Aletho News


Comparing Current Draft of Egypt’s 2013 Neo-liberal Constitution to that of the Publicly Approved Constitution of 2012

By Scott Creighton | American Everyman | December 7, 2013

In order to show various so-called “alternative” and “anti-globalist” activists what the real cause of the State Department sponsored coup in Egypt back in July of this year was all about, I have put together just a few comparisons of the publicly approved Egyptian constitution of 2012 and their respective counterparts in the new draft constitution being put together by the illegal junta run by their new dictator, al Sisi.

As many of the fake alternative journalists have often raged against the “Islamist” nature of the previous constitution without ever linking their readers to the document so they could read it and judge it for themselves, I resolve to provide links to both the translated Egyptian Constitution of 2012 and the current draft version written by the technocrats and advisers on behalf of Big Global Business and the financial elites.

Here is a link to the publicly approved Egyptian Constitution of 2012

Here is a link to the extremely hard to find current draft (Dec. 2, 2013) of the neo-liberal constitution which aims to replace the original (PDF).

What I have done is taken a few articles and simply listed them side by side for you to view. I have created 4 PDFs of this which I will link to below and 4 JPEGS so you can view them without having to download the other files. The PDFs are obviously easier to read, but I will do my best with the pics. I sincerely hope that you will take the time to read both the original 2012 version as well as the new neo-liberal one.

If you wish to know why I spent so much time working on this when the story of the illegal coup in Egypt is all but over, remember this…

They are currently working on producing a climate in this country which will provide them the needed pretext to begin rewriting our constitution. It’s not that far off folks. Heard some “progressives” on NPR chatting about that very thing just yesterday.

You want to see how they (the Chicago School of Economics technocrats) remake constitutions? The Egyptian model should serve as a fine example of what we can expect to see very soon.

Here are the PDF versions:

  1. 2012 to 2013 Layout1 (1)
  2. 2012 to 2013 Layout1 (2) (1)
  3. 2012 to 2013 Layout1 (3) (1)
  4. 2012 to 2013 Layout1 (4) (1)

And here are the photos (JPEGs)

page 1

page 2

page 3

page 4

The new constitution institutionalizes entry points for various global multinational corporations and financial institutions, setting as a priority the notions of the creation of a financial environment which will encourage hot money speculation and foreign investment.  It’s all about “sustainable development” and protecting the “economic services” industry (i.e. financial institutions)

Notice that the new constitution states that the natural resources “belong to the people” but make no mention of their right to the profits of those resources they own. The 2012 constitution did.

The 2012 constitution said the property of the state is not to be disposed of while the neo-liberal 2013 draft says it can be under law.

The slickness of the legalese is notable as well. Notice how the new constitution, rather than guaranteeing the people various rights like the 2012 constitution does, instead they “aim” or “commit” to these ideals as if they were goals they promise to attempt to fulfill. Legally speaking, big difference.

I only scratched the surface with this comparison. Others have pointed out that the 2013 draft empowers the elements in Egypt that sided with the Obama administration during the coup like the judiciary, the military and the police.

Some have pointed out that the new constitution allows for military detentions of civilians, which it does.

Given the nature of the current dictatorship in Egypt (the way they are outlawing political parties like the Apartheid government did to the ANC based on the arbitrary ruling that they are a “terrorist organization”, the way they are arresting peaceful protesters if they don’t just shoot them dead in the streets) it’s quite remarkable that anyone who claims to be opposed to our imperialist interventions across the globe could possibly still imagine that this illegal coup has any form of legitimacy whatsoever. I hope that this simple comparison will make it clearer what is happening in Egypt and more importantly, why it happened.

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Comments Off on Comparing Current Draft of Egypt’s 2013 Neo-liberal Constitution to that of the Publicly Approved Constitution of 2012

Living on Borrowed Time in a Stolen Land

By Gilad Atzmon | January 3, 2009

Communicating with Israelis may leave one bewildered. Even now when the Israeli Air Force is practicing murder in broad daylight of hundreds of civilians, elderly persons, women and children, the Israeli people manage to convince themselves that they are the real victims in this violent saga.

Those who are familiar intimately with Israeli people realise that they are completely uninformed about the roots of the conflict that dominates their lives. Rather often Israelis manage to come up with some bizarre arguments that may make a lot of sense within the Israeli discourse, yet make no sense whatsoever outside of the Jewish street. Such an argument goes as follows: ‘those Palestinians, why do they insist upon living on our land (Israel), why can’t they just settle in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon or any other Arab country?’ Another Hebraic pearl of wisdom sounds like this: ‘what is wrong with these Palestinians? We gave them water, electricity, education and all they do is try to throw us to the sea’.

