Kinross-Tasiast Mauritania: Questionable Values

0606kinrossTasisastMine
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Kinross-Tasiast has been a hot topic in the mining community for at least two years, since the take-over of Red Back mining in September 2010, stirring much speculation among stock market traders as well as anticipation from unemployed Mauritanian graduates. Yet it remains an impenetrable mystery. The precious ore is extracted far from prying eyes hoping to catch a glimpse of the truth, to confirm their unanswered questions and suspicions. Despite its many problems, the mine is claimed to have achieved something in the order of US$2.5 billion annual revenue, under an agreement where Mauritania receives only 3%.  With traders losing faith in the promised gold, and the jobless Mauritanians still looking for work, the big question is: “where is the money?”

Tasiast was touted as the second largest gold deposit in Africa, making it irresistible to international companies lured to Mauritania by the promise of massive returns. By April 2012, the Executive Board of Kinross Gold was cloistered for two days in the Canary Islands at the Las Palmas regional headquarters of the Canadian gold mining giant. They were urgently discussing a major capital optimization study for its mines in Ghana and Mauritania. The meeting came at a critical juncture for Kinross Gold, facing massive cost escalation on its development projects, after already announcing delays to the Ghanaian Lobo-Marte and Fruta del Norte projects to focus on Tasiast.

A series of negative events triggered a sharp fall in share price in January 2012m when US$3.1 billion – about 21% of its value – was wiped out after announcing a $2.49 billion write off – part of the US$4.6 billion “goodwill” included in the US$7.1 billion cost of the Red Back purchase, and a 6-9 months’ delay before Tasiast gold production would come on-stream, at which time it would fail to meet previous output estimates.

Then in March, the company was hit with a $4-billion class action lawsuit related to the troubles at Tasiast, filed by Canadian firm Koskie Minsky LLP. “Based on our investigation, we are prepared to pursue litigation to preserve the company and the value of Kinross Gold stock for all shareholders, including seeking removal of certain officers and directors and monetary payments,” said shareholder rights attorney Willie Briscoe. The complaint charged that Kinross Gold’s financial statements were not fairly presented in conformity with International Financial Reporting Standards and were materially false and misleading.

This was the second such suit in less than a month, after a similar claim was filed in the United States in February. Both lawsuits relate to Kinross Gold’s disclosure around Tasiast: that the miner made misrepresentations relating to the quality and quantity of gold ore.

With the write-off, plus punitive damages in the offing, cost-cutting would be at the top of the agenda in Las Palmas. They would also need to decide how to respond to an unexpected tax demand for several million dollars from Mauritania.

The meeting would also be an ideal opportunity to discuss the creation of a plan, since, despite allocating a budget of $US800 million for Tasiast this year, and being way behind schedule, they don’t have one.

Speaking as a programme manager, this would be the most disturbing fact about Kinross Gold I have uncovered, were it not for the fatal plane crash in July which claimed seven lives, all Mauritanians, and to which Kinross reacted with condolences for the deceased and their families, but also saw fit to mention that no Kinross staff were killed, no gold was on board, and that the tragedy would not impact mining operations. It certainly made a difference to the loved ones of the seven people who died. The pilot’s sister is still struggling to cope with her grief.

Top-down de-staffing

Despite offical denials, removal of “certain officers and directors” did happen, although it is not clear whether this was solely in response to the lawsuits. People who were formerly described in glowing terms as “integral” to the growth of the company, and especially the flagship Tasiast project, disappeared.  Calls to their numbers via the Kinross switchboard went unanswered, and the receptionist said they had left the company.

Based on press releases, it is apparent some of them found new jobs:

  • TIMOTHY C. BAKER– Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, when the due diligence was being done on the Red Back transaction.
  • THOMAS M. BOEHLERT– Executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer.  He left soon after the Red Back transaction.
  • KENNETH G. THOMAS– Senior Vice-President, Projects.  This was the man responsible for the Tasiast expansion project.
  • ROBERT D. HENDERSON– Senior Vice-President, Technical Services.  He signed off as a “Qualified Person” on most of the Kinross Gold mines’ reporting.
  • MARK E. ISTO– Senior Vice-President, Project Development.  Coordinated work with engineering consultants for Tasiast.
  • MARK D. SEDORE—Vice-President, Technical Services.  He signed off as a “Qualified Person” on Tasiast.

