Sunday, May 28, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 28.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.

- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

Life in Spain:
  • In Spain, as in other countries, you have to pass theory and practical tests before you can drive alone on the roads. Though not in all cases. There are little cars here based on a motorbike engine, called sincarnets ('without licence¡) and I believe it's still the case that any idiot - of any age? - can climb into one of these and create havoc - and danger - on the country's highways. As I saw yesterday coming back from the city. But it makes a change from all the learner drivers in the wrong lane on a roundabout. I can, at least, anticipate their errors.
  • It's a feature of Spain - and probably elsewhere - that women walk around with inappropriate English slogans on their T-shirts. I do sometimes risk telling them what they're displaying. But not the 12 year old yesterday who had Babe in Trouble on her front.
  • Back to female names . . .  I've clocked Sehila and the obvious question arises: Is this a new name or a mis-spelling of Sheila?
  • Rubbernecking is very much a Spanish pastime. During a football match in a bar last week, I think I was the only person not to turn and look at the door when a police car went past with its siren on. Inexplicable but very common on the country's highways, should there be the slightest reason for it.
If you really want to know all the corruption cases currently being processed here, go to this site and enjoy the Rogues' Gallery there. And the details if gives of the cases. The claim is made that politicians have stolen more than €83m from Spanish taxpayers but this is only what's known about - the tip of the fetid iceberg that floats below the surface of Spanish society. HT to Lenox of Business Over Tapas for this information. And for the news that the impartiality of the senior anti-corruption investigator is being questioned. President Rajoy says he has full trust in him. And I'm sure he does.

En passant, here's the latest ex regional president to be arraigned. I think he's resigned sine this Wiki entry was last edited.

The belief that the AVE high-speed train will finally operate here in Galicia in 2020 rests on the assumption that a 17km stretch of existing track near and through Ourense will be used instead of dedicated AVE tracks. But this means the train has to fit on different gauge tracks and this - rather than the non-availability of 17km of new tracks (10 years off?) - will be the real delaying factor. The Voz de Galicia yesterday reported a dispute between the regional and national governments about what calibre of train we'll (eventually) have. So, I think we can kiss 2020 goodbye. Assuming anybody believed in it in the first place.

I'm wont to say there ain't a huge amount of 'culture' in Pontevedra, especially since the corrupt savings banks (cajas) ran down their social events programs. But yesterday there were 2 lovely activities in the city. Firstly, a large tent dedicated to chess tables for anyone who wanted to play, and secondly, something new, I think - a 'rapid painting' competition. I was really impressed by (most of) the entries in process, of which this is one:-

Finally . . . I recently quoted Morton's comment that Spaniards are utterly callous about making a noise at night. I thought of this at 10.30 last night when my neighbours' teenage sons set about firing up a BBQ, accompanied by booming music. I thought of it again when the noise woke me up at 2.30. Fortunately I never go anywhere in Spain without earplugs.

Today's cartoon:-

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 27.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

Life in Spain
  • I've mentioned a certain tendency to short-termism in Spanish thinking, with minimal thought apparently given to longer-term consequences of measures aimed at protecting existing companies. Or entire industries. So it was with the 'Google Tax' imposed on news aggregators back in 2014. Predictably, this had the effect - especially after Google pulled out of Spain - of damaging the interests of those it purported to benefit - the Spanish media. Specifically, a loss of c. €9m in income for the original news sites. Similarly, government policy on solar heating has been short-sighted and inconsistent. I believe this has reverted to one of support for the nascent industry but - in contrast to nearby Portugal - you'll still be hit with a 'sun tax' if, as a private individual, you switch to solar energy. I guess it makes sense to someone.
  • It's claimed that the Spanish don't drink enough water, even where and when it's hot. But they certainly waste a lot of the stuff, per capita use being very high here. Twice as much as in Germany and more than 6 times the UK figure.
  • In the 50s, the 3 most popular female names were: Maria de Carmen, Maria Carmen and, of course, Carmen. Need I add that Franco's wife was Carmen and his daughter María del Carmen? Anyway, the most popular female name in Spain in 2016 was Lucía.
  • The most popular male name in 2016 was Hugo. Ironically, the first letter isn't pronounced!

