Burma's military regime has said it wants a nuclear power plant but denied any plans for atomic weapons. Photograph: Khin Maung Win/AFP/Getty ImagesWitnesses in Burma claim to have seen evidence of secret nuclear and missile sites being built in remote jungle, according to secret US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, heightening concerns that the military regime is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
A Burmese officer quoted in a cable from the US embassy in Burma said he had witnessed North Korean technicians helping to construct an underground facility in foothills more than 300 miles (480km) north-west of Rangoon.
"The North Koreans, aided by Burmese workers, are constructing a concrete-reinforced underground facility that is '500ft from the top of the cave to the top of the hill above'," according to the cable. The man is quoted as saying the North Koreans were "blowing concrete" into the excavation.
An expatriate businessman told the embassy in Rangoon he had seen a large barge carrying reinforced steel bar of a diameter that suggested a project larger than a factory. Other informants included dockworkers, who reported suspicious cargo.
IPT NewsAs a review of its report demonstrates, MPAC is engaged in yet another game of deception. The organization selective defines what a "terrorism incident" is and overstates the role of "community assistance" in order to skew its statistics in its favor, and ignores the role of traditional law enforcement techniques in dismantling domestic terror plots. More than anything else, MPAC attempts to claim credit for the Islamic community's role in breaking up plots when in fact, it has been far more influential in dissuading people from coming forward.
A database used by Islamist groups to support claims that the Muslim community is responsible for helping to break up one-third of terrorist plots is based on flawed and selective use of data, an Investigative Project on Terrorism analysis shows. The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) claims in its study that "almost 1 out of 3 al-Qaida-related terror plots threatening America since 9/11/01" were thwarted in part because of help from the Muslim community. However, the MPAC study is full of mistakes, faulty data, contradictions, selective use of information, and demonstrably dishonest analysis
Here in Israel, we're often puzzled that Jonathan Pollard hasn't been released from prison already. We wonder why President Obama hasn't pulled the trigger, and why Prime Minister Netanyahu doesn't seem to be doing all he could to bring about Pollard's release.
But apparently there's a big problem. Not everyone in Washington wants to see Pollard released. And by referring to documents that no one can access they are preventing an intelligent debate in which Pollard's case can be fairly heard.Now another key official at the time of Pollard’s arrest, former FBI and Navy lawyer M.E. “Spike” Bowman, is weighing in -- against his release -- in a forthcoming article.Hmmm.
“Since I was the only person who actually touched all aspects of the case I thought it was incumbent on me to lay out the facts,” Bowman, the top legal adviser to Navy intelligence at the time, and who later worked as senior counsel at the FBI and as deputy director of the National Counterintelligence Executive, told SpyTalk.
In a piece written for a forthcoming journal of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, founded years ago to support the CIA, Bowman notes that there have been “few rebuttals of this escalation of calls for Pollard’s release…mainly because so few were cognizant of the scope of Pollard’s disclosures, or the misuses of those disclosures, and the damage they did to our own operations and sources."
The true extent of the spy’s damage remains locked in government vaults, Bowman writes, “because when a plea agreement was reached, it was no longer necessary to litigate issues that could have exposed the scope of Pollard’s treachery -- and the exposure of classified systems.”
But the retired Navy captain singles out three of Pollard’s leaks, the first being “the daily report from the Navy’s Sixth Fleet Ocean Surveillance Information Facility (FOSIF) in Rota, Spain, a top-secret document filed every morning reporting all that had occurred in the Middle East during the previous twenty-four hours, as recorded by the NSA’s most sophisticated monitoring devices.”
“Probably the most serious disclosure (of those of which we are aware) was the TOP SECRET NSA RAISIN manual, which lists the physical parameters of every known signal [or electronic communication], notes how we collect signals around the world, and lists all the known communications links then used by the Soviet Union,” Bowman writes.
“It is certainly the thing that stood out in the mind of the sentencing judge; particularly when Pollard alleged at sentencing that there really was no harm done. The judge interrupted and brought him up short, pointing specifically to disclosure of the RAISIN manual.”
Bowman also writes that “Pollard disclosed information to the Israelis that could prevent the U.S. from monitoring Israeli activities in the Middle East -- clearly a foreign policy nightmare.”
Pollard admitted to prosecutors that his handlers at the Israeli Embassy often goaded him for better-quality information, Bowman says.
“[H]is initial handler told him that they already receive 'SECRET' level material from the United States. What they needed was the TOP SECRET data they were not yet receiving.”
Hard copies of the documents Pollard stole in 18 months could “fill a room that is six feet by six feet by ten,” Ronald Olive, the top Navy investigator in the Pollard case, told SpyTalk.
"No other spy in the history of the United States stole so many secrets, so highly classified, in such a short period of time," he maintains.
Bowman also takes aim at Korb’s contention that Pollard has been unduly punished, arguing in his open letter to Obama that "the average sentence for Pollard's offence” -- stealing secrets for “friendly” countries -- “is two to four years, and under current guidelines the maximum sentence is 10 years.”
But Bowman, as well as a counterintelligence officer involved in Pollard’s case who insisted on anonymity, says Korb’s math is skewed.
“The supporters who claim that the sentence of Pollard was disproportionate to the crime cite three to four cases where Americans sold or gave documents to non-adversary countries like Saudi Arabia, Ecuador and El Salvador,” the CIA officer said. “These were a handful of secrets, and those who committed the crime were sentenced proportionately. What Pollard's crew has done is to take these handfuls of cases and then extrapolated the sentences saying that Pollard has served far longer than the ‘average’ spy who spied for 'friendly services.' "
In fact, the average sentence for those caught spying for the Russians, not counting the 365-year term given to Jerry A. Whitworth, part of the infamous John Walker family spy ring, was over 36 years. Three spies other than Pollard, including Russian mole Aldrich Ames, were given life sentences.
Of course, Pollard didn’t just spy for Israel, although that was far and away his main benefactor.
“Intelligence officials have unofficially detailed instances of additional disclosures to other nations,” Bowman writes. “These officials said that Pollard had given classified documents to Pakistan, South Africa and two other countries they declined to identify.”
Some the documents Pollard gave Israel ended up in Moscow, according to various reports, but as one investigator in the case told SpyTalk, “there are only two countries that know the facts …Russia and Israel. Which leads me to believe we will never know the truth.”
I hope someone in the Pollard camp has the information to answer these charges. I sure don't.
About 10-12 years ago, I met someone who had worked in the IDF unit that 'handled' Pollard. He predicted that Pollard would never be released because he knew too much. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to suspect that he may have been correct.
if the plea agreement locked in information then what information is still keeping him in jail? Pollard agreed to the plea with knowledge that his sentence would be lighter.
