Iran & Israel: Falling In Love Again?

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One of my best friends currently lives in America, only I don’t know where she lives. When she was only a child her family decided that it was better that way. Her father (a military man in Iran during the Shahs’s reign), died of cancer before Latifa and her mother fled to England. Roughly three years into their stay here, Latifa’s mother died of cancer and eventually Latifa went to live with a deeply religious and deeply devout family belonging to the Plymouth Bretheren, a radical Christian denomination. Quite what Latifa’s mother saw in what seemed to us to be an extremely eccentric, religious sect we will never know. Suffice it to say my mother pulled out all the stops to see to it that Latifa was delivered out of that hot house of fundamentalism, and back into the hands of the American branch of her family. Latifa’s mother had destroyed every possible record that could have enabled anybody to trace the other remaints of her family, so it is testament to my mother’s tenaciousness that Latifa’s brother was eventually traced, and Latifa travelled to America to start a new life with her brother and was never seen again.

What does this have to do with Ahmadinejad? Nothing really, the Iranian Republic came into existence, a tragedy for those people who suffered when the Shah fell in 1979, a triumph for those people who didn’t much like the perceived moral and spiritual turpitude encouraged by the Shah. And since Israel had been the Shah’s friend, why it should only follow that they would be perceived as the Iranian Republic’s enemy. And so we have the state of play that was existant for 26 years, up to and including the initial year of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, now I could waste considerable time typing up the point by point, ‘tit’ for ‘tat’ animosity that comprised Israel’s relationship with Iran up till now, but I believe I’ll just insert a detailed description supplied courtesy of Wikipedia.

‘In 2010, a wave of assassinations targeting Iranian nuclear scientists began. The assassinations were widely believed to be the work of Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service. According to Iran and global media sources, the methods used to kill the scientists is reminiscent of the way Mossad had previously assassinated targets. The assassinations were alleged to be an attempt to stop Iran’s nuclear program, or to ensure that it cannot recover following a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. In the first attack, particle physicist Masoud Alimohammadi was killed on 12 January 2010 when a booby-trapped motorcycle parked near his car exploded. On 12 October 2010, an explosion occurred at an IRGC military base near the city of Khorramabad, killing 18 soldiers. On 29 November 2010, two senior Iranian nuclear scientists, Majid Shahriari and Fereydoon Abbasi, were targeted by hitmen on motorcycles, who attached bombs to their cars and detonated them from a distance. Shahriari was killed, while Abbasi was severely wounded. On 23 July 2011, Darioush Rezaeinejad was shot dead in eastern Tehran. On 11 January 2012, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan and his driver were killed by a bomb attached to their car from a motorcycle.

In June 2010 Stuxnet, an advanced computer worm was discovered. It is believed that it had been developed by US and Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. In a study conducted by ISIS it is estimated that Stuxnet might have damaged as many as 1,000 centrifuges (10% of all installed) in the Natanz enrichment plant. Other computer viruses and malware, including Duqu and Flame, were reportedly related to Stuxnet.

On 15 March 2011, Israel seized a ship from Syria bringing Iranian weapons to Gaza. In addition, the Mossad was also suspected of being responsible for an explosion that reportedly damaged the nuclear facility at Isfahan. Iran denied that any explosion had occurred, but The Times reported damage to the nuclear plant based on satellite images, and quoted Israeli intelligence sources as saying that the blast indeed targeted a nuclear site, and was “no accident”. Hours after the blast took place, Hezbollah fired two rockets into northern Israel, causing property damage. The Israel Defense Forces reacted by firing four artillery shells at the area from where the launch originated. It was speculated that the attack was ordered by Iran and Syria as a warning to Israel. The Israeli attack was reported to have killed 7 people, including foreign nationals. Another 12 people were injured, of whom 7 later died in hospital. The Mossad was also suspected of being behind an explosion at a Revolutionary Guard missile base in November 2011. The blast killed 17 Revolutionary Guard operatives, including General Hassan Moqaddam, described as a key figure in Iran’s missile program. Israeli journalist Ron Ben-Yishai wrote that several lower-ranked Iranian missile experts had probably been previously killed in several explosions at various sites.’

