Notes from the front – of the week 7/1/2016

Cameron is attacking Muslim Brotherhood to silence opponents of his foreign policy

On 17 December, the Tory government published a summary of the report of their review of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) carried out by Sir John Jenkins, ex-UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and Charles Farr, Director General of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism in the Home Office. The published part of the report reveals the obvious bias of the authors and the government that commissioned it following representations for its ‘allies’ in some Gulf states.

We are told that ‘… The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood did not do enough to demonstrate political moderation or a commitment to democratic values, had failed to convince Egyptians of their competence or good intentions, and had subsequently struggled to draw lessons for what its failure in Egypt meant for its future’.

This ‘balanced’ account excludes from its analysis the current Egyptian dictatorship’s 41,000 political prisoners in jails where torture is routine; the position of elected, civilian President Morsi and the rest of the MB leadership facing death sentences or life imprisonment, and the slaughter of unarmed protestors.

The report’s analysis of the MB’s praxis on political violence is equally contextless. The MB’s general approach is entirely in line with bourgeois governments, including that of the UK. But the impression is given that the MB supports terrorism. Having given this fasle impression, the report then links the MB to a number of mainstream British Muslim organisations, both by ideology and organisational connections. The danger of this leading to the proscription of peaceful Muslim organisations in the UK thereby becomes real.

This can be clearly seen when we read that ‘MAB (like the MCB) have consistently opposed programmes by successive Governments to prevent terrorism’. Understandably, both the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) refuted this statement in their press releases, simply by referring to their record of opposing terrorism. But the report conflates opposition to the government’s policy on Prevent, Palestine and Egypt with support for terrorism.

Overall, the report is a threat to legitimate political activity from the Muslim community when it conflicts with government policy. Given the links made in the report, this is most strongly posed when we are told that ‘… aspect of Muslim Brotherhood ideology and tactics, in this country and overseas, are contrary to our values and have been contrary to our national interests and our national security’. There is legislation in place to deal with terrorist acts, and hate crimes. The report is threatening to criminalise acts of political opposition.

Argentina’s Macri shows right’s devastating policies

The new Argentinian government has wasted little time in reversing the reforms of the previous Kirchner government – and its vicious economic programme offers a vision of what the US-sponsored right would do across Latin America if it gets the opportunity.

The new Macri government has immediately abolished the official exchange rate peg to the US Dollar leading to a maxi-devaluation (approximately 40% at the time of writing). All devaluations reduce the international purchasing power of an economy. But the rightist government has ensured that the burden of this adjustment falls entirely on workers and the poor.

Capital controls have been removed so that the rich can convert their savings into US Dollars. Taxes have been removed on exporters and government social welfare spending has been slashed. A knock-on effect of the devaluation of the currency will be to increase the value of outstanding foreign currency debt, and US-based ‘vulture funds’ continue to hover, pressing for onerous repayments.

Devaluations can be a policy tool for the left, in order to boost exports. But this requires increased investment using the export revenues and at least the preservation of social protection spending until the economy grows, jobs are created and wages rise.

But the new rightist government in Buenos Aires has taken the opposite route. This is entirely in line with the Washington Consensus and is approved by the US-dominated international agencies. It is a disaster for the overwhelming majority of the population and shows what is at stake for the continent as a whole in the period ahead.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey react against the squeeze on ISIS

As the year 2015 ended some progress had been registered in Syria and Iraq following the Russian military intervention. According to the US government, ISIS has lost 40% of its territory in Iraq and 20% in Syria. It is most likely that Janes’ estimate of 14% overall is more accurate. Key losses include the towns of Ramadi and Tikrit in Iraq, and Tal Abyad and the evacuation of Homs in Syria. Al Qaeda and allied forces in Syria have also suffered setbacks with the recent killings of Zahran Alloush (leader of Jaish al Islam), and Abu Rateb al-Homsi (leader of Ahrar al Sham).

The shift has prompted a sharp response from the main supporters of these forces, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkey has deepened its assaults upon the Kurds, and occupied territory in northern Iraq against the Iraqi government. Saudi Arabia has attempted to disrupt all diplomatic progress on Syria with the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. This was reinforced by the severing of diplomatic relations with Iran by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Sudan. With the first meeting between the Assad government and the armed opposition due on 25 January the situation is completely fragile.

Imperialist intervention is further highlighted by reports that the UK, France and Italy are preparing a ground force of 5000 troops to intervene in Libya. The coming year will show the continuing need for an active anti-war movement in Britain.