Karen Mock is well-known in Toronto-area “diversity” circles. She lectures on the subject regularly. I first met her a few years ago, in 2007, when she was the organizer of an anti-racism conference, and I showed up on her podium to question the point of the proceedings, and make fun of a few people who needed to be taken down a peg. She stood up after I spoke, and told everyone in the crowd to ignore me — which caused some friction, but we’ve since become email correspondents.
Fast forward to this week. Following my column on Jennifer Peto and her OISE master’s thesis (“The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education”), I happened upon this Karen Mock press release. It’s good to see that even very politically correct types such as Mock draw the line at the likes of Peto.
Venezuelan Jews raised concerns with US diplomats regarding the increasingly hostile environment created for them by the government of President Hugo Chavez, saying they see a “dark horizon” for their community, according to a document released by WikiLeaks on Thursday morning.
The document, dating from November 2009 and labeled confidential, the third highest level of classification, was the first of its kind that focused on Jewish communities in the Diaspora since WikiLeaks unleashed an avalanche of US diplomatic documents to the Web earlier this week.
The Clinton and Bush administrations were flummoxed by Hugo Chávez's anti-Americanism. Rabid and inexplicable, it started soon after Chávez was elected Venezuela's president in 1998. During his presidential campaign, on the other hand, he'd presented himself as a moderate seeking a "Third Way" between socialism and capitalism.Venezuela had traditionally been pro-American, aside from the occasional burning of an American flag outside the U.S. Embassy or a blood-thirsty mob attacking Vice President Richard Nixon's limo in 1958.The likes of Chávez had never been seen in a Venezuelan leader. What made Chávez tick?By 2004 -- well into President Bush's first term and six years into Chávez's -- Washington still apparently didn't know. However, the Bush administration finally wanted answers, having belatedly realized it had been distracted for too long by 9/11 and the war on terror.In Caracas, accordingly, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy sought out an interesting source of information -- Chávez's former common-law wife, Herma Marksman. A history professor, Marksman lived with Chávez for nine years between 1984 and 1993. In Venezuela, such arrangements are common.According to a confidential diplomatic cable dated July 9, 2004, and released by WikiLeaks, the officer's objective in interviewing Marksman was to understand "the development of Chávez's political ideology."Among highlights of the cable based on Marksman's comments:*Chávez as a poor youngster was influenced by a teacher who admired Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Ambitions from an early age, Chávez imagined himself running the country as a 20 year-old.*As a junior officer in Venezuela's Army, Chávez fell under the influence of Douglas Bravo, a former communist and guerrilla leader during Venezuela's 1960's communist insurgency. It was Bravo, not Chávez , who developed the philosophy of the "Bolivarian Revolution," which takes its name from Venezuelan liberator and national hero Simon Bolivar. A cornerstone of the Bolivarian Revolution is close civil-military cooperation.*"Marksman stated that Chávez is loyal to no one and does not have true friends. If he has a problem, he will only confide in his brother, Adan, whom she characterized as a communist, and Cuban leader Fidel Castro," wrote the Embassy officer.According to WikiLeaks, the full cable was not available and so it provided a "partial extract."Interestingly, the WikiLeaks cable provides nothing new, but echoes much of what Venezuela's news media had reported well before 2004. In short, the cable is remarkable for the lack of insider's knowledge one expects of diplomatic cables.Marksman, for instance, had been interviewed by Venezuela's media numerous times before 2004. In addition, two Venezuelan journalists published a well-received book in 2004 that mentioned much of what was contained in the cable. Marksman is mentioned in numerous passages of "Hugo Chávez: The Definitive Biography of the Venezuela's Controversial President."If the cable's information was new to anybody in the Bush administration, this suggests the administration in 2004 was as behind the curve on Chávez as the Clinton administration had been in 1998.Consider Clinton-era Ambassador to Venezuela John Maisto. He regarded former coup leader Chávez as democrat who'd traded the bullet for the ballet. Maisto, according to former Heritage Foundation analyst John Sweeney, was "a career diplomat strongly associated with the Democratic Party and Liberation Theology ideas.""Maisto was always soft on Chávez, like he was soft on Daniel Ortega during his stint as Ambassador to Nicaragua in the 1990s, before he was sent to Venezuela," Sweeney wrote in an essay, "Playing the Washington Blame Game."Whatever became of Maisto after leaving Caracas? Incredibly, as Sweeney points out, Maisto "became the first senior appointee on Latin America in the Bush administration."Eventually, Chávez's anti-Americanism had its intended effect -- poisoning the views of millions of Venezuelans about the U.S.. Accordingly, the U.S. Embassy finally decided it must respond with a major campaign to counter such anti-Americanism.
It sent a confidential cable on March 26, 2008: "Embassy Strategic Communications - Countering Chavez' (sic) Anti-Americanism." It stated: "The strategy's goal is to counter the active and deliberate campaign by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (BRV) to instill in the population a negative perception of the US. and distort more than 100 years of close and mutually beneficial relations between our two countries. Regrettably, the BRV has had some success. From a pre-Chavez level of over 65% approval, today the positive image of the US has fallen to a historic low of 31% in Venezuela."
President George W. Bush was subjected to one of the most vicious smear campaigns in history, based on the false assertion that he lied about Saddam Hussein pursuing weapons of mass destruction as a justification for the Iraq War. WikiLeaks documents released in October once again confirm (AT had the story in December, 2009) that Iraq did indeed possess yellowcake uranium, despite the lies of Joseph Wilson, husband of CIA desk jockey Valerie Palme.
Larrey Elder presents a debunking of the "no WMD" media fantasy today on Townhall, and makes the entirely proper point that George W. Bush is owed a huge apology. Strangely, for whatever reason, the ex-president has not defended himself on this point in his current bestselling book, nor did he during his presidency.
So, congratulations Pvt. Manning and Julian A. for confirming what AT readers already knew, but don't expect any kudos from the left or the press.
Saddam's missing nukes found? Another Syrian nuke site?
You will recall that there are three sites in Syria, which are associated with the al-Kibar reactor site that was mysteriously destroyed in September 2007, and to which the Syrians have denied the IAEA access. Now, thanks to satellite images, there is more evidence of suspicious activities at the sites in question.
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung has reported the names of three cities in Syria which are near sites suspected of being functionally related to a destroyed covert reactor construction project. These suspect sites are located near Masyaf, the village of Marj as-Sultan near Damascus, and Iskandariyah (see figure 1).
ISIS has learned that the site seen in Figure 2 is the suspect site located near Masyaf.
