Tuesday, 29 March 2011

How western powers blackmailed the Libyan revolution

The western military assault on Muammar Gaddafi has been welcomed by millions of people horrified by the cruelty he is unleashing on the Libyan people. This war is being sold as a “humanitarian intervention” with strict guarantees that there will be no ground invasion.

The case for this intervention is very powerful, and has the tacit support from organisations such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, that have been, and remain targets for western imperialism. There can been no question that Gaddafi is deeply hated among Arab peoples, and that he is a cruel despot.

His attacks on civilians, the arial bombardment of demonstrations, the mass round-up and executions, has left the people in despair. The uprising that began on 17 February took place under the most difficult conditions, and the bravery and sacrifice of the revolution remains an inspiration to all.

The US and its allies, we are told, have been dragged into this war against their will. But the west is not innocent, nor is it impartial. Its interests are not those of the Libyan revolution, but aimed at guaranteeing a series of deals made by Gaddafi to the west.

It is ironic that among the heavy weapons destroyed by western warplanes outside Benghazi were artillery pieces supplied to the regime by the US, or that Gaddafi's airforce was recently refitted by France, or that UK supplied his security forces with some £40 billion in arms, including crowd control equipment.

Western powers have from the beginning made it difficult for the revolution to succeed on its own terms. Libya's Transitional National Council (TNC), the body that grew out of the revolution, made a series on simple demands in the first days of the uprising. Western governments refused to accept these until certain “guarantees” were in place.

The rebels asked for the recognition of the Transitional National Council; they demanded access to the billions in sequestrated regime funds in order to buy weapons and other crucial supplies; and they demanded an immediate halt to the “mercenary flights” that provided the regime with its foot soldiers.

The answer they received was an unequivocal No. The west declared that they did not recognise “governments”, only countries. They refused to block the mercenary flights as these “security contractors” play an important role in other conflicts — such as Iraq and Afghanistan. They objected to any weapons sales as they feared that these could fall into the hands of “Islamists terrorists”, and they refused to release the funds on “legal grounds”.

Instead western powers put a number of conditions on a revolution. They demanded that any future Libyan government would abide by all contracts signed by the Gaddafi regime. These contracts, including “generous” oil concession, had to be honoured without question. Western powers demanded that the strict repression of “Islamists movements” would remain, and that Libya would maintain its role as a guardian against the migration of Africans into southern Europe.

The UN made it a condition that a "genuine ceasefire" by the regime would bring the war to a halt. This would in effect pave the way for the partition of the country — the west of Libyan under control of the old regime and the east beholden to foreign powers.

In effect, the west has blackmailed the revolution. The TNC was forced to mortgage its future in order to guarantee its survival. One cannot but wonder why one month into this uprising the rebels still have few weapons, or body armour, or effective anti-tank weapons. That despite controlling key ports the rebels are still begging for ammunition and other other crucial supplies.

There is a second important principle. That “humanitarian intervention” is a dangerous precedent that has led to other disastrous wars. The case for humanitarian intervention made during the Balkan Wars in the 1990s became a cover for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. These disasters exposed this credo as a lie. Now it is being repackaged and resold.

The hypocrisy and double standards of the imperialism do not need spelling out. In the days leading to the UN resolution and the launching of cruise missiles, Yemen's ruler (an important ally of the west) was gunning down democracy protesters, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states were invading Bahrain to violently suppress the democracy movement there, and Israel launched its warplanes, once again, on Gaza.

The west and its allies in the Middle East have been thrown into turmoil by the huge movements for change sweeping the region. Now it is using its intervention in Libya as a way of regaining its foothold, and rebuilding its credibility. This intervention is without any doubt popular. But the interests of those making these revolutions are not those of the imperialism or the Arab regimes.

The Libyan revolution is not lost, but it has been forced to make deep compromises. The demands for freedom, for an end to poverty, oppression and humiliation still burn strongly. The movements sweeping the region are facing bloody repression, and are winning important victories. The real hope for Libya lay in the progress of these revolutions, especially those in Egypt and Tunisia.

When British troops entered southern Iraq in 2003 they were welcomed by long oppressed Iraqi Shias. But they also had a message for the foreign troops: "Don't forget to leave."

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Police Attack Protestors at the Egyptian Embassy in Beirut

The Demonstration was called by the Consultative Leftists Gathering (liqaa’ Yasari Tashawouri), Haraket Chaab, PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and the Nasserite Popular Gathering (Tajamou’ El Chaabi El Nasseri).

The Liqaa’ Yasari Tashawouir included the following forces: The Lebanese Communist Party, Revolutionary Communist Gathering (4th International) and the Leftist Assembly for Change (Revolutionary Socialists).

In a meeting for the Liqaa’ Tashawouri on Thursday the 21st of January 2010, it seemed obvious from the meeting that the CP has not been preparing for the demo.

The Leftist Assembly for Change with other university groups and independent activists with the Revolutionary Communist Gathering, have had been organizing public meetings for the past 2 weeks preparing for the demo, flyers and invites had been distributed in different areas of Beirut, university groups and clubs had managed to get a good momentum between university students.

On Friday 22nd of January, one the eve of the demo, we had organized a Film screening in T-Marbouta, more than 80 people showed up, it seemed that everyone was prepared for the demonstration taking place tomorrow.

Thursday 23rd of January 2010, We arrived to the demo at around 10.30 AM, there was no one there except the Police, who obviously came prepared, the first thing I remembered when i saw them out of the window of the car we were in, was that of the Egyptian policemen standing ready to repress.

