees its people a remarkable panoply of human rights.”

John Pilger’s informative documentary on the US War On Nicaragua:

Despite the embargo and terrorism inflicted on Cuba, they have made some remarkable accomplishments and humanitarian contributions both domestically and abroad since the revolution in 1959. The Cuban government prioritised both education and healthcare understanding that if the new system was to survive it was vital those two necessities were taken care of. The first of these was the 1961 literacy campaign which was designed to teach people to read and write. Prior to the revolution the literacy rate in Cuba was between 60 & 76 percent. The campaign was a resounding success and taught thousands these essential skills, the literacy rate was consequently raised to 96%. Expenditure on education is also relatively high and has led to a high level of educational achievement. In addition prior to the revolution many people who were impoverished were denied access to education, following the revolution these children were now afforded free access to education. Apologists for US imperialism claim all of these facts are propaganda but organisations like the UN and the World Bank have heaped praise on these accomplishments; in 2006 Gallup conducted research on the opinions of Cuban people in the two largest cities, a high percentage of them expressed satisfaction with their education system. Cuba’s achievements in education are no doubt profound but when it comes to healthcare they’re just off the charts. Despite being a third world country with very little wealth its life expectancy is on par with developed countries like the US, it has the lowest child mortality rate in Latin America and Unicef has commended the Cuban government for tackling child malnutrition. Last year the World Health Organisation confirmed that Cuba became the first country to eliminate transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby. They described this success as “one of the greatest public health achievements possible” Cuba has made some impressive medical innovations, most notably a vaccine for meningitis B which has been administrated in countries throughout the world, they’ve also made a possible breakthrough in the treatment of lung cancer, climavax-evg a therapeutic cancer vaccine was the result of a 25 year research project and has aroused interest of the medical community in the US, doctors in the US are very excited about getting to clinically test it. Thomas Rothstein a biologist at the Feinstein Institute For Medical Research said: “The Cubans are thinking in ways that are novel and clever” Cuba is also renowned for its medical internationalism and played a pivotal role in alleviating the suffering caused by the ebola crisis in 2014. In fact, its positive role in Africa has been so important than Cuba was the first country heroic anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela thanked following the collapse of the racist system in South Africa. The achievements since the revolution are extensive and must not be trivialised, but equally the flaws and human rights violations by Castro’s government must not be whitewashed or forgotten. Cuba like many countries during that time had a society replete with homophobia, and the Cuban government imprisoned innocent gay and trans people without charge or trial often subjecting them to harsh treatment. Ana Marrero a trans woman said: “It was horrible, we couldn’t have a life. In those days the Cuban government was very backward and cruel about homosexuality.”
Gradually Cuba has become more progressive when it comes to LGBTQ rights, a few years ago Cuba elected its first trans woman to office and in 2010 Fidel Castro apologised and took responsibility for the persecution of LGBTQ people but nothing can excuse that shameful chapter in Cuba’s history. The Cuban government also adopted censorship and has an abject record when it comes to press freedom and civil liberties. Dissidents are also treated improperly and often detained without charge. The Cuban government also treated the internet with suspicion and it’s among one of the most tightly controlled in the world, however there have been gradual improvements in the last few years. There is undoubtedly compelling evidence that the good the Cuban government has done exceeds the bad, but like any state it is susceptible to abusing its power, and this makes uncritical support of it a danger. Genuine supporters of Cuba will not downplay the very real grievances of Cuban expats, or try and rationalise its flaws, but work to make Cuba a true model for the world.

Nelson Mandela on Cuba:

“We have come here today recognizing our great debt to the Cuban people. What other country has such a history of selfless behavior as Cuba has shown for the people of Africa? How many countries benefit from Cuban health care professionals and educators? How many of these volunteers are now in Africa? What country has ever needed help from Cuba and has not received it? How many countries threatened by imperialism or fighting for their freedom have been able to count on the support of Cuba? I was still in prison when I first heard of the massive help which the Cuban international forces were giving to the people of Angola. The help was of such a scale that it was difficult for us to believe it, when the Angolans were under attack by the combined forces of South Africa, the FALA [Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola] who were financed by the CIA, mercenaries, UNITA [National Union for the Total Independence of Angola], and Zaire in 1975. In Africa we are used to being victims of countries that want to take from us our territory or overthrow our sovereignty. In African history there is not another instance where another people has stood up for one of ours. We also acknowledge that the action was carried out by the masses in Cuba and that those who fought and died in Angola are only a small portion of those who volunteered to go. To the Cuban people internationalism is not only a word but something which they have put into practice for the benefit of large sectors of mankind. We know that the Cuban forces were ready to retreat after driving back the invasion in 1975 but the continued aggressions of Pretoria did not allow them to do so. Your presence there and the reinforcements sent for the battle of Cuito Cuanavale has a historical meaning. The decisive defeat of the racist army in Cuito Cuanavale was a victory for all Africa. This victory in Cuito Cuanavale is what made it possible for Angola to enjoy peace and establish its own sovereignty. The defeat of the racist army made it possible for the people of Namibia to achieve their independence.”

While Obama’s less extreme approach to Cuba is a welcome departure from decades of US terrorism and demonisation of Cuba, it still falls far beneath the standards expected of anyone who claims to be an upholder of human rights. No admission of wrongdoing on the US’ part nor does Obama acknowledge that the immoral and illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay which serves as a naval base for the US should end. This is what Obama’s Press Secretary Josh Earnest said regarding returning Guantanamo Bay to Cuba:”The naval base is not something that we believe should be closed” Some will describe Obama’s willingness to engage with Cuba as a noble act, and again when compared with the major extremists in the Republican party that doesn’t appear unreasonable, but Obama’s Cuba policy isn’t motivated by benevolence but by political necessity; if the US continued down the path of embargo their isolation in Latin America would have only increased. In 2012 several Latin American countries threatened to boycott future Americas Summits if Cuba’s ostracism didn’t end. Obama like anyone living in the real world understands perfectly well that the US’ policy towards Cuba in the last 60 years has been counterproductive in achieving what it was designed to do: Weaken the Cuban government, and see a transition to a Pro-US government which is amenable to the interests of US corporations. Obama claims the US no longer wishes to oust the Castro government, and perhaps it’s true for some US politicians, but US Congress is controlled by extremists from the Republican party who still want regime change in Cuba, and have been vehemently critical of Obama’s steps at normalising relations with Cuba. Bearing that in mind, Cuba should remain very wary of the US government, and skeptical of accepting Obama’s rhetoric of changing course.

Maria de los Angeles Flores, A resident from Havana on Obama’s historic visit:

“The most important thing in the world after 90 years is for a black president come here to Cuba to unite the relationship and end all the wickedness that existed, for the economic blockade to end, for the humiliation over the Guantanamo Naval Base to end. The world needs peace,”

Since 1959 the Cuban people have demonstrated that they will not be manipulated by the US government, and that they will stand firm in their resistance to US imperialism. They’ve won the support of legions of people in Latin America, including thousands across the globe who have also been impacted by US aggression.
The US’ desire to normalise relations is a tacit acknowledgment of the failure of their policies towards Cuba since the revolution and a testament to the achievements of the Cuban people. They have succeeded in resisting US imperialism which is no small feat.

Saudi Starts 2016 With Beheadings

After Saudi Arabia beheaded 43 people, you would have thought it was the perfect opportunity for US Republicans to identify the Saudi government as one of the main exponents of a toxic, fundamentalist form of Islam. After all one of the main features of the presidential campaign has been particularly inflammatory rhetoric from the Republican candidates, most notably Donald Trump regarding Muslims and Islam. But following the beheadings – a method of execution most associated with ISIS – it was Republicans who offered the most vehement defence of Saudi Arabia.

