Monday, May 26, 2008

'Fate Of World Peace, Order Lies In Future Of China-Russia Ties'

This will probably prove to be one of the most important news stories of the decade, but most of the world's media barely noticed.

From the Daily Times :
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev praised on Saturday recent close ties between Moscow and Beijing as a key to global stability and said the two countries wanted to strengthen their strategic partnership.

In remarks that sounded like a veiled reference to the United States, Medvedev rejected what he said was opposition to Russian-Chinese cooperation. “Some don’t like such strategic cooperation between our countries, but we understand that this cooperation serves the interests of our people, and we will strengthen it, regardless of whether others like it or not,” he said, speaking at a university a day after he and Chinese President Hu Jintao criticized US missile defense plans.

“Russian-Chinese relations are one of the most important factors of maintaining stability in modern conditions,” he said. The former Cold War rivals have forged close political, military and commercial ties since the Soviet collapse, trying to counter what they see as US global dominance. On Friday, Medvedev and Hu said they wanted to see the peaceful use of space and rejected the deployment of weapons there, a reference to US plans for an orbiting missile-defence system.

In Saturday’s appearance at elite Tsinghua University, Hu’s alma mater, Medvedev never mentioned the United States by name and said the Russian-Chinese alliance “is not directed against any other nation. “It is aimed at maintaining a global balance,” he said. Medvedev said Russia and China support international law and a “decisive role” for the United Nations. Moscow has accused Washington and other Western governments of abusing international law in Iraq and Kosovo.

Russia also strengthened its role as a supplier to China’s booming nuclear power industry Friday, signing a US$1 billion deal to build a fuel enrichment facility and supply uranium. The joint Russian-Chinese criticism of US missile defence plans appeared to raise the stakes for Washington, which has been trying to persuade Beijing and especially Moscow not to see them as a threat. The diplomatic cooperation masks Russian unease at China’s growing power, and differences over military and energy sales. The White House said Friday it was disappointed that Medvedev had not changed the opposition expressed by his predecessor, Vladimir Putin. “We’re going to work with them to work through these concerns, and we think we can resolve any concerns that anyone has about this and the true nature of the programme,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

After a slow warming in the 1990s, Beijing and Moscow have in recent years joined together in opposing Kovoso’s independence and on Iran’s nuclear crisis. The two have held joint military manoeuvres on each other’s turf and created a regional security grouping, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to keep the West out of energy-rich Central Asia.
United States' Influence Fades As Oil Demand Realigns World Powers

Decades from now, the invasion and occupation of Iraq may be remembered as 'The Last Oil War'. Or at least, the last War For Oil by the United States.

The following story from Le Monde looks at how world power has shifted, as western control over Middle East oil supplies have faded, and why more wars for oil in the Middle East are unlikely :
In the beginning of the 1970s, when a barrel of black gold cost less than $2, no one imagined that one day an American president would be reduced to begging the king of Saudi Arabia for an increase in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' (OPEC's) production to bring down prices. Yet the West has reached that point. After an initial rebuff in mid-January, George W. Bush was at it again on Friday, May 16, during his meeting with King Abdullah in Riyadh. With no more success than the first time, unless one counts a limited and temporary increase.

The time is long gone when Standard Oil of New Jersey, Anglo-Persian, Gulf Oil and their four other "sisters" dominated the world market. When President Roosevelt got King Ibn Saud to open Saudi wells to foreign companies in exchange for American military protection (1945). When Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh - guilty of nationalizing hydrocarbons - could be overthrown with impunity (1953). When one could pretend to believe that oil is an inexhaustible cornucopia.

Market power has changed sides. It has slipped away from consuming countries and from Big Oil (Exxon, Chevron, Shell, BP ...). The development of the price per barrel ($128), is being determined behind the scenes in the Kremlin and in the meanders of the Iranian government, in Nigerian mangroves and on the banks of the Venezuelan Orinoco, in OPEC's Viennese corridors and in the halls of the New York Mercantile Exchange. And, above all, in Saudi palaces.

The world is experiencing a third oil shock - slower than those of 1973 and 1980. The barrel, the price of which has increased six times in as many years, is more expensive in constant dollars than it was in the beginning of 1981. Its price may ebb by some $10 or $20 in coming months, but nothing is less certain. Analysts as respected as those of investment bank Goldman Sachs see the price going to an average of $141 in the second half of 2008 and to $148 in 2009. OPEC no longer rules out $200.

The Wahabite kingdom, the only country able to put a million additional barrels on the market, balks at that idea. It even stiffened its tone recently, when it announced that between 2009 and 2020 it would limit daily production to 12.5 million barrels a day to preserve its reserves and the interests of future generations along with them. "Every time there are new discoveries, leave them in the ground, for our children will need them," the king has resolved.