This site is located approximately six kilometers northeast of Masyaf city center 1 in Syria (see figures 3 and 4), and appears to be comprised of storage buildings. Aside from what could be a line of berms or trenches (see figure 5), the site does not appear to have many security measures visible in commercial satellite imagery. The entire site, however, is situated in a ravine between two hills and buildings at the site are located along the base of the hills—a common method for providing general protection and isolation. This could indicate that the site is a military depot/storage facility. Hundreds of items can also be seen stored in rows out in the open (see figures 6 and 7). It is unclear what these items are.Read the whole thing. The bottom line is that without access to the sites in question, no one can tell for sure what they are, and the Syrians are refusing to grant the inspectors access to the sites.
Israel’s Jewish population if often portrayed as racist against the nation’s Arab minority. Arab lawmakers, despite the fact that they are able to freely participate in the democratic process, accuse the Jewish majority of discrimination and oppression.
Those accusations easily make headlines in an international media anxious to smear Israel. What doesn’t get reported are actual stories demonstrating how it is Israel’s Jews who are truly being discriminated against and even live under a certain kind of siege in their own homeland. One such story was recounted on Arutz Sheva radio this week when Kochav Segal Halevi, a Jewish security guard from northern Israel, told of how he was recently forced to flee from an Arab village in which he had purchased an apartment.
Halevi said the apartment is in the mixed Christian-Muslim Arab village of Ibilin near the port city of Haifa. He bought it from a Christian Arab who was facing foreclosure. Before moving in, Halevi said he met with several neighbors to make sure they had no problem with a Jew coming to town. They assured him all was well.
But one month ago, on the day Halevi actually moved in, those same neighbors gathered at the apartment and demanded the new Jewish owner leave town.
“The neighbor from across the road came and said forcefully ‘you will not live here,’” Halevi recalled. “That neighbor brought nine or ten other guys who told me [the same].”
The ringleader proceeded to hit Halevi in the head and “boasted that his father was serving a jail sentence after shooting another neighbor in the head… and that he is not afraid to sit in jail because of me.”
Halevi stated that he did not want any bloodshed, collected his more expensive belongings and fled.
Unfortunately, Halevi is receiving very little assistance from the authorities, who have consistently displayed an unwillingness to upset the violence-prone Arabs.
That approach has resulted in a situation where Israel’s Arabs feel their can discriminate against the nation’s Jews with impunity, that the law does not fully apply to them. It also means, as demonstrated by the above story, that while Arabs can go anywhere in Israel, Jews put their lives in very real danger by entering Arab-dominated areas.
In short, it is the Jews who are not fully free in their own country. Meanwhile, the Arab minority openly flaunts the law, while convincing the international community that they are the ones under siege.
|image via israelseen.com|
An Introduction to the EnablersIt is now 10 years since the Mohammed al-Dura blood libel, an episode that epitomized the Muslim propaganda template and, by virtue of the nascent new media, was eventually exposed by Philippe Karsenty, among others. If you don't know much about the al Dura affair, in which Israel was blamed for the murder of 12 year old Mohammed al-Dura and staged and manipulated footage of the "atrocity" was shown around the world, inflaming the second intifada and demonizing Israel in the eyes of much of the world, you can peruse The Augean Stables dossier and watch this interview:Welcome to the premiere of FrontPage Close-Up with Jamie Glazov, a new video series of provocative interviews with the leading thinkers and newsmakers of our time. Our first interview is with a hero of our modern era — Philippe Karsenty, the French media analyst who exposed the Mohammed Al-Dura Fraud, which involved France 2, a French television network, broadcasting staged footage of Israeli soldiers allegedly killing a 12-year old Palestinian, Mohammed al-Dura, during a gun battle in Gaza in 2000. See Part 1 of the interview below:
This interview, which explores the intersection and mutual reinforcement of the Palestinian propaganda structure and their Western enablers, is a good introduction to to my upcoming post on the nature of the enablers.
In 1839, the Russian novelist Mikhail Lermontov published A Hero of our Time, the tale of a melancholy romantic by the name of Grigory Pechorin. In the preface to the book, Lermontov explains that his protagonist is “a portrait, but not of one man. It is a portrait built up of our own generation’s vices.” Pechorin is presented as a self-indulgent cynic, prone to bouts of dejection, world-weariness and pre-Existential nihilism. “What do I expect from the future?” he asks, and replies, “nothing at all.”
It was my great privilege to meet recently another kind of “hero of our time,” one who has nothing in common with Pechorin with whom he differs in two crucial ways. To begin with, he most certainly is not a representative figure of our pusillanimous epoch but a singular presence, very much in the courageous mold of Geert Wilders, who holds the era to account. And secondly, there is nothing of the cynic about him; on the contrary, he is a man notable for his sense of justice, crusading energy, and his belief in the eventual triumph of the truth—a man who expects everything from the future.
I’m speaking of Philippe Karsenty, who delivered a talk in Montreal on October 13 of this year dealing with the infamous Mohammad al-Dura hoax perpetrated by France 2 TV. Karsenty, deputy mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine and director of the Paris-based analysis firm Media-Ratings, has become justly celebrated as the man who single-handedly defied the entire French media, political establishment and intellectual synod which closed ranks to defend the official version of what happened on September 30, 2000 at the Netzarim junction in Gaza. The episode and its aftermath are by this time widely known, but a brief recapitulation would not be out of place.
Jamal al-Dura, a native of Gaza, and his 12-year-old son Mohammad, were filmed supposedly caught in a crossfire between Palestinian operatives and Israeli soldiers at the Netzarim junction, approximately five kilometers from Gaza City. According to Israeli-French journalist Charles Enderlin, France 2 TV’s Jerusalem correspondent who edited and narrated the clip, and his cameraman Talal Abu Rhama who bore witness to the event, the Israelis deliberately targeted the two victims for a full forty-five minutes, wounding the father and killing the son. An expurgated version of the film circulated around the globe, and the international media, with scarcely an exception, condemned the Israelis as child killers. With the collusion of the Western press, the Palestinians had invented yet another martyr to grace their faux hagiography.
Indeed, it did not take long before Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish published his Requiem for Muhammad al-Dura, a piece of versified hogwash which became an instant hit and continues to this day to resonate. “Mohammad,” Darwish writes, “hunters are gunning down angels, and the only witness/is a camera’s eye…” Postage stamps commemorating the event were issued throughout the Islamic world, monuments were erected, the Second Intifada which had only just begun took on a second wind, journalist Daniel Pearl was beheaded in revenge and Israeli citizens were murdered in the streets by Palestinian suicide bombers. No one doubted the official story of Israeli barbarism and Palestinian innocence. Even the Israeli political and military establishment did not contest world opinion and issued a hurried apology. But there was a serious problem with the universally accepted transcript of the “firefight.” The only significant “shooting” was done by the camera crew.