The beheadings come at a particularly volatile time in the Iran-Saudi strife, Syria is still embroiled in a calamitous civil war which has killed over 250,000 people and led to the displacement of millions since fighting began in 2011, Iran has backed its only consistent ally since 1979, Assad’s government which it sees as key to its regional interests, meanwhile Saudi Arabia desperate to counter Iran’s growing influence within the region has supplied extremists including Jihadists with weapons and training. In Yemen, Saudi perceives the rise of the Houthis as directly attributable to Iran, and has tried to justify their murderous intervention by exaggerating Iranian involvement. The war in Yemen, which began in March after a Saudi-led coalition supported by the United States and Britain has wreaked much havoc on Yemen, including the killing of an alarming number of civilians due to indiscriminate coalition bombing; the destruction shows little signs of waning, as a Doctors Without Borders hospital was bombed on January 10th.
Executing 47 people on a solitary day is inhumane regardless of the crimes of those killed, but what aroused such outrage was the fact Saudi executed a Shi’ite cleric, Sheikh Al-Nimr who was charged for participating in protests against the regime. Al-Nimr who protested against the Saudi regime in 2011/2012 protests advocated a non-violent approach in resisting Saudi oppression. In 2012 Saudi police shot him in the leg and indiscriminately shot at those who staged a demonstration voicing their disdain for the arrest, two people were killed; he was allegedly tortured while incarcerated. The Saudis have tried to rationalise the killing by portraying him as a sectarian violent man who had ties with the Iranian government. This though is propaganda of the most sinister kind, far from being a pawn of the Iranian government, Al-Nimr was critical by asserting that they act out of self-interest, and that Saudi Shi’ites shouldn’t simply support them on the basis that they’re Shia; he also criticised the Syrian government and Assad and characterised him as an oppressor. A belligerent reaction from Iran was inevitable considering the bulk of its population belongs to the Shia branch of Islam but dismay at the execution was on display throughout the whole region including in Saudi and Bahrain. The forces in each country have a long history of responding to protest by deploying squads of armed police designed to both quell and deter dissent, any reluctance to succumb to their pressure will met with violence, which in some cases is fatal.
This case was no exception. In Manama, a village in Bahrain authorities used water cannons and fired birdshot pellets at people indignant at the executions. In Saudi, police killed a Shia resident from Awamiya and wounded an 8 year old child. Shi’ites in Saudi are in a very perilous position, in addition to the oppression from the Saudi regime, ISIS have also inflicted severe misery on their communities by targeting their mosques. The response in Tehran to the execution was also quite hostile, the Iranian government of course are hardly in a position to condemn the executions, they’re second only behind China in the number of executions a year, most who are executed are non-violent drug offenders, many Iranians though were incandescent with anger at the execution of someone they revered. While understandable there could be no justification for the ravaging of the Saudi embassy where protestors resorted to throwing molotov cocktails and destroying furniture and documents. While the response from the Iranian police was swift and they identified and detained those who entered the embassy, the damage was already done. Saudi then announced it was severing all diplomatic ties with Iran, along with a number of other countries. Needless to say that this is a very troubling development and will likely only fuel more conflict in the region. Saudi too are suffering from a precipitous fall in the price of oil, which has seen them incur a major budget deficit. To counter this they’ve employed austerity measures, but an integral part of the Kindgom’s maintenance of control of its population was the supply of money to certain parts of the population to prevent social unrest, without this vital tactic its hold on power becomes more fragile. This is why it makes sense for the Saudi government to generate more sectarianism, it diverts attention away from its own failings. But it’s a strategy that is fraught with danger.

Following the executions the condemnation from Saudi’s Western allies was tepid. This was to be expected of course, there’s too much money at stake to risk alienating Saudi, which scathing condemnations may have done. In October Jon Snow confronted David Cameron on Saudi’s abysmal human rights record, and why the UK conducted secret vote-trading deals with Saudi to ensure both states got elected to the UN human rights council. Cameron really struggled to offer a rationalisation, but not surpringly when backed into a corner he appealed to the security of the country and claimed the relationship with Saudi was integral to the security of Britain. The dogs on the street know why the UK is in bed with the Saudis and it’s got nothing to do with preventing terrorism, it’s to do with money. Since David Cameron was elected in 2010 the UK have sold 5.6 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. Many of these arms have been used by the Saudis in their horrific war against the Yemeni people. In December Amnesty said that according to the legal opinion of several professors that the UK’s military contracts breach both domestic and international law because of the government’s full awareness of the atrocities the arms that they’re selling are causing. In the United States, several Republicans defended Saudi Arabia and stated that they should have the full support of the United States. “Frankly, the Saudis don’t survive without us. Well, I would want to help Saudi Arabia, I would want to protect Saudi Arabia” Donald Trump said following the executions. “Saudi Arabia is one of America’s closest and oldest partners and deserves our continued support” asserted John McCain. “The Saudis have been one of our strongest allies in the Middle East” said Ben Carson in response to the executions, he also implied America were in someway responsible for inciting Saudi to execute the Sheikh because of the Iranian nuclear deal. These statements are in contrast with what they’ve stated regarding Jihadist terrorism. “I think people want the truth. I think they’re tired of politicians. They’re tired of politically correct stuff. Until President Obama uses the words radical Islamic terrorism then the problem will not be solved!” Donald Trump “Look at the world in 2009, and look at the world today. It is dramatically shifted in favour of the forces of radical Islam, forces of terror, and they are now direct threats to the United States of America.” John McCain “U.S. leaders must acknowledge the existential threat ISIS and radical Islamic terror pose to the nation.” Ben Carson. It’s clear that these two sets of statements are irreconcilable, but it’s not difficult to see why Republicans are comfortable expressing contradictory positions. The first set are in service of the defence industry who depend on the Saudis for billions worth of sales each year, whether the Saudi government are a hideous regime has little relevance, they’re a loyal customer and there’s too much money at stake to risk destabilising the relationship. The second set of statements are designed to convince Republican voters that unlike President Obama they’re willing to be strong in tackling radical Islam, this usually involves advocating for merciless bombing of Muslim-majority countries, and or other policies that will cause more suffering to Muslim people. Evidence and reason are enemies to the Republican party, what’s important is appealing to the prejudices of their potential voters to secure power. The Democratic party do this to a degree too of course, but they’re very careful to avoid alienating independent voters, Trump’s strategy has been successful in gaining the support of Republicans and has given him a great chance of winning the Republican nomination, his supporters are loyal and fully committed to him, but he will struggle to gain the support of independents because of his divineness which makes a Clinton presidency an almost certainty, barring some significant scandal or major terror attack.

The completion of the Iran nuclear deal is indeed some positive news amid the war and conflict in the region – A demonstration that diplomacy can indeed be successful – Those desperate for war opposed the deal including the Israeli government who are led by a vicious war criminal, and hardliners from both the Iranian and US government found themselves in agreement that it’s not in their interests to engage with the enemy. Without Hassan Rouhani, Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and John Kerry the prospect of such a deal would have been remote. Rouhani was elected as the Iranian president in 2013 and has been described as a pragmatist and advocated engagement with the West. Iran have made significant concessions with regard to their nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions which have been in place for more than 30 years. Despite the sanctions Iran has made huge advances in science, and its scientific progress is reported to be the fastest in the world, and 70% of Iran’s science and engineering students are women. Iran will now gain access the billions of dollars in assets that were frozen overseas. Comically, the US also paid them back the money they owed them for an arms deal made more than 30 years ago when the Shah was in power. Iran paid the US government millions, but because the Shah was overthrown they never received the supply of weaponry. The exchange of prisoners was also a step in the right direction: Americans who were detained unlawfully were allowed to travel home in exchange for the release of Iranians who violated sanctions. Whether this signals an increased chance of rapprochement between the two countries is too early to ascertain. The Obama administration is now in its final year of office, and there’s no guarantee the following administration will be as willing to engage with the Iranians. The fact the Iranian government is still an enemy of America’s two strongest allies in the region Saudi and Israel will also act as a hindrance to possible rapprochement. It’s also worth bearing in mind that two of America’s allies in the region Israel and Pakistan do have possession of nuclear weapons, and aren’t signatories to the non-proliferation treaty. If the US are seriously interested in stability and peace in the region they should exert pressure on each government to join the treaty, and begin the process of nuclear disarmament.

