Sunday, February 19, 2017

Rohingya women who spoke out on rape, murder are pursued by Myanmar officials

Here below is a news report filed by veteran journalist Shaikh Azizur Rahman on the condition of the Rohingyas:

Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh: If you believe the Myanmar government, the military "clearance operation" in northern Rakhine state, which began after an attack on a police post in October, officially came to a halt on Thursday.
But for the region's Rohingya inhabitants, the reign of terror shows no signs of ending.
Following an international outcry over allegations of widespread human rights abuses by Myanmar security forces and Buddhist tribal groups in the state, the government allowed selected Myanmar journalists to visit the area in December.
As the journalists toured Rohingya villages, where killings, rapes and arson had been reported, most Rohingya avoided interaction with them.
However a few, including 25-year-old Rohingya woman Jamalida Begum, took courage and shared their experiences. 
"I told them how other Rohingya women there and I had been brutally raped by the military," she told Fairfax Media.
Soon after the December visit, interviews with Begum and two other villagers - a man called Sona Mia and a woman called Noorjahan - were shown on Myanmar TV channels.
Sona Mia, a Rohingya from the village of Ngakura, was found murdered a day after he spoke to the journalists. For Begum, it was a clear message. 
However a few, including 25-year-old Rohingya woman Jamalida Begum, took courage and shared their experiences.
"I told them how other Rohingya women there and I had been brutally raped by the military," she told Fairfax Media.
Soon after the December visit, interviews with Begum and two other villagers - a man called Sona Mia and a woman called Noorjahan - were shown on Myanmar TV channels.
Sona Mia, a Rohingya from the village of Ngakura, was found murdered a day after he spoke to the journalists. For Begum, it was a clear message.           
"I got extremely scared at the news of the beheading of Sona Mia and immediately I decided to flee," she said.
Begum said that when she was speaking to the journalists, some soldiers took her picture, later returning to launch a house-to-house search for her in her hamlet of Pyoung Pyi in the Maungdaw area.           
"I sneaked out of my village and spent several days in hiding in jungles and other places, before giving the border guards the slip and crossing over to Bangladesh" with her father and seven-year-old son.
At a refugee camp in Bangladesh, Begum and 31-year-old Noorjahan, who alleged on camera that five soldiers and Buddhist tribesmen had raped her, have become friends.
"The soldiers murdered my husband in November," Noorjahan told Fairfax Media.  "Weeks after, they raped me before my daughter. My mental pain was unbearable. I wanted the world to know of it. So, I took the risk to tell everything about the torture to the journalists.
"Many women around us had been raped by the Burmese soldiers, police and Mog [a Buddhist tribe] men. But, most were afraid of retaliation from the government and so they did not come forward," she adds.           
When the soldiers launched a search for her, hours after she spoke to the journalists, she slipped out of her village of Nirbil and hid in another, she said.
"After spending one week in hiding, one night I secretly took a boat, crossed the [Naf] river and reached Bangladesh, along with my six-year-old daughter," Noorjahan said.           
Soon after the TV interviews, the Myanmar government issued a statement saying that several neighbours of the two women had reported to the authorities that their rape allegations were "not true".
The government also said that since Begum and Noorjahan had fled their villages, it could not investigate the rape charges.           
But Begum and Noorjahan say they are still being pursued.
In January, a Myanmar official accompanied by foreigners - by which the women mean people who were not Burmese or Bangladeshi - reached the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazar where Begum and Noorjahan have taken shelter.
Begum said she recognised this official, who had visited her village in December, when she said to him and other Myanmar officials how she had been raped by three soldiers in November.
"I was shocked to see that  official at the refugee camp," she said. "[He] asked me why I had fled Burma. I replied that the security agencies were hounding me ... when he asked if I wanted to go back to [Myanmar], I replied in the negative," she told Fairfax Media.
"Are [Myanmar officials] still tracking Noorjahan and me for some reason?"
As Begum and Noorjahan did not enter Bangladesh legally, the UN refugee agency cannot support them and they are forced to live on handouts provided by local charities.
Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, third from right, speaks to Rohingya villagers during a visit to Rakhine state in December. Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, third from right, speaks to Rohingya villagers during a visit to Rakhine state in December. The man who took this photo, Noor Hossain, has now been missing for over two months. Photo: Noor Hossain
Accusations of Rohingya villagers being hounded after daring to speak out have surfaced elsewhere.
Kofi Annan - who heads a commission investigating the conflict in Rakhine - visited Rohingya villages in the first week of December. Soon after, Myanmar police launched a hunt for those Rohingya who told the former UN secretary-general about abuses committed by the security forces. Two people who spoke out were arrested.
Yanghee Lee, the UN's special rapporteur on Myanmar, visited northern Rakhine in January to investigate allegations of rights violations by security forces. Aung Aung, a Rakhine-based activist, said that military officials had threatened villagers with punishment if they sought to meet Ms Lee.
"It's clear that the military authority does not want Rohingyas to tell the outside world how they are being killed and tortured in Myanmar," Aung said.
Ms Lee will arrive in Bangladesh on Monday to resume her investigation. In Cox's Bazar, she is scheduled to meet scores of Rohingya rape survivors and others who have fled Myanmar in recent weeks.
Yanghee Lee, UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur to Myanmar.Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur to Myanmar. Photo: AP
At least two other Rohingya men who met Mr Annan have fled to Bangladesh, Aung added.
Matthew Smith, chief executive officer of the group Fortify Rights, said that Myanmar is a "dangerous place to be a truth teller".
"There is a practical effect to reprisals - they instil fear and terror among the population and discourage others from speaking out," Smith said.
"We documented how state security forces hunted a Rohingya man who met with foreign ambassadors who in November visited Maungdaw. The authorities tracked him through multiple villages and at one point opened fire on him. He managed to escape to Bangladesh … The commissions appointed by the government have failed to account for this trend, as well as other grave violations," he added.
"The time for a UN-mandated independent international investigation is now."

