Media Partners: "Thought Leaders"

The Halifax International Security Forum (HISF) has three "Media Partners," Foreign Affairs magazine, Foreign Policy magazine, and Politico, which publishes content using various media. Like the other HISF partners and sponsors, the basis for the partnership is not immediately clear.

Foreign Affairs Magazine

Foreign Affairs is a publication of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), considered to be the most powerful foreign policy think tank in the U.S. This section focuses on that publication and its parent organization, to show what is the basis for being an HISF Media Partner, in turn shedding light on what are the HISF's aims and what interests it serves.

The HISF website states: "Since its founding in 1922, Foreign Affairs has been the leading forum for serious discussion of American foreign policy and global affairs. It is published by the [CFR], a non-profit and nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to improving the understanding of U.S. foreign policy and international affairs through the free exchange of ideas."

Foreign Affairs is the main publication of the CFR. The journal is aimed specifically at government "policy makers," and the economic and intellectual elite. During James F. Hoge's 18 years as editor (1992-2010), Foreign Affairs more than doubled its circulation to a high of 161,000, in addition to its on-line edition. Hoge launched editions in Spanish, Japanese and Russian.[1]

The CFR has some 5,000 members (all from the U.S.), representing the oil, energy, financial, political, university, business, media and banking sectors, as well as multinational institutions and the arms industry, NGOs, large media corporations and the intelligence community and military sector.

The CFR has been described as a veritable shadow government that plans the general strategies of the global imperialist system, acting above any government. In their 1977 landmark book, The Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and U.S. Foreign Policy, the U.S. historians Laurence H. Shoup and William Minter observed:

"That the Council is little known is thus not a sign of insignificance, but rather points to its mode of operation. The men at the top meet and work out together the general direction of policy -- the limits of respectable debate. Through a complex network of channels, the content and tone of their discussion reach the policymakers and the leaders of opinion. Eventually they may reach those of us who take an interest in what our country is doing in the world, but we may have little idea that what comes to be a natural 'climate of opinion' was carefully fostered and guided. For the process is not public. Council members are selected by the Council's leadership and the meetings are confidential. As the New York Times expressed it, 'Except for its annual public Elihu Root Lectures, the Council's talks and seminars are strictly off the record. An indiscretion can be grounds for termination or suspension of membership.'"

CFR members and individuals with high academic standing produce documents of a political and ideological nature that serve as weapons of the U.S. imperialists in their striving to dominate the world. It brings together people from various political and ideological tendencies with a common imperialist vision. In this sense, it attempts to form a bridge over the serious inter-capitalist and inter-imperialist rivalries and clashes within the U.S. ruling class which it calls "to develop a bipartisan consensus on the key foreign policy issues of the day." CFR members who come from the political world are responsible for the implementation of the conclusions adopted at its meetings or advanced in its detailed reports.

For over 30 years, the CFR has been in the forefront of advocating the integration of Canada and Mexico into Fortress North America, including the integration of ministries dealing with foreign and military policy. For example, the CFR was the driving force behind the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) and the Security Perimeter which was being negotiated at the time between Obama and Harper. On September 20, 2007 -- immediately following the Montebello Conference with U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Vincente Fox -- Harper was invited to address the Council on Foreign Relations, an address that was webcast to all CFR members. This is further evidence that the HISF forms a fifth column platform for the CFR to push for the destruction of any state arrangements which impede the integration of Canada into U.S. imperialist aims.

Foreign Affairs joined the HISF as a partner in 2011. At a September 6, 2011 press conference, then Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced additional government funding for another three years and that he was "pleased to announce this year the Forum is benefiting from a new partner in Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs' partnership is a tremendous asset and I know that this decision moves the Forum forward in ways that simply weren't possible the first two years."

Neither MacKay nor newspaper reports carrying the announcement identify the magazine either as a U.S. publication or the journal of the CFR. Nor were terms of the partnership revealed at that time.

In 2016, a response to a Canadian Taxpayers Federation Freedom of Information request to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) brought some information about the Foreign Affairs/CFR-HISF partnership to light. In a July 25, 2011 e-mail to an ACOA account officer, Peter Van Praagh, newly appointed as HISF President, stated:

"Foreign Affairs magazine is owned by the Council on Foreign Relations. Foreign Affairs is the leading source for ideas and analysis on foreign policy and international relations. Foreign Affairs will work with Halifax International Security Forum to develop the agenda for the November [2011] event. This includes regular consultation between Foreign Affairs' expert staff, its parent, CFR and the Halifax International Security Forum to ensure that the agenda attracts top political and intellectual leaders. The articles in the November-December edition of Foreign Affairs will highlight the November Halifax Forum agenda. Additionally, Halifax International Security Forum will have access to Foreign Affairs' network of international experts to invite to the Forum as participants and speakers. Live video of the November conference will be available on the Foreign Affairs' website. There will be Halifax branding on all Foreign Affairs products including the magazine, a HISF banner on its website and highlighting on its Twitter//Facebook/YouTube pages. Information about Halifax will be distributed on its e-news letter to 87,000 people. Finally, copies of Foreign Affairs will be distributed to all HISF participants."

