Geopolitics - Jan 17
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Petro-Power and the Nuclear Renaissance
Two Faces of an Emerging Energo-fascism (Part 2)
Michael Klare, Tom Dispatch
With global demand for energy constantly rising and supplies contracting (or at least failing to keep pace), the world is being ever more sharply divided into two classes of nations: the energy haves and have-nots. The haves are the nations with sufficient domestic reserves (some combination of oil, gas, coal, hydro-power, uranium, and alternative sources of energy) to satisfy their own requirements and be able to export to other countries; the have-nots lack such reserves and must make up the deficit with expensive imports or suffer the consequences.
From 1950 to 2000, when energy was plentiful and cheap, the distinction did not seem so obvious as long as the have-nots possessed other forms of power: immense wealth (like Japan); nuclear weapons (like Britain and France); or powerful friends (like the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries). Needless to say, for poor countries possessing none of these assets, being a have-not state was a burden even then, contributing mightily to the debt crisis that still afflicts many of them. Today, these other measures of power have come to seem less important and the distinction between energy haves and have-nots correspondingly more significant -- even for wealthy and powerful countries like the United States and Japan.
Surprisingly, there are very few energy haves in the world today. Most notable among these privileged few are Australia, Canada, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq (if it were ever free of conflict), and a few others. These countries are in an envious position because they do not have to pay stratospheric prices for imported oil and natural gas and their ruling elites can demand all sorts of benefits -- political, economic, diplomatic, and military -- from the foreign leaders who come calling to procure copious quantities of their energy products. Indeed, they can engage in the delicious game of playing one foreign leader against another, as Kazakhstan's President, Nursultan Nazarbayev -- a regular guest in Washington and Beijing -- has become so adept at doing.
Pushed even further, this pursuit of favors can lead to a quest for political domination -- with the sale of vital oil and natural gas supplies made contingent on the recipient's acquiescing to certain political demands set forth by the seller. No country has embraced this strategy with greater vigor or enthusiasm than Vladimir Putin's Russia.
(17 Jan 2007)
Also posted at Common Dreams
Escalation in the Middle East
Rep Ron Paul, Information Clearing House
While the president’s announcement that an additional 20,000 troops would be sent to Iraq dominated the headlines last week, the real story was the president’s sharp rhetoric towards Iran and Syria. And recent moves by the administration only serve to confirm the likelihood of a wider conflict in the Middle East.
The president stated last week that, “Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity- and stabilizing the region in the face of the extremist challenge. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria.” He also announced the deployment of an additional aircraft carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf, and the deployment of Patriot air missile defense systems to countries in the Middle East. Meanwhile, US troops stormed the Iranian consulate in Iraq and detained several Iranian diplomats. Taken together, the message was clear: the administration intends to move the US closer to a dangerous and ill-advised conflict with Iran.
As I said last week on the House floor, speculation in Washington focuses on when, not if, either Israel or the U.S. will bomb Iran-- possibly with nuclear weapons.
(15 Jan 2007)
Iraq cultivating ties with Iran
Louise Roug and Borzou Daragahi, Chicago Tribune
The Iraqi government is moving to solidify relations with Iran, even as the United States ratchets up its rhetorical heat and bolsters its military forces to confront Iranian influence in Iraq.
Responding to an American raid on an Iranian office in northern Iraq last week, Iraq's foreign minister said Monday that the Baghdad government intends to transform similar Iranian agencies into full-fledged consulates. The minister, Hoshyar Zebari, also said the Baghdad government plans to negotiate more border entry points with Iran.
(16 Jan 2007)
Oil's Vital New Power
Vivienne Walt/Baku, Time
In the control room of Azerbaijan's sprawling oil terminal near the capital, Baku, Bala Mirza sits peering at a fuzzy map on a computer monitor. The outline of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey looks like little more than a jumble of hills and farming towns. But for the engineer, 41, what lies underground has rocked his world: a new 1,100-mile oil pipeline, which in recent months has tied this tiny country on the edge of the Caspian Sea to the huge Western market. "There is a lot of oil and a lot of money," says Mirza, who spent 14 years earning about $10 a month working on a creaking old Soviet oil rig. "And because there is a lot of money, our lives will surely improve."
