Our jolly good mates in Saudi laugh at our oil dependence
Posted: 08 Dec 2010 11:37 AM PST

Wikileaks-released cable about Saudi Arabia, our cuddly fundamentalist friend in the Middle East. We’ve been supporting these brutes for decades and yet no major Western leader seems to think it may be a good idea to move away from them. Alternative energy anybody?

Summary: The Saudi regulatory system offers the al-Saud regime a means to manipulate the nation’s print media to promote its own agenda without exercising day-to-day oversight over journalists, and Saudi journalists are free to write what they wish provided they do not criticize the ruling family or expose government corruption. In addition, most media in Saudi Arabia–print and electronic–are owned by royal family members, and accordingly self-censorship is the order of the day. In comparison to a few years ago, however, the media business in Saudi Arabia is dynamic, fueled by increased demand by Saudi and pan-Arab audiences, new licensing agreements with US and other international media, and an unprecedented level of openness to outside ideas.
2.In interviews with Embassy and Consulate Jeddah officers before the early December Eid holiday, XXXXXXXXXXXX editors and XXXXXXXXXXXX TV managers outlined key elements of these trends and adumbrated how the long hand of the al-Saud–motivated by profit and politics–retains a strong hold over media in this sophisticated new environment, through means ranging from refined Interior Ministry procedures for recalcitrant journalists, to directives by King Abdallah himself to adopt progressive perspectives as an antidote to extremist thinking. End summary.

Note the close relationship between the Murdoch family and the Saudi royal family:

Although originally founded as an economic daily, “Al Eqtisadiah” has long been equally known for its political content, often printing editorials and opinion harshly critical of the US on a number of fronts. XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that XXXXXXXXXXXX recently had a three-hour discussion with one of Rupert Murdoch’s sons on a deal to publish an Arabic-language version of the Wall Street Journal, and that SRMG is trying to win a contract to publish the International Herald Tribune (uncensored, he emphasized) in Saudi Arabia. XXXXXXXXXXXX

So effective has US programming been, said XXXXXXXXXXXX, that it is widely assumed that the USG must be behind it. Some believe, he said, that Prince Talal’s relationship with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and its sister company Twentieth Century Fox has a clear ideological motive behind it, noting that the Fox Movie Channel on “Rotana” is available for free to anyone with a satellite dish. Both XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX, liberal-minded supporters of US democracy and society with little use for conspiracy theory, clearly believed this was the case.
While revenue from commercials on Rotana’s Fox Movie Channel probably matter more to Prince Waleed than the dissemination of western ideas (MBC and Rotana are in a bitter battle for market share) it is easy to understand why XXXXXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX believe that this programming is having a profound effect on the values and worldviews of Saudi audiences. During the recent Eid holiday, Rotana’s “Fox Movies” channel repeatedly aired two mawkish US dramas (again with Arabic subtitles) featuring respectful, supportive American husbands dealing with spouses suffering from addiction problems–in one case gambling (lost the kids’ college funds and then told her college professor husband it was because he was boring) and the other alcohol (smashing cars and china when she RIYADH 00000651 003 OF 004
wasn’t assaulting the husband and child.) These films and others broadcast over the Eid offer models of supportive behavior in relationships, as well as exemplary illustrations of heroic honesty in the face of corruption (“Michael Clayton”) and respect for the law over self-interest (“Insomnia.”)

Saudi elites drink, smoke and sleep around (thanks for the help, world)
Posted: 08 Dec 2010 11:25 AM PST

Our close friends in Saudi Arabia are a bunch of hypocritical bigots who love a good party like the rest of us. Oh, they also don’t allow women to work or vote, support terrorist organisations and hate democracy. Just the kind of friend the West loves:

