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Why Does Harper Still Support the Repressive, Misogynistic Saudi Regime? | Yves Engler

Why Does Harper Still Support the Repressive, Misogynistic Saudi Regime? | Yves Engler.

Yves Engler

Writer and Political Activist

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper claims to take “strong, principled positions in our dealings with other nations, whether popular or not.” But, even the most ardent Conservative supporters must wonder what principled position is behind the recent government-sponsored arms deal with Saudi Arabia that will send over $10 billion worth of Light Armoured Vehicles to one of the most anti-woman and repressive countries in the world.

Saudi Arabia is ruled by a monarchy that’s been in power for more than seven decades. The House of Saud has outlawed labour unions and stifled independent media. With the Qur’an ostensibly acting as its constitution, over a million Christians (mostly foreign workers) in Saudi Arabia are banned from owning Bibles or attending church while the Shia Muslim minority face significant state-sanctioned discrimination.

Outside its borders, the Saudi royal family uses its immense wealth to promote and fund many of the most reactionary, anti-women social forces in the world. They aggressively opposed the “Arab Spring” democracy movement through their significant control of Arab media, funding of authoritarian political movements and by deploying 1,000 troops to support the 200-year monarchy in neighbouring Bahrain.

The Conservatives have ignored these abuses, staying quiet when the regime killed “Arab Spring” protesters and intervened in Bahrain. Worse still, the Harper government’s hostility towards Iran and backing of last July’s military takeover in Egypt partly reflects their pro-Saudi orientation. In a stark example of Ottawa trying to ingratiate itself with that country’s monarchy, Foreign Minister John Baird recently dubbed the body of water between Iran, Iraq and the Gulf states the “Arabian Gulf” rather than the widely accepted Persian Gulf.

Ottawa hasn’t hidden its affinity for the Saudi royal family. Baird praised a deceased prince for “dedicat[ing] his life to the security and prosperity of the people of Saudi Arabia” and another as “a man of great achievement who dedicated his life to the well-being of its people.”

I am very bullish on where the Canadian-Saudi Arabian relationship is going,” Ed Fast told the Saudi Gazette in August. On his second trip to the country in less than a year, Canada’s International Trade Minister boasted about the two countries’ “common cause on many issues.”

Fast is not the only minister who has made the pilgrimage. Conservative ministers John Baird, Lawrence Cannon, Vic Toews, Maxime Bernier, Gerry Ritz, Peter Van Loan, and Stockwell Day (twice) have all visited Riyadh to meet the king or different Saudi princes.

These trips have spurred various business accords and an upsurge in business relations. SNC Lavalin alone has won Saudi contracts worth $1 billion in the last two years.

As a result of one of the ministerial visits, the RCMP plan to train Saudi Arabia’s police in “investigative techniques.” The Conservatives have also developed military relations with the Saudis. In January 2010, HMCS Fredericton participated in a mobile refueling exercise with a Saudi military vessel and, in another first, Saudi pilots began training in Alberta and Saskatchewan with NATO’s Flying Training in Canada in 2011.

The recently announced arms deal will see General Dynamics Land Systems Canada deliver Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) to the Saudi military. Canada’s biggest ever arms export agreement, it’s reportedly worth $10-13 billion over 14 years.

The LAV sale is facilitated by the Canadian Commercial Corporation, which has seen its role as this country’s arms middleman greatly expanded in recent years. The Conservative government has okayed and underwritten this deal even though Saudi troops used Canadian built LAVs when they rolled into Bahrain to put down pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011.

This sale and the Conservatives’ ties to the Saudi monarchy demonstrate exactly what principles Harper supports: misogyny, military repression, monarchy over democracy and commercial expediency, especially when it comes to the profits of a U.S.-owned branch plant arms dealer.

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Why Does Harper Still Support the Repressive, Misogynistic Saudi Regime? | Yves Engler

Why Does Harper Still Support the Repressive, Misogynistic Saudi Regime? | Yves Engler.

Yves Engler

Writer and Political Activist

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper claims to take “strong, principled positions in our dealings with other nations, whether popular or not.” But, even the most ardent Conservative supporters must wonder what principled position is behind the recent government-sponsored arms deal with Saudi Arabia that will send over $10 billion worth of Light Armoured Vehicles to one of the most anti-woman and repressive countries in the world.