For a while it seemed as though the one man who has profited most from Kinross, CEO Tye Burt, who was awarded total compensation of US$50-60-million since 2005 in the form of cash, share and option-based awards and pension value, would never leave, but he finally got canned in August after a drop in Q2 profits.

Whoever was still around in April would have had to discuss the Tasiast mine expansion project in their meeting. This is a project which had previously been considered impracticable by independent and separate expert studies. However, Ken Thomas, who joined Kinross Gold from Hatch in 2010, seemingly had his heart set on engaging the company in what later proved a costly and reckless adventure. The expansion project, which included two processing plants with a complex infrastructure, would have to be cancelled or curtailed. But Kinross had already outsourced to a host of foreign sub-contractors. If the board decided to surrender the project indefinitely, the subcontractors would not relinquish their claims without some form of compensation.

Subcontractor perks

Some subcontracted companies based in Mauritania enjoy(improperly) the same dispensations and benefits as Kinross-Tasiast. This situation has come about either by contrivance, or through the ignorance of the Mauritanian authorities which carved out the Tasiast deal. The primary subcontractor was Hatch, a Canadian consulting firm whose mission was the study and monitoring of the expansion project.

The key expansion project subcontractor is Consolidated Contractors Company [CCC], an Arabian construction company, owned by a Palestinian from Lebanon, and based in Greece. CCC was in charge of Civil Engineering works to build the expansion project plant at a cost of US$1 billion.

The project being mothballed, CCC has been thrown some million-dollar bones to chew on while waiting for the return of better times, but they are all projects which were originally slated to be awarded to Mauritanian companies. CCC now supports construction of the airport at Tasiast; an asphalt road linking the site to the road between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou – and related works; and a pipeline project to supply fresh water. To do this, it employs 110 expatriates and not a single Mauritanian.

In those situations where local people are employed, the recruitment practices reflect the grace-and-favour cronyism that is endemic in Mauritanian society. “Kinross employs about 300 Mauritanian workers, strictly for manual labour, and 5 in 6 of them almost exclusively have the same tribal affiliation,”  says one worker.

Second in line is DORCE, a Turkish company based in Ankara, tasked with construction of a workforce camp of about 7,000 rooms, for a total of US$100 million. It employs 500 expatriates and 600 locals, but 80% of the Mauritanians are small traders.

Next is the turn of Friedlander (ORTEC Group), a French company specializing in plumbing, whose mission is limited to the construction of a pipeline feeding the plant with seawater to clean extracted ore. It employs 50 expatriates, as well as a workforce of labourers, of which 70% are from sub-Saharan Africa.

Fourth most important is CIS, an international catering company with headquarters in France, operating in Mauritania as NAC, and responsible for a catering contract worth US$11 million. CIS, or NAC, employs 30 expatriates and more than 400 Mauritanian staff. The indigenous employees are hired without permanent employment contracts, working 12 hours a day for a measly 70,000 Ouguiyas (about US$230) at the end of the month, and no entitlement to overtime. No wonder the company has no operations in France other than an office: the EU labour laws forbid such treatment.

According to one worker, “There are of course other, less visible foreign companies operating behind the scenes, seemingly unknown to the Mauritanian tax man, but appearing on the list of companies associated with Kinross-Tasiast.”

“The ‘Mauritanisation’ of workers obviously does not apply to these companies,” one worker voices. “Here, they conspire with the authorities, with the compliance of the labour inspector, to keep almost everything in the dark,” concludes a team leader. “Cheating is endemic here,” reveals a Mauritanian civil rights activist. “For example, salaries of expatriate workers of these various companies are kept under wraps. Expats working in that area of Kinross-Tasiast which they call “operations” are managed from the regional office in Las Palmas.”

Another indignant  Mauritanian engineer adds, “Kinross-Tasiast is just a big scam.”