In Western media, Iran are often depicted as an aggressor, a nation which not only poses threat to its neighbouring countries, but who constitutes a threat to world peace. The animosity some Iranians harbour for Western governments is said to be a product of the propaganda that emanates from Iranian media. This view is decidedly repugnant to reality that it raises questions about the state of Western media and to what extent it’s marred by ideological bias. Far from being a perpetual conflict that can be attributed to theological differences, Iran and the United States once had mutual respect for each other, so much so that president Truman who was president from 1949 to 1953 sympathised with the plight of the Iranians and felt revulsion at the racist, colonial attitude Great Britain had towards Iran. Iran admired the US for standing up for them after the 1st World War, and appreciated their political system. At this time the US government had very little involvement in the affairs of countries in the Middle-East, and it was primarily the actions of colonial Britain that aroused much of the hostility in the region. Britain was the leading empire in the world and felt that owning profitable resources like oil reserves from faraway countries was their God-given right. The company that caused all the controversy was the Anglo Iranian Oil Company which extracted petroleum from Iran, it built a refinery in Abadan and the bulk of the profits went to the British. Iranian workers were also exploited and treated like objects. For many years there was little resistance to this project, because the British had the support of tyrannical Iranian dictators who maintained order and control; there were some attempts to gain some compromises from the British but these were unsuccessful. This would all change after 1941 when the Soviets and British invaded and occupied Iran forcing the Shah to step down in favour of his son. Iranian nationalism was on the rise and a figure who would forever change Iran’s history emerged: Mohammad Mosaddegh. He abhorred British imperialism, and was a proponent of nationalising AIOC, in addition he espoused secular values, and wanted greater freedom for the Iranian people. In 1951 he was democratically elected as prime-minister of Iran, he introduced social reforms which were greatly beneficial to the average Iranian. At this point the British were eager to stage a coup but President Truman couldn’t muster the enthusiasm to overthrow Mosaddegh who he had a lot of sympathy for. When President Eisenhower was elected in 1952 this would all change; suddenly the British led by Churchill had an administration who was receptive to the idea of deposing Mohammad partly because of the fear of communism and partly because of the benefits they would later receive and with the assistance of the CIA the plot to overthrow Mosaddegh dubbed Operation Ajax began. The CIA bribed thugs, clergy and politicians to participate in a propaganda campaign against Mosaddegh, a pro-Shah mob was paid to riot in August, and between 300 and 800 people were killed. Mosaddegh who was vehemently opposed to violence was ill-equipped to resist this. The mob marched at his residence and he was forced to disappear, eventually he surrendered and was convicted of treason, and placed under house arrest, many of his supporters were executed. Kermit Roosevelt who ran the operation was triumphant and he celebrated with the Shah. US companies benefited financially from the coup, much of the oil concessions were given to them by the Shah. Iran’s brief period of democracy and independence was over, for the next 20 years the Shah would operate with an iron fist, dissent wouldn’t be tolerated and his secret police force SAVAK was setup with the assistance of the CIA, they would torture and persecute any opposition to the Shah. In addition the US sold billions worth of weaponry to the Shah, which helped him tighten his grip on power. The love Iranians had for Mosaddegh didn’t wane, and the Shah was acutely aware of this so much so that he forbade any mention of portraying him in a good light, even when Mosaddegh died Iranians weren’t permitted to mourn him. When the Shah fell Iranians eventually got their chance to pay homage to Mosaddegh, on the 12th anniversary of his death thousands payed their respect to Mohammad; he finally got the send-off he much deserved. Without a doubt he was one of the most towering figures in Iranian history, a man of boundless integrity who left an indelible impression on anyone who knew of him. For many Americans they were completely oblivious to what their government was doing, in fact the US government succeeded in covering up the coup for several decades. On the 60th anniversary of the coup, the CIA finally admitted it was fully involved in planning and execution of the coup. It acknowledged that: “The coup was carried out “under CIA direction” and “as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.” From any impartial observation of history, the view that Iran instigated the conflict is deeply untenable to the extent it requires proponents of that view to either disguise Western crimes in Iran, or to exaggerate and lie about the actions of the Iranian government: It started with the exploitation and theft of Iranian resources by the British, the overthrow of Iran’s democratic president which was orchestrated by the CIA and MI6, the support and supply of billions in weaponry to the Shah, who was a murderous tyrant, and the assistance to his secret police force SAVAK which tortured and killed dissidents. And then following the Islamic revolution the support and supply of weaponry to Saddam Hussein who launched an attack on Iran which resulted in one of the worst wars of the century, in addition the US assisted Saddam while he gassed Iranians, and when he committed a ghastly chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja, the US lied and accused Iran of being behind the attack despite knowing full well it was their ally. The US also downed an Iranian passenger jet, killing 290 people, mostly Iranians. They were later forced to pay compensation but never fully apologised or admitted to any wrongdoing and awarded the admiral responsible for the atrocity; what message does that send to the rest of the world? The sanctions imposed on Iran have also had devastating effects on the civilian population. How could someone have awareness of these facts and still maintain that Iran is the aggressor? Perhaps, irrational, tribalistic patriotism? Or racism against Iranians that view them as uneducated, backward people? Or simply dishonesty by someone who understands the facts but chooses to ignore them? None of this negates the fact that the Iranian government has committed some grotesque crimes and its form of theocracy restricts the freedom of its people. It’s entirely incompatible with Mohammad’s vision for the country which was for it to be secular, democratic and free. But the precedent set in 1953 sent the message that if you weren’t willing to be strict and authoritarian your fate would be the same of Mosaddegh’s. Any discussion about the current authoritarian government in Iran which disregards the role the United States and Britain played in creating the conditions that led to its power is one devoid of any semblance of reason. The notion that Iranian aversion to the US government is unreasonable is all the more remarkable when you consider the blatant overreaction to the incident involving the American soldiers who entered Iranian waters last week. Despite the fact it was error on the part of the US soldiers, Republicans and several in the US media depicted it as an aggressive act by Iran. This underscores the lengths Republicans and hawks in the media are willing to go to provide some justification for their desire to see an aggressive act undertaken by the US military against Iran.

If The United States does not make fundamental shifts to its foreign policy, violence and war will continue unabated for decades to come. Its unwillingness to confront Saudi Arabia and Israel’s destabilising role along with its catastrophic wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has done untold damage to the region. If it continues down this dangerous path of pursuing regime change, and failing to address its own flaws along with those of its allies the risk of nuclear war is great. We now know how close the world to came to nuclear disaster during the Cold War, saved only due to the actions of a few individuals. There’s no guarantee that next time such a crisis emerges, that we’ll be so lucky.

A Month Of Terror

In the last month the world has been beset by a series of attacks by ISIS. The worst attack was on October 31st when a Russian passenger jet was downed by a bomb over Sinai, in Egypt, 224 people lost their lives including 214 Russian people. This was followed by a suicide attack near Beirut, Lebanon where 43 people died, then France suffered its second worst case of mass murder on its soil this year when a group of Jihadists staged coordinated attacks in areas throughout the city, hundreds were injured and 130 people were killed.

