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World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis | GlobalPost

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis | GlobalPost.

Agence France-Presse March 20, 2014 11:36pm

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis

Placard

(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Surging populations and economies in the developing world will cause a double crunch in demand for water and energy in the coming decades, the UN said Friday.

In a report published on the eve of World Water Day, it said the cravings for clean water and electricity were intertwined and could badly strain Earth’s limited resources.

“Demand for freshwater and energy will continue to increase over the coming decades to meet the needs of growing populations and economies, changing lifestyles and evolving consumption patterns, greatly amplifying existing pressures on limited natural resources and on ecosystems,” the report said.

Already, 768 million people do not have access to a safe, reliable source of water, 2.5 billion do not have decent sanitation and more than 1.3 billion do not have mains electricity.

About 20 percent of the world’s aquifers today are depleted, according to the report.

Agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of water use.

The World Water Development Report, the fifth in the series by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is an overview collated from data from scientific studies and investigations by agencies.

It said ever more freshwater will be needed for farming, construction, drinking, cooking, washing and sewerage, but also for energy production — 90 percent of which uses water-intensive techniques today.

The report gave this snapshot of the future:

– Global water demand is likely to increase by 55 percent by 2050.

– By then, more than 40 percent of the world’s population will be living in areas of “severe” water stress, many of them in the broad swathe of land from North Africa and the Middle East to western South Asia.

– Asia will be the biggest hotspot for bust-ups over water extraction, where water sources straddle national borders. “Areas of conflict include the Aral Sea and the Ganges-Brahmaputra River, Indus River and Mekong River basins,” said the report.

– Global energy demand is expected to grow by more than a third by 2035, with China, India and Middle Eastern countries accounting for 60 percent of the increase.

– In 2010, energy production gobbled up 66 billion cubic metres (2,300 billion cu. feet) of fresh water — more than the average annual flow of the River Nile in Egypt.

By 2035, this consumption could rise by 85 percent, driven by power plant cooling systems that work with water.

– Thirsty energy –

Shale deposits and tar sands, driving an energy boom in North America, are especially hefty in their demands for water to force out the precious gas and oil, the report said.

Even so, “they are outstripped by far by biofuels,” said researcher Richard Connor, who headed the study.

Renewable sources like solar and wind energy that use far less water are gaining ground, and accounted for about a fifth of global electricity output in 2011, the report said.

But they are unlikely to expand this share significantly if fossil fuels continue receiving the bulk of subsidies, it said.

Oil, gas and coal had subsidies of $523 billion (376 billion euros) in 2011, nearly 30 percent more than in 2010, compared to $88 billion for renewables, the report said, citing International Energy Agency (IEA) figures.

Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean have plenty of potential for hydro-energy, which reuses the precious resource, it added.

Hydro-electric dams have been extremely controversial. Big projects deliver gigawatts of power but critics say they are ecologically damaging and prone to massive cost overruns.

The review called for a global effort in efficiency gains, pointing the finger at the arid countries of the Middle East where between 15 and 60 percent of water is wasted through leaks or evaporation even before the consumer opens the tap.

The report also called for smart choices in allocating the trillions of dollars likely to be invested in water and energy infrastructure over the next two decades.

ri/mlr/fb

World faces 'water-energy' crisis | GlobalPost

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis | GlobalPost.

Agence France-Presse March 20, 2014 11:36pm

World faces ‘water-energy’ crisis

Placard

(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Surging populations and economies in the developing world will cause a double crunch in demand for water and energy in the coming decades, the UN said Friday.

In a report published on the eve of World Water Day, it said the cravings for clean water and electricity were intertwined and could badly strain Earth’s limited resources.

“Demand for freshwater and energy will continue to increase over the coming decades to meet the needs of growing populations and economies, changing lifestyles and evolving consumption patterns, greatly amplifying existing pressures on limited natural resources and on ecosystems,” the report said.

Already, 768 million people do not have access to a safe, reliable source of water, 2.5 billion do not have decent sanitation and more than 1.3 billion do not have mains electricity.

About 20 percent of the world’s aquifers today are depleted, according to the report.

Agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of water use.

