America’s Cup day 4

Day 4 of racing in the America’s Cup with Oracle USA defending against Team NZ.

Team NZ put on a spurt at the start and lead all the way in light shifty conditions. Mid race they had stretched out to a handy lead, but Oracle closed up to make it a one mistake race. Team NZ held on for another win.

I wouldn’t call it an emphatic wind, it got quite close towards the end. One mistake could have swung the result.

Team NZ now lead 5-1 in the first to 7 series.

Race 2 today

Oracle seemed to really stuff up their start.Team NZ snookered them and shot out to an easy lead over the line.

Oracle closed right up in leg 3 but Team NZ shot out again. Seems quite fickle.

Leg 5 Team NZ out to a large lead.

An easy win in the end. 100% fly time, the commentators are calling it almost a perfect race.

6-1 to Team NZ, match point.

But…we’ve been here before, in San Francisco an 8-1 lead on match point turned into a wrought loss after Oracle came back with new speed.

This time the experts say that big technical improvements are far less likely due to the deliberate similarity of the boats.

Racing will resume tomorrow just after 5 am NZ time (two races scheduled).

A report on today’s racing: Super Sunday belongs to Burling and Emirates Team New Zealand

Media watch – Monday

26 June 2017

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

Open Forum – Monday

26 June 2017

Facebook: NZ politics/media+

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts.

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

World watch – Monday

Sunday GMT

WorldWatch

Post, news or views on anything happening of interest around the world.

More from English on Barclay recordings

Yesterday on The Nation (possibly recorded earlier) Bill English said he wasn’t sure if a recording existed in the Todd Barclay electorate office dispute. Unless he has seen or heard a recording this may be technically correct.

Newshub has more today:  Bill English admits Todd Barclay offered to play secret recordings

Bill English has admitted soon-to-be-former MP Todd Barclay offered to play him the secretly recorded tape of his staff members.

At the National Party’s annual conference today, when asked if Mr Barclay offered to play him the recording, Mr English admitted that he did.

“Did he offer to play me the recording? Yes he did,” Mr English confirmed.

Why was English asked about this? It looks like information could be being being fed to the media.

“I haven’t denied anything; I’ve just said that what I was told I passed to the police. There was then an investigation at the conclusion, of which no charges were made”.

He continued he didn’t think it “was appropriate” for him to accept the offer to listen.

“It was an employment dispute… in the context you don’t want to make them worse with loose comments or whatever that could make them harder to resolve”.

This is tricky territory for English.

The media are obviously pushing for a complete revealing of every detail, and someone seems to be helping them.

Dirty politics?

However English has been caught in the middle of a difficult situation. If a fellow MP talked to him in confidence (as another MP as he was at the time) then I can understand a reluctance to reveal things.

It is also possible that what English knows could be incriminating and affect Police decisions on whether to prosecute or not.

I really don’t know what the proper thing to do is in this situation.

The media don’t care, all they want is another story.

One could wonder whether English is being deliberately targeted here by others with National Party interests, and perhaps want English out and don’t care about an election loss this year.

As Cameron Slater has hinted that more may be known…

Bill English knows a whole lot more than he is letting on, and so does his Chief of Staff. The media know this, the opposition knows this. It is only a matter of time now, and at the moment Bill is running around trying to stop the Privileges Committee complaint.

…and it may be drip fed to media to keep embarrassing English.

Todd Barclay may have just been collateral damage in the real war.

The McCarten risk

Matt McCarten has been said to be a very good ideas person but not so good at planning and executing.

Politically he has been a party hopper. His political affiliations:

  • Labour 1978-1979 : left when dissatisfied with Rogernomics
  • NewLabour 1989-1991 : McCarten was party president
  • Alliance 1991-2004 : McCarten was party president
    In 1999 the Alliance formed a coalition with Labour but McCarten and others were unhappy with concessions and the Anderton faction split to form the Progressive Party. In the 2002 election the Alliance tanked and lost all MPs.
  • Maori Party 2004-2005

He ended his association with the Maori Party and joined the Unite Union as secretary.