Trump lies about Sweden

Is Trump sounding like a pathological liar? Otherwise, why would he continue to lie about crimes that did not happen? As you know he has been campaigning in Florida this weekend.

There he cited a nonexistent incident in Sweden while talking about the relationship between terror attacks and refugees around the world during a rally in Melbourne, Florida, on Saturday.
"You look at what's happening in Germany. You look at what's happening last night in Sweden ... Sweden ... who would believe this? Sweden, they took in large numbers, they are having problems like they never thought possible. You look at what's happening Brussels, you look at what's happening all over the world," Trump said.
No incident occurred in Sweden on Friday night.

However, Fox News host Tucker Carlson ran an interview on Friday night's broadcast of "Tucker Carlson Tonight" with documentarian and media personality Ami Horowitz, who presented a clip from a new film documenting alleged violence committed by refugees in Sweden. The segment went on extensively about a supposed crime surge in Sweden and its links to immigrant populations.

It is highly likely that Trump being glued to Fox News more than the CNN or other more reliable media sources was referring to that documentary by Horowitz. After viewing the interview in  the Fox TV, I left a comment there, which is shared below:
"It's a sick interview of Horowitz, a hard-core Zionists who has been part of the nexus that is working with bigots like Pamela and Pipes, to make Europe immigrant-free. There is no truth to his accusations based on an interview of unreliable sources. After all, in any community, including here in the USA, we can find such outliers. But outliers don't describe the general trend!"
Interested readers may like to Google my series of articles on Jerusalem Summit that were posted in various major websites more than a decade ago, shortly after 9/11 (click, e.g., here, here and here). The Summit was organized by hard-core Zionist ideologues like Daniel Pipes and supported by various hate groups that had a common agenda to secure Israel (including the Occupied Palestinian Territories) for the Jews only and to free Europe and the USA (and as a matter of fact rest of the world, minus, probably the Muslim world) of Islam and Muslims. To the planners and organizers of the Summit, all cunning people, they knew too well that unless a common thread that binds all is found their ultimate aim of making Jerusalem and Israel kosher for the Jewish people alone cannot succeed. So, they sold tablets of hatred and xenophobia against Islam and Muslims. As a result of a careful planning, such summits, held in other continents, saw participation from many anti-Muslim zealots of various faiths, including Hindus and Buddhists, let alone Christian-Zionists and Jewish Zionists. As I have noted elsewhere, while no new summits have taken place in recent years the roadmap to make Europe and America free of Muslims, has not been abandoned an iota. As the soldiers of Dazzal (the anti-Christ) many of those zealots continue to do their obsessed, evil part to bring about the civilizational war as soon as possible. They are satanic in their orientation, utterly evil, with nothing but hatred in  their hearts.
By the way, crime rates in Sweden have stayed relatively stable, with some fluctuations, over the last decade, according to the 2016 Swedish Crime Survey. There has not been a statistical shift in that crime rate as a result of any immigrants moving to Sweden. Period!
And yet, to Trump and his troops of truth-discarders such truly 'fake news' has now become their main commodity of trade to mislead the world. Truly sick!
For  some other such false news propagated by the POTUS, click here.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Is there a glimmer of hope in a dysfunctional world?

The USA is in a disarray or so it seems these days with the POTUS attacking the media. On Thursday Trump said that the media "is out of control." Some media "is fantastic," the president allowed. But on the whole, journalism is plagued by "false, horrible, fake reporting."

Trump tweeted last Friday that "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @CNN, @NBCNews and many more) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!"

In spite of Trump’s impression of the media, a recent study by Morning Consult found that the majority of the people find the major media outlets are credible. At the top, ABC News was found credible by 67%, CBS by 65%, The New York Times by 63% and CNN by 60% of the public.

CNN contributor Carl Bernstein, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Watergate scandal, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, called Trump's words "treacherous."

"The most dangerous 'enemy of the people' is presidential lying -- always," he tweeted. "Attacks on press by @realDonaldTrump more treacherous than Nixon's."

Sen. John McCain slammed Trump's attacks on the media this week by noting dictators "get started by suppressing free press."

“If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press," McCain said in an interview with Chuck Todd of the NBC News. "And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started."

"They get started by suppressing free press, in other words, a consolidation of power -- when you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press," McCain said. "And I'm not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I'm just saying we need to learn the lessons of history."