Van Praagh's message to ACOA was that the role of the CFR is decisive in terms of setting the agenda, recruiting speakers, developing a ramified U.S.-based international elite network, and popularizing that agenda amongst that elitist strata.[2] These arrangements also show the subservience of the Canadian government (at that time the Harper Conservatives) to U.S. imperialist aims. Leading officials would have been able to clearly see that the Canadian government had no independent role in the war conference.

Thus, at virtually no cost to itself, the CFR acquired a new platform to champion its agenda. Furthermore, Van Praagh disingenuously covered up the reasons why the CFR decided to become involved. He refers euphemistically "to develop the agenda" without mentioning either what that agenda is or what are the CFR's interests. It suggests that the HISF could not achieve what the Anglo-American imperialists and NATO want it to achieve on its own.

Interestingly, a search of the Foreign Affairs website shows not a single article on or emanating from the Halifax International Security Forum.

Also in 2011, Jonathan Tepperman, originally from Windsor, Ontario, was installed as the Vice Chairman of the board of the HISF (the board had been created that summer, replacing the German Marshall Fund as the conference organizer). He had been Managing Editor of Foreign Affairs since January 2011.

The editor of Foreign Affairs is Gideon Rose. He surfaced at the 2011 HISF as a moderator, as did former editor James F. Hoge Jr. Many presenters and participants at the HISF are also CFR members, such as former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who delivered the keynote address on November 18, 2011.

Role of CFR in Libya

What has been the recent role of the CFR in U.S. imperialist aggression? Take for example NATO's intervention in Libya in 2011.

CFR President Richard Haas at the time was demanding the Obama presidency and NATO send "boots on the ground" to occupy Libya. In an editorial in the Financial Times titled "Libya Now Needs Boots on the Ground," he stated that Libya's "rebels" were in no way capable of rebuilding Libya properly and would require an "international force" to maintain order. The title alone is enough to get an idea of the message being communicated to readers, the U.S. ruling elite.

Haas admitted that the murderous NATO intervention in Libya, that totaled more than 7,000 air strikes, including by Canada's war planes, to "protect civilians," was a political intervention designed to bring about regime change. Haas implored Obama to reconsider his decision to rule out U.S. boots on the ground and to do so quickly.[3] The U.S. imperialist policy, based on brinkmanship, was in deep crisis. Dr Leslie Gelb, honorary president of the Council on Foreign Relations (he was president from 1993 to 2003), demanded the resignation of the chief advisers of President Obama and the appointment of a new team. In retrospect, it suggested that the CFR was setting the next stage for military intervention in Syria to create the necessary climate for radical action against the "bothersome" government of this country, organized from the highest levels of power in the United States.

The seven months of relentless bombing and shelling by the NATO forces caused innumerable civilian deaths, the destruction of whole cities, the devastation of hospitals, schools, universities, roads, sewage treatment plants, aquifers and countless other social infrastructure paid for by the labour of Libyan and migrant workers in the Libyan oilfields. Showing the kind of "liberation" and "democracy" that the "international community" of plunderers has in mind for other countries around the world, the UK presented a license to drill for oil request to Libya's CIA-backed National Transitional Council less than twenty-four hours after Gadhafi's death.

After months of denying the existence of insurrectionary elements within the Syrian opposition, the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations issued reports confirming that, not only were the "protesters" armed, but that rebel forces on the ground collectively formed a resistance army of 15,000 fighters. The CFR claimed this "Free Syrian Army" was requesting weapons and air support, despite documented reports of weapons being smuggled past Syria's borders from foreign supporters, most notably, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, and Libya. CFR's report then goes on to explore the options available to NATO for facilitating "regime change," including the use of "overhead surveillance assets, logistical enablers, peacekeepers, armed drones, combat aircraft, ground troops," and "smuggled weapons." The claims of a large, armed militant force operating inside of Syria directly contradicted the West's concurrent narrative that Syria's military is running rampant and killing defenseless civilians. With an army of "15,000 defectors" attempting to seize the nation by force, with the help of foreign money, weapons, and diplomatic support, one finds it difficult to believe the Syrian government would instead be spending its time conducting massacres of civilians.

