Note to readers: This post provides essential information on the background of the “former diplomat” known as the “combat diplomat” and is based on a profile written in 2015. The original article is now very much a work in progress as more information comes to light. It is being re-organized, rewritten and expanded for this publication. Contributions of information is welcome. – TS, 4 February 2019
Since January 23, Ben Rowswell has been put forward in the monopoly media as the condescending saviour to promote Canada’s open support for the counterrevolutionary forces that seek to overthrow the democratically-elected government of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. On January 24 he was featured three times on CBC TV, which has yet to find a Venezuelan to interview who is not from the family of an ex-army officer living comfortably in Montreal, and then again on January 28 in the Globe and Mail.
Rowswell was “ambassador designate” to Venezuela from March, 2014 to July, 2017 but seems never to have been recognized by that country. Nevertheless, he mounted an unprecedented “human rights” campaign of direct interference in its internal affairs from the premises of the Canadian embassy in Caracas. In August 2017 Rowswell boasted to the Ottawa Citizen: “We established quite a significant internet presence inside Venezuela, so that we could then engage tens of thousands of Venezuelan citizens in a conversation on human rights. We became one of the most vocal embassies in speaking out on human rights issues and encouraging Venezuelans to speak out.” There we have it. The U.S.-led campaign of political aggression by those who themselves accuse “authoritarian regimes” of meddling and cyberwarfare has high ideals. “Digital diplomacy” is a form of cyberwarfare in which foreign governments use social media to intervene and intrigue in the internal affairs of sovereign countries, yet is equated by Rowswell to direct democracy. Of course this embassy went much further than a “conversation.”
In 2017, while on a three year leave from Global Affairs, he co-founded a Toronto company, Perennial Software, which created and markets phone apps “for citizen engagement and change.” It employs a staff of eight. Evidently, the diplomat has turned his experience of subversion into profit.
Since November 2018 Rowswell, having now resigned from Global Affairs, has been president of the Canadian International Council (CIC), a monopoly think tank based in Toronto with 15 branches across Canada which conduct public meetings according to the CIC agenda. Its chair is Bill Graham, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence under the previous Liberal government who is a major proponent of placing US ballistic missiles in Canada. Through its board and programs, this agency is linked both to the US and NATO. The Bill Graham Centre is a sponsor of the NATO Association of Canada, along with Lougheed Martin, one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world. Gerald Wright has been president of the Atlantic Council of Canada, vice-chairman of the Atlantic Treaty Association, and vice-president of the Donner Canadian Foundation (1972-1987). Jacqueline O’Neill, President of Inclusive Security Inc. of Washington, “has trained and advised military, police, and civilians serving at NATO, the UN, the US Department of Defense, and beyond.” She is a member of the Agenda Committee of the Washington-based Halifax International Security Forum, a NATO partner funded by the Department of National Defence and sponsored by Boeing. It represents those vested interests who have made superprofits for many years by exploiting the natural resources and labour of the people of the Americas and the goal of this organization is to ensure that these activities continue.
Rowswell has spent his career in areas of contention where the big powers have sought to stir up division as part of their efforts to impose their will in the name of various humanitarian principles. Of particular note is his role in Afghanistan, Iraq, on the question of Iran, and in Venezuela.
Given Rowswell’s track record, it is the Canadian people who are now to be on the receiving end and should watch out. He writes on the CIC website:
“Neither can we leave it to our elected leaders, or their public servants, to stand up for the rules-based international order alone. The storm now gathering in international politics will impose some painful choices on Canada. The Canadian public needs to contribute to the decisions our government will take, and the government needs the Canadian public on board as it navigates these turbulent waters. Luckily for Canada, we already have an organization that was set up for this very purpose.”
The problem for the ruling circles is that Canadians have made clear time and time again that they do not want their country to be a base for intervention and aggression but want Canada to be a zone for peace. The CIC aims to fight this sentiment. The CIC has declared its mission: to be the agency which the “Canadian public needs to contribute to the decisions our government will take” and to bring the “Canadian public on board.”
By TONY SEED
(February 25, 2015) – President Nicolás Maduro has alleged that the failed coup against the Bolivarian government of Venezuela was organized and financed by the United States government. Reports about the thwarted coup refer to a Canadian link, emanating from the Canadian embassy in Caracas. The Venezuelans have expressed real concern since mid-2014 about the nature of programs run from the embassy that can only be described as interventionist in character. The controversy parallels the arrival in Caracas of Harper’s new and still unaccredited ambassador, Ben Rowswell.
Canada’s “combat diplomat”
Ben Rowswell was officially appointed ambassador to Venezuela on February 28, 2014, not long after large opposition-led protests began across the country and one-sided reports of protesters killed by Venezuelan authorities began being circulated by the media.
What mission was the newly fledged ambassador going to perform? Whose interests was to serve? What’s the purpose of his appointment to Venezuela? Can it be said that he really is an ambassador, if he ignores once traditional professional diplomatic functions, one of which is by and large the same in all the countries: to strengthen relations between the country of accreditation and the one of your own? What do the representatives of “non-systematic” opposition have to do in the Canadian Caracas Embassy in anticipation of a presidential election? Money? Moral support? Paid trips?
Rowswell is not a diplomat in any traditional sense of the word. He is heralded as the leading practitioner and theorist in the Department of Foreign Affairs of its new mantra of imperialist “direct diplomacy” and “digital diplomacy” in violation of the host country’s sovereignty and international law. Diplomacy is guided by the Geneva Convention. Interventions are against Article 19, Chapter IV of the 1948 #OAS Charter. Sanctions not approved by the UNSC are illegal. The disgraceful interventionist activities organized since his deployment, condemned in Venezuela and Canada, testify to the aim of the appointment. Although he has been on his assignment for almost a year, Rowswell remains Canada’s Ambassador-designate to Venezuela. He has not been accredited by the Bolivarian government. When this occurs, the normal practice is to put forward another nominee. Yet the Harper government has chosen to keep him in place, raising questions about the real aims of its policy. It is all being done under the pretext of fostering contacts with “fighters for democracy”, the democracy of the U.S. brand that, as many Americans testify, is far from ideal, to put it mildly.
