Cables show US reliance on violent military groups in Indonesia. Embassy in London recommended BBC as good means of policy promotion. Thai general Prem prepared coup d’état. Obama’s military presence in Uganda may be due to US oil interests. Irish officials were careful not to investigate whether Shannon airport was used for extraditions. US embassy in the Philippines lobbied against cheap medicine. Austrian gambling mogul establishes himself in lawless Peru.
Sri Lankan government reaction to labor slowdown protests: Colombo Telegraph reports on a 2009 cable from Sri Lanka, which describes how labor unions launched a “work-to-rule” labor action in reaction to wage freezes, refusing any non-contractual duties. After the action, the government moved to make strikes illegal in the service sector. The cable claims that the government wage freezes were initially due to the war against the [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam], and now because of the IMF agreement which imposed budget deficit goals.
|“Our interests depend on these forces” Photo from http://bit.ly/smBqzX.|
US complicity in Indonesian violence: GreenLeft reports that Indonesian police in October admitted to receiving tens of millions of dollars to provide security for the Grasberg mine. The money came from the US Freeport company which co-owns the mine, and the security forces took liberties in repressing workers demanding wage increases. Other instances of government forces supported by foreign interests can be found in Indonesia’s recent history. Embassy cables show that the US has conspired to find ways around a ban on the provision of training for military units complicit in human rights violations. In 2010, US funding and training of the special forces unit Kopassus began anew, a group notorious for its violence, as claimed by Human Rights Watch and investigative journalist Allan Nairn. A US cable from October 2008 said, “Our interests depend on these forces and their police counterparts for protection” against terrorism and “violent demonstrations.”
US Military, Renditions and Shannon: The Wikileaks Cables from Dublin: Shannonwatch, a website dedicated to following the use of the Dublin airport Shannon for military purposes, has reviewed a set of cables relating to CIA and US military activity on the airport. Common themes in the cables are a reliance among Irish officials on US assurances that the airport has not been used for renditions coupled with an unwillingness to verify that belief. But “Council of Europe and European Parliament inquiries have identified Shannon airport as a stopover point in the US renditions programme,” Shannonwatch has previously reported. The cables also repeatedly note support among political leaders for letting the US use the airport for transits, and that the public have held the contrary view.
New Saudi defense chief believes democracy ‘ill-suited’ to the kingdom: A 2007 cable on Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, governor of Riyadh for fifty years and newly appointed defence minister of Saudi Arabia, says that while the minister is somewhat progressive, he is opposed to democracy in Saudi Arabia, arguing that tribal division in the country makes it impossible.
Strengthening US-Sri Lankan relations: A cable from Sri Lanka details meetings from November 2-8, 2009 between Sri Lankan and US officials. The cable notes that Sri Lankan officials gave recommendations on how to strengthen US-Sri Lankan relations. Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa felt that the US had not recognized the steps Sri Lanka had made towards democracy. He denied that the military was expanding, despite Defense budget increases, which he said were for meeting payments for acquisitions from China, Pakistan, and Israel.
Another cable reports on how Basil Rajapaksa in the same week criticized the US for its harsh criticisms against Sri Lanka, arguing that a friendlier tone would be more helpful. Responding to the content of the criticism, he said: “I’m not saying we’re clean; we could not abide by international law – this would have gone on for centuries, an additional 60 years.”
Corporate practices and economic policies^
Billionaire Graf Seeks Gamblers Abroad as Rules Pinch: With Austria and Germany moving towards tighter legislation on gambling, slot-machine maker Novomatic looks to expand to less developed countries. The company is already established in Peru, where, according to a cable, there are “lax to non-existent regulatory controls, a toothless Gaming Commission staffed by unqualified personnel, and a cursory registration process.” The cable adds that the gaming sector in the country “is thus wide open to money launderers, drug traffickers, and counterfeiters both Peruvian and foreign.”