It was soon revealed that France 2 TV possessed 27 minutes of tape but released only 59 seconds worth of material. Enderlin, who was not present at the Netzarim shootout but justified his reportage by saying that “the image corresponded to the reality of the situation,” insisted that portions of the film were too painful to reveal, enabling him to bury the outtakes. This, of course, rendered him complicit in what became a worldwide campaign of slander and disinformation, a modern blood libel in everything but name. A subsequent investigation conducted by the Israeli Defense Force arrived at the conclusion  that Israeli fire, coming from an oblique position, could not have produced the round bullet holes that pocked the wall against which the al-Duras were crouching. A forensic team from Germany, which examined the evidence in March 2002, went one better, determining from angles and trajectories that the soldiers manning the Israeli outpost could not possibly have shot the al-Duras, at least not in our familiar Euclidean world dominated by the laws of geometry and ballistics.
It is tempting, but wrong, to interpret the recent announcement that President Obama decided to stop pushing Israel into a new three-month settlement freeze as a sign of his contrition and realization that he was, all along, on the wrong track. His claim that he needs to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so as to bring the Arabs on board to tackle Iran's nuclear drive was proven by the WikiLeaks to have been a patent lie -- the Arabs are on board already. This line of argument was nothing more than a shameful instance of "not letting a crisis go to waste" and using nuclear-driven Iran to blackmail Israel into unconscionable concessions to Palestinians.
Or how about his latest attempt to fool Israel into a new settlement freeze by promising -- orally via Secretary Clinton -- great bonanzas for agreeing, and yet backtracking when the Israelis called his game by suggesting that the deal be put in writing?
"Man is the only animal that blushes -- or needs to," observed Mark Twain, and President Obama has plenty to blush about. The problem of course is that President Obama isn't an animal of a blushing sort. He may have abandoned the tactic, but hardly his goals. Just because his attempt to push Israelis and Palestinians into face-to-face negotiations failed doesn't mean that Obama gave up on his promise to set up a Palestinian state within a year. Therefore, the hopes that he will just let go are not particularly well-grounded. One suspects that he will merely switch his tactics. Instead of aiming at what looks like an Israeli-Palestinian negotiated settlement, he will go for an America-imposed solution -- borders and all.
The first salvo of imposing the solution from the outside was fired last week when Brazil and Argentina announced their recognition of the independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. We do not know whether this was done with the connivance of the Obama administration (which, publicly at least, objected), or whether they did it on their own initiative -- as no relevant correspondence has been WikiLeaked. But the idea of an imposed solution is certainly in the air. Secretary Clinton is to give a major Middle East policy speech on Friday -- and we should listen carefully for such words as "bridging proposals" that are euphemisms for the "imposed solution."
Interestingly, from a purely political perspective, an attempt by Obama to coerce Israel may at this point of time serve Clinton far better than it would serve Obama. Politically, Obama won't gain much support -- apart from the J-street types -- if he embarks on such course of action, since an attempt to impose his will and vision on Israel will make him even less popular among American supporters of Israel than he is now, and will show him recklessly endangering the security of a key ally and thus dangerously imperiling America's own interests. And that would be a perfect thing for Clinton to exploit if she decides to mount a primary challenge to Obama -- if, as it gets closer to the elections, she concludes that Obama is un-re-electable. By challenging him in the primaries she would be saving the party from a defeat, the country from a Republican administration -- and, last but not least, herself from the loss of all political power, for if Obama loses, she will lose too.
But to run in Democratic primaries, she would first need to quit her cabinet position -- and it would look much better if she did so because of a disagreement on some policy issue, rather than quitting just to run against her former boss and appearing rude and ungrateful. A break-up over Obama's Middle East policy would make for an ideal circumstance of leaving his cabinet and opposing him in primaries. It would make her look principled and responsible, rather than merely power-hungry and opportunistic.
Moreover, if this were her grounds for disagreeing with Obama, those Democrats who feel betrayed by Obama's Middle East policy (and there are plenty of Jewish Democrats who feel that way and are completely disheartened and dispirited), will enthusiastically rally around Clinton -- who at present is badly in need of rehabilitation in the same quarters, switching as she did from a staunch supporter of Israel during her tenure as a senator from New York, to Obama's chief Israel-basher in her current role of the Secretary of State.
Admittedly, all of the above is just an idle speculation. But one thing is clear. By the same token by which President Clinton was America's "first black president" and President George W. Bush was America's "first Jewish president," as Barbara Bush once half-jokingly addressed him -- by the token not of race or religion or ethnicity, but by that of innate sympathies, empathy, and instinctive leanings, President Obama is undoubtedly America's first Moslem president, wherein lies a great danger for Israel.
One can only hope that as Obama switches from the failed push to obtain Israeli-Palestinian consensus to, as one strongly suspects, dictating the terms to the parties, there will be found enough counterbalancing political forces in this country to block him from imposing a "solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would result in a disaster -- "solution" which, given the mindset of the parties to the Middle East conflict, may only inflame it further.
...with more and more countries recognizing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, what began as a seemingly empty threat to squeeze concessions from Israel has gained traction and appears increasingly likely to become a reality. A two-state solution may be around the corner, but that doesn't mean peace will follow.
With the U.S.-led peace process looking increasingly moribund, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has begun enlisting foreign leaders in a dangerous effort to recognize a Palestinian state without Israel's agreement. Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, began this effort earlier this year to strengthen the Palestinian negotiating position, and it is bearing more fruit than even he could have expected. Abbas, however, should be careful what he wishes for. A declaration of statehood without Israeli approval could start a war in which the Palestinians themselves would pay the highest price.
Abbas has been laying the diplomatic groundwork for a unilateral declaration of statehood for months, visiting foreign capitals and lobbying governments to extend recognition. But his efforts have gained momentum this month as a U.S. proposal for an Israeli settlement freeze has fallen apart.
Herb Stein's Law, IllustratedA smaller group of productive workers is being expected to carry more and more weight. This chart from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics illustrates Herb Stein's Law: "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop,"
For the past year or so I have been writing about the vast wealth America has beneath our feet in the form of shale gas. We have huge amounts trapped in shale rock that can be liberated by blasting it open via a process called hydraulic fractioning ("fracking"). Wells are drilled horizontally miles underground and then a stream of water, sand, and a minor amount of chemicals fracture the rock and release the gas. All this happens far below the surface and the water tables. Natural gas is relatively clean-burning, is on-shore, and is ours.
Now comes a report from the UN (of all places) that asserts America can be on the verge of energy independence and can become one of the world's great exporters of energy because of our shale gas and oil reserves. Natural gas is the one commodity that has been plummeting in price and delivering an economic jolt of its own for consumers more accustomed to higher energy prices.
From the Washington Examiner that picked up a report from Canada's Globe and Mail :
Toronto's Globe & Mail quotes a UN report that includes this observation: "Within a decade or so, North America will almost certainly emerge as the world's biggest supplier - and exporter - of reasonably cheap energy."