Furthermore, Rowswell’s remit includes representing the diplomatic and consular interests of Israel in Venezuela. When Venezuela broke diplomatic relations with Israel in January 2009, condemning its military invasion of Gaza which left around 1,200 Palestinians dead and over 5000 wounded, the Harper government eagerly volunteered that the Canadian embassy in Caracas would represent Israeli interests. (Venezuelan interests in Israel are represented by Spain.) Rowswell admitted to Embassy Magazine (see excerpt below) that a principal focus of concern was the growing ties between Venezuela and Iran. Israel has extensive interests in South and Central America, including arms sales, and is even an associate member of the Organization of American States (OAS), the U.S.-driven club.
Rowswell’s previous assignment had been Director of the Gulf States and Regional Trade Division of Foreign Affairs which oversaw burgeoning arms sale to the GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia. He speaks Farsi, Arabic, Spanish, French and English.
Described by the Toronto Star in 2010 as “a rising foreign service star” he has been referred to as Canada’s “combat diplomat” because of his work in war/conflict zones. His resumé includes direct employment by the United States government, a leading U.S. think tank of the U.S. ruling circles whose governing board includes three past U.S. Secretaries of State, and Stanford University.
Biographical information from various sources:
International Relations from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (1989-93) and at Oxford (2000). “‘Most couldn’t afford it,’ Rowswell says. But at that point, (his stepfather Bill) McWhinney was executive director for Canada at the Inter-American Development Bank headquartered in Washington and the IDB paid for Rowswell’s schooling.” (Ottawa Citizen, 21 September 2017)
1993: United Nations Contractor in Somalia during the country’s civil war.
1995-98: Worked in the Political Section at the Canadian embassy in Cairo.
August 2003- and August 2004 to June 2005: Two postings to Iraq as part of the Chrétien government’s covert involvement in the U.S. occupation of Iraq and legitimizing its puppet government. “It was the best job I’ve had in the foreign service,” he said in 2006. “I felt as though I was watching the history of the 21st century unfold before my very eyes.” (Canada World View, Issue 29, Spring 2006. The publication, issued by Foreign Affairs, features a photograph on its cover supplied by Rowswell with the caption ‘Canadian diplomat Ben Rowswell flies from the Baghdad airport to the city’s Green Zone in a military helicopter. Travelling by the so-called ‘air bridge’ is required for security purposes.’)
“I’d been really lobbying to get to Baghdad, and the opportunity came in August 2003,” Rowswell later said. “I was basically just told to get on a plane and get off in Baghdad and figure things out for myself … where to stay and how to avoid danger, and how to make myself useful to the Coalition Provisional Authority.” (Ottawa Citizen, 21 September 2017)
• One of Rowswell’s jobs was to assist the International Mission for Iraqi Elections, an organization chaired by Elections Canada that oversaw the January 5, 2005 election and certified its validity. The Canadian representative works for the U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Iraq. Rowswell states: “Many American organizations make important contributions to advancing democracy around the world. I was lucky enough to work for one, the National Democratic Institution, as it trained tens of thousands of Iraqis as election observers in that country’s first democratic election in 2005.” (Globe and Mail, January 27, 2019)
The NDI is an agency of the U.S. government under the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the CIA’s principal façade in the world. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the official governmental agency that funded its operations in Iraq. Read about its role in Iraq here. (Also: Lisa Ashkenaz Croke and Brian Dominick, “Controversial U.S. Groups Operate Behind Scenes on Iraq Vote,” The New Standard, 13 December 2004.)
Condemned for its incessant interventions in Latin America, NDI openly finances subversion and destabilization. In Venezuela, NDI finances the Sumate NGO of Maria Corina Machado who, with Leopoldo López, is one of the most openly aggressive right-wing leaders. Machado was received by US president George Bush in April 2005 and prime minister Stephen Harper and Robert Scheer in May 2014 in Ottawa. Sumate has also been funded by the Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL), a so-called independent think tank, dedicated to finance, promote and advise political parties, NGOs and other organizations and institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean under the pretext of strengthening relations between Canada and the region. (Gindin, J. “The Nature of CIA Intervention in Venezuela,” Venezuelanalysis.com. 22 March 2005.)
• In November 2003, CSIS released a report on Iraq authored by Dr. Anthony Cordesman. It was “based on briefings by Paul Bremer, the U.S. de facto governor of Iraq; military commanders, unnamed intelligence officers and David Kay, the American who leads the hunt for Saddam‘s alleged weapons of mass destruction,” reported The Independent. Proceeding from the colonial premise of religious sectarianism, the CSIS report predicted that “attacks on Americans by Sunni Iraqis will continue ‘until the day the U.S. leaves.’” Titled “Iraq: Too Uncertain To Call,” it also aimed to renovate the George W. Bush administration’s purported promotion of “democracy” in Iraq, which it faulted by saying: “It is largely advocating undefined slogans, not practical and balanced specifics.” *
2005: Founder of Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development’s Democracy Unit. “The unit still exists, and Rowswell calls its creation one his career’s greatest satisfactions.” (Ottawa Citizen, 21 September 2017) Policy advisor on global issues. (Canada World View)
2007 (May): While a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Roswell co-edited the book Iraq: Preventing a New Generation of Conflict (Boulder, CO: Lynne Reinner Publishers, $75.38) with David Malone (high commissioner to India, who was the assistant deputy minister Department of Foreign Affairs when Rowswell was working in Iraq; currently head of the United Nations University in Tokyo and a under-secretary of the UN) and Markus E. Bouillon.