  • Independent 2010 : stood in the Mana electorate by-election
  • Mana Party 2011 : appointed interim chair of the Mana Party
  • Labour 2014-2017 : became Labour leader David Cunliffe’s chief of staff.

He continued as chief of staff for Andrew Little after the 2014 election.

Then in late August last year: Matt McCarten set to move from Andrew Little’s chief of staff to Labour’s man in Auckland

Labour leader Andrew Little is to open a new Labour Party office in Auckland and re-deploy his chief of staff Matt McCarten as Labour prepares for battle in 2017.

Little said Labour’s new office in Auckland would open by the end of September and McCarten had offered to head it.

It was part of the planning for election year, including how to target the voter-rich Auckland.

“His strength is in the networks and setting up programmes and places for me to go to and getting stuff organised. And that is what I need.”

Little said he would be spending a lot of time in Auckland and needed a base there.

Then on Q+A on 11 June (two weeks ago) McCarten announced that he was leaving Labour. When asked if he was stoked about Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign in the UK

Of course, well I mean it was huge, the big take out is that campaigns they matter, and the media no longer matters. It’s facebook, and it’s individuals who actually get it.

I think my advice would be to National is get rid of Lynton Cosby because they’ve lost so many campaigns now…

Ironic given McCarten’s lack of past campaign success.

So the big lessons that have come through is that people looking at conviction politicians. You look at what’s happened in the States with Trump and with Sanders, is that the conventional wisdom, people like us know no more than anyone else.

But what has happened now is that it’s now gone and you’ve now got Corbyn had a hell of a year, been pilloried, been knifed in the back by his own party.

When you take all the commentary away and then people just see people, they a conviction politician, and they saw that with Trump in a different way, and Sanders, and I think that’s where it’s gone now.

I think that people aren’t tuning into politics till the last month, and I think so everything until then doesn’t really, it’s kind of in our world, but out in the real world where people have got real issues they’re concerned, but what they’ll do is turn on in the last month.

And I think where before, when a year out from any election you kind of saw the polls and thought that’s pretty much what it’s going to be. I don’t think that’s the case now.

McCarten announced he was leaving Labour but That doesn’t appear to be included in Q+A video.

The Daily Blog posted more details than I recall being revealed by McCarten on Q+A

…who announces he’s starting a new Campaign For Change movement…

Matt announces his new role as launching Campaign for Change that will target the missing million voters in NZ to gain a progressive political voice in Parliament.

And followed with:  If Corbyn inspired you, the Campaign for Change launches Monday:

Matt McCarten will launch the Campaign for Change Monday. Details tomorrow.

On Monday 12 June: Labour cauterises the foreign student rort

…Labour have been burnt in the past when trying to tackle immigration. They have been insensitive and clumsy at times when trying to roll out their ideas, but this is cleverly targeted policy that has none of the tone deaf bluntness.

Ironic.

Also on 12 June:  Which political party in NZ is best placed to benefit from the Corbyn Youthquake?

Young people are the largest untapped voter pool in 2017. If they could comprehend the true power they and those who didn’t vote have, we could change this Government several times over. For that to happen though, the Left have to offer real policy to those voters, that’s how Corbyn won them over.

But it wasn’t until 17 June that TDB announced the launch: With less than 100 days until the 2017 election, New Zealand launches ‘Campaign for Change’

All this did was repeat the press release put out by Matt McCarten – see McCarten’s ‘new’ project.

This non-partisan campaign is being created in order to get people engaged and involved. The disconnect between a million citizens and political participation is a threat to our democracy.

The Campaign for Change is directed by the goal of full political participation.

Then the news of the intern scheme broke on Thursday (22 June) that revealed that it was very partisan and trying to get people out to vote for Labour.

But was not a new project. Despite Little’s claim that McCarten’s job in his Auckland office was to work for him, the intern scheme had been in place in February, and McCarten (presumably) and Labour party people (definitely) had been involved.

Posted on 24 February at University of Michigan: LABOUR PARTY CAMPAIGN FELLOWSHIP IN NEW ZEALAND

The Labour Party Campaign Fellowship is a unique opportunity to witness how democracy functions first hand.

