As Yemen Starves, Billions in Donor Funds Fill the Coffers of International Aid Agencies

By Ahmed AbdulKareem

Source

Of the billions of dollars pouring into Yemen from international donors, only a trickle is actually reaching the people who need it the most reports Ahmed AbdulKareem.

SANA’A, YEMEN — The phenomenon of mercenarism in the impoverished Arab country of Yemen is not limited to the foreign fighters joining the Saudi-led coalition for money, but also includes UN relief organizations, international agencies, and their local partners who are ultimately denying Yemenis the food, healthcare, money and other aid they urgently need. Regardless of their goodwill.

According to a recent report, every ten minutes a child under the age of five dies from extreme hunger in Yemen, while six newborn babies lose their lives every two hours as a result of the continued deterioration of the health situation in the country. This, at a time when the country is riddled with aid agencies.

There are 22 million Yemenis in need of relief, including seven million at risk of starvation, and nearly two million children on the verge of dying from malnutrition according to UN reports, despite the massive sums of money allocated to Yemen from both the international community and regional organizations.


Moreover, 100,00 people die every year in the country as a result of diseases and epidemics, most of them children. Now, four years after the flow of donor funds into the war-torn country, these diseases and epidemics are increasingly emerging where aid, particularly medical assistance, was supposed to prevent their expansion.

According to United Nations Development Program (UNDP), poverty in Yemen has jumped from 47 percent of the population in 2014, before the war began, to a projected 75 percent by the end of 2019. That figure betrays the reality on the ground and suggests that donor money is simply not reaching Yemenis in need.

In 2018, the UN praised international donors for raising large amounts of money to tackle Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. Almost all of the $3 billion pledged has been either received by the UN or formally committed. In 2017, when the first pledging conference for Yemen was held, 94 percent of the pledges, $1.1 billion, was fulfilled, according to the UN.

However, this year, the United Nations announced that humanitarian needs in Yemen for this year amount to $2.96 billion, $2.1 billion of which has already been collected, while other countries pledged the remaining amount.

Where does the aid money go?

The United Nations annually declares and approves a public response plan involving local authorities including Yemen’s National Authority for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Recovery (NAMCHA).

By investigating official documents of the annual public response and its actual outcomes, as well as tracking the flow of millions of dollars of supplies and funds from aid programs, it becomes apparent that most donor funds go to the coffers of UN relief organizations and international and local NGOs. In other words, more than seventy percent of the aid is stolen off the top.

That money is distributed to dozens of UN agencies, international organizations and local NGOs. The largest recipients include the World Food Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

According to budget lists in the UN’s annual public response, 15-20 percent of grants are taken in the form of dues before they reach Yemenis. Then, an additional 45-60 percent of the grants go to relief organizations to cover operating and support expenses.

Yemen Food Aid

he scant food supplies of a displaced family hangs on the wall of a home in Lahj, Yemen, Feb. 11, 2018. Nariman El-Mofty | AP

Moreover, a review of the UN budget shows that grant money allocated to Yemen has been wasted on projects that are not a part of the UN’s annual public response plan. That money is supposed to go towards serving the needs of Yemenis based on research by civil society organizations and local authorities.

At a time when hundreds of residents, mostly women and children, die every day due to shortages of food and medicine, millions of dollars are being funneled into reproductive health projects such as the International Child Welfare Organization’s reproductive health project with a budget of $4,592,632 to distribute contraceptives and educational sex dolls.

The Yemeni minister of public health and population, Taha al-Mutawakel called on the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to clarify the fate of funds allocated to Yemen. Al-Mutawakel bemoaned how aid money has been squandered on cars and services instead of alleviating the sufferings of Yemenis. “Stop shedding tears for our children who get killed, whilst there is no credibility whatsoever in your international reports and they do not help assuage this tragic situation, he said from inside the Sabeen Maternal Hospital in the capital Sana’a.

 We are not demanding toys and video game consoles, but we are calling for incubators and other related devices to give children the right to life.”

 

Relief agency corruption trickles down to Yemen’s locals

Further analysis of public documents shows that a portion of aid money goes to the accounts of UN relief organizations via its procurement policy. Those organizations often allot excessive amounts of money to buy imported products, yet often end up buying those products from local markets or from abroad at lower prices than specified in their detailed humanitarian plan.

For example, in 2019, the World Food Program (WFP) budget included money to purchase 70 million liters of diesel at 92 cents per liter, for a total cost of $64.5 million. However, the domestic market price for diesel in just 75 cents per liter and the organization buys the diesel from Yemen Oil Company at the local price according to official agreements which have been reviewed by MintPress. That disparity means that a staggering $21,700,000 will end up in WFP coffers.

Relief organizations that have diverted donated food, medicine, fuel and money from desperate Yemenis amid their country’s five-year war also receive significant financial benefits by leveraging currency exchange rates. The procurement process and projects carried out by many of these organizations are paid for in local currency, not in U.S. dollars. In this way, organizations save substantial sums of money by engaging in a sort of currency speculation.

In addition, organizations workers have been caught selling relief items to local merchants who then trade them on the black market. Two merchants, as well as eyewitnesses, confirmed to MintPress that they were sold relief items bearing the WFP’s logo by the organization’s workers. Some residents engage in the sale of these items out of desperation and the need for money for medical treatment or to pay rent according to residents who spoke to MintPress.