The World Water Development Report, the fifth in the series by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), is an overview collated from data from scientific studies and investigations by agencies.

It said ever more freshwater will be needed for farming, construction, drinking, cooking, washing and sewerage, but also for energy production — 90 percent of which uses water-intensive techniques today.

The report gave this snapshot of the future:

– Global water demand is likely to increase by 55 percent by 2050.

– By then, more than 40 percent of the world’s population will be living in areas of “severe” water stress, many of them in the broad swathe of land from North Africa and the Middle East to western South Asia.

– Asia will be the biggest hotspot for bust-ups over water extraction, where water sources straddle national borders. “Areas of conflict include the Aral Sea and the Ganges-Brahmaputra River, Indus River and Mekong River basins,” said the report.

– Global energy demand is expected to grow by more than a third by 2035, with China, India and Middle Eastern countries accounting for 60 percent of the increase.

– In 2010, energy production gobbled up 66 billion cubic metres (2,300 billion cu. feet) of fresh water — more than the average annual flow of the River Nile in Egypt.

By 2035, this consumption could rise by 85 percent, driven by power plant cooling systems that work with water.

– Thirsty energy –

Shale deposits and tar sands, driving an energy boom in North America, are especially hefty in their demands for water to force out the precious gas and oil, the report said.

Even so, “they are outstripped by far by biofuels,” said researcher Richard Connor, who headed the study.

Renewable sources like solar and wind energy that use far less water are gaining ground, and accounted for about a fifth of global electricity output in 2011, the report said.

But they are unlikely to expand this share significantly if fossil fuels continue receiving the bulk of subsidies, it said.

Oil, gas and coal had subsidies of $523 billion (376 billion euros) in 2011, nearly 30 percent more than in 2010, compared to $88 billion for renewables, the report said, citing International Energy Agency (IEA) figures.

Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean have plenty of potential for hydro-energy, which reuses the precious resource, it added.

Hydro-electric dams have been extremely controversial. Big projects deliver gigawatts of power but critics say they are ecologically damaging and prone to massive cost overruns.

The review called for a global effort in efficiency gains, pointing the finger at the arid countries of the Middle East where between 15 and 60 percent of water is wasted through leaks or evaporation even before the consumer opens the tap.

The report also called for smart choices in allocating the trillions of dollars likely to be invested in water and energy infrastructure over the next two decades.

ri/mlr/fb

Obama's Former Foreign Policy Adviser Said – In 1997 – that the U.S. Had to Gain Control of Ukraine Washington's Blog

Obama’s Former Foreign Policy Adviser Said – In 1997 – that the U.S. Had to Gain Control of Ukraine Washington’s Blog.

The Battle for Ukraine Was Planned in 1997 … Or Earlier

Neoconservatives planned regime change throughout the Middle East and North Africa 20 years ago. Robert Parry correctly points out that the Neocons have successfully “weathered the storm” of disdain after their Iraq war fiasco.

But the truth is that Obama has long done his best to try to implement those Neocon plans.

Similarly, ever since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the U.S. has pursued a strategy of encircling Russia, just as it has with other perceived enemies like China and Iran.

In 1997, Obama’s former foreign affairs adviser, and president Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser – Zbigniew Brzezinski – wrote a book called The Grand Chessboard arguing arguing that the U.S. had to take control of Ukraine (as well as Azerbaijan, South Korea, Turkey and Iran) because they were “critically important geopolitical pivots”.

Regarding Ukraine, Brzezinski said (hat tip Chris Ernesto):

Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.

***

However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.

And now Obama is pushing us into a confrontation with Russia over Ukraine and the Crimea.

As Ernesto notes:

Late last year when Ukraine’s now-ousted president Viktor Yanukovych surprisingly canceled plans for Ukrainian integration into the European Union in favor of stronger ties with Russia, the US may have viewed Ukraine as slipping even further out of its reach.

At that point, with the pieces already in place, the US moved to support the ousting of Yanukovych, as evidenced by the leaked phone conversation between US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland [arch-Neocon Robert Kagan‘s wife]  and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.  When peaceful protests were not effective in unseating Yanukovych, the violence of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party and Right Sector was embraced, if not supported by the west.

