Geopolitics

What Happens When An Ecologist Gets Invited To Ultra-Secret Bilderberg Summit

No one knows what goes on or even who are all the people taking part in this invitation-only, top-secret club for the world's most powerful elites. So how did a loquacious Green Party member manage to get invited?

Guess who won't be invited next year? (BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN)
Guess who won't be invited next year? (BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN)
Matthias Kamann and Michael Stürmer

BERLIN - Jürgen Trittin is on the defensive, even though the top Green party leader in Germany has no real reason to be. The source of his troubles is his recent trip to the United States where he spent two days attending the 60th Bilderberg Conference, held this year in in Chantilly, Virginia.

Bilderberg is an annual meeting of international politicians, business leaders and journalists that is as exclusive as it is discreet, and Trittin was one of its 145 attendees. Good for him!

Yet Trittin, head of Alliance ‘90/The Greens, feels he somehow needs to explain his visit to Chantilly, where his name was on the guest list along with former Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann and many American and international moguls.

Is this a fitting environment for a Green politician, long considered to be left-leaning? Trittin poses the question himself on his website, www.trittin.de: "As a Green politician, should one attend such a conference?" He answers: "Of course, why ever not?"

"It is wrong to set limits on whom you are allowed to talk to or be in contact with. It's not about the people you meet with, but what you have to say to them," he writes, underscoring the point by adding that Green viewpoints must "be introduced in places where they are still not actively represented. That is and remains the premise on which I base my political dealings."

In the face of criticism from the far-left, however, Trittin feels the need to justify himself. He goes so far as to reveal information about the conference that the rule of silence enshrouding the proceedings usually keeps out of the public domain. According to him, the topics on the conference agenda this year were: trans-Atlantic relations, the EU debt crisis, international energy policies, and cyber-security. He himself took part in a panel discussion "about the euro crisis and the European Union."

On his website, he adds that he didn't say anything at the conference that he wouldn't have said anywhere else; he advocated a "departure from a one-sided austerity regime in Europe;" and he spoke out for "sustainable investment in education, energy, and infrastructure as well as a European debt repayment fund." He had also raised Green calls for a "tax on financial transactions' and a "tax on assets so that the people who are responsible for the crisis and the rich pay a share of the costs of the crisis."

A private club for the world's most influential

According to Trittin, reactions to what he had to say were by no means entirely negative. On the contrary: "Many of those present thought that the way the crisis in Europe is presently being managed represents a dramatic underestimation of its gravity and agreed that a course correction is urgently needed."

To make sure that all other critiques of his trip were nipped in the bud, Trittin asks and answers the question of who paid for his trip: "I did. My participation did not entail any additional costs to German taxpayers." He was invited to the conference, he says, by Matthias Naß, a journalist for the German newspaper Zeit.

But just what is "Bilderberg," anyway? The name comes from a hotel ("de Bilderberg") near Arnhem, in the Netherlands, where the conference took place for the first time in 1954. The name stayed on, even though the conference itself takes place each year at a different venue around the world.

"Bilderberg" is a code word for the chosen few, just the way the word "Davos' -- to those in the know -- does not just mean a mountain resort in the canton of Graubünden, Switzerland, but refers to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) held there.

Unlike WEF organizers, however, organizers of the Bilderberg Conference have never been, and continue not to be, interested in publicity. Bilderberg is a gathering of conservative elites, and being confidential and secretive are the two most important conditions for getting the world's most influential players to participate. Attendees are overwhelmingly, albeit not exclusively, male.

English is the language spoken at the conference, which adheres to the Chatham House Rule stating that attendees are free to use any information gleaned at the conference but not to reveal the identity or affiliation of anyone present. The confidentiality of the proceedings encourages participants to talk freely with each other, and the end result is a market place for well-informed, relevant opinion.

Originally, the Bilderberg Conference was a talk shop for western nations including Turkey, but has since opened up to include participants from other countries including Russia and China.

Read more from Die Welt in German.

Photo - BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN

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Geopolitics

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-Analysis-

LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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