It seems quite likely that both police forces have had the same Anti-Riot training!

We parked, took out copies of Al-Manshour and the placards, got out of the car, everything seemed in order. We could see other protesters coming from the other end of the street.

The weather was promising, it seemed that it would not rain before 2 or 3 hours. At 10.45 the demo was taking shape, as groups of people slowly joined the demo, it felt like an assembly, as delegations came one after the other. The protest had a fresh spirit and was somehow different than the other recent protests that were organized before in solidarity with Gaza.

This time the majority of protesters were independent, they were not "Party Standing Soldiers", but people who were mobilized politically and looked at the demo as their own creation, their own common strength.

Just before 11:00 AM, a group of around 30 people were marching from the Cola roundabout, holding a big Palestinian flag, the Protest had assembled, chants were more heard from the crowd, the party flags were a minority within the protest, taken over by ordinary people, our paper were being sold by the minute, later on that night, we counted the sales to be about 120 copies, around half of the demonstrators had bought a copy.

By 11:00 AM, the protest had assembled, between 200 to 250 protesters gathered in front of the Egyptian embassy in Beirut, standing between the passing cars and the anti-riot police.

Chants called Husni Moubarak (The Egyptian President) as a US and Israeli dog, followed by other chants calling to keep fight on, the mood was definitely building up.

About 11:30 AM a quarrel started between the CP Disciplinarians (Indibat) and protesters (including CP Members) about blocking the highway. One of these Indibat gave a punch to some of the protesters and started screaming at those who were attempting to block the highway.

On the other side of the protest the CP Leadership as well as the Haraket Chaab and Nasserite leaderships were giving speeches, while their party members were chanting: "We don't need speeches, we need Actions";

At the point it was obvious that the general mood had changed, we started calling people to take over the street, while some of us continued quarreling with the Indibat. The street was blocked, and one of the Indibat guys was still screaming in my face, another joined him, and said: "is it the role of the left to block streets and annoy passing cars?” For him, it seemed that the role of the left is to stand by the sidewalks and wave to passing cars!

Just a few minutes later, a Mercedes passed through the protest, nudging one of the protesters, a group of people followed the car and broke its glass, and surrounded the car. (I knew later that it was the car of one of the CP Indibat members/officers who was angrily storming out of the demo with his new and polished black Mercedes)

In a matter of seconds, I saw the angry dogs of the anti-riots police crashing on the protesters, they grabbed some of the protesters and started beating them and dragging them, instantly protesters gathered around the policemen and pulled their comrades away from the hands and fists of the mad policemen and army soldiers.

This continued for a few minutes, then the protesters re-assembled taking over the street again, pushing the policemen and the army soldiers back; chants said: "Askar 3ala Meen, Ya Askar" (Soldiers soldiering on whom? Oh Soldiers)

One policeman, started kicking people around with his boots, his ranking officer, tried to pull him away, he attempts a last kick at one of the cameras in hand of a protester and misses it.

The street was reclaimed, and protesters re-organized, the CP leadership was still keen on ending the demo, as well as the Haraket Chaab, but it was obvious that they lost control over the crowd, and a rebellion had apparently took place and the "Insurgents" had won.

The insurgents included everyone except the leadership of the CP, their Indibat guys, and The Haraket Chaab Leadership; everyone else was with the insurgents’ block.

Chants continued, now some chants said, "The Leadership is standing between us and Palestine". The CP and Haraket Chaab leadership retreated, protest songs continued.

At 12:20 PM, we were steadfast and the policemen had opened their cages (metal barriers) and the water canon was aimed, it was obvious that they were waiting to hit.

At 12:30 PM, it seemed that we should start Marching, it was clear that this protest must not be simply dispersed, a battle had been won, so we decided to march through the streets neighboring the embassy, made a long turn and then ending it in cola, as all protesters left together, promising the embassy and police an another visit soon.

Score: Protesters (1) | Police (0) | Mubarak (-1)

It was clear for everyone who attended the Demo, that the police and the defeatist attitude of the CP leadership had lost, and the will to keep the momentum of protest against the regimes had won.

On Monday, a meeting will take place to re-organize and to continue Mobilization for later demos, we had promised the Egyptian Regime and the Anti-Riot Police another Visit, and we keep our promises.

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Elders of Hizbollah

IDF troops handed Hezbollah-Vatican conspiracy theory, reports Haaretz:

The Pope and the cardinals of the Vatican help organize tours of Auschwitz for Hezbollah members to teach them how to wipe out Jews, according to a booklet being distributed to Israel Defense Forces soldiers.

Officials encouraging the booklet's distribution include senior officers, such as Lt. Col. Tamir Shalom, the commander of the Nahshon Battalion of the Kfir Brigade.

The booklet was published by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, in cooperation with the chief rabbi of Safed, Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, and has been distributed for the past few months.

The booklet, titled "On Either Side of the Border," purports to be the testimony of "a Hezbollah officer who spied for Israel."

"The book is distributed regularly and everyone reads it and believes it," said one soldier.

"It's filled with made-up details but is presented as a true story. A whole company of soldiers, adults, told me: 'Read this and
you'll understand who the Arabs are.'"

The copy obtained by Haaretz included a Pesach greeting from Shalom, "in the name of the Nahshon Brigade."

The story is narrated by a man named Avi, who says he changed his name from Ibrahim after he left Hezbollah and converted to Judaism. Avi says he was once close to Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, and describes Hezbollah's purported close relationships with the Vatican and European leaders.

The IDF Spokesman's Office said in a statement: "The book was received as a donation and distributed in good faith to the soldiers. After we were alerted to the sensitivity of its content, distribution was immediately halted."