Astonishingly enough, the Israelis even within the so-called ‘left’ and even the educated ‘left’ fail to understand who the Palestinians are, where they come from and what they stand for. They fail to grasp that for the Palestinians, Palestine is home. Miraculously, the Israelis manage to fail to grasp that Israel had been erected at the expense of the Palestinian people, on Palestinian land, on Palestinian villages, towns, fields and orchards. The Israelis do not realise that Palestinians in Gaza and in refugee camps in the region are actually dispossessed people from Ber Shive, Yafo, Tel Kabir, Shekh Munis, Lod, Haifa, Jerusalem and many more towns and villages. If you wonder how come the Israelis don’t know their history, the answer is pretty simple, they have never been told. The circumstances that led to the Israeli Palestinian conflict are well hidden within their culture. Traces of pre-1948 Palestinian civilisation on the land had been wiped out. Not only the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians, is not part of the Israeli curriculum, it is not even mentioned or discussed in any Israeli official or academic forum.

In the very centre of almost every Israeli town one can a find a 1948 memorial statue displaying a very bizarre, almost abstract, pipe work. The plumbing feature is called Davidka and it is actually a 1948 Israeli mortar cannon. Interestingly enough, the Davidka was an extremely ineffective weapon. Its shells wouldn’t reach more than 300 meters and would cause very limited damage. Though the Davidika would cause just minimal harm, it produced a lot of noise. According to the Israeli official historical narrative, the Arabs i.e., Palestinians, simply ran away for their lives once they heard the Davidka from afar. According to the Israeli narrative, the Jews i.e., ‘new Israelis’ did a bit of fireworks and the ‘Arab cowards’ just ran off like idiots. In the Israeli official narrative there is no mention of the many orchestrated massacres conducted by the young IDF and the paramilitary units that preceded it. There is no mention also of the racist laws that stop Palestinians[1] from returning to their homes and lands.

The meaning of the above is pretty simple. Israelis are totally unfamiliar with the Palestinian cause. Hence, they can only interpret the Palestinian struggle as a murderous irrational lunacy. Within the Israeli Judeo- centric solipsistic universe, the Israeli is an innocent victim and the Palestinian is no less than a savage murderer.

This grave situation that leaves the Israeli in the dark regarding his past demolishes any possibility of future reconciliation. Since the Israeli lacks the minimal comprehension of the conflict, he cannot contemplate any possible resolution except extermination or cleansing of the ‘enemy’. All the Israeli is entitled to know are various phantasmic narratives of Jewish suffering. Palestinian pain is completely foreign to his ears. ‘Palestinian right of return’ sounds to him like an amusing idea. Even the most advanced ‘Israeli humanists’ are not ready to share the land with its indigenous inhabitants. This doesn’t leave the Palestinians with many options but to liberate themselves against all odds. Clearly, there is no partner for peace on the Israel side.

This week we all learned more about the ballistic capability of Hamas. Evidently, Hamas was rather restrained with Israel for more than a long while. It refrained from escalating the conflict to the whole of southern Israel. It occurred to me that the barrages of Qassams that have been landing sporadically on Sderot and Ashkelon were actually nothing but a message from the imprisoned Palestinians. First it was a message to the stolen land, homes fields and orchards: ‘Our beloved soil, we didn’t forget, we are still here fighting for you, sooner rather than later, we will come back, we will start again where we had stopped’. But it was also a clear message to the Israelis. ‘You out there, in Sderot, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv and Haifa, whether you realise it or not, you are actually living on our stolen land. You better start to pack because your time is running out, you have exhausted our patience. We, the Palestinian people, have nothing to lose anymore’.

Let’s face it, realistically the situation in Israel is rather grave. Two years ago it was Hezbollah rockets that pounded northern Israel. This week the Hamas proved beyond doubt that it is capable of serving the South of Israel with some cocktail of ballistic vengeance. Both in the case of the Hezbollah and the case of the Hamas, Israel was left with no military answer. It can no doubt kill civilians but it fails to stop the rocket barrage. The IDF lacks the means of protecting Israel unless covering Israel with a solid concrete roof is a viable solution. At the end of the day, they might be planning just that (link).

But this is far from the end of the story. In fact it is just the beginning. Every Middle East expert knows that Hamas can seize control of the West Bank within hours. In fact, PA and Fatah control in the West Bank is maintained by the IDF. Once Hamas takes the West Bank, the biggest Israeli population centre will be left to the mercy of Hamas. For those who fail to see, this would be the end of Jewish Israel. It may happen later today, it may happen in three months or in five years, it isn’t a matter of ‘if’ but rather a matter of ‘when’. By that time, the whole of Israel will be within firing range of Hamas and Hezbollah, Israeli society will collapse, its economy will be ruined. The price of a detached villa in Northern Tel Aviv would equal a shed in Kiryat Shmone or Sderot. By the time a single rocket hits Tel Aviv, the Zionist dream will be over.

The IDF generals know it, the Israeli leaders know it. This is why they stepped up the war against the Palestinians into extermination. The Israelis do not plan upon invading Gaza. They have lost nothing there. All they want is to finish the Nakba. They drop bombs on Palestinians in order to wipe them out. They want the Palestinians out of the region. It is obviously not going to work, Palestinians will stay. Not only they will they stay, their day of return to their land is coming closer as Israel has been exploiting its deadliest tactics.