How can that be? As The New York Times reported last month, it's because the U.S. is incredibly rich with natural gas and oil shale deposits that can be reached affordably using hydraulic fracturing, the injection of liquids into rock formations thousands of feet below the drinking water table.
The injections force the gas or oil into recoverable areas, thus opening up millions of new barrels of oil and trillions of feet of natural gas for production here in America.
These new resources are having a profound impact on the U.S. energy situation and it's happening right now, not off in some projected future, as is the case with the arrival of alternative energy resources like solar, wind, and biomass.
Intrigued? Here's more detail from the Globe & Mail:
"With rising production from shale fields, the U.S. surpassed Russia last year to become the world's largest supplier of natural gas.
"Shale now accounts for 10 per cent of the country's natural gas production - up from 2 per cent in 1990. Chesapeake's production from its next Texas project, expected by the end of 2012, will by itself supply the energy equivalent of 500,000 barrels of oil a day.
"For new oil, the U.S. has the huge Green River play that overlaps Colorado and Utah, one of the largest shale oil fields in the world. The EIA reports that the country's proven reserves of crude rose last year by 9 per cent to 22.3 billion barrels.
"For natural gas, the U.S. has the four largest fields in the world: the Haynesville field in Louisiana (with production up by 77 per cent in 2009); the Fayetteville field in Arkansas and the Marcellus field in Pennsylvania (both with production up by 50 per cent); and the Barnett field in Texas and Oklahoma (with production up by double-digit increases).
"The EIA reports that proven U.S. reserves of natural gas increased last year by 11 per cent to 284 trillion cubic feet - the highest level since 1971."
It is all there for the taking. But Democrats threaten to plug all those holes warming our homes and saving us money. Meanwhile, oil prices are going through the roof -- helped along by the Obama administration's efforts to stop oil drilling off-shore, take land out of commission for exploring, and impose new rules and regulations.
Not only do they overtly and covertly favor green schemes that try to kill carbon in all forms, they have tried to enact one roadblock after another to stop us from tapping our shale gas and oil reserves (see, for example, my columns "Cheap Natural Gas and Its Democratic Enemies," a follow-up to my previous column Cheap Natural Gas and Its Enemies).
Who would benefit from stopping this energy revolution in its tracks? George Soros, environmentalists, green schemers that need government help (subsidies, investments, mandates) to make their ventures fly -- and who reward Democrats with donations, Russia, Hugo Chavez, Arab oil powers, terrorists, and other assorted international bad actors. The Russian government recently expressed concern regarding their international power because America was developing our shale gas resources.
Those are the groups Democrats help when they curtail our own development of this treasure beneath our feet. Nice company to keep, huh?
Steve Marcus / Las Vegas Sun
WASHINGTON — Top Democratic fundraisers and lobbyists with links to the White House are behind a proposed wind farm in Texas that stands to get $450 million in stimulus money, even though a Chinese company would operate the farm and its turbines would be built in China.The farm’s backers also have close ties with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who, at the height of his hard-fought re-election bid this fall, helped blunt congressional criticism over stimulus dollars possibly going to create jobs in China by endorsing a proposal by the Chinese company to build a factory in his home state. Although his campaign received thousands of dollars in donations from the wind farm’s backers and Reid stood on stage with them at a campaign event they hosted, his office declined to answer any questions about the wind farm’s organizers or their plans for Nevada
The wind farm, first announced more than a year ago, would consist of 300 2-megawatt wind turbines, each perched atop a 26-story-tall steel tower and spinning three blades — each half the length of a football field. The farm would span three counties and 36,000 acres in West Texas land best known for its oil. Dubbed the Spinning Star wind farm, the project’s 600-megawatt capacity is, theoretically, enough to power 180,000 American homes and would be the sixth-largest wind farm in the country.
It is being planned by an unusual joint partnership between the U.S. Renewable Energy Group, a Dallas investment firm with strong ties to Washington and the Democratic Party, and A-Power Energy Generation Systems, an upstart Chinese supplier of wind turbines. Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicate the Chinese are bringing financing and the turbines.
What the Americans are supplying is the local know-how and political clout in Washington, where decisions on how to distribute billions in loan guarantees, stimulus grants and financial incentives are made.
think about it: had the Legion of Doom declared their home a Peace Flotilla then nothing could stop them! Lawfare works well against Supermen.Every supervillain or supervillain organization worth its salt needs a secret lair, and a location outside the jurisdiction of any government would be ideal. The legal benefits are numerous: no pesky employment laws or civil rights for henchmen, no local police, no taxes. But in the age of air travel and GPS is there anywhere left for a supervillain to set up shop? Here we consider three possibilities: unclaimed land, the high seas, and outer space. via lawandthemultiverse.com
image via toonzone.net
Sonja Henie---> and John Payne , Publicity still for the 1941 movie "Sun Valley Serenade". via flickr.com
Sonja Henie and John Payne Publicity still for the 1942 movie
"Iceland" also known as "Katina" via flickr.comThe Norwegian media corps is usually only too happy to report on events in, or related to, Israel. When said events make Israel look bad, that is. When news makes Norway look bad, or Israel look good, Norwegian journalists and editors deem the events non-newsworthy.
The Spain, Israel and the Jews blog has identified a couple of Wikileaks revelations related to Israel:
It has been surprising how the 250,000 revealed documents of the United States Department of State have enhanced Israel’s official positions; what hasn’t been so surprising is the fact that the Spanish mainstream media has severely demoted WikiLeaks revelations benefitting Israel. These ones are at least three:Ah, the Norwegian media corps. What a delightful crowd they are.
a) Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani defends Israel’s credibility and demotes its rivals’.
b) Several Arab countries, including ones which don’t recognize Israel’s inherent right to exist, coincide with Israel regarding the Iranian nuclear threat and even tried to make the United States bomb Iran’s nuclear installations.
c) An Iranian source affiliated with the Red Crescent revealed that its ambulances were used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard with the help of its crews to smuggle weapons into Lebanon on behalf of Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War, in the summer of 2006.
A recent exchange in the House of Commons, highlighted in the link below, throws an interesting light on two issues: the relationship between the Muslim Association of Britain and the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s attitude towards Hamas:
House Democrats, who voted in caucus today to oppose the tax deal, are in essence at war with the Clinton years -- with Obama in the middle.
Barack Obama swept to power promising a new day and a new way, and he brought with him a cadre of top aides forged in the fire of the presidential campaign and the politics of Chicago.
The most visible Clinton alum, Rahm Emanuel, returned to Chicago to run for mayor.
But an array of other Clinton vets has stepped up to handle the sales job on taxes on the Hill and in town. Key names include: Lawrence Summers, Gene Sperling, Ron Klain, Jack Lew and John Podesta. Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, is an early Obama advisor, but he's philosophically in tune with the economic views of the Clinton types.
