Archive for November, 2013

North Korea and the Iran nuclear deal

By Jonathan Power

The agreement just signed by Iran, the US, the EU and Russia is more than a milestone, it changes the world. Perhaps.

It is bitterly opposed by Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems determined to be the spoiler. Apparently Israel’s threat to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities remains a serious option, even though such an attack would only have a limited effect and would provoke Iran to raise the ante against Israel.

But that is not the only worry. There are two other things. Read the rest of this entry »

Peace in Colombia?

By Johan Galtung

Bogotá, Direcccion de Inteligencia Policial, Ministerio de Defensa

Generals, Colonels, Conference Participants,

In June 1998 your President’s Office wanted proposals for peace, and I offered peace education, peace journalism and the guiding moral-ethical light, human rights, a holon of civil-political-socio-economic-cultural rights. Colombia is short on the latter, with flagrant injustices and a deep culture of violence.

In this conference a highly counter-productive word is being used: postconflict, instead of post-violence. Do not confuse them: violence means hurting-harming; conflicts are incompatible goals. Conflict may lead to frustration-aggression-violence, but personal and social maturity lead to progress bridging goals, to conflict solution. “Postconflict” sounds like all is solved with the end of violence, oblivious to reducing flagrant inequality, to harmony through empathy, trauma reconciliation, and capacity for ongoing conflict resolution.

Prognosis: violence returns, with a vengeance. Like in Colombia.

In the 1960s major uprisings took place in many parts of the world. There was the anti-Confucian cultural revolution in China for the rights of women, the young, the uneducated, and Western China; the Naxalites uprising in India, low caste and casteless tribals against the sellout to multinationals; the Khmer Rouge against the Vietnamese in Phnom Penh, in opposition to the French used to colonize Cambodia, and against the capital-city exploiting landless peasants. All three against millennia of solid structural violence.

As also in Nepal with Maoists fighting huge injustices related to caste and nation; like in the Philippines, classes but also Moros vs Christians; and in Sri Lanka, not classes but nations, Tamils vs Sinhalese.

And in Latin America, classes, domestic and imperial–starting with Cuba–in Colombia as FARC-Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia and ELN-Ejército de Liberación Nacional against the poderes fácticos latifundista-military-clergy complex and the USA-Colombia military alliance.

What came out of these Zeitgeist revolts in six Asia countries?

Only one country, China, benefitted from conflict resolution; the others, under strong Western pressure, suffered postconflict treatment. The Cultural Revolution was denounced abroad and in China; yet today there are women, young and educated people all over China and West China is blossoming. There are some moves in the same direction in Cambodia.

In the other five: status quo. With foreign advisors democratic constitutions were drafted as the US enters the post-democratic stage with easily corruptible legislators accountable to banks and business, not to the people. The real focus was to restore the government’s army monopoly through the DDR formula Dissolution Disarmament Reintegration; in India and Sri Lanka through mass murder, in the Philippines on again-off-again conferences, in Nepal post-democracy with heavy corruption. Read the rest of this entry »

Should the UN go into battle?

By Jonathan Power

This year the UN Security Council authorised the deployment of troops to the eastern Congo, armed with tanks and helicopter gun ships to defeat the one remaining dissident militia in the Congo. Two weeks ago UN officials declared that war in the Congo, which on and off has consumed the nation for over 50 years, seemed to be over. The UN, instead of using its blue helmets to keep the peace, used its soldiers to blast the enemy.

Rarely talked about is Article 42 of the UN Charter which says,“The Security Council ….may take such action by air, sea or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.” Read the rest of this entry »

Two forms of lethal polarization: Egypt and Turkey

By Richard Falk

There is a temptation to suggest that political life in Turkey and Egypt are both being victimized by a similar deepening of polarization between Islamic and secular orientations, and to some extent this is true, but it is also misleading. Turkey continues to be victimized by such a polarization, especially during the eleven years that the Justice & Development Party (AKP) has governed the country, and arguably more so in the last period.

In Egypt, so describing the polarization is far less descriptive of the far more lethal form of unfolding that its political cleavage has taken. It has become an overt struggle for the control of the political destiny of the country being waged between the Egyptian armed forces and the Muslim Brotherhood, the two organized political forces capable of projecting their influence throughout the entire country, including rural areas. This bitter struggle in Egypt engages religious orientations on both sides, and even the military leadership and upper echelons of the armed forces are observant Muslims, and in some cases extremely devout adherents of Salafi belief and practice.