“Regardless of the level of commitment from the government in wanting to impose real transparency on these vested interests,” adds a technician, “it will never happen.”

NMA TV’s Take on Hollande’s France Election Win

Auf wiedersehen, Merkozy
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Francois Hollande was elected president of France in the 2012 French presidential election Sunday, becoming France’s first Socialist president in 17 years. Hollande defeated incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy on promises to reassess austerity deals aimed at solving Europe’s financial crisis in favor of pro-growth remedies, and to increase taxes for the rich.

The results of the French presidential election were echoed in Greece, where voters also punished pro-austerity parties in the polls, and are a major rejection for Franco-German led belt-tightening under former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Is the end of “Merkozy,” the Franco-German partnership that has enforced the austerity regime, a good thing?

The Euro hit a three and a half year low against the pound as financial markets reacted to the election results in France and Greece. What is the austerity backlash at the polls going to mean for the Eurozone?

Whither Eurozone?

Auf wiedersehen, Merkozy

News from Iran – Week 14 – 2012

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News of the Prisoners

B- Arrests/Incarcerations

  • Blogger Ahmad Reza Ahmadpour is back in Ahvaz prison after a short time out on furlough for Norooz.
  • Civil activist Morteza Avazpour has been arrested in Tabriz .
  • Journalist Mehran Faraji reported to Evin today to start serving his 6 months sentence.
  • Milad Karimi member of Kurdish Democratic Students League reported to Sanandaj prison to start serving his 6 months sentence.
  • Journalist Mehdi Mahmoudian is back in prison after 6 days out on furlough.
  • Ahmad Miri back in Babol prison after a short furlough for Norooz holidays.
  • Baha’i Eighan Shahidi currently out on bail has been summoned to Evin to start serving his 5 years sentence.
  • Alireza Shahiri back in Babol prison after a short furlough for Norooz holidays.
  • Furlough extension for journalist Ahmad Zeydabadi was denied, he is back in Evin.
  • Iran arrest of dozens of young boys and girls who participated in a mixed party organized via Facebook -near Noshahr.
  • Government forces have reportedly arrested 50 farmers in the Arab regions of Iran protesting land grab.
  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guard arrests 40 Kurdish residents of a village outside of Khoy.


C-Liberations

  • Popular singer Arya Aramnejad’s furlough has been converted to permanent release from prison by a judicial order.
  • Peyman Aref has been released from prison.
  • Baha’i Erfan Shojaei has been released on bail after 1 month detention in Kerman prison.
  • Khamenei pardons 1002 prisoners.


D-Other News

  • Journalist Ehsan Houshmand beaten during interrogation.
  • Kurdish death row prisoner Shirkoo Moarefi is on hunger strike in Saghez prison. He has been moved to solitary.
  • Fahkrolsadat Mohtashami Pour, wife of political prisoner Mostafa Tajzadeh, writes of husband’s hardship to Grand Ayatollah Vahid Khorasani.


News of injustice in Iran

  • Human Rights activist, member of MourningMothers Mansoureh Behkish sentenced to 4,5 years in prison.
  • Azari civil activist Naser Derazshamshir has been sentenced to 3 1/2 years.
  • Mohammad Hardani, from Iran’s Arab minority, was sentenced to 10 years in prison because of his cultural activities.
  • Iranian journalist working for Shargh newspaper, Reyhaneh Tabatabaei, sentenced to one year jail.


University  – Culture

  • Pursuing an Islamization program, Iran to ban dancing and singing in preschools.
  • New satellite raid reported in Tehran, Ekbatan.
  • Iran to cut off access to world wide web internet by August.
  • Iran’s international English Channel, Press TV removed from SES Astra.


Protests

  • On Thursday, March 15th around 80 former prisoners of war gathered in front of the northern gate of parliament to protest a lack of aid.
  • A number of farmers in the cities of Malasani and Veys gathered to protest new regulations by the Power and Water Organization about irrigation on their lands.
  • Medical students protest in front of health ministry and parliament.