Meanwhile, campaign honchos David Axelrod and Jim Messina -- two Obama Originals -- will soon be headed back to Chicago to lay the groundwork for the president's 2012 campaign.
The significance of this staff shift is beyond the operational. The Clinton-era alums, by outlook and experience, represent a centrist, pragmatic, pro-business "wealth-creation" wing of the Democratic Party that flourished during the Clinton presidency in the 1990s. Story continues below Advertisement
For tactical and substantive reasons, Barack Obama ran for president largely ignoring the economic record of Clinton's time. Obama, after all, was running against Sen. Hillary Clinton, and he also admired the game-changing sweep of the Reagan presidency.
But now the president finds himself in the same kind of environment that Clinton -- as governor -- encountered (and learned to thrive in) during his rise in the 1980s. It is one in which conservative Republicans control the terms of debate, if not all the levers of power.
It is therefore not surprising that Obama would turn to the Clintonites to sell some $800 billion worth of tax cuts to his fellow Democrats.
The Clinton people share certain traits: they are brilliant, like a lot of the Obama folks, but they also are cold-blooded and now have many years' experience at the intersection of money and power.
Attention has focused on Vice President Joe Biden's role as the new "enforcer," but the key to that operation is his chief of staff, Ron Klain, who once ran the Senate Judiciary Committee staff and who then served as chief of staff for Vice President Al Gore.
(Klain could become Obama's chief of staff if interim chief Pete Rouse doesn't want the job.)
Much of the substantive sales spin has been handled by Gene Sperling -- who began his career in the Clinton campaign war room and who essentially did the same job in the Clinton White House -- and Jack Lew, who was working for Hillary at the State Department before coming back to the White House to head the Office of Management and Budget, an upgraded version of the budget work what he did in the Clinton administration.
Of course there is also Obama's chief economic adviser, Dr. Larry Summers -- who is essentially playing the Dick Cheney role of scaring the bejeezus out of anyone who dares oppose the president.
Summers was a Clinton Treasury Secretary.
Outside the White House per se, the president is getting key support from John Podesta, whose Center for American Progress has placed dozens of staffers in key positions inside the administration.
CAP supports the tax-cut deal, perhaps not surprising given that Podesta was once Bill Clinton's highly regarded chief of staff.
And what about Obama Interim Chief of Staff Rouse? He's an Obama guy. Before becoming Obama's top Senate aide in 2005, he'd spent much of his career with then-Sen. Tom Daschle, the South Dakota Democrat who was the party's skilled leader in the Senate.
Rouse is a popular consensus builder, and several cabinet members have told the president that they want Rouse to get the job permanently. They include, according to a cabinet member who declined to be named, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. "Pete has made a big effort to involve the cabinet and many of us want him to agree to stay on."
No one has worked for Obama longer in an official governmental capacity, and he is well liked -- even adored -- by the Obama originals.
But it is not clear that Rouse, 64, wants the job on a permanent basis.
If he doesn't, it's not clear which Obama original could or would step in.
Israel is merely trying to survive two years before it gets the U.S. on it's side again
Israeli commandos intercept the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara in the early hours of 31 May 2010. Photograph: Kate Geraghty/Sydney Morning Her/Getty ImagesIsrael has proposed paying compensation to relatives of Turks it killed during a raid on a Gaza-bound ship, in exchange for Ankara's help in indemnifying the Israeli navy against lawsuits, officials said today.
The offer, broached by envoys in Geneva over the weekend, included measures to improve relations between the countries, but appeared to have fallen short of Turkey's demand that Israel formally apologise for the deaths of the nine pro-Palestinian activists in May.
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, whose delegate to a UN investigation into the bloodshed attended the rapprochement talks, also faces opposition to such a deal from his hawkish foreign minister and government coalition partner, Avigdor Lieberman.
"We made a compensation offer, and asked the Turks to do what needs to be done to address our legal concerns. We also want to see them return their ambassador and allow us to appoint a new ambassador in Ankara," an Israeli official said. "For now, however, there are still big obstacles."
The draft offers Turkey $100,000 (£63,000) each to families of the men shot dead by Israeli marines during altercations aboard the converted cruise ship Mavi Marmara, and an Israeli expression of "regret" over the incident, Israeli diplomatic sources said.
Netanyahu's adviser Ron Dermer said today Israel and Turkey were discussing "the phrasing of a compromise that both sides can live with … [and] that will get our relations with Turkey back on track and remove the whole affair from the international agenda".
He told Israel Radio: "We must remember that there are those at the United Nations, there are forces which would like to see our personnel arrested. What is important to the prime minister is to protect the marines and commanders. We have said at every discussion, at every meeting, that the troops acted in self-defence – there's no question about it – and not out of malice."
Rattled over private war-crimes suits filed abroad against its military brass and politicians by pro-Palestinian groups, Israel has tried to stave off any similar Turkish actions in global forums by quickly setting up two internal investigations, the findings of which will become its submission to the UN inquest.
Turkey has dismissed the Israeli inquiries as insufficient.
The rapprochement talks followed the dispatch by the Turkish prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, of planes to help Israel extinguish a forest fire last week. Netanyahu had pledged to "find ways to express our appreciation" to the Turks.
Erdogan, leader of the Islamist-rooted AK party – who is a frequent critic of Israel's Palestinian policies – signalled yesterday no flexibility in Turkey's terms. He even added an older demand that Gaza's Hamas-ruled borders be opened.
"If there are those who want to start a new period, I repeat: They must accept their guilt, apologise and pay compensation. I say too that the embargoes, which have been eased but not enough, should be lifted," he told AK legislators.
The Mavi Marmara led an aid-ferrying flotilla that tried to breach Israel's Gaza blockade, imposed with the declared aim of keeping arms from Islamist organisation Hamas. A worldwide outcry at the vessel's seizure prompted Israel to allow more goods to reach Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinians by land, but not by sea.
Among the most vocal champions of the blockade is Lieberman, who leads the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party in alliance with Netanyahu's rightist Likud.
Political sources say Lieberman is often excluded from Israel's more sensitive diplomatic contacts.
Noting that several marines were injured in the Mavi Marmara raid, a Lieberman confidant said: "It's the Turks who should be paying us compensation, and not the other way around."
That foreshadowed a possible showdown in Netanyahu's cabinet should the proposed rapprochement deal be brought to it for approval.