According to the book, Nasrallah was invited to join a delegation to tour France, Poland and Italy, including the Vatican. Nasrallah could not refuse an invitation from the Vatican, Avi explained: "We knew [the Pope] identified with Hezbollah's struggle."

The book describes the alleged visit of Hezbollah officials to Auschwitz, led by the Vatican: "We came to the camps. We saw the trains, the platforms, the piles of eyeglasses and clothes ... We came to learn ... Our escort spoke as he was taught. We quickly explained to him: Every real Arab, deep inside, is kind of a fan of the Nazis."

The booklet also describes how European politicians and journalists ostensibly work against Israel.

"Our escort introduced us to important figures who identify with our causes. Rich people, people with authority ... They allocate big budgets to all sorts of Israeli organizations that erode the standing of the IDF ... We have a special budget for encouraging politicians and journalists who serve our purposes. Every opinion piece that conforms to our position is rewarded

Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu, the son of former Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, is known for his extremist views, and was once charged with incitement to racism after calling for the expulsion of all Arab students from Safed College after a terror attack in the area.

The younger Eliahu was also behind an online video in which he described the "miracle of our matriarch Rachel," whom he claims appeared before Israeli soldiers in Gaza to warn them of booby-trapped buildings during Operation Cast Lead.

"In some of the places we went in Gaza there was a woman who warned them ... 'Did they tell you who I am,' she said, 'I am the matriarch Rachel," Eliahu says in the video.

He claims his father confirmed the veracity of the story, and told him that he had prayed to Rachel: "I told her: Rachel, there's a war... Go to God, Blessed Be He, pray over the soldiers who sacrifice themselves for the People of Israel, so that they will strike and not be struck."

David Menahemov, an aide to Eliahu, claims the book is not fiction. "Avi is a real person and everything in the book is absolutely true," insists Menahemov.

"It's a totally true story, I know the guy personaly. He's an Arab, who even though he converted still acts like an Arab. We helped him to write and to translate it. We changed a few details to protect him and his family."

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Israeli-Egyptian axis

Associated Press reports:

Israeli and Egyptian officials say two Israeli warships have sailed through the Suez Canal toward the Red Sea in a move seen as a possible signal to Iran that the Persian Gulf nation is within Israel’s reach.

Israel says its navy uses the canal regularly. But the recent moves are significant given Israel’s refusal to rule out military action if Iran persists with a nuclear program Israel believes is aimed at building weapons. Iran denies that charge.

Israeli defense officials say two missile boats crossed the canal Tuesday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the move was not officially publicized. A Suez Canal official confirmed the report.

An Israeli submarine had sailed through the canal to the Red Sea earlier this month.

Monday, 29 June 2009


The diversity of the movement in Iran reflects the different forces that have been drawn into the streets.

For the supporters of Mir Hussein Mousavi it about opening the country to the West. For the circles around his ally Hashemi Rafsanjani it is part of power struggle at the top. For the masses on the streets it is about poverty, alienation and the precarious living.

For the millions of women it is about social freedom and their status as second class citizens. For the students its about intellectual freedom. For the Iran’s diverse ethnic groups it is about their rights.

For the majority of ordinary people it has become a battle to reclaim the spirit of the 1979 revolution.

Put together the movement represents all the pent up frustration with a regime that wants to crush any hopes of change. For many the slogan “our vote was stolen” has come to symbolise a stolen revolution.

Most of all the events have shown that millions of people in Iran are no longer prepared to carry on in the old way, while the country’s rulers seem incapable of ruling on the old way. The country has reached a watershed.

Yet for this movement to continue, and have any chance of success, it has to be transformed further.

The one power that has yet to make itself heard is that of the collective strength of the working class.

Workers in Iran have been in revolt. A wave of strikes that began in 2004 has revived the grassroots committees that became the basis of workers’ control during the 1979 revolution. This was a decisive moment in the overthrow of the western backed Shah.

Events in Iran today have not reached this stage.

But many of the workers’ leaders are in jail. Its militants harassed and intimidated.

For the moment the regime hopes it can batter people off the streets. But it has lost its legitimacy, and from now on it can only enforce its will with the baton and the bullet.

How long Iran’s rulers hang on for power is unknown. Also unknown is the momentum of the movement.

But the one certainty is that the movement for change that has emerged over past 10 days represents a watershed. It speaks not only of Iran but for the deep sense of frustration across the whole of the region.


Iran is in the grip of a popluar rebellion unseen since the 1979 revolution.

The rebellion began as a protest against alleged vote rigging, but has now become a movement that lays bare the deep contradiction inside Iranian society.

Over the next week these demonstrations became more than the contested elections.

This uprising revolved around four crucial days.

On the Saturday 13 June, the day after the presidential elections, tens of thousands of people spilled into the streets to protest at what they considered to be widespread election fraud.

These protests spread rapidly to other cites, including Tabriz in the north and
Esfahan, a city of 1.5 million south of the capital.

The Basaji militia loyal to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who won the elections, moved to crush the protests. The Basaji raided Tehran University which is the centre of the reform movement. Five students are believed to have been killed. There were similar raids, and many more deaths, in other universities across the country.

But far from taming the movement it grew in scope. On Monday 15 June millions of people turned out in the biggest demonstration since the 1979 revolution. Similar mobilisations across the country transformed the protest into a national movement.

Over the next two days supporters of Ahmadinejad and the opposition The two became involved in a battle of mobilisations. It would be a real test of popularity and support on the ground.