Economy in Iran

  • VAT increased in Persian New Year from 4% to 5%, will continue growing 1% per year per quinquennial plan.
  • 1$ = 1903 Tomans / 1€ = 2550 Tomans.
  • Iran Central Bank withdraws money from Iran’s banks again.
  • Oil negotiations between Tehran and Pretoria hit a dead end and exports to South Africa stop.
  • Uruguay’s Agriculture Minister: We are willing to barter oil for rice.
  • IranAir intends to purchase three Boeing 747-300s through the Emirates. The airplanes that been provided to IranAir were actually sold to an unnamed Gambian company. The Al-Sayegh (Kyrgyzstan based) company currently has two other Boeing 747-300s in its fleet, and both are in storage. They are scheduled to be sold to Iran in May. These two airplanes have been registered in Burkina Faso and were in operation until late 2010 by Centrafrique Air Express.
  • Greece refiner Hellenic Petroleum stops Iran oil buys, banking a problem.
  • The Hyundai Motor Company, South Korean conglomerate, quietly ended its business dealings with Iran.
  • 650 of ‘Shahab Automobile’ workers were fired for their demands in last year.
  • 200 of Steel Company workers, were fired.
  • Emergency meeting of Majlis Economic Committees to submit plan regarding government violation of law in implementation of second stage of subsidy reform law.
  • Domestically grown apples and oranges in Iran rotting in storage because of fruit imports.


Iran  abroad

Hatoyama Yukio 日本語: 鳩山由紀夫

  • Germany stops shipment of 2.5 kilograms of execution drug sodium thiopental to Iran.
  • Khamenei: “Iran opposes any foreign intervention in Syria”.
  • 12 Iranian citizens, including five Iranian engineers, who were abducted by Syrian opposition forces in Syria, were released.
  • Iran summons Turkey ambassador.
  • Main insurance firms in China refuse to insure oil tankers from Iran.
  • Lebanon: Iranian traces in attempted assassination of Christian leader.
  • Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama heads to Iran. 
  • Iran promotes ally to replace aging spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiites.


Politics in Iran

  • Ahmadinejad met with Assad’s special envoy, strongly backed the Syrian regime.
  • Erdogan meetings in Tehran were a disaster, Shargh reports. Major divergence on Syria.
  • Minister of Labor and Social Security has been summoned to Parliament; he may be impeached.
  • Fars News Agency sharply attacks Rafsanjani statements calling for talks with the US.
  • Iran purchases high tech surveillance equipment and Internet filters from China.
  • 1,200 new employees to be recruited for the Foreign Ministry.
  • In 2 regions, Ramsar and Damavand, parliamentary elections for 9th Majlis were voided without an explanation.
  • Second round of SMS asking people to “voluntarily” give up their subsidies.


Miscellaneous

  • Threat of losing fertile land because of unprecedented increase in Karun River salinity in Khouzestan province.
  • 200 tons of corrupted meat discovered in Tehran province.
  • IRGC’s dam breaks in rural area, government denies damage.
  • Iranian Navy said they captured 13 pirates in the Indian Ocean after they tried to seize cargo ship heading for Iran.
  • Afghans living in Iran were banned from a public park; Iranians take to Facebook to condemn racism.
  • Concerns rise again: water level of Lake Urmia dropped by about five centimetres.
  • Hossein Vafaei (17 years old) will make history as the first professional snooker player from Iran.
  • 210% increase in the number of unhealthy days in the Capital of Iran, Tehran.
  • Historic Christian cemetery in Kerman, more than 200 years olds,  destroyed by local authorities and Cultural Heritage Foundation.

News from Iran – Week 09 – 2012

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Several new arrests and some released prisoners in this week, where the good news of an Oscar win was quickly overshadowed by the parliamentary elections in Iran and the increasing impact of sanctions.

News of Prisoners

A-Transfers

  • On day 51 of his hunger strike, Dr. Mehdi Khazali was moved Mon from Ward 350 to high security Ward 209(Intel).
  • Saeed Sangar, sentenced to life time in prison, transferred from Sanandaj prison to an unknown location.

