Russia shows its inherently aggressive character …

Now you see it, now you don't ...

Now you see it, now you don’t …

President Putin, the newly-acclaimed champion of peace and defender of diplomacy has done nothing to enhance his reputation as the world’s peace-broker by having the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise, invaded yesterday by armed Russian secret servicemen whilst the ship was in international waters.  Putin shouts loudly when one of his token, Islamic dictators feels the muscle of the righteously indignant US at the scope and level of the slaughter in Syria, making dark threats ans bolstering the dictator by what ever means he can.

Those who think that Putin is some kind of hero to humanity, though, should look long and hard at his conduct over the last twenty years and realise that, rather like the Chinese system, Putin’s Russia window dresses its democracy to the world. Occasions such as the invasion of the Arctic Sunrise – manned by peaceful protesters whose only fight is a media campaign – are but the light shining through the weakness in the joints of the polished veneer that Putin seeks to present as Russian democracy and diplomacy. What else goes on behind the facade is anyone’s guess.

What is even more troubling is that all of the Greenpeace protesters are being taken to Murmansk, despite the fact that they have broken no laws. Putin claims to be irritated with the image of the US as the world’s policeman, but who is the world’s policeman now?

Putin has proven himself a vile dictator who manages dissent with reward and retribution – the fabled ‘carrot and stick’ approach. Believe it or not, though, there are many who have been much  more unlucky than Grigori Nekhoroshev, editor of the Moskovski Korrespondent, owned by the billionaire tycoon, Alexander Lebedev. His paper was shut down in 2008 and serves as a perpetual warning to those – corporate or individual – who offend Putin by reporting anything concerning that which he deems ‘private’.

There was a great deal of rumour going on at the time of an affair between Putin, 55, and Alina Kabaeva, 24, who is also an MP in his party, but no one had been foolish enough to dare to print them. The editor agreed that there was no evidence for the story other than that of a party planner, who claimed to be one of the parties in the running to organise the reception. By that stage Putin had already divorced his wife of 24 years, Ludmilla. “I thought we should run the story to help break the taboo,” said Nekhoroshev, but the price was not only his job but that of the survival of the paper: The closure came a few hours after Putin had said during a visit to Sardinia that there was not a word of truth in the story and derided the journalists concerned. The Kremlin fiercely protects Putin’s private life and the punishments are severe for those who take this matter lightly. Russia ranked 172nd of 197 countries in the 2012 Freedom of the Press report by US watchdog Freedom House.

Another paper owned by Lebedev is the Novaya Gazeta, a Russian liberal opposition newspaper well known for its critical coverage of Russian political and social affairs: Since 2001, a year after Putin came to power, four Novaya Gazeta journalists, including Yury Shchekochikhin  and Anna Politkovskaya have been murdered. The investment in a pension for an investigative journalist in Russia is knowing when to keep quiet.

Under Putin’s presidency, all Russian television channels have been brought under the control of the Kremlin, which punishes any newspaper that steps over the line it sets out. “It just goes to show what a terrible state the Russian media is in after eight years of Putin’s regime,” Oleg Panfilov, an analyst, said in 2008 at the time of the closure of the Moskovski Korrespondent. “It is so cowed that one just needs to bark at it to see it hide under a table.”

Putin’s influence extends well beyond Russia though.  Last year a Chechen newspaper was closed down just hours after its editor-in-chief, Belkis Dudayeva, accidentally embarrassed Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed, puppet leader of Chechnya, while questioning Russian President Vladimir Putin. She opened her question to Mr Putin by prefacing it with: “Thank God that Chechnya has now become a region of peace and prosperity…” The ensuing laughter from other journalists seems to have stung Kadyrov, who announced later that the newspaper would be closed down. The Kremlin has relied on Ramzan and his armed militia to put down the insurgency and to rebuild Chechnya but Putin’s economic and military support for the Chechnyan leadership has been rewarded with the embarrassment of international organisations accusing Kadyrov of crimes against humanity in his fight against the rebels and having members of his opposition assassinated.