To apply, please send your resume and a brief cover letter to caitlin.johnson@labour.org.nz

This flyer promoting the scheme includes the same plus another Labour email address as a contact – kieran.ohalloran@labour.org.nz

The felowship scheme was written about in NZ Herald in April:  Fresh from Kim Dotcom, Hone Harawira attacks Labour getting campaign help from foreigners

Labour is shipping in foreign support for its election campaign with dozens of United States’ Democrats signalling an interesting in helping with the campaign.

The move was uncovered by Te Tai Tokerau contender Hone Harawira, who says it’s “really dumb” of Labour to enlist foreign support “to tell Maori people how to vote”.

Davis – who wasn’t involved in arranging off-shore support and was unaware of it – said Harawira had hooked up with Dotcom last election in a deal which allowed access to the tycoon’s wealth to fund a joint campaign.

“If he’s going to get millions from a foreigner and he’s complaining about people coming to help, that’s just total hypocrisy.”

Is this when Little and Kirton found out about it?

Labour’s general secretary Andrew Kirton – also campaign manager – said the party had contacted “sister parties across the world” to offer an invitation to people to observe or help with the election campaign.

He said the move to do so wasn’t unusual with Labour hosting visitors from abroad in earlier elections and also travelling to other countries to watch their election process.

“Mainly it’s in the context of an exchange of knowledge.”

Kirton would not give numbers but didn’t reject Harawira’s claim of about 30 people from the US expressing an interest. There was also interest from Australia and other countries, although the snap election announcement from the UK was likely to impact on the availability of people there.

Kirton said Labour was looking to connect with people who wanted change, rather than being wedded to expressions of party loyalty.

He said that built on work in the Wellington mayoralty campaign and Mt Roskill byelection.

Sounds like Kirton was already quite familiar with the scheme.

The ‘fellows’ or interns were arriving by last month (May), clearly associated with Labour (and with the Labour Leader’s office in Auckland).

LabourIntern

The the document Labour Intern Scheme (undated) obtained by Newshub states “The project is managed out of the Trades Hall, Grey Lynn and the Grafton Road office”, which ties with the above photo.

The document also refers to ‘Movement for Change Ltd’ – that isn’t on the Companies Register.

This domain name registration on 15 May for movementforchange.org.nz is registered under McCarten’s name with the Unite union address and McCarten used a Unite email address.

McCarten left Unite to work as David Cunliffe’s Chief of Staff in 2014 and has worked for Labour (paid by Parliamentary Services) up until recently.

There seems to have been a change of mind about what to call the Labour Party Campaign Fellowship.

This domain name registration on 20 May for campaignforchange.org.nz is also registered under McCarten’s name but uses the address of the Labour Leader’s office on Grafton Road.

So there are clear links between McCarten’s scheme and the Labour Party. He seems to have switched from supporting Little in Auckland to campaigning for votes.

Others in the Labour Party have obviously involved as far back as February.

Martyn Bradbury has some sort of interest. He posted a list of policies he said that in Why the Labour Party Student Intern ‘scandal’ is a smear.

What Labour didn’t want was a huge campaign to the Left of Labour pressuring them for a Corbyn or Sanders platform.

Labour didn’t want this…

Campaign for Change Manifesto 
1: Free public transport for students and beneficiaries
2: 18month rent freeze 
3: 5% maximum rent rise
4: $20 per hour minimum wage
5: Artists and Volunteers benefit
6: Free condoms, contraceptive pills and sanitary pads available at schools and family planning
7: Universal Student Allowance for Tertiary students
8: Free public internet
9: Lower voting age to 16
10: Free school lunches…so the fear of a successful left wing agenda has once again managed to doom Labour. Just like the candidate selection fiasco and just like the Party List fiasco, this has come down to poor internal management by the Wellington arm of the Party.

Mike Treen, a unionist who has had links to socialist organisations for a long time, has also been involved. From NZ Herald: Mystery funder behind Labour intern programme – and party doesn’t know who

Unite’s National Director Mike Treen said the union had taken part in the programme and planned to use the interns for an programme to enrol Unite members, but had not provided any direct funding.