“We are cheek by jowl”
2008-09: Deputy Head of Canadian Mission in Kabul, Afghanistan – known as the “RoCK” (Representative of Canada in Kandahar) – and already being described “as a part of a rapidly growing cadre of ‘combat diplomats’.” (Maximilian Forte. ed., Militarism, Humanism and Occupation, p. 134)
23 September 2009 to August, 2010: Head of the Provincial Reconstruction Team of more than 100 American and Canadian diplomats, aid workers, civilian police and correctional officers working with Canadian Forces in Kandahar. “There is a sense that this is what the future of Canadian diplomacy looks like and those of us who are cutting out teeth here will be able to apply what we’ve learned to further Canada’s interests in other conflict settings.” (Ibid., p. 134) His role in relation to the so-called Afghan detainee scandal, which only came to light after veteran diplomat Richard Colvin revealed human rights abuses despite the Conservative government’s continued denial, merits investigation. As far back as 2006 allegations had been made that the Canadian military turned over detainees to almost certain torture. (Ibid., p. 135)
In December 2012, Canadian journalist Anthony Fenton described the role of this mission in that country’s military occupation:
“The Canadian war contribution is so enmeshed with the U.S. that the relationship has been referred to by the media as ‘an evolving military marriage” between the two countries. The diplomatic representative of Canada in Kandahar, Ben Rowswell, told the National Post last week, ‘We work at full integration,’ adding, ‘We are cheek by jowl…The best way to integrate is to integrate completely’.’’ Shortly after US General Stanley McChrystal took over as commanding general of all NATO and U.S. troops occupying Afghanistan earlier in 2009, he praised the Canadian Forces for their implementation of COIN in the southern part of the country. McChrystal remarked that the Canadian-induced results – known in counterinsurgency parlance as “clear, hold, and build” – “[are] more powerful than any round we can shoot.” (Anthony Fenton, “CANADA: ‘Cheek by Jowl’ with U.S. on COIN in Afghanistan,” Inter Press Service International, 15 December 2009. COIN is an acronym for “population-centric counterinsurgency.” Emphasis added.)
2010-11: Visiting scholar at Stanford University’s new Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law in its Liberation Technology Program. Researches colour-coded revolutions (“the way in which activists used digital media to enact political change”) and becomes involved in the “Arab Spring” in Egypt.
The director of this new centre from 2005-09 was Michael McFaul, until his appointment at the end of 2011 as U.S. Ambassador to Russia (to 2014). Prior to his nomination, McFaul worked for the U.S. National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Russian and Eurasian Affairs (2009-12) and was the architect of U.S. President Barack Obama’s “reset” policy on Russia. McFaul is a leading theorist and practitioner of “colour revolutions” and “digital diplomacy.” He was directly involved first and foremost, in the contrived, neo-liberal “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine in 2004. He was the author of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) final report on specifics of working with the Ukrainian electorate. American non-government organizations spent total of $18.3 million to bring Victor Yushchenko to power. The PORA youth insurgency group was funded in part by Canada. (For further information, see John Lewis, “Ambassador with diploma on ‘color revolution,” Strategic Culture, 8 January 2012)
“Cloud to Street”
2011 (March — August): Making three trips to Egypt, Rowswell led a research project at Stanford to connect activists in Tahrir Square with technology support from Silicon Valley through the development of software to meet activists needs at a series of hackathons, resulting most prominently in an Arabic-language crowdsourcing platform or “cloud” to generate consensus over human rights protections in Egypt’s new constitution. (Rowswell’s LinkedIn profile). “There were actors I knew well, activists I knew well.”
“Digital diplomacy” and the uses of “clouds” is the extension into the Foreign Service and international affairs of the direct involvement in government of privileged private interests such as Google, Twitter and Amazon. The latter monopoly, for instance, has a $600 million contract with the CIA to provide the agency with a “cloud” – computing and database services to store and process information for the CIA, NSA and other US spy agencies. As the Atlantic (July 17, 2014) noted at the time, this is far from Amazon’s only government contract; other agencies they store data for include NASA, the FDA, the CDC and HealthCare.gov. Amazon “is rapidly becoming the leading supplier of cloud services to the federal government,” the trade publication EnterpriseTech (August 22, 2014) reported. When the Defense Department looked to spend $10 billion on cloud services, Amazon did not bid directly for the contract; it will partner with five of the 10 companies who won pieces of the contract, allowing it to get more than the $1 billion each direct contractor is limited to (FCW, August 28, 2013).
Larry Diamond, McFaul and Rowswell’s colleague at Stanford, was the “inspiration and executive producer” behind the fake Youtube video documentary entitled “I am a Ukrainian”(2014). It featured an attractive woman insistently and glibly claiming that the Ukrainian maidan was solely about freedom and democracy, and was an organic protest. Diamond is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a Senior Consultant at the National Endowment for Democracy, and served as a senior adviser on governance to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.
In 2011, Rowswell gave a TEDx talk at Hayward University in California that outlined his views about the power of social media to shape democracy. He focused on post-Murbarak Egypt, before Mohammed Morsi’s election. He detailed how notions of race, ethnicity and class may be pushed aside when organizing through social media platforms. He theorized that the internet allows for “opensource democracy,” allowing individuals to exchange their ideas as equals.
“Until they are all ousted, we will know no permanent peace”
2011 (1 July): Inaugural recipient of the Palmer Prize for Diplomats awarded in Vilnius, Lithuania of all places by the Community of Democracies (CCD) a US democracy promotion organization and regime change operation established in 2000. It receives funding from Freedom House, George Soros’ Open Society Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the Smith Richardson Foundation, as well as the governments of the United States, Canada, Italy, Spain, Poland, Lithuania, and Morocco of NATO along with Chile and India.
In 2007, Rowswell’s Democracy Unit contributed $250,000 to the publication of its “Diplomat’s Handbook.” According to three Wikileaks cables, Rowswell was personally involved in extensive negotiations with the US Embassy in Ottawa about deepening Canadian involvement in this outfit. The CCD, which included a number of high-profile neoconservative figures among its advisers and board members, touts U.S. exceptionalism while urging international cooperation in overthrowing governments it deems undemocratic, the recipe being followed with regard to Venezuela today. In the light of Rowswell’s subsequent experience, Palmer and his trajectory merits further attention.