We should all be petitioning, protesting and writing about Russia’s aggressive act towards the Arctic Sunrise. Putin must be left in no illusion that those of us who live in democratic countries will not accept his bullying tactics towards organisations such as Greenpeace. Of course, the protesters on the Arctic Sunrise are relatively safe in comparison to Russian journalists, but we should still be concerned by the management style that Putin presents – or more often attempts to hide. Within a generation or two Russia will be the largest economic and political influence in the northern hemisphere. Our children and grandchildren may have more to do with Putin’s legacy than we imagine.

Click on the image below to access the Greenpeace protest …

Peaceful protests, but armed aggression from Russia


How many Khameneis exactly?

Not one to hide his light under a bushel but  under an amama, the Muslim headgear that many Americans seem to delight in describing as a ‘raghead’, the Ayatollah Khamenei, supreme ruler of Iran, surfaced today to delight everyone with his not-so-witty observations on the US military proposals for Syria.

“We hope that the new US attitude toward Syria would be a serious policy and not a media campaign. The latest developments, if they can be taken seriously, show that they have stepped back from the inconsiderate and mistaken actions that they had taken in the past few weeks.”

Most of us were more likely wondering about the rather puzzling inactivity of the US with regard to Assad’s chemical weapons, truth be known. The Ayatollah has recently had some bother with media campaigns, hence his dander being slightly up.  Headgear is also part of the problem too.

Several hundred Iranian men uploaded images of themselves dressed as women, wearing headscarves and chadors, the flowing robes Iranian women wear, to highlight their anger that university student Majid Tavakoli was arrested having given a speech during the National Students Day protests in Iran.

Majid Tavakoli forced into female clothing.

Majid Tavakoli forced into female clothing.

State media  published pictures of him with a headscarf alleging: “This student dressed up as a woman to escape from the university campus.”

It is alleged that these pictures were either photoshopped or that after arresting Majid Tavakoli, they forced him into wearing female clothing to take the picture. He is regarded as the “honour of the student movement” by his peers.

An Iranian photographer took up the banner by asking Iranian men on social media to protest the treatment of Mr Tavakoli by the Iranian security forces. He invited them to post a picture of themselves in women’s clothing and it resulted in over 250 pictures. The spearhead of the spontaneous and peaceful outburst states that the arrest of Majid Tavakoli and the publishing of his picture in hijab (Muslim female covering) is a mode of “straining the student movement and the Green Movement in Iran,” as well as “belittling Iranian women.”

The statement adds: “To prove that we are behind Majid Tavakoli, to prove that there is nothing wrong with female clothing and the only thing that’s wrong is the compulsory wearing of hijab whether it is forced on the women of this country or upon Majid Tavakoli; to show that we are all together, post your picture in hijab!” The result was this:


Majid Tavakoli was arrested after a speech on December 8 during which he directly criticized senior Islamic Republic officials.

State media claim he was dressed in female clothing out of fear of arrest. Majid Tavakoli was also arrested three years ago after a protest rally against the presence of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Amir Kabir University and was imprisoned for 15 months.

Incidentally, if you seek to follow Khamenei on Twitter, you will find there are no less than 14 personas there, but the real Ayatollah is easy to spot: the fakes are harmless and funny.



Numquam gerras errata! Never repeat mistakes!

Numquam plus bellum! Numquam plus bellum!

The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols spoke on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’ programme this week, calling for peace and reconciliation in Syria in the run-up to the vote in the US Congress. He referred testily to those who speak of limited military action, by saying “What nonsense! What military action has every been really limited? It just escalates from one step to the next!” Such logic fails to confront the reality of the relentless despot, the crazed fanatics that wreak havoc to concoct power in their own model, and the need to deal with such people, for whom dialogue is almost worthless. The world’s history is indelibly defaced with memories of such characters; their notoriety is such that there is no need even for me to refer to them by name.