Saudi Arabia is ruled by a monarchy that’s been in power for more than seven decades. The House of Saud has outlawed labour unions and stifled independent media. With the Qur’an ostensibly acting as its constitution, over a million Christians (mostly foreign workers) in Saudi Arabia are banned from owning Bibles or attending church while the Shia Muslim minority face significant state-sanctioned discrimination.

Outside its borders, the Saudi royal family uses its immense wealth to promote and fund many of the most reactionary, anti-women social forces in the world. They aggressively opposed the “Arab Spring” democracy movement through their significant control of Arab media, funding of authoritarian political movements and by deploying 1,000 troops to support the 200-year monarchy in neighbouring Bahrain.

The Conservatives have ignored these abuses, staying quiet when the regime killed “Arab Spring” protesters and intervened in Bahrain. Worse still, the Harper government’s hostility towards Iran and backing of last July’s military takeover in Egypt partly reflects their pro-Saudi orientation. In a stark example of Ottawa trying to ingratiate itself with that country’s monarchy, Foreign Minister John Baird recently dubbed the body of water between Iran, Iraq and the Gulf states the “Arabian Gulf” rather than the widely accepted Persian Gulf.

Ottawa hasn’t hidden its affinity for the Saudi royal family. Baird praised a deceased prince for “dedicat[ing] his life to the security and prosperity of the people of Saudi Arabia” and another as “a man of great achievement who dedicated his life to the well-being of its people.”

I am very bullish on where the Canadian-Saudi Arabian relationship is going,” Ed Fast told the Saudi Gazette in August. On his second trip to the country in less than a year, Canada’s International Trade Minister boasted about the two countries’ “common cause on many issues.”

Fast is not the only minister who has made the pilgrimage. Conservative ministers John Baird, Lawrence Cannon, Vic Toews, Maxime Bernier, Gerry Ritz, Peter Van Loan, and Stockwell Day (twice) have all visited Riyadh to meet the king or different Saudi princes.

These trips have spurred various business accords and an upsurge in business relations. SNC Lavalin alone has won Saudi contracts worth $1 billion in the last two years.

As a result of one of the ministerial visits, the RCMP plan to train Saudi Arabia’s police in “investigative techniques.” The Conservatives have also developed military relations with the Saudis. In January 2010, HMCS Fredericton participated in a mobile refueling exercise with a Saudi military vessel and, in another first, Saudi pilots began training in Alberta and Saskatchewan with NATO’s Flying Training in Canada in 2011.

The recently announced arms deal will see General Dynamics Land Systems Canada deliver Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) to the Saudi military. Canada’s biggest ever arms export agreement, it’s reportedly worth $10-13 billion over 14 years.

The LAV sale is facilitated by the Canadian Commercial Corporation, which has seen its role as this country’s arms middleman greatly expanded in recent years. The Conservative government has okayed and underwritten this deal even though Saudi troops used Canadian built LAVs when they rolled into Bahrain to put down pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011.

This sale and the Conservatives’ ties to the Saudi monarchy demonstrate exactly what principles Harper supports: misogyny, military repression, monarchy over democracy and commercial expediency, especially when it comes to the profits of a U.S.-owned branch plant arms dealer.

Turkish F-16 Shoots Down Syrian Plane, Caught On Live Video | Zero Hedge

Turkish F-16 Shoots Down Syrian Plane, Caught On Live Video | Zero Hedge.

Remember this country, the place which about a year ago was supposed to be “Ukraine” in terms of geopolitical escalations:

Syria map

Well, in the aftermath of what appears a tenuous detente over the Crimea while Putin plans his next step of how to “merge” with east Ukraine as he sets off to rebuild the USSR, Syria just may be set to regain its place at the top of the global geopolitical risk pyramid. Case in point, early this morning, the fragile ceasefire between Syria and Turkey was shatered after a Turkish F- 16 shot down a Syrian plane on Sunday after it crossed into Turkish air space in a border region where Syrian rebels have been battling President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

A photo of the falling plane was caught by twitter:

Anatolian Agency take the photos of Syrian jet down pic.twitter.com/xK59LUawvx

— Cüneyt Toros (@cuneyttoros) March 23, 2014

Reuters reports:

“A Syrian plane violated our airspace,” Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told an election rally of his supporters in northwest Turkey. “Our F-16s took off and hit this plane. Why? Because if you violate my airspace, our slap after this will be hard,”

 

The rebels have been fighting for control of the Kasab crossing, the border region, since Friday, when they launched an offensive which Syrian authorities say was backed by Turkey’s military.