The obscure prize awarded Rowswell is named after U.S. ambassador Mark Palmer, co–founder of the NED and an experienced imperialist and media mogul who worked in Hungary from 1986-90 during the country’s “transition to democracy,” was previously Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in 1982-86, served as a presidential speechwriter and member of the Committee on the Present Danger, and was vice-president of the Council for a Community of Democracies. Palmer himself was a founding board member of the imperialist National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and was vice chairman of Freedom House. In “The Real Axis of Evil,” a 2002 article published on the website of the Council, Palmer writes, “In January 2002, when President Bush defined the ‘axis of evil’ as the dictatorships of Iraq, Iran and North Korea, he did not even mention Charles Taylor of Liberia. But this one-time warlord and escapee from an American prison is part of the real axis of evil – the larger group of 44 dictators in an arc that runs unbroken west from North Korea and China through the Middle East and south to sub-Saharan Africa. … Collectively, these 44 men (no women) are overwhelmingly the largest threat to American and global security and prosperity, and they do work together. Until they are all ousted, we will know no permanent peace.”
Palmer co-founded – along with the help of the right-wing Zionist Ronald Lauder – a pro-NATO company called Central European Media Enterprises, which by 2011 was describing itself as “the leading vertically integrated media company in Central and Eastern Europe.” Likewise, Palmer is the chairman of SignalOne Media, an organization which says it is busy “creating independent commercial television stations in emerging markets – initially in the Middle East.” Notably, SignalOne’s cofounder and CEO, Jim Hake, just so happened to be the founder of Spirit of America, a propaganda group that provides aid to the US military during their ongoing state-led massacres in Iraq and Afghanistan. And not coincidentally, Palmer serves on Spirit of America’s advisory board. This group’s three-person strong board of directors included his friend Peter Ackerman of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict and Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS, also funded largely through the National Endowment for Democracy), and a director of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2005 he was chosen to replace former CIA Director James Woolsey as president of Freedom House. Ackerman was one of the wire-pullers of the Yugoslav Otpor youth insurgency group in the destabilization of that country in 1998-99, which morphed into the CANVAS group. In 2003-04 they were involved in training Pora in Ukraine. Beginning in 2004 they conducted “human rights” seminars at the Holiday Inn in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to recruit and train Iranian agents, funded by the Canadian Dept of External Affairs. In 2005 they were deployed to overturn Hugo Chavez’s government in Venezuela, which morphed into “student protests” in 2005-09 led by those such as Juan Guaidó. On October 5, 2005, for example, five Venezuelan “student leaders” arrived in Belgrade, Serbia to begin training for an insurrection. (See John Bellamy Foster, ‘The Latin American Revolt,’ Monthly Review, July August 2007 and Michael Barker, “CANVAS[ing] for the Nonviolent Propaganda Offensive: Propaganda in the Service of Imperial Projects, Countercurrents.org, 26 March, 2011.)
Subversion of Iran
2012 (Summer): Nominated to be Canada’s next head of mission in Iran. The Harper government, however, abruptly cut off diplomatic relations on September 7, 2012. “The government asked Rowswell if, given his interests in technology, there might be a way to use the internet to advance Canada’s foreign policy objectives in Iran” (Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen, September 21, 2017). The objective was regime change of a sovereign government. Rowswell leaped into the breach. He was already knee deep.
Some background merits attention. Canada was already involved in military actions against Iran. For example, in February 2008 The Ottawa Citizen reported that the HMCS Charlottetown was patrolling 1,500 metres from Iranian territorial waters as part of a 50-ship armada under the command of the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier strike group. Along with a naval blockade, a secret war against Iran was underway. Seymour Hersh reported that late in 2007 the US Congress “agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran.” These operations, for which the US president sought up to $400 million, “were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership…. Clandestine operations against Iran are not new.” U.S. Special Operations Forces “have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year…. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials.”
On July 20, 2009 the Canadian Dept of Foreign Affairs (DFAIT) – ostensibly its Democracy Unit proudly established by Rowswell in 2005 – began funding U.S.-based opponents of the Islamic Republic of Iran to carry out subversion and espionage, according to documents posted on the department website listing grants and contributions of over $25,000. Government files show that $264,458 was funneled by DFAIT to the U.S.-based Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) in New Haven, Conn. (Disclosure of Grant and Contribution Awards Over $25,000: Foreign Affairs, 2009-2010: 2nd Quarter (July-01-09 to September-30-09). (In parallel, Canada had began funding the Kiev Security Forum launched by Yatsenyuk’s neo-liberal Our Ukraine organization in September 2007 to combat opposition to integration with NATO and a mass movement against the “visits” of US and NATO warships to the Black Sea ports.)
IHRDC had previously ran the above-mentioned seminars in Dubai with Otpor’s involvement. The April 18, 2005 “seminar” was conducted by the Center for Advanced Nonviolent Action and Strategies for Iranians selected by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. Asia Times described these workshops as “highly secretive” and said that “stress was laid on the importance of ridiculing the political elite as an effective tool of demythologizing them in the eyes of the people.” Asia Times quotes an Iranian analyst as saying, “As I gather, the idea was to fund and train activists to be agents provocateurs along the lines of the Otpor movement in Serbia. Their job was to utilize various techniques, such as anti-government graffiti etc, to embolden the student movement and provoke a general government crackdown, which could then be used as a pretext to ‘spark’ a mass uprising in Iran that appeared to be spontaneous and indigenous.”