This is exactly where Israeli escapism comes into play. Israel has passed the ‘point of no return’. Its doomed fate is deeply engraved in each bomb it drops on Palestinian civilians. There is nothing Israel can do to save itself. There is no exit strategy. It can’t negotiate its way out because neither the Israelis nor their leadership understand the elementary parameters involved in the conflict. Israel lacks the military power to conclude the battle. It may manage to kill Palestinian grassroots leaders, it has been doing it for years, yet Palestinian resistance and persistence is growing fierce rather than weakening. As an IDF intelligence general predicted already at the first Intifada. ‘In order to win, all Palestinians have to do is to survive’. They survive and they are indeed winning.

Israeli leaders understand it all. Israel has already tried everything, unilateral withdrawal, starvation and now extermination. It thought to evade the demographic danger by shrinking into an intimate cosy Jewish ghetto. Nothing worked. It is Palestinian persistence in the shape of Hamas politics that defines the future of the region.

All that is left to Israelis is to cling to their blindness and escapism to evade their devastating grave fate that has become immanent already. All along their way down, the Israelis will sing their familiar various victim anthems. Being imbued in a self-centred supremacist reality, they will be utterly involved in their own pain yet completely blind to the pain they inflict on others. Uniquely enough, the Israelis are operating as a unified collective when dropping bombs on others, yet, once being slightly hurt, they all manage to become monads of vulnerable innocence. It is this discrepancy between the self-image and the way they are seen by the rest of us which turns the Israeli into a monstrous exterminator. It is this discrepancy that stops Israelis from grasping their own history, it is that discrepancy that stops them from comprehending the repeated numerous attempts to destroy their State. It is that discrepancy that stops Israelis from understanding the meaning of the Shoah so can they prevent the next one. It is this discrepancy that stops Israelis from being part of humanity.

Once again Jews will have to wander into an unknown fate. To a certain extent, I myself have started my journey a while ago.

[1] Jews only law of return-

read more-

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Did Iran Have to Give Up So Much to Get So Little?

By ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH | CounterPunch | December 6, 2013

The (interim) nuclear agreement that was signed on 24 November 2013 by Iran and the so-called P5+1 group in Geneva is questionable on a number of grounds.

The Irony and Absurdity of the Negotiations: When the Guilty Tries the Innocent

The underlying logic for the Iran nuclear negotiations was (and continues to be) altogether preposterous: on one side of the negotiating table sat major nuclear powers who are all in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires them to have either dismantled or drastically reduced their nuclear arsenal; on the other side, an NPT–compliant country (Iran) that neither possesses nor pursues nuclear weapons—a fact that is testified to both by the U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies. Yet, in an ironically perverse way, the culprits have assumed the role of the police, the prosecutor and the judge, shamelessly persecuting and prosecuting the innocent for no other reason than trying to exercise its NPT-granted right to peaceful nuclear technology.

This obviously means that Iran is essentially negotiating under duress. Largely shut out of normal international trade, and constantly threatened by economic strangulation, it is essentially negotiating with a bullet to its head. As an astute observer of the negotiations has pointed out, “Iran voluntarily agreed to the [nuclear] deal the same way that a robbery victim voluntarily agrees to give up valuable possessions” to save his/her life.

The Imbalance between what Iran Gave and what it Took

To reach the interim deal, the Iranian negotiators agreed to a number of concessions with very little reciprocity in terms of relief from sanctions. These included: limiting its enrichment of uranium to only 3-5 percent purity, from the current level of 20 percent purity; rendering unusable its existing stockpile of 20 percent fuel for further enrichment; not using its more advanced IR-M2 centrifuges for enrichment; not activating its heavy-water reactor in Arak; and consenting to highly intrusive inspections.

This means that under the deal, the Iranian negotiators have agreed to more than freezing Iran’s nuclear technology; perhaps more importantly, they have reversed and rolled back significant scientific achievements and technological breakthroughs of recent years. One can imagine the feeling of disappointment (and perhaps betrayal) on the part of the many dedicated scientists, engineers and technicians who worked so hard to bring about such scientific advances; only to see them dishonored or degraded by reversing and freezing them at a much lower level.

In return for these significant concessions, the U.S. and its allies would agree: to unfreeze less-than 7 billion dollars of Iran’s nearly 100 billion dollars of oil revenue frozen in bank accounts overseas; to consider easing sanctions banning trade in precious metals, petrochemicals and auto industry; and to suspend the EU and U.S. sanctions on insurance and transportation services for the drastically reduced sale of Iran’s oil.

The most crippling sanctions on Iran’s oil and banks, which served as the financial facilitators of international trade, would remain intact under the proposed interim deal.