Rumours began to circulate that elements within the Revolutionary Guards mutinied, saying that they were there to defend the people. Unconfirmed reports say that the head of the Revolutionary Guards in Tehran, a decorated veteran of the war with Iraq, was arrested after he refused an order to attack the demonstrations.

The battles on Wednesday 17 June became decisive. Dispirited, Ahmadinejad's supporters melted away. The struggle became between the crowds and hated Basaji militia backed by riot police.

In Esfahan the rioting, that at times verged on an uprising, gave way to fear. The Basaji militia took the offensive in night time raids on popular neighbourhoods. The city, an important centre for the textile industry, had been at the centre of a mass strike by teachers several years before.

Meanwhile rumours began to circulate that workers at the giant car plant north of Tehran planned to hold two one hour protest strikes. While a statement from the heavily repressed bus workers union declared its support for the demonstrations.

One 26 year old worker in Iran contacted by Socialist Worker on Thursday of last week said that many people felt like it “was like 1979”. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The protests are very uplifting and most people do not see it as a challenge to Islamic rule,” he said. “But people are very angry, they have lost their fear of the state.”

“Many of the protesters do not have much affinity for Mir Hussein Mousavi and they are frustrated by the lack of alternative to both Mousavi and Ahmadinejad.”

“The movement is very determined and feel they can now express their deep frustrations about the country and its rulers.”

He spoke of the extreme tension ahead of Ali Khamenei’s key speech following Friday prayers and said many people were convinced that Iran’s supreme leader would give some concessions.

They would be deeply disappointed. Khamenei seems to have calculated that his threats would be enough to quell the protests.

The reformers and their allies inside the establishment called on the demonstrations to continue. This open defiance of Khameini illustrates the depth of the divisions within the Iranian state. Mousavi called for a general strike if he was arrested.

Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mousavi’s conservative ally, fled to the holy city of Qoms. He won the support of half the Guardian Council, the body that elects the supreme leader, in attempt to stage a palace revolution. But it was not enough to displace Khameini.

That night Tehran, and other cities, resounded to the wail of rooftop protests. By Saturday 20 June, Khamenei’s gamble seemed to have paid off.

The repression began to take its toll on the size of the demonstrations.

Security forces acted with extreme brutality on those who defied the ban on protest. The planned demonstration through Tehran was stopped before it could form. Police and militia charged into crowds that had gathered.

During the day snipers fired at protesters.

Some 30 people are said to have been killed, including the Neda Soltani, her last moments captured on a mobile phone camera. Her death has come to symbolise the cruel repression fo the regime. Mosques were ordered not to hold services to mark her death, while her family had to bury her in secret.

The battles on the Saturday became more frantic and desperate.

One eyewitness described how construction workers in Tehran come to the aid of demonstrators.

“We watched from our apartment window a clash between the police and the construction site workers at the Towhid Tunnel (in Tehran).

“The police tried to take a shortcut to ambush the protesters. The workers used shovels, bricks and construction equipment to stop the police. At this point the demonstrators joined in to help the construction workers.”

The involvement of workers, and the poorer neighbourhoods, is an indication of how this movement is reaching deep into Iranian society.

As Socialist Worker went to press reports were emerging of protest strikes involving millions of Iranian workers.

Many of the reports that have emerged from Iran are difficult to verify.

But the eyewitness statements and film footage of mass demonstrations and street battles, as well as disturbing science of brutal violence meted out by state security forces, point to a transformation of a movement from a protest over the elections into a deep convulsion from below.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


Received this today. I cannot verify who this group is, but felt it should be published:

Statement # 1 by Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations about Presidential Election and recent unrest

Iranian people have witnessed the presidential elections in Iran. During the debates between candidates there was never any mention of destitute conditions of the working class, non-payment of wages, temporary-work contracts, medieval sentences of floggings, killings and incarceration of workers and labor activists, suppression of May 1st events….

The reality is that these candidates themselves are collaborators in creation of such impoverished conditions facing working class and majority of the population in Iran . That is exactly why amongst hundreds of candidates only these four were hand-picked.

In the election process all resources of capitalists, familiar and unfamiliar liberals, media networks of world capitalism: BBC, VOA, was utilized to convince people of elections as an arena for change. In various styles they attempted to convince people that their votes held some power and value. After the election it became obvious that all their propaganda were naught.

Voters discovered that their votes were misused. And now they are protesting in hundreds of thousands. People should have defended their rights by a boycott of the election, but in any instance the votes tossed into ballot boxes are being utilized by the regimes officials.

People have a right to protest such mistreatments. While condemning all the attacks on protesters we remind all that such protests should not be led by likes of Mousavi, Khatami, Kahroubi, or any other executives or elements of the capitalist order. These protests shall become a part of justice seeking by workers and toiling masses against the capitalist order.

Iranian working class has been struggling for its basic rights for years and in the process has been vigorously attacked by the protectors of Capital. In the 80’s simultaneous with execution and incarceration of hundreds and thousands of activists of social movements, especially labour movement, they executed Jamal Cheragh Vaisi, the speaker for May 1st event in Sanandaj.

In the era of so called “political reforms,” labor activists in Saghez were arrested and incarcerated for participating in May 1st events, egalitarian and freethinking writers were portrayed as hired pens, and some of them were killed in a process of chain murders.

In the past few years we have also witnessed Khaton Abad workers getting riddled with bullets, Mansour Osanloo, president of the executive board of Vahed Syndicate getting his tongue cut and incarcerated, Mahmud Salehi being jailed and denied medical attention while in confinement, flogging of labor activists on charges of participating in May 1st ceremonies, and arrests and incarceration of tens of labor activists in this year’s May1st event….