Moreover, the scant food aid which millions of Yemenis rely on for their daily sustenance often doesn’t reach people until it is already expired, by that time often crawling with worms and cockroaches because of lack of proper storage facilities, constant power outages, or long hours in transport. Rotten food aid is sometimes burned as it is not fit for human consumption. To make matters worse, coalition forces have bombed bridges linking Yemen’s main port in Hodeida with Sana’a, the capital city, which has meant trucks loaded with vital supplies have to take other routes adding many hours to the journey.

Yemen Aid

The aftermath of a Saudi airstrike on a truck carrying UN World Food Program aid in Saada, February 11, 2019. Photo | Ali al- Shorgbi

Current conditions on the ground are seriously hindering the delivery and distribution of aid as the Saudi-led coalition is enforcing a commercial blockade on sea and air routes into the country, and placing restrictions on relief supplies where aid is subject to long inspection delays and in some cases, rejected altogether. The fate of the rejected aid is not known.

Inflated salaries and internal waste

Aid money isn’t just being squandered away on expired food and operating expenses. Some relief organizations, which often do not provide detailed financial reports on how aid money is spent, are riddled with financial mismanagement, corruption and nepotism. Donor money often goes to pay the inflated salaries of senior staff of international organizations, particularly to UN relief agency workers. The salary of just eight staff at the World Food Program in Yemen amounted to around $50 million.

According to the outcomes of a project for internally displaced people (IDPs) implemented by the UNHCR, the percentage of staff salaries, expenses and additional petty cash, which included the hiring of cars and houses for staff, makes up 64.3 percent of the project’s total budget. Just 35.7 actually went to IDPs. The salary of the manager for another UNHCR project implemented by the CARE organization reached $15,500 per month, although his contract stipulates a salary of $9,500 per month. Other documents showed his salary at $11,500 per month.

Yemen’s National Authority for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Recovery (NAMCHA) said there has been a deliberate waste of humanitarian aid funds allocated to the people of Yemen which amounts to a total of $4.2 billion, despite the humanitarian needs the Yemeni people not being met in 2019.

The United Nations has admitted to some incidents of corruption by aid workers, including a case in which a dozen of its aid workers enriched themselves from the billions of dollars in donated aid flowing into the country as well as from financial mismanagement.

In one particularly egregious case uncovered by the Associated Press, UN World Health Organization (WHO) employee Nevio Zagaria, an Italian doctor, arrived in Yemen in December 2016 after a four-year stint in the Philippines to lead the agency’s humanitarian efforts in Yemen. According to the AP’s investigation, the WHO’s Yemen office under Zagaria was riddled with corruption and nepotism.

Zagaria brought in junior staffers who worked with him in the Philippines and promoted them to high-salary posts that they were not qualified for. Two of them – a Filipino university student and a former intern, were given senior posts but their only role was to take care for Zagaria’s pet dog.

Even American organizations, whose work in Yemen carries an heir of exceptionalism since the United States in the largest single supplier of lethal weapons, information, and experts to the Saudi-led Coalition, has given Yemenis little more than crumbs. For example, in two projects implemented by American World Communities Organization, as well as a project from the American Mercy Corps, only 25 percent of aid went to people in need, while 75 percent went to the organizations and their workers.

The loss of donor funds by organizations is not without precedent. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) froze more than $239 million of funds intended for Syrian aid programs due to significant fraud after it investigated 25 reported cases, some two-thirds of which were directly related to outright theft and fraud. As in Yemen, most of the $5.5 billion in American aid was distributed through the United Nations and a host of partner organizations.

The simultaneous funding of war and aid

Areas along the frontline of Yemen’s ongoing war, such as the country’s western coast as well as border areas, are a priority for many relief organizations. Yet those organizations often provide little in the way of humanitarian support and instead have been found to be gathering intelligence or recruiting new fighters on behalf of the Saudi-led coalition, according to local residents. Many relief agencies have paid huge sums of money to the heads of local tribes. Two Yemeni tribal leaders, known locally as sheiks, told MintPress on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject, that they received payments from Mercy Core as an incentive to carry out secret tasks for the Coalition. The nature of those tasks was not revealed.

According to documents reviewed by MintPress and interviews with employees of relief organizations as well as eyewitnesses who spoke to MintPress, many organizations are working with groups classified by the United States as terrorists, including Ansar al-Sharia, a group affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). For Example, the American Mercy Core allegedly contracted Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen’s Abyan province through an unauthorized Somali merchant to supply the group with foodstuffs and money.

Last week, authorities in Sana’a detained a number of U.N. humanitarian workers accused of spying, including two Jordanians who have since been released. Authorities accuse UN relief organizations of funding and conspiring with intelligence services to secretly target Yemenis, along with importing expired drugs and withholding fuel shipments.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that two of its citizens conducting a humanitarian audit in Yemen were released and later flown home. The World Food Program, for its part, said that none of its workers were being held by authorities in Sana’a.

Amongst the largest donors and financiers of U.N relief organizations are the very same countries participating in the war on Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and supported by the United States.