“Matt is ambitious, and where there is a will there is a way is often his attitude. He may have tried to reach too far in this case. We thought there were positives and are a little bit sorry to see it’s all fallen on its face.”

Treen stood for the Mana Party last election.

The Labour Party were obviously involved early on, but it looks like McCarten and Treen, and possibly Bradbury, tried to manipulate Labour to the left using sanders and Corbyn campaigns and policies as templates.

Things turned to custard this week, with McCarten announcing:

In May this year my contract with the Labour Party ended and I left to run a programme called the Campaign for Change. The programme was supported by the Labour Party in Auckland, however I led and managed it.

He didn’t announce he had left until June 11.

Interesting that he refers to support from “the Labour Party in Auckland” and not the Labour Party nationally.

Earlier this week the Labour Party Head Office contacted me about these issues and requested to take the programme over so that it could resolve them. I have agreed to this and am no longer involved in the programme.

So the Labour Party Head Office stepped in and McCarten stepped down.

Has the Labour Party Auckland Branch been driving an agenda independently of their Head Office? It looks a bit like that.

It also looks like far left activists in Auckland tried to push or manoeuvre or drag Labour to the left.

The result is major embarrassment for the Labour Party, significant disruption leading into the election campaign, and a mess to clean up.

It also stuffs a get out the vote campaign.

And it also puts Labour in an awkward position regarding funding and donations. They will have to be ultra careful that they don’t get caught out, which means not trying to be clever and not doing anything that could be seen as hiding donations.

That might do Labour a favour. They are on notice to play the campaign straight now.

UPDATE: Andrew Little has just said in a Q+A interview that people associated with Labour did things that weren’t authorised by the party and it got out of control when they couldn’t manage it.

Q+A – Andrew Little on the intern problem

Andrew Little on Q+A this morning:

Labour leader Andrew Little gives his take on National’s handling of the Todd Barclay affair – plus Jessica Mutch will ask him about Labour’s treatment of foreign campaign volunteers.

Bill English is also being interviewed so their performances will be able to be compared.

Little doesn’t say that English should resign but has shown that he can’t be trusted. He questions English’s leadership.

Little says that if he had to deal with a Labour MP was being investigated by the police he would insist they cooperate with the police – something they aren’t required to do legally.

Little chose to switch to the intern scheme.

How many are staying? About 60.

He is pushing how he dealt with this compared to English.

He says it is an idea that started at the beginning of the year. He says people did things without authority.

He says that in May the Party (Head Office) became aware of problems and the links with Labour and stepped in to deal with it.

A fairly strong interview from Little. He and his advisers have decided to promote his dealing with the interns in comparison to English’s dealing with the Barclay stuff.

It will be worth looking more closely at what he has said – largely an unauthorised and maverick party scheme that got out of control.

A Marae spokesperson has also been interviewed. He was asked about expected numbers of interns – he says “about 80”. Not many more than that were involved, so the claims of a major oversubscription sounds fanciful.

Michelle Boag says that Little is disingenuous distancing Labour from the scheme and then claiming moral superiority coming in and sorting things out.

John Tamihere basically agrees with this.

Some quotes from the interview:

Little: You do have to step up and take responsibility straight away.

I was confronted with a situation that I was frankly horrified with in our party earlier this week when I heard about the complaints of those students, they way they were being treated. Found out they were here because people closely associated with the Labour Party had got them here and made promises to them.

I said the the party “We must take moral responsibility. We step in and we clean it up”.

We didn’t wait til a media story broke to respond.

That’s how it looks. Politik broke the story on Thursday morning. Perhaps the party had already stepped in.

We responded straight away. The story came out, um, but I but you take leadership is about taking responsibility and doing the right thing.

Jessica Mutch: But in this case was that the right thing to do? Because as we’ve seen this play out over the last few days, students have come out sticking up for the conditions in the marae, saying that they’ve enjoyed the programme. Do you feel like maybe if you’d taken a bit of time, stepped back, perhaps gone to the marae and assessed it for yourself, you may have been able to handle this another way instead of saying “look, we did this wrong”. Is that the right approach in this circumstance?