It is not the Trump administration alone that seems dysfunctional these days but many parts of our world where the extremists are becoming increasingly popular, let alone running the government, are going through similar malaise.

Like Trump, the leader of the populist Freedom party of Holland – Geert Wilders - went on to tell his bigoted supporters to ‘make the Netherlands ours again’. He wants to ban the Qur’an and expel the Moroccans from his country. He has been leading opinion polls for several weeks and his progress is being monitored carefully by politicians who fear European politics is lurching heavily to the right.

“If you want to regain your country, if you want to make the Netherlands for the people of the Netherlands, your own home again, then you can only vote [for the Freedom party],” Wilders said. “Please, make the Netherlands ours again.”

The shift rightwards in Dutch politics has been happening for over a decade, since firebrand Pim Fortuyn burst on to the scene in the early 2000s, with a new form of populism that would be adopted by other far-right groups across Europe.

France is heading towards a presidential election next spring in which the populist, anti-EU leader of the Front National, Marine Le Pen, is widely expected to reach the second round runoff. Fran├žois Fillon’s bid for the French presidency is already suffering from the fallout of a scandal over disputed payments to his wife.

According to a poll carried out since the scandal broke, 61 percent of French voters have a “negative” or “very negative” view of the conservative former prime minister, while the proportion of “positive views” of Fillon plummeted to 39 percent from 54 percent before “Penelopegate” became top news.

 If Le Pen wins, that would bring about the cataclysmic and existential end of the EU.

In the 4th quarter of this year, Germany goes to the poll. Up until very recently, Berlin’s chattering classes believed a fourth Angela Merkel term was inevitable. Love or hate her, Merkel was alternativlos, without alternative, as the common refrain had it. Though Merkel’s popularity suffered during the refugee crisis, her approval ratings rebounded as the influx dissipated. Now a small-town mayor turned MEP Martin Schulz has become a serious contender for Germany’s chancellorship. He has been able to resurrect his moribund Social Democratic Party (SPD). According to Politico, it is “nothing less than a political earthquake — that is, if it weren’t for Brexit, Donald Trump or the sudden implosion of Fran├žois Fillon in France.”

The upcoming campaign “will be the hardest I’ve ever experienced,” Merkel acknowledged on Monday in Munich.

The wild card in the election is the Alternative for Germany Party, the right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, Eurosceptic party.

Not everything is lost though.

A truce between Russia-backed separatists and the Ukrainian army will come into force on Monday in eastern Ukraine, according to Russia's foreign minister. The deal was brokered on Saturday at the Munich security conference with the participation of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.

"It is positive that the contact group [of foreign ministers of the four countries] agreed once again for the start of a ceasefire on February 20," Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

Lavrov, offering pragmatic ties with the US, said: "I hope that [the world] will choose a democratic world order - a post-West one - in which each country is defined by its sovereignty."

He said that the time when the West called the shots was over while NATO was a relic of the Cold War. In its place, Russia wanted a relationship with the US that is "pragmatic with mutual respect and acknowledgement of our common responsibility for global stability".

On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and voiced his willingness to work with him in fighting "terrorism".

Exasperated and worried by Trump's calling into question long-standing foreign policy assumptions, European leaders have urged the US not to take transatlantic ties for granted.

On a European roadshow this week, Trump's lieutenants have sought to reassure jittery allies that the administration will hold fast to existing foreign policies, including maintaining sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

Hours before Lavrov addressed the conference, U.S. Vice President Pence told the same forum that the US will stay loyal to its old friends. "The United States is and will always be your greatest ally. Be assured that President Trump and our people are truly devoted to our transatlantic union," Pence said, adding that America strongly "supports NATO".

"Let no one doubt our commitment," he said.

The US would also not relent in pushing Russia to honor the Minsk ceasefire accords with Ukraine, Pence said. "The United States will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground, which as you know, President Trump believes can be found."

At NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, James Mattis, the U.S. defense secretary, said Russia must first "prove itself" and respect international law before there could be any improvement in relations strained by Russia's Ukraine intervention and annexation of Crimea.

Last week, during his visit, Mattis has told fellow NATO members to increase military spending by the end of the year, or risk seeing the US curtail its defense support. "If your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense," Mattis said. 

He told the alliance's 27 other defense ministers to adopt a plan that sets dates for governments to meet a military funding goal of 2 percent of gross domestic product.

Mattis's message to his counterparts in Brussels follows years of demands by the US for allies to spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense, a goal that only a handful meet despite agreeing to it at a summit in 2014.

Currently, only the United States, Britain, Estonia, Greece and Poland have hit or surpassed the 2 percent figure.

"Germany will live up to its promise to increase military spending but on its own schedule,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday morning, speaking right before him at this year's Munich Security Conference. 'We will do everything we can in order to fulfil this commitment,' Merkel said, referring to a ten-year plan to ramp up Germany's military budget by 2024, which was agreed among NATO member states at a summit in Wales in 2014."

The Saturday conference was Merkel’s first face-to-face meeting with a senior figure in the new U.S. administration and Pence’s first trip abroad as vice president.

Last week, the Israeli Prime minister Netanyahu came to the White House where Trump sounded to abandon the long-held “two-state” solution for resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like, I can live with either one,” he said on Wednesday, during a joint news conference.   