United States diplomats have described a world of “sex, drugs and alcohol” in which the official religious individuals of Saudi Arabian loyalties engage in, according diplomatic cables recently published by Wikileaks on Wednesday.
According to the leaked dispatches, officials from the Jeddah consulate detailed an underground Halloween party in which alcohol and prostitutes were readily available. The party, attended by over 150 Saudi men and women mostly in their twenties and thirties, was organized by a member of the Saudi royalty, a wealthy prince from the Al Thunayan family.
The party was held in a heavily secured villa and some of the funding was contributed by a US energy drink. The diplomat recommended the prince’s identity remain secret.
The dispatch was signed off by Martin Quinn, the consul in Jeddah.
“Alcohol, though strictly prohibited by Saudi law and custom, was plentiful at the party’s well-stocked bar,” explained the cable. “The hired Filipino bartenders served a cocktail punch using sadiqi, a locally-made “moonshine”. It was also learned through word-of-mouth that a number of the guests were in fact ‘working girls’, not uncommon for such parties.”
American party attendees added that, “Though not witnessed directly at this event, cocaine and hashish use is common in these social circles.”
Secret, underground parties protected by Saudi royalty and accessible only to the wealthy, were described as “thriving and throbbing” in the dispatch.
“The scene resembled a nightclub anywhere outside the Kingdom: plentiful alcohol, young couples dancing, a DJ at the turntables, and everyone in costume,” the dispatch continued.
“Over the past few years, the increased conservatism of Saudi Arabia’s external society has pushed the nightlife and party scene in Jeddah even further underground,” a prominent Saudi was quoted in the dispatch as saying.

Gillard is pro-Israel and pro-US and gets tick from US
Posted: 08 Dec 2010 11:19 AM PST

It’s almost inevitable that anybody who would become Prime Minister of Australia has been vetted by Washington. By the time a person is near the top job, their views on a range of issues is known. Not being utterly in thrall to America would cause angst in the corridors of power. Pressure would be applied. Julia Gillard, consider yourself approved:

US diplomats closely followed the rise of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, applauded her shedding of past Labor Left allegiances and confidently predicted she would be the next prime minister more than eight months before she deposed Kevin Rudd as federal Labor leader.
Secret United States embassy cables obtained by WikiLeaks and provided to The Age reveal US diplomats in Canberra paid close attention to Ms Gillard, identifying her at an early stage as the ”rising star” of the Rudd Labor government, rapidly outshining Treasurer Wayne Swan and all others.
Although an early report by ambassador Robert McCallum noted Ms Gillard was ”a loyal and competent deputy” to Mr Rudd, US diplomats had no doubt about the full extent of her political ambitions and as early as June 2008 declared her the ”front-runner” to replace Mr Rudd as Labor leader, a goal she would achieve two years later.

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In this context, US diplomats were anxious to establish Ms Gillard’s attitudes towards Australia’s alliance with the United States and other key foreign policy questions, especially in regard to Israel.
Numerous Labor figures were drawn by US diplomats into conversation concerning Ms Gillard’s personality and political positions with ”many key ALP insiders” quickly telling embassy officers that her past membership of the Victorian Labor Party’s Socialist Left faction meant little and that she was ”at heart a pragmatist”.
New South Wales Right powerbroker Mark Arbib described Ms Gillard as ”one of the most pragmatic politicians in the ALP”. When US embassy officers reminded Paul Howes, head of the right-wing Australian Workers Union, that ”ALP politicians from the Left, no matter how capable, do not become party leader, he said immediately: ‘But she votes with the Right.’ ”
The US embassy privately expressed pleasure at Ms Gillard’s preparedness to affirm her support for the US alliance. But there was some lingering doubt about the strength of her commitment.
”Although long appearing ambivalent about the Australia-US Alliance, Gillard’s actions since she became the Labor Party number two indicate an understanding of its importance,” the embassy reported to Washington in mid-2008.
”[US embassy political officers] had little contact with her when she was in opposition but since the election, Gillard has gone out of her way to assist the embassy.
”At our request, she agreed to meet a visiting member of the [US] National Labor Relations Board, after prior entreaties by the board members’ Australian hosts had been rebuffed.
”Although warm and engaging in her dealings with American diplomats, it’s unclear whether this change in attitude reflects a mellowing of her views or an understanding of what she needs to do to become leader of the ALP,” the embassy reported to the State Department.
”It is likely a combination of the two. Labor Party officials have told us that one lesson Gillard took from the 2004 elections was that Australians will not elect a PM who is perceived to be anti-American.”
More broadly, the US embassy noted that Labor factional differences over foreign policy had largely disappeared and that the US alliance enjoyed broad support within the Labor government.
In a further report, the embassy recorded that Victorian Labor senator David Feeney had told embassy officers that ” there is no longer any intellectual integrity in the factions” and that ”there is no major policy issue on which he, a Right factional leader, differs from Gillard”.
Senator Feeney later emerged as one of the key figures behind Ms Gillard’s election as Labor leader in June.
The embassy also applauded what it described as Ms Gillard’s ”pro-Israel” stance, reporting in October 2009 that she had ”thrown off the baggage of being from what one analyst called the ‘notoriously anti-Israel faction.’ ” of the ALP.