On Monday last, Pope Francis tweeted “Numquam plus bellum! Numquam plus bellum!” echoing the words of Pope Paul VI before the United Nations General Assembly in 1965, when he observed […] never again one against another, never, never again! Is it not to this end above all that the United Nations was born: against war and for peace?” ( After two world wars the Church of Rome clearly hoped that somehow differences would be resolved within the United Nations. How wrong they were. Far from being visionary, this sentiment simply exposed the overly romantic view of the then Pontiff. The same is true of Pope Francis’s sentiment: It is not just the actors in a civil war that have irreconcilable differences: getting the UN to agree is an insurmountable task, given the conflicting interests of each member of the UN security council. Therefore, is the Pope’s tweet a reworking of the plea for peace or a repetition of the same mistake that his predecessor seems to have made? It seems that the church is yet again indulging in Utopian fantasy, as it is difficult to see how the two sides in the Syrian conflict could ever achieve reconciliation given the wholesale, barbaric slaughter that has taken place, especially against the Sunni rebels and the lives of those not belonging or aligned to the ruling Alawite, Shia community.  The reality of religion and power rears it twisted, ugly head again.

Pope Francis implies that war is always the enemy of humanity, but I would ask him and anyone else that takes the same position: is that truly how the victims of such inhumanity feel? Did those in Libya and Tunisia really lay down their lives needlessly to wrest their countries from state sponsored terror and slaughter? Was the allied military action in Libya so disastrous and are the efforts and sacrifices of the Syrian rebels and their families to free themselves from a similar bloody oppression really too inhuman to support? 

nota bene: My tweet to Pope Francis said: I believe you should visit Syria to persuade Bashar Al-Assad to share his political power. Perhaps you will be more realistic when you fail in your endeavour. Corrections in translation will be gratefully accepted!

How many Syrian children need to die before this lot believe ending chemical attacks would be better than improving their chances in the 2015 general election?

Since the shameful defeat of the government’s proposal for military strikes in Syria, which was predicated on a limited attack to try and neutralise the regime’s chemical weapons ability, there has been much comment, most of it focusing on domestic political differences on the issue here in the UK.

Miliband appoints Abbott as Health Minister
It has also raised Diane Abbott’s profile as an anti-military intervention spokesperson, although any such elevation of her opinion can logically be discounted by the fact that Ms. Abbott feels that, as permanent members of the UN Security Council, military intervention should only take place if Russia and China are in agreement. On that basis Ms. Abbott, intervention would rarely if ever take place and, to give an example, thousands of people living in Benghazi would likely be dead by now, as Gaddafi would not have been stopped and would have wreaked a terrible revenge on his rebellious city. We would also have seen thousands upon thousands of Libyans fleeing to Britain to claim political asylum as their lives in Libya would have been in terrible jeopardy. Our military intervention prevented this and stabilised Libya.
The equally inept Nigel Farage observed on the BBC that as Assad  may have chemical weapons, would it really be prudent to go ahead with a military attack as “who knows what he might do, we might very well make things worse, not better.” UKIP’s foreign policy on this matter thus appears to be to do nothing in case we provoke Assad into even more drastic, ghastlier measures! The electorate should take note of Mr. Farage’s outright refusal to commit us to acting in a responsible manner in terms of progressive military intervention. Clearly Mr. Farage prefers that the Libyan rebels claim political asylum here in the UK.
It is a great pity that those who supported the defeat of the military strike seem not to have listened to Dr. Rola, a humanitarian medical worker in Syria, who appeared on the BBC, lamenting the UK’s lack of support for the alleviation of human suffering. She is in Syria for the purpose of alleviating suffering, asking for us to intervene. She even invited Mr. Miliband and his family to spend a night in Syria to experience the horror themselves. The Zaatari refugee camp is the fifth biggest city in Jordan. Doesn’t Miliband recognise the looming humanitarian catastrophe facing the world? Can he not see that we will be faced with an impossible refugee situation at our borders?
Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan houses 160,000 of the two million refugees.

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan houses 160,000 of the two million Syrian refugees.

Maybe we should focus on how the people of Syria feel, because if they want our help and we don’t give it, then is it not likely that there will be an overwhelming need for them to further enlist the help of Al Qaeda to rescue them from Assad’s killing machine?  Our intervention in Libya doubtless prevented Al Qaeda from gaining any influence or power when the interim government was formed. In the case of Syria, we will have no say in the matter, a fact we may bitterly regret. What good, I ask, will that do for any of us in the long term?