ISIS’ recent attacks mark a shift in strategy in how the group operates. Up until recently Western intelligence agencies have viewed Al-Qaeda as the primary Jihadist threat to their own territory, regarding ISIS as an issue mostly confined to Syria, Iraq and Libya. One of the distinctions that was often drawn between ISIS and Al-Qaeda was that ISIS unlike its Jihadi counterpart prioritised accumulating territory in Western Iraq and Eastern Syria with the aim of establishing a functional state, whereas Al-Qaeda were far more interested in launching large scale attacks against Western cities. With these latest attacks ISIS appears to have superseded Al-Qaeda in its capacity to strike at foreign targets.
Following the horrific succession of attacks, there’s been much discussion regarding possible solutions to ISIS’ terror. All indications are that neither the French, US or British government have any interest in pursuing long term strategies that are conducive to significantly reducing the Jihadist threat. Neocons in Washington still advocate the sledgehammer approach, despite the obvious perils to such a plan and the fact that it’s been a large contributor to ISIS’ ascension. ISIS are an outgrowth of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the war in Iraq had the effect of uniting the Jihadist movement and making it infinitely more powerful than it was prior to the illegal invasion. During the invasion and in subsequent years Iraq was replete with the kind of conditions that Al-Qaeda could capitalise on. The most salient one of course was the occupation and the war crimes which ensued. Al-Qaeda knew recruitment would soar with the presence of US troops in Iraq, but the way in which it benefited Bin Laden’s organisation probably exceeded all expectations. One study from 2007 concludes that since the invasion of Iraq, terrorism increased by a factor of seven, and also observed that public support for the United States plummeted in Muslim majority countries courtesy of the murderous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, an internal report from US intelligence agencies concluded that the occupation of Iraq greatly compounded terrorism and in 2010 the former head of MI5 stated that the Iraq war substantially exacerbated international terrorism. So without a doubt the US invasion of Iraq did not curtail the threat of terrorism, and with a high degree of probability directly increased it. The de-Ba’athification of the Iraqi government also had major ramifications. The policy led to thousands of Iraqi men, who were armed and militarily competent being completely humiliated and unable to provide for their families, inevitably this led to many of them participating in the insurgency. This destructive policy perplexed several officials in the US military: ” One of the most senior military officials in the United States, Admiral Mike Mullen states that the de-Ba’athification policy coupled with the disbanding of the Iraqi military created security problems, and unnecessary sectarian tension. The Admiral stated that that Iraqi military could have been used to help secure the country more quickly, but instead its disbandment contributed to the overall decay in security.”
Another factor is the installation of a highly sectarian, anti-Sunni prime-minister, Nouri Al-Maliki. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Sunni and Shi’ite muslims lived without any serious conflict, so much so that intermarriage between them was relatively common, of course no one is blaming the US entirely for the Sunni-Shia schism which goes back centuries but they certainly did revive it with their policies in Iraq. Al-Maliki’s government has played huge role in inadvertently empowering ISIS, during his tenure he reneged on many of his promises which included building an inclusive government, his government has also indiscriminately fired on protestors killing many civilians, and they deprived Sunni Arab cities from vital services, including electricity, he’s also showed reluctance to tackle the issue of Shi’ite militias which committed atrocities against Sunnis. Taking these factors into account it’s easy to see why Tony Blair and Barack Obama both acknowledge the war in Iraq was instrumental in ISIS gaining its power.
But Iraq isn’t the only country ISIS and Jihadists have exploited political strife for their own nefarious gain. Syria too presented many of the of the same conditions found in Iraq. A decidedly oppressive leader, Bashar Al-Assad who killed thousands of innocent civilians with indiscriminate bombing, a military which was ill-equipped to deal with the competence of Jihadist fighters, and recent foreign involvement from Iran, Russia, The US and France. Groups like ISIS seek out political instability like a moth to a flame. So therefore to deal with ISIS you have to combat the conditions that are advantageous to them. A diplomatic solution is urgently needed, but the prospect of that happening anytime soon seems remote considering the conflicting agendas of the states and groups involved in Syria. The US’ strategy in Syria has been motivated primarily by their two most loyal allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia whose interests align with regard to Syria. Both are insistent that Assad must go, and are determined to weaken their common enemy, Iran. The US knows that pursuing a diplomatic solution in Syria which would involve the Syrian government would likely exasperate both countries, especially only a few months after the Iranian nuclear deal. Ideally, the major players, the Syrian government, along with Iran and Russia would meet at the negotiating table with the US, France and Saudi Arabia and come to some sort of compromise which would result in the situation improving for the Syrian people. If eventually, there was an agreement that Assad will leave, it is imperative the Syrian government is not dismantled and that money is invested into rebuilding critical infrastructure. Self-evidently, ISIS are not in the business of negotiating, so it is abundantly clear that the territory ISIS has stolen must be reclaimed through force. The US and Russia appear reluctant to send in a large array of ground troops which is understandable considering what happened in Afghanistan after 1979 and Iraq in 2003. Bear in mind that neither case yielded a humanitarian outcome despite being framed as a battle against terrorists. The most effective way to weaken ISIS is to support the local ground forces who are already securing victories against ISIS. The Kurdish militants have proven to be one of the most effective ground fighters against ISIS, liberating Kobane and Tel Abyad; no doubt that ISIS would be infinitely more powerful if it weren’t for the Muslim fighters putting their life on the line to defeat the Jihadists.

ISIS are not a reaction to US & British imperialism or oppressive dictatorships in the Middle-East, they’re an exploiter of it. By and large it’s predominately Muslims who are their victims, not Westerners or Christians. But many of the powerful commanders of ISIS are shrewd strategists. They’re aware that one of the major grievances people in the Arab world have is the amount of suffering Western powers have caused since the collapse of the Ottoman empire. One of the ways ISIS try to appeal to people is to portray themselves as liberators from Western imperialism and the complicit Arab dictatorships. The bulk of people in the Arab world however have vehemently rejected ISIS, and while they may see Western involvement in the region as an impediment to peace, they certainly do not view ISIS as a solution. One of the arguments used in an attempt to refute the claim that US or British foreign policy contributes to the rise in extremism is that 9-11 predated the Iraq war, the inhumane detention camp in Guantanamo and the use of UAVs. Such arguments display a remarkable ignorance of history. US meddling in the Middle-East far predates 9-11, their support of countless dictatorships to secure the resources of the region for their gain, their support of the Zionistic regime which kills Palestinians with impunity, the shooting down of a civilian passenger jet while supporting and assisting Saddam while his regime was gassing Iranians, or the bombing of a pharmaceutical facility in Sudan which is estimated to have killed a lot of people. Furthermore, contrary to popular belief the war against the Iraqi people started years before the 9-11 attacks with the sanctions imposed on Iraqi people which were permitted by the UN security council. The sanctions had a devastating impact on the civilian population killing thousands of people, and led to two UN officials resigning because of their disgust at the effects they were having on the Iraqi people. There’s a reason people are so eager to believe the fundamentalists when they cite religion as a motivation but so resistant to listen when they claim they’re inspired by the countless atrocities committed by the US and Britain as they have done on numerous occasions. The former involves no introspection of any kind, and feeds the racist clash of civilisations narrative which gained popularity after 9-11, by blaming it solely on religion we can wash our hands of the possible role our governments have played in creating the extremism. The latter would involve a realisation that our own governments have been committing acts of terror for decades and we have a moral responsibility to implore them to stop.

It would be remiss to examine ISIS without a focus on the ideology which inspires its most fervent commanders. The type of Salafi doctrine espoused by ISIS is rejected by most of the Muslim world, and the reason it’s gained such prominence is not despite popular misconception because the Muslim world gives it some sort of legitimacy but rather because there’s a lot of money invested in it to ensure it spreads around the world. While there’s no direct evidence the Saudi Arabian government has funded ISIS, it’s nevertheless true its ideology bears a lot of resemblance to that of Jihadist groups.
The Wahhabi ideology it subscribes to isn’t just purveyed domestically, but billions have been spent to generalise it around the world. Wahhabism is an ultra-conservative, strict, sectarian ideology that is named after Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who formed a dynastic alliance with the house of Saud in the 18th century. Al-Wahhab considered himself a purist and wanted to return Muslims to what he considered the original principles of Islam. Initially, Wahhabism’s influence was restricted to parts of Saudi Arabia, but with the collapse of the Ottoman empire it spread to the holy cities of Medina and Mecca. The discovery of petroleum near the gulf in 1939 acted as a catalyst for the global spread of the ideology, and the with the 1973 oil crisis and burgeoning oil prices, Saudi accumulated astronomical profits which were then allocated to the expansion of Wahhabi ideology, billions spent on media, schools, the building of hundreds of universities and mosques and the expansion of the ideology. Saudi Arabia supported the Jihadists during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, supplying them with considerable financial support. The movement would however split in 1990 when the Saudis allowed US troops to be stationed on their territory to fight Iraq. This disillusioned many of Salafists who then supported the overthrow of the Saudi monarch.
ISIS and Saudi Arabia may not be indistinguishable but their similarities are too hard to overlook. Only days after the horrific attacks Saudi announced the sentencing to death of Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh who is alleged to have committed blasphemy. The kingdom is notorious for its high rate of beheadings, and in the last year it’s executed at least 175 people. To make matters worse it’s also terrorising the poorest country in the region, Yemen and has created a humanitarian catastrophe with their indiscriminate bombing and blockade of ports. This murderous war is being supported by France, the United States and Britain. In fact, France and Saudi agreed a contract worth billions in October, and days following the attacks the US state department approved a deal worth 1.29 billion with the aim of replenishing Saudi’s weapon supplies. The leading Western powers can not reconcile their rhetoric of despising Jihadist terrorism with supporting Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states whose ideology resembles that of Jihadist groups.