Threat to Iran’s Sovereignty

A careful reading of the interim agreement reveals that the Iranian negotiators gave up more than scaling down and freezing their country’s nuclear technology and/or knowledge. More importantly, if implemented, the deal effectively places Iran’s nuclear program (through IAEA) under total control of the United States and its allies. This is no speculation; it follows from the interim deal’s vastly invasive inspections regime, which is described under the subheading “Enhanced Monitoring”:

– Provision of specified information to the IAEA, including information on Iran’s plans for nuclear facilities, a description of each building on each nuclear site, a description of the scale of operations for each location engaged in specified nuclear activities, information on uranium mines and mills, and information on source material. This information would be provided within three months of the adoption of these measures.

– Steps to agree with the IAEA on conclusion of the Safeguards Approach for the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40.

– Daily IAEA inspector access when inspectors are not present for the purpose of Design Information Verification, Interim Inventory Verification, Physical Inventory Verification, and unannounced inspections, for the purpose of access to offline surveillance records, at Fordow and Natanz.

– IAEA inspector managed access to: centrifuge assembly workshops; centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities; and, uranium mines and mills.

The fact that provisions of “enhanced monitoring” tend to infringe upon Iran’s national sovereignty was implicitly acknowledged by the Washington Post when it reported on the morning following the signing of the deal (24 November 2013) that, according to Western officials in Geneva, the Iranian concessions “not only halt Iran’s nuclear advances but also make it virtually impossible for Tehran” to make any changes in its nuclear technology “without being detected.”

Another indication of Iran’s national sovereignty being threatened is the interim deal’s establishment of “a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iran’s domestic needs. . . . This channel could also enable: transactions required to pay Iran’s UN obligations; and, direct tuition payments to universities and colleges for Iranian students studying abroad.” Although the financial channel would be using Iran’s own money, currently frozen abroad, it would not be controlled or managed by Iranians—sadly reminiscent of Iraq’s “oil for food” neo-colonial deal under Saddam Hussein.

Did Iran Have to Give up so Much for so Little?

Deprived of more than half of its oil exports/revenue, and largely locked out of the international banking and/or trade system, the Iranian economy and its people are already gravely suffering from the ravages of economic sanctions. Additional sanctions, which are pre-packaged and frequently brandished as a Damocles’ Sword in the background of the nuclear negotiations, are bound to further depress Iran’s economy and the living conditions of its people.

Under these circumstances, Iran basically faced (or faces) two options. One option would be embarking on the path of a war economy, as it has, in effect, been subjected to a brutal economic war by the United States and its allies. This would be similar to the eight years (1980-88) of war with Iraq, when at the instigation and support of regional and global powers Saddam Hussein launched a surprise military attack against Iran. The other option would be compromising its legal and legitimate rights to peaceful nuclear technology in order to appease the global bully (the U.S.) and its minions in the hope that this may prevent a further tightening of the noose of economic sanctions around the neck of the Iranian people.

During the eight-year war with Saddam’s Iraq, not only did the Western powers and their allies in the region support the Iraqi dictator militarily but they also subjected Iran to severe economic sanctions. With its back against the wall, so to speak, Iran embarked on a revolutionary path of a war economy that successfully provided both for the war mobilization to defend its territorial integrity and for respectable living conditions of its population. By taking control of the commanding heights of the national economy, and effectively utilizing the revolutionary energy and dedication of their people, Iranian policy makers further succeeded in bringing about significant economic developments. These included: extensive electrification of the countryside, expansion of transportation networks, construction of tens of thousands of schools and medical clinics all across the country, provision of foodstuffs and other basic needs for the indigent at affordable prices, and more.

Despite its record of success, this option is altogether ruled out by today’s Iranian ruling powers. There are a number of reasons for this aversion to a regimented war economy. A detailed discussion of such reasons is beyond the purview of this essay. Suffice it to say that many of the revolutionary leaders who successfully managed the 1980-88 war economy have now become business entrepreneurs and prosperous capitalists. Having effectively enriched themselves in the shadow of the public sector economy, or by virtue of the political/bureaucratic positions they held (or still hold) in various stations in the government apparatus, these folks have by now lost all appetite they once had for the radical economic measures required by a war economy. Instead, they now seem eager to strike business and investment deals with their counterparts in the West.

More than any other social strata, President Rouhani and his administration represent the interests and aspirations of this ascending capitalist–business class in Iran. Representatives of this class wield economic and political power through the highly influential Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines, and Agriculture (ICCIMA). Ideological and/or philosophical affinity between President Rouhani and the power-brokers residing within ICCIMA is reflected in the fact that, immediately upon his election, the president appointed former head of the Chamber of Commerce Mohammad Nahavandian, a U.S.-educated neoliberal economist and an advisor to former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, as his chief of staff.

It was through Nahavandian and the Iran Chamber of Commerce that, in September 2013, an Iranian economic delegation accompanied President Rouhani to the United Nations in New York to negotiate (behind the scenes) potential business/investment deals with their American counterparts. The Iran Chamber of Commerce also organized a number of economic delegations that accompanied Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif to Geneva in pursuit of similar objectives in Europe.