Germany’s view on a Greece bailout and potential Eurozone exit: Zero Hedge and Beacon Equity Research write on the dilemma facing Germany amidst the European debt crisis. A February 2010 cable from Germany reveals some of the US’ view on Germany’s unwillingness to bail out Greece and a potential move to withdraw from the Eurozone. The cable adds that a Deputy Head at the European Central Bank claimed that the IMF would not bail out Greece. An economist is quoted as saying that “a worst case scenario” would be Germany exiting the Eurozone in 20 years.
The drug war and free-market capitalism: Free-market principles are blocking development towards democracy and away from violence. In 2009, the US argued that proposals that the minimum wage in Haiti should be raised to USD5 per day, did not take the economic reality into account. Similarly, the economic reality of Mexican manufacturing jobs being moved to Asia is leading to unemployed instead being hired by violent Mexican gangs.
US lobbied against cheap medicine in the Philippines: Cables show that Ambassador Kristie Kenny helped US pharmaceutical companies lobby against the introduction of the Cheaper Medicine Act in the country. By modifying patent regulations, the bill was intended to increase competition between makers, something the US wished to avoid. The bill was finally passed, but with certain modifications to accommodate for US concerns regarding data exclusivity.
Media and censorship^
China increases online surveillance and censorship: Sina Corp, Maidu, Alibaba and other Chinese companies have reached an agreement with the Chinese government for increased online censorship. Several US companies, including Microsoft and Google, have adopted Chinese censorship requirements. As discussed in a cable, Western companies fear being excluded from the Chinese market through state intervention.
China Web Users Seek Closer Read on Pollution: The US embassy in Beijing has for a year tweeted air pollution readings. Often reporting rampant pollution levels, these readings differ starkly from the official Chinese figures on pollution. An unofficial vote on a Chinese website shows that 98% of the 38,000 who have responded so far think the measurement standards used by the embassy should be adopted by Chinese authorities. As reported in a cable, the Chinese government in 2009 requested that the US stop its reports on pollution in Beijing, as it was “confusing” the Chinese public.
Collusion, confusion and control: John Pilger on the media: The Murdoch media empire is far from alone in serving powerful Western interests: the victims of Western state crime are systematically forgotten in the news reporting of Western media. In 2003, BBC editor Andrew Marr said that “Tony Blair said that we would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath. He has been proved conclusively right.” In 2010, the US ambassador to London recommended that Hillary Clinton in relation to a conference on Afghanistan give an interview to Andrew Marr, saying that it would be “powerful way for you to set out our priorities for Afghanistan/Pakistan.”
Military and arms issues^
Has Obama Just Kicked Off Another Oil War – This Time in Africa?: Obama has announced that US troops will be deployed to Uganda. The stated reason for the deployment is that the troops will help fight the violent guerrilla group LRA, but the actual reason might be oil. The US congress has passed a bill stating that after having neutralized the LRA, the US should look to provide for its other interests in the region, which the cables show are centered around oil. In addition, a cable reports on a 2008 meeting between US officials and representatives of the Ugandan People’s Defense Force, whose leader owns 25% of the security firm Saracen International, where it was argued that the new interest in oil in the country would raise the need for security. The US troops deployed in the country will likely be joined by mercenaries.
Saudi Arabia, UAE funded jihadi networks in Pakistan: A cable based on reports by officials in the Punjab region in Pakistan states that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provided some USD 100 million per year in funding to groups using child soldiers. The funding is to have been approved of by the governments of both countries. The group has reportedly taken advantage of poverty in the Punjab region to enlist children to military training.
Al Qaeda’s North Africa branch: An article on Al Qaeda’s affiliate branch in North Africa, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), notes that the West is worried over the organisation’s increasing activity. Though the leadership is in Algeria, kidnapping of tourists in Niger have been used by AQIM to gain revenue. A cable cites a French diplomat as saying that AQIM was the number one priority for France in Africa in February 2010. The US has had a similar position, increasing counter-terrorism support to regional governments to 150 million USD per year.