Nothing induces the Saudis to open the spigots. They consider the market to be well-supplied and stocks of crude and gas to be at good levels. They are especially worried about the United States' energy policy, which aims to reduce US "dependency" on Middle Eastern oil - a watchword launched by Mr. Bush and re-echoed in a single voice by presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama. All that's necessary to understand the stakes is to hear the Saudi energy minister's denunciations of the bio-carburants being developed on the other side of the Atlantic. On top of that, comes certain American congresspeople's desire to submit the oil market to the anti-cartel rules of international trade, even to suspend arms sales if Riyadh doesn't increase its oil production. These initiatives worry and exasperate OPEC. The strategy of the Vienna cartel - which has given up setting a price range since 2003 - seems simple: supply the market to avoid any break, reduce the "security cushion" to a minimum (2 million barrels a day) and thus maintain the highest prices possible without compromising economic growth. With three-quarters of global reserves, the thirteen OPEC member states have the means to enforce their policy.

Consumer countries' dependence is linked to the fragility of the multinational companies. Oil states and their national public companies share 85 percent of the world's reserves. The majors no longer hold more than 15 percent and are having trouble reconstituting that percentage to the extent they draw those reserves down. What weight does "giant" ExxonMobil - the biggest listed company in the world - carry compared to Gazprom or Saudi Aramco? The great Western companies' access to oil fields - closed in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Mexico, ever more difficult in Russia, Venezuela and Algeria - would involve "returning to the period before the 1970s' nationalizations," believes Nicolas Sarkis, director of the "Arab Oil and Gas Review."

Will it be necessary to make war for the precious liquid? Unimaginable, even if the thirst for oil was one motive for the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, as acknowledged by former Fed boss Alan Greenspan. What was the payoff? By increasing tensions in the Middle East and reducing supply, the war contributed to the spike in prices. Taking possession of these reserves by force would be a "rear-guard battle," with the oil-producing countries in "a position of strength" today, Mr. Sarkis notes. "They can sell their enormous dollar reserves and deprive the warmongers of oil by offering it to more pacific countries. To China, rather than America!

A number of industrialized countries learned their lesson from the 1973 and 1980 crises and reduced their dependence. They need less oil to create the same amount of wealth. In the United States, successive administrations have resolved the issue the same way: "the American way of life is not negotiable." A policy that has led to US dependence on imported oil moving from 60 percent to 80 percent.

In the immediate future, the problem is geopolitical: access to the resource is contracting. Longer term, the problem is geological. One trillion two hundred billion barrels of oil remain, or forty years' worth of consumption at the current rate of extraction. The most optimistic multiply that number by three, adding in the so-called "unconventional" crudes (heavy oils, bituminous shales). Unfortunately, they are very costly to extract. Fields are diminishing in Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Mexico, Indonesia ...

The only answer resides in a reduction in consumption.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Japan Strips Itself Of Pacifist Nation Status As It Looks To The Skies

The Space Wars Begin

Many nations are planning for war in space. Long term military strategies for all the world's powers naturally include launching satellites and other platforms into space to increase spying capabilities, and to eventually lock weapons into orbit that can take out people, vehicles, towns and cities on earth, along with enemy satellites and weapons platforms.

China, Russia, the United States, all have their eyes on dominating near space in the decades to come, at least directly over their own territories, and allies, and while China has been vocal in its opposition to the weaponisation of space, it too, like the United States, is planning for the day when armies are obsolete, and destruction can be wrought on the enemy from 20 miles above the planet. They're all planning, and testing, but none want to be the first to officially announce that space is the new frontier for war-fighting.

But now Japan has decided it's time to get serious about increasing its military capability into space, and has given an official start to what presumably will become known as the 'Space Wars', should the world's nations history of violence and confrontation continue in this new domain, as it has on the lands below.
Japan passed a law on Wednesday allowing military use of space, ending a decades-old pacifist policy as it casts a wary eye on North Korea's nuclear ambitions and China's rising spending on its armed forces.

The law, which allows the military to launch its own satellites for spying and warn of missile launches but rules out offensive weapons in space, was approved by parliament's opposition-controlled upper house, a sign of rare consensus in Japan's divided political arena.

Japan's space scientists and industry have long complained that the separation of space development from the military since 1969 hampers technological process in the sector.

Japan's powerful Keidanren business lobby had pushed for the law along with a relaxation of the country's ban on arms exports in order to help the nation's defence industry compete globally.