Confirmation that Paypal takes orders from US government
Posted: 08 Dec 2010 06:53 AM PST

So the US State Department tells a company something is illegal and they simply follow orders and do as they’re told (any major evidence shown, peoples?). Paypal, we’re watching:

PayPal today admitted it suspended payments to WikiLeaks after an intervention from the US State Department.
The site’s vice-president of platform, Osama Bedier, told an internet conference the site had decided to freeze WikiLeaks’s account on 4 December after government representatives said it was engaged in illegal activity.
“State Dept told us these were illegal activities. It was straightforward,” he told the LeWeb conference in Paris, adding: “We … comply with regulations around the world, making sure that we protect our brand.”
PayPal is the first major corporation to admit that its decision to suspend dealings with WikiLeaks was a result of US government pressure.

Main Zionist ally simply gives up
Posted: 08 Dec 2010 06:45 AM PST

What a joke. “Yes We Can’t” Obama in action:

After three weeks of fruitless haggling with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Obama administration has given up its effort to persuade the Israeli government to freeze construction of Jewish settlements for 90 days, a senior administration official said Tuesday.
The decision leaves Middle East peace talks in flux, with the Palestinians refusing to resume direct negotiations absent a moratorium, and the United States struggling to find another formula to bring them back to the table. It is another setback in what has proved to be a star-crossed campaign by President Obama.
The administration decided to pull the plug, officials said, because it concluded that even if Mr. Netanyahu persuaded his cabinet to accept a freeze — which he had not yet been able to do — the 90-day negotiating period would not have produced the progress on core issues that the United States originally had sought.
“We made a strong effort, and everyone tried in good faith to resume direct negotiations in a way that would be meaningful and sustainable,” said a senior American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s internal deliberations, which are continuing. “But the extension wasn’t actually going to do that.”
Administration officials did not offer a Plan B to revive the talks, and analysts said it was not clear that the administration had one, beyond a general commitment to keep talking to the Israelis and Palestinians about the major issues that divide them: borders, security and the status of Jerusalem, among others.


Wikileaks post Assange?
Posted: 08 Dec 2010 06:42 AM PST

Impossible to know the reliability of this story (from Wired) but short-term problems for Wikileaks are surely almost inevitable:

The arrest without bail of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday has left the organization in a state of uncertainty, despite transition plans laid out prior to his surrender to British police, according to one dispirited WikiLeaks activist who spoke to Threat Level on condition of anonymity.
Assange left Icelandic television journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson in charge of the group in his absence, the activist said. But now the embattled organization’s secrecy and compartmentalization are apparently hindering its operations.
Specifically, midlevel WikiLeaks staffers have been mostly cut off from communicating with hundreds of volunteers whose contact information was stored in Assange’s private online-messaging accounts, and never shared with others.
“There is an ongoing plan, but that plan was only introduced to a few staffers — key staffers,” explained the source. “We are experiencing chaos.”
WikiLeaks was scrambling to produce a statement in a dozen languages Tuesday to address Assange’s arrest.
Assange appeared in Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London Tuesday. The judge cited Assange’s itinerant lifestyle and denied him bail, despite the fact that he turned himself in.
The arrest came nine days after WikiLeaks began publishing from its cache of more than 250,000 leaked U.S. State Department diplomatic cables, which are trickling out at a rate of about a hundred a day.
That publication schedule will continue uninterrupted, according to a tweet on WikiLeaks’ Twitter feed following Assange’s detention. “Today’s actions against our editor-in-chief Julian Assange won’t affect our operations: We will release more cables tonight as normal,” read one message. A second tweet added: “Let down by the UK justice system’s bizarre decision to refuse bail to Julian Assange. But #cablegate releases continue as planned.”
Assange “is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010,” British police said.
Assange indicated in court that he would fight extradition to Sweden, according to reports. He is set to appear in court again Dec. 14.
Charismatic and driven, Assange has been WikiLeaks’ public face and prime mover for four years. It was Assange who personally managed the site’s most important leaker — Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, according to Manning’s conversations with the ex-hacker who turned him in.
And when Assange’s autocratic leadership style was challenged by some staffers last year, he described his importance to the organization in no uncertain terms. “I am the heart and soul of this organization, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organizer, financier and all the rest.”
His absence, says the source, is being felt acutely. “The organization will most likely start to fall apart now.”


Please count how many in the Aussie elites have more than one master
Posted: 08 Dec 2010 06:13 AM PST

Just how many senior Australian politicians are essentially working for the American interest, being good little sources of information for the empire? We are not a truly independent nation:

FEDERAL minister and right-wing Labor powerbroker Mark Arbib has been revealed as a confidential contact of the United States embassy in Canberra, providing inside information and commentary for Washington on the workings of the Australian government and the Labor Party.
Secret embassy cables obtained by WikiLeaks and made available exclusively to The Age reveal that Senator Arbib, one of the architects of Kevin Rudd’s removal as prime minister, has been in regular contact with US embassy officers.
His candid comments have been incorporated into reports to Washington with repeated requests that his identity as a ”protected” source be guarded.