Student protesters were viciously attacked and their dormitories ransacked. Women’s movement and their activists asking for their basic rights were also beastly attacked, and incarcerated. The just rights of teachers and nurses were also violated, by firing from jobs and confinement in prisons.

Now the protectors of Capital are facing a dire crisis and reproaching each other. Working class and noble liberated people of Iran should expose such demagoguery. Bourgeoisie in whichever shape from or color cannot and will not guarantee the just rights and demands of Iranian workers and toilers.

At best the desperate attempts of capitalist class and their representatives are to turn workers into a reserve force that could be used to maintain their dominance. Working class and liberated people of Iran shall not trust them.

Workers, liberated and noble people of Iran!

Major tribulations for workers and all exploited masses are: exploitation, extensive unemployment and lack of any rights, inflation and unbearable high costs of living, lack of basics rights to from workers organizations, the right to strike, freedom of expression, and other civil liberties. Such obstacles could be overcome only by relying on the power of the working class as the main and most powerful societal force.

Workers and brave, justice seeking people of Iran and throughout the world, in their extensive, and freedom seeking protests could and should demand: the identification, arrest and prosecution of all those who ordered and implemented the recent suppressions and killings of people, and demand freedom of all those imprisoned during the recent workers’ and people’s protests.

We also demand the annulment of all sentences against workers and labour activists as well as activists of women’s movement and students’ movement.

Capitalist order is an order of barbarism, suppression and exploitation, an order of corruption, poverty, prostitution, and deprivation. Let’s unite and call for the eradication of the capitalist system.

Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers' Organizations

June 18, 2009




Sunday, 21 June 2009

Iran—bus drivers

Statement from Tehran bus drivers:

In recent days we have witnessed the passionate presence of millions of women and men, the old and the young, and ethnic and religious minorities in Iran, people who want their government to recognize their most basic right, the right to freely, independently, and transparently elect, a right that in most societies around the world is not only recognized officially but for whose protection no effort is neglected.

In the current situation, we witness threats, arrests, killings, and naked persecution, which threaten to grow in dimension and lead to the shedding of innocent people's blood thus bringing a rise in popular protests and not in their decline.

Iranian society is facing a deep political and economic crisis. Million-strong protests, which have manifested themselves with a silence that is replete with meaning, have become a pattern that is growing in area and dimension, a growth that demands a response from any responsible person and organization.

The Autobus Workers Union in an announcement issued before the elections declared, "in the absence of the freedom for political parties, our organization is naturally deprived of a social institution that can protect it."

"Workers of the Autobus Workers Union consider their social involvement and political activity to be the certain right of each member of society and furthermore believe that workers across Iran as long as they submit the platforms of presidential candidates and a practical guarantee about campaign slogans can choose to participate or not participate in elections."

The fact that the demands of the vast majority of Iranian society go far beyond those of unions is obvious to all, and in the previous years we have emphasized that until the principle of the freedom to organize and to elect is not materialized, any talk of social freedom and labor union rights will be a farce.

Given these facts, the Autobus Workers Union places itself alongside all those who are offering themselves in the struggle to build a free and independent civic society. The union condemns any kind of suppression and threats.

To recognize labor-union and social rights in Iran, the international labor organizations have declared the Fifth of Tir (June 26) the international day of support for imprisoned Iranian workers as well as for the institution of unions in Iran.

We want that this day be viewed as more than a day for the demands of labor unions to make it a day for human rights in Iran and to ask all our fellow workers to struggle for the trampled rights of the majority of the people of Iran.

With hope for the spread of justice and freedom,
Autobus Workers Union


I will publish the story of the bus drivers attempt to form an independent union on Tuesday. And will try and confirm (double source) these stories.

Iran Khodro—strike declaration

Protest strike declared in IranKhodro, the biggest car plant in Iran:

We declare our solidarity with the movement of the people of Iran.

Autoworker, Fellow Laborers (Laborer Friends): What we witness today, is an insult to the intelligence of the people, and disregard for their votes, the trampling of the principles of the Constitution by the government. It is our duty to join this people's movement.

We the workers of Iran Khodro, Thursday 28/3/88 [Iranian calendar] in each working shift will stop working for half an hour to protest the suppression of students, workers, women, and the Constitution and declare our solidarity with the movement of the people of Iran.

The morning and afternoon shifts from 10 to 10:30. The night shift from 3 to 3:30.

Labourers of IranKhodro

Friday, 19 June 2009

Tuesday, 16 June 2009


Iran is a country ravaged by corrution. Ordinary people have to be pay bribes for services, to policemen and state officials. Students have to bribe examiners to get exam questions, and small businesses and traders—who were once the bedrock of the republic—have to pay heafty “bonuses” to officials for contracts.

This corruption led to many in the establishment to voice growing concerns over what was seen as the endemic mismanagement of the country.

In 2002 Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri, a leading figure in the southern city of Isfahan which is now one of the centres of protests outside Tehran, publicly denounced the “broken promises of the revolution”.

In his resignation speech delivered at Friday prayers Taheri said, “When I hear that some of the privileged progeny (clerics' sons) and special people, some of whom even don cloaks and turbans, are competing amongst themselves to amass the most wealth and to achieve their own ends.

“The ones who are pillaging the nation's wealth—yes, on behalf of the ones who think that Muslims' public wealth belongs to them and consider the country to be their private, hereditary property, I am drenched in the sweat of shame.”

Taheri gave voice to widespread perception that ”now the Shah and America are not in control of this country for us to be able to blame them for the shortcomings and problems.”