B- Arrests/Incarcerations

  • Mojtaba Babakarami, Mehdi Cheghakaboodi, Shirin Ghanbari, among 13 Christians from Kermanshah, arrested in a raid on a home church last Tuesday. Azadeh Sharifi, also arrested last Tuesday, was released on bail.
  • Meysam Mashayekh, a reformist activist and blogger from Noshahar arrested.
  • Photojournalist Tahmineh Monzavi was arrested 2/18 at her studio, computer and personal items seized from studio and home.
  • Hooman Zarei, Baha’i arrested at his work place in Shiraz.

C-Liberations

  • Sadegh Akhoondi, University Professor, released on bail.
  • Journalist Sahamedin Bourghani has been released on bail.
  • Parastoo Dokoohakhi, journalist, released on bail.
  • Nama Jafari, writer, released on 80 million Toman bail.
  • National Front member Dr. Ali Rashidi has been released.
  • Journalist Marzieh Rasouli was released on 300 million Toman bail.
  • Women’s rights activist Manizheh Sadeghi has been released from Sanandaj prison after finishing her 91 days term.
  • Mohammad Saeed Zakeri, editor in chief of Ninth day, released.

D-Other News

  • Blogger Davood Bahman Abadi on hunger strike.
  • Music forum campaigning for release of jailed Iranian musician Arya Aramnejad.
  • Wife of opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, under house arrest, has no information regarding his situation.
  • Daughter and son-in-law of imprisoned Reformist Tajzadeh have been summoned to court and banned from leaving the country.


News of injustice in Iran

  • Despite finishing his one year sentence, senior Reformist Abolfazl Ghadiani has not been released and has been sentenced to additional three years.
  • Human Rights Activist Kouhyar Goudarzi has been sentenced to 6 Years in prison.
  • 3 years sentence for Saeed Jalilafar confirmed by Appeals.
  • Shahram Karimi lashed 74 times in Evin.
  • Student and human rights activist Mokhtar Zarei has been sentenced to one year in prison by court in Sanandaj.


University  – Culture

  • Bamdad daily banned for publishing letter of clerical students to Mullah Hawzah in Qom complaining about Larijani.
  • ”]Deutsch: Asghar Farhadi präsentiert als Gast d...‘A Séparation’ film by Asghar Farhadi received Independent Spirit Award from The Hollywood Reporter for Best Foreign Film.
  • ‘A Séparation’, Oscar winner 2012  Asghar Farhadi: I proudly offer this award to the people of my country.
  • Former President Khatami congratulated Asghar Farhadi for winning the 1st Iranian Oscar.
  • Sarat news, Beebak news & 598 news have been filtered & Managing Directors summoned by Judiciary
  • Power show to control Azad University after the brother of Research Ministry was imposed by force. Rafsanjani, heading managing committee of Azad University foundation is still trying to resist.
  • 1st Triennial Iranian Studies Conference in Oslo.
  • Police raided neighbourhoods in East Tehran confiscating satellite dishes and threatening people who protested with arrest.
  • University security reportedly summoned students at Shahr-e-Kurd university for building a snowman decorated with a green scarf.
  • Yasmin Fanaeian, Baha’i student in Payam e Noor in Sari, and Shahin Mousavi, Baha’i student of Civil Engineering at the non-profit Tabri University in Babol, have been expelled,
  • Ministry of Education has issued a directive to the country’s schools, to identify and report to the Ministry any Bahai pupils at their schools.
  • Schools are allegedly requiring students to go to voting booths and get a stamp mark + photo evidence of voting.


Economy in Iran

  • A bicycle factory in Ghuchan has not paid its workers in four months.
  • Workers from the Bahman Polymer Company have not been paid for three months.
  • Sam Cable Company of Tehran owes between four and five million Tomans to its workers.
  • The brick factory of Rasekh in Bandar Abbas was closed due to a lack of natural gas.
  • Majlis Economic Committee member: Decision to stop crude supplies to Greece is  a positive action that serves national interests.
  • Iran buys US wheat despite nuclear tensions.
  • Shell purchases 1.5 million barrels of oil from Iran despite sanctions.