In today’s Ukraine, the US runs the risk of being affiliated with anti-Semitic neo-Nazis, a prospect it probably feels can be controlled via a friendly western media. But even if the risk is high, the US likely views it as necessary given the geopolitical importance of Ukraine, as Brzezinski mapped out in 1997.

In other words, Obama is following the same old playbook that the Neocons have been pushing for more than a decade.

Obama’s Former Foreign Policy Adviser Said – In 1997 – that the U.S. Had to Gain Control of Ukraine Washington’s Blog

Obama’s Former Foreign Policy Adviser Said – In 1997 – that the U.S. Had to Gain Control of Ukraine Washington’s Blog.

The Battle for Ukraine Was Planned in 1997 … Or Earlier

Neoconservatives planned regime change throughout the Middle East and North Africa 20 years ago. Robert Parry correctly points out that the Neocons have successfully “weathered the storm” of disdain after their Iraq war fiasco.

But the truth is that Obama has long done his best to try to implement those Neocon plans.

Similarly, ever since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the U.S. has pursued a strategy of encircling Russia, just as it has with other perceived enemies like China and Iran.

In 1997, Obama’s former foreign affairs adviser, and president Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser – Zbigniew Brzezinski – wrote a book called The Grand Chessboard arguing arguing that the U.S. had to take control of Ukraine (as well as Azerbaijan, South Korea, Turkey and Iran) because they were “critically important geopolitical pivots”.

Regarding Ukraine, Brzezinski said (hat tip Chris Ernesto):

Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.

***

However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.

And now Obama is pushing us into a confrontation with Russia over Ukraine and the Crimea.

As Ernesto notes:

Late last year when Ukraine’s now-ousted president Viktor Yanukovych surprisingly canceled plans for Ukrainian integration into the European Union in favor of stronger ties with Russia, the US may have viewed Ukraine as slipping even further out of its reach.

At that point, with the pieces already in place, the US moved to support the ousting of Yanukovych, as evidenced by the leaked phone conversation between US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland [arch-Neocon Robert Kagan‘s wife]  and US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt.  When peaceful protests were not effective in unseating Yanukovych, the violence of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party and Right Sector was embraced, if not supported by the west.

In today’s Ukraine, the US runs the risk of being affiliated with anti-Semitic neo-Nazis, a prospect it probably feels can be controlled via a friendly western media. But even if the risk is high, the US likely views it as necessary given the geopolitical importance of Ukraine, as Brzezinski mapped out in 1997.

In other words, Obama is following the same old playbook that the Neocons have been pushing for more than a decade.

Saudi Arabia: Besieged and Fearful

Saudi Arabia: Beseiged and Fearful

Commentary No. 372, Mar. 1, 2014

“Saudi Arabia: Besieged and Fearful”

The Saudi regime has long been considered a pillar of political stability in the Middle East, a country that commanded respect and prudence from all its neighbors. This is no longer true, and the first ones to recognize this are those who are important internal players in the regime. Today, they feel besieged on all sides and quite fearful of the consequences of turmoil in the Middle East for the survival of the regime.

This turn-around derives from the history of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom itself is not very old. It was created in 1932 through the unification of two smaller kingdoms on the Arabian peninsula, Hejaz and Nejd. It was a poor, isolated part of the world that had liberated itself from Ottoman rule during the First World War, and came then under the paracolonial aegis of Great Britain.

The kingdom was organized in religious terms by a version of Sunni Islam called Wahabism (or Salafism). Wahabism is a very strict puritanical doctrine that was notably intolerant not only of religions other than Islam but of other versions of Islam itself.

The discovery of oil would transform the geopolitical role of Saudi Arabia. It was an American firm, later called Aramco – not a British firm – that succeeded in getting the rights for prospection in 1938. Aramco sought assistance from the U.S. government to exploit the fields.