Saudi Arabia United Nations Donation

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presents a donation to the UN’s Antonio Guterres during a meeting about Yemen, March 2018. Dennis Van Tine | IPx

Most of these organizations’ workers have political loyalty to ousted president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, or to the UAE or Saudi Arabi.

As a result of the lack of neutrality of a number of organizations, many Yemenis have not only been denied humanitarian aid, the risk to aid workers working in the country has grown. Last week, UN Deputy Humanitarian Chief Ursula Mueller warned the Security Council that attacks on aid workers have escalated in Yemen.

Corruption undermines the trust of civilians and donors

A number of Yemenis that spoke to MintPress said that they are not receiving any humanitarian assistance. Fatima, a 45-year-old mother of four, said she had not received food or medicine from aid organizations in four years. Fatima suffers from Inflammation of the spinal cord and relies on aid to get by. “No organization has helped us, where does the money go?” she asked.

Yemenis activists say that relief organizations, including UN organizations, are making a fortune in Yemen, asking the UN and international agencies to provide financial reports on how hundreds of millions of dollars that have been poured into Yemen since 2015 have been spent.

For its part, NAMCHA has called for the formation of an international committee to investigate the corruption of international organizations working in Yemen. However, the UN puts much of the blame on the Houthis, saying they have diverted donated food, medicine, fuel and money from desperate people over the course of the country’s five-year war.

The UN accuses the Houthis of corruption and stealing food and medicine for its own use. Yet most of the money squandered during humanitarian operations has been lost in the financing of marginal projects, procurement, transport and the distribution of medicines, food, and building materials, responsibilities which lie exclusively with relief organizations according to Transparency International.

The corruption of international relief organizations, as well as the bias they seem to harbor, undermines the trust of Yemen’s civilians on multiple levels. War-weary people don’t trust aid agencies to provide assistance and local authorities don’t trust the principled rhetoric around impartiality. Ultimately, this leads to donors not trusting that their money will reach the people who need it most.

Next? After Iraq, Saudi Social Media Bots Deployed to Influence Lebanon Protests

Next? After Iraq, Saudi Social Media Bots Deployed to Influence Lebanon Protests

By Staff

Less than a month after exposing the involvement of Saudi Arabian social media bots in the protests that engulfed Iraq, today’s analyses revealed the same electronic hands behind provoking hatred during Lebanon protests.

A study published by Tansikeyah News on Tuesday revealed that 78% of the accounts using hashtags to incite hatred in the Lebanese society were Saudi.

Additionally, Assistant Professor in Middle East Studies and Digital Humanities Marc Owen Jones studied the suspicious hashtags that were used during the still ongoing protests in Lebanon.

In a thread of tweets he published on his Twitter account, Owen said I looked at suspected influence campaigns criticizing Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

“I analyzed around 6,500 tweets from around 4,494 unique accounts. There were a few things I found quite striking. Firstly, the spike in accounts created in September 2019, which was obviously before the escalation of protests in Lebanon. Again this might not be unusual for suspicious accounts, which will become active when required and high suspension rates means usually they are ‘newer’,” Owen noted.

“The 180 accounts created in September 2019 compares to around the 31 per month average – a large difference. Although I assume it goes without saying (perhaps I shouldn’t) it is also common for dramatic events to drive people to creating Twitter events. Although I am not sure why September 2019 outstrips October 2019,” he added.

He went on to explain that “many of the new accounts have tell-tale signs of spam accounts – such as usernames that look like random strings. Much of the content on the hashtags are the type of crude cartoons you’d expect on influence campaigns.”

A brief locational analysis of the tweets also suggested that most of the accounts are based in Saudi Arabia, Owen stated.

“Around 35% of the 2,297 accounts with location data were from Saudi.”

While Saudi has the highest Twitter population in the world, Owen said he usually sees this kind of turnout on hashtags criticizing Iran and Hezbollah. Some of the almost brand-new accounts created in Sept/Oct 2019 are ‘very spammy.’

A couple of them, which RT a lot of Saudi loyalist accounts have as many as 10,000 + tweets, despite only being a month and a half old.

Owen concluded that there is certainly some sort of Twitter campaign afoot to demonize Nasrallah. 

“So yes, as has become the custom on Twitter, different forces are trying to inflame tensions in other countries, polluting organic discussions with inorganic content.”

Earlier in the month, analytics revealed that the trending hashtag that was most used regarding rallies in Iraq was used by only 6% users in the country, while 79% were from Saudi Arabia.

The hashtag was precisely used by 58000 Twitter users based in Saudi Arabia, who definitely caused more escalation in the already tense situation.

Relatively, 200 robots retweeted 13000 related tweets at the time.

Now the question is which country will be the next target of Saudi Arabia’s continued hatred-spreading propaganda? And the repeated question is why Saudi Arabia is deploying its social bots to do this dirty job?

Iran…..The World’s Biggest Exporter of Terrorism?

By Prof. Anthony Hall

Source

Reflections on Global Geopolitics, on an Iranian Conference in Beirut, and on a Canadian Federal Election

Tony and New Horizon in Black and White a8f76

I was out of the country for two weeks during the opening phase of the political contest that will culminate in a Canadian national election on October 21. In late September I took part in a controversial conference in Beirut Lebanon. Since ancient times Beirut has been a pivotal city in the strategic zone on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea where Asia, Africa and Europe converge. Beirut has been dramatically rebuilt in an atmosphere of relative stability over recent years, but especially since the turning back of the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 2006.