Exploiting investigations in Hariri’s assassination case to pressure, destabilize Syria: A cable sent from Beirut in 2007 shows that Lebanese Minister of Justice Charles Rizk tried to prevent the release of four officers that had been ordered freed by the International Tribunal, a group formed to investigate the murder of prime minister Hariri. Another cable cites French officials as arguing that the tribunal should be focused on disarming the Hezbollah, while a third cable reports that president Bush wanted sanctions imposed on Syria, due to its unwillingness to cooperate with the tribunal.
US perspectives on domestic policies^
Thailand: Prem’s coup politics: In 2006, Privy Council president General Prem Tinsulanonda made a series of speeches to cadets and soldiers, in which he called on them to be loyal to the king rather than to the government, a reports. The media at the time saw this as preparation for a coup. The fact that the US embassy made no comment on this makes it clear that it had sided with the general.
TNA leader is a “show-me-the-money” man: During a 2009 meeting with the US ambassador, R. Sampanthan, leader of the Tamil National Alliance, pointed out that TNA found itself in an advantageous situation for the upcoming elections, as it could tip the election either way. Before lending his support to either side, Mr Sampantan was determined to extract as many concessions as possible.
US diplomatic cables portray Ahtisaari as straight-talking and formidable peace mediator: Cables show that Martti Ahtisaari, a mediator in Kosovo during the 2006 war and by far the Finn most often referred to in the cablegate material, has consistently been held in high esteem by the US. He is described as a tough and “straight-talking” mediator, in particular with regards to the demands put forth by the Serbs. While Ahtisaari had the support of the US, he had a mutually hostile relationship with Russia. According to Ahtisaari, Putin’s opposition to a separation of Kosovo was due to fears that it would be the beginning of the development of a Muslim state.
Mugabe attempted ‘a coup on himself’: The US embassy in Harare has on several occasions been asked to assist in efforts to stage coups against president Mugabe. One such request, from businessman Learnmore Muzvidzwa, was rejected after the embassy caught suspicion that the coup was a scheme by the Central Intelligence Organisation to divert attention from the government, a cable states. The suspicion is strengthened by the fact that the businessman in question has not faced any consequences after the publication of the cables.
Netanyahu and Arafat reactions to 1995 Rabin assasination: Haaretz reports on a cable documenting Netanyahu’s reaction to the assassination of left-wing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on November 4, 1995. Netanyahu was concerned that there would be a backlash against his right-wing Likud party. However, he managed to skate by Shimon Peres in elections a year later. Another cable reports that after the assassination, Yasser Arafat and other Palestinian officials were shocked and worried over the possibilities for peace in the future. They also predicted that Netanyahu would defeat Peres in elections.
Sonia Gandhi opens up to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wife: Though usually reserved when appearing in public, Sonia Gandhi in 2006 discussed gender issues, birth control and her political background with Maria Shriver. It appears that Shriver after the conversation went straight to the embassy to file a report on the conversation.
Impact of cables^
Fresh divisions around Mugabe: Zimbabwe’s Joint Operations Command, a group of top officials surrounding president Mugabe, fought closely together to secure power for Mugabe ahead of the 2008 elections. The many revelations contained in WikiLeaks cables have now, however, divided the group. A government official reports that relations between members of the group have been chilled.
Iran Calls IAEA Nuclear Weapons Report ‘Fictitious’ Plot: The Iranian government has rejected claims made in a report by the IAEA that Iran has been working on developing nuclear weapons. In a statement given to the Iranian state-run Press TV, the Iranian government also refers to a cable reported on by others last week, which cites IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano as saying that he would side with the US on every important strategic issue, including that of Iran. Other articles note that on the surface Amano aimed to take a more neutral position than his predecessor for PR reasons. In fact, he clearly intended to the side with the US.