Role of CFR in Syria

The CFR and the HISF have also been directly involved in the destabilization and subversion of Syria. There is Bassma Kodmani, member of the executive bureau and head of foreign affairs, Syrian National Council alongside Radwan Ziadeh who was surreptitiously brought to the 2011 HISF. She was a two-time Bilderberg meeting attendee; director of governance and international co-operation program for (CIA-front) Ford Foundation in pre-"Arab Spring" Egypt; and executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) -- a research program initiated by the CFR in 2004.

The main focus of the 2011 HISF was the organization of the dastardly war against Syria and Iran -- with Canada announcing the deployment of the warship HMCS Charlottetown to the eastern Mediterranean; U.S. Senator John McCain calling for the recognition of jihadi terrorists from the Syrian National Council as the "legitimate representative" of the Syrian people; MacKay's future wife, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, an Iranian monarchist, moderating the only session on Iran as a "human rights activist." A report by the editor of a blog of the Canadian International Council included the following observation: "The moderator consistently brought the conversation back to conflict, air strikes and Iranian counter attacks."[4]

One day before Christmas, the CFR released a grotesque article on its website titled "Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike is the Least Bad Option." The article endorsed a U.S. military strike against Iran as a neat and cost-free way to address its nuclear program.

"The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran's nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States."[5]

The CFR added its seal of authenticity to this made-to-order "provocative argument," i.e., aggression, in which they were trying to exploit, once again, the panic that gripped U.S. society after the events of September 11. Author Matthew Kroenig, co-chair of the CFR's Term Member Advisory Committee, was a CFR International Affairs fellow in the U.S. Department of Defense.

This is the editorial stance of a journal being described as the "media partner" of the Halifax International Security Forum, funded by the Canadian Department of National Defence and ACOA.

From all of this it could be concluded that the modus operandi of a "media partnership" and what MacKay was referring to when he highlighted the role of Foreign Affairs as one which "moves the Forum forward in ways that simply weren't possible the first two years," made it a useful vehicle for advocating for a superior organization of imperialist intervention and war and a more aggressive and bellicose policy than that being followed by the Obama government, and the wrecking of public opinion.

Foreign Policy Magazine

When Jonathan Tepperman, Vice Chairman of the Board of the Halifax International Security Forum, moved from Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs to Editor-in-Chief, Foreign Policy, it also became a "media partner."

Foreign Policy is a U.S. news publication. It was founded in 1970 during the turmoil of the Vietnam War by the imperialist ideologue Samuel P. Huntington of the "clash of civilizations" theory and Warren Demian Manshel. It focuses on global affairs, current events, and domestic and international policy. It was closely linked with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace which, after six years of close partnership acquired full ownership, in 1978. It began to produce content daily on its website, and six print issues annually. In 2000, it launched international editions in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

Since 2008 when it was acquired from Carnegie, which was reportedly losing $1.5 million a year, Foreign Policy magazine and has been published by The FP Group, a division of Graham Holdings Company (formerly the Washington Post Company bought by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos). The FP Group also produces FP Events, Foreign Policy's events division, launched in 2012. According to Wikipedia, its holdings include the online magazine Slate, Graham Media Group (formerly Post-Newsweek Stations), a group of five large-market TV stations, higher education company Kaplan, and the now closed Trove (formerly WaPo Labs) -- the developers of a newsreader app. Graham Holdings Company also owned cable television and internet service provider Cable One until it was spun off in 2015. In 2009 it expanded the web site, adding a new cast of ten bloggers, mainly from national security think tanks. In 2018, the magazine -- "historically one of the more reliable destinations for freelancers who want to write deeply reported international pieces," according to the Columbia Review of Journalism -- closed its foreign bureaus.

Parallel to the 2018 HISF, the theme of Foreign Policy's Fall 2018 print edition was "The Future of War"  -- "The reason is that this is one of those moments when technology is moving so fast that the old, settled ways of fighting wars are rapidly being overturned. And nobody knows what, exactly, will follow."


The HISF writes on its website that "Politico strives to be the dominant source for politics and policy in power centers across every continent where access to reliable information, non-partisan journalism and real-time tools creates, informs and engages a global citizenry. Political professionals read Politico. Public policy professionals need Politico. And those who hunger to better understand Washington and government power centers around the globe go to Politico first."