It is understandable, therefore, why major factions within Iran’s ruling circles, especially the Rouhani administration and their allies and co-thinkers, have no stomach for a regimented, war-like economy; and why, instead, they opted for compromises over Iran’s nuclear program. The question remains, however, why did they make so many concessions in return for so little? Did they have to compromise as much as they did?

Two major reasons can be identified for why they could strike a better nuclear deal in Geneva than they actually did. For one thing, President Rouhani’s and his team of negotiators’ liaison with the P5+1 group got off on the wrong foot: they showed their hand prematurely by approaching the negotiations with a sense of desperation and an attitude of eagerness to reach a deal.

Indeed, it is fair to argue that President Rouhani condemned Iran to an unsound or flawed deal long before he was elected. He did so during his presidential campaign by pinning his chances for election on economic recovery through a nuclear deal. This was a huge mistake, as it automatically weakened Iran’s bargaining position and, by the same token, strengthened that of the United States and its allies. By exaggerating (perhaps opportunistically) the culpability of his predecessor in the escalation of economic sanctions against Iran, he committed two blunders: one downplaying the culpability of the U.S. and its allies; the other (and by the same token) placing the onus of reaching a nuclear deal largely on Iran.

Secondly, whereas the U.S. and its junior partners constantly brandished the so-called “stick” of additional sanctions in the background of the Geneva negotiations to extract more concessions from Iran, the Iranian side does not seem to have effectively used its country’s recent geopolitical successes in the region to resist the one-sided concessions. While the United States and its allies have in recent months experienced a major setback over the Syrian crisis, Iran and its allies (Russia, Syria, Hezbollah and, indirectly and minimally, China) have by the same token experienced success. And while the results of the U.S. military adventures of the past dozen years or so have been chaos and civil war in countries like Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, Iran remains a relatively stable and an ascending regional power, indeed, a power-broker—sanctions-induced economic distress notwithstanding.

It is thus altogether reasonable to argue that had the Iranian negotiators (a) not gone to Geneva with such an openly eager attitude to reach a nuclear deal, and (b) taken more effective advantage of their country’s recent geopolitical successes in the region, they could have struck a better nuclear deal than they actually did. For example, while agreeing on the freezing of their nuclear technology was (under the circumstances) unavoidable, they could more strongly argue that there was no reason for them to roll back Iran’s scientific achievements from 20 percent enrichment of uranium to 5 percent—20 percent enrichment is both NPT-sanctioned, or legal, and required for the Tehran Research Reactor, which manufactures medical isotopes.

Likewise, while agreeing to more intrusive inspections of nuclear sites was (again, under the circumstances) inescapable, Iranian negotiators could reasonably resist allowing inspectors access to and monitoring of their country’s centrifuge assembly workshops, or its uranium mines and mills. Furthermore, the Iranian team could, again quite reasonably, insist on making the elements of the “final agreement,” which is supposed to remove all of the sanctions against Iran, more specific. As they now stand, these elements are so vague, fluid and inconsistent that they seem to be crafted in order to be broken.

Regime Change From Within

Ever since the 1979 revolution in Iran, which significantly undermined the U.S. influence in Iran and elsewhere in the region, the United States has been on a “regime change” mission in that country. Its efforts in pursuit of this nefarious goal are rather well established. They range from instigating and supporting Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, to training and supporting destabilizing terrorist organizations to attack Iran, to constant war and military threats, to efforts to sabotage the 2009 presidential election through the so-called “green revolution,” and to systematic escalation of economic sanctions.

Not only have these imperialistic schemes fallen short of their goal of “regime change” in Iran, they have, in fact, driven that country to become a major power in the region, which has further thwarted the geopolitical plans of the United States in the area. While the U.S.–supported mercenary forces in Syria as well as its allies in Ankara, Cairo and Riyadh have experienced serious setbacks in their efforts to overthrow the government in Damascus, the Iran-Russia-Syria-Hezbollah alliance has (by the same token) gained strength and prestige in recent months.

Having thus failed at its plots for “regime change” in Iran from without, the U.S. (or more precisely, a major faction of its ruling powers) now seems to have opted for regime change (or reform) from within; that is, through political and economic rapprochement with Iran. Even some of the U.S. allies such as Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Israel that have always been wary of Iran’s radical influence in the region, and who initially opposed vehemently the Iran–P5+1 nuclear agreement, are beginning to see the “moderating” or “stabilizing” benefits of the success of this tactic.

What has made this option more promising (to the U.S. and its client regimes) is the rise of an ambitious capitalist class in Iran whose chief priority seems to be the ability to do business with their counterparts in the West. These folks literally mean business, so to speak; for them, issues such as nuclear technology or national sovereignty are of secondary importance. As mentioned earlier, they are the staunchest supporters of President Rouhani and the unquestioning supporters of his lopsided concessions in the nuclear deal. Also as mentioned before, it was the representative delegations of this class of Iranian capitalists that accompanied President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif to the United States and Europe in order to negotiate business/investment deals with their counterparts in the West.