"The key point is that rather than just focusing on research and development like before, this new law will balance R&D, the industry, and security," Satoshi Tsuzukibashi, a director at one of Keidanren's industrial affairs bureau, said.

"In the future, there will be more satellites and rockets used for space security, so that is a positive factor for the space industry," he added.

The legislation mandates the creation of a new cabinet level post to oversee Japan's space security, a move that could help pry more funding out of tight-fisted finance bureaucrats worried about the nation's bulging public debt.

Space security. The US will soon follow in announcing its own new 'Space Security' military plans, which will be in sync with Japan. Presumably, Russia and China will then make clear that they, too, are working on joint space defense systems to ensure their own 'Space Security.'

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Blackwater Has Iraq Contracts Renewed By US Government

It's the corporate military team that slaughtered 17 people at a Baghdad intersection, but they've just had their security-providing services renewed for another few hundred million dollars. Why? US officials say they have no choice :

Guards for the security company were involved in a shooting in September that left at least 17 Iraqis dead at a Baghdad intersection. Outrage over the killings prompted the Iraqi government to demand Blackwater’s ouster from the country, and led to a criminal investigation by the F.B.I., a series of internal investigations by the State Department and the Pentagon, and high-profile Congressional hearings.

But after an intense public and private lobbying campaign, Blackwater appears to be back to business as usual.

The State Department has just renewed its contract to provide security for American diplomats in Iraq for at least another year. Threats by the Iraqi government to strip Western contractors of their immunity from Iraqi law have gone nowhere. No charges have been brought in the United States against any Blackwater guard in the September shooting, either, and the F.B.I. agents in Baghdad charged with investigating whether Blackwater guards have committed any crimes under United States law are sometimes protected as they travel through Baghdad by Blackwater guards.

The chief reason for the company’s survival? State Department officials said Friday that they did not believe they had any alternative to Blackwater, which supplies about 800 guards to the department to provide security for diplomats in Baghdad. Officials say only three companies in the world meet their requirements for protective services in Iraq, and the other two do not have the capability to take on Blackwater’s role in Baghdad. After the shooting in September, the State Department did not even open talks with the other two companies, DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, to see if they could take over from Blackwater, which is based in North Carolina.

“We cannot operate without private security firms in Iraq,” said Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management. “If the contractors were removed, we would have to leave Iraq.”

And they're not planning on doing that, any time soon.

It's Blackwater, or a draft.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

1 In 5 American 'War On Terror' Veterans Come Home With PTSD, Depression

Suicides May Outnumber War Zone Deaths

The survival rate for American soldiers shot, bombed and blown up, in Iraq and Afghanistan is the best of any American war. But the cloud of suicide hangs over hundreds of thousands of American veterans, and unlike WW1, WW2, Korea and Vietnam, governments in the future will not be able to pretend the 'suicidal-veteran' problem does not exist :

Suicides and "psychological mortality" among US soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan could exceed battlefield deaths if their mental scars are left untreated, the head of the US Institute of Mental Health warned Monday.

Of the 1.6 million US soldiers who have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, 18-20 percent -- or around 300,000 -- show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or both, said Thomas Insel, head of the National Institute of Mental Health.

Left untreated, PTSD and depression can lead to substance abuse, alcoholism or other life-threatening behaviors.

"It's a gathering storm for the civilian and public health care sectors," Insel said.

The true cost of the War On Iraq for the US is now starting to come into focus.

Many Americans, thanks to Pentagon controlled and customised reporting on the war by much of the mainstream media, have no real understanding of the horrors witnessed by young soldiers, or how much paying for the care of the mentally wounded will cost the treasury in decades to come.

Monday, May 05, 2008

New York Times Pimps NeoCons War On Iran

Lebanon Terror Masters In Iran Training Iraqi Insurgents : The Story Sourced From An Anonymous "Official" Based On Reports Media Is Not Allowed To See

The New York Times is proud to declare itself thoroughly against the War On Iraq, even as it helps set the scene for a War On Iran. A headline from today :

Hezbollah Trains Iraqis in Iran, Officials Say

This 'news' story is very reminiscent of pieces in the Washington Post and the New York Times back in late 2002, blithely producing reams of headlines, op-eds and stories light on hard facts but heavy on big claims made by "officials".

The journalist admits that he is quoting from a set of interrogation reports he hasn't seen, and is simply taking the word of the "official" that they are exactly what they are claimed to be :
The "official' summed up the information from the interrogation reports but did not make them available. He declined to be identified because the information had not been released publicly.
If the interrogation reports are so solid on evidence, why wouldn't the "official" put their name to claims of Iranian interference that work in the White House's favour as it tries to undermine Iran? Alarm bells once rang in journalists' heads when any "official" from the government tried to feed them stories based on reports the journalists are not allowed to see.