Corruption Transparency International has slammed Spain for its ‘systemic corruption’. 'Few aspects of public life in the country have remained exempt from corruption', it says. Spain has seen one of the fastest declines on the body’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index, sliding 7 points since 2012, now scoring worse than most Western European democracies with 58. “Corruption in Spain distorts policy making and hurts people’s basic rights for the benefit of a few. Just looking at recent scandals gives a sense of the scale of the problem,” said the Chair of Transparency International'. So, you'd think President Rajoy would be only too pleased to address this issue if and when there's a motion of censure against his PP government. But, no, he's said he won't be speaking. But he will allow the party spokesperson and one of the vice-presidents to speak for the Government. Small mercies. Astonishing. Except it isn't. It's par for Rajoy's course.

It's often hard, of course, to understand why fabulously rich people become corrupt. First Lionel Messi and now Cristiano Ronaldo have been accused of corruption here, with latter facing the prospect of a real prison sentence. Not just one below 2 years which avoids incarceration. The standard sentence for corrupt politicians.

Which reminds me . . . You and I would have difficulty opening a bank account in the Isle of Man without the tax authorities wanting to know why. Yet the son of the 'Founder of modern Cataluña' was able to squirrel away there a mere €6m. Born of a 3% commission on everything that happened there. An open secret, it seems. And yet nothing was done until a dumped girlfriend blew the whistle on the greedy family. Hell hath no fury . . .

Is it elitist to be a tad concerned that the UK's Shadow Minister of Education left school at 16, without any qualifications whatsoever? I can't see this happening here in Spain. Where elitism is not yet a dirty word.

The Spanish Language: Google doesn't recognise the word paripé, which means 'a show' and might well be a corruption of the English word 'play'. The dictionary of the Royal Academy doesn't have it either. But this - excellent - site does.

Finally . . . Here in Pontevedra, the good news is that road deaths this so far this year, at 28, are 10 down on last year. The bad news is that 60% of those who died weren't wearing a seat belt.

Todays' cartoon

Apologies if it's a repeat. . . 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Thought from Galicia: 26.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain

Life in Spain: 
  • If you don't like bullfighting, this might nonetheless appeal to you.
  • On the other hand, few will like this.
  • Here's The Local's view of the signs that summer is imminent here. Not everywhere in Spain, of course. The paper is southern-centric. (Admittedly the thermometer hit 34 in Pontevedra this week but you still don't see a lot of fans about. We just complain. As we do when it rains. It's a natural place for a Brit to live.)
  • Is it a fine example of good town planning or is it evidence of the survival of medieval guilds? After 8 years of permitting no new pharmacies, the Galician government is to licence 48 of them. One of them will be in my barrio of Poio, where an unlicensed one was forced to close a few years ago. I'd guess that existing pharmacy owners are not happy with this development.
  • It's reported that 25% of Spanish kids can't read a bill. As regards adults, my suspicion is that 100% of them can't understand their utility bills.
  • I've mentioned the greater arbitrariness of life here. Yesterday, it occurred to me that my experience around the appalling Modelo 720 law might be a good example. Here's what the expensive advice I received boiled down to as regards a late submission: We really don't know. In the best case, you won't face a fine but, in the worst case, the fine will be huge. We can't ask the Tax Office because we know we'll get a different opinion from each inspector we ask.

Spanish PoliticsThis - in Spanish - seems to be a sensible analysis of what's happening in the left-of-centre PSOE party. Some folk see similarities with the UK Left but this seems wrong to me. The Left in Spain has already split into 2 parties - the 'Far left' Podemos and the 'left-of-centre' PSOE - whereas the UK Left is still represented by the faction-riven Labour Party. In Spain, the issue now is whether Podemos and PSOE can ever coalesce to bring down the PP party.

So, it seems that Malta is the EU's real fiscal paradise. Not Gibraltar, as Madrid keeps telling us. Or even next-door Andorra, a popular place for Spanish politicians who want to visit their money.

Spanglish: I'm wondering whether el rafting is the same as el barranquismo, or just a subset of the latter. The dictionary has barranquismo as 'canyoning' and rafting as 'white-water rafting'. BTW . . . This might well be one of the few examples of the Spanish term being shorter than the English one. 

I almost feel like apologising to you for doing this but click on minute 1.58 of this video to get the fullest possible measure of Donald Trump. And then put yourself in the position of the (terrified) diplomats to whom Trump proposed his side of the exchange.