On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had warned during a visit to Cairo that there was no viable way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other than the establishment of a Palestinian state co-existing alongside Israel.

The BDS movement, which is a global campaign urging individuals, companies, and states to apply economic pressure on Israel until it complies with international law in its treatment of Palestinians, has faced a barrage of legislative initiatives in the United States over the past year. The purpose of these initiatives is to prevent public bodies from doing business with entities supporting the movement. Nonetheless, these legal challenges, while significant, point to the fact that BDS is gaining traction beyond college campuses.

President Trump has surrounded himself with many extremists and bigots, which is not a good sign for a country that for nearly half a century has tried to sell itself as the bastion of tolerance, inclusion and freedom.

In the midst of all the confusions, conflicting signs and chaos in our world, it is difficult to see a ray of hope. But pessimism is not affordable, and cannot be allowed to ruin our future.



The Muslim Brotherhood and Trump's terror list

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of Egypt was formed by a school teacher Hassan al-Banna in 1928. After enduring decades of  persecution by the military regimes since it was declared a republic, it won the first ever free election in Egypt in what was once called the Arab Spring and formed a government after the popular overthrow of Hosni Mobarak regime in 2011. Subsequently, in a military coup the government of Dr. Morsi was replaced in 2013 and the entire leadership of MB was imprisoned and many were executed by kangaroo courts in Egypt ever since.

Dr. Al-Arian has written extensively on Muslim Brotherhood (MB) of Egypt. He is assistant professor of history at Georgetown University, School of Foreign Service in Qatar. In a recent article he says that outlawing the Brotherhood reflects a total failure to understand the historical complexities of the group's evolution.
To read his article on the above subject, click here.

BDS and the Anti-Trump Resistance

Here below is an article from  
Since the “financial crisis” of 2008, a range of protest tactics, including blockades, boycotts, marches, strikes, and sit-ins, have once again become a palpable/visible element of everyday politics in the United States. Social/protest movements, such as Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Moral Mondays, Standing Rock, and even the Tea Party, have helped millions rediscover the fact that political engagement does not begin and end in the voting booth.
While these specific social movements have certainly played a role in the revival of protest culture in American politics, Donald Trump’s election is translating them into a mass movement of resistance and civil disobedience.
On January 21 2017, millions of people in over 600 cities participated in the Women’s Marches, leading some political scientists to declare it the “largest day of demonstrations in American history.” Following Trump’s executive order freezing refugee admissions to the United States and banning immigration/travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, thousands protested at airport terminals across the country, while others staged mass strikes.
A series of boycott initiatives targeting companies in support of Trump have overwhelmed the Twitter-sphere. Meanwhile, a small (but vocal) movement (antifa) is reintroducing the American public to a tradition of militant resistance, historically associated with twentieth century anti-fascist and anarchist movements, where horizontally organized networks physically confronted institutions of creeping authoritarianism.
This shift has pushed lawmakers across the United States to introduce anti-protest laws in their respective states. Donald Trump himself has signed executive orders to protect and strengthen police powers.
But, these moves are likely to embolden, not deter, the growth of a mass movement for social justice. For organizations and individuals fighting injustice, now is the time to seize the moment, and that includes the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement.
The BDS movement, which is a global campaign urging individuals, companies, and states to apply economic pressure on Israel until it complies with international law in its treatment of Palestinians, has faced a barrage of legislative initiatives in the United States over the past year. The purpose of these initiatives is to prevent public bodies from doing business with entities supporting the movement. Nonetheless, these legal challenges, while significant, point to the fact that BDS is gaining traction beyond college campuses.
More recently, a number of NFL (National Football League) players made public their intention to boycott a White House meet-and-greet with Donald Trump, in protest against his policies and in support of social justice movements, such as Black Lives Matter. While this is in itself unprecedented, a growing number of players, who have recognized that different systems of oppression are related and overlap, are also publicly boycotting an Israeli propaganda initiative organized by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy.
The aim of the Israeli propaganda initiative is to turn American football players into “ambassadors of goodwill for Israel” by sponsoring (and guiding) a group visit to Jerusalem, Haifa, and Tel Aviv. Six of the eleven players invited (Martellus Bennett, Michael Bennett, Kenny Stills, Cliff Avril, Carlos Hyde, and Justin Forsett) have declined the invitation, while others are re-evaluating their attendance.
At the same time, even the most ardent supporters of Israel now recognize that Trump and the Israeli government, if left to their own devises, will swallow what remains of Palestine in the occupied 1967 territories. It is becoming increasingly difficult to deny that BDS is the only game in town.
Considering the heightened receptiveness of the American public to a variety of political tactics and social justice initiatives, as well as growing skepticism towards the U.S.-brokered “peace process,” BDS activists should create “maximum unity and action” in the fight for Palestinian rights.

Coup, Illustrated: Iran, Oil, and the CIA Overthrow of 1953

The USA has been at war, at least verbally, since its puppet Mohamed Reza Pahlavi - the  Shah of Iran, was toppled in a popular revolution in 1979. I was studying in Canada then when the change of guards took place. With the hostage crisis taking place within days of the revolution when the revolutionaries were able to collect shredded documents that showed that the USA has been plotting to topple the Islamic regime, the relationship between the USA and Iran became very tense. In the West, we were bombarded with one-side propaganda fed against the new Iranian regime. Forgotten or omitted in those narratives was the fact that Iran has been a hostage of the USA since 1953.