Not now.

Militants from the Lebanese group Hezbollah have been training Iraqi militia fighters at a camp near Tehran, according to American interrogation reports that the United States has supplied to the Iraqi government.

An American official said the account of Hezbollah’s role was provided by four Shiite militia members who were captured in Iraq late last year and questioned separately.

The United States has long charged that the Iranians were training Iraqi militia fighters in Iran, which Iran has consistently denied, and there have been previous reports about Hezbollah operatives in Iraq.

Material from the interrogations was given to the Iraqi government, along with other data about captured Iranian arms, before it sent a delegation to Tehran last week to discuss allegations of Iranian aid to militia groups.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government announced Sunday that it would conduct its own inquiry into accusations of Iranian intervention in Iraq and document any interference.

“We have experienced in the past that Iran interfered and has special groups in Iraq, but Iran also had evidence that they were participating in positive ways in security,” Ali al-Dabbagh, a senior Iraqi government spokesman, said in an interview.

“We would like the Iranians to keep their commitment, the commitments they made in meetings with the prime minister and with other groups that have visited them,” he said. “They had made the promise that Iran would be playing a supportive role.”

Iran's clearly not going to leave, or let go, of Iraq. The Iraq government and most Shiites don't want Iran to leave Iraq. They want the United States to leave Iraq.

There has been debate among experts about the extent to which Iran is responsible for instability in Iraq. But President Bush and other American officials, in public castigations of Iran, have said that Iran has been consistently meddlesome in Iraq and that the Iranians have long sought to arm and train Iraqi militias, which the American military has called “special groups.”

In a possible effort to be less obtrusive, it appears that Iran is now bringing small groups of Iraqi Shiite militants to camps in Iran, where they are taught how to do their own training, American officials say.

The militants then return to Iraq to teach comrades how to fire rockets and mortars, fight as snipers or assemble explosively formed penetrators, a particularly lethal type of roadside bomb made of Iranian components, according to American officials. The officials describe this approach as “training the trainers.”

According to their interrogation reports, the militiamen believed that militants from other countries were also being trained at the camp, an impression based on hearing snippets of conversations in other dialects and languages.

They think they might have heard other prisoners talking about such things, in other languages.

“We don’t want to be at war with Iran, and we will not allow anyone to settle their scores with Iran on Iraqi soil,” Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser to Mr. Maliki, said Saturday in an interview. “But at the same time, we don’t want Iran to settle their scores with the United States on Iraqi soil.”

Jalaluddin al-Sagheer, a prominent member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a major Shiite political party, asserted that the Iraqi Shiite politicians would be loath to take any position that would alienate Iran.

“Iran is not an easy country for us,” he said. “We have a long border with them; we have a long history of relations with them; we have strong commercial ties with them and we cannot hurt that because of copies of documents.”

Key Iraqi politicians obviously think the information within the interrogation reports is utter crap, and they don't want to embarrass themselves with the Iranians by having anything to do with what may or may not turn out to be pure propaganda from Israel and the US.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

CBS News : Prepare For War On Iran

One of the more lurid examples of how the American corporate media is preparing Americans for an inevitable 'War On Iran'. The reasons for war are established, the threat posed is made intolerable, the capacity to strike from the air and sea is boasted, and promoted. It is not about proof or reason only the creation of a 'War On Iran' reality :
A second American aircraft carrier steamed into the Persian Gulf on Tuesday as the Pentagon ordered military commanders to develop new options for attacking Iran.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports that the planning is being driven by what one officer called the "increasingly hostile role" Iran is playing in Iraq - smuggling weapons into Iraq for use against American troops.

"What the Iranians are doing is killing American servicemen and -women inside Iraq," said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

U.S. officials are also concerned by Iranian harassment of U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf as well as Iran's still growing nuclear program. New pictures of Iran's uranium enrichment plant show the country's defense minister in the background, as if deliberately mocking a recent finding by U.S. intelligence that Iran had ceased work on a nuclear weapon.

"I have reserve capability, in particular our Navy and our Air Force so it would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability," Mullen said.

Targets would include everything from the plants where weapons are made to the headquarters of the organization known as the Quds Force which directs operations in I.raq. Later this week Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is expected to confront the Iranians with evidence of their meddling and demand a halt.

If that doesn't produce results, the State Department has begun drafting an ultimatum that would tell the Iranians to knock it off - or else.
It's a replay of 2002, and how the corporate media that reaches almost every US TV, radio or newspaper helped Americans to believe that War On Iraq was not only inevitable, but that it was warranted, necessary, and already way overdue.