Murray, A Champion Not A Bottler

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Throughout his career Andy Murray has not only had to contend with the difficulties of competing with some of the all-time greats like Federer, Nadal and Djokovic but with the noxious idea that he’s a bottler, that mentally he’s simply not equipped to be a legend of the game. On the contrary, Murray’s 2nd victory at Wimbledon not only dispels the idea that he’s mentally weak but actually is a demonstration of his wonderful mental fortitude.

There is no denying that Andy Murray is an inferior player to the aforementioned greats, nor is there any shame in that. He exists in an era where tennis has been graced by three players with indescribable ability, who have broken innumerable records, amassed an abundance of major titles and contributed enormously to the game. Murray has also faced great heartbreak in the game losing several finals to both Djokovic and Federer which led to some doubting whether he had the qualities to win a Grand Slam. It would have been easy for Murray to yield to the forces he was up against, to indulge in self-pity at the misfortune of playing in the generation of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. But instead he rose to the challenge. The pivotal moment in Murray’s career came in 2012, when he had to endure arguably his most crushing defeat of his career to Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
It’s moments like those which reveal whether someone has the attributes to become a champion. Murray answered in the most resounding fashion possible. Only a month after the devastation suffered at the hands of Federer, Murray faced him again in the final of the Olympics at Wimbledon but this time he produced a masterclass defeating Federer in straight sets. The elusive slam finally came in September 2012 where he beat Novak Djokovic in the US Open and his greatest triumph came less than a year later where he beat Djokovic again to win the most coveted championship in the game. In the years since his consistency hasn’t wavered but he was unable to clinch a third slam until now.
A beaten finalist twice this year, Murray’s hard work was finally rewarded against Milo Raonic in the final. The road to glory was undeniably made easier by Djokovic’s early exit and the lack of fitness of both Nadal and Federer. But Murray delivered an exceptional performance in the final, not having his serve broken once and showcased arguably his greatest asset: his return of serve. The highlight of the match was Murray not just returning a serve of 147mph but winning the point. While Murray will bask in the glory of a second victory at Wimbledon he will now set his sights on Rio, New York and achieving the world number 1 ranking. While a lot will depend on how Djokovic performs in the upcoming months, Murray’s confidence is arguably at its highest. He has the potential to win a few more slams to add to his impressive collection.

Murray embodies the very best of what a champion is: He’s passionate, tenacious and dedicated to the game. For many years he had to endure the agony of losing several finals.
The adversity has made his success all the more gratifying. Even his most ardent critics must now concede he’s one of the greatest British sportspeople to have existed.
Now surely he will get the recognition he thoroughly deserves.

The Real Reason Behind The Plot To Oust Corbyn

Ever since it emerged that there’s a plot to oust Jeremy Corbyn – the leader of the British Labour Party – it’s been conspicuously obvious that the motivation behind it was nothing to do with the outcome of the EU referendum or concerns over Corbyn’s electability. The events of the last few days, in addition to solidifying that view have revealed that the people trying to orchestrate Corbyn’s downfall are motivated purely by self-interest and not by the interests of the Labour Party.

It’s important to bear in mind that Jeremy Corbyn inherited a party that was in crisis. The traditional Labour Party voters have felt alienated by a party that has abandoned them due to reckless wars, discredited economics and the failure to offer a coherent alternative to the inhumane policies of the Tories. Gordon Brown left power in 2010 and they had ample time to setup a political agenda that would take down the Tories. Not only did they fail, but they were responsible for Labour’s greatest election defeat in decades. When Miliband went, the Parliamentary Labour Party failed to have a political awakening leaving a vacuum for Corbyn to fill. Recall that Corbyn was not initially eager to contest the leadership election but was convinced to put his name forward for candidacy and received just enough votes from MPs to run. His reluctance quickly turned to enthusiasm when he realised just how many people were willing to support him. Some credit must go to Ed Miliband for democratising the Labour leadership contest changing it from a three-way electoral college to a one member, one vote system which made Corbyn’s ascension possible. Previously Trade Unions and MPs had considerably more leverage than average voters on who would win an election, Miliband changed the system so that the voice of the voters took precedence, which in effect means someone who signs up to Labour for 3 pound has as much power as someone like Tony Blair. Ironically it’s Miliband’s single greatest decision as leader that has plunged the party into its worst crisis in decades exposing the disdain many party elites harbour for the democratic will of Labour voters. In the past few days we’ve seen people claim that the only reason Corbyn won is because of ‘entryism’ and the hijacking of the party by leftist extremists. Of course anyone with any awareness of the facts knows that’s unmitigated bilge simply designed to remove the legitimacy of Corbyn’s democratic victory. While it’s undoubtedly true that the entrance of thousands of new and old Labour voters increased Corbyn’s margin of victory, he won the backing of full members and affiliate trade unions.