The IHRDC was established in 2004 by several Iranian émigré professionals armed with an upfront $1 million, two-year grant from the U.S. State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Its activities in Iran, which are carried out openly and even described on their website, have never been mentioned in the Canadian media. The US State Department became the group’s “main source of funds,” the IHRDC acknowledges openly in its annual reports. Along with its high profile Iran Democracy Fund, the Bush administration allocated $400-million for a black ops war against Iran, while at the same time the monopoly media insistently and erroneously portrayed Iran as the “real” nuclear threat. The first DFAIT grant of $60,000 was issued just five weeks after Iran’s June 12, 2009 presidential election and the failure of an extensive and well-funded external campaign featuring cyberwarfare to dislodge the Iranian political leadership. The campaign, heavily promoted by the media as the “Green Revolution,” constituted the latest in the series of colour-coded subversive operations mounted to destabilize various countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Egypt and Syria. The grant confirmed statements made in late July 2009 by the Iranian leadership that it had identified sixty American organizations that were operating inside Iran in violation of the constitutional government. Washington’s plan for regime change in Tehran had failed.
In October 2009 news agencies reported that the newly installed Obama administration and the U.S. State Department had ceased funding the IHRDC without explanation. Between its founding in 2004 and 2009, this Center had by this time received $3 million over the previous five years, including over $1.5 million from the NED. Funding was also limited to other agencies specializing in Iranian subversive projects. These included Freedom House, the International Republican Institute (IRI) of the NED, the Eurasia Foundation and Bush’s Iran Democracy Fund based in Washington. The covers provided by the “liberal” USAID and NED had been blown wide open, not the least through the warmongering call issued by the chair of the IRI, Sen. John McCain, to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.” The calculated decision to obscure Washington’s involvement in regime change projects had been worked out in large part by the Princeton Project on National Security and a conference titled “Reorganizing U.S. Government Democracy Promotion Efforts” held at the afore-mentioned Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law by 31 “leading scholars and policymakers” on May 7-8, 2008. Its report (.pdf) from Stanford states:
“The more democracy promotion is tied to the U.S. government, the more we are tying our own hands. We now have many U.S. government entities handling NGOs and it is increasingly becoming a more state centered democracy promotion scheme. It is important to create distance between U.S. foreign policy and democratic transitions in foreign countries because it does not look right to have the U.S. government telling civil society groups in foreign countries to rebel against or question their own governments.” (emphasis added)
None of this activity by the Canadian government was independent. In an evident imperialist division of labour, the US government sought new funding channels, at least one of which being provide by the Harper dictatorship and DFAIT’s Democracy Unit, together with the big German foundations (Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the Ebert Foundation, which were very active in Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Middle East) and others cobbled together by the Israeli Zionists. The Harper government, though never comfortable with the Obama negotiations with Tehran, stepped to the plate to focus its own self-righteous attack to delegitimatize Iran on the front of “human rights” and “anti-semitism,” e.g., the fascist campaign of Irwin Cotler backed by all the cartelized political parties to demonize the Islamic Republic of Iran and its leadership for so-called genocide and the “existential threat to Israel,” blackballing the Canadian Arab Federation, etc. As part of this two-pronged attack, the DFAIT partially replaced American funding to Iranian émigré centres with Canadian dollars, while providing their functionaries with positions and respectability in Canadian academic institutions. For instance, Payam Akhavan, co-founder of the IHRDC, former assistant to Louise Arbour at the International Court of Justice and a Baha’i, was brought from Yale to Irwin Cotler’s law faculty at McGill University. He was quickly given a position as board director of the Harper government’s Rights & Democracy, which it was soon folded into the Democracy Unit of DFAIT. There he joined Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s new wife, an Iranian émigré royalist who works with Reza Pahlavi Junior and whom was being brought to the front of the bus; along with participating in Canada-Israel Committee conferences with Cotler, Akhavan and UN Watch, Nazanin Afshin-Jam was even appointed director on the Board of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
This also allowed the IHRDC to maintain a pretence of its “arms length” relationship with the U.S. state, a main demand of Iranian “dissidents” – and the new façade erected by the Obama regime that its funding was “non partisan.” Meanwhile, U.S. state funding of an operation conducted by the New York-based Freedom House in Iran had also been terminated. Even less well known is that, sure enough, DFAIT began sending for the first time Canadian taxdollars to Freedom House in two grants totalling $277,595, although the funding was allegedly for operations in Kazekstan and Zimbabwe. In parallel, the then president of Freedom House, David Kramer, Victoria Nuland’s predecessor in Bush’s Sate Dept. and later director of the McCain Institute and involved in the shady Russiagate dossier, was appointed to the board of the newly-established Halifax International Security Forum, modelled on the Kiev Security Forum, organized by the German Marshall Fund, part of the Stanford and Princeton projects, and funded with Canadian taxdollars.
The co-ordinated assault on Iran by agencies of the Canadian government – Department of National Defence, DFAIT and its Democracy Unit, etc. – were coupled with an intensified assault on Venezuela. In January 2012 Venezuela hosted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a four-nation Latin American tour in the context of developing new international economic arrangements independent of the hegemony of U.S. imperialism. What is clear is that Ottawa does not think or act alone. Washington expelled a Venezuelan diplomat serving as Consul General in Miami, the centre of Cuban-American reaction and base for organizing covert operations in Latin America, and warned that further actions could be taken against the South American nation. Washington’s plan failed, to the extent that today even Turkey, itself the target of a coup attempt, is defending Venezuela as part of a network of international resistance to Washington’s system of economic coercion. For its part, Canada, having twice refused to accredit an Iranian ambassador, abruptly broke relations in September 2012. Meanwhile the Canadian embassy in Caracas, which was also representing Israel, was accusing the Chavez government of “anti-semitism” and complicity with racism against Jews. This set the stage for the next step in Rowswell’s career.
Direct Diplomacy initiative
2012 (December) — Present:
“A campaign to use a combination of online and direct communications to engage the citizens of foreign countries directly in the pursue [sic] of Canada’s foreign policy objectives.” (Rowswell’s LinkedIn profile)
2013 (May): DFAIT and Rowswell established a pilot project with the Peter Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto to implement “Direct Diplomacy”: cyberwarfare. It targeted Iran in the lead-up to that country’s 2013 presidential election; “the project was touted as a method for bypassing Tehran and offering a platform for dissidents and human-rights activists in the country.”