The conference was organized by the Iran-based New Horizon organization. My time with the distinguished members of the international group assembled in Lebanon has helped me to see more clearly some of the core issues in the rapidly changing configurations of global geopolitics. It has also helped me to appreciate better the nature of problems closer to my Canadian home.

Looking outward from the perspective of the Beirut conference I have garnered many new insights on a variety of issues. In particular, I gained fuller appreciation of the problems plaguing the vitality of public discourse in my own North American country. I have had to face a heightened appreciation of the stunted and parochial character of public discourse in Canada even during a national election campaign. It seems there is a dearth of thoughtful commentary emerging to address the possibility of new roles for Canada in rapidly changing configurations of global power. It seems there is little willingness to consider the possibility of a dramatic reshaping of the political, economic, cultural and military interactions that help define Canada’s place in the global community of communities.

I found Lebanon to be an environment much more conducive than Canada to the exercise of free speech. The discussions in which I took part in Lebanon helped confirm for me the tight censorship of permissible public discourse in Canadian institutions these days. The formal and informal censorship extends to harsh repression of thought, discussion and publication in, for instance, agencies of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian universities and the core institutions in our failing parliamentary democracy.

Tony and Lebanese Flag 3c4af

The pattern is not unique to Canada. The repression of public discourse is fast reaching crisis proportions throughout the Occident. The clampdown of free speech is manifest especially in the rush by powerful political lobbies to censor the Internet.

Much of the rush to control the Internet’s content and search mechanisms is going forward in the name of a seemingly benevolent opposition to “hate speech.” It is important to bring skeptical eyes to appreciate the true priorities of arbitrarily-appointed censors who claim the want to wrestle “hate speech” into insignificance. It seems the ill-conceived war on terror is giving rise to a similarly ill-conceived war on hate speech.

In far too many cases the zeal by elites to decide what people can read, watch and hear on the Internet is being carried out in the name of a censorious war on hate speech. In the final analysis, the zeal to filter, constrain and reconfigure the Internet’s content and motifs of digital interaction is tightly aligned with the self-serving agendas of some of society’s most ruthless power brokers.

The Yemeni Connection to the New Horizon Conference of 2019 in Beirut

As the New Horizon conference got going, one of the delegates shared with us early news about the startling events taking place inside the southern boundary of Saudi Arabia around the town of Narjan. Assan Al-Emad, a Yemeni leader, shared with the attendees at the Beirut conference insights and information that, to the best of my knowledge, has been sparse and misleading in the zealously policed content of the Occident’s mainstream media.

Even before the circulation of some international reports about the military breakthrough being executed by the Yemeni army together with the organized Houthi resistance, Mr. Al-Emad shared with the conference delegates a running commentary on the remarkable news emerging from his home region. The new developments had as their background the Saudi Arabian military assault beginning in 2015 on the civilian population of its Yemen in the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula. Part of that aggressive warfare has involved the Saudi attempt to blockade all Yemeni land, air, and seaports in order to starve the indigenous population into submission.

The Saudi war is directed at returning Yemen to the status of a subordinate satellite of the world’s wealthiest and notorious Petro tyranny. The Saudi attempt to obliterate the vital infrastructure supporting the lives of the Yemen civilian population is backed by a large coalition of Occidental and Arab powers. These powers include Canada, Israel, the United States, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.

In recent years the Saudi assault on Yemen has been widely recognized as the basis of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. The invasion has directly affected about 80% of Yemen’s 24 million people where starvation in running rife. As a high-level UNICEF official put it, “Yemen has become today a living hell for children…. with 400,000 children suffering acute malnutrition.”

Those engaged in the Yemeni resistance to Saudi Arabia’s assault on their country began in the summer of 2019 to demonstrate increasingly sophisticated forms of self-defense especially through the deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles including drones. In mid-September this strategy of targeting Saudi installations in the cause of undermining the strength of the imperial predator extended to hitting oil-producing and oil-refining installations of the Saudi corporate giant, Aramco.

As the New Horizon delegates learned in Beirut, the Yemeni resistance forces followed up this action in late September by capturing about 2,000 Saudi officers and their mercenary soldiers who hail from many locations including Sudan, Pakistan, and Iraq. The Yemeni resistance also captured hundreds of Saudi military vehicles including some light armored vehicles made in Ontario by a Canadian-based unit of General Dynamics.

The turnaround in the military balance of power in the Arabian Peninsula in September of 2019 has many global implications. There is no doubt this turnaround is a game-changer with many far-reaching implications. The Yemeni resistance demonstrates that the world’s biggest importer of armaments emanating mostly from the United States cannot repel a concerted attack on the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces within Saudi territory. The attack comes from highly-skilled fighting units hailing mostly from one of the poorest and most aggressively assaulted countries in the world.

In 1945 Saudi Arabia was effectively taken over by the United States and its oil and gas sector. The USA claimed the lion’s share of Arabia’s fossil fuel wealth as one of the main fruits of victory for intervening to help shift the balance of power towards the allies in the Second World War. The family of Ibn Saud was entrusted to play the role of custodian of the massive Saudi oil fields largely on behalf of the emerging US superpower with its imperial headquarters in the Pentagon.