Here below is the story told by Nima Shirazi:
In the sweltering late summer heat of 1953, a fifteen-year-old boy who would, a few decades and thousands of miles later, become my father, walked to his older brother’s shop near the center of Tehran, Iran. The streets of the densely-populated capital city were eerily empty. It was a Wednesday.

As he reached the edge of Baharestan Square, facing Iran’s majestic parliament building, and moved to cross the wide boulevard then called Cyrus Street, a convoy of trucks nearly ran him over. Dozens of scantily-clad young women, fists pumping in the air, filled the open cargo areas. In unison, they chanted support for the nation’s king, who had recently fled to Rome.

Three days earlier, a plot to remove the elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, by dubious royal decree had failed spectacularly. But now, new payouts had been made, mobs assembled and deployed, chaos and confusion successfully sowed.

It was August 19th, or 28 Mordad on the Persian calendar. This was the final, desperate phase of Operation Ajax. Iran’s nascent democratic movement wouldn’t last the night.

In most international espionage thrillers, you’re expected to root for the spies. Their clandestine meetings, coded messages, secret plans and covert actions are presented as ingenious and courageous; their dirty deeds are justified for the greater good; their bloodied hands a reminder of what it really takes for patriots to resist tyranny, exact extrajudicial justice, and safeguard democracy and freedom. The spies in the shadows are depicted as our secret saviors, our hidden heroes. They’re drawn in our cultural narratives and national mythologies as the sexy, suave, and surreptitious agents of positive change.

The reality, of course, is quite different. Not only is truth often stranger than fiction, but when it comes to the cloak-and-dagger tales of U.S. foreign policy and spy games, it’s also far uglier, messier, and infinitely more illegal and imperial.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of the U.S.- and British-backed coup d’etat that overthrew Mossadegh in 1953. Considered by many the first successful CIA-led regime change operation and Cold War victory against the advance of Communism in the resource-rich Middle East, the coup toppled an embattled popular democratic movement in Iran, disemboweled constitutionalism and entrenched the absolute monarchy of the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Operation Ajax: The Story of the CIA Coup That Remade the Middle East, a graphic novel by author Mike De Seve and artist Daniel Burwen, seeks to illustrate this little-known and oft-forgotten history in highly cinematic fashion. Lines are sharp, shadows dark and stark. Colors are inked in high-contrast, while the panel perspectives are often off-kilter and skewed in Dutch angles, reminiscent not only of legendary cinematographers like Gregg Toland, Robert Burks, and Robert Krasker, but also the violent mid-1980s comic illustration of Marvel’s Mike Zeck and DC’s Dave Gibbons.

The artwork is stylized without being overwrought; accessible and attractive, yet efficient and evocative. Scenery is rendered more strikingly than the huge cast of characters themselves. Cigar smoke wafts off the pages as thickly as the omnipresent dread that lingers in the air and the cynical depravity of officials and operatives at the highest levels of the ascendant American government, the waning British Empire and the unstable Persian monarchy. Sly glances and sideways sneers signal the devious plots to back despotism over democracy, hatched everywhere from the corridors of Whitehall and the White House to the back rooms of Foggy Bottom bars and Tehran safe houses.

A CIA Coup in Graphic Form

Published by Verso Books in 2015, Operation Ajax includes an introduction and epilogue by journalist Stephen Kinzer, and is based on his book, All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, a popular history of the 1953 coup. The nearly 250-page paperback is the physical companion to the award-winning interactive iPad app of the same name, released by Cognito Comics to great acclaim in 2011.

Indeed, the backdrop to the Iranian coup was made for a film noir storyboard.

In 1908, two years after Iran’s first ever Constitutional Revolution, English contractor William D’Arcy struck oil under the Khuzestan sand in Western Iran. It was the first time the Middle East’s rich fuel reserves had been tapped and it changed history. The Anglo-Persian Oil Company was soon founded and a pipeline laid to a new refinery at the strategic port city of Abadan on the Persian Gulf.

British corporations soon established near-monopolistic control over Persian petroleum. Iranian oil fueled the machinery of the vast British Empire, upon which the sun never set, driving its military and industrial power farther and farther. Shortly before World War I, Great Britain’s Royal Navy was modernized at the behest of and through the business dealings of then-First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, and running on Iranian oil instead of UK coal.

Iranian deference to British interests was extreme. The Iranian government lacked control over its nation’s own oil industry, receiving a mere 16% of net profit from British petroleum companies. Over time, popular opposition to this exploitation grew, and the ever-entitled colonial power fought back. At one point, after being voted out of parliament, Churchill himself was even hired as a lobbyist by British oil companies to press their Middle Eastern interests to the UK government. He was successful: in 1923, the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was granted exclusive rights to Iranian oil resources.