In January, 2015 funding from External Affairs was announced for a new project, “Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran.” It involved an all-sided assault on Iranian society through technology designed to overwhelm domestic online networks. It also involved launching YouTube and Twitter accounts in Farsi. By 2015, the Harper government’s funding of the project totalled $5,448,137 (see Tony Seed, “Digital diplomacy’: Harper government’s new weapon for subversion,” March 19, 2014). Upon his retirement on March 16, 2015, Foreign Minister John Baird was charitably appointed nine days later on March 25 to sit on the international advisory board of Munk’s Barrick Gold. For his part, former justice, defence and foreign minister Peter MacKay was made a partner of the Bay Street branch of the US law firm Baker MacKenzie, a partner of the Atlantic Council.
The assault on Iran also involved meddling in Canadian political affairs. The Munk School employs Mark Dubowitz, whose family arrived in Canada from South African when he was eight. During a 2006 interview he recounted being “very upset” with his parents when he realized after a few years that Canada was not part of the United States. A Zionist who was educated and worked in Israel, he is the executive director of the U.S. Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD), earning a reported $500,000 a year. The FDD is an extremist anti-Iran, pro-Israel attack group disguised as a “think tank” established in the United States just after 9/11 by big capital, including the Zionist Bronfman family, which is closely connected with the Liberal Party. Former CIA director James Woolsey is a founding member. On March 2, 2012, it established a front group in Canada, incorporating a branch of the FDD, which set up shop at 160 Elgin Street in Ottawa; it “focuses singularly on Canadian national security and foreign policy.” It pushed the Canadian parliament to approve the so-called Victims of Terrorism Act Iran Freedom Support Act, to expand existing sanctions on Iran. Canada cut relations with Iran just before this act came into power in September 2012. This act legalized the designation of Iran and Syria as “sponsors of state terrorism,” the only states so designated, and the plunder of their assets. Its main activity is media placements, especially the National Post and Huffington Post, and appearances before parliamentary committees demanding attacks against Iran as well as Venezuela. Linda Frum, a Conservative Senator, is co-chair.
– Advisor to the Privy Council
– Worked at Permanent Mission at the UN
2014 (28 February–): Canadian Ambassador to Venezuela, replacing Paul Gibbard
Embassy Magazine wrote in March 2014 of Rowswell’s posting to Venezuela:
“Mr. Rowswell is one of Canada’s leading practitioners of digital diplomacy: he oversaw a pilot project last year on direct diplomacy for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development where he helped to establish a communications platform for Iranians and Iranian emigrants to communicate with each other, and occasionally the Canadian government, beyond the reach of that country’s censors. (emphasis added)
“He said in a phone interview he began promoting the use of digital diplomacy by the government after a break-year studying at Stanford University from 2010 to 2011, during which he researched the way in which activists used digital media to enact political change.
“His digital media skills will help him collect crucial information on the political situation in Venezuela without relying on the traditional media, he said.
“‘We want to know what’s going on in Venezuela, and because so much of the political debate and the political discussion, and frankly just the raw news about Venezuela, is happening on social media, we need to be on social media as well,’ he said.”
“‘It is important to have very good, up to date and reliable political reporting’ in a country in crisis, said John Graham, a former ambassador to Venezuela, in a phone interview. Chilled bilateral relations mean it ‘is highly unlikely [Mr. Rowswell will] be able to exert any influence on the situation’ through traditional diplomacy, Mr. Graham said.
“Mr. Rowswell’s experience engaging the Iranian population through direct diplomacy could be a sign of the government’s strategy for that country, said David Carment, a fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and professor of International affairs at Carleton University, in a phone interview.
“The Harper government is very deliberate and specific about where it picks its entry points,” he said, noting the close ties between Venezuelan and Iranian governments under former leaders Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“An Iranian delegation travelled to Venezuela and Cuba this week and voiced support for the government of Nicolás Maduro, Iranian news agencies Tasnim and Press TV reported.
“Canada’s federal government believes it has an interest in undermining the Venezuelan government, Mr. Carment said, which it sees as unfriendly to its interests.
“‘What I’m suggesting is that, why Venezuela would be a choice for this government, as opposed to a myriad of others countries you could select, is because of that connection [with Iran],’ Mr. Carment said.
“Ana Carolina Rodriguez, the head of mission at Venezuela’s embassy in Ottawa, said in an interview it would be improper for either Mr. Rowswell or herself to encourage the population of their host country to denounce or rebel against the government.
“Mr. Rowswell said he has not been instructed to engage in the sort of direct diplomacy he practiced with the Iranian population, cutting the government out of the loop, but to ‘understand the full diversity of perspectives’ and engage with all political actors.
“Canada’s government is increasing its use of digital diplomacy across the board, he said, and the two-way nature of communicating on digital media means it cannot stay silent on issues that call for it to voice an opinion.
“He will use digital media only to ‘supplement’ the more traditional tactics of diplomacy, he said.
“He said he did not yet have a clear understanding of the relationship between Venezuela and Iran, adding ‘I’ll have to just keep an eye open.’”
Reports of Canada’s role in Venezuela
On December 23, 2017 Venezuela declared Canada’s chargé d’affaires in Caracas as persona non grata “for his permanent and insistent, gross and vulgar interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela … despite a call to respect the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations,” in the words of Delcy Rodriguez, the president of the Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly. In a tit-for-tat reaction, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, released a statement on December 25 “announcing that the Venezuelan Ambassador to Canada … is no longer welcome in Canada.” She continued, “I am also declaring the Venezuelan chargé d’affaires persona non grata.” However, Venezuela’s action seems to have some foundation, at least based on several accounts.