The plan to oust Corbyn was cynically planned months in advance, the result of the referendum was extraneous to the decision but the Brexit result provided them with the opportunity to make it appear like it was motivated by concern over Corbyn’s performance during the campaign. Angela Eagle one of the proponents of the coup and the woman that is supposedly going to run against Corbyn in a leadership contest actually praised Corbyn during the campaign for his arduous work on behalf of the remain camp, but was critical of the media for not covering it, she also retweeted a link from the news website The Canary which praised Corbyn for coming out fighting on side of Remain. In contrast, in her resignation letter she claimed that under his leadership the case to remain was made with half-hearted ambivalence. If the coup was genuinely about electability concerns there would have been a planned alternative ready in the scenario Corbyn resigned but all indications are there wasn’t. Hilary Benn was sacked on Saturday night, and the resignations began immediately after but it took until Wednesday evening for it to be revealed that Eagle was to challenge Corbyn announcing it on Thursday at 3PM which has now been delayed too, again demonstrating that the people trying to bring Corbyn down are totally devoid of any competence whatsoever. It’s not just the pathetic dithering over the selection of a candidate to challenge Corbyn, but the people they’re contemplating that reflects a serious lack of judgement. Both Tom Watson and Angela Eagle have horrific records as MPs, they both voted in favour of the Iraq War and against an enquiry into it. Eagle has also voted for increases in tuition fees, and abstained on the deplorable Tory welfare bill in July last year. Even her own local Labour party want Corbyn to remain and have setup up a petition pleading with Angela to resign. Eagle’s political values do not conform with Labour Party members, she is a quite dismal and unenthusiastic speaker and certainly would not ‘unify’ the Labour Party which just goes to show this whole manoeuvre to oust Corbyn has nothing to do with electability concerns and much more to do with their revulsion for his humane political values. The other likely motivation is the release of the Chilcot report which is due imminently, and according to a source of the Independent is set to be highly critical of Tony Blair and expected to damage the reputations of other officials who were involved. What lends credence to this possibility is People like Watson, Eagle and Benn who all voted for the war and against an enquiry do not want someone of Corbyn’s integrity leading the party when it’s released because it’s unlikely he will sanitise the findings. He’s said he’s prepared to call for an investigation into war crimes committed by the Blair government and has vowed to apologise on behalf of the Labour party for its role in the war. It is of course true that not all people who want Corbyn to go are Blairites or people involved in the hideous invasion of Iraq, some reasonable people like Ed Miliband have also expressed their desire to see him go, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the main architects of the coup are revolting people whose politics have no place in the Labour Party.

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It’s not only Labour MPs waging war on Corbyn, much of the media want him gone too and there have been more instances of blatant dishonesty on their part in the last few days. Yesterday it was reported that the renowned economist Thomas Piketty quit as his advisor because of his weak campaign during the EU referendum debate. This was factually wrong as Piketty himself confirmed and his friend and accomplished economist Mariana Mazzucato castigated the Guardian for misleading its readership. The Piketty story was important because the media could frame it in a way that it wasn’t just Corbyn’s ideological enemies against him, but someone who obviously influences him and Corbyn respects. More appalling however were the events of today, the much awaited Chakrabarti inquiry into anti-semitism in the Labour Party was released this morning, many of Corbyn’s foes were patiently waiting to seise on the results in an attempt to heap further pressure on Corbyn to resign. But the conclusion actually vindicated Corbyn and said that while there were cases of anti-semitism in the party, the party is not overrun by prejudice towards Jewish people which was claimed during the scandal which emerged in April. Without the result that they hoped for, they resorted to something much more malicious. In the report about anti-semitism it stated that expecting Jewish people to have an opinion on Israel simply on the basis of their faith is as wrong as expecting a Muslim person to have an opinion on an atrocity committed in the name of Islam simply because they’re Muslim. Corbyn said in his speech that “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of the Israeli or Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations” There was absolutely nothing unreasonable about that statement, Corbyn was not making a comparison with Israel and Jihadist groups but a criticism of the guilt by association fallacy which is used by both anti-semites and anti-Muslims to denigrate them. Despite this several media outlets claimed he was making a direct comparison between Israel and ISIS and some even had the temerity to smear Corbyn and claim it constituted anti-semitism; thankfully Cathy Newman, a reporter for Channel 4 who actually has integrity corrected the wilful misquotes.