 

Syria said Turkish air defenses shot down the jet while it was attacking rebel forces inside Syrian territory, calling the move a “blatant aggression”.

 

State television quoted a military source as saying the pilot managed to eject from the plane. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said initial reports from the area said the plane came down on the Syrian side of the border.

 

Al Manar, the television station of Assad’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah, said two rockets had been fired from Turkish territory at the Syrian jet.

Amazingly, here is a clip of a live broadcast by HaberTurk which appears to have caught the moment of the plane’s crash live on video.

Why did Turkey really engage? Simple: to distract from PM Erdogan’s relentless political collapse when one after another political scandal is hitting the embattled premier who last week shut down access to Twitter, and it likely set to block YouTube as well, where a phone recording of his admitting graft and embezzlement can still be found. Naturally, it struck at the one country it knows will hardly fight back against the NATO member, although now that Russian foreign policy sentiment is once again shifting dramatically, and may call for far greater support for Syria, not to mention that suddenly Turkey is hardly in “democratic” Europe’s good graces in the aftermath of the Twitter censorship scandal, Erdogan may just have miscalculated.

As for the next steps in Turkey, we repeat what we said on Friday: “We eagerly look forward to see which particular pro-Western agent is groomed to take Erdogan’s place. After all remember: those Qatari gas pipelines that in a parallel universe, one without Putin, would have already been transporting nat gas under Syria, would enter Europe under Turkey.”

Surely following yet another “chess” victory by Putin in the foreign relations arena, the urgency to find that Qatari natgas outlet to Europe is that much greater…

Turkish F-16 Shoots Down Syrian Plane, Caught On Live Video | Zero Hedge

Turkish F-16 Shoots Down Syrian Plane, Caught On Live Video | Zero Hedge.

Remember this country, the place which about a year ago was supposed to be “Ukraine” in terms of geopolitical escalations:

Syria map

Well, in the aftermath of what appears a tenuous detente over the Crimea while Putin plans his next step of how to “merge” with east Ukraine as he sets off to rebuild the USSR, Syria just may be set to regain its place at the top of the global geopolitical risk pyramid. Case in point, early this morning, the fragile ceasefire between Syria and Turkey was shatered after a Turkish F- 16 shot down a Syrian plane on Sunday after it crossed into Turkish air space in a border region where Syrian rebels have been battling President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

A photo of the falling plane was caught by twitter:

Anatolian Agency take the photos of Syrian jet down pic.twitter.com/xK59LUawvx

— Cüneyt Toros (@cuneyttoros) March 23, 2014

Reuters reports:

“A Syrian plane violated our airspace,” Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told an election rally of his supporters in northwest Turkey. “Our F-16s took off and hit this plane. Why? Because if you violate my airspace, our slap after this will be hard,”

 

The rebels have been fighting for control of the Kasab crossing, the border region, since Friday, when they launched an offensive which Syrian authorities say was backed by Turkey’s military.

 

Syria said Turkish air defenses shot down the jet while it was attacking rebel forces inside Syrian territory, calling the move a “blatant aggression”.

 

State television quoted a military source as saying the pilot managed to eject from the plane. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said initial reports from the area said the plane came down on the Syrian side of the border.

 

Al Manar, the television station of Assad’s Lebanese ally Hezbollah, said two rockets had been fired from Turkish territory at the Syrian jet.

Amazingly, here is a clip of a live broadcast by HaberTurk which appears to have caught the moment of the plane’s crash live on video.

Why did Turkey really engage? Simple: to distract from PM Erdogan’s relentless political collapse when one after another political scandal is hitting the embattled premier who last week shut down access to Twitter, and it likely set to block YouTube as well, where a phone recording of his admitting graft and embezzlement can still be found. Naturally, it struck at the one country it knows will hardly fight back against the NATO member, although now that Russian foreign policy sentiment is once again shifting dramatically, and may call for far greater support for Syria, not to mention that suddenly Turkey is hardly in “democratic” Europe’s good graces in the aftermath of the Twitter censorship scandal, Erdogan may just have miscalculated.

As for the next steps in Turkey, we repeat what we said on Friday: “We eagerly look forward to see which particular pro-Western agent is groomed to take Erdogan’s place. After all remember: those Qatari gas pipelines that in a parallel universe, one without Putin, would have already been transporting nat gas under Syria, would enter Europe under Turkey.”