Inevitably, as is the case after most terrorist attacks political opportunists are keen to exploit the emotional reaction of the public. Edward Snowden caused a considerable amount of embarrassment to the NSA, and the political elite of Washington when he supplied journalists with classified material which would later reveal to the world the extent of US and British surveillance. This attack presented them with the opportunity to vilify Snowden and propagandise to the public about the necessity of mass surveillance. CNN, a propaganda outlet invited ex CIA director on to express his desire to see Snowden “hung by the neck, until he’s dead”. John Brennan, the current CIA director, who is a pathological liar also implied Snowden bore some responsibility for making the job of intelligence agencies more challenging in thwarting attacks. A fantastic editorial from the NYTimes completely falsified their claims, but the purpose of the lies are to stoke fear to increase public support for the NSA’s policies, despite the rebuttal from the Times it’s very likely to have succeeded considering the submissive role most of the media play when it comes to the words of government officials.
Refugees have also been thrown under the bus since the attacks, especially in the US where presidential candidates Donald Trump and Jeb Bush have expressed utterly prejudiced remarks about them and the house passed a bill to suspend Obama’s program to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. Their views are sadly in line with many American people. The US is a country that has a long history of racism. Bear in mind, that the vast majority of Americans supported the racist and criminal war against Iraq which killed hundreds of thousands of people. There is a also a majority of support when it comes to the use of UAVs, despite the fact it’s killed thousands of civilians and exacerbates terrorism. In someways you can attribute the prevalence of these appalling views to the most powerful propaganda system in the world, but it’s still no excuse. Attacks against Muslims have also increased since the Paris attacks, which is precisely what Jihadists want as they’ve explicitly said. The strategy of terror attacks is to engender a backlash against the minority Muslim populations in Europe and the US with the hope of polarising society. Murtaza Hussain of the Intercept: “In a statement published in its online magazine, Dabiq, this February, the militant group the Islamic State warned that “Muslims in the West will soon find themselves between one of two choices.” Weeks earlier, a massacre had occurred at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The attack stunned French society, while bringing to the surface already latent tensions between French Muslims and their fellow citizens. While ISIS initially endorsed the killings on purely religious grounds, calling the murdered cartoonists blasphemers, in Dabiq the group offered another, more chilling rationale for its support. The attack had “further brought division to the world,” the group said, boasting that it had polarized society and “eliminated the grayzone,” representing coexistence between religious groups. As a result, it said, Muslims living in the West would soon no longer be welcome in their own societies. Treated with increasing suspicion, distrust and hostility by their fellow citizens as a result of the deadly shooting, Western Muslims would soon be forced to “either apostatize … or they [migrate] to the Islamic State, and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens,” the group stated, while threatening of more attacks to come.” Politicians are also using the attack to justify more intervention in Syria. Neocons like John Mccain want to intensify the US’ intervention by sending thousands of American ground troops into Syria, and in Britain the Tories are pushing for another vote on military escalation. It’s the least bit surprising then to see the stocks of defence contracters soaring following the attacks in Paris.

They were stark differences in how the attacks on Paris were reported on compared to the ones near Beirut and over Sinai. Following the attack in Sinai the sentiment arose from several people that while the loss of life was tragic the victims somehow made an idiotic decision to holiday in Egypt, a place which has suffered a lot of political violence lately. This despite the fact thousands of tourists travel to Egypt each year without being killed, and the bombing of a passenger jet is extremely rare. Now, extend the same logic to France which has recently suffered from Jihadist terror. If anyone even hinted at stupidity on the behalf of tourists in Paris they would be rightly castigated and considered extremely tactless for saying such a thing. But such words about the victims of the plane crash over Sinai were common on many websites reporting on the horrific attack. Tourism is an integral part of the Egyptian economy, and the solution is not scaring prospective tourists from visiting Egypt in the future, but ensuring the security threat is reduced. There was also the suggestion that the attack on the Russian passenger jet was a result of Russia’s entrance into the Syrian civil war ” On a BBC panel discussion the Telegraph’s Janet Daley referred to the crash as “a direct consequence of Russia’s involvement in Syria”, adding: “Putin has perhaps incited this terrorist incident on Russian civilians.” Ms Daley however did not apply the same reasoning when the innocent French people were murdered “If there is any need to argue about these matters, it should come at some other time,” she wrote, because “the French people did not deserve this”, and “it is wicked and irresponsible to suggest otherwise” this glaring hypocrisy pervades most of Western media; stating that Russian intervention may provoke a retaliation is seen as perfectly rational position, but stating that the French bombing of Syria may also provoke the same sort reaction in their country is perceived as rationalising or somehow excusing the violence. The victims of the bombing near Beirut were victim to dehumanisation from Western media. Several outlets described the attacks as one on a “Hezbollah stronghold”, implying it was militarily motivated when in fact it was an attack on civilians who were mostly Shia Muslims. Perhaps even more shocking was a Republican candidate running for senate saying “I support any attack made against Hezbollah or ISIS. That includes the attack launched today against Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

In Ireland the Paris attacks led to renewed discussion about what support we should lend to the militaries of Western states, and whether the use of Shannon makes our government complicit in some of the monstrous crimes the US government has committed. In the the days after the attack French president Francois Hollande invoked article 42.7 of the Lisbon treaty, which calls on EU member states to aid and assist France in whatever way they’re capable of. Irish defence minister, Simon Coveney and other Irish minister have insisted than any possible deployment of Irish troops will not compromise Ireland’s policy of militarily neutrality which is overwhelmingly supported by the Irish people. However, there are a number of issues with Coveney’s claim which are documented here by Ryan Mccarel. What’s also been raised is whether the use of Shannon airport by the US military increases the security threat to our country. It’s highly probable that it does, we know that many extremists harbour a lot of hostility for the US for their wars in the Middle-East, and would likely see our association with the US military as a form of complicity. Despite this, it’s very unlikely Ireland would be prioritised in an attack because our army are not involved in the wars in Syria or Iraq. France and Russia were both targeted because they’ve been intensifying their bombing of Syria in the last few months, while ISIS may detest all people who abhor their ideology, the fact remains that they have limited resources and they will likely prioritise attacking countries they’re at war with. But apart from the security rationale for preventing US military access to Shannon, there’s also a moral one too. The government has always maintained that the use of Shannon by the US military is done in accordance with our policy of neutrality but this is patently false. If any military avails of Shannon airport there are supposed to be restrictions which include being unarmed, no carrying of weapons, ammunition or explosives and that the planes are not part of a military operation or exercise. The US government offered assurances to the Irish government that it would comply with these restrictions before the Iraq war, but instead of taking these ‘assurances’ with a degree of suspicion, the Irish government turned a blind eye to what the planes were being used for. According to a former pilot of the US military who flew military personnel to Kabul in Afghanistan where the CIA would torture detainees, the planes were never inspected and on several occasions weapons were carried and stored in the plane’s luggage hold. In 2005 Amnesty international revealed that six planes used by the CIA for rendition flights had made 50 landings at Shannon airport, this was in response to Dermot Ahern’s ‘plea’ that if anyone had any evidence of the flights to provide it to him and he’d have it immediately investigated. Amnesty supplied the evidence yet no investigation ever came to fruition. This is what Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty Ireland said regarding the rendition flights: “It is undeniable that the Irish government knew rendition flights transited Ireland and that they knew this breached the legally binding international convention on torture. Yet they did nothing. Ireland was prepared to ignore our role in kidnap and torture for the sake of maintaining good relations with the United States government” All of this was also done without the permission of the Irish citizenry; a poll from 2007 showed that the vast majority of Irish people oppose the use of Shannon airport in the Iraq war. Earlier this year a TD used Dail privilege to state that US troops carry weapons on planes that travel through Shannon airport. He referenced a recording played by Dr Tom Cloonan which was made on US military plane in Shannon: “It advises US soldiers, and I quote: to leave their weapons on board” In 2014, 272 planes carrying weapons or explosives were given permission to fly through Shannon airport, the bulk of these being US military aircraft. Of the 606 requests to carry munitions through Irish airspace, 93% of them were from the US. We should refuse to allow the US military into Shannon not because some Jihadist may desire it, but because facilitating an imperialistic military which has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people undermines our moral standing in the world.

