Iran | Honduras | South Africa | USA

Patrick Cockburn: What’s Driving Iran’s Protests? (CounterPunch)

Iran is seeing its most widespread protest demonstrations since 2009. They are still gaining momentum and some 15 people are reported to have been killed, though the circumstances in which they died remains unclear. The motive for the protests is primarily economic, but many slogans are political and some directly attack clerical rule in Iran which was introduced with the overthrow of the Shah in 1979.

Vijay Prashad: What the Protests in Iran Are Really About (AlterNet)

Trump and Netanyahu are trying to take credit, but this movement is all about the people…
This is unlike the Green Movement of 2009, when Tehran’s reform-minded citizens came onto the streets angry with what they saw as a stolen election. It is unlike the student uprisings of 1999, again centered in Tehran, when students protested over the closure of the reform newspaper Salam.
Those were protests of a rising middle-class, throttled by social sanctions and by political limitations. Their protests culminated in the election of President Hassan Rouhani, who is the current standard bearer of their hopes…
The current wave of protests is characterized not so much by a desire for an expanded political system, the terms of previous ‘reform’ protests. This is an upsurge against the privations in Iran – unemployment, deprivation and hopelessness. The sharpness of the slogans – even against the Supreme Leader of the country – indicates the level of anger at the failure of the Islamic Republic to deliver the basic needs of a growing and youthful population…
[I]n the city of Mashhad, where the protests began, the Astan-e Quds Razavi, Iran’s largest endowment, a foundation that controls a shrine in the city, owns 43% of the land in the city and has an income near $150 million per year. In the 2017 presidential election, Ibrahim Raisi, the candidate of the Supreme Leader Khamenei and head of Astan-e Quds Razavi, openly said that Khamenei had allowed the endowment not to pay taxes. This rattled a population that saw these institutions as sponges on a state that had turned its back on ordinary Iranians…
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets. But tens of thousands more followed to defend the Islamic Republic. These are tense times for Iran. It is clear that the government is going to have to accede to the pressure from this working-class uprising. It is not enough to describe the protestors as foreign agents. Even if Trump and Netanyahu, the monarchists and the Mujahideen Khalq try to take credit for the uprising, they are not in charge. The well of Iranian patriotism is deep. The Iranians will not take their orders from the White House. But neither will they sit quietly as their lives fall apart before their eyes.

Murtaza Hussein: Protests in Iran took many by surprise — but not Iranian labor activists (Intercept)
Brandon Turbeville: What Is Happening in Iran? Is Another “Color Revolution” Underway? (GlobalResearch)
Reza Fiyouzat: Iran and the Left: a Dissenting View (CounterPunch)

Allan Nairn: U.S. spent weeks pressuring Honduras opposition to end protests against election fraud (Intecept)

[T]he U.S. congratulated Juan Orlando Hernández on what it said was his re-election as president of Honduras. The U.S. State Department’s congratulations to Hernández came a month into a standoff between the government and the opposition over the vote tally, and five days after the Honduran electoral commission, which is controlled by Hernández-installed allies, declared him the winner.
The State Department message came amid continuing vote-fraud allegations by the opposition, journalists, and foreign observers. The Organization of American States had announced on December 17 that the purported victory was “impossible” to verify, and called for a new, clean election.

Amy Goodman, Allan Nairn: United States Tries—But Fails—to Stop to Stop Hondurans from Protesting Election Fraud (Democracy Now)
Danielle Marie Mackey: The election fraud in Honduras follows decades of corruption funded by the U.S. war on drugs (Intercept)

Irvin Jim: NUMSA New Year Statement: A clarion call to build a Revolutionary Workers Party! (Dawn)

The recent leadership changes that have resulted in the Deputy President of the country Cyril Ramaphosa ascending to the presidency of the ANC is not a reason to celebrate, particularly for the working class. NUMSA refused to endorse one faction of the ANC over another. We have always known that regardless of who emerged the winner, the governing party will continue to pursue backward, right wing, neo-liberal macro-economic policies which are hurtful to the working class and the poor.
For the last two decades, the ANC government has waged an all-out assault on the African working class in order to defend White Monopoly Capital… These policies have resulted in massive job losses and long-term mass unemployment. They have created a society of extreme inequality. The majority suffer as they did under Apartheid, living crammed together with cockroaches and rats in townships and shacks, without sanitation, water and electricity.
NUMSA shares SAFTU’s view that “Cyril Ramaphosa is a deeply compromised capitalist billionaire, with hands stained with the blood of the 34 victims of Marikana who were shot in cold blood by the state to shield White Monopoly capital in general and Lonmin in particular”.