Little: The right approach was once we got notification of complaints, or the party didn’t, I was told about it, I said we get up there straight away. The general secretary Andrew Kirton and his team did an outstanding job, he was there on Monday…

That’s before the story broke.

…talked to the students, started getting things sorted out. The reality is some of them did want to have different arrangements, the vast majority have said look they want to stay, they’re excited by the programme, and they want to carry on doing it.

Jessica Mutch: How many are staying?

Little: Um, I don’t know what the final is. As of yesterday it was about 60 of the 85. I think they’re still working through some of the final ones. So um many of them will.

But many of them, it goes back to the story about when you’re confronted with something that you might find personally uncomfortable or embarrassing, it’s your personal feelings aren’t the issue, it’s when you’ve got people’s livelihoods at stake and their welfare at stake, you step in and do the right thing.

If you’re the head of an organisation, it’s not about you, it’s about the organisation, and if you’re the Prime Minister of a country, it’s about the country, it’s values and it’s standards.  That’s what you’ve got to stick up for, that’s what the Prime Minister’s role is about.

Jessica Mutch: Let’s talk about that then. How did it get out of control? Was it a lack of organisation on the part of Labour?

Little: No. This started out as an idea at the beginning of the year. I certainly became aware of it, um when it was raised with me. I said it’s a campaign issue, it’s a party issue, you’ve got to deal with it as a campaign issue.

Jessica Mutch: But it had Labour’s name on it though.

Little: And it did.

Jessica Mutch: It was called 2017 Labour Campaign Fellowship.

Little: Yeah because people closely associated with the Labour Party were involved. Without without approval or authority or any mandate they went ahead and did stuff.

McCarten was supposed to be working for Little in the Labour Leader’s office in Auckland. See from last September:  Andrew Little: nothing wrong with taxpayers footing the bill for his Auckland guru Matt McCarten

Labour leader Andrew Little says his adviser Matt McCarten’s taxpayer-funded salary is within the rules because McCarten will be doing “outreach” work for Little rather than campaign work.

He denied he was trying to use taxpayer funds for campaign-related work, saying party work would be done by party workers in the same office rather than McCarten and other Parliamentary-funded staff.

It looks like either McCarten was doing campaigning withoiut Little’s knowledge, or with Little’s knowledge. I’m not sure which is more shonky.

Other people with @labour.org.nz email addresses were advertising the programme. Little is implying he wasn’t aware of what was going on. Back to Q+A:

Little: The next I became aware was about May this year when the party was getting messages from students about to arr… within days of arriving, um, ah, the party stepped in straight away…

But Little said the party stepped in straight away last Monday.

Little: …to people associated with it saying what is going on, there’s no approval for this, this is not the party thing.

The party was given assurances, “we’ve got funding, we’ve got a programme sorted out, nothing to worry about’.

An unapproved unauthorised programme under Labour’s name that Little and the Labour Head Office knew nothing about was nothing to worry about?

Jessica Mutch: But then there was something to worry about.

Little: There was, yeah, we got the complaints this week and the minute that happened, because we were aware that the Labour Party name was associated with it.

It’s not about legal technicalities. I take a very dim view of those who hide behind legality and say it is moral responsibility that is the most important thing.

So from what he says Little was happy to let an unauthorised programme that was using Labour’s name and was being run not just by Labour Party personnel but by McCarten who was supposed to be Little’s main man in Auckland to continue until complaints started being made on Monday.

McCarten says he left his Labour job in May. Was that when Little found out what his Auckland organiser was up to?

Jessica Mutch: But Matt McCarten has been a bit of a fall guy for you guys this week, he’s been mentioned a lot, taking responsibility for this, have you talked to about that in the last few days?

Little: I haven’t personally spoken to him about it. And yeah he has been involved in it.

Jessica Mutch: Is he the fall guy?

Little: I don’t know what you mean about fall guy.

Jessica Mutch: Has he taken responsibility for how this played out?

Little: Well I haven’t spoke to him, um, ah I’m sure others have, I haven’t spoken to him.