To be sure, the jingoistic factions of the U.S. ruling circles, headed by the beneficiaries of war dividends and the Israeli lobby, continue to push for direct military intervention and/or further economic strangulation of Iran. But the leaders and/or beneficiaries of non-military industries such as oil, automobile, airlines, agriculture, and the like are lobbying the Obama administration for economic and political rapprochement with Iran.

Which of these two major factions of the U.S. ruling powers (Proponents of regime change from within or from without) would succeed, depends largely on the process and/or outcome of nuclear negotiations. While making threats of additional sanctions, the hardline or militaristic faction seem to be for now sitting on the fence: if Iran continues to make more one-sided concessions, which would basically mean giving up its right to a level of uranium enrichment that is necessary for its peaceful domestic needs, they would soften their positions and gradually lower their shrill and menacing voices. On the other hand, if Iran does not relent on its legal and legitimate enrichment rights, and insists that the U.S. and its allies need to reciprocate Iran’s interim concessions by lifting the sanctions, they would further harden their positions by calling for additional sanctions and/or military intervention. Under this latter scenario, proponents of rapprochement with Iran, having failed in their tactic of regime change/reform from within, would most probably join the hardliners, thereby embarking, once again, on the long-standing policy of regime change from without—back to square one, so to speak.

So, how would all of these new developments on both the Iranian and the U.S. side affect and/or be affected by the interim nuclear deal toward a “comprehensive final step”?

Problematic and Uncertain Future of the Interim Nuclear Deal

Components of the interim agreement are so vague, inconsistent and even contradictory that it makes them subject to divergent interpretations and, therefore, potential breaches of the deal in the future. This explains why soon after the agreement was signed conflicting understandings of it began to surface. While the Iranian president and his team of negotiators have frequently declared that the agreement acknowledges the country’s right to uranium enrichment, the U.S. side, headed by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, has vigorously denied that right.

Equally vague and (potentially) problematic is the meaning of the “elements of the final step of a comprehensive solution.” According to Iran’s negotiators, the “final step” would “Comprehensively lift UN Security Council, multilateral and national nuclear-related sanctions,” as it is, indeed, stipulated as such in the interim agreement. However, the agreement immediately adds that the final step would “Involve a mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon.” And it is this ambiguous and condition-laden (“mutually defined enrichment…, mutually agreed parameters…, agreed limits on scope…, for a period to be agreed upon”) sentence in the interim deal that is frequently highlighted by the United States as governing the status of the “final step.”

This is an indication, as pointed out by Gareth Porter (among others), “of uncertain U.S. commitment to the ‘end state’ agreement.” U.S. reservations or unfaithfulness toward a clear, comprehensive and sanctions-free final deal, Gareth further points out, “came in a background press briefing by unidentified senior U.S. officials in Geneva via teleconference late Saturday night [23 November 2013]. The officials repeatedly . . . referred to the negotiation of the ‘comprehensive solution’ outlined in the deal . . . as an open-ended question rather than an objective of U.S. policy”. It is this ambiguous, unsure and noncommittal U.S. approach to the nuclear deal that serves as grounds for the pessimistic conclusion that the deal is facing an uncertain future.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007) and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). His latest book, titled Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis: Parasitic Finance Capital, is forthcoming from Routledge Books.

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Comments Off on Did Iran Have to Give Up So Much to Get So Little?

Pierre Omidyar: giving until it hurts

By David Matthew Carr | December 7, 2013

The new media venture from billionaire philanthropist Pierre Omidyar will enlist the muck-raking talents of Glen Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill. Omidyar’s record of promoting and funding “free-market solutions” to social problems is a good indicator of what the limitations of the project will be.

Pierre Omidyar is a Punahou school alumnus who holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He is also the multibillionaire philanthropist behind Hawaii-based Civil Beat, a Right-Libertarian, pro-business, pay-walled media website that focuses its critique on the shortcomings of democratic governance and the public sector. Omidyar’s Civil Beat offers analysis which seems to exist in a strange land without class conflict, where the ruling-class and the working-class struggle shoulder to shoulder against the forces corrupting liberal democracy. As a result, the editorial slant is marked by a distinct disconnect from the every-day lives of non-billionaire philanthropists, those who don’t stand to gain from the schemes of Omidyar, the “classless angel.”

Omidyar’s latest project is to launch a media group whose roster of reporters will include the muckraking talents of Glen Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill. To assess the potential for this new project, it is important to know his basic ideological outlook, which we can find in the projects he has participated in.

After striking it rich by helping to establish ebay, Omidyar decided to engage in targeted philanthropy to promote opportunity and a better world. He believes he earned his billions without taking anything from society, so his philanthropic impulse cannot be traced to a sense of guilt regarding his fortune. In fact it’s the other way around: “To Omidyar, ‘giving back’ implies that, before philanthropy, you were taking away. Not so, says Omidyar, who believes that people succeed when they create value for society.”