Philip Bump: There’s still little evidence that Russia’s 2016 social media efforts did much of anything (Washington Post)

[W]hat we actually know about the Russian activity on Facebook and Twitter: It was often modest, heavily dissociated from the campaign itself and minute in the context of election social media efforts…
A little-noticed statement from Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, detailed how unsophisticated the Russian ad targeting actually was in the context of the election. Among the points he made:

  • Maryland was targeted by nearly five times as many ads as was Wisconsin (262 to 55).
  • Thirty-five of the 55 ads targeting Wisconsin ran during the primary.
  • More ads targeted DC than Pennsylvania.
  • A total of $1,979 was spent in Wisconsin — $1,925 of it in the primary.
  • The spending in Michigan and Pennsylvania were $823 and $300, respectively.
  • More of the geographically targeted ads ran in 2015 than in 2016…

Just before Election Day in 2016, Twitter announced 1 billion tweets had been sent from August 2015 through that point. Even assuming all 202,000 of those tweets from the Russian accounts were in that period, it means they constituted 0.02 percent of the election-related tweets…
As it stands, the public evidence doesn’t support the idea that the Russians executed a savvy electoral strategy on social media to ensure Trump’s victory. In fact, it seems less the case that they did so now than seemed might be possible back in July.

Rober Harris: The Real Problem With US Elections Isn’t Russia (CounterPunch)

It’s over a year since the presidential elections. Yet some folks seem ever more obsessed about possible Russian influence; what with revelations of Moscow gold spent on Facebook ads for clickbait showing adorable puppies and the outing of alleged Kremlin operative Jill Stein. With the hindsight of history, we can now look back at what some Democrats have called the crime of the century and see how it could have been averted.
What a crime it was! After all, the US is the one that is supposed to have a monopoly on “democracy promotion” in other countries. Our government most recently endorsed the fraudulent re-election of the incumbent in Honduras, who was a product of a coup backed by the Obama administration. And let us not forget Bill Clinton’s well timed loan to good ole Boris Yeltsin in Russia. The WTO should fine Russia for unfair practices and infringement on the US concession…
[T]he most outstanding fact of that election and of elections in the US in general is that close to half of the adult population doesn’t vote. Only 55% of the electorate cast ballots in the hotly contested 2016 presidential race, and that was considered a great achievement. Compared to other developed nations, the US is among the ones with the lowest voter turnouts…and for good reasons besides the unpalatability of the proffered candidates…
What if everyone voted? The answer is that our politics would look very different than what we have now. For this deep reason, the two-party duopoly wants to keep voter participation low for fear the populace would make the wrong choices.

Glenn Greenwald: Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments (Intercept)

Syria | Honduras | Nelson Mandela

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: ‘Syria is not a revolution any more – this is civil war’ (Guardian)

Rivalry between rebels and Islamists has replaced the uprising’s lofty ideals, leaving veteran commanders despairing.

Chris Looney: Al-Qaeda’s Governance Strategy in Raqqa (Syria Comment)

Since ISIS came to power in May, its abuse of Raqqa’s citizens has been well documented. It has begun to enforce its extreme interpretation of Islam upon the city’s residents, forcing women to “cover their beauty,” banning tobacco products, and brutally repressing dissident voices.
On the surface, this violence appears to be indiscriminate and irrational. Yet, it is also organized and tactical. For a group that has never before fully controlled a large city, the transition from insurgent to administrator has hardly been smooth. Still, ISIS has managed to develop a robust, systemic strategy of governance for Raqqa that links the city to sister strongholds in Iraq. Through the control of goods and services, ISIS has made the city’s residents dependent on it. As intricate as it is oppressive, this strategy is serving ISIS well; ISIS has consolidated its authority in Raqqa as it expands its reach over much of eastern Syria and Iraq.

Richard Sisk: Hagel Says America’s Syria Policy in Turmoil (Military.com)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that infighting among rebel factions in Syria left the U.S. in doubt on how to continue support for rebels in the ongoing civil war that has killed more than 120,000 and sent millions of refugees into neighboring countries.
“It’s not an easy choice between the good guys and the bad guys here,” Hagel said at a Pentagon briefing. “This is a problem — what has occurred here — a big problem,” Hagel said.

Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz al Saud: Saudi Arabia Will Go It Alone (New York Times)

Saudi Arabia has been friends with our Western partners for decades; for some, like the United Kingdom where I serve as ambassador, for almost a century. These are strategic alliances that benefit us both. Recently, these relationships have been tested — principally because of differences over Iran and Syria.
We believe that many of the West’s policies on both Iran and Syria risk the stability and security of the Middle East. This is a dangerous gamble, about which we cannot remain silent, and will not stand idly by.