Politico is a specialized U.S. political news journal, which recently moved into Canada. It recently launched Politico Pro to provide a subscription-only news service to corporations and government agencies. Its website notes, "Politico Pro Canada is a new subscription service covering policy trends and political developments that shape the deeply-integrated Canada-U.S. relationship. Created for business leaders and policy makers, Politico Pro Canada's exclusive coverage focuses on federal and state policies that affect bilateral economic interests and government relations."

Politico is known for its fondness of anonymous sources -- and even anonymous authors. In 2018 the outlet ran a story suggesting that a dubious Guardian exclusive about an alleged meeting between former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange might be a product of Kremlin disinformation. The illuminating piece of conspiracy theory was penned by a nameless ex-CIA officer.

This "partnership" was only announced on the eve of the 2018 HISF.

John Harris, Politico Editor-in-Chief, is a member of the German Marshall Fund board of trustees. The board includes a host of corporate executives and news commentators. Its funding also comes from a coterie of governments especially the U.S. and Germany, major foundations, and multinational corporations including: Bank of America Foundation, BP, Daimler, Eli Lilly & Company, General Dynamics, IBM, NATO, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and USAID, among many others.


1. Hoge is now chairman of the board of Human Rights Watch, an imperialist NGO renowned for working in tandem with the U.S. State Department.

2. An April, 2011 article amongst others refers to the role of the CFR's "unparalleled network" that the HISF wishes to access in the context of fomenting the "Arab Spring":

"Contrary to the conventional cover stories presenting the uprisings in Cairo, Tunis, and elsewhere as spontaneous bottom-up affairs, there is a great deal of evidence indicating that they were instead coordinated top-down events planned long before the first street demonstrations began. And like the slime trail in the garden that leads to the slug, the trail here leads back to the Council on Foreign Relations. Utilizing its unparalleled network of high-level members in the U.S. government, the United Nations, the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Brookings Institution, and many NGOs, corporations, and philanthropic organizations, the CFR has employed a pincer attack pressuring the target governments with economic and diplomatic efforts from above, while funding Astroturf protests from below designed to look like real grass-roots affairs. The saviour whom the media has anointed as the next President of Egypt, Mohamed ElBaradei, was publicly picked over a year ago in the CFR's journal Foreign Affairs as the "hero" who would save Egypt, " William F. Jasper, "Organized Chaos Behind the Scenes in the Middle East: The Middle East Uprisings May Have Surprised Most People in the World, but Globalist Elites at the Council on Foreign Relations Laid the Groundwork for the 'Spontaneous Events,'" The New American, Volume 27, Issue 7, April 4, 2011.

3. "Libya now needs boots on the ground," Richard Haass, Financial Times, August 22, 2011.

4. "Ten years of resisting the U.S.-led Halifax war conference," Tony Seed, November 13, 2018.

5. Kroenig later stated "my analysis in this article came out of work I did last year where I was a special adviser in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and where I worked on defense strategy and policy on Iran." (Foreign Affairs, January/February 2012)

Condemning the warmongering article, Prof Stephen Walt affirmed:

"There is a simple and time-honored formula for making the case for war, especially preventive war. First, you portray the supposed threat as dire and growing, and then try to convince people that if we don't act now, horrible things will happen down the road. (Remember Condi Rice's infamous warnings about Saddam's "mushroom cloud"?) All this step requires is a bit of imagination and a willingness to assume the worst. Second, you have to persuade readers that the costs and risks of going to war aren't that great. If you want to sound sophisticated and balanced, you acknowledge that there are counterarguments and risks involved. But then you do your best to shoot down the objections and emphasize all the ways that those risks can be minimized. In short: In Step 1 you adopt a relentlessly gloomy view of the consequences of inaction; in Step 2 you switch to bulletproof optimism about how the war will play out.

"And let's be crystal clear about what Kroenig is advocating here. He is openly calling for preventive war against Iran, even though the United States has no authorization from the UN Security Council, it is not clear that Iran is actively developing nuclear weapons, and Iran has not attacked us or any of our allies -- ever. He is therefore openly calling for his country to violate international law. He is calmly advocating a course of action that will inevitably kill a significant number of people, including civilians, some of whom probably despise the clerical regime (and with good reason). And Kroenig is willing to have their deaths on his conscience on the basis of a series of unsupported assertions, almost all of them subject to serious doubt." (Foreign Policy, December 21, 2011)

(With files from Tony Seed.)

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 28 - November 23, 2019

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Media Partners: "Thought Leaders"


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