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Corbyn has been described as weak and gutless. This week has proven he’s anything but. Despite the sheer lengths some are going to get rid of him, he refuses to succumb to the pressure and will not be bullied into submission. Because the patronising calls for resignation have now failed, the personal attacks on him are becoming increasingly nasty.
The fact Corbyn is going on is a testament to his resilience and mental strength.

Corbyn Must Stay

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In the wake of the EU referendum which Britain voted to exit the European Union, Jeremy Corbyn has become embroiled in a crisis where several members of the Labour Party shadow cabinet have resigned following the sacking of Hilary Benn. Much of the media who have been hostile to Corbyn since the beginning are exerting pressure on him to quit, but Corbyn refuses to succumb to the pressure, maintaining that if he is to leave it will have to be through a democratic election.

Since Corbyn won the Labour leadership contest in September with a huge mandate, winning an unprecedentedly high share of the vote there have been several attempts to undermine his leadership, most prominently during the Syria vote in December and the manufactured anti-semitism scandal in April. The claim in December was that because Corbyn failed to unite his party into voting against the airstrikes his position had become untenable, which failed to take into account that most of the MPs in favour of airstrikes in Syria failed to provide a coherent reason for why the airstrikes would make a significant contribution in weakening ISIS and didn’t address the futility of bombing ISIS without the presence of a diplomatic plan to deal with the underlying causes of why ISIS has risen to power in Syria; the fact they refused to listen to persuasive arguments against the bombing in Syria reflects poorly on them, not Corbyn. The vote also underscored the ideological divide between Corbyn and other MPs, many of the MPs who were in favour of the bombing subscribe to the doctrine of humanitarian intervention where Western militaries are a force for good in the world. Indeed the man who made headlines during the Syria vote was Hilary Benn, he made a stylish speech which led to many in the media fawning over him but his speech was devoid of substance as he failed to outline a feasible strategy for defeating ISIS. The fawning from the media illustrated just how incompetent they are at doing their job, Hilary Benn may be an eloquent speaker but his views on the Syria vote should have been immediately dismissed on the grounds of his previous role in illegal and murderous Western interventions. He supported both the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya, which serve as an indictment of his judgement on foreign policy. Despite the overwhelming evidence that the Iraq war was a humanitarian disaster, he expressed no remorse for the way he voted and even worse has voted against enquiries into the war. The fact that much of the media extolled his Syria speech despite his voting record underscores how uncritical of power they are. The anti-semitism scandal which erupted in late April was manufactured to sabotage Corbyn’s leadership before his first important test in the UK local elections at the beginning of May, many MPs seised on the accusations and implied Corbyn had made anti-semitism acceptable within the Labour Party. The coup would have to be put on hold though as the disastrous results many predicted for Corbyn in the elections failed to materialise. While the anti-semitism scandal was a plot designed to weaken Corbyn, there were instances of inexcusable posts and statements made by both Naz Shah and former mayor of London Ken Livingstone, Corbyn acted decisively and suspended both members and explicitly stated that anti-semitism would not be tolerated within the party displaying clear leadership during a moment of crisis. But the real animosity for Corbyn stems from his dedication to the Palestinian cause, he has been a relenting and vigorous critic of the state of Israel which continues to commit crimes in Gaza and the West Bank with impunity. Many of the MPs in the Labour party are apologists for Israeli terror and find it very unsettling that someone who is overt in their hostility to the state is the leader of their party. To many of them opposition to Israeli war crimes is indistinguishable from anti-semitism which again demonstrates the invidious position Corbyn is in.