Sounds like he knows about others talking to him and doesn’t want to go there.

Little: My priority, and I said to the party right from the outset, when we got those complaints last week, the priority is the well being of those young people, that’s what we focus on now. That’s what this week has been about.

Diversion from McCarten, who seems to have been running a rogue programme that Little knew about in May.

Little: Next week and the weeks that follow there are still questions to be answered, we’ll get on top of all that.

A lot of questions that could do with answers, something Little seems to be avoiding.

Jessica Mutch: Why not use New Zealanders for this kind of work?

Little: We have thousands of New Zealanders in our campaign. We’ve got the most campaign activists signed up to our campaign.

Jessica Mutch: But why use foreign students coming in, or interns coming in?

Little: We’ve been part of, and actually the National Party will have too, part of international political internship programmes for donkeys years. We’ve had people, very small numbers, involved in our campaigns in the past.

We’ve sent young Labour people, the National Party sends young National people off to the United States, to Australia, to the UK, to participate in internship programmes that means they get to see a campaign, get to know about   another country and it’s political systems.

That happens world wide. That’s what this was a part of. It got way beyond people’s ability to control. We’ve stepped in to take over.

So it was a normal campaign programme that Little had heard an idea at the start of the year, had found out more about it in May, but the party is just stepping in to take over now. Something doesn’t add up here.

Jessica Mutch: The marae has had some bad PR over this. Is that fair?

Little: No, totally unfair. That is a good marae. It’s well set up. It’s got good facilities, um it’s got fantastic leadership…

Jessica Mutch: So how did this happen them, why are the students complaining?

Little: Well the students did complain, that’s just a fact, you get the complaints, you deal with it.

And look I’m not one of those people that goes around quibbling about ‘well it’s only one person, two people or three people”, there’s a complaint, you get stuck in, you get involved, you find out, you deal with the people, you know, saying there were things wrong. You’ve got to deal with it. That’s what taking responsibility is about.

And even if it is embarrassing, as it was for us, ah you’ve got to step in and do the right thing at the right time and that’s what we did.

So Labour has dealt with, or is dealing with, the student complaints.

But there is a lot more to this than Little is wanting to talk about.

He said “We didn’t wait til a media story broke to respond.” But he is avoiding responding to bigger questions than a few disillusioned foreign students.

Like what did Little’s supposedly main man in Auckland run an unauthorised programme under Labour’s name and then suddenly quit when a few foreign students complained?

Video here: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/q-and-a

 

Q+A – Bill English

Bill English on Q+A this morning:

Prime Minister Bill English fronts up to an interview with Political editor Corin Dann after a difficult week for National. Will the Todd Barclay scandal impact his leadership too?

Andrew Little is also being interviewed so their performances will be able to be compared.

English was steady and steadfast, similar to yesterday on The Nation.

The interview was recorded on Friday night so no wonder it was similar. Q+A moans about him not doing it live but Michelle Boag says that English is putting a priority on National’s conference this weekend.

I don’t think much was gained again from pushing him on the Barclay saga.

John Tamihere says that he has not come out of it squeaky clean but he’s basically an honest politician with honest intent who got caught out being “frugal with the truth”.

I’ll post video when it becomes available.

Poll June roundup

We are starting to get more polls as we get closer to the election. There have been three public polls plus Labour have released some details from their internal UMR poll (which happens to contrast with the others).

  • National: CB 49%, RR 47.4%, RM 46.5%, UMR 42%
  • Labour: CB 30%, RR 26.4%, RM 25.5%, UMR 32%
  • Greens: CB 9%, RR 12.5%, RM 14%, UMR 13%
  • NZ First: CB 9%, RR 9.4%, RM 9%, 9%
  • Maori Party: CB 0.6%, RR 0.7%, RM 1.5%
  • ACT: CB 0.5%, RR 0.9%, RM 1%
  • United Future: RR 0.3%, RM 0%
  • TOP: CB 1.4%
  • Conservative: RR 0.8%, RM 0%
  • Mana Party: RM 0.5%

Polling periods:

None of the polling periods covered this week’s political ructions.

 
http://www.curia.co.nz/embed/poll/

13 point ultimatum for Qatar

Qatar has been issued with a 13 point ultimatum and has been given 10 days to comply as Saudi Arabia and their allies pile the pressure on top of the blockade.