In effect, at this point, there is not a distinctly secular side that can be associated with post-coup Egyptian leadership under the caretaker aegis of the armed forces, although clearly most of the liberal secular urban elite and many of the left activists sided with the military moves, at least initially. Recent reports suggest more and more defections, although the price for making such a change of heart public can be high. Read the rest of this entry »

And yet it moves! – Education for peace in Mexico

By Johan Galtung & Fernando Montiel


The indigenous rising in Chiapas, 1994 changed Mexico in several different ways. On the one hand it placed hidden historical –and yet massive and painful- topics just in the middle of the political debate: racism and indigenous rights among others came out of the closet to be discussed, addressed and -hopefully- solved.

Hard politics entered the scene after the romantic episode of the Zapatista rebellion -characterized by the masked men and women and their tale-writer and political leader- by means of counter insurgency policies, paramilitary groups and propaganda campaigns, among others. And it was exactly then, when more concern and attention and clarity and coverage was needed from the international community, that the eyes of the world started turning to some other crises elsewhere. The massacre of 45 woman and children in Acteal (Dec. 22, 1997) briefly placed Chiapas again in the headlines but after the atrocity silence ruled again.

Those past events in the 90s seeded and nurtured much of the cataclysm that would come later, which in recent past became known as the “war on drugs.” For these reasons it is quite surprising that specialists fail to make the connection between one crisis and the other notwithstanding the common ground. The special forces used now to fight drug dealers/producers were formed because of the 1994 uprising; the militarization –now rampant and nationwide- began with Chiapas; the abandon of the countryside –one of the Zapatista complaints- is fertile soil for drug trafficking and NAFTA –North American Free Trade Agreement- which was enacted the exact same day the rebellion started with three effects: Read the rest of this entry »

Does Saudi Arabia want a nuclear bomb?

By Jonathan Power

The negotiations between Iran and the West have not yet produced a deal. At the same time the BBC’s Mark Urban, a defence correspondent, has unearthed a worrying connection between Iran moving towards the nuclear bomb threshold and a Saudi Arabian decision to produce a nuclear bomb with Pakistani help. “Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons’ projects and believes it could obtain nuclear bombs at will”, he says.

This meshes with what I wrote in my column 20 years ago that the only way to explain Saudi Arabia’s purchase from China of CSS-2 ballistic missiles was that it was preparing to develop a nuclear arsenal if one day the security situation demanded it.

The Chinese missiles have a capacity to carry nuclear weapons. They are too inaccurate to be of use as conventional weapons. They are an insurance against Iran developing nuclear weapons and also have the additional purpose of providing a balance to Israel’s armoury of some 200 nuclear weapons.

The Saudis have recently completed a new base with missile launch rails aligned with Iran and Israel. According to the BBC, there is some evidence that the Pakistanis might have already set aside a number of warheads for delivery to Saudi Arabia. Read the rest of this entry »

The Middle East – heading where?

By Johan Galtung

Washington DC

It’s anybody’s guess. But something is going on.

Look at the two strongest actors: Israel and the USA. Israel autistically locked into becoming the region’s military champion, not only by its overwhelming military destructive power but by cutting all neighbors down to a size commensurable with Israel, and divided by their own conflicts. With the help of their instrument, US military might, Israel has had success of sorts with Iraq, Libya, maybe Syria; and Egypt back to normal as military dictatorship benefiting from most of the Camp David rewards. Goodbye, Arab Spring.

What is left is Iran, too big to exist, also too big to fail; with Israel doing its best to make the Geneva conference fail. No worry about Syria peace; the Islamists have announced they will not participate in peace talks. They go for a win, amply armed by the USA, with Israel backup.

Israel’s goal: to eliminate any threat, singly or combined, from Arab-Muslim neighbors–far beyond the wrongly termed “Israel-Palestine conflict”–and to expand. Next Eastern border: the Jordan River, by annexation, the goal of a key Likud group (Washington Post, 6 Nov 13). Next: the old mandate, the Jordan-Iraq border? Genesis 15:18, Nile-Euphrates? For legitimation and theory: see Isaiah 2:4-5. Read the rest of this entry »

Peace at last in the Congo – black Africa’s largest state ?

By Jonathan Power

It is not so long ago that Susan Rice, then the US’s Ambassador to the United Nations, was talking about the Congo as the site of “Africa’s First World War”. Has the UN at long last really pacified this country, the largest in black Africa, that has been continuously in a state of unrest since the Belgian colonisers, after effectively looting the country dry, fled in 1960, turning the country over to a hastily improvised African government led by Patrice Lumumba?