VZCZCXYZ0000 PP RUEHWEB DE RUEHRH #0184/01 0431416 ZNY SSSSS ZZH P 121416Z FEB 10 FM AMEMBASSY RIYADH TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2481 INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITYS E C R E T RIYADH 000184 SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP, EEB/ESC/IEC (MONOSSON), S/CIEA (GOLDWYN, SULLIVAN), S/SECC (STERN, PERSHING, ROCHBERG) DEPT PASS TO DOE FOR JONATHAN ELKIND, JAMES HART E.O. 12958 DECL: 02/09/2020 TAGS KGHG, SENV, EPET, ENRG, PREL, SA SUBJECT: TWO FACES OF SAUDI ARABIA’S CLIMATE NEGOTIATING POSITION REF: A. 09DHAHRAN 201 B. 09RIYADH 1302 C. 09RIYADH 1397 D. 09RIYADH 1492 E. 09RIYADH 1557 F. 09RIYADH 1642 G. RIYADH 103 H. SECSTATE 3080 I. SECSTATE 11182 Classified By: Ambassador James B. Smith for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). Summary ------- ¶1. (S) Saudi Arabia is officially still studying the issue of whether to associate with the Copenhagen Accord on Climate Change. Behind the scenes, we understand serious discussions are taking place about which road will best serve the Kingdom’s long term interests. On one hand, Saudi Arabia’s lead climate change negotiator has criticized the Copenhagen process in private and in public, arguing that the UNFCCC process is the only acceptable legal framework. On the other hand, Saudi officials are very eager to obtain investment credits for Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and other technology transfer projects that will only become available once an agreement has been reached. Saudi officials express concern about the impact a transition to a low-carbon energy mix will have on the country’s revenue stream at a time when it faces enormous financing needs to transform its economy to create jobs for its young, growing population. It also fears imposed economic costs associated with “demonizing” oil. Part of the explanation for this schizophrenic position is that the Saudi Government has not yet thought through all the implications of a climate change agreement, in part because it may not fully understand the various demand scenarios. There appears to be a growing sense within the SAG that it may be in danger of becoming isolated on climate change, which may prompt a re-examination of its position. Saudi officials have suggested that they need to find a way to climb down gracefully from the country’s tough negotiating position. More sustained engagement in coordination with other governments, particularly if pitched as an effort to develop partnership, may help them do so. End Summary. Saudi Arabia not yet Decided on Copenhagen Accord --------------------------------------------- ----- ¶2. (C) Saudi Arabia’s lead climate change negotiator Dr. Mohammad Al-Sabban told Econoffs February 3 the United States should adopt a more inclusive, transparent approach to United Nations Forum for Climate Change Cooperation (UNFCCC) negotiations. Although he was encouraged by President Obama’s attitude towards developing country partners in the negotiations, Al-Sabban said the parties needed to “learn from the mistakes” of Copenhagen in thinking about preparing for the next Conference of Parties (CoP) in Mexico. Al-Sabban said developing countries felt their Danish hosts forced them to decide on the Copenhagen Accord with practically no notice. Heads of state were also called into the negotiations too early and they applied too much pressure “when the deal was not there,” he said. In specific response to the U.S. request for support for the Copenhagen Accord (ref H), Al-Sabban said Saudi Arabia was still studying the accord to determine its position. The SAG cares about the environment, but it also must care for its citizens, he said. Addressing Saudi Economic Concerns Key to Progress --------------------------------------------- ----- ¶3. (C) Asked how to move forward on a global climate change commitment, Al-Sabban agreed negotiations need a “speedy outcome,” and said countries need to rebuild trust and confidence through more transparent negotiations. He reminisced fondly about the inclusive nature of the initial Kyoto Protocol negotiations, which he said should be replicated in Cancun. Al-Sabban said climate change negotiations should remain under the UNFCCC and not be pursued under alternative frameworks. ¶4. (C) Asked about tangible actions to reach national climate change goals, Al-Sabban said Saudi Arabia’s nationally appropriate actions would include carbon capture and storage (CCS) credits. He emphasized Saudi Arabia’s need for technology transfer and foreign direct investment to mitigate the adverse impact that emissions-reducing policies may have on the Kingdom. Al-Sabban said the SAG had closely studied climate change policies’ potential negative impacts. The Kingdom will need time to diversify its economy away from petroleum, he said, noting that a U.S. commitment to help Saudi Arabia with its economic diversification efforts would “take the pressure off climate change negotiations.” ¶5. (C) Al-Sabban said the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies was key to addressing Saudi Arabia’s domestic energy demand, and he acknowledged the need for increased energy efficiency awareness. The deployment of CCS technology, he said, was “crucial” for Saudi Arabia. He said the U.S. Administration’s rhetoric to end dependence on foreign oil, reiterated by President Obama in Copenhagen, is antagonistic and causes genuine fear in Saudi Arabia. The SAG is concerned about the outlook for oil demand and global production, and fears it will not be able to diversify in time to reach its development goals. Shadow Negotiator Suggests Partnership -------------------------------------- ¶6. (C) Senior Advisor to the President of Meteorology and Environment (PME) Fawaz Al-Alamy told Econoffs January 27 the U.S. and Saudi Arabia share the same values on climate change, but have different negotiation tactics. Al-Alamy, who joined PME in late 2009 and led Saudi Arabia’s World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, said Saudi Petroleum Minister Ali Al-Naimi wants to move forward in UNFCCC negotiations. (Note: PME sends three representatives with Al-Sabban to climate change negotiations. End note.) Al-Sabban’s negative approach to negotiations “disheartens” him, as does the ongoing “blame game” on climate change. Saudi Arabia, like China and India, needs to behave like an emerging economy rather than a developing country, he said. Al-Alamy noted he had met the previous day with both the Chinese and the Indian Ambassadors to the Kingdom to discuss climate change. ¶7. (C) Al-Alamy recommended several steps for U.S. engagement with Saudi Arabia on climate change, including active outreach to all the key players including Al-Sabban, Petroleum Minister Al-Naimi, and PME President Prince Turki bin Nasser. Al-Alamy recommended the U.S. reach out to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General, who has the power to tone down the alarm in the rest of the Arab world, such as in Egypt. Al-Alamy recommended the U.S. continue to coordinate its approach with other Embassies, which he said has been very effective. Asked how to get beyond the Kyoto Protocol lens through which Al-Sabban views climate negotiations, Al-Alamy quickly replied “he only has two more years to talk about Kyoto” before it expires. ¶8. (C) Al-Alamy said that Minister of Petroleum Al-Naimi strongly supports solar energy as he believes it will displace oil currently used in the power sector and ultimately increase oil exports. Saudi Arabia currently uses 1.5 million barrels per day to produce electricity and water, he said. The Kingdom is considering beginning a civilian nuclear program, and top leadership including Minister of Foreign Affairs Saud Al-Faisal supports the increased use of renewable energy sources. Some, however, view Copenhagen as a serious threat to Saudi Arabia’s economic stability. “Ask any Saudi,” Al-Alamy said, “they all think Saudi Arabia will be asked to foot the bill for climate change.” Al-Alamy outlined Saudi Arabia’s top concerns, including its strong aversion to mixing trade and environmental priorities. If duties are placed on oil and gas, Saudi Arabia will not be able to move ahead with its economic diversification plans, and this creates a “phobia” of climate change talks, he said. The Saudis also resent the U.S. when it makes decisions “without consulting its