Now in 2019, the balance of world power is shifting again, this time to the disadvantage of the United States. The drone attacks on Aramco followed by the humiliation of the Saudi Armed Forces captured en masse in their own territory demonstrates once again that the Saudi royal dynasty is in dire trouble. The monarchical system of Saudi Arabia does not serve the largest majority of its own people. Nor is Saudi Arabia capable of carrying on the protection for the Zio-American empire of one of the world’s primary caches of the black gold that fuels this extended era of dirty industrialization.

The royal dynasty established by Ibn Saud with British and then US-backing is showing itself to have been outmaneuvered and outsmarted by poor but determined regional enemies. These enemies have been generated over several generations through the now-legendary ineptitude of corrupt Saudi leadership that is widely resented by millions both inside and outside the petrodollar’s heartland.

The absurd dependence of the Occident on the Wahabi Kingdom run by mentally-unstable billionaire princes is becoming increasingly obvious. The Kingdom’s vulnerability to the growing sophistication of the Yemeni resistance exposes many of the internal contradictions plaguing the corrupt constitution of the most zealous drivers of imperial globalization.

The logistical sophistication embodied in the victories of the Yemeni resistance should not be underestimated. The operation demonstrates that the Yemeni resistance has much support within Saudi Arabia. The resistance has agents and collaborators inside the Saudi Kingdom that are obviously ready, willing and able to supply vital intelligence of developments on the ground.

Among the many elements of the victory by the Yemeni resistance is the shutting down of Jizan airport and the targeting of nearby Saudi bases so that reinforcements could not be sent into battle. A particularly bold maneuver was aimed at sidelining Apache helicopters parked at King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh. The Yemeni resistance deployed missiles, drones and anti-aircraft systems to prevent Saudis from supporting their troops in the air. They used various electronic jamming devices to disrupt Saudi systems of command and control.  Yemeni resistance demonstrated its ability to blind the expensive Patriot radar system sold to the Saudis at great expense by US war profiteers.

Why are the startling developments in the Arabian Peninsula not generating significant political discussion here in Canada during our federal election? Can it even be said that there is sufficient objective reporting reaching the heavily censored airwaves and print reporting in the Occident to enable even a modicum of informed commentary on the recent developments? What obstructions are being put in the way of wider recognition that the balance of power in the Arabian Peninsula and in global geopolitics is being inalterably affected by dramatic turnarounds in a very significant theatre of military conflict?

In spite of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s war of words with the Saudi government, Canada maintains extremely close relations with the leadership and business sector of the Saudi Kingdom. This close relationship goes back at least to 1984 when the Saudi plutocrat, Adnan Kashoggi, met in Toronto with top officials of the then-ruling Ontario government of Bill Davis. In those days this Saudi “playboy” and “arm’s merchant” was often billed as the world’s richest man.

Until he was offered up as a fall guy in the Iran-Contra scandal based on the discovery of a covert supply line largely running largely through Canada, the late Jamal Khashoggi’s uncle, Adnan, was an ideal candidate for star coverage. Adnan Khashoggi’s ostentatious lifestyle perfectly fit the dominant plotline of the hit TV series, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

Khashoggi’s close partner was Peter Munk who some have described as an agent charged to advance the financial interests of Canada’s Bronfman family dynasty. Khashoggi and Munk teamed up in Toronto with the aim of preparing a public offering of Barrick Gold shares. The history of Barrick Gold in Canada is deeply intertwined with the rising importance of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. The Barrick Gold Company has been used as a primary commercial base for the Conservative and Republican parties of former Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, and former US President, George H.W. Bush.

On the other side of Canada’s main electoral rivalry is the large international engineering firm, SNC-Lavalin. This corporate entity has been fashioned as one of the primary commercial platforms cultivated as a base of operations for the Liberal Party of Canada. The covert merger of public and private interests in the corporatocracy embodied by the international operations of SNC has been an important pillar in the rise of the Trudeau family dynasty.

The changing situation in Saudi Arabia is deeply integrated into the substance of the SNC-Lavalin fiasco, a complex scandal that has created a significant political problem menacing Justin Trudeau’s quest for re-election. Canada’s SNC scandal has some of its major roots in the company’s efforts to gain multiple engineering contracts in Libya through wholesale bribery of the Gaddafi family, but especially Muammar’s son, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi.

The scandal swirling around SNC is this election no doubt also involves Saudi Arabia where the company employs 9.000 individuals. This number is comparable to the number of people employed in the SNC’s Montreal headquarters. Justin Trudeau speaks often about the need to protect SNC jobs in his own Montreal riding. The current Prime Minister, however, never elaborates on the Libyan and Saudi Arabian background of the company’s effort to exploit its Liberal Party connections in order to evade multiple criminal charges including some emanating from the World Bank.

The failure to even notice the dramatic military turnaround being suffered by Canada’s Saudi ally during the height of our national election is reminiscent of a similar case in 2011. During the federal election of 2011 the Canadian Armed Forces began to play a large role in NATO’s bombing campaign aimed at an illegal and ill-considered regime change in Libya.