Finally . . . Reverting to the speeding fine mentioned yesterday . . . 1. I filled in the payment form on the net. Or tried to. The 'Record Number' (N. Expediente) on the ticket contained 3 hyphens and a full stop/period. I tried 3 or 4 permutations of this before finding out only the numbers were required. 2. Reader Maria has amusingly answered the question about the difference between 69 and 71kph. 3. Reader Sierra recommends having one's GPS on all the time. I'd already decided to do this but, as he admits, given the games El Tráfico plays, it won't be 100% effective. 4. If the concern really was safety, they would, of course, have placed a 50 sign at the start of the straight stretch. Finally, 5. The real irony of this fine is that I went on the N-550 because I had a lot of time and didn't want to pay the extortionate toll for the AP9 from Pontevedra to Vigo. Bad decision as it turned out.

 Last night I dropped 3 bottles of wine at €10 each. Not my week, then.

The lost wine:-

2 x white godello and 1 x red tempranillo. Lovely smell.

Finally, finally . . . . A slightly tarted-up Google machine translation of an article by a disappointed young lady on finally getting Spanish nationality:-

I took on oath on the flag in Spain and it is not as cool as they paint it

I introduce myself: I am Alexandra, I am 23 years old, I have been living in Spain since I was four years old and they granted me the nationality last week. As you may have guessed, my paperwork was long and tedious, including a waiting list of seven more years along with a series of infinite and diverse problems, such as sick leave of the person in charge of my case, who misplaced my birth certificate ... In short, the things of the Spanish civil service. I, at this point, felt desperate, especially when my parents had had their brand new Spanish nationality for two years, which made everything more pathetic, if possible.

Finally, on May 3, 2017, I was given the opportunity to swear on the flag. Although it was true that I had bucked up a bit after seeing the Flickr images of the Ministry of Defense ("Swearing of Civil Staff Flag"), with all those platforms, soldiers, crosses, priests and everything to honor people all dressed up. I was not expecting anything crazy or quirky. I mean, I live in Alcorcón (a municipality near Madrid), not that our courts are a glorious thing. But what I really did not expect is that the facts would happen as I will relate here.

My oath already started badly, fatal, since I did not have to take the Spanish Test because of the continuous delays in my procedures. This means that I did not have to prove my knowledge about Spain, those who had been working for nineteen years living in this beautiful land. Although it is fair to clarify that, despite everything, I know perfectly what the demonym is of those who live in Cuenca (cuencano), or who is the authentic Queen of Spain (Belén Esteban).

Imagine me, excited, after this saga, going to the courts, radiant, makeup on and more or less well combed. Now imagine me and all my illusions going overboard when they took me, along with other people, to a courtroom, with the air conditioning broken and a leak in the ceiling covered with a supermarket cardboard. The official on duty told me to come to her desk to swear on the flag. I was stunned, not even a sad, separate room, nor a flag, nor a picture of the King, nor a Constitution, nothing. Only her desk, surrounded by five other officials working.

So I took a seat, stood in front of a table with cluttered papers and a computer (Windows) very outdated, I looked into her eyes and she asked me with laughter: "Do you swear by the King of Spain and the Constitution?" I could not believe it, why was she laughing? Was it a test of fire to be Spanish? Should not it be a super solemn act? Astonished, and with a grimace of imbecility I snapped  back a timid "Si". She looked at me, smiled at me, and told me she that was it, that I could go.

I got up from my chair languidly, disheartened, and disgusted. All the expectations that society had instilled on me  for my longed-for flag swearing were completely unreal. I do not know, I did not ask for so much, just to kiss a flag and maybe put my hand on a brand new volume of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 riveted with gold threads. Maybe a bit of discretion and solemnity on the spot. Nothing else. It is not as if I intended to play God, just a little show.

In my opinion, it was a rather shabby way of entering as an immigrant into Spanish society. What could have been a good day ended up seeing me leave the courthouse and take the sad line 10 of Metro Sur to leave that suburb.  