friends.” Al-Alamy said Saudi Arabia, and Al-Sabban in particular, needs to feel like a partner of U.S. decision making. Is Al-Naimi the Problem? ------------------------ ¶9. (S) Minister Al-Naimi has consistently been rational and practical in talking with western delegations about climate change, noting that Saudi Arabia had to address its development concerns, but conceding that the world needs to work together to address climate change. These reassuring statements stand in sharp contrast to Al-Sabban’s public comments, such as questioning the science behind climate change just before Copenhagen, and his often obstructionist behavior, as reported by a number of Embassies in Riyadh, during working-level negotiations. Senior Ministry of Petroleum officials have reassured us after each of Al-Sabban’s public outbursts over the last six months that he has been “tamed” and brought back onto the reservation. The frequency and number of times that Al-Sabban steps out of line, and the apparent lack of any sanction, raises questions about the real Saudi position on climate change. ¶10. (S) A recent conversation with UK Embassy officers suggests that indeed Al-Naimi may have some questions about climate change. They report that Al-Naimi was sharply critical of the Copenhagen meetings and the climate change effort in general, in marked contrast to earlier meetings. He complained that heads of state were brought in to negotiate the final stages, which prevented Saudi Arabia from voicing its true opposition to several elements. He also questioned the legality of the Copenhagen process and its future direction. ¶11. (S) A senior Ministry of Petroleum official explained that, leaving Copenhagen, the Saudi delegation was convinced that the Copenhagen accord would not attract significant support, apparently largely based on Al-Sabban’s analysis. The Minister’s office was unpleasantly surprised by mid-January, when it was clear that a number of countries had already associated themselves with the accord. Assistant Petroleum Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told EconCouns that he had spent two days walking Minister Al-Naimi through each of the 90 plus submissions on the UNFCCC web site. Prince Abdulaziz told the Minister that Saudi Arabia had missed a real opportunity to submit “something clever,” like India or China, that was not legally binding but indicated some goodwill towards the process without compromising key economic interests. The Prince intimated to EconCouns that Al-Sabban would not long retain his position, and said the challenge for Saudi Arabia was to find a way to “climb down” from its negotiating position. Comment ------- ¶12. (C) All indications are that Saudi officials are intensely discussing what position the country should take. We believe that the message is getting through, that there is a broad consensus among countries that tangible action needs to be taken now to address climate change. We also think that Saudi leaders are beginning to understand that they are in increasing danger of being left behind. They do have significant, legitimate concerns about how this process will affect their long-term livelihood. Our conversations, however, with officials in Finance, Petroleum and the other economic ministries suggests that they have not done sufficient economic analysis of the various scenarios to understand what the real impact of a climate change agreement might be. Such a discussion might help provide the kind of dispassionate basis to address legitimate Saudi concerns, while also making a better case for the need to take action to mitigate increasing emissions. We take as an encouraging sign the fact that several Saudi officials have noted to us that the Kyoto agreement only runs for two more years, suggesting that some at least understand the need to chart a more assured future course. We take the suggestion seriously that we help the Saudis find a way to climb down from their current position, ideally by offering the hand of partnership, which may help persuade the rest of OPEC to follow suit. For now, we believe that success will require a sustained, broad engagement with Saudi leadership, as we think the problem is more than just a rogue negotiator, but some broadly shared fears about the future, and uncertainty about the way forward. SMITH
The oil princes of Saudi Arabia became literal beggars at the United Nations climate talks that began at Bangkok on September 28. The oil kingdom demanded that they, along with other OPEC member nations, receive subsidies for revenues to be lost due to potential global warming.
Speaking on October 8, Mohammad S. Al Sabban, who led the Saudi delegation at the talks, claimed that a report by the International Energy Agency on OPEC revenues was seriously skewed. According to the IEA, OPEC revenues would still increase by more than $23 trillion between 2008 and 2030. This is four times the amount revenues increased between 1985 and 2007. Al Sabban said of Saudi Arabia “We are among the economically vulnerable countries,…This is very serious for us. He went on to say “We are in the process of diversifying our economy but this will take a long time. We don’t have too many resources.”
Al Sabban sees dark motivations on the part of the West and a supposed silent war being waged against oil producing states. Said the delegate, “Many politicians in the Western world think these climate change negotiations and the new agreement will provide them with a golden opportunity to reduce their dependence on imported oil…That means you will transfer the burdens to developing countries, especially those dependent on the exploitation of oil.” Moreover, said Al Sabban, the IEA figures are "biased" and asserted that OPEC's calculations showed that Saudi Arabia would lose $19 billion a year starting in 2012 under a new climate pact.
Some observers noted that oil consuming nations received no such subsidies in 2008 when oil prices reached $150 per barrel. The Arab environmental group IndyACT and Germanwatch stated that Saudi Arabia is holding up negotiations by insisting that a provision be included for oil producing countries. “Despite the variability in the region, the current Arab position is mainly focused around protecting the oil trade rather than saving the planet form the adverse impacts of climate change,” said Wael Hmaidan, the executive director of IndyACT.
There is broad consensus among the countries involved in the talks that any new pact should include provisions to avoid global temperature increases of more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels — the threshold at which serious climate change will ensue. That would require emissions cuts from industrial countries of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, far above the 15 to 23 percent cuts rich countries have offered so far. It would also require developing countries to scale back their emissions.
Meanwhile, the dollar is under attack as the designated currency for international oil and gas transactions. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has stated that Russia is contemplating replacing the US dollar with Russian and Chinese currencies in bilateral oil and gas transactions. The British broadsheet The Independent reported that Russian officials had held "secret meetings" with Arab states, China and France regarding eliminating the U.S. dollar in global oil transactions. According to the Russian newspaper RIA Novosti, the U.S. dollar would be replaced with a “new unified currency… including the euro, Japanese yen, Chinese yuan…” and gold.
Iran's Trade Promotion Organization has also said that it plans to “completely exclude the US dollar from the country's foreign revenues and reserves.” The Islamic Republic is encouraging Japan to substitute the US dollar with the yen in all oil transactions with Iran, according to Iranian media outlets. Iran is also considering using the euro and United Arab Emirates' dirham as alternates to the US dollar for oil revenues.Related Articles
Author Edwin Black predicted last year in his book The Plan, that in any showdown over Iran ’s nuclear ambitions, Tehran could frustrate America ’s oil supply by launching a “dollar war.” If America cannot use its own currency to purchase oil, oil will become more expensive and could become dramatically less accessible, wrote Black.
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