The stakes in Azerbaijan's new pipeline are far higher than the fortunes of just Mirza and his family. This Muslim republic, directly north of Iran and tucked into the southwest corner of the vast former Soviet empire, is suddenly a central player in one of the West's most distressing problems: how the U.S. and Europe will secure enough oil and gas to power cities, factories, airplanes and cars--in short, how to keep our entire modern lives afloat.
(12 Jan 2007)
Iran and Venezuela plan anti-U.S. fund
Natalie Obiko Pearson, USA Today
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — fiery anti-American leaders whose moves to extend their influence have alarmed Washington — said Saturday they would help finance investment projects in other countries seeking to thwart U.S. domination.
The two countries had previously revealed plans for a joint $2 billion fund to finance investments in Venezuela and Iran, but the leaders said Saturday the money would also be used for projects in friendly countries throughout the developing world.
"It will permit us to underpin investments ... above all in those countries whose governments are making efforts to liberate themselves from the (U.S.) imperialist yoke," Chavez said.
"This fund, my brother," the Venezuelan president said, referring affectionately to Ahmadinejad, "will become a mechanism for liberation."
Shock and Oil: Iraq's Billions & the White House Connection
Stephen Foley, The Independent via Common Dreams
The American company appointed to advise the US government on the economic reconstruction of Iraq has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars into Republican Party coffers and has admitted that its own finances are in chaos because of accounting errors and bad management.
BearingPoint is fighting to restore its reputation in the US after falling more than a year behind in reporting its own financial results, prompting legal actions from its creditors and shareholders.
...Last week The Independent on Sunday revealed that a BearingPoint employee, based in the US embassy in Baghdad, had been tasked with advising the Iraqi Ministry of Oil on drawing up a new hydrocarbon law. The legislation, which is due to be presented to Iraq's parliament within days, will give Western oil companies a large slice of profits from the country's oil fields in exchange for investing in new oil infrastructure.
(14 Jan 2007)
Oil, The Elites, And The Commons
Gilles d'Aymery, Swans
Opponents of the current Bush administration's policies who take to heart the famous words of iconoclastic muckraker I.F. Stone -- "If you want to know about governments, all you have to know is two words, 'governments lie.'" -- too often ignore that powerful people can be quite sincere and honestly believe in the policies they formulate and implement.
Generation after generation, these people have used brute force and the abundance of cheap resources to create material wealth, which though unequally shared is undeniable. While the United States economy has been in relative decline since the 1950s the U.S. remains by far the wealthiest country on earth. Why then would these people change policies -- the acquisition of resources through coercion -- that have worked so well for so long? And why would the American people want to change course when it has in its majority benefited from these policies, especially when no other course, say a specific programmatic agenda, is presented to them? To ignore these facts, to keep howling against systemic policies, to revel in focusing one's attention and energy on the darkness, the ulterior motives of our decision makers (the powers that be), without offering any positive alternatives and solutions to the challenges the country and the world confront are a distinct failing of our imagination and proof of our lack of intellectual and political credibility. What is more and more urgently needed is to break with the conceptual framework that creates enemies out of people one disagrees with -- actually mirroring the attitude of those powerful people -- and come up with practical solutions. We must confront the issues, not the personalities.
The farewell speech that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delivered at the Pentagon on December 15, 2006, was a remarkable illustration and a powerful reminder that we err in intensely focusing on some imagined dark side of human nature. Watching him speak I could not be more impressed by his sincerity and authenticity. He was not lying. He was not making it up, or spinning his own PR. The man truly believed in what he was saying. The obligation to defeat the enemy, past, present, and future, through military means, to defend civilization as we know it and our way of life -- ancient memes repeated by all hierarchies within history. The need to face our perceived vulnerabilities through more defense spending.
(15 Jan 2007)
USA lends oil-helping hand to former Soviet republics and waves aside dumping accusations
In connection with the rise in hydrocarbon prices, US President George W. Bush lifts a long-standing ban on oil and gas drilling in the Bristol Bay. But in this connection also comes to memory a recent demand of anti-Russian congressmen to support the attempts of countries with young democracies, Georgia and Ukraine in particular, to become independent in the energy sphere.
...America seems to have found a reason for opening its oil and gas reserves. American corporation can receive high profits from selling carbohydrates to Ukraine and Georgia at lower than the world prices and at that successfully avoid accusations of dumping.
(13 Jan 2007)
This is a new one. Does it actually benefit the US gov't to sell Alaskan oil to these former soviet states rather than internally? That's a genuine, not a rhetorical question. -AF