Despite so much suffering and violence on this planet, we can take solace in seeing how people around the world reacted to the events in Paris. The solidarity on display was something to behold and it just reinforces the point that even though the world is plagued by a lot of ills, there is so much potential to make it a more peaceful, and united world.

Obama’s Hypocrisy Reaches New Heights

On Monday, during a speech at the UN general assembly, US president Barack Obama castigated Iran and Russia for their support of Bashar Al-Assad’s government in Syria and for their complicity in the killing of children. The US government’s position on Syria is that Assad must go and there must be a transition to a more ‘inclusive government’ which is at odds with Russia and Iran who want to strengthen Assad’s government and ensure it isn’t ousted.

The conflict in Syria has become multifaceted and complex with multiple countries and groups involved who have different motivations. In 2011 during the Arab spring, Syria like other MENA nations experienced a popular uprising but unlike in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt the regime managed to withstand the resistance initially by responding malevolently to the protestors using force in an attempt to deter dissent. Assad’s security forces indiscriminately fired on many demonstrators and resorted to torturing detained protestors. This however only galvanised more Syrians to participate in protests and express their disdain for their government. Eventually it developed from protests into an armed rebellion with various groups taking up arms, most notably the Free Syrian Army, which was formed when various militias along with Syrian army defectors coalesced into one group. As the fighting continued more radical groups started to become involved like the Islamic Front who are supported by Saudi Arabia & Al-Nusra both who are Salafists and who want to establish an Islamic state in Syria, regardless of what the Syrian people may desire; both these groups have cooperated in pursuit of their goal of defeating Assad’s forces. The most notorious Jihadist group involved is the so-called Islamic State which separated from Al-Qaeda in 2014 and declared a caliphate. They have become infamous for their monstrous crimes and control large parts of Iraqi and Syrian territory due to the competence of their commanders. The reason many people attribute the ascension of ISIS to the United States is because of the destabilisation of Iraq, the installation of a sectarian anti-Sunni prime minister, Al-Malaki and lastly the aggrandisement of the largest missionary state in the region, Saudi Arabia which purveys a sectarian form of Islam, Wahhabism. Furthermore, recently a US intelligence report from 2012 was declassified which discusses the prospect of a Salafist principality in eastern Syria, and declares that the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria were Al-Qaeda and other Salafists, the Pentagon report also asserts that the supporting powers of the opposition desire this to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion. The group which has secured many victories against ISIL are the Kurdish militias but this has been undermined by Turkey, a NATO member and ally of the US government who views the PKK as a terrorist organisation and who vice-president Joe Biden claimed in 2014 poured money and weapons into anyone who would fight Assad including Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra, Biden was forced to apologise to prevent a diplomatic crisis but none of what he claimed is implausible. US intervention in Syria has not yielded a humanitarian outcome, but has only exacerbated the suffering of the Syrian people, with many of their weapons ending up in the hands of vicious extremists. Their bombing of ISIS has had very little effect, but has killed civilians and probably has assisted ISIS in recruitment of new members. From a humanitarian perspective, there’s no doubt the US strategy has failed, but in terms of reducing Assad’s power it’s surely succeeded up until now. His government only controls a small part of Syrian territory and state institutions have largely been destroyed. The geopolitical implications of the Syrian war are significant, and several analysts have described it as a proxy war. Iran, the major ally of the Syrian government wants to preserve the regime because of its regional interests, and Russia, contrary to what some claim are not prioritising the welfare of the Syrians, but their own national interests; their solitary military base outside the old Soviet zone resides in Tartus and they want to empower Assad’s government for geo-strategical reasons, both these nations also harbour fears of further Western intervention considering the disaster of intervention in other countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Take for instance Libya which was hailed as humanitarian mission to liberate the Libyan people from Colonel Gaddafi’s government, well NATO’s bombs did not bring peace and stability to Libya, they just exacerbated a deadly civil war. Britain spent considerably more on bombing Libya than helping to rebuild vital infrastructures which were destroyed. Prior to the intervention in 2011 Libya topped the human development index in Africa, and had the highest life expectancy in Africa. What reason does anyone have to believe NATO intervention would produce something better in Syria? Saudi Arabia who views Iran as its major enemy within the region is determined to weaken the Syrian government which by extension weakens Iran, the opportunists in Riyadh and Washington, contrary to what they say are not interested in human rights and the welfare of the Syrian people but increasing their hegemony within the region and this is why they have exploited the civil war. The latest intervention from the Russian government is unlikely to defuse the conflict and while it’s true some of their bombs have hit ISIS, their target includes anyone who is a threat to Assad’s power which includes groups who are not Jihadists and who are backed by the West. This is a recipe for even more disaster, two nuclear-armed states on opposing sides now directly involved in Syria, with diametrically-opposed interests. One thing the media often neglect to mention regarding Syria is the Golan Heights which is occupied by Israel, and who have built illegal settlements, this was condemned by the United Nations as violating international law, but Israel rejected this and its foreign minister said in 2010 Syria should abandon its hopes of ever recovering the territory.

Yemen, the poorest nation in the Middle-East has been under fierce attack for a number of years from the West, most recently the country has been beset by aerial bombing from the Saudi-led coalition which is militarily supported by the US; the Saudis are fighting the Houthis who overthrew the Saudi & Western backed government of Yemen in 2014, the state army didn’t attempt to thwart the coup because they declared their support for “the people’s revolution”. From Saudi’s perspective this is an attempt from Iran to extend their power and influence right to Saudi’s border but documents from Wikileaks and American officials have cast doubt on these claims, and have said privately Iranian involvement is exaggerated for political reasons, according to US officials Iran discouraged Houthi rebels from a takeover in 2014, a spokeswoman for US National Security council said: “Iran does not exert command and control over the Houthis in Yemen”. In one of the worst attacks since the war began 135 civilians were killed after an airstrike on a Yemeni wedding in late September, Saudi unsurprisingly denied responsibility, but considering they have air supremacy over the area that was bombed it is highly probable they committed the attack. The US and Britain have not only facilitated Saudi’s crimes by refuelling Saudi aircraft and providing intelligence, but also with their provision of weaponry to the Saudi regime over the course of the last few decades and throughout the war. Saudi Arabia is the largest importer of US arms globally, lucrative military contracts worth 90 billion have been agreed between Washington and Riyadh which results in Saudi Arabia acquiring fighter jets, attack helicopter, missiles and armoured vehicles.
Saudi Arabia has one of the most powerful militaries in the Middle-East courtesy of the West, one such weapon that was used was a cluster munition, supplied by the United States according to a human rights group, conspicuously absent from the signatories on the 2008 convention on cluster bombs which prohibits their use, was the United States and the other members of the Saudi-led coalition. In April a young Yemeni boy mistook the canister for a toy and it exploded wounding him, and several others. Since fighting started in March the conflict has descended into a humanitarian disaster. Over 2000 civilians have been killed including more than 500 children, with many more wounded and in desperate need of humanitarian assistance which is being deliberately impeded by the Saudi-led coalition; the naval blockade imposed on Yemen by Saudi which cuts them off from vital supplies in time of distress has been condemned by human rights organisations. According to aid agencies over 80% of Yemen’s population is in urgent need of food, water and medical supplies and this blockade has severely compounded the humanitarian crisis by depriving them of those necessities. The media coverage of this conflict has been alarmingly sparse with many in the West not aware of the extent of British and US complicity. Recently it’s been uncovered that Britain and Saudi were involved in a secret deal to ensure both states were elected to the UN human rights council, furthermore the United States has been accused of sabotaging a Dutch-led effort to create an independent human rights mission for Yemen, overtly the US claimed to support it, but according to Nicolas Agostini, a Geneva representative for the International Federation For Human Rights, America’s late public expression of support and the emphasis on the need to reach consensus meant they were essentially pushing for the alternative Saudi text which called only for the UN to assist a national inquiry in Yemen established by the exiled government. Saudi has also come under increased scrutiny for their domestic human rights violations, this year alone they beheaded more than 100 people, they’ve flogged and continue to terrorise blogger Raif Badawi for the innocuous sin of criticising senior religious figures and discussing the flaws of Salafism, and most recently the case of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, a teenager who has been sentenced to execution and crucifixion for challenging the Saudi monarchy. Neither the US or British government are going to exert any meaningful pressure on the KSA to tackle their human rights violations lest they destabilise the relationship they rely on for military contracts, and strategical purposes. The victims of Saudi’s tyranny and barbarism are not as important as money – that’s the message being sent from Western governments – loud and clear.