When Corbyn was elected in September he tried to pacify some MPs by assembling a shadow cabinet which consisted of people who had views quite divergent from his. But it was always bound to fail as the divisions are too severe to be reconciled. In truth Corbyn should have confronted this problem much earlier and sacked disloyal members and unified his party. But it’s good news that this problem will finally have a resolution because the situation Labour found themselves in was clearly unsustainable. It certainly was not in Corbyn’s interest to have this problem persist for much longer as a general election within the next 12 months is not inconceivable, by the time that arises ,the party has to be united behind Corbyn therefore the exodus of anti-Corbyn MPs is necessary if a Corbyn Labour can succeed. The PLP have opportunistically used the result of the EU referendum in an attempt to stage a coup against Corbyn, the glaring flaw with this strategy is most Labour party voters are closer to Corbyn’s position on the EU than with those opposed to Corbyn. Corbyn for years has been a critic of the EU as have many leftists like Paul Mason, Yanis Varoufakis, Owen Jones and Noam Chomsky. Many of the criticisms include the EU’s embrace of neoliberal capitalism which has had a disastrous effect on most of the world, it’s harsh imposition of austerity in peripheral EU states like Greece, Portugal and Ireland, the creation of the Eurozone which has been an undeniable failure, even acknowledged by the former president of the European commission and most recently its appalling handling of the refugee crisis. The lack of enthusiasm for the EU is entirely of its own making and if Corbyn fully embraced the EU after years of reasonably outlining the very flaws of it, he would have completely lost credibility with the electorate. Voters deserve honesty, not deception and Corbyn gave them the best possible defence for remain, he like Jones, Mason and Varoufakis harbour a lot of disdain for the EU, but they understood that without a progressive alternative in place, leaving would not yield a successful outcome. In addition it’s been claimed Corbyn sabotaged the remain campaign by refusing to collaborate with Tory prime-minister David Cameron, a claim which is ludicrous in the extreme. The man who bears responsibility for the lack of cooperation is Cameron himself, as he is the man who called the referendum and the was the leader of the country campaigning to remain in the EU, it was his responsibility to avoid alienating the leader of the opposition, but in the months following Corbyn’s election Cameron labelled him as a threat to national security and a terrorist sympathiser, the hyperbolic and inflammatory language he used rendered any chance of cooperation remote. In addition, if Corbyn campaigned with the Tories he risked making the same mistake Labour did during the Scottish independence referendum when several Labour MPs campaigned alongside Tories to remain in the United Kingdom, in the general election only months later they were destroyed. The truth is, the outcome of the EU referendum is simply a pretext for the attempted coup, Corbyn campaigned without deception unlike many on the leave side and he should be commended for that.

The last few days have also reinforced just how hostile to Corbyn the media are. Despite Cameron’s humiliating defeat, the disarray the Tories are in, the lies from Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson who misled the electorate, the media have instead decided to focus much of their attention on Corbyn. The notion that the media are yearning for Corbyn to fail is not some crackpot conspiracy theory but one very much grounded in fact. A study from November showed the British systematically tried to undermine Corbyn’s leadership with their extremely critical coverage of him and in May former chair of the BBC trust said it was likely the BBC had shown bias against Corbyn. In addition just this weekend the appalling Daily Mail posted a very offensive picture of Corbyn with the word “Labour Must Kill Vampire Jezza” emblazoned on it, this less than 14 days after the left-wing politician Jo Cox was assassinated for her political views. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone, the establishment media are averse to anyone who challenges power, and setup in way which is conducive to biased political journalism. Years ago with so many powerful forces opposed to Corbyn the likelihood that he could survive would have been remote. But with the advent of social media and the profusion of alternative media, the power they wield isn’t quite as formidable as it once was. Corbyn’s many loyal supporters are well connected on social media, and won’t let the coup succeed without a fight. Already thousands have signed a petition backing him to stay as leader, and there are plans for a demonstration in support of Corbyn tonight in London. The support from the trade-unions, grassroots movements and the Labour party members should be enough to stave off the coup attempts from the deplorable MPs. They will probably succeed in winning a vote of no confidence but it will likely trigger another leadership contest which Corbyn hopefully will win. It’s claimed that Corbyn has been a failure as a leader, but in fact his victory and the support he has received remains one of the most positive developments in UK politics for some time. In May 2015 when Ed Miliband led the party to one of its most humiliating defeats in electoral history Labour Party membership stood at 201,000, by January 2016 it rose to a whopping 388,000 a huge success on Corbyn’s part, in addition the amount of younger voters flocking to the party has exponentially increased since his victory. A criticism of Corbyn is that he comes across as mundane and uncharismatic, but I myself find that refreshing. At a time when extremism is on the rise, and dramatic figures like Trump and Boris Johnson are dominating the headlines the calmness of Corbyn is somewhat appealing, he isn’t a great orator but he speaks honestly and from the heart and I’d much prefer that than someone like Obama who has the ability to inspire and exhibits great charisma but is so disappointingly lacking when it comes to policy or principles. The claim that he’s done nothing is also absurd. Since his victory in September he’s helped force U-turns for Saudi prisons and police cuts, helped stopped Osborne’s 4.5bn welfare cuts plan, got firefighters to re-affiliate with the party, made re-nationalisation of railways an official policy, and spoke out against the UK’s role in Saudi’s hideous war in Yemen.