One of Omidyar’s “value creating” projects has been to invest heavily in the micro-loan industry, through groups like Kiva which allows investors to profit off of loans to the poor, especially in impoverished regions of India. The ideology behind this business venture saw free markets magically lifting all boats where government funding did not. The actual results were often financial collapse, leaving the borrowers prey to lenders demanding repayment. “It is tough to find a household in this village in an impoverished district of Andhra Pradesh that is not deeply in debt to a for-profit microfinance company.”

The Omidyar Network states on its website that it “is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives.” Omidyar is often identified as an “economist,” perhaps explaining his profoundly distorted idea of what markets do and how capitalism works. For him, markets seem to act as avenues which unleash people-power and democracy, especially when noble-minded entrepreneurs are navigating them.

But the misguided nature of Omidyar’s philanthropy comes into sharpest focus when looking at his projects around education. He has given ten million dollars to the Skoll Foundation, a major backer of “Teach For America“, which specializes in placing undertrained Ivy League idealists in classrooms in underperforming neighborhoods. They commit to two years on the job after graduation, and are (perhaps unwittingly) deployed as part of an end run around teachers unions. TFA promotes legislation that seeks to undermine tenure, and “reward good teachers” while making it easier to fire “bad” ones. They promote charter schools as inherently superior to public ones, and advocate for a business-model-of-education with school principals acting more like CEOs than head teachers.

Opponents of Teach For America have pointed out, that TFA is an “incubator for the privatization movement”:

TFA plays a key role in developing and connecting personnel, political support, and financial backing for neoliberal and market based policies, specifically charter school reform, the deregulation of teacher education, and accountability policies.

While TFA uses the rhetoric of justice and equity, these reforms in fact stifle democratic processes and are used to justify budget cuts and the takeover of public institutions by privately funded and privately run companies.

Jeff Skoll was Omidyar’s business partner and the first President of ebay. Skoll was a major funder of the movie “Waiting For Superman” which featured Michelle Rhee as its protagonist, giving her a national platform to attack teachers’ unions and promote her privatization agenda which has resonated with both Republicans and Democrats carrying out austerity-governance. Diane Ravitch’s description of the movie (and related education “reform” films) shows how it is a perfect fit for Omidyar’s vision of entrepreneurial genius coming to the rescue of a world mired in public sector programs that are alleged to have “failed”:

The message of these films has become alarmingly familiar: American public education is a failed enterprise. The problem is not money. Public schools already spend too much. Test scores are low because there are so many bad teachers, whose jobs are protected by powerful unions. Students drop out because the schools fail them, but they could accomplish practically anything if they were saved from bad teachers. They would get higher test scores if schools could fire more bad teachers and pay more to good ones. The only hope for the future of our society, especially for poor black and Hispanic children, is escape from public schools, especially to charter schools, which are mostly funded by the government but controlled by private organizations, many of them operating to make a profit

The Omidyar Network is behind “Teach For All,” the globalized version of the Teach For America model. A look at the Board of Teach For All, provides a clear illustration of both its detachment from the educational field, and the corporate world view it embodies. Its members include top brass from Rolls Royce, Visa, Goldman Sachs, the founder of Teach For America, and Dr. Rufus Black a “theologian and ethicist” who is presumably there to provide rationalizations for their atrocious attacks on working teachers, students, unions, and communities.

Especially appalling is the push by Omidyar and other corporate education “reformers” to link teacher assessments to their students’ scores on standardized tests, and then to utilize those assessments in determining whether a teacher retains employment or not. This correlates to the “business model of education.” A profile on the Omidyar Network states that “[t]he model of investing in social change organizations requires that measurable good flows from the investment, just as accounting methods tell executives whether a for-profit investment is producing profits.” This is the lens through which corporate reformers like Bill Gates, the Broad Foundation, and Omidyar see the world. Numerical data will reflect the “measurable good” provided by a teacher, but the data will be detached from factors like poverty, student access to nutrition, problems at home, the level at which particular schools are funded and the educational resources they have access to, etc. These aspects will be abstracted out, as is the fashion in the neoliberal economics that underpin Omidyar’s crusades to create social value. Teachers with students who are learning English as a second language, who have learning disabilities, or who face issues stemming from poverty, still the main determinant in negative educational outcomes, are assessed as “failing” if their students’ scores are low.

Omidyar, and the other billionaire philanthropists who push top down, non-democratic crusades to empower the people, genuinely believe they possess the knowledge that the “best minds” have to offer. One problem is that their money gives them the right to engage in these projects whether or not they have any kind of relevant expertise, or even a grasp on reality. The corporate-philanthropist take on reality amounts to little more than ideology; specifically capitalist:

Property rights are the keys to economic security, identity, and wealth creation. … Societies that enforce these rights benefit from greater economic growth, transparency, and political stability, as they encourage investment, promote the rule of law, and give people a stake in the future.