This military intervention culminated in the vigilante-style murder/sodomy of Muammar Gadaffi. The murder was executed by a well-armed mob left free by NATO and the UN to commit a ruthless act of lethal violence against a sitting head-of-state and against what remains of the degraded viability of anything resembling an international rule of law. “We came, we saw, he died” exclaimed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a now-notorious statement that succinctly sums up the nature of her strategic understanding of how power is exercised.

In 2011 the leaders of all the major political parties in Canada conspired with the mainstream media to make sure no significant opening was allowed for significant electoral debate on Canada’s role in the Occident’s treatment of the government and people of Libya. It seems that our political masters increasingly want to sideline the big issues of war and peace, life and death, as eligible subjects for formal debate in national elections. National elections in which corrupt media venues deny citizens the basic information we require to make informed decisions are of dubious legitimacy.

Navigating Relations Between USA, Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia

On September 29 when I was still in Beirut, the US TV network, CBS, broadcasted an interview with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin-Salman. The interview was recorded several days before the item was televised. It was the first English-language interview granted by the Crown Prince since reports emerged in October of 2018 that Saudi government officials had gruesomely murdered in Istanbul’s Saudi consulate a prominent Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

The exchange between the hands-on ruler of the Saudi Kingdom and journalist Norah O’Donnell appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes. There might have been some real rhetorical fireworks generated in Canada by the 60 Minutes telecast if our electoral process was a genuinely open exercise in candid political interaction rather than a televised spectacle scripted to adhere to the narrow boundaries of permitted debate.

Generally speaking, national electorates are frequently discouraged by the experts in media spin from looking beyond a few well-marked subjects of domestic concern. In my view, this systemic sabotaging of democratic spontaneity in elections– this betrayal of the rights and responsibilities of free speech– is contributing significantly to Canada’s increasingly anemic role in the international arena.

Abdel Bari Atwan, the Editor-In-Chief of Rai al-Youmoffered up the following characterization of the televised performance of the man pulling most of the strings of Saudi monarchical rule. Mr. Atwan wrote that bin Salman was

unusually conciliatory towards Iran and its allies, completely abandoning the hawkish escalatory tone that has characterized most if not all his previous interviews…. The most plausible explanation for this sudden outbreak of dovishness is that the Saudi Crown prince feels betrayed and deceived by his Western allies, especially the US. They left him standing alone to face a succession of Iranian or Iranian-backed attacks and failed to retaliate after key Saudi oil facilities were targeted three times in succession — including the very nerve center of its petroleum industry in Abqeiq and Khreis, slashing its output by half.

Prince bin Salman conducted the taped interview with CBS prior to the circulation of news that the Saudi land forces had suffered a major defeat on Saudi territory at the hands of the Yemeni resistance. Nevertheless, the change in the military balance of power was already well advanced when the Saudi leader made his comments.

I am more skeptical than is Mr. Atwan about the sincerity of the Crown Prince’s sudden “dovishness.” Since the exchange on 60 Minutes was the first interview Prince bin Salman had granted since the murder by Saudi officials of Jamal Khashoggi, the prevailing mood of the Saudi leader was animated by his need to eat some humble pie on American TV. His tone of light contrition affected his way of talking about Iran. Under the circumstances, bin Salman pulled back from engaging in his usual sword rattling rhetoric highlighting the military dimension of Saudi Arabia’s conflict with its Iranian opponent.

By appointing itself as a harbinger of war, the CBS network afforded Crown Prince bin Salman considerable latitude to feign the role of a sensible friend of peace among nations. I for one did not find bin Salman at all credible in this personae. When seeking a response from the Crown Prince about drone strikes on Aramco, Norah O’Donnell declared sharply, “Iran struck Aramco.” Not surprisingly the journalist offered up no evidence or explanation to back CBS’s attempt to advance the interests of the war party that seeks to incite public support for a US-led invasion of Iran.

On behalf of his Liberal federal government, Justin Trudeau has aggravated the conditions that have rendered Canada a foe of Iran and a friend of Saudi Arabia including in its recent history of genocidal incursions into Yemen. Trudeau had promised in the last federal election of 2015 to re-establish with Iran formal diplomatic relations.

In 2012 Stephen Harper strongly took the side of the anti-Iranian war party. Harper implemented the Israel Lobby’s request that Canada should withdraw from diplomatic relations with Tehran. Not only did Trudeau fail in his first term to make good on this election promise to the Canadian people. Trudeau added insult to injury by adding to the weight of antagonisms with Iran. He carried through with Harper’s plan to appropriate Iranian property in Canada in order to redistribute it to “victims of terrorism.”

“The New Horizon conferences has been a platform where many of the world’s most formidable dissident intellectuals can meet in person”

I began attending New Horizon conferences in Tehran in 2014. Since then, the New Horizon conferences have given rise to a New Horizon movement. In partnership with our Iranian colleagues, the New Horizon group is made up largely of independent-minded skeptics based widely throughout the Occident. A common denominator informing many participants in the New Horizon movement is a significant loss of confidence in the capacity of Western governments, media cartels, universities, and political lobbies to operate within a framework of relative honesty, integrity and respect for the requirements of law and due process.