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 25.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain.
  • You might have thought a fair tax system wouldn't impose a capital gains tax if you'd lost money on the sale of an asset. If so, you'd be wrong in the case of Spain. It's taken a decision of the Constitutional Court to stop the tax authorities here hitting you with a plusvalía tax based on what they said was and is the value of your asset, regardless of the reality. This - blatantly obvious - decision will mean a tsunami of court claims for repayment, with the inevitable consequences for Spain's woefully slow judicial system. Which is already struggling to deal with a similar decision in respect of illegal 'floor clauses' in mortgage contracts. See this article, in English. I wonder if this rule also applies if you've only made a loss because of the high transfer taxes paid to the regional government.
  • Talking about inequity here. . . I've said more than once that, if you're to avoid being hit with speeding fines here, it's advisable to drive everywhere at 50kph(31mph). I'm saying it again now because my latest fine arrived yesterday morning. For doing 69 on a straight, unsigned country road which I obviously thought had a 70 limit. No one could be more careful than I am about keeping within the limits. In more than 35 years driving in several countries, I was never fined. Not even once. Here in Spain in just over 16 years, I've been hit 8 or 9 times. So . . . Has my driving deteriorated or is the revenue department of the Tráfico ministry the most efficient organisation in Spain? Or the most deceitful? Of course, it's not totally accurate to say that driving at 50 will keep you safe; the ludicrous limit on the steep hill to and from my house is 30kph(19mph). Which - along with everyone else - I break at least twice a day. It's either that or driving up in second gear and down with your foot on the brake. Final word on this - Someone on the web has complained about being fined €300 and losing 2 points for doing 71 on this stretch. My fine is 'only' €100 and no points are being deducted from my licence. Is this a function of the tiny difference between 71 and 69kph? Anyone know?
  • So, what's going to happen later this year in Cataluña? And what will the consequences be for Spain and the EU? I ask because the pesky Catalan nationalists are threatening to unilaterally declare independence if Madrid doesn't allow them to have a referendum in September. Ironically, the chances are high they'd lose this but the right-of-centre PP government can't contemplate a concession on this and continues to threaten court action. At the very least. Click here and here for views on this issue. We seem to be heading for a pointless nuclear war.
As I'm in a bilious mood . . . . What is it about stupid coffee pods? It's now reported that 13 billion of these bits of plastic are polluting the planet, though this seems tad high to me. Whatever the accurate number, it's surely time to rebel against this latest example of a marketing triumph that spits in the face of common sense. And costs you money in the process. Wake up, people!

More importantly . . .  Here's Donald Trump's comment in the visitors' book at the Holocaust Museum in Israel. You don't have to compare it with those of his predecessors to appreciate how inadequately and pathetically puerile it is:-

Like the author of the article which follows, I find the attitude of the West towards Saudi Arabia utterly incomprehensible unless you assume - rightly - it has everything to do with money. Especially that flowing to the US military-industrial complex.

Before you read it, here's a cartoon which points up the madness of one aspect of this issue:-

The Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?John Wight. Counterpunch

The lack of a coherent anti-terrorism strategy in Washington and by extension the West, as emergency services deal with the devastating aftermath of yet another terrorist atrocity in Europe – this time a suicide bomb attack at a concert in Manchester, England – has been thrown into sharp relief during President Trump’s tour of the Middle East.

Specifically, on what planet can Iran be credibly accused of funding and supporting terrorism while Saudi Arabia is considered a viable partner in the fight against terrorism? This is precisely the narrative we are being invited to embrace by President Trump in what counts as a retreat from reality into the realms of fantasy, undertaken in service not to security but commerce.

Indeed those still struggling to understand why countries such as the US, UK, and France consistently seek to legitimise a Saudi regime that is underpinned by the medieval religious doctrine of Wahhabism, which is near indistinguishable from the medieval religious extremism and fanaticism of Daesh and Nusra in Syria – those people need look no further than the economic relations each of those countries enjoy with Riyadh.

The announcement that Washington has just sealed a mammoth deal with its Saudi ally on arms sales – worth $110 billion immediately and $350 billion over 10 years – is all the incentive the US political and media establishment requires to look the other way when it comes to the public beheadings, crucifixionseye gouging, and other cruel and barbaric punishments meted out in the Kingdom on a regular basis.

The sheer unreality of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, as he stood shoulder to shoulder with President Trump during the latter’s state visit to the country recently, lamenting the chaos and carnage in Syria, which he described as having been “one of the most advanced countries” prior to a conflict that has wrought so much death and destruction, the sheer unreality of this is off the scale – and especially so considering the role the Saudis have played in providing material, financial, and ideological and religious support to groups engaged in the very carnage in Syria as has just been unleashed in Manchester.