Subsequent to President Hugo Chávez’s death from cancer on March 5, 2013, new elections were held in April. Nicolás Maduro won the presidency. Opposition leaders hold violent demonstrations that result in the deaths of more than a dozen people. The popularity of the Bolivarian government was reflected in the December 8 mayoral elections; 76 per cent of the nation’s mayors of cities and towns were won by the Chavistas, with the opposition winning only 24 per cent. Since then, MUD, the collective of various opposition political parties, fractured and kicked out two of the most openly aggressive right-wing leaders, Maria Corina Machado and Leopoldo López. In February 2014, the violent protests resumed led by Lopez and Machado, who openly call for the overthrow of President Maduro. During the celebration of National Youth Day on February 12, while thousands marched peacefully to commemorate the historic achievements of youth in the nation’s independence, another group sought a different agenda. Opposition youth, “students” trained by Otpor from Yugoslavia, led an aggressive march calling for Maduro’s resignation that ended in a violent confrontation with authorities after the protestors destroyed building façades, including the Attorney General’s office, threw objects at police and national guard and used molotov cocktails to burn property and block transit. The initial clashes caused three deaths and multiple injuries. Over 40 people ultimately died, about half government personnel including six police officers, several public servants and numerous pro-government activists. Leopoldo Lopez went into hiding following the confrontation and a warrant was issued for his arrest due to his role in the deadly events and his public calls to oust the president. Days later, after a lengthy show including videos from a “clandestine” location, Lopez convened another march and used the event to publicly turn himself over to authorities. He was taken into custody and held for questioning, all his rights guaranteed by the state. The U.S. government called for his immediate release. The Obama administration went so far as to threaten President Maduro with international consequences if Leopoldo Lopez were to be detained. For her part, the Miami-based Machado has functioned as an international liaison for the opposition, visiting President George W. Bush in 2005.
Foreign Affairs invited her to Ottawa in January 2005, and helped finance Súmate, her NGO at the forefront of anti-Chavez political campaigns. Canada (Rights & Democracy) then gave Súmate $22,000 in 2005-06. Minister of International Cooperation José Verner explained that “Canada considered Súmate to be an experienced NGO with the capability to promote respect for democracy, particularly a free and fair electoral process in Venezuela.” Her name appeared on a list of people who endorsed the 2002 coup against Chavez, for which she faced charges of treason.
Rowswell’s appointment by the Harper government followed on the heels of Venezuela’s expulsion of three US consular officials on February 17, accused of conspiracy and meeting students involved in the anti-government protests taking place at the time to destabilize the country.
Canada also quickly portrayed these protestors as peaceful victims of state repression. On February 28 the House of Commons unanimously passed a resolution sponsored by NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar effectively condemning the Venezuelan government and calling on it to “release all those detained during the protests, immediately cease all government interference with peaceful protesters, and ensure that those people who perpetrated the violence be brought to justice and bear the full weight of the law.” Rowswell’s appointment as ambassador was announced the same day.
His arrival in mid-March 2014 coincided with the suspension of Air Canada flights to Venezuela “for security reasons.” “Due to on-going civil unrest in Venezuela, Air Canada can no longer ensure the safety of its operation and has suspended flights to Caracas until further notice,” Air Canada stated. According to the airline’s website, it had been operating three Toronto-Caracas flights a week.
Roswell’s tenure is characterized by reports of the Canadian embassy being turned into a centre for propaganda, subversion, espionage and infiltration.
In 2014, under the Canadian Funding to Local Initiatives program, targeting Venezuela and managed by the Canadian Embassy in Caracas, Canada distributed $125,212 to unspecified recipients. The goal of that expenditure of Canadian taxpayers money is stated in an official report:
“The Canadian Funding to Local Initiatives (CFLI) provided flexible, modest support for projects with high visibility and impact on human rights and the rule of law, including: enabling Venezuelan citizens to anonymously register and denounce corruption abuses by government officials and police through a mobile phone application in 2014-15.”
“Funding of local initiatives” with the intention of undermining the elected government is intervention. Combating corruption in Venezuela is the task of the Venezuelan government, its justice system, and citizens according to their sovereign constitutional mandate.
On July 6, 2014, respected journalist and former Vice-President of Venezuela, Jose Vicente Rangel declared on his weekly television program José Vicente Hoy on Televen that “the Embassy of Canada appears more and more involved in weird activities against the Venezuelan constitutional government.” Rangel cited reports of members of an important, internationally known intelligence agency being brought into Venezuela through Canada’s diplomatic mission. Based on intelligence reports, he added, it was estimated that in the past three months some 30 agents specialized in destabilizing activities had entered Venezuela that way. (Emphasis added) As might be expected, the embassy denied there was any truth to these allegations.
Rangel added these agents then obtain status in the country through a firm that provides such services to large companies operating in Venezuela. It was run by an ex-military official, who was among those who set up a protest camp in a wealthy area of Caracas in 2002 after the failed coup attempt against the government of President Chávez by military and political forces linked to the United States.
A Mision Verdad article reports that, in response to Rangel’s revelations, the Canadian embassy categorically denied the charges, dismissing them as a “pure invention.”
However, even as Rowswell was denying the charges publicly, the Embassy was holding one of its direct diplomacy activities for a number of invited NGOs to “talk about human rights.”
The article notes that while Rowswell makes it sound like the direct democracy initiatives of the Canadian embassy accepts all opinions, regardless of invitees’ political views, the perspective of the Canadian government is clear as shown in its monolithic support of the decisions of the United States on the global geopolitical stage. This includes Canada’s membership in NATO, the role it plays in the OAS and the UN and its support for some of the world’s biggest mining companies like Barrick Gold as they ravage countries like Colombia, Peru and Argentina.
El Universal reported on July 9 that Canadian Assistant Deputy Minister for the Americas, David Morrison, had departed the day before from Caracas, where he had stayed for two days. “Diplomatic sources claimed that despite the attempt at meeting with a Venezuelan top government officer, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not even reply.”