In 2014 and 2015 there was an exponential increase of refugees into Europe. Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are where a good percentage of the refugees are fleeing, all three have been adversely affected by Western intervention. Other countries include Nigeria which has been plagued by the radical Jihadist group Boko Haram and Eritrea whose government has one of the worst human rights record in the world. Sadly, myths about the refugees are prevalent, and there’s been deluge of irrational fearmongering. What’s often overlooked is how the EU cooperated with Colonel Gaddafi’s government, and financed their brutal treatment of migrants and refugees for years, the problem with this oppressive approach apart from being morally reprehensible is it doesn’t confront the problem and when Gaddafi’s regime was defeated it was inevitable there would be an increase in refugees travelling to Europe. In 2014 the UK said it would stop supporting search and rescue operations because according to their dubious logic it would prevent more people drowning at sea. They were warned that this strategy was not only callous but illogical but didn’t listen. The number attempting to make the dangerous journey only increased in 2015 with many dying. The EU has invested millions in defence, high tech security and border patrol, but not much in preparation for an increase in refugees so it was woefully unprepared for this crisis. According to EU law a refugee is required to stay in the state it arrives in, the problem with this policy is it puts enormous pressure on border states like Greece which has been crippled by austerity to deal with the problem and it doesn’t take into account the complicity of imperialistic states like Britain and the United States in contributing to the problem. Claims that the refugees will have major effects on European demographics along with containing prejudice are also patently false. Even if the EU were to take 4 million Syrian refugees and they solely consisted of Muslims the percentage of Muslims living in the EU would rise by 4% to 5%, hysteria about Muslim birth rates also aren’t grounded in reason, while birth rates in the Muslim population are higher they drop and adjust as the standard of living and quality of education rises, consistent with other groups of people. What’s also forgotten is the vast majority of Syrian refugees are in neighbouring countries like Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, together they’ve taken in more than 3 million refugees, despite being a relatively poor nation Jordan has taken in more Syrian refugees than all of Europe combined. The response from Israel and the wealthy Gulf states has been pitiful, both have framed this as security issue rather than a human rights one. Refugees will continue to suffer unless the world’s most powerful states come together to devise a workable and humane solution to the crisis. This should be a top priority.

War criminals like Barack Obama often lack self-awareness so none of his hypocritical rhetoric should surprise us, his moral posturing is no deviation from other US presidents, pursuing murderous policies while masquerading as someone who cares about peace and democracy is characteristic of a US president. Bashar Al-Assad too is a war criminal and the crimes he’s committed against his people should not be trivialised, but the US government has no right to dictate to a sovereign state considering its crimes far exceed the Syrian government over the course of the last century. Bombs are unlikely to bring an end to this conflict, and will only inflict more misery on the Syrian population. Anyone who claims there’s a simple solution to this conflict is being disingenuous, too many powerful states are involved and there’s no guarantee they’ll choose peace over war, but bombing has been tried for a number of years now and the situation has only deteriorated for the Syrian people. Trying the diplomatic route is not certain to work, but there should be at least an attempt from all countries involved to resolve this through peaceful means. While the war persists we should make every effort to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian and Yemeni people, this means governments, globally investing in more humanitarian aid, confronting the stigma and misconceptions regarding refugees, providing asylum for more refugees and donating to aid groups like Oxfam and Unicef.

Corbyn’s Victory

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On Saturday, avowed socialist and anti-imperialist Jeremy Corbyn won the election for the leadership of the British Labour party. Corbyn achieved an emphatic victory by securing 59.5% of votes beating other Labour candidates Andy Burnham (19%), Yvette Cooper (17%) and Liz Kendall (4.5%). This follows the defeat Labour incurred in the British general election a few months prior, with the Tories gaining a majority, Labour having their lowest seat tally since 1987 and Ed Miliband resigning shortly after.

After Ed Miliband resigned few could have imagined what would unfold in the coming months. Jeremy Corbyn was long regarded as a fringe member of the Labour Party and the prospect that he could lead was never taken seriously. It wasn’t until the very last minute he put his name forward for candidacy and received just enough signatures from MP’s to enter the race. Disillusionment of the Labour Party has grown in the last number of years. The murderous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan waged by Blair’s government, the continuation of neoliberal economics, a poisonous ideology and the failure to offer a viable alternative to the Tories’ callous economic policies have all contributed to that. Corbyn unlike the Parliamentary Labour Party has a very clear vision of what is conducive to a fair and equal society and his ideas have resonated with Labour voters. He’s renowned for his influential role in the Stop The War coalition, which vigorously protested against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; one of his first acts as leader of the Labour Party will be to apologise for Labour’s role in destroying a nation. His activism extends beyond that though, he was a vigorous protestor against apartheid in South Africa and was arrested in 1984 for protesting outside the South African house in London. In addition he campaigned for the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet who overthrew the democratically elected government in Chile and established a military junta, killing thousands in the process with the support and assistance of the CIA. Furthermore he’s been a vehement critic of the regime in Israel which continues to kill and oppress Palestinians, and British complicity in it. He’s also expressed ambitions to withdraw from the hideous military organisation NATO and has condemned its expansionism. His strong support can probably be attributed mostly to his economic policies though, which are firmly grounded in reason. Corbyn is acutely aware of the damage wreaked by neoliberal economics and the burgeoning income inequality in Western states. A lot of his proposals, like renationalising the railways and imposing a higher tax rate on the wealthy are supported strongly by the UK public. Most of the UK also support the imposition of rent control on landlords, and the bulk of the British public also agree with cutting tuition fees. Corbyn was also the only one of the four Labour leadership candidates to oppose the vicious welfare bill proposed by the Tories which will cut welfare spending by 12bn. He’s also won the backing of economists who have contradicted the media’s assertion that his economic policies are unreasonable.



The British media which is largely subservient to power mounted a concerted smear campaign and demonised Jeremy Corbyn in an attempt to suppress support of him. Evidently, this has backfired spectacularly but it will likely pale in comparison to what’s ahead. Jeremy Corbyn represents the largest threat to the British establishment in sometime and now that he’s actually won the election, the fearmongering is only going to intensify. Many have praised most of the Labour voters for being impervious to the latest propaganda emanating from the British media, but how the British public reacts to it remains to be seen. Following Corbyn’s victory, we’ve already seen British PM, David Cameron labelling Corbyn a threat to economic and national security, this from the man who has imposed vicious austerity and who brazenly welcomes a war criminal to Downing Street.



The special relationship between the United States and Britain is well documented, since the 2nd World War, Britain have essentially been a lackey to the US, they have collaborated with and facilitated the US’ imperialistic policies for many decades. Corbyn challenges this relationship and is vehemently critical of US hegemony in the world. There’s no doubt the powerful in Washington will be concerned about his victory, and if his support continues to increase it’s inevitable they’ll be trying strenuously to prevent him from becoming Prime-minister. The US media which is oligopolistic and where power is largely concentrated in a small selection of news providers are as committed as their British counterparts to ensuring someone with the views of Corbyn does not gain significant power.