There are times when the truth is not enough, when only the unvarnished truth will do, and in the wake of the Manchester attack – in which at time of writing 22 people have been killed and 60 injured – we cannot avoid the conclusion that neither principle nor rationality is driving Western foreign policy in the Middle East, or as it pertains to terrorism.

Instead it is being driven by unalloyed hypocrisy, to the extent that when such carnage occurs in Syria, as it has unremittingly over the past 6 years, the perpetrators are still described in some quarters as rebels and freedom fighters, yet when it takes place in Manchester or Paris or Brussels, etc., they are depicted as terrorists. Neither is it credible to continue to demonize governments that are in the front line against this terrorist menace – i.e. Iran, Russia, Syria – while courting and genuflecting at the feet of governments that are exacerbating it – i.e. Saudi Arabia, previously mentioned, along with Qatar, Kuwait, and Turkey. Here, too, mention must be made of the brutal and ongoing injustice meted out to the Palestinians by an Israeli government that shares with the Saudis a doctrine of religious exceptionalism and supremacy, one that is inimical to peace or the security of its own people.

Ultimately a choice has to be made between security and stability or economic and geopolitical advantage, with the flag of democracy and human rights losing its lustre in recent years precisely because the wrong choice has been made – in other words a Faustian pact with opportunism.

As the smoke clears, both literally and figuratively, from yet another terrorist atrocity, we are forced to consider how we arrived at this point. And when we do we cannot but understand the role of Western extremism in giving birth to and nourishing Salafi-jihadi extremism. Moreover, in the midst of the understandable and eminently justifiable grief we feel at events in Manchester, it behooves us not to forget the salient fact that Muslims have and continue to be the biggest victims of this terrorist menace, unleashed in the name of religious purity and sectarianism, and that it is Muslims who are also doing most to confront and fight it, whether in Syria, Iraq, Libya, or Afghanistan. It should not escape our rendering of the issue either that what each of those countries have in common is that they have all been victims of the Western extremism mentioned earlier.

It bears repeating: you cannot continue to invade, occupy, and subvert Muslim and Arab countries and not expect consequences. And when those consequences amount to the slaughter and maiming of your own citizens, the same tired and shallow platitudes we are ritually regaled with by politicians and leaders intent on bolstering their anti-terrorism and security credentials achieve little except induce nausea.

Enough is enough.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 24.5.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 
Life in Spain
  • One sometimes wonders if Spanish kids are ever acquainted with the concept of risk. Or whether the things you see - or which are reported - are merely evidence of Spanish picaresqueness. I regularly see cyclists on main roads sans lights and helmets. And a local paper this week reported that 2 helmetless teenage males were stopped when cycling the wrong way down a motorway. Whether they were charged with anything remains doubtful.
  • If you're British and used to shopkeepers saying "Sorry, we don't" when you ask them for something they don't have, you need to get used to the bald spanish response of "No". On the other hand, if you then ask where you might get the item, you'll always get a helpful response.
  • I hadn't seen it for a while but I read yesterday that a local celebrity had died Christianly. I guess this means as a good Catholic, having had extreme unction.
  • As Lenox of Business over Tapas says here, the left-of-centre PSOE party has been re-born. Though, as I've admitted, I for one have no idea what this development really means for the country. Ostensibly left-wing commentators - of the Transition/Cohabitation school - see it as a disaster on the scale of Jeremy Corbyn heading the British Labour party but I'm not convinced.
  • Others feel that Spain now faces the risk of a chronically weak government, a la Italy. Click here for this.
Time, of course, will tell.

Good and Bad habits:
  • Chocolate: Eating up to six 30g bars of chocolate a week could reduce the risk of a heart flutter by almost one quarter, a study by Harvard University suggests. 
  • Cigarettes: The latest research reveals that 30% of Spanish adults still smoke - 33% of men and 28% of women. For those aged 14 to 18 the overall number is said to be 32% but this time women(36%) far outdo the men(28%). This is depressing enough but my own observation suggests a higher number for young women here.
Local Stuff:
  • Apparently the number of 13 that I reported for the drug clans in southern Galicia (Las Rías Bajas/As Rías Baixas) is wrong. The true number is 30. Straight out of central casting, here's the head of the O Mulo clan, Rafael Bugallo Piñeiro. He and several other members are having their day in court this week, after an incident that took place back in 2008.