An example of the kind of understanding that animates many who have attended the New Horizon conferences is a willingness to engage in clear condemnation of the audacious misrepresentations of the events of September 11, 2001. The wrongheaded notions concerning who did what to whom on 9/11 and why have been followed up by the perpetration of subsequent acts of false flag terrorism. This Deep State engineering of Islamophobic responses to 9/11 has helped in the creation of public support for US invasions of Muslim-majority countries including Iraq and Iran.

An overriding preoccupation of the Israel Lobby and of many Israel First partisans is to persuade the leadership of the US government to invade Iran. This agenda has been promoted relentlessly since the 9/11 false-flag terror event of 2001. As President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser, John Bolton was one of the most obsessive promoters of a US-led war on Iran in order to serve Israel’s expansionistic agenda. Was Bolton fired because Donald Trump discovered that one of his key advisers on international and strategic affairs was first and foremost serving Benjamin Netanyahu as a White House spy?

It seems Trump has attempted to offer up some red meat to the hawks demanding an invasion of Iran. The US President has expanded the frontiers of so-called “sanctions” on Iran. The term, “sanctions,” that has become a kind of code for many-faced forms of economic warfare. The effort to expand the field of sanctions targeting Iran’s economy has had its base in the US Treasury branch and in particular in the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Created in the wake of 9/11, the keepers of this Office have consistently been zealous Israel First neoconservatives from Stuart Levy to David Cohen to Sigal Mandelker.

Mandelker, a current or past Israeli citizen, became part of the wave of Israel First partisans who flooded into high-ranking positions in the administration of US President George W. Bush after 9/11. She became an economic hit woman as the Global War on Terror coalesced to become the US government’s top strategic priority.

During her quick rise up the ladder of administrative power within the US government, Mandelker served as a clerk for ultraconservative Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas and as a lawyer representing Homeland Security czar, Michael Chertoff. Apparently Mandelker played a role on behalf of the federal Justice Department in arranging the sweetheart deal extended to Jeffrey Epstein in Florida in 2008 for various infractions including child sex trafficking. There is much literature suggesting that a big part of Epstein’s operation involved creating the conditions for Mossad and other related intelligence agencies to blackmail key politicians.

Like so many of her Israel First colleagues, Mandelker became obsessed with heaping recriminations on Iran. She was prominent among the Israel First partisans who were inducted en masse into the deep bowels of the international affairs branches of the US government after 9/11. In spite of much evidence to the contrary, she regularly charges Iran with trying to obtain nuclear weapons. At the same time, she remains completely mum on the reality of Israel’s still-unacknowledged possession of many nuclear weapons.

As Mandelker sees it, “Iran is “posing an incredibly destabilizing presence in the region.” She added, “They’re threatening our great ally in the region, Israel!”

Given even the partial information that has already emerged concerning Mandelker’s relationship to the USA and Israel, certain questions have been emerging. In her work as a US economic intelligence officer has Sigal Mandelker been working as a spy for the Israeli government, a polity well known over the years for conducting very concerted espionage operations in the United States?

Has Mandelker’s work figured at all into the spying allegations directed by one branch of the FBI at AIPAC and at the neocon’s very hawkish organization, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies? Was Mandelker’s recent resignation on October 2 an indication that the substance of her work in the US Treasury Branch could not withstand skeptical scrutiny concerning the substance of what she was really doing on behalf of her patrons and clients in Israel and the United States?

In her last weeks as the primary enforcer of the USA’s campaign of economic warfare targeting Iran, Sigal Mandelker went on a kind of sanctions blitzkrieg. As part of her economic warfare activities, Mandelker targeted the New Horizon conference as well as its top organizers. In particular, Mandelker pinned the new label of “Global Terrorist” on Iranian broadcaster, Nader Talebzadeh, and on his Lebanese wife, Zeinab Mehanna.

This effort to further isolate Iran and to throw up obstacles to any peace-making dialogue between US and Iranian citizens went further. FBI officers visited the 11 public intellectuals in the United States who had planned to attend the New Horizon conference in Beirut between September 20 and 26. All these individuals were threatened with heavy fines and jail time if they took part in an event whose aims include identifying means of avoiding disastrous bloody wars. What US interests would be served by a US-led invasion on 80 million Persian people whose government happens to be in a strong position to respond with a formidable national self-defense?

Among those pressured into staying home was Dr. Kevin Barrett, an outspoken Muslim critic of the dubious assumptions and outright lies animating the conduct of the Global War on Terror. Dr. Barrett summed up as follows his understanding of the reason for attempting to sanction and thus cripple an event dedicated to advancing the arts of sciences of dialogue and peace over the devastations of war. He wrote,

I think the Tehran-based New Horizon NGO has been targeted because its conferences are viewed as an ideological threat to powerful special interests here in the US. Mainstream Iranian intellectuals like New Horizon organizer and filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh, the most popular TV host in Iran, hold views of the US empire, Israel, and related issues that are very different from the views allowed expression in mainstream American media and politics. Yet a great many well-informed people, globally and here in the US, largely agree with some or most aspects of the mainstream Iranian view, and disagree with the mainstream American one. The New Horizon conferences have been a platform where many of the world’s most formidable dissident intellectuals can meet in person, get to know each other, and find ways to promote their interpretations of world events.