His biggest criticism was aimed at the pro-government militias. He denounced them as "henchmen of tyranny and the mercenary, unrefined, mad club wielders, with their false ideas and cruel behaviour.”

This widespread unease forced the parliament to appoint Abbas Palizdar, a onetime ally of Ahmadinijad, to investigate senior officials.

Palizdar’s enquiry exposed a network of kickbacks reaching into the heart of the establishment—including members of the powerful Council of Guardians, the head of special investigations, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, the intelligence minister and even former president Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The biggest scandal involved some $100 million that when missing during the privatisation of Almakaseb, a large state-run trading company under the control of the son of a leading cleric. Other scandals involved the state-owned car company and public construction projects.

Palizdar found the most corrupt institution to be the powerful Revolutionary Courts that deal with dissent, drug smuggling and blasphemy. He found that those with money or influence had little to fear from the courts, even if the evidence against them was overwhelming. Those who could not pay were shown little mercy.

When Palizdar report was repressed he broke ranks and toured universities were he exposed the corrupt officials and their private projects. He was arrested in June 2008 and has not been heard of since.

The full report is available here.

Iran—a split in the ruling class

The elections in Iran have revealed the deep divisions at the heart of Iran’s ruling class.

The country is internationally isolated, faces a growing economic crisis and is ruled by a faction associated with the “hardliners” that want to be the main beneficiaries of privatisation of state-owned companies.

This faction has coalesced around the incumbent president Mahmud Ahmadinijad. They see his populist appeal as an important bulwark against the deep discontent that is sweeping the country.

A second section fears that the widespread corruption at the heart of the system is undermining popular support for the republic. They want the economy opened up and strip from power those they see as lining their pockets.

This faction, that includes many senior figures in the religious establishment, has put its hopes in Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

Mousavi is an establishment figure. He was prime minister during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and played key role in the rise of the Islamic movement following the 1979 revolution.

He is respected for keeping the economy afloat during the war, and is considered a safe pair of hands.

Mousavi lost power in 1989 when the post of prime minister was abolished. Throughout the 1990s he became associated with the rising reform movement that wanted to limit the power of Iran’s new elite. His goal was always to steer Iran towards neoliberal “opening up” of the economy.

Mousavi was widely tipped to run for the president in the landmark elections in 1997. He gave way to Mohammad Khatami, then a little known cleric.

Despite winning 80 percent of the vote, and re-election in 2001, Khatami was unable to deliver reform, leaving the movement that brought him to power disappointed and demoralised.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the subsequent elections on a promise to root out corruption and ease the growing poverty among the mass of Iranian people.

Once in power Ahmadinejad presided over huge windfall from the spike in oil price. He used this money to widen his base among the urban and rural poor—even distributing free potatoes during the election campaign.

But sections of the establishment accused him of squandering the oil wealth and failing to plan for the subsequent collapse in prices.

Meanwhile many of his supporters were disappointed when reneged on his promise to tackle corruption.

Ahmadinejad was certain of victory in the elections. All the early polls showed him polling double the number of votes than his nearest rival. But the trends also showed the gap narrowing as Mousavi campaign grew in strength.

Like Khatami, Mousavi promised widespread reform, but also to limit their scope. His key promise was to make public the finances of the government—a threat to sections of the elite who have been creaming off Iran’s resources.

His advocates sweeping neoliberal economic policies as part of making the state-owned sector more “efficient”. But these policies have little popular appeal. So Mousavi also promised sweeping social reforms.

Mousavi pledged to declaw the much feared morality police that enforce strict rules on dress and behaviour. He promised to open the top posts in government to women and “review” the laws that limit their rights.

He said who would bring the police under presidential control. At present the security forces are answerable only to unelected supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

Mousavi and other reformers want to harness the growing disquiet in the country to oust one faction of the ruling class from power. They want Ahmadinejad and the hardliners removed, but also limit the scope of popular anger.

The danger is that this movement could quickly run out of their control.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Obama's speech

There is lots to say about Obama’s speech, the most significant is that a black man is touring the region apologising for what white men have done. A point lost on many, but the symbolism is clear.

That Obama can deliver this speech in Cairo university is itself astounding.

If Bush had attempted to speak at the campus it would have been burnt to the ground. Obama instead is greeted with standing ovations from an audience that has not been shy in booing Egyptian ministers.

Fickle Arabs easily swayed by smooth words? That’s what many commentators would do doubt be thinking. But Obama’s tone is important.

Some, such as Noam Chomsky, have have dismissed it.

In his analysis Chomsky warns that “Those familiar with the history will rationally conclude, then, that Obama will continue in the path of unilateral US rejectionism.”

Others, such as William Pfaff, see it as a heralding a new era.

It is neither. But it does mark a shift in US strategy.

This speech needs to be seen in two parts. First what has not changed.

Echoing Bush’s 2002 “axis of evil” speech, Obama is committed to the “war on terror” . “When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains people are endangered across an ocean,” he announced.

Obama also warns Iran over its nuclear ambition and sets out to continue the war in Afghanistan.

Here is what’s different.

Gone is the rhetoric of “clash of civilisation” and “crusades” that characterised Bush and his supporters (especially from the pro-war left).

It is replaced with an acceptance of Islam, and the contribution of Muslims in creating civilisation. Easy words maybe, but a noteworthy departure from Islamobobia.

Obama said that, “Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world... I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible.”

And although Bush referred to Iran as part of the “axis of evil”, Obama acknowledges that the US bears responsibility for the tensions.

He said: “In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.”