Study from the Media Reform Coalition in November:

Out of the 494 articles across the papers during Corbyn’s first seven days at leader, 60% (296 articles) were negative, with only 13% positive stories (65 articles) and 27% taking a “neutral” stance (133 articles), the report says.

The research, given exclusively to The Huffington Post UK, looked at news, comment and editorial leaders – and claims that “the press set out to systematically undermine Jeremy Corbyn during his first week as Labour Leader with a barrage of overwhelmingly negative coverage”. … In the days after he was selected, Corbyn was criticised for his controversial shadow cabinet appointments, policies that were at odds with the views of many of the party’s leading figures, his decision not to sing the national anthem and his poor relationship with the media after pulling out of an interview on the Andrew Marr show. … “One might expect news items, as opposed to comment and editorial pieces, to take a more balanced approach but in fact the opposite is true. A mere 6% of stories classed as news (19 out of 292) were positive, versus 61% negative stories and 32% taking a neutral stance.”

“This ‘default’ position is particularly significant given how these stories make up the bulk of the coverage during Corbyn’s first week”. … The research is part of the Media Reform Coalition’s project campaigning for a reduction in the monopoly of the UK’s media ownership, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

“Newspapers have every right to take a partisan line in their reporting and freedom of the press is a key component of democratic societies,” the reports author Emily Seymour wrote, but she stressed their concern about the monopoly over ownership of UK newspapers, which they called “profoundly anti-democratic”. … “What concerns us, however, are the ownership structures underlying this degree of political intervention,” the report said. “The risk of undue influence on elected politicians is high, and it’s hard to see how democracy can flourish when the mass channels of debate are monopolised in the way that they are.”

If Corbyn is ousted, it’s the end of the Labour party. It would be a betrayal of voters and would lead to an exodus of Labour party members. I don’t pretend to be able to predict the future, there is no guarantee Corbyn could win a general election and perhaps his message won’t resonate with most of the electorate, but he’s the best man Labour have got at the moment. He’s also dragging the party further to the left which is necessary after the disaster of Blair’s tenure, and the terrible campaign Ed Miliband led. The foundations for future success are being built, Corbyn must continue.

Update: In a huge display of solidarity thousands of people have congregated to express their support of Jeremy Corbyn in both London and Newcastle. The vote of no confidence by secret ballot takes place tomorrow.

The Stuff Of Dreams

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At the beginning of the Premier League season Leicester City were 5000-1 odds against winning the league title, to have merely suggested a title challenge would have elicited mockery from the most esteemed journalists in the game, a fantasy that could not be achieved in the real world. Well, to hell with reason, Leicester City have achieved the unachievable.

It’s almost impossible to convey the magnitude of this feat but for much of last season Leicester languished in the relegation zone, which was no great surprise considering they were only promoted the season before. They ended the season strongly managing to stave off relegation and finished in a respectable 14th position. Their fans were delighted, and perhaps dreamed of an even better finish this season, but this historic victory has surely exceeded even their wildest expectations. The man who took Leicester City to glory was the humble and endearing Italian Claudio Ranieri, remarkably he hasn’t managed a Premier League team since he was sacked by Chelsea in 2004 who felt Ranieri didn’t have the calibre to win the title, but what a return it’s been, throughout his career titles have eluded Ranieri wherever he’s managed but all the years of failure must have been worth it for this one season of splendid triumph. When Ranieri was appointed last June, many were apprehensive and for good reason. Ranieri had just come off one of the most humiliating debacles of his career with the Greek national team which included a pitiful defeat to minnows, The Faroe Islands. His reputation was greatly damaged and there was little reason to suspect that Ranieri had the capacity to take the club forward, but never before have so many people been delighted to have been proven so wrong. Ranieri has remained grounded all season instructing his players to take it one game at a time and implored them to not get carried away with the prospect of a famous victory. And unlike in many underdog stories where the underdog relies on luck, few will deny that Leicester have been the superior and most consistent team during the whole season. And while Leicester depended on a remarkable defensive effort which saw them record twelve 1-0 victories courtesy of magnificent performances from players like Kanté, Huth and Morgan, they also bedazzled many fans with scintillating football by virtue of the skill and guile displayed by players like Mahrez, Okazaki and the clinical finishing from Ulloa and Jamie Vardy a former non-league player. But most of all, their togetherness and unity drove them to paradise which Ranieri must take great credit for.

As upsets go, it can’t be disputed that this is one of the best in the history of not just the game but all of sport. Leicester City have defied logic, done the unthinkable and have inspired the world. Their season of glory will forever be etched in the annals of sporting history.

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.