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Embassy cables reporting on the Labor Party and national political developments, frequently classified “No Forn” – meaning no distribution to non-US personnel – refer to Senator Arbib as a strong supporter of Australia’s alliance with the US.
They identify him as a valuable source of information on Labor politics, including Mr Rudd’s hopes to forestall an eventual leadership challenge from then deputy prime minister Julia Gillard.
“He understands the importance of supporting a vibrant relationship with the US while not being too deferential. We have found him personable, confident and articulate,” an embassy profile on Senator Arbib written in July 2009 says. “He has met with us repeatedly throughout his political rise.”
Other Labor politicians reported in US embassy cables as regular contacts include former federal MP and minister Bob McMullan and serving federal MP Michael Danby, the member for Melbourne Ports.
A former secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party, Senator Arbib was a key backroom figure in the Labor ”coup” last June that resulted in Mr Rudd being replaced by Julia Gillard as Prime Minister.
He has been a senator since July 2008 and was appointed as a parliamentary secretary under prime minister Rudd in February 2009. Mr Rudd elevated him to the ministry in the employment participation portfolio from June 2009.
Following Mr Rudd’s resignation and Ms Gillard’s election as Prime Minister, Senator Arbib has been Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Minister for Sport and Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness.
Tasked with finding out how decisions were made in the Labor government, US diplomats were quick to focus on Senator Arbib as a “right-wing powerbroker and political rising star” who had made “a quick transition from the parliamentary backrooms into the ministry.” The US embassy noted that ”the New South Wales Labor party’s kingmaker” was integral in raising numbers for Mr Rudd to overthrow Kim Beazley as Labor leader in 2006, and that Senator Arbib was “a close adviser to Rudd and is his key conduit to the ALP factions”.
“Arbib is an influential factional operator who has forged strong political connections with Rudd,” the embassy recorded. “We have been told that Rudd respects Arbib’s political expertise, and a contact noted that Arbib is brought into Rudd’s inner circle when politically important decisions are made”.
“Arbib is said to be loyal to, but frank with, Rudd, and is one of Rudd’s closest advisers. Yet, publicly, Arbib has denied being part of Rudd’s inner circle.”
US diplomats also found that Arbib “is an astute observer and able conversant on the nuts and bolts of US politics”.
Senator Arbib first appears as a contributor to US embassy political reporting while he was NSW Labor state secretary. In May 2006 he declared to US diplomats that Australia was at risk of becoming a ”quarry for the Chinese and a tourist destination for the Japanese”.
He warned that it would be “a tough struggle for the Labor Party to win the federal elections in 2007” but that he thought Kim Beazley, because he was the opposite of the volatile Mark Latham, was ”the right man to lead the ALP at the present time”.
However, he also told embassy officers that, unlike Mr Beazley, he supported Australia’s military commitment in Iraq “as well as the war on terrorism in general”.
After the Rudd government’s election in 2007, Senator Arbib offered reassurance about then deputy prime minister Gillard’s political leanings, describing her as “one of the most pragmatic politicians in the ALP”.
He also confirmed Mr Rudd’s tendencies towards micromanagement and told the embassy that “Rudd’s staff would like to get their boss to spend less time on foreign policy and delegate more, but that they recognise that this is a hopeless task”.
In October 2009, as Mr Rudd’s popular support began to sag, Senator Arbib openly canvassed emerging leadership tensions within the government, telling US diplomats that Mr Rudd wanted “to ensure that there are viable alternatives to Gillard within the Labor Party to forestall a challenge”.
Mr Rudd’s brother, Greg Rudd, told embassy officers a similar story.
Senator Arbib added that Mr Rudd still appreciated Ms Gillard’s strengths, while an another unidentified adviser to the Labor prime minister told US diplomats that “while the PM respects Gillard, his reluctance to share power will eventually lead to a falling-out, while Gillard will not want to acquiesce in creating potential rivals”.
In June this year, Senator Arbib and other Labor Right figures moved to depose Mr Rudd from the leadership, precipitating the events that led to Ms Gillard’s becoming Prime Minister.
In recent months there have been media reports that Senator Arbib has been undermining Ms Gillard, but this has been denied by Labor insiders.
Senator Arbib last night declined to comment on the WikiLeaks disclosures.

The US is worried about Australian unions? Or are they just pleased that many right-wing unions share Washington’s aims (Israel, war on terror etc)?


Of course Canberra wants other people to protect our empire in Afghanistan
Posted: 08 Dec 2010 05:54 AM PST

Australia begins to copy the American mercenary model; outsourcing essential tasks with little or no parliamentary oversight:

Australia has awarded a $20 million two-year contract guarding diplomats in Kabul to a private security company owned by a special forces soldier turned British lord and that once hired a former South African apartheid-era assassin.
The move is part of an increasing trend by the government to contract out the security of diplomats in the world’s most dangerous locations, instead of using Australian soldiers.
The cost is also double the amount of the previous contract, held by another major international security company, Control Risks Group.

