Illusions in ‘human rights’
Some are still taken in, writes Yassamine Mather, despite US double standards
Last week sections of the exiled Iranian ‘left’ celebrated the fact that Amnesty International has called on the United Nations to investigate the secret execution of thousands of Iranian dissidents 30 years ago.
Let me remind me you that this is the same ‘left’ that used funds from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and other ‘regime change’ organisations to set up the Iran Tribunal in 2007, and the result of those efforts in defence of ‘human right activities’ was summarised in one of the tribunal’s decisions: to ask the Gulf Cooperation Council - which is led by that torch-bearer for Middle Eastern democracy, the Saudi government - to deal with the subject.
I suppose one could say that the UN’s human rights committee is a step forward compared to the GCC, but let me remind you that the Marxist prisoners executed by the Islamic Republic in the 1980s would have been horrified to know that anyone was seeking ‘justice’ on their behalf using funds, including those from the NED, as part of desperate attempts to bring about regime change from above by a corrupt, dysfunctional US administration, with its irrational obsession with Iran.
Of course, all this is happening at a time when even ‘moderate’ bourgeois politicians are exasperated by Washington’s double standards, in a week when neoconservative US senators, based on CIA reports, are openly blaming Mohammad bin Salman for the murder in October of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. That is why it is worth reviewing the left’s illusions in ‘human rights’, to remind ourselves how all this is nothing more than a cover for advancing the hegemon power’s political and economic interests. So let us contrast the coverage of two recent news items.
Meng Wanzhou, an executive of Huawei, the Chinese telecom company, was detained on December 1 while changing planes in Vancouver. The US wants her extradited, alleging Huawei has used a Hong Kong-based company to circumvent trade sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on Iran. There were reports that she might get a 30-year jail sentence.
Of course, everyone knows this is not just about US sanctions against Iran (note, they are no longer ‘international sanctions’, but measures imposed unilaterally by the US administration). The real issue is protectionism. Huawei - one of the biggest global suppliers of network equipment used by internet companies running mobile networks - is being targeted in the name of US (and European) protectionism. It is claimed that there are ‘security concerns’ because of the company’s ties to the Chinese government, but the truth is more complicated. Huawei is ahead of its competitors in developing mobile technology and this is what worries the US.
Current global standards that determine the operation of mobile phone networks were all devised by western companies. At the time when standards were agreed for the third and fourth generations of cell-phone technology, China was left largely on the sidelines, as western companies were ahead as far as implementation and hardware were concerned. Now, as the world awaits the launch of a new, fifth generation, using a much more speedy mobile internet, Huawei is at the forefront of the international battle over the future of 5G technology.
It has spent a fortune on research and development of 5G wireless networks and it has apparently made a number of breakthroughs - partly through its own research and partly through hiring experts from rival, internationally based companies. That is why Huawei is currently in a position to influence international decisions on technical standards for tomorrow’s wireless equipment. And that, in turn, is why protectionist officials in Washington are to a certain extent exaggerating its capacity to spy on its American and European rivals, especially as there are so many ways mobile communications can be intercepted. It is not as if Huawei’s infrastructure communications equipment has not been thoroughly investigated:
The cooperative agreement between the UK and Huawei includes a facility nicknamed the Cell in Banbury, Oxfordshire. There, staff employed by Huawei, but answering to GCHQ, have been given the task of looking for security flaws in the company’s products. According to the latest report GCHQ produced, the researchers found “shortcomings” in products that meant it could only give “limited assurance” that the firm posed no threat.1
In other words, the firm is considered guilty until proven innocent.
Compare this with another major news item of the last few weeks: the execution of Khashoggi. According to latest reports, US Republican senators who met Gina Haspel, the CIA director appointed by Trump, were convinced that Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman played an active part in the killing. According to senator Lindsey Graham,
You have to be wilfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organised by people under the command of MBS. I think he is complicit in the murder of Mr Khashoggi to the highest level possible.2
And Bob Corker, the Republican chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, said: “I have zero question in my mind that the crown prince directed the murder, and was kept apprised of the situation all the way through it.”3
However, is bin Salman facing a rebuke, isolation or even an arrest warrant from leaders of the ‘free world’? He attended the G20 conference less than two weeks ago and shook hands with Trump, May and Macron - not to forget that horrid high five with Putin.
In fact, if the New York Times is right, the son-in-law of the US president, Jared Kushner, has “continued to have private conversations” with MBS. CNN, quoting the New York Times, tells us that Kushner offered the Saudi ruler advice about “how to weather the storm”:
Although White House protocol stipulated that national security council staff be present on all phone calls with foreign leaders, Kushner and bin Salman continued to chat informally after Khashoggi’s death, the Times reported, citing two former senior American officials and two people briefed by the Saudis.4
Clearly MBS is assumed innocent despite mounting evidence, because the interests of the current United States administration dictate that he should be protected. And, of course, Khashoggi is not the only victim of the Saudi crown prince’s brutal rule. According to Middle East Eye, prince Miteb, son of the late King Abdullah, was among six princes who needed hospital treatment following his arrest in last year’s Saudi purge:
All six princes were admitted to hospital in the 24 hours following their arrest. One of the men was in such a bad condition that he was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit - treatment which occurs when there is a high risk to the life of a patient, such as organ failure, from the heart, lungs, kidneys or high blood pressure.
Hospital staff were told that the injuries sustained in each case were the result of “suicide attempts”. All had been severely beaten, but none of them had fractures. The marks on their bodies were consistent with the imprints left by military boots.5
There are dozens of similar stories about the kind of treatment dished out by the Saudis and the emirates of the Persian Gulf. Yet support for these governments seems to be an essential part of the relentless battle to weaken Iran and prepare the way for regime change from above. So the penalties imposed on those accused of circumventing US sanctions against Iran, including Huawei, European banks and other companies, are part of the same scenario. They face far more severe penalties than the man the CIA believes ordered the execution of a journalist who dared criticise aspects of his authoritarian rule. Currently for Donald Trump’s administration two items dominate the international political agenda: regime change in Iran and protectionism against China.
The problem with all this - or should I say the advantage of all this? - is that it makes a mockery of the west’s claims of protecting ‘human rights’. Inside Iran people have become completely cynical of western campaigns claiming to defend them. If they still had doubts after the disasters of the regime change in Iraq and Libya, now they are faced with new US sanctions. As a result, more are tending to rally behind the government they know - as opposed to the unknown alternatives the US has in mind with its plans for regime change.
In other words, contrary to the wishes of our ‘left’ activists, all their efforts to defend ‘human rights’ using western regime-change funds are in fact strengthening Iran’s Islamic Republic and its corrupt leaders.