He follows this with an appeal for negotiations.

This is not a continuation of Bush policies, but a departure. Bush wanted to invade Iran, Obama wants negotiations.

This softening of attitudes towards Iran is a recognition, if any is needed, that the US desperately need Iran to help out in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is with Israel that real change of tone.

The president’s standard commitment towards Israel is laced with criticism.

He said, “It is also undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years, they've endured the pain of dislocation.

“Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza and neighbouring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation.

“So let there be no doubt, the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.”

In a remarkable passage he states:

“For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the centre of America's founding.”

There are two messages here. The first is that Palestinians must lay down their weapons. But in a radical departure from previous US leaders, Obama is saying Palestinians are suffering as black slaves did.

Note the language: “lash of the whip”, “segregation”, “daily humiliations”, “the pain of dislocation”.

These words have caused deep concern inside Israel.

Israeli ministers have been running around Washington waving bits of paper signed by Bush that allow them to continue settlements in the West Bank. Obama has instead told them they had to stop.

So here is Haaretz on the reaction inside the Israeli government: “Netanyahu now understands what he already knew before the speech: The moment of political reckoning that he so feared is now rapidly approaching.

“The thunder he hears in the distance is the sound of the Likud legions and the West Bank settler hordes rolling down the mountains. The light on the horizon is not that of a new day, but of a train coming right at him—a night train from Cairo.

“Netanyahu will have to decide over the coming weeks whom he would rather pick a fight with: the powerful US administration, whose president sees himself in an almost messianic role, or his own coalition and members of his party.”

In these circumstances it is easy to dismiss Obama's words as rhetoric, and we know that he faces deep problems reconciling the tensions between US imperialism with its Arab allies. But tension there are—caused partly by popular anger over Palestine, but more directly by the deep hatred of the Arab regimes.

And although the Israelis care little of what happens in Afghanistan, or which government rules in the Arab world. Alfter all they have the comfort of a powerful army and some 50 nuclear warheads.

But it matters deeply to the US and the rest of the West. And if they needed any reminding then last Sunday’s victory by Hizbollah in the Lebanese elections is very sobering. The resistance won largely because of Israel’s 2006 war on the country.

Would another Israeli assault on Gaza mean the US loses Cairo? For the US the stakes are now too high abd the Israelis must be reigned in.

Obama's speech is a recognition of the deep problems faced by US imperialism in the region. He no doubt hopes he can charm his way out of this sticky situation.

The ultimate test is what happens in practice, on this point Chomsky is right. But what is significant is that it will be the Israelis who ensure that Obama will fail.

Elections: What the US bosses think

The Wall Street Journal is over the moon over what it calls the "rebound of Saudi power." I won't mention the hypocrisy of the newspaper which a bastion of neo-conservative, pro-war, pro-Israel, and anti-Muslim, views... but not anti-Salafi (the conservative Saudi ideology).

Never mind. Here's it's take on the elections:

Saudi officials are savoring the weekend election victory in Lebanon of the so-called March 14 alliance.

The Western-leaning bloc held on to its parliamentary majority, despite some polls predicting gains by an opposition coalition headed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

"The vacuum of power among the Arabs has finally been filled. We can see that the balance is tipping in our favor," said one Saudi diplomat.

Saudi Arabia was a key player in ending the civil war in Lebanon in 1989, but its influence there waned after the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a billionaire who made his fortune as a contractor for the Saudi royal family.

Since then, the Saudis have openly intervened on behalf of the government dominated by Mr. Hariri's party. It has pledged $1.5 billion to prop up the country's currency and to help rebuilding efforts after the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

Opposition politicians in Lebanon accused Saudi Arabia of funneling money into the campaigns of politicians running alongside Mr. Hariri's son, Saad, who is now in the running to become Lebanon's next prime minister. Saudi officials have denied interference.

Influential Saudi-owned regional media outlets, however, waged their own public-relations campaign, warning in Lebanon of a looming crisis should Hezbollah and its allies win.

After the elections, Saudi's King Abdullah sent congratulations to the Lebanese people for their "successful" elections.

Tariq Alhomayed, editor of Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, owned by a brother of the king, went further, declaring in an editorial that the results showed "the fall of the Iranian project" in Lebanon.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Elections: What the UK bosses think

The Economist magazine catches the mood of relief in the west over the elections:

The coalition that has struggled to govern Lebanon since 2005 surprised even many of its followers as it emerged from a fiercely contested general election with an undented parliamentary majority.

Its win cheered the Western powers that support the March 14 alliance led by Saad Harir...

Yet March 14’s capture of 71 out of 128 parliamentary seats also underlined the flaws in Lebanon’s cumbersome democracy ... Taking advantage of the imbalance between the size of the constituencies and the number of their MPs, the alliance gained a critical advantage from the massive turnout by Sunni voters in Christian districts, reflecting both demographic shifts and the financial clout of the Sunni political machine.

The opposition’s losses were mostly suffered by independent politicians allied to them. Hizbullah, which in the past has shied away from a deep exposure to what it calls “dirty” electoral politics, ran only 11 candidates, all of whom won handily.

The March 14 victory is unlikely to inspire any early settlement of the feuds that have bedevilled its politics. But for the time being compromise is in the air.

This is helped by the warmer winds blowing from Barack Obama’s America, and the rise in Iran, engaged in an election of its own, of powerful currents arguing for accommodation with the West.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Change we can believe in?