Needless to say, the clan's lawyers are trying to have the interim phone taps declared illegal and removed from the evidence against them. They presumably sleep well at night.
  • As I've said, we're plagued by beggars in Pontevedra and this week I again suspected the Beggar Bus was in town, bringing several 'irregulars'. But I was genuinely surprised to be interrupted in my reading by a well-dressed young woman asking me to give something to her young male companion. This is a new schtick. But still ineffective in my case.
  • Someone's allegedly doing black magic in my barrio. Specifically voodoo. Residents report finding evidence down by the old Coca Cola factory. I'm guessing that the Senegalese living in a nearby flat block are the prime suspects.
  • I mentioned that the Sunday flea market was again being invaded by illegal (Romanian?) gypsy traders. Right on cue, the police raided it on Sunday last, checking on licences. So, it'll be interesting to see how long it will be before they're back. The gypsies, I mean. Not the police.
  • The Pontevedra council has had a major tourism proposal rejected as 'pretentious and exaggerated': This was to make the local Apparitions site the equal of Lourdes and Fatima. It's actually a little convent in which one of the Fatima girls came to live. And to fantasise a bit more.
  • Tellingly, one of the opposing counsellors came out with the classic localist line that: This is what happens when you give the Pontevedra Tourism brief to someone from Forcarei. Which is all of 34km(21m) from the city.
Alexander the Great "felt himself well fitted to perform the role of a divine king. Whether he believed himself a god, or only took on the attributes of divinity from motives of policy, is a question for psychologists.  . . . Psychologists observe that Alexander hated his father." Once again, the name of Donald Trump sprang to mind when I read this last night.

Nutters Corner:
  • God wanted Trump to win the Presidency, therefore God will never let Trump be impeached.
Finally . . . . Iran. Having lived there a few years, I'm a great fan of the country, its history, it culture and its people. Who have suffered a great deal under the religious autocracy of the last 40 years. So, I find it very easy to sympathise with this article, which exposes and criticises Trump's bellicose policy towards the country.

Trump’s Islam Speech in Saudi Arabia Paves Way for America’s Next Big War

Darius Shahtahmasebi

The American public is most likely unaware of the giant stranglehold Saudi Arabia has on the U.S. government. Saudi Arabia uses its vast riches to manipulate the U.N., which explains how a country that brutally oppresses its female population was recently gifted a seat on the organization’s women’s rights commission. The Islamic Kingdom also wields incredible control over international media and has arguably had an increasingly unwelcome position of power in America’s foreign policy decision-making. As such, Donald Trump’s political career, in part, rests on appeasing his Saudi Arabian counterparts.

And appeasing the Saudis is exactly what Trump has done. Trump’s speech regarding Islam was delivered to the leaders of 55 Muslim-majority nations, including Saudi Arabia. However, he conveniently ignored the troves of evidence that show Saudi Arabia directly sponsors the terror groups al-Qaeda and ISIS – two groups the U.S. claims to be at war with — as well as the fact that Saudi Arabia has been directly implicated in the 9/11 terror attacks. Instead, Donald Trump framed the entire issue of radicalization as a problem that rests with Iran. As he stated in Riyadh: “But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran. From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.”

Iran’s prime enemies are actually Sunni-dominated terror groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS.
The Islamic Republic and its proxies have been heavily engaged in fighting these terror groups in Syria. If eradicating terrorism was a priority for the United States and Saudi Arabia, Iran would be a natural ally considering Iran almost all but defeated ISIS in Iraq.

Yet, Trump continued: “Among Iran’s most tragic and destabilizing interventions have been in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes, and the United States has taken firm action in response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Assad regime—launching 59 tomahawk missiles at the Syrian air base from where that murderous attack originated.”

While many analysts may focus on how Trump has gone from the most Islamophobic president ever elected to now omitting the words “radical Islamic terrorism” from his speech on Islam, these analysts continue to gloss over the fact that the entire speech appears to have been a geopolitical gesture to please Saudi Arabia and its allies. As the Iranian Foreign Ministry noted, Trump is no longer concerned with Islamophobia but what Iran has coined as “Iranophobia.”

