"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Monday, October 17, 2005

The storm thats brewing...

...and those that are stirring the pot.

Last chance to avoid war
(Filed: 16/10/2005)

Our report today on the illegal transfer of missile technology to Iran marks a serious raising of the stakes in the faltering effort to make Teheran come clean about its nuclear programme. As Con Coughlin reveals, former members of the Russian armed forces are helping Iran receive assistance from North Korea.

The significance of the illegal trading is that Iran may be even closer to developing a full-blown strategic missile capability than most Western nations have been willing to concede. Iran already has missiles capable of carrying warheads to targets throughout the Middle East. But the system now under development could - if completed - rain nuclear weapons on many parts of Europe. The crisis must now be referred to the United Nations Security Council as a matter of urgency - with the unambiguous understanding that this is only a first step.

In Paris on Friday, Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, made clear her view that the time for diplomacy between the so-called EU-3 - Britain, France and Germany - and Teheran is rapidly drawing to a close. "There is always the course of negotiation," she said, "but there is also the course of the Security Council." The Bush administration is privately mystified by the argument often deployed in the British Foreign Office that referral to the Security Council is more effective as a threat than as an action. This raises the question: what is the Security Council for if not to act in such situations? Busying itself with trivia, the council should instead be taking urgent steps to prevent a geo-political disaster.

Iran has always maintained that its nuclear programme is civilian in nature, although it is hard to see why a country with such rich natural resources would invest so heavily in nuclear power. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the country's hardline president, declared last month that "with respect to the needs of Islamic countries, we are ready to transfer nuclear know-how to these countries". Having imported the means to cause millions of deaths, Ahmadinejad now threatens to export the technology to other Muslim states, creating an Islamic commonwealth of nuclear terror.

continued... The Telegraph

Nearly 25 years later, readers of the Sunday Telegraph were regaled with with the dramatic story of the son of Libya's Colonel Gadafy and his alleged connection to a currency counterfeiting plan. The story was written by Con Coughlin, the paper's chief foreign correspondent and it was falsely attributed to a "British banking official". In fact, it had been given to him by officers of MI6, who, it transpired, had been supplying Coughlin with material for years.

The origins of that November 1995 newspaper article only came to light when they were recently disclosed by Mark Hollingsworth, the biographer of renegade security service officer David Shayler. Shayler had worked on MI5's Libya desk at the time, in liaison with his counterparts in the foreign espionage service, MI6, and had come away with a detailed knowledge of events, and a bundle of secret documents to back them up.

The allegations were confirmed from an unexpected direction. The Sunday Telegraph was served with a libel writ by Gadafy's son. The paper was unable to back up its suggestion that Gadafy junior might have been linked to a fraud, but pleaded, in effect, that it had been supplied with the material by the government.

In a long and detailed statement, which entered the public domain in the course of a judgment given in an interlocutory appeal on October 28 1998, the paper described how, under Charles Moore's editorship, a lunch had been arranged with the then Conservative foreign secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, at which Con Coughlin had been present. Told by Rifkind that countries such as Iran were trying to get hold of hard currency to beat sanctions, Coughlin was later briefed by an MI6 man - his regular contact.

Some weeks later, he was introduced to a second MI6 man, who spent several hours with him and handed over extensive details of the story about Gadafy's son. Although Coughlin asked for evidence, and was shown purported bank statements, the pleadings make clear that he was dependent on MI6 for the discreditable details about the alleged counterfeiting scam. He was required to keep the source strictly confidential.

Throughout the formal pleadings, the Telegraph preserved the figleaf of its sources by referring to a "Western government security agency". But this veil of coyness was blown away by City solicitor David Hooper in his book on libel published last month, Reputations Under Fire, in which he says: "In reality [they were] members of MI6."

So, unusually, an MI6 exercise in planting a story has been laid bare. Now, there is no suggestion that Con Coughlin is dishonest in his work. He is a perfectly conscientious journalist who I expect did his best to substantiate his facts and undoubtedly believed in their truth. But nevertheless, those facts may not have been true. And I believe he made a serious mistake in falsely attributing his story to a "British banking official". His readers ought to know where his material is coming from. When the Sunday Telegraph got into trouble with the libel case, it seems, after all, to have suddenly found it possible to become a lot more specific about its sources.

continued... The Guardian