Paul Sperry: Inside the Saudi 9/11 coverup (New York Post)
Amy Goodman, Seymour Hersh: Obama “Cherry-Picked” Intelligence on Syrian Chemical Attack to Justify U.S. Strike (Democracy Now)

Amy Goodman, Juan González and Nermeen Shaikh at Democracy Now had a whole series of interviews and stories on Nelson Mandela:
Piero Gleijeses: The Secret History of How Cuba Helped End Apartheid in South Africa (Democracy Now)
Ronnie Kasrils: The Anti-Apartheid Underground: Ronnie Kasrils on Meeting Nelson Mandela in an ANC Safe House in 1962 (Democracy Now)
Ronnie Kasrils: From Marxism to Neoliberalism. Ronnie Kasrils on How Mandela & ANC Shifted Economic Views (Democracy Now)
Andrew Cockburn: “One of Our Greatest Coups”: The CIA & the Capture of Nelson Mandela (Democracy Now)
Lisa Graves: ALEC’s “Institutional Corruption,” From Backing Apartheid to Assault on Clean Energy, Public Sector (Democracy Now)

Mark Weisbrot: Why the world should care about Honduras’ recent election (Guardian)

Hondurans are revolting against the US-backed outcome. There are too many reports of rampant vote-buying, fraud and violence.

Alberto Arce: Honduras candidate makes case for election fraud (Associated Press)

The opposition presidential candidate in last week’s elections in Honduras is citing allegedly altered tally sheets, ballots cast by dead or absent people, and inadequate monitoring of polling stations in her bid to have a recount of a vote she calls fraudulent.

Giorgio Trucchi: Resultados das eleições em Honduras foram alterados, diz observador da União Europeia (Opera mundi) / The Results of the Elections in Honduras were Changed, Says European Union Observer (Upside Down World)

Leo Gabriel, Austrian journalist and member of the EU-EOM, stated that the vast majority of the members of the mission were in strong disagreement with the preliminary report. According to him, the disagreements about what happened on November 24th provoked a heated internal debate. Nonetheless, political calculations and business interests prevailed and [the EU-EOM] preferred to close their eyes and ignore the obvious changes made to the results and the violation of the Honduran people’s will as expressed at the ballot box.

EFE: UE desautoriza a observador que dice elecciones en Honduras fueron tramposas (ABC)
APA: Honduras: Kritik am Bericht der EU-Mission (Standard)
Honduras Election Monitoring Report (Alliance for Global Justice)

A delegation of 55 North Americans, including numerous lawyers, academics, and a sitting judge has issued a report challenging claims that the Honduras election was “peaceful” and “transparent.” The 28-page report documents vote buying, voter intimidation, bias in voting table officers, violence and threats of violence occurring on and before election day, November 24, 2013.

Kim Willsher: French soldier wears Nazi slogan on uniform in Central African Republic (Guardian)

French military chiefs have launched an investigation to after a soldier serving in the Central African Republic was pictured wearing a Nazi slogan on his uniform.
The man, reportedly from an elite parachute regiment, was photographed in fatigues carrying his rifle. On the right sleeve of his uniform was sewn a round patch carrying the number 32 on a French flag and the words “Meine Ehre heisst Treue” (“my honour is loyalty”). The motto was used by Nazi Waffen-SS soldiers during the second world war and is banned in a number of countries including Germany and Austria…
The controversy follows a similar row in November, when a French soldier in Mali was photographed wearing a scarf printed with a death mask. In 2008, three French soldiers from another parachute regiment, also based in south-west France, were photographed making a Hitler salute while wrapped in a Nazi flag bearing a swastika.

Iran | Spain | Israel-Palestine | Syria | Honduras | Kissinger–Zhou

This article in the New Yorker unfortunately is behind a paywall:
Seymour M. Hersh: Iran and the Bomb: How real is the nuclear threat? (New Yorker)
Flynt Leverett, Hillary Mann Leverett: America’s on-again / off-again love affair with Iran’s nuclear programme (Race for Iran)

Manifesto; also in Castilan, Basque, Catalan, Asturian, Aragonese, Galician, German, French and Italian (¡Democracia Real YA!)

Barak Ravid: Secret cables show Israel’s battle plan over Palestinian UN bid | משרד החוץ לשגרירים: כך תמנעו הכרה בפלסטין באו”ם (Ha’aretz)

M. K. Bhadrakumar: Turkey’s not-so-subtle shift on Syria (Asia Times; version with links to sources at MRzine)

Mark Weisbrot: What Manuel Zelaya’s return means for Honduras (Guardian)

Winston Lord to Henry A. Kissinger: Memcon of your conversations with Chou En-lai (PDF; National Security Archive)