By 1925, Iran had a new king – Reza Shah Pahlavi, former commander of the Persian Cossack Brigade. Oil concession and royalty terms were renegotiated, giving Iran 25% of British proceeds. Reza Shah, however, proved increasingly disloyal to Western interests during World War II, when he sought more resource revenue by triangulating between the Allied and Axis powers. The British (and Russians) responded by invading and occupying Iran, forcing his abdication in 1941 and replacing him with his more pliant son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The move paid off in spades. By the end of the decade, the British were reaping at least $100 million a year from Iranian oil – more than what Iran had recouped in total over the past half-century.

The new Shah was the perfect puppet, but ill-equipped to deal with the rising tide of anti-colonialism, nationalism, and democratization in Iran, led by the charismatic – and at times, melodramatic – parliamentarian Mohammad Mossadegh. When Mossadegh was popularly elected by his fellow representatives (and begrudgingly appointed by Pahlavi) as Iran’s new prime minister in 1951, the young Shah and his Western backers realized they were in trouble.

Under Mossadegh’s leadership, the power of the monarch was minimized, natural resources secured, and democratic reforms implemented. In an act of brazen defiance to imperial interests, the Iranian parliament voted to nationalize the now-renamed Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, after the British refused to renegotiate terms to ensure an equitable share of profits that would benefit the Iranian people.

Incredulous at the affront, the British froze Iranian assets and imposed crippling sanctions, banning all trade. The Royal Navy blockaded Iranian ports, threatening outright war if British control over Iranian oil was not restored. London even took its case against AIOC’s nationalization to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. This backfired, with the court finding in Iran’s favor. Meanwhile, English pleas for American support fell on deaf ears, as President Harry Truman refused to participate in crushing the fledgling democratic movement in Iran.

The Coup and Its Aftermath

Then, almost in the blink of an eye, things changed, putting Iran’s burgeoning independence from imperial influence in the crosshairs of one of the world’s emerging superpowers. The early 1950s saw the rise of McCarthyism and the revitalization of the right-wing in both the United States and United Kingdom. Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected president, Churchill was again prime minister, and the Cold War was heating up, thanks in large part to Eisenhower’s appointment of a rabidly anti-Communist duo: John Foster Dulles as Secretary of State and his brother Allen as head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Together with the British government, the Dulles boys manufactured the notion that the populist Mossadegh government constituted an imminent Soviet threat that required immediate action. CIA operatives Kermit Roosevelt (grandson of celebrated adventurer and American president Theodore) and Don Wilbur, with approval from Eisenhower and his vice president, Richard Nixon, covertly engineered a coup d’etat to oust Mossadegh, preserve the Shah’s authority, and protect Western interests. They bribed army commanders and police captains, planted anti-Mossadegh propaganda in the press and pulpit, and paid prostitutes and pimps by the truckload to shout pro-Shah messages. CIA agents and street gangs pretending to be Communists threatened Muslim clerics, bombed private homes, and rampaged through the city. The mission was codenamed TPAJAX, or Operation Ajax.

Navigating numerous setbacks and surprises, Kermit Roosevelt guided the operation to success in the eleventh hour. Mossadegh was imprisoned and eventually sentenced to lifelong house arrest. The Shah was re-installed as an absolute monarch, backed by the United States and its arms industry. American oil companies – along with French fuel giant CFP (later renamed Total), Royal Dutch Shell and, of course, the AIOC itself (renamed British Petroleum in 1954 and now known simply as BP) – claimed massive shares of Iranian oil.

The graphic novel Operation Ajax covers all this history and more, framed as the regretful, disillusioned recollections of a now-retired CIA spook haunted by his participation in the coup that changed the course of history in so many ways.

The consequences of the coup are legion. Armed with the lessons learned from the coup, the CIA spread its regime change agenda across countless other countries that dared defy American interests and geopolitical strategy, from Guatemala to Laos, Indonesia to Haiti, in the decades that followed.

By 1957, with the help of American and Israeli intelligence agencies, the Shah had established the SAVAK, a secret police force dedicated to brutal suppression of any and all dissent or opposition to his tyrannical reign.

In his Afterword to Operation Ajax, Stephen Kinzer reiterates the main thrust of All The Shah’s Men. As he wrote, after twenty-five years of dictatorship, “the Shah’s increasingly repressive rule ultimately set off the explosive revolution of 1979, which brought to power a militantly anti-Western clique of mullahs.” The coup also laid the groundwork for, among other things, the United States’ support for Saddam Hussein’s eight-year war against Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iranian hostage crisis. Kinzer explained:
Years afterward, hostage-takers wrote memoirs explaining why they had stormed the US embassy in 1979. It was all about 1953, they explained. In 1953 Iranians had forced the Shah to flee, but CIA officers working in the embassy staged Operation Ajax to bring him back. A quarter-century later, the same Shah had been forced to flee again, and had been received in the United States. Militants overran the embassy not out of nihilism, but to prevent a repeat of Operation Ajax. Westerners didn’t realize this because we had no idea Operation Ajax had ever happened.