Surely following yet another “chess” victory by Putin in the foreign relations arena, the urgency to find that Qatari natgas outlet to Europe is that much greater…

Iraq invasion was about oil | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com

Iraq invasion was about oil | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com.

Maximising Persian Gulf oil flows to avert a potential global energy crisis motivated Iraq War planners – not WMD or democracy
Tony Blair leaves the Iraq war inquiry

Tony Blair leaves the Iraq war inquiry. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday was the 11th anniversary of the 2003 Iraq War – yet to this day, few media reflections on the conflict accurately explore the extent to which opening up Persian Gulf energy resources to the world economy was a prime driver behind the Anglo-American invasion.

The overwhelming narrative has been one of incompetence and failure in an otherwise noble, if ill-conceived and badly managed endeavour to free Iraqis from tyranny. To be sure, the conduct of the war was indeed replete with incompetence at a colossal scale – but this doesn’t erase the very real mendacity of the cold, strategic logic that motivated the war’s US and British planners in the first place.

According to the infamous Project for a New American Century (PNAC) document endorsed by senior Bush administration officials as far back as 1997, “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification” for the US “to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security,” “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

So Saddam’s WMD was not really the issue – and neither was Saddam himself.

The real issue is candidly described in a 2001 report on “energy security” – commissioned by then US Vice-President Dick Cheney – published by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James Baker Institute for Public Policy. It warned of an impending global energy crisis that would increase “US and global vulnerability to disruption”, and leave the US facing “unprecedented energy price volatility.”

The main source of disruption, the report observed, is “Middle East tension“, in particular, the threat posed by Iraq. Critically, the documented illustrated that US officials had lost all faith in Saddam due his erratic and unpredictable energy export policies. In 2000, Iraq had “effectively become a swing producer, turning its taps on and off when it has felt such action was in its strategic interest to do so.” There is a “possibility that Saddam Hussein may remove Iraqi oil from the market for an extended period of time” in order to damage prices:

“Iraq remains a destabilising influence to… the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export programme to manipulate oil markets. This would display his personal power, enhance his image as a pan-Arab leader… and pressure others for a lifting of economic sanctions against his regime. The United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and political/diplomatic assessments. The United States should then develop an integrated strategy with key allies in Europe and Asia, and with key countries in the Middle East, to restate goals with respect to Iraqi policy and to restore a cohesive coalition of key allies.”

The Iraq War was only partly, however, about big profits for Anglo-American oil conglomerates – that would be a bonus (one which in the end has failed to materialise to the degree hoped for – not for want of trying though).

The real goal – as Greg Muttitt documented in his book Fuel on the Fireciting declassified Foreign Office files from 2003 onwards – was stabilising global energy supplies as a whole by ensuring the free flow of Iraqi oil to world markets – benefits to US and UK companies constituted an important but secondary goal:

“The most important strategic interest lay in expanding global energy supplies, through foreign investment, in some of the world’s largest oil reserves – in particular Iraq. This meshed neatly with the secondary aim of securing contracts for their companies. Note that the strategy documents released here tend to refer to ‘British and global energy supplies.’ British energy security is to be obtained by there being ample global supplies – it is not about the specific flow.”

To this end, as Whitehall documents obtained by the Independent show, the US and British sought to privatise Iraqi oil production with a view to allow foreign companies to takeover. Minutes of a meeting held on 12 May 2003 said:

“The future shape of the Iraqi industry will affect oil markets, and the functioning of Opec, in both of which we have a vital interest.”

A “desirable” outcome for Iraqi’s crippled oil industry, officials concluded, is:

“… an oil sector open and attractive to foreign investment, with appropriate arrangements for the exploitation of new fields.”

The documents added that “foreign companies’ involvement seems to be the only possible solution” to make Iraq a reliable oil exporter. This, however, would be “politically sensitive”, and would “require careful handling to avoid the impression that we are trying to push the Iraqis down one particular path.”

Media analyses claiming lazily that there was no planning for the aftermath of the Iraq War should look closer at the public record. The reality is that extensive plans for postwar reconstruction were pursued, but they did not consider humanitarian and societal issues of any significance, focusing instead on maintaining the authoritarian structures of Saddam’s brutal regime after his removal, while upgrading Iraq’s oil infrastructure to benefit foreign investors.