One consequence of Aramco’s interest combined with President Franklin Roosevelt’s vision of the geopolitical future of the United States was a now famous, then little noticed, meeting of Roosevelt and the ruler of Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud, on Feb. 14, 1945 aboard a U.S. destroyer in the Red Sea. Despite Roosevelt’s grave illness (he was to die two months later) and Ibn Saud’s lack of any previous experience with Western culture and technology, the two leaders managed to forge a genuine mutual respect. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s attempt to undo this in a meeting he immediately arranged soon after that turned out to be quite counter-productive, as he was seen as “arrogant” by Ibn Saud.

While much of the five-hour private discussion between Roosevelt and Ibn Saud was devoted to the question of Zionism and Palestine – about which they had quite different views – the longer-run real consequence was a de facto arrangement in which Saudi Arabia coordinated and controlled world oil production policies to the benefit of the United States, in return for which the United States offered long-term guarantees of military security for Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia became a de facto paracolonial dependency of the United States, which however permitted the very extensive royal family to grow wealthy and “modernize” – not only in their ability to use technology but even in a cultural sense, bending in their own lives many of the restrictions of Wahabite Islam. It was an arrangement both sides appreciated and nourished. It worked well until the latter half of the first decade of 2000. Two major events upset the arrangement. One was the geopolitical decline of the United States. The second was the so-called Arab spring and what the Saudis regarded as its negative consequences throughout the Arab world.

From Saudi Arabia’s point of view, the relationship with the United States soured for a number of reasons. First, the Saudis felt that the announced “Asia/Pacific” reorientation of the United States, replacing the long-dominant “Europe/Atlantic” orientation, implied a withdrawal from active involvement in the politics of the Middle East.

The Saudis saw further evidence of this reorientation in the willingness of the United States to enter into negotiations with both the Syrian and the Iranian governments. Similarly, they were dismayed by the announced troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the clear reluctance to engage in another “war” in the Middle East. They felt they could no longer count on U.S. military protection, should it be needed. They therefore decided to play their cards independently of the United States and indeed against U.S. preferences.

Meanwhile, their relations with other Islamic groups became more and more difficult. They were extremely wary of any groups linked to al-Qaeda. And for good reason, since al-Qaeda had long made it clear that it sought the overthrow of the existing Saudi regime. One thing that worried them especially was the Saudi citizens who went to Syria to engage in jihad. They feared, remembering past history, that these individuals would return to Saudi Arabia, ready to subvert it from within. Indeed, on February 3, by royal decree of the monarch himself (a rare occurrence), the Saudis ordered all their citizens to return. They sought to control how they returned, and intended to disperse them along the frontlines, to minimize their ability to create internal organizations. It seems doubtful that these jihadis will obey. They consider this edict an abandonment by the Saudi regime.

In addition to the potential adherents of al-Qaeda, the Saudi regime has long had a difficult relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. While the latter’s version of Islam is also Salafist, and in many ways similar to Wahabism, there have been two crucial differences. The Muslim Brotherhood’s principal base has been in Egypt whereas the Wahabite base has been in Saudi Arabia. So this has always been in part a contest as to the locale of the dominant geopolitical force in the Middle East.

There is a second difference. Because of its history, the Muslim Brotherhood has always regarded monarchs with a jaundiced eye whereas Wahabism has been tied closely to the Saudi monarchy. The Saudi regime does not welcome therefore the spread of a movement that wouldn’t care if the Saudi monarchy were overturned.

Whereas once they had good relations with the Baathist regime in Syria, this is now impossible because of the intensified Sunni-Shi’ite polarization in the Middle East.

The Saudi lack of appreciation for secularists, sympathizers of al-Qaeda, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Shi’ite Baathist regime does not leave any obvious group to support in Syria today. But supporting no one does not project an image of leadership. So the Saudi regime sends some arms to a few groups and pretends to do much more.

Is the great enemy really Iran? Yes and no. But to limit the damage, the Saudi regime is secretly engaged in talks with the Iranians, talks whose outcome is very uncertain, since the Saudis believe that the Iranians want to encourage the Shi’ites in Saudi Arabia to erupt. While the total number of Shi’ites inside Saudi Arabia is uncertain (probably circa 20 percent), they are concentrated in the southeastern corner, precisely the area of largest oil production.

About the only regime with whom the Saudis are on good terms