Michael Maloof was another member of the group of Americans who had planned to attend the New Horizon conference but who warned by federal police to stay away if they wanted to avoid harsh consequences. A 30-year veteran of the US Defense Department, Maloof retired as a senior security policy analyst with the Office of the Secretary of Defence. Of his reason for being drawn into the orbit of the New Horizon movement, Maloof said of himself and of his American colleagues, “We’re all still US patriots, but we believe there’s another way to go about things other than looking at everything in Iran through the prism of Israel.”

Because the US delegates did not attend, I found myself to be the only North American delegate included in the program. The contrast between my treatment by my own Canadian government and the treatment of my US colleagues by their government is significant. As I see it, there are good reasons for Canada and Iran to return to normal diplomatic and economic relations. I am of course pleased to be left free to advocate this position of normalization of relations in the developments of policies in both Ottawa and Tehran.

My presentation on the podium of the New Horizon conference on Sept. 23 dealt with my reflections on some of my recent research for a paper entitled “The Israel Lobby and University Governance.” I initiated this research following an episode that put me at the center of a crude and illegal assault mounted by the Israel Lobby in partnership with the administration of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta Canada. This administration failed grossly to live up to its fiduciary responsibilities to adhere to the contractual protections for academic freedom in Canada.

Nader and Tony 4905b

My unilateral suspension from my professional duties in October of 2016 was pushed forward in a way that denied me pay, due process or the proferring of any coherent evidence to which I could respond. A court in Alberta court eventually condemned unequivocally this combination of administrative actions. The win for my faculty association and I, however, took place after the Israel Lobby in Canada had already mounted a specious media smear campaign with the aim of delegitimizing me professionally. The effort to try to outlaw as “anti-Semitic” any criticism of Israel and its treatment of Palestinian people is moving in the same direction in North America as the travesty of smear directed at Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party in Great Britain.

Meanwhile, it is unlikely that most of the issues I raised in Beirut and in this essay will make their way into the gate-kept confines shaping the current parochial character of electioneering in Canada. The Israel Lobby as embodied in organizations like B’nai Brith Canada and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is seeing to it that any debate on Israel/Palestinians affairs is held to a minimum. Moreover, I am not optimistic that any of the contenders for the job of Canadian prime minister have the capacity, courage, insight or independence to mount a thoughtful political debate on the need for Canada to reorient the dominant motifs of our interactions with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States.

Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?

Like many Israel First mouthpieces in North America, Sigal Mandelker repeats often many of the slogans of the anti-Iran war party. Like John Bolton, she has tried to fan the flames of extreme Islamophobia and Iranophobia. She seeks to push the US government to lead a monumental war project that would target the Persian heartland. She labels Iran with the unsupported slogan that the Muslim-majority country is the “biggest exporter of terrorism in the world.” Seldom do those who constantly repeat this mantra ever attempt to explain the assertion.

One obvious way of calling into question the claims equating Iran with the international support of terrorism is to point out the relative peace and stability currently enjoyed by all the citizens of Lebanon. These citizens include Shia, Sunni and Christian groups. This stability is to some extent founded on Iran’s backing of forces that helped defend Lebanon’s territorial integrity against armed intervention by the Israeli Defence Force in 2006. Iran’s positive relation with the government of Lebanon helps to explain how it is that the most recent New Horizon conference took place in Beirut.

Iran’s relationship with the Yemeni resistance, which by and large emerges from deep within the Aboriginal cultures of the Indigenous peoples, also helps cast doubt on the Israel Lobby’s propagandistic condemnation of Iran. Any reasonable account of the Saudi invasion of the life support system of Yemeni citizens since 2015 reveals the obvious fact that the Saudis are the aggressors and that their victims are the targets of round after round of ruthless state terrorism.

If anyone is a leading exporter of terrorism, it is the Saudi Arabian monarchy. The Houthis and other Yemeni citizens are prominent among the victims of the Saudi government with its weird missionary preoccupations aimed at spreading its own Takfiri form of Wahabi fundamentalism.

Saudi Arabia, the USA and Israel have much to do with the creation and backing of the al-Qaeda and ISIL/Daesh, proxy armies that consistently fought the armed forces of the elected governments of Syria, Iran, and Russia. The forces of the so-called “Islamic state” fought with the backing of Israel, the USA and many NATO countries. Iran itself has had to defend its own citizens from the incursion of ISIL/Daesh.

Iran has had to absorb a cyberwar directed at it by the National Security apparatus of the USA and Israel. This attack included the goal of crippling Iran’s local system for generating electrical energy. Iran has had to absorb many ruthless assassinations of its nuclear scientists. Iran has to face the West’s growing political support of a former Marxist organization that is much despised by many indigenous Persians. The violent group, MeK, is being cast in much the same role as was Ahmed Chalabi prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. MeK is being groomed to take up the levers of power in Iran following the regime change war being persistently promoted even by the likes of the CBS television network.

How is it a promotion of terrorism for Iran to intervene in Lebanon in the process that has brought some peace and stability to benefit all the citizens of a very diverse and pluralistic country? How is it a promotion of terrorism to render some assistance to an indigenous fighting force whose aim is to protect Yemeni citizens from the genocidal incursions of the predatory Saudi royal dynasty? How is it an export of terrorism for Iran to support the elected government of Syria against those invaders seeking to balkanize and subjugate the country in order to advance a malevolent agenda involving, it seems, an endless series of US wars for Israel?

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