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Hostage to Fortune

by AFSHIN RATTANSI

And so the deadline for Iran to accept the P5+1 nuclear deal is breached. Already, diplomats are leaking to the press in New York that a round of sanctions is being finalised for mid-January. The U.S. House of Representatives has given the green light to targeting Iran’s oil imports, ready for the Senate, ready for the UN Security Council. And the New Year’s Eve leaks are at pains to explain how the Obama administration will be very careful not to hurt the Iranian people nor will the sanctions appear to be designed to interfere with Iran’s domestic affairs. How that can be the case is debatable when existing sanctions compel an energy superpower to import oil and when further sanctions will limit Iranian access to energy in winter. As for banking sanctions, “opacity” has surely been the watchword of a year in which the world has been plunged into financial disaster.

To some, President Obama deserves credit for not making the hawkish statements of his European counterparts during the past few months. Many analysts have remarked on how the admonitions of Brown, Sarkozy and Merkel will have served the Iranian government well, helping it blame outside forces for the rioting in Tehran. However, whilst Obama’s rhetoric has been restrained (ignoring the Martian Nobel prize speech), the corporate media of the United States has been emphatic. Other than Afghanistan, the only foreign news story of note is Iran. The diligent use of Twitter and pro-opposition websites compels the viewing public to a single conclusion.

In Britain, the press has learned nothing from Tony Blair’s lies about WMD. Foreign news reporting in the UK over the yuletide period has been dominated by journalists heralding the imminent demise of the Islamic revolution. Vast – albeit government sanctioned – demonstrations are not covered and the phrase “international community” peppers every report, as if the entire world is on the side of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – the former presidential candidate who was prepared to envisage the annihilation of Iran using U.S. nuclear strikes.

All that does not fit into the hawks’ narrative is omitted. We know from Gareth Porter in these pages that U.S. intelligence concluded that the document published recently by the Times of London, purportedly describing an Iranian plan involving “neutron initiators” for an atomic weapon, was a fabrication. Porter, quotes former CIA official, Philip Giraldi, as saying that the U.S. had nothing to do with the forgery and that though Israel was prime suspect, a British role could not be ruled out.

Most of the Middle East is commemorating the U.S.-backed war on Gaza that killed around 1,500 people – proportionately equivalent to the death of more than 70,000 in New York. But international news resounds to a report in The Guardian of London that Iran’s leaders sanctioned the kidnapping of British hostage Peter Moore in Iraq. Let’s hope Mona Mahmood, Maggie O’Kane and Guy Grandjean aren’t victims of the multi-million dollar covert operations signalled by Sy Hersh in his 2008 piece for The New Yorker.

At least the British Foreign Office moved to distance itself from the The Guardian story and its apparent Iranian scoop. Given that Moore was released, in effect, as part of a U.S.-brokered hostage swap, Foreign Secretary David Milliband had to be reticent. It didn’t stop the British media from making out that Iranian influence in Iraq is some kind of recent stealth tactic – all part of a master plan to destroy the earth. Note to UK journalists: the U.S. invasion of Iraq catalysed Iranian influence over that country. There will be no end-of-year coverage of how violence in Iraq has since been mitigated by that Iranian influence.

In the newsrooms of the West, liberal anti-war journalists reluctantly agree that it was the Bush-Cheney surge in Iraq that did the trick. It is routinely used in evidence to buttress the case for Obama’s massive escalation in Afghanistan. That Iran has been central to anything remotely like peace, whether it be in Afghanistan or in Iraq, does not fit the narrative.

Britain will be part of that American narrative for war. Her incompetence in the dying days of the Brown administration may be illustrated by something the father of Peter Moore told Yvonne Ridley and I on our show, “Rattansi & Ridley.” The media in Britain had preferred to avoid Graeme Moore who had been an outspoken critic of British foreign office incompetence. It had, after all, been the country’s longest hostage crisis for two decades. We asked him about British negotiating strategy. “It’s a little hard [to talk about this] but Gordon Brown, last December, did meet with the other four families and told them that there had been a meeting with the leader of the kidnappers,” he said, “but when the first bodies turned up in June, Brown then stated that he’d never been in touch with the kidnappers.”

AFSHIN RATTANSI has helped launch and develop television networks and has worked in journalism for more than two decades, at the BBC Today programme, CNN International, Bloomberg News, Al Jazeera Arabic, the Dubai Business Channel, Press TV and The Guardian. His quartet of novels, “The Dream of the Decade” is available on Amazon.com. He is executive producer of “Rattansi & Ridley” which broadcasts internationally, every Saturday at 2032 GMT on Press TV. He can be reached at afshinrattansi@hotmail.com

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Afshin Rattansi is host of RT’s award-winning Going Underground news and current affairs show broadcast around the world. He will be joining Julian Assange on the eve of the referendum for a live webcast from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as well as a special edition of Going Underground on Saturday.

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