Reports coming in today indicate that the last rebel group, the M23, formally supported by Rwanda, has been defeated by Congolese and UN troops working together.

Perhaps yes, the fighting that has consumed the Congo is over. But, given the history of the most turbulent of all African countries, we should say, let’s wait and see. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to know that the UN’s largest peacekeeping operation ever has met with this degree of success. (One other plus: China sent peacekeepers to the UN force.)

This second UN intervention in the Congo appears to be more successful than the first, back in 1960 when, fearful of the US and the Soviet Union competing to gain a foothold in Africa, Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, pushed for UN intervention, as the country’s post-independence civil war appeared to spin out of control. The UN did pacify the country to some degree- at the cost of claiming Hammarskjold’s life in a supposed accident of his plane- but it left with its tail between its legs, handing the country over to 32 years of decadent and cruel rule by the masterful dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. Read the rest of this entry »

NSA and the fall of the U.S. Empire

By Johan Galtung

The linchpin of an empire is the link between two elites, one in the imperial center and the other in the peripheries. Symmetric alliances exist, but not with a superpower in the center.

The periphery elites do jobs for the center: killing, say, in Libya, Syria, when so wanted; securing the center economic interests in return for a substantial cut, serving as a bridgehead culturally–called americanization–delivering obedience against protection.

For this to work the elites have to believe in the empire. They put words up front–like democracy, human rights, rule of law–serving as human shields. However, the costs may be heavy, the benefits decreasing; they may have difficulties with restless students, working classes, other countries. Or worse: they may sense that the empire is not working, heading for decline and fall, and want to get out.

And even if this is not the case, the US elites – the policy officials – may suspect it to be and spy on empire-alliance leaders:

[Director of the NSA] General Keith Alexander: “NSA–was asked by /US/ policy officials to discover the “leadership intentions” of foreign countries. If you want to know leadership intentions, these were the issues” ( 01-11-13).

Clear from the beginning, beyond “threats to privacy”, “they all do it”, “it was technically feasible”, and similar smoke screens. Spying on intentions of enemy leaders–the “humint” (HUMan INTelligence) to complement capabilities–is an obvious part of the state system. But on allies?

Even more so. There are allies and allies; empires may decline. Foreign leaders may not offer full obedience in return for protection. Or may not accept US views as accurate, but have their own. They may even explore options. Their real intentions are crucial, and nobody can spy and supervise better than their own secret agencies – coordinated by CIA-NSA–and in their own language. Alexander said the obvious: “policy officials” (ambassadors, etc.) and alliance agencies spying together on policy-makers. The real power elite inside the elite.

Look at this through Angela Merkel’s eyes. She hated the DDR-Deutsche Demokratische Republik Stasi surveillance. But they were amateurs; these people are professionals. A decade went unnoticed, till Snowden. Imagine her rage, comparing.

And imagine the non-rage over the same in Spain: beyond Franco, yes, but Rajoy’s party (Partido Popular) is the – highly corrupt –successor to Franco. Read the rest of this entry »

Time for new beginnings in the Middle East

By Farhang Jahanpour

Momentous changes are afoot in the Middle East. The Arab uprisings have not yet run their course, the Egyptian revolution has not yet ended, terrorist atrocities in Iraq have intensified, the carnage in Syria still continues, and there seems to be no end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Yet, in the midst of all these scenes of doom and gloom there are some positive developments that may change the face of the Middle East for many decades to come. President Obama’s opening to Iran and the election of a moderate Iranian president who wants to reciprocate the American gesture of goodwill provides a glimmer of hope that after 34 years of estrangement, the two countries may reconcile their differences and open a new chapter in their relations.

However, just the slim prospect of a US-Iranian rapprochement has created a backlash among many people who are stuck in the past and who look at any change with dread. There are many powerful voices both in the United States and Iran that are trying to prevent better relations between the two countries.

In addition to domestic opposition in Iran and the United States, many countries in the Middle East have also reacted with alarm to the possible end of a hostile Iran that they can demonize as a boogeyman. Israel and her powerful friends in the Congress and in US think tanks and the media have launched a massive campaign to prevent any possible end to hostilities. The leaders from the powerful pro-Israeli lobbies, from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, AIPAC, the Anti Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, took part in an extraordinary White House meeting on Tuesday 28 October to warn the president against rapprochement with Iran. Read the rest of this entry »


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