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.
Politics
  • 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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