A series of news reports, for instance, confirmed how the State Department had set up 17 separate working groups to work out this post-war plan. Iraq would be “governed by a senior US military officer… with a civilian administrator”, which would “initially impose martial law”, while Iraqis would be relegated to the sidelines as “advisers” to the US administration. The US envisaged “a broad and protracted American role in managing the reconstruction of the country… with a continued role for thousands of US troops there for years to come”, in “defence of the country’s oil fields”, which would eventually be “privatised” along with “other supporting industries.”

The centrality of concerns about energy to Iraq War planning was most candidly confirmed eight years ago by a former senior British Army official in Iraq, James Ellery, currently director of British security firm and US defence contractor, Aegis.

Brigadier-General James Ellery CBE, the Foreign Office’s Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad since 2003, had confirmed the critical role of Iraqi oil reserves in alleviating a “world shortage” of conventional oil. The Iraq War has helped to head off what Ellery described as “the tide of Easternisation” – a shift in global political and economic power toward China and India, to whom goes “two thirds of the Middle East’s oil.” His remarks were made as part of a presentation at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, sponsored by the Iraqi Youth Foundation, on 22nd April 2008:

“The reason that oil reached $117 a barrel last week was less to do with security of supply… than World shortage.”

He went on to emphasise the strategic significance of Iraqi petroleum fields in relation to the danger of production peaks being breached in major oil reserves around the world:

“Russia’s production has peaked at 10 million barrels per day; Africa has proved slow to yield affordable extra supplies – from Sudan and Angola for example. Thus the only near-term potential increase will be from Iraq.”

Whether Iraq began “favouring East or West” could therefore be “de-stabilising” not only “within the region but to nations far beyond which have an interest.”

“Iraq holds the key to stability in the region”, Ellery continued, due to its “relatively large, consuming population,” its being home to “the second largest reserve of oil – under exploited”, and finally its geostrategic location “on the routes between Asia, Europe, Arabia and North Africa – hence the Silk Road.”

Despite escalating instability and internal terrorism, Iraq is now swiftlyreclaiming its rank as one of the world’s fastest-growing exporters, cushioning the impact of supply outages elsewhere and thus welcomed by OPEC. Back in 2008, Ellery had confirmed Allied ambitions to “raise Iraqi’s oil production from 2.5 million bpd today to 3 million by next year and maybe ultimately 6 million barrels per day.”

Thus, the primary motive of the war – mobilising Iraqi oil production tosustain global oil flows and moderate global oil prices – has, so far, been fairly successful according to the International Energy Agency.

Eleven years on, there should be no doubt that the 2003 Iraq War was among the first major resource wars of the 21st century. It is unlikely to be the last.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

Iraq invasion was about oil | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com

Iraq invasion was about oil | Nafeez Ahmed | Environment | theguardian.com.

Maximising Persian Gulf oil flows to avert a potential global energy crisis motivated Iraq War planners – not WMD or democracy
Tony Blair leaves the Iraq war inquiry

Tony Blair leaves the Iraq war inquiry. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday was the 11th anniversary of the 2003 Iraq War – yet to this day, few media reflections on the conflict accurately explore the extent to which opening up Persian Gulf energy resources to the world economy was a prime driver behind the Anglo-American invasion.

The overwhelming narrative has been one of incompetence and failure in an otherwise noble, if ill-conceived and badly managed endeavour to free Iraqis from tyranny. To be sure, the conduct of the war was indeed replete with incompetence at a colossal scale – but this doesn’t erase the very real mendacity of the cold, strategic logic that motivated the war’s US and British planners in the first place.

According to the infamous Project for a New American Century (PNAC) document endorsed by senior Bush administration officials as far back as 1997, “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification” for the US “to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security,” “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

So Saddam’s WMD was not really the issue – and neither was Saddam himself.

The real issue is candidly described in a 2001 report on “energy security” – commissioned by then US Vice-President Dick Cheney – published by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James Baker Institute for Public Policy. It warned of an impending global energy crisis that would increase “US and global vulnerability to disruption”, and leave the US facing “unprecedented energy price volatility.”