Iran is Saudi Arabia’s regional archrival. The two countries are fighting an enormous proxy war in Syria because Saudi Arabia views an Iranian-aligned government as a threat to its economic interests. Saudi Arabia is also currently bombing Yemen into oblivion as fears of a Shi’a led government capable of aligning itself with Tehran became a probable reality in 2015.

Most hypocritical, however, was the following statement: “Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.”

Even establishment outlets such as the BBC could not allow this statement to go unchecked. The BBC stated: “And amongst several cynical reactions to the speech from around the region on social media, some have pointed out that here in Saudi Arabia women are forbidden to drive and there are no parliamentary elections. In Iran, the country accused by Mr Trump of being behind much of the current terrorism across the Middle East,they have just had a free election and women are free to drive.”

Iran’s recent elections saw one of the heaviest turnouts in the country’s history, much higher than that of the United States. It is technically one of the most democratic countries in the region. While Iran would not be considered greatly democratic by Western standards, this is a testament to how undemocratic Iran’s rivals in the region are, including Saudi Arabia. Even prisoners were allowed to vote in Iran, something so-called democratic countries such as New Zealand disallow.

Despite all of this “Iranophobic” sentiment, it is also worth noting that Iran’s alleged nuclear program is rarely discussed in the international arena anymore. This is because the Trump administration is well aware that the Iranian nuclear deal reached in 2015 is working – and there is no current nuclear threat from Iran. In this context, the U.S. government has to look for alternative modes of hyping up an Iranian threat to justify a massive arms deal.

And yet, spearheaded by Trump, the Arab world has just announced a new military pact that will directly confront Iran. Called the “Riyadh Declaration,” the pact was signed by representatives from 55 Islamic nations that have vowed “to combat terrorism in all its forms, address its intellectual roots, dry up its sources of funding and to take all necessary measures to prevent and combat terrorist crimes in close cooperation among their states.”

The military pact will also include an “Islamic Military Coalition,” which will “provide a reserve force of 34,000 troops to support operations against terrorist organizations when needed.”

How can a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, combat terrorism and extremism when Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist philosophy is responsible for most of today’s terrorism-related problems? As noted by the Independent: “The state systematically transmits its sick form of Islam across the globe, instigates and funds hatreds, while crushing human freedoms and aspiration…The jaw simply drops. Saudi Arabia executes one person every two days…Raif Badawi, a blogger who dared to call for democracy, was sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes. Last week, 769 faithful Muslim believers were killed in Mecca where they had gone on the Hajj. Initially, the rulers said it was ‘God’s will’ and then they blamed the dead.”

The original text of the document was heavily infatuated with Iran but has since been amended. The original text also said these troops would be deployed to Syria and Iraq “when needed,” which is — again — clearly aimed at countering Iranian influence as Iran is heavily tied to both countries. Saudi Arabia has already expressed its intention to send troops into Syria multiple times before, with the exclusive goal of ensuring that “liberated areas [do] not fall under the control of Hizballah, Iran or the regime.”

The United States, Britain, and associated forces are creeping into Syria as we speak,directly paving the way for an all-out confrontation with Syrian troops in al-Tanf. Just last week, the U.S. military bombed these troops, even though they are directly backed by Iran (and most likely Russia, too).

This is no secret to the mainstream media. The Washington Post just released an article hours ago entitled “How Trump could deal a blow to Iran — and help save Syria,” with the conclusion that the battle for al-Tanf  is “a fight that the United States cannot and should not avoid.” Dealing a strategic blow to Iran and Syria will only empower ISIS given that they are the most heavily engaged entities fighting the terror groups in Syria.

The Trump administration’s seeds are being sown in tandem with the corporate media. Trump’s speech had nothing to do with radical Islam. It was written by Stephen Miller, the “architect” of Donald Trump’s travel ban (a policy that also vehemently targeted Iran, among other countries).
Selling a war with Iran to the American public may be difficult considering the Islamic nation twice elected a reformist who is open to making diplomatic deals with the United States. However, selling a war that will take place inside Syria is somewhat less problematic, even if that war is against the Syrian government, as the American public is easily manipulated by Assad’s alleged war crimes. As Iran is Syria’s closest ally, it will be easily drawn into a confrontation.

If Saudi Arabia’s coalition of anti-Iranian Muslim nations illegally joins this battle arena, the resulting war will be catastrophic.

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