What’s impressive about Jeremy Corbyn is the collectivist approach he espouses. He subscribes to genuine democracy where the public actually have leverage over the policies their government are implementing, and where they’re actively participating in politics and not merely viewing from the sidelines. He also understands there are no quick fixes, and that overcoming the extensive damage caused by previous governments and the incumbent one is a long process that requires patience and deep commitment. Ultimately it’s not Jeremy Corbyn who will determine whether there’s a resolution to the oppression by the British government, but the people themselves. Energising the British electorate and organising movements is essential in service of that goal.



Unlike the PLP whose politics were imperceptible from the party they sought to defeat, Corbyn is ideologically at variance with the Tories and offers a legitimate, humane and rational alternative to the scourge of neoliberal capitalism, militarism and jingoism.
It’s hard to overstate just how positive this development is: The largest opposition party in the UK is now led by a proper Socialist, and vociferous opponent of the UK’s imperialistic policies; this would have seemed unthinkable not long ago. For too long the left has been plagued by defeatism, harbouring the misguided belief that the oppressive systems of power are unassailable, Jeremy Corbyn exhibits a conviction that we can overcome the formidable forces we’re up against.


A Great Rivalry 

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GAA has always been a sport of great rivalry: Cork and Kerry, Kerry and Dublin, Galway and Mayo, Armagh and Tyrone and Dublin and Meath, but what’s undoubtedly become the most intense rivalry in recent years is Dublin and Mayo.

The modern rivalry started in 2006 with the All-Ireland senior semi-final, Dublin went into the match as heavy favourites and Mayo hadn’t beat them in the history of the championship. Before the match even started, the two teams became embroiled in a bitter confrontation. Mayo who were well aware Dublin traditionally practiced in front of the hill decided to aggravate the Dubs, by doing their preparations down that end of the pitch. Dublin responded by marching assertively towards the hill and their manager Paul Caffrey infamously shouldered Mayo selector John Morrison. What unfolded during the game would prove to be even more dramatic, however. By the 46th minute Dublin had established an impressive 7 point lead but they faltered and Mayo erased the 7 point deficit by the 54th minute and took the lead minutes later. Dublin exhibited some strength by levelling it late on and came agonisingly close to snatching it but Mark Vaughan’s effort rebounded off the post; to rub salt in their wounds Mayo immediately capitalised on their fortune by going up the other end and securing victory, by virtue of a superlative point from Ciaran McDonald. It would be six years before they would meet again, but Dublin were a much more formidable outfit by 2012. In 2011 they beat the almighty Kerry to clinch their first All-Ireland in 16 years. Mayo struggled for a number of years, but had a new batch of players with immense talent including Aidan O’Shea and Cillian O’Connor. Mayo dominated for much of the game and built what looked like an insurmountable lead of 10 points but Dublin mounted a comeback and cut the deficit to three before Bernard Brogan had a glorious goal chance thwarted by David Clarke with a brilliant save and Mayo held on. A year later Dublin had the perfect opportunity for revenge and they seised it by beating Mayo to win their 2nd All Ireland in 3 years. Mayo started brightly despite conceding a sloppy goal to Bernard Brogan early in the match and had a 1 point lead at half time. Dublin gained momentum in the second half with brilliant points from Paul Flynn and Bernard Brogan before Andy Moran scored a goal that looked like changing the complexion of the match. But Dublin’s reaction epitomised their superior mental strength and scored an excellent team goal which finished with Bernard Brogan fisting it into the net. Mayo frantically tried to get back into the match but Dublin’s defence held firm and Dublin were victorious.

Yesterday’s encounter while devoid of the open expansive football we saw in 2013 was tactically engrossing. Dublin’s porous defence in 2014 allowed Donegal to score three decisive goals and overturn a 5 point deficit to deny them a chance of competing in the final. Jim Gavin, a perceptive manager wasn’t going to let that happen again. The other big challenge for Dublin was neutralising the threat of Aidan O’Shea who has been brilliant throughout this years championship, while you can’t do anything about the aerial advantage he has you can reduce the supply of balls into him and Dublin executed that game-plan almost to perfection. Cian O’Sullivan was deployed to play just ahead of O’Shea and his marker and reduce the space where Mayo would possibly punt long balls in and when O’Shea did catch a long ball there were enough Dublin players to avert any danger. Dublin’s major defensive error yesterday was overzealous tackling, which allowed Mayo to stay in touching distance throughout the match; with someone as adept from placed kicks as Cillian O’Connor, you’re guaranteeing an almost certain point to Mayo, and O’Connor’s 1-9 tally all came from placed kicks; in the first half Mayo only scored one point from play. In the second half Dublin didn’t concede as many frees in easy scoring positions but Mayo were profligate in their shooting and kicked some very poor wides. When McMenamin scored the goal and Dublin increased their lead to a 7 point margin when 61 minutes had elapsed few could have imagined what the last 14 minutes would consist of. Dublin floundered and Mayo summoned the energy to mount an improbable comeback. Mayo pushed up and applied more pressure to Cluxton which led to the quality of his distribution deteriorating significantly. Cluxton made a major howler when his kick was blocked down by Andy Moran but his blushes were spared when John Small blocked Moran’s goal attempt on the line. Dublin made some impetuous decisions in the later stages of the game. They should have killed the game but they ceded possession on a few occasions in the final stages and Denis Bastick’s black card was a key moment, Paul Flynn instead of maintaining possession and waiting for an easy chance took on an audacious attempt for a point and missed. Just prior to the Mayo penalty Dublin had the ball but yielded possession once again. After O’Connor converted the penalty, Cluxton kicked an egregious kick out, and his defence had no time recover, Mayo levelled it and scored 1-4 in less than 10 minutes. To Dublin’s credit, they regained some composure and managed to prevent a humiliating defeat and the replay will take place on Saturday evening. Cluxton may have had a chance to win it, but with all the commotion that had just ensued and the fact he hasn’t been accustomed to kicking frees this year, he can be excused. But Dublin need to ensure they have a reliable kicker next week, Dean Rock who is a fine player has not yet become inured to the extreme pressure of kicking when the stakes are so high. Cluxton needs to devote some time to practicing his kicking during the week and return to free-taking duty next Saturday.

The other major talking point of the match was the cynicism of both teams. On a number of occasions both teams engaged in cynical fouling. Cian O’Sullivan could have been black carded as could Lee Keegan and Aidan O’Shea. The Black Card, which is designed as a deterrent to prevent players from deliberately dragging or tripping the opponent has proven controversial with some criticising its inconsistent application by referees. To be fair to yesterday’s referee Joe Mcqullian it was a very difficult match to officiate and the most important decision of the game he got correct, which was awarding Mayo a penalty.
Some have suggested a TMO to facilitate the referees decision making process and it would certainly be a welcome addition. The most contentious issue however was the dirty play by both teams. In the first half Cillian O’Connor, who has a history of violent misconduct struck Rory O’Carroll on the face which led to him being substituted and getting 10 stitches; some may suggest it was accidental but the force and height his arm struck at would indicate some malice. Johnny Cooper put his studs into a Mayo player and was fortunate to escape with a yellow card. In the second half Aidan O’Shea feigned being headbutted when video evidence actually proved he dragged Philly McMahon to make it appear like a headbutt. And then in the dying embers of the game, Lee Keegan eliminated one of Dublin’s most prolific scorers by pulling him to the ground, Connolly’s reaction was inexcusable and he was correctly sent-off but Cillian O’Connor had some insolence demanding a red card when he should have been sent off in the first half. All of that nonsense is a blight on the sport and hopefully on Saturday it’s a much cleaner game.

The match on Saturday will be fascinating. From a Dublin perspective they’ve got to employ a similar strategy as Sunday while improving their discipline, Mayo who are so eager to win that elusive All-Ireland will have to be more accurate with their kicking and prevent Dublin from scoring goals, they did limit Dublin to only 2 goal chances yesterday which were both converted, if they can prevent Dublin getting a goal Mayo will be confident they can win. If Dermot Connolly’s red card isn’t rescinded he will be a major loss to Dublin but Jim Gavin has built a team with a lot of depth so they should cope with that. Saturday will be another chapter in this intriguing and developing rivalry. But as a Dub, a 10 point victory would suit me just fine.