The main source of disruption, the report observed, is “Middle East tension“, in particular, the threat posed by Iraq. Critically, the documented illustrated that US officials had lost all faith in Saddam due his erratic and unpredictable energy export policies. In 2000, Iraq had “effectively become a swing producer, turning its taps on and off when it has felt such action was in its strategic interest to do so.” There is a “possibility that Saddam Hussein may remove Iraqi oil from the market for an extended period of time” in order to damage prices:

“Iraq remains a destabilising influence to… the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export programme to manipulate oil markets. This would display his personal power, enhance his image as a pan-Arab leader… and pressure others for a lifting of economic sanctions against his regime. The United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and political/diplomatic assessments. The United States should then develop an integrated strategy with key allies in Europe and Asia, and with key countries in the Middle East, to restate goals with respect to Iraqi policy and to restore a cohesive coalition of key allies.”

The Iraq War was only partly, however, about big profits for Anglo-American oil conglomerates – that would be a bonus (one which in the end has failed to materialise to the degree hoped for – not for want of trying though).

The real goal – as Greg Muttitt documented in his book Fuel on the Fireciting declassified Foreign Office files from 2003 onwards – was stabilising global energy supplies as a whole by ensuring the free flow of Iraqi oil to world markets – benefits to US and UK companies constituted an important but secondary goal:

“The most important strategic interest lay in expanding global energy supplies, through foreign investment, in some of the world’s largest oil reserves – in particular Iraq. This meshed neatly with the secondary aim of securing contracts for their companies. Note that the strategy documents released here tend to refer to ‘British and global energy supplies.’ British energy security is to be obtained by there being ample global supplies – it is not about the specific flow.”

To this end, as Whitehall documents obtained by the Independent show, the US and British sought to privatise Iraqi oil production with a view to allow foreign companies to takeover. Minutes of a meeting held on 12 May 2003 said:

“The future shape of the Iraqi industry will affect oil markets, and the functioning of Opec, in both of which we have a vital interest.”

A “desirable” outcome for Iraqi’s crippled oil industry, officials concluded, is:

“… an oil sector open and attractive to foreign investment, with appropriate arrangements for the exploitation of new fields.”

The documents added that “foreign companies’ involvement seems to be the only possible solution” to make Iraq a reliable oil exporter. This, however, would be “politically sensitive”, and would “require careful handling to avoid the impression that we are trying to push the Iraqis down one particular path.”

Media analyses claiming lazily that there was no planning for the aftermath of the Iraq War should look closer at the public record. The reality is that extensive plans for postwar reconstruction were pursued, but they did not consider humanitarian and societal issues of any significance, focusing instead on maintaining the authoritarian structures of Saddam’s brutal regime after his removal, while upgrading Iraq’s oil infrastructure to benefit foreign investors.

A series of news reports, for instance, confirmed how the State Department had set up 17 separate working groups to work out this post-war plan. Iraq would be “governed by a senior US military officer… with a civilian administrator”, which would “initially impose martial law”, while Iraqis would be relegated to the sidelines as “advisers” to the US administration. The US envisaged “a broad and protracted American role in managing the reconstruction of the country… with a continued role for thousands of US troops there for years to come”, in “defence of the country’s oil fields”, which would eventually be “privatised” along with “other supporting industries.”

The centrality of concerns about energy to Iraq War planning was most candidly confirmed eight years ago by a former senior British Army official in Iraq, James Ellery, currently director of British security firm and US defence contractor, Aegis.

Brigadier-General James Ellery CBE, the Foreign Office’s Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad since 2003, had confirmed the critical role of Iraqi oil reserves in alleviating a “world shortage” of conventional oil. The Iraq War has helped to head off what Ellery described as “the tide of Easternisation” – a shift in global political and economic power toward China and India, to whom goes “two thirds of the Middle East’s oil.” His remarks were made as part of a presentation at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, sponsored by the Iraqi Youth Foundation, on 22nd April 2008:

“The reason that oil reached $117 a barrel last week was less to do with security of supply… than World shortage.”

He went on to emphasise the strategic significance of Iraqi petroleum fields in relation to the danger of production peaks being breached in major oil reserves around the world:

“Russia’s production has peaked at 10 million barrels per day; Africa has proved slow to yield affordable extra supplies – from Sudan and Angola for example. Thus the only near-term potential increase will be from Iraq.”

Whether Iraq began “favouring East or West” could therefore be “de-stabilising” not only “within the region but to nations far beyond which have an interest.”

“Iraq holds the key to stability in the region”, Ellery continued, due to its “relatively large, consuming population,” its being home to “the second largest reserve of oil – under exploited”, and finally its geostrategic location “on the routes between Asia, Europe, Arabia and North Africa – hence the Silk Road.”