Setting the Record Straight on American Complicity

Despite the tireless (and tedious) efforts of agenda-driven, anti-Iran commentators to rewrite history, there is no question of ultimate responsibility when it comes to the Iranian coup. Reflecting on this episode, Eisenhower noted in his personal journal, “Throughout the crisis the United States government had done everything it possibly could to back up the Shah. Indeed, reports from observers on the spot in Teheran during the critical days sounded more like a dime novel than historical fact.” The president added that upon “the Shah’s triumphant return, I cabled him,” to extend “congratulations.”

“The military coup that overthrew Mosaddeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government,” according to the internal CIA history of the operation, entitled The Battle for Iran, written in the mid-1970s. Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA point man who orchestrated the coup, published a memoir about the operation in 1979.

Despite being one of the worst-kept secrets in the history of covert operations, the full story has yet to be revealed, despite episodic British and U.S. government declassifications of critical documents.

Malcolm Byrne of The George Washington University’s National Security Archive, a nongovernmental transparency project, has reiterated that the State Department is still “declining to publish the relevant volume [regarding the coup] in its venerable series, Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), the ‘official documentary historical record’ of U.S. foreign policy.”

“There is no longer good reason to keep secrets about such a critical episode in our recent past. The basic facts are widely known to every school child in Iran,” Byrne has pointed out. “Suppressing the details only distorts the history, and feeds into myth-making on all sides.”

Nevertheless, based as it is on available open-source evidence, Operation Ajax is a welcome corrective to the mainstream’s ubiquitous ignorance of U.S.-Iranian history, “a blow against that historical amnesia,” as Kinzer has called it.

Dichotomies and Drawbacks

Though colorfully drawn, the story is fairly black and white. It is a veritable hagiography for Mossadegh, who is presented as a nearly superhuman anti-imperial hero. His habit of holding court in pajamas, along with his infamous fits and faints, add flavor to his character. But the graphic novel never depicts Mossadegh as anything but noble and righteous. His opponents, on the other hand, are painted as invariably vainglorious and villainous, and perhaps rightly so. The dichotomy is stark. It’s clear whose side the authors are on. This isn’t necessarily a drawback, however, as it is indeed refreshing and rare to see American and British statesmen and spies so harshly rendered.

Despite this admirable effort to fill gaps in the historical record and illuminate the truth, throughout the book, there is a frustrating crisis of credibility and, perhaps even authority, due to a number of seemingly small, but intellectually egregious, errors.

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran – the antagonist of the story, the puppet of Western powers and private interests, the preening playboy, the foil to Mossadegh’s principled pathos and passion – is referred to in the dramatis personae and throughout the book as “Reza Pahlavi.” This is no minor copy-editing oversight; this confuses the Shah with his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi, who is referred to in Operation Ajax only as “Reza Khan.”

Here’s the problem: Khan is not an Iranian surname and it surely wasn’t Reza’s. Rather, it was an honorific often associated with military rank, akin in English to the title “Sir.” In fact, Iranians had no surnames until 1919, when the acquisition of a last name was mandated by the government. (That’s why so many Iranian surnames reflect piety – like Mohammadi – or places of origin – Tehrani, Esfahani, Shirazi, Khomeini.)

When Reza ascended to the throne after leading a military coup that overthrew the 140-year-old Qajar dynasty in 1925, he took the title Shah and aristocratic surname Pahlavi, thus ridding himself of the pedestrian trappings of his lower-class background. So intent was Reza Shah on reinventing himself that, during his reign as monarch, anyone overheard referring to him as “Reza Khan” risked being beaten, arrested, or worse. Indeed, “Khan” was used by his critics (namely the religious working-class ignored by his modernization schemes and disgusted by the rampant corruption), as a derisive epithet along with the dismissive taunt “stable boy.”

Referring to Reza Shah Pahlavi as “Reza Khan” and Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi as “Reza Shah” is not merely sloppy (like the book’s misspelling of Mohammad with a very un-Persian “e”), it unfortunately demonstrates a certain lack of mastery of the material and familiarity with its subjects. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, the comic-style storyboard intro to the Oscar-winning film Argo made the same mistake.)

Beyond this, Operation Ajax suffers most when it tries to do too much. The scope of history it recounts is wide, the cast extensive, and the web of context, accomplices, interests, intrigue, and entanglements is unwieldy. While most characters are readily recognizable from chapter to chapter, others are not as deftly drawn – in ink or personality – and mixing them up and losing the thread becomes frustratingly easy to do.

In a way, publishing Operation Ajax in print is a step backwards, as much is lost in translation from the tablet to the coffee table. A triumph of interactive technology, the original 2011 iPad application was beautiful and haunting, rich with meticulous detail drawn not only from Kinzer’s book, but also backed-up by original source material, historical newsreels, period photography, character dossiers, and declassified documents, all readily accessible with the flick of a finger. Sound effects, music, and animation enhanced the storytelling experience, helping history come alive as something not only annotated, but immersive, astonishing and calamitous. On paper, unfortunately, the tale appears confined to the annals of foreign policy, as a historical comic rather than a historic tragedy.

Learning from History

Correcting the historical record, in order to learn from the past and make informed decisions for the future, is more necessary now than ever before. False narratives continue to permeate our politics, while the willfully ignorant and viciously ideological wield more and more power. Bluster and bullying reign; reductive and regressive reactionaries envision and enact reckless policies that will reverberate for generations to come.