Any grounding of capitalism in history shows that, while it unleashed productive powers never before dreamed of, it cannot be a truly liberating force for humanity. Beyond whatever role it had in overturning feudal social relations, it came with inherent problems of its own, and the concept of “property rights” is one of them. From the English enclosures carried out by the landed gentry, enabled by laws created by the parliaments they owned, to the hangings of thousands of “vagrants” who had become criminalized via this process, capitalism’s beginnings were brutal by design. Property rights as enshrined in law has mainly to do with preserving the ownership of the “means of production” in a very few hands while the masses own little more than their own labor power, which they must sell to a boss. For every gain made via capitalist production, so to have these inequalities of the class system been reproduced. The hangings were part of a ruling class pedagogy, because people had to be taught to respect the new restrictive capitalist property relations which made it so hard for them to survive. With this in mind, its hard to get on board with Omidyar’s goal of creating value for society, when the system of value production he promotes as a panacea is the same one that reinforces the process of alienation.

The idea that property rights make people free should be especially offensive when Omidyar targets former colonies for philanthropic rehabilitation. With Teach For India, we see a project promoting markets as the savior of Indian social infrastructure. Unfortunately, the impact of the market system on India has a deeply disturbing history, completely relevant to Omidyar’s present efforts. In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, Mike Davis has illuminated the incredible human toll markets unleashed on the subcontinent under British colonial rule: “Davis’ primary focus in fleshing out his story is the crown jewel of Britain’s colonial empire: India. Drought was the precipitating cause of the hardship faced by the Indian people. However, Davis demonstrates with statistics and anecdotes that it was the unregulated “free market” system imposed on India by Britain that led to the deaths of tens of millions in the mid-1870s and late 1880s.”

Aside from his ideologically dubious philanthropy, Omidyar has also drawn outrage closer to his present Oahu home from the residents of the island of Kauai, where he has proposed to develop a mixed residential and low-density hotel resort. “Despite 5,000+ petition signers, strong, visible community opposition, and several attempts to dialog directly with Mr. Omidyar, the Oahu resident and billionaire founder of eBay has thus far declined to personally dialog with concerned Kauai Community leaders.” It should be noted that Kauai’s population is roughly 68,000, so 5,000 signatures is proportionally significant. A member of Save Hanalei River Ridge, wrote to Omidyar, complaining that:

To introduce multi-million-dollar homes sitting on top of the ridge looking down on Black Pot, would break the hearts of the thousands of people who live here and also those who come to visit and enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the River and the Bay. A resort development on this massive scale on the Hanalei River Ridge opens the door to letting it become more like Laguna Beach and less like Hanalei; this Garden of Eden that so well defines Kauai.

Despite the fact that his projects consistently put him at odds with the poor and working-class, Omidyar still sees himself as a benefactor of the people. The new venture, he explains “was fueled by his ‘rising concern about press freedoms in the United States and around the world’.” Natasha Vargas-Cooper hit what is perhaps a more telling note about Omidyar’s interest in independent media when she wrote of Glen Greenwald in a profile of him for The Advocate. She believes that Greenwald’s “obsession with surveillance and privacy issues have made him into an ideological pillar of the rather sterile, unfriendly world of civil libertarian politics, a group not known for its warmth and humanism.” Omidyar’s union-busting politics, his focus on private sector saviors, his backing of disruptive land developments, and his misnomered “social entrepreneurship” put him in that world.

Reading Omidyar’s description of how his private sector experience will create success for his new media outlet, one would be justified in suspecting the blind spot toward working-class issues, so glaring in Civil Beat, will be replicated in the new venture: “Companies in Silicon Valley invest a lot in understanding their users and what drives user engagement. … That process got me thinking about what kind of social impact could be created if a similar investment was made in something entirely new, built from the ground up. Something that I would be personally and directly involved in outside of my other efforts as a philanthropist.” Omidyar’s idea of a community of readers empowered by truth is again seen through a commodified lens: “Users,” (themselves a product to deliver to advertisers and others who can utilize information they generate about themselves) are driven to engage with his product, in this case news.

For the working-class, Omidyar’s pursuit of freedom of both information and markets cannot be seen as inherently progressive. His top-down billionaire philanthropist/savior antics are as insulting as Andrew Carnegie’s public infrastructure campaigns, which created public libraries and parks from the private fortune he’d amassed repressing wages and workers’ movements. In Omidyar’s world a classless civil society fights the powers that impede the market’s ability to liberate human potential. In the real, historically grounded world there is an employing class and a working-class that “have nothing in common”. No billionaire media mogul is ever going to be in the service of working people, no matter how much rhetoric about freedom of speech is deployed in the promotion of his or her product.

David Carr is an organizer with LaborFest Hawaii and a History instructor at Leeward Community College.

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pierre Omidyar: giving until it hurts