– Wikipedia (2013)

And so now we have President Rouhani, a popular moderate cleric, embarking upon the first efforts made in 30 years to establish a workable relationship with America, with the full support of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. What’s not to like? Iran may still have questions to answer, but take a long look at what Israel has been up to with the help of it’s allies, that’s all in the past now it’s true. But if both Iran and America play their cards right, here’s a real opportunity to sue for a globally beneficial peace, or at least a lengthy laying down of arms.

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USA Versus Syria: Market Boom or Bust?

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Thinking about this seriously, what would be the profit margins if America did go to war with Syria?

‘With the stock market at an all-time high, we are frequently asked about the situation in Syria, and whether now might be a good time to beat a hasty retreat from stocks.  To address these concerns, we reviewed historical capital markets performance during times of war.’

– Mark Armbruster , CFA (Chartered Financial Analysis)

Now most of us might be considering the thousands of refugees, who have had to flee to the borders of their own country in order to escape chaos, mayhem and death. Others may be thinking about the fact that the outside world, appears to have been caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, do we fund the insurgents who may include Al-Qaedah terrorists? Or do we send in soldiers of our own. But there is a third group seriously intent upon balancing the books on profit and loss;and if you think that’s reprehensible then consider the Iraq war.

In advance of the invasion, the Iraqi government opened the warehouses and distributed six months of food rations to the population. Each package bore the sign: “Remember to feed a resistance fighter.” Small arms, explosives and simple instructions for making improvised explosive devices were publicly distributed. In spite of this, Iraq was invaded, Saddam Hussein was overthrown, and the corporations moved in, raking upwards of  $17.2 billion dollars in three fiscal years (in the case of Halliburton Inc.), and in the case of Veritas Capital Fund making upwards of $1.44 billion through a subsidiary DynCorp. Aegis, a British company, saw fit to benefit from the Iraq war, by securing a contract to coordinate all of Iraq’s private security operations, the Pentagon contract was good for $430 million. However, the company’s decision to contribute to Iraq war efforts, lead to a rejected membership application from the International Peace Operations Association. According to The Independent, the influential trade organization did not consider Aegis worthy of inclusion in the “peace and stability industry.” It remains to be seen whether Aegis will continue to be ostracised for participating in the training of Iraqi security forces.

So what of Syria? True, it does appear that the likelihood of an invasion by occupying powers is a long ways off, but America, the United Kingdom and France have guaranteed support to the Syrian rebels, with the United States prepared to send $100 million in aid. There may, therefore, in the future, arise a scenario whereby, the help of American, French and British companies is enlisted, in restoring Syria’s infrastructure. Companies like for example, International American Products, may find themselves called on once again to restore electricity supplies. Fluor made find itself rebuilding and managing water supplies and the Perini Corporation (sans Senator Diane Feinstein), made find itself called upon once more to engage in the environmental clean up of Syria, once the dust has settled. Yes, the war in Syria might very well turn out to be an exceedingly lucrative affair for those funding the Syrian insurgents, those whom it appears are to a limited degree being reluctantly persuaded, to embrace the road to negotiations and eventual peace. A lucrative affair for western corporations, maybe not so beneficial for those who have lost their relatives, livelihoods, and homes in this struggle for what truly constitutes a democracy.

Super Prisons: Saving Money But At What Cost?