And history, even if it doesn’t precisely repeat, still rhymes. Take, for instance, the dangers posed by the new American administration. Mike Pompeo, who is positioned to become CIA director, is a far-right, Islamophobic religious fanatic who opposes any diplomacy with Iran and favors overthrowing the country’s government. As reported by the Huffington Post, this past summer, Pompeo demanded that “Congress must act to change Iranian behavior, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime.” The new national security adviser, General Mike Flynn, is an anti-Iran ideologue who actually told a House subcommittee in 2015 that he supported regime change in Iran because “we, the United States of America, must comprehend that evil doesn’t recognize diplomacy.” Other administration advisers, like John Bolton, have been calling for regime change for decades, encouraging airstrikes and supporting exiled terrorist groups.

On his very first full day in office, Trump addressed three hundred CIA employees at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia.”There is nobody who feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump,” he told the crowd, adding, “I am so behind you. I am with you one thousand percent.” Opining on the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, Trump lamented the missed opportunity for imperial plunder. “To the victor belong the spoils,” he declared. “We should have kept the oil.”

“Maybe,” he said, “we’ll have another chance,” suggesting that a re-invasion and full scale theft of Middle Eastern natural resources might yet be on the table.

Trump concluded his remarks by telling the CIA, “I love you. I respect you. We’re going to start winning again, and you’re going to be leading the charge.”

The history and repercussions of the 1953 coup persist today. If the release of Operation Ajax as a print comic will expose a wider audience to this little known but seminal episode, that’s certainly a good thing. Of course, the book probably won’t grace the president’s gilded bedside table any time soon. With Barack Obama out of the Oval Office, U.S.-Iran relations are likely to become fraught again, and whatever minute progress made over the past few years will surely dissipate. And perhaps that is what makes this graphic novel even more important now. It is vital not only to admit the mistakes of our past, as Malcolm Byrne suggests in Politico, “on the basis of historical fact rather than self-serving partisan invention,” but also to correct them. Operation Ajax is a step in the right direction, even if the strokes with which it’s drawn are, at times, a bit too broad.

Trump Calling Media “Enemy of the American People” Reminiscent of Stalin, Mao

The media has never been unbiased or 100% fair in terms of what it wants to share and ends up sharing for public consumption. Take, e.g., the case of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, an anti-Muslim bigot who owns a number of newspapers, magazines and tv channels around the globe - from the New York Post to the Wall Street Journal to the Fox News TV channels, and many other such outlets. These media outlets have been at the forefront of propagating for extremists and right-wingers in the USA and around the globe against pluralism and inclusion. Trump was promoted by these media outlets.
The same is the case with the media owned by so-called moderates and liberals that come in various shades and colors. All have their agenda, often dictated by the owners, and later picked up mesmerized consumers.
The POTUS Trump has been unkind to media, minus, of course, Fox News (and other such right wing, extremist media outlets) since the election days when they showed unruly and intolerant acts of his campaign guys and supporters. He took it as an assault on him and his agenda, and has been complaining ever since against them (esp. the CNN and NY Times), sometimes calling their news as 'fake news.'

Here below is the latest analysis about Trump's war with the media, extracted from the

President Donald Trump has never shied away from criticizing the news media. But he seemed to take things to a new level on Friday when he wrote in a tweet that media outlets, including the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN are “the enemy of the American people.” (His first tweet only included the Times, CNN, and NBC and ended with the conclusion: “SICK!” But that was quickly deleted.) Both tweets did include some choice capitalization as the commander-in-chief labeled the outlets “the FAKE NEWS media.”
Trump blasting the news media is nothing new, of course. Even a day earlier, Trump uttered the phrase “fake news” seven times during a White House news conference. Yet labeling the media the “enemy of the American people” seemed to take things to a new level and many quickly drew parallels to tyrants throughout history that were fond of the phrase. Although it harkens back to ancient Rome, many remember that the phrase was used during the purges ordered by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. "It is one of the most controversial phrases in Soviet history," explained Mitchell Orenstein, professor of Russian and East European studies at the University of Pennsylvania. "What it basically meant was a death sentence.”
The expression was also a favorite of China’s Mao Zedong, who used the “enemies of the people” label against anyone who opposed his policies. Identifying and later punishing those enemies was central to Mao’s rule. A Chinese journalist, Li Yuan, pointed out the parallel on Twitter, noting that “every dissenting voice was ‘the enemy of the people’ under Mao.”
Beijing seems to be welcoming this fresh attack on the news media with glee. China’s state-run newspaper Global Times noted in an editorial that Trump’s “war with mainstream media” would make it difficult for the president to challenge Beijing on “ideological” issues such as human rights. “His war with mainstream media makes it difficult for Trump to ally with the media on [the] ideological front against China,” the newspaper said. “Many have predicted that Trump’s presidency would exacerbate the recession of liberalism.”
Following the president’s press conference on Thursday night, a 25-question “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey” was posted on the Republican Party and Trump’s campaign websites. Those who fill out the survey are then taken to a donation page where they are asked to fork over anywhere from $35 to $2,500: “President Trump is asking you to go the extra mile and make a contribution to help defend our movement from the outrageous attacks from the media coming our way.”