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”The complex and volatile security environment in Kabul requires the provision of high-quality security protection,” a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
The spokesman would not comment on the reasons behind the increase in the contract’s cost, but said the ”nature, complexity and scale” of the work in Kabul had increased. This was due to ”expanding staff numbers and additional operational sites requiring increased protected travel and static guarding services,” he said.
Australia’s embassy in Kabul is home to the ambassador, Paul Foley, and six foreign affairs staff.
There are about 30 Australian public servants in Afghanistan, based mainly in Kabul but also in Kandahar and Tarin Kowt.
Those 30 would include staff from the federal police and AusAID, as well as diplomats and their staff and intelligence officers with Australia’s foreign spy agency, ASIS.
In Baghdad, Australia’s embassy is guarded by the controversial outfit Unity Resources Group, which killed an Australian resident and two Iraqi women in separate incidents several years ago.
Until recently the embassy and staff were guarded by a combination of Australian troops and private security guards, but Defence has confirmed its troops no longer provide ”physical security”.
”Hart’s tender was judged to provide the best value to the Commonwealth in accordance with the requirements of the tender,” the foreign affairs spokesman said.
Hart Security is a well-known veteran security company, and was formed in 1999 by a former British special forces officer, Richard Bethell. He has since been granted a peerage and is now known as Lord Westbury.
His company has also attracted some controversy. In 2004 it came in for criticism after a Hart employee, 55-year-old South African Gary Branfield, was killed in a firefight in Iraq.
It later emerged that during the 1980s Branfield ran a ”special operations unit” in Zimbabwe for the apartheid-era South African government.
According to a report by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Branfield led a team that set off a truck bomb which killed a Zimbabwean and injured six members of the African National Congress.
Hart has since said they were unaware of Branfield’s background when hiring him.


Trying to stop Wikileaks is about as futile as arguing the sun is square
Posted: 08 Dec 2010 12:16 AM PST

Because Wikileaks has many defenders, far faster than sluggish governments:

An anonymous, loosely affiliated group that has been responsible for a series of recent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against entertainment industry websites over copyright issues, has started attacking organisations viewed as being hostile to WikiLeaks, says a PandaLabs researcher.
The group, dubbed Anonymous, launched a DDOS attack on Monday that knocked Swiss payment transaction firm PostFinance’s website offline.
The attack was in apparent retaliation for the firm’s freezing of an account set up by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assanage, PandaLabs threat researcher Sean-Paul Correll said.
The bank’s main website was unavailable for several hours but appeared to have been restored by late Monday afternoon.


Don’t get creative legally over Assange
Posted: 08 Dec 2010 12:12 AM PST

Yet more reasons why Julian Assange should not go to the US. A fair trial is impossible when the powers that be simply want to silence him. A political with-hunt is in season. Australia must do far more:

The Justice Department, in considering whether and how it might indict Julian Assange, is looking beyond the Espionage Act of 1917 to other possible offenses, including conspiracy or trafficking in stolen property, according to officials familiar with the investigation.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. acknowledged this week that there were problems with the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law that says the unauthorized possession and dissemination of information related to national defense is illegal. But he also hinted that prosecutors were looking at other statutes with regard to Mr. Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.
“I don’t want to get into specifics here, but people would have a misimpression if the only statute you think that we are looking at is the Espionage Act,” Mr. Holder said Monday at a news conference. “That is certainly something that might play a role, but there are other statutes, other tools that we have at our disposal.”
Last week, The New York Times and four other news organizations began carrying articles based on an archive of a quarter-million confidential State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to them. After WikiLeaks released a batch of government documents concerning Iraq and Afghanistan in July, Mr. Holder and the director of theFederal Bureau of InvestigationRobert S. Mueller III, both said the leaks were being investigated, and Mr. Assange said United States officials had previously warned his organization that there had been “thoughts of whether I could be charged as a co-conspirator to espionage, which is serious.”
Mr. Assange was arrested Tuesday in Britain in connection with a Swedish investigation into accusations of sexual offenses. But United States law enforcement officials said the fact that he was in custody did not affect their deliberations about whether he might be charged in this country in connection with the publication of leaked government documents.
Prosecutors have used the Espionage Act to convict officials who leaked classified information. They have never successfully convicted any leak recipient who then passed the information along, however, and the Justice Department has never tried to prosecute a journalist —which Mr. Assange portrays himself as being — under either a Republican or a Democratic administration.


Informal discussions have already taken place between US and Swedish officials over the possibility of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being delivered into American custody, according to diplomatic sources.
Mr Assange is in a British jail awaiting extradition proceedings to Sweden after being refused bail at Westminster Magistrates’ Court despite a number of prominent public figures offering to stand as surety.
His arrest in north London yesterday was described by the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates as “good news”, and may pave the way for extradition to America and a possible lengthy jail sentence.

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