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‘For all the advances we have made, and are making in education, we still, every year allow thousands more children to join an educational underclass-they are the lost souls our schooling system has failed. It is from that underclass that gangs draw their recruits, young offenders institutions find their inmates and prisons replenish their cells’
– Michael Gove

285, that’s the number of exception reports submitted by government run secure training centres concerning warning signs or serious injuries ,detected during or following the use of physical control in these units ,between 2006 and 2011, on average that works out to 57 incidents a year.
111, that’s the number of incidents of physical restraint per month, in privately run secure training centres, from 2011-2012.
68 per month, that’s the number of incidents of physical restraint which result in injury. These are just the facts I’m quoting here mind,I may need to resort to more emotive language later, but let us continue.

In the financial year 2012-2013, 19,140 prisoners were forced to share a cell designed for one person. A further 777 prisoners were made to sleep three to a cell, in cells designed to accommodate only two prisoners.
The worse affected prison? HMP Wandsworth, followed by Altcourse, Doncaster, Birmingham, Pentonville, Preston, Manchester, Nottingham, Durham and Elmley.
17%, the percentage by which prison officer numbers have dropped in four years. 20,000, the totalnumber of prisoners kept in overcrowded conditions between 2012-2013. So you have a toxic combination of prisoners who didn’t want to be in prison in the first place, kept in cramped conditions, closely overseen by demoralised prison officers who are overstretched because they’re understaffed.

Chris Grayling’s solution to all the statistics? ‘A reconfiguring of the prison estate’ the shutting down of four prisons, HMP Blundeston, HMP Dorhester, Northallerton and Reading prisons. Thus increasing the number of slashed ‘unstrategic and uneconomic’ prison places from 2,800 to 4,200 and in the process reducing the overall prison budget by another £30million a year. A 2,000-place prison is to be built in Wrexham, North Wales and a second ‘super-prison’ may very well be built in the south east. Secretary of State for Wales David Jones has greeted this news with ecstatic approval listing the many commercial benefits that will accrue to Wrexham as a result of one of the UK’s first ever super prisons being located there. Others have been less enthused and here’s why.
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Professor Andrew Coyle, a former Governor of Brixton prison has argued that
‘There is clear evidence from the chief inspector of prisons that prisons should ideally hold no more than 500 prisoners in order to function at their most effective.Going beyond that number pretty much amounts to warehousing.’

Imagine an environment in which there are low numbers of experienced prison officers due to Ministry of Justice lay-offs and a large number of experienced
prisoners. An environment in which prisoners who have been wrongly categorised could pass under the radar, until they either harm themselves or assault another prisoner and where once they are referred for help they may find themselves caught up in a vast back log of similar cases. Imagine a regimen which sees a sudden upsurge in prison numbers, because this is after all a ‘super prison’ and it can therefore take the extra capacity; then imagine the resultant problems as levels of sick leave increase amongst the staff who are hardly ‘super-human’. Imagine a situation in which only 10% of prisoners have been allocated a ‘plan’ detailing the steps the prison intends to take in rehabilitating them and eventually getting them ready for a return to some sort of viable existence in the outside world, that excludes the need to committ crime. If you think that this is an exaggeration then read the report written on HMP Oakwood by an independent monitoring board appointed by the Ministry of Justice. The largest UK prison built so far it was originally supposed to house 1,600 prison inmates, it now houses 1,800, a number that the prison staff were never expecting to have to cope with.
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‘Say you need 3,000 staff for a super prison. Where do they come from, does it plough jobs into the community or does it become an almost single employer?’ asks Paddy Scriven, general secretary of the Prison Governors Association. And she’s right to ask, for the prospect of one entire section of society becoming entirely reliant upon the incarceration of another section of that same society in order to earn its bread and butter, is disquieting to say the least.

Grayling has come up with a superbly cost-effective way to resolve the increasing cost of UK Prisons, but at what cost to those prisoners relocated vast distances to prisons which their families can’t afford to visit. A story comes to mind of a young man who, on being released from a prison some considerable distance from his community , found that he had missed his baby son being born. His anger was so great, that he committed a series of offences which quickly landed him back in prison. Privately run super prisons may cost society less financially but one wonders about the human cost.
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