Protests

  • Workers from the Ardebil metal company gathered inside the company to protest not being paid for five months and a lack of raw material.
  • On Monday February 6th, workers of Artavil Tires in Ardebil protested in front of the factory against the decision of the owner to close the factory.
  • A large crown reportedly set Iran Majlis election posters on fire in Sari.


Iran  abroad

  • German government calls for the release of Yousef Nadarkhani, Iranian priest sentenced to death.
  • Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi left Tehran to participate in the 19th session of the Human Rights Council, which will be held in Geneva from February 27 to March 23.
  • Azeri Ambassador summoned over arms deal with Israel.
  • Russian bank shuts down Iranian embassy accounts.
  • Clinton: Latin American drug cartels’ links to Iran, Hezbollah a concern.
  • Azerbaijani television hacked from Iran.
  • Iran has sent USD 3.5 million to Zimbabwe to complete tractor assembly plant.


Politics in Iran

  • The committee of Iranian Free Teachers asked all Iranians and teachers around the country to protest the sham election.
  • Candidates in election have to go through screening process. So far, 1200 have been disqualified including 36 serving MPs.
  • Mojtaba Khamenei allegedly met with Moussavi to ask for his collaboration, “given the country’s critical situation” – Mousavi refused to reply to Mojtaba and asked for a direct, private conversation with Khamenei.
  • Position of Sunni leaders on the election; We are not supporting any candidates.
  • Mesbah Yazdi and IRGC form coalition against Mahdavi Kani’s United Principalist Front in parliamentary elections.
  • Iranian Kurdish groups call for boycott of elections.
  • Iranian Opposition demands federalism for Kurdistan.
  • Hundreds of foreign reporters have beeninvited to cover Iran’s parliamentary elections. Foreign journalists allowed to cover Iranian elections are bussed to chosen pooling stations and back to their hotel with no opportunity to meet real people; reports showing mainly elderly people when 65 % of the population in under 30.
  • Election Commission official – 10 foreign “saboteurs” try to disrupt elections arrested.
  • The electoral commission extended polling station opening for 5 hours.
  • The election commission has asked election workers to let people vote, even without ID cards.
  • 530 irregularities noted since electoral lists constitution in Tehran region.
  • Main lists:
    • United Front of Conservatives (Jebheh Mottahed-e Osoolgaraayaan): rather pro-Khamenei but also some pro-Ahmadinejad aussi
    • Resistance Front of Islamic Républic (Jebheh Paaydaari-e Enghlelab-e Eslami): main figure, ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, spiritual mentor of Ahmadinejad
    • Front of People’s Voice (Jebheh Sedaa-ye Mellat): refused from two above-mentionned lists
    • Defense Front of Islamic Républic (Jebheh Eistaadegi Enghelab-e Eslami): supporters of Rezaï, previous IRGC commandor – Mahmoud Alavi, member of Council of Experts who wanted to be part of this list, was barred from candidacy
    • Democratic Front (Jebheh Democrat): réformists wanting to take part in elections.


Miscellaneous

  • Tehran – Zahedan train derailed by sandstorms. Several hours delay but no serious  injuries.
  • In the past 4 years, child marriages reported to have increased by 45 percent.
  • Tehran police shut down 15 clothing stores for selling ‘vulgar dress’.
  • In the past month, five school students and two teachers were reported killed, and dozens injured, in (basiji) rahian-e-noor camps.
  • An outlet of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has opened in the Iranian city of Karaj. The owners claim it is “100% Iranian”

The Repeating Pattern of Protest

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we're all greeksI was invited to a FaceBook event, a day of solidarity with the people of Greece, who are being steamrollered into pay cuts and other austerity measures by a government they didn’t elect. The response from the people has been dramatic and destructive. The  blog post complains that they are suffering in silence. I can’t say I agree since I have seen plenty of news coverage, but it’s the trend these days to complain that no one is paying attention, while ignoring those who are. I am not sure what it is people mean when they say thy are being ignored. What will satisfy them, an hour-long slot on CNN? My reaction is usually: try being a protester somewhere like Iraq, Mauritania or Saudi Arabia for a day, then see if you still want to complain about being ignored.