Guardian:  Qatar given 10 days to meet 13 sweeping demands by Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia and its allies have issued a threatening 13-point ultimatum to Qatar as the price for lifting a two-week trade and diplomatic embargo of the country, in a marked escalation of the Gulf’s worst diplomatic dispute in decades.

The onerous list of demands includes stipulations that Doha close the broadcaster al-Jazeera, drastically scale back cooperation with Iran, remove Turkish troops from Qatar’s soil, end contact with groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and submit to monthly external compliance checks. Qatar has been given 10 days to comply with the demands or face unspecified consequences.

Saudi Arabia and the other nations leading the blockade – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – launched an economic and diplomatic blockade on the energy-rich country a fortnight ago, initially claiming the Qatari royal family had licensed the funding of terrorism across the Middle East for decades. Since then, the allies appear to be pushing for the isolation of Iran and the suppression of dissenting media in the region.

Ordering a shut down of Al Jazeera on it’s own should be of concern to Gezza, and anyone who values free press.

Qatar has become reliant on Turkey and Iran for food imports since the embargo was imposed on 5 June and insists with its huge wealth it can survive the embargo for an indefinite period.

Qatar is the richest country in the world per head of population.

In a sign that the UK does not regard the demands as reasonable, foreign secretary Boris Johnson said on Friday: “Gulf unity can only be restored when all countries involved are willing to discuss terms that are measured and realistic.

“The UK calls upon the Gulf states to find a way of de-escalating the situation and lifting the current embargo and restrictions which are having an impact on the everyday lives of people in the region.”

Sounds sensible but ineffective.

US policy towards Qatar so far has been marked by confusion. President Donald Trump has appeared to take credit for the Saudi embargo and described Qatar as a haven for terrorism.

By contrast, the State Department under Rex Tillerson has twice upbraided Saudi Arabia’s approach to Qatar and questioned its true motives in sparking the diplomatic crisis.

In recent days the State Department has been pressing Saudi to specify the actions Qatar must take to see the embargo lifted, but warned that those demands need to be “reasonable and actionable”.

The US has a large military base in Qatar. It also has an unpredictable president.

The demands:

  1. Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there. Expel members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and cut off any joint military cooperation with Iran. Only trade and commerce with Iran that complies with US and international sanctions will be permitted.
  2. Sever all ties to “terrorist organisations”, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, al-Qaida and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Formally declare those entities as terrorist groups.
  3. Shut down al-Jazeera and its affiliate stations.
  4. Shut down news outlets that Qatar funds, directly and indirectly, including Arabi21, Rassd, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed and Middle East Eye.
  5. Immediately terminate the Turkish military presence in Qatar and end any joint military cooperation with Turkey inside Qatar.
  6. Stop all means of funding for individuals, groups or organisations that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, the US and other countries.
  7. Hand over “terrorist figures” and wanted individuals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain to their countries of origin. Freeze their assets, and provide any desired information about their residency, movements and finances.
  8. End interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs. Stop granting citizenship to wanted nationals from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Revoke Qatari citizenship for existing nationals where such citizenship violates those countries’ laws.
  9. Stop all contacts with the political opposition in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. Hand over all files detailing Qatar’s prior contacts with and support for those opposition groups.
  10.  Pay reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years. The sum will be determined in coordination with Qatar.
  11.  Consent to monthly audits for the first year after agreeing to the demands, then once per quarter during the second year. For the following 10 years, Qatar would be monitored annually for compliance.
  12.  Align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically, as well as on economic matters, in line with an agreement reached with Saudi Arabia in 2014.
  13.  Agree to all the demands within 10 days of it being submitted to Qatar, or the list becomes invalid.

I really don’t know much about how things work in the Middle East but that list seems highly hypocritical, and must be designed to be impossible to comply with because some of those demands are not just ridiculous, they would amount to Qatar being controlled by foreign dictat.