In January 2015 the ambassador co-hosted an award presentation at his residence, at which a number of individuals and organizations were recognized for their work “defending human rights” in the country. In most cases, the NGOs that were honoured for their work on human rights cast the Bolivarian government in a negative light. The winner of the embassy’s annual “Human Rights Prize” gets a trip to meet with “human rights authorities and organizations” in Canada and a tour of Venezuelan cities to share experiences. The Embassy’s human rights prize is co-sponsored with the Centro para la Paz y los Derechos Humanos. The director of that organization, Raúl Herrera, has repeatedly denounced the Venezuelan government.
“Perhaps more telling than anything is that among the invited guests at the embassy’s human rights event was the wife of Leopoldo López, right wing opposition figure currently jailed and on trial for his role in organizing the violent anti-government street protests and barricades last year aimed at forcing President Maduro out of office by unconstitutional means. The plan failed miserably, but it led to the deaths of 43 people with hundreds more injured and widespread property damage.” (TML Weekly Information Project, February 21, 2015)
On February 13, 2015 when reporting on television about a thwarted coup against the Bolivarian government of Venezuela, President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello referred to a Canadian link. President Nicolás Maduro had alleged that the failed coup was organized and financed by the United States government.
Cabello said an RCMP member attached to the Canadian embassy, whom he identified as Nancy Birbek, along with another embassy official, had earlier in the week been investigating the airport facilities in Valencia and inquiring about the airport’s capacity to handle “special cases.” He said the official was operating outside her area of responsibility and wondered aloud what contingencies the embassy might have been preparing for.
Less than two weeks before the coup plot was exposed, Cabello asked on his weekly television program Con el Mazo Dando what the Canadian embassy and its ambassador were doing meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs.
On February 15, three terse tweets appeared on the Canadian embassy’s Twitter account dismissing Cabello’s allegations as false and saying the embassy had informed the government about “the trip to Valencia” beforehand in a letter, claiming it involved routine emergency planning to assist Canadian citizens as they do in any country.
(Correo del Orinoco, Telesur, Noticias al Dia y a la Hora, Univision, Government of Canada, Stanford University, Globe and Mail, Embassy Magazine, Community of Democracies, Sourcewatch, LinkedIn, Strategic Culture, Wikipedia)
Original source: TML Weekly Information Project, February 21, 2015. The original article has been re-organized, rewritten and expanded for this publication.
“Venezuela: More evidence of Canada’s dirty work,” February 25, 2015
“Canadian diplomats trained in social media … in Washington,” Tony Seed, September 14, 2014.
“Venezuela: Dirty activities of Canadian embassy,” Tony Seed, August 30, 2014.
“Machado ‘visit’: Harperites’ continuing subversion of Venezuela,” Tony Seed, May 10, 2014
* More about the Center for Strategic and International Studies
CSIS was founded in 1962, by Admiral Arleigh Burke and David Abshire “at the height of the Cold War, dedicated to the simple but urgent goal of finding ways for America to survive as a nation and prosper as a people.” During the war against Nicaragua, CSIS produced several documents “proving” a communist plot, etc. Today, according to the New York Times, “The center focuses much of its research on foreign policy and defense issues and has a particularly large number of donors from Asia, including China. It runs programs on topics important to many of those nations, such as trade agreements with the United States, and defense issues, in an era of growing tension between Japan and China.”
Here’s a short list of Rowswell’s CSIS contemporaries, and some interesting affiliations, from an article about one Zbigniew Brezinski, Carter’s National Security advisor and now an adviser to Obama, who is front and centre at the CSIS:
Sam Nunn – Former U.S. Senator and head of the Senate Armed Services Committee – is a co-chairman & CEO at CSIS now. Nunn was on the board of directors of Hess oil company, Chevron Corporation, and Texaco up until just recently. Interestingly, Hess sold off its Russia operations in April 2013 to Lukoil for $2.05 billion days after Nunn retired, and just five months prior to the Euromaidan events in Kiev.
Richard Armitage – A CSIS trustee and the 13th United States Deputy Secretary of State, Armitage was part of the so-called Plame affair, admittedly having divulged classified knowledge that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA operative. Colleagues claim when he was in Vietnam, Armitage was part of the CIA’s notorious Phoenix Program. He has had roles from Tehran before the Shah was deposed, to Afghanistan. In 2002-03 he launched a fear-mongering campaign about Hezbollah, the national resistance organization in Lebanon, allegedly having set up shop in the Tri-Border area in South America. The proff was that the Americans claimed to have arrested jihadist in Afghanistan who had a poster of Patagonia in his cave. Armitage is currently on the board of directors of ConocoPhillips Oil Company. Conoco sold its interests in Russian oil in 2010.
Lois Dickson Rice – The mother of Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, is Director of the Think Tank Consortium at Brookings. Both have been distinguished fellows of Brookings, and Rice the junior also served as a Clinton adviser and Ambassador to the UN. Susan Rice’s long time mentor former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, was a student of Zbigniew Brzezinski, and later served under him at the National Security Council.
Henry Alfred Kissinger – This CSIS counsellor, trustee and war criminal needs no introduction. The 56th U.S. Secretary of State has been credited on the one side with recreating foreign relations intellectually and strategically. Conversely, from the Vietnam era to Senator John McCain’s defence of the dignitary at the notorious “Get out of here you low-life scum” Senate hearings where Kissinger was called a murderer, the aging think tank brain is still part of the problem for many.
Rex W. Tillerson – The Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, the main supplier of oil to the Pentagon, is also a CSIS trustee. Tillerson came to prominence around the time the company’s holdings in Russia and the Caspian Sea grew in prominence. In 2011 he signed an agreement with the Russians for drilling in the Arctic estimated to be worth $300 billion. Exxon reportedly lost out in Siberia and in the Black Sea because of the Ukraine crisis. However, factoring in vast natural gas deals in Australia and North America, this puts Tillerson at the head of think tank curiosities, and especially given Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s vehement anti-Russia temperament. ExxonMobil carries out prospecting works in the territorial waters between Venezuela and Guyana.
Philip Butler, “American think tank policy: Not for or by the people”, RT.com, February 25, 2015