It is easy to dismiss Obama's speech, and rightly. Noam Chomsky points to the substantive trap the US president finds himself in:

A CNN headline, reporting Obama's plans for his June 4 Cairo address, reads 'Obama looks to reach the soul of the Muslim world.' Perhaps that captures his intent, but more significant is the content hidden in the rhetorical stance, or more accurately, omitted.

Keeping just to Israel-Palestine — there was nothing substantive about anything else — Obama called on Arabs and Israelis not to 'point fingers' at each other or to 'see this conflict only from one side or the other.'

There is, however, a third side, that of the United States, which has played a decisive role in sustaining the current conflict. Obama gave no indication that its role should change or even be considered.

Those familiar with the history will rationally conclude, then, that Obama will continue in the path of unilateral US rejectionism.


But there is an edge, especially his criticism of Israel. Haaretz points to the problems Obama has with the new Israeli government:

During long, personal conversations with his inner circle over the past week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that he had no idea what US President Barack Obama would say in his speech in Cairo. "We have no information," he said. He does now.

Netanyahu now understands what he already knew before the speech: The moment of political reckoning that he so feared is now rapidly approaching.

The thunder he hears in the distance is the sound of the Likud legions and the West Bank settler hordes rolling down the mountains. The light on the horizon is not that of a new day, but of a train coming right at him — a night train from Cairo.

Netanyahu will have to decide over the coming weeks whom he would rather pick a fight with: the powerful US administration, whose president sees himself in an almost messianic role, or his own coalition and members of his party.


In these circumstances it is easy to dismiss Obama's words as rhetoric, and we know that he faces deep problems reconciling the tensions inside US imperialism with its Arab allies. But tension there is, caused by popular anger over Palestine and hatred of the Arab regimes.

But Obama is not Bush Lite... it is deeper than that. The US hoped that its invasion of Iraq would project its power, instead it has laid bare its weakness.

If you turn the prism you can see the light refracted in a different way. Here is a black man trotting the globe apologising for what the white men did. This is significant, because it will be the Israelis who will ensure that he fails.


For the record here is Omaba's speech.

Note the reference to the struggle against slavery... he is saying that the Palestinians are like the slaves in the US. Anyone familiar with this history will understand that those who helped the slaves are heroes.

Here is the Bush "axis" speech.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Is all OK, right?

Yes the economy is fine, says Forbes magazine:

Lebanon has been one of the unlikely success stories of the global financial crisis. The vital tourism and construction industries are booming, and capital is flowing into the country.

As optimistic Lebanese leaders, bankers and businessmen have emphasized, the success is primarily due to conservative bank-lending and bank-investment regulations, limiting exposure to mortgage-backed instruments and other products that have hurt the balance sheets of other international banks, including many Gulf countries.

A result of the country's long experience with perpetual instability in the national and regional political environment, conservative lending policies, backed up by a solid flow of remittances from millions of Lebanese abroad, have immunized the Lebanese economy from political turmoil.

Apart from the months immediately following the 2006 war with Israel, the Lebanese economy has experienced uninterrupted growth since 2001.

Healthy bank sector. A few years back, Lebanon's state regulations were subjected to heavy criticism from domestic and international bankers. Now the financial crisis has turned Lebanese banks into a safe haven in the region, and the economy has thrived:

--Bank deposits have grown steadily, rising 15% in the first three months of the year from the year-earlier period.

--Foreign currency reserves were estimated at 17.6 billion dollars in January 2009, up from 9.8 billion at the end of 2007.

--Foreign liquid assets stood at 22.3 billion at the end of March 2009, a record high.

Impact of the financial crisis. The banking sector's success is remarkable but does not detract from the fact that Lebanon's economy is well integrated into the global economy and will therefore inevitably feel some effects of its downturn in 2009. Private investors have incurred great losses in national and international investments, and the Beirut stock market alone has lost more than $5 billion since mid-2008.

The lack of capital investment will be felt in the crucial construction, telecommunication and service sectors in the medium term, particularly if the crisis continues throughout 2009.


But this optimism hides a slow burning crisis, writes Bassem Chit in Socialist Review:

Rafiq Hariri’s policies since the 1990s have mainly focused on borrowing money and then selling the US$40 billion accumulated debt to local banks with sky-high interest rates. As a result the state is going bankrupt.


Election battle

Kaveh Afrasiabi writes in Asia Times on what is at stake in the Lebanese elections:

Where Iran has Hezbollah, Israel has Jundallah, given Israel's apparent efforts to destabilize Iran by playing an "ethnic card" against it. This, by some reports, it is doing by nurturing the Sunni Islamist group Jundallah to parallel Tehran's support for Lebanon's formidable Shi'ite group, Hezbollah, that is favored to win parliamentary elections on June 7.

Should the Hezbollah-led coalition win as anticipated, the result will be even closer military-to-military relations between Iran and Lebanon, reflected in Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrollah's recent statement that he would look to Tehran to modernize Lebanon's army.

Afrasiabi develops this theme in a second piece :

Israel, it appears, is not wasting any time in cultivating the seeds of a future conflict with Lebanon, where a military defeat for a Hezbollah-controlled government would be devastating to Hezbollah's political fortunes.

It has recently been revealed by former Israeli chief of staff General Dan Halutz that Israel failed to assassinate Hezbollah's political leader, Hassan Nasrallah, during the 2006 Lebanon war.

This, together with the Lebanese government's arrest of nine Lebanese who were spying for Israel's Mossad, reflects the basic tenor of Israel's one-dimensional security approach toward the evolving political developments in Lebanon.

Conspicuously absent in the US and Israeli calculations about the political and geostrategic implications of a Hezbollah victory is any appreciation of how this may actually deepen Hezbollah's moderation.