I scanned the post for information about the goal of this day of unity, to understand what we are supposed to achieve. I know the austerity measures are unpopular, so what is being demanded in their place? I found nothing, and that was a disappointment. If the goal of a protest movement is only to protest, it is too easy to become part of the problem, or even to become a bigger problem.

Where Is My Vote?

Where Is My Vote?

When people in Iran took to the streets to demand their stolen votes, they wanted a fair and transparent recount. It wasn’t long before they got sidetracked into being a protest movement with less tangible goals. With the benefit of hindsight, there are now seemingly-obvious traces of external manipulation, evident from the very start. For example, see the image on the right, of Iranians holding their English-language posters demanding “Where Is My Vote?”. Score one extra point to the Greeks for having the common sense to use Greek as their primary language before offering us translations. English wording on posters might have made a vague kind of sense in the first week, before the international press were expelled, but even that reason risked losing some validity since we heard about the US “democratic outreach” programmes. Given the current assertions from some quarters that the Israeli MOSSAD is supposedly tag-teaming with with the exiled Iranian terrorist MKO / PMOI cult, in fact it makes a kind of sense; though one which makes my flesh crawl. The slogans of June 2009 morphed into “Where Is My Friend?” as the arrests and disappearances spiralled alarmingly in the face of continued protests. They were supposed to scrap the recount idea and demand regime overthrow, or for Khamenei to step down. But it just didn’t work out that way, and most media coverage of the Iranian Green Opposition Movement these days tagged by “Dead or Alive?“.  Worse, Iranian people remain under semi-permanent lockdown, thousands are still in prison, arrests and repression continue, and they’ve lived under the threat since May 2011 of their already heavily filtered internet being replaced by an interNOT.

This is the pattern I see in countries across the Middle East and beyond:

  • Stage 1: People are angry, frustrated, they want change, they go out on the streets to demand it. They get attacked.
  • Stage 2: As the attacks intensify, the demands begin to shift into the impossible blame game where people focus on one person or group (Ben Ali, Mubarak, Gadaffi, SCAF, al Assad, etc)
  • Stage 3:  The dictator or the state responds by saying that the people are a security threat. Resistance is eroded with deaths, arrests, intimidation, smear campaigns, infiltrators, diversionary tactics, etc.
  • Stage 4: Whatever horrors then ensue, after the dust begins to settle, and even if the side-tracked demand has been met, opportunists have seized an advantage and are profiting from the upheaval and carnage.

I’ve only been watching for the past two and a half years, since the Iran election in June 2009, but I assume this is a common pattern among civil protest movements that anyone else could detect without difficulty.

Adbusters OWS Flag

Adbusters OWS Flag

In America, when the “Occupy Wall Street” protests began, I detected an unwillingness to identify with the similar protests that had already happened in Europe, including Greece and most notably in Spain with ¡Democracia real YA! Perhaps because the Europeans demanded “real democracy”, or perhaps because OWS started out as a social media exercise devised by the Adbusters team in Canada, I have never been entirely sure. It requires certain personality traits to drive a successful protest movement, and these types may feel protective of what they regard as their idea, and unwilling to share credit or look as though that they are “jumping on a bandwagon”. If that is the case, I find it oddly undemocratic but completely human. It is also in complete contrast to the Arab uprisings, each often heard proudly claiming to be inspired by the other – with a bit of nudging from media: they do love a good hook.

Lacking a defined austerity package to protest, the Americans skipped the first phase and jumped off at Stage 2: protesting against a group – the 1% – with justifiable anger, but to begin with, no alternative solutions.  It is worth mentioning that the Occupy Movement, in contrast to all other movements I am aware of, was in receipt of significant funds and material donations from an early stage, yet having money does not seem to have advanced the cause. The authorities were happy to oblige with Stage 3, state-sponsored violence against protesters and the entire panoply of tactics (such as infiltration) to erode resistance. I suspect an opportunistic bounce off the springboard of chaos to push through unwelcome legislation while simultaneously fielding the most pathetic, uninspiring, bunch of 2013 presidential candidates imaginable, is only part of the Stage 4 response.