Monthly Archives: December 2010

Wikileaks, the documentary

Rough cut of a Swedish English-language documentary on Wikileaks, Assange, Domscheit-Berg et al. On the subject of Wikileaks, this is also worth a look.

“What do I think of Wikileaks? I think it would be a good idea!” (after Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quip on ’Western Civilisation’)’

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Iran’s new nuclear foreign minister

This is interesting – Ahmedinejad has dismissed Manouchehr Mottaki as foreign minister and appointed Ali Salehi, head of Iran’s nuclear program, as his temporary replacement. Three things about this: firstly, it’s possibly linked to an ongoing battle of wills between Ahmedinejad and the Iranian parliament led by Speaker Ali Larijani; things have got so bad that Larijiani recently sent around a letter criticising the president as violating the constitution. Mottaki is an ally of Larijani’s and it’s possible that his dismissal represents the latest phase in the tussle for power in Iran. Secondly, although the move is a surprise, Mottaki has been sidelined for a while in favour of Esfandiar Mashaei, Ahmedinejad’s quirky chief of staff who is given to making pro-Israel statements and generally pissing off the clerics. The president has given Mashaei a lot of foreign policy power as his special envoy, whilst effectively circumventing Mottaki’s foreign ministry on major decisions. Lastly, as Julian Borger points out, the move has implications for the nuclear issue – although Salehi is just a temporary minister, the appointment of one of Iran’s top nuclear officials to the foreign ministry perhaps gives some indication of where Ahmedinejad’s priorities lie:

‘It says something about Iran and its priorities for a nuclear physicist to get the top foreign policy job, even if it is temporary for now. The preservation of the nuclear programme has become the central organising principle of Iran’s foreign policy.

On the other hand, Salehi is one of the few people in the shrinking circle of Iran’s policy elite who has significant experience of life abroad. He studied at the American University in Beirut and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Western diplomats generally prefer dealing with him rather than the chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili (an expert on political thought in the Koran), because he speaks much better English and is less inclined to rant.’

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Too many kettles not enough tea

So I don’t usually write about things not related to the Middle East, but I feel like the events of the past couple of weeks merit a bit of discussion, if only so that I can sort them out in my head. I also feel as though the more people who add their voices to the discourse on this, the more we can move the focus away from questions such as ‘HOW DID ANARCHISTS GET SO CLOSE TO ROYALS?’ or ‘STUDENT YOBS: HANGING TOO GOOD FOR THEM?’ (NB: only one of those is a genuine Daily Mail headline.)

The usual lines are being repeated, the ones about violent minorities undermining peaceful protest, about police conducting a successful operation in a challenging situation. The message is perpetuated down to the nuances of vocabulary: student yobs ‘charged’ the police, who merely ‘advanced’ against protesters. But it wasn’t a violent minority who undermined peaceful protest. It was the police lines who kettled us before any violence on the part of the protesters, who proceeded to tighten that kettle throughout the night whilst refusing to offer any explanation, who didn’t let us go until 11.30 and then had the gall to laugh at us as we trudged off Westminster Bridge. It was those who, safe behind their riot shields, could drag people out of the crowd and beat them when they were lying on the floor. It was those who horse-charged crowds repeatedly and were no longer ashamed that this was being filmed or photographed. The whole thing was designed either to cow us sufficiently so that we wouldn’t come back and protest again, or to make us so angry that we cracked and could then be painted as the mob, as anarchists, as whatever name would serve to delegitimise us. What the hell is going on when police can horse-charge crowds and this is no longer a surprise? When officers are praised for showing restraint and not opening fire on protesters? It’s no longer enough to talk about two different types of protest, the violent and illegitimate, and the peaceful and legitimate. Try making that distinction to kids trying to hold a line against a police charge. Yet that division keeps being upheld because it’s the last shred of justification the authorities have for what happened on Thursday – which was organised, calculated, and brutal violence. If resisting this attempt to control, inflame, and brutalise makes me part of the violent minority, then I will happily join them.

Disruption like the march on Thursday, or the occupations, or the flash protests, is the expression of a popular power that is increasingly unwilling to legitimise a government with no mandate, imposing decisions that are no better than broken promises. After Thursday, the fight will get tougher; we are now the mob, an illegitimate rabble, undermining law and order, threatening democracy. The calls for violent suppression have grown louder. Yet if democracy is the expression of popular sovereignty, then this is democracy. When institutions fail us, we can organise outside institutions. Occupations like the one I was part of in Cambridge can form alternatives to a parliament that no longer represents us – or, in the case of those too young to vote but who will be hit hardest by tuition fees, never did represent us. This will be called disruptive and illegitimate; but these are names we can be proud of. For if legitimate, peaceful protest is standing meekly by as police baton kids and MPs vote to triple tuition fees, then it’s time we all joined the mob.

And for fuck’s sake, can we stop talking about Charles and Camilla?

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The Platonic ideal of Qatar

I love it when Robert Fisk makes an ass of himself in print. The Wikileaks cables on Qatar have largely been of the ‘uh, yeah’ order, like most of those relating to the Middle East – Qatar is small, rich, and increasingly powerful, Egypt is totally jealous and is putting the Sheikh’s picture in the Burn Book, etc etc – and Fisk does a decent job of writing that up into a ‘don’t mess with Qatar’ piece that made me so ephemerally interested in Qatar that I actually looked it up on Google Maps. (It’s really small!) Then his fascination with the plucky little oil emirate gets a bit too much. He breathlessly enquires: ‘Perhaps Qatar is a state of the imagination…’

Qatar, man. It’s a state of mind. The whole thing is worth reading if you appreciate the man’s style; if not then just look up Qatar on Wikipedia.

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Laugh-in with Hosni

Kick-starting my return to blogging with something entirely inconsequential.

Although it’s Muammar dropping giggles here, I would still pay mad guinea to know what these guys are laughing about:

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Hala hala

CS will be back up shortly after a hectic month of essays, journalismism, and keeping it Old Schools at la ocupación (for more see here and here). Stay tuned ya shabab.

Listen

English to Spanish translation

la ocupación

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