Despite escalating instability and internal terrorism, Iraq is now swiftlyreclaiming its rank as one of the world’s fastest-growing exporters, cushioning the impact of supply outages elsewhere and thus welcomed by OPEC. Back in 2008, Ellery had confirmed Allied ambitions to “raise Iraqi’s oil production from 2.5 million bpd today to 3 million by next year and maybe ultimately 6 million barrels per day.”

Thus, the primary motive of the war – mobilising Iraqi oil production tosustain global oil flows and moderate global oil prices – has, so far, been fairly successful according to the International Energy Agency.

Eleven years on, there should be no doubt that the 2003 Iraq War was among the first major resource wars of the 21st century. It is unlikely to be the last.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

Another Escalation: US Freezes Diplomatic Relations With Syria, Orders Non-US Personnel To Leave Country | Zero Hedge

Another Escalation: US Freezes Diplomatic Relations With Syria, Orders Non-US Personnel To Leave Country | Zero Hedge.

Putin 2 – Obama 0, which means it is time to go back to the one place where it all started last year, and where Putin had his most resounding victory over the US foreign policy apparatus (at least until the Ukraine, where we trampled not only over Obama’s red line… again… but where nobody quite explained the “costs” to the ex-KGB leader): Syria.  Sure enough, with the US unable to respond in Crimea, has decided to take its fight back to where Europe’s natgas reliance on Gazprom product was first truly exposed.

BREAKING: US freezes diplomatic, consular relations with Syria; Orders non-US personnel to leave country.

— The Associated Press (@AP) March 18, 2014

The US can order non-US personnel around? More from Reuters:

  • U.S.
    IMMEDIATELY SUSPENDS OPERATIONS OF SYRIAN EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON, AS
    WELL AS HONORARY CONSULATES IN MICHIGAN AND TEXAS – STATE DEPARTMENT
  • U.S.
    SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA SAYS ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ FOR INDIVIDUALS APPOINTED
    BY ASSAD REGIME TO CONDUCT DIPLOMATIC, CONSULAR OPERATIONS IN U.S.

Regardless, if the bloodless Russian annexation of Crimea wasn’t enough to push the S&P to new all time highs, this surely will.

Another Escalation: US Freezes Diplomatic Relations With Syria, Orders Non-US Personnel To Leave Country | Zero Hedge

Another Escalation: US Freezes Diplomatic Relations With Syria, Orders Non-US Personnel To Leave Country | Zero Hedge.

Putin 2 – Obama 0, which means it is time to go back to the one place where it all started last year, and where Putin had his most resounding victory over the US foreign policy apparatus (at least until the Ukraine, where we trampled not only over Obama’s red line… again… but where nobody quite explained the “costs” to the ex-KGB leader): Syria.  Sure enough, with the US unable to respond in Crimea, has decided to take its fight back to where Europe’s natgas reliance on Gazprom product was first truly exposed.

BREAKING: US freezes diplomatic, consular relations with Syria; Orders non-US personnel to leave country.

— The Associated Press (@AP) March 18, 2014

The US can order non-US personnel around? More from Reuters:

  • U.S.
    IMMEDIATELY SUSPENDS OPERATIONS OF SYRIAN EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON, AS
    WELL AS HONORARY CONSULATES IN MICHIGAN AND TEXAS – STATE DEPARTMENT
  • U.S.
    SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA SAYS ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ FOR INDIVIDUALS APPOINTED
    BY ASSAD REGIME TO CONDUCT DIPLOMATIC, CONSULAR OPERATIONS IN U.S.

Regardless, if the bloodless Russian annexation of Crimea wasn’t enough to push the S&P to new all time highs, this surely will.

On 3rd Anniversary Of Syrian Civil War, Children Face Malnutrition, Poverty, Death (How To Help)

On 3rd Anniversary Of Syrian Civil War, Children Face Malnutrition, Poverty, Death (How To Help).

The Huffington Post  | by  Eleanor Goldberg
Main Entry Image

Saturday marks three years since the start of the bloody civil war in Syria that hasclaimed more than 140,000 lives and has made life for children in the area particularly insufferable.

The number of children affected by the crisis doubled to 5.5 million in the past year, according to UNICEF.

Before the violence began, Syrian children held a world of potential in their hands. In March 2011, 97 percent of school-age children were enrolled in school and literacy rates surpassed the regional average, according to a recent UNICEF report. Two years later, just 30 percent of Syrian children had access to education.

Instead of pursuing their passions, 1 in 10 refugee children are working as cheap laborers in cafes and repair shops. Many have no choice but to beg on the street.

Today, Syria’s most vulnerable population faces horrible conditions:

Some of the health crises that have cropped up include malnutrition and a resurgence of polio. Newborn babies face imminent death, according to a Save the Children report. Children are also drinking from polluted wells and eating rotten rice, according to UNICEF.

They’re feared to become the “lost generation” as their opportunities increasingly fade.

“I used to have a dream, but it’s been blown away by the winds of this place,” Heba, a 17-year-old living in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, told UNICEF in December.“My dream was to go to university and study pharmacy. It was on my mind and in my heart, but it’s been reduced to ash.”

Learn how to support the efforts of the U.N. and other organizations which are working to protect Syrian refugees, below.

UNICEF
The organization is working to provide medical care and sanitation to children affected by the crisis in Syria. UNICEF seeks to prevent a “lost generation” by implementing education solutions and protecting children at risk. Learn more here.

UNHCR
The U.N. refugee agency is leading the Syrian refugee response. The organization has camps in Jordan and continues to offer humanitarian assistance in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq. With thousands fleeing Syria every day, the organization is working to keep up. The site offers multiple ways to take action:

Share the U.N.’s how-to-help page on Twitter or Facebook here.

Subscribe to the UNHCR newsletter to keep up to date.

And learn more here.

Mercy Corps
Mercy Corps has been working in Syria since 2008. Now, with the escalating humanitarian crisis, the organization is responding to the needs of refugees in camps in Lebanon and Jordan by increasing access to clean water and providing psychological support for children. Learn more here.

International Red Cross
The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are working together to feed the millions of Syrian refugees, provide medical care to those in need and war-surgery training to doctors treating casualties in neighboring Lebanon. Learn more here.

Save the Children
In response to the humanitarian crisis and plummeting temperatures, Save the Children is providing children with warm blankets, clothes, shoes and winter-aid packages for infants. Learn more here.

War Child
War Child, a U.K.-based charity dedicated to helping children affected by conflict, has been working in Lebanon creating six “safe spaces” in schools which provide art and music therapy for affected children, and has helped 400 youngsters enroll in school. Learn more here.

Saudi c.bank: China yuan good diversifier, but far from reserve currency | Reuters

Saudi c.bank: China yuan good diversifier, but far from reserve currency | Reuters.

BY MARWA RASHAD

RIYADH, March 16 Sun Mar 16, 2014 7:58am EDT

(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia thinks that the Chinese yuan is a good option for diversifying foreign currency reserves but it is still far from being a reserve currency, its central bank governor Fahad al-Mubarak said on Sunday.

Asked whether it made sense to consider diversifying the central bank’s reserves to include the yuan, also known as the renminbi, or explore a currency swap agreement, Mubarak said: “We think it is a stronger currency, but it is far from being a reserve currency at this stage.”

“But indeed it represents a good option and a good diversifier and we have seen that some of the central banks have some reserves in the renminbi,” he said at an annual news conference in the Saudi capital.

Mubarak, who does not comment on policy outside of annual press briefings, did not say, however, whether the central bank had considered adding the yuan to its portfolio of net foreign assets. Its reserves, the vast majority of which are believed to be in U.S. dollars, grew to a record $718 billion in January.

A gradual easing of restrictions on the yuan and increasing trade with China have led some of Beijing’s partner countries include the renminbi in their official reserves and open currency swap agreements.

Last year, Taiwan’s central bank said it was holding the yuan in its foreign exchange reserves portfolio in recognition of the yuan’s growing globalisation and importance of trade, while Australia’s central bank unveiled a plan to invest some of its reserves in Chinese government bonds for the first time.

Among the Gulf Arab oil exporters, who mostly peg their currencies to the U.S. dollar, the United Arab Emirates signed a three-year currency swap agreement worth $5.5 billion with China in 2012 to boost two-way trade and investment.

Oil giant Saudi Arabia is the top crude supplier for China, the world’s second biggest economy. Last year, the Gulf monarchy supplied Beijing with around 1.17 million barrels per day of oil and is expected to deliver the same amount this year, according to traders.

Beijing has laid out plans to make the yuan convertible on the capital account, but its market interventions to hold back the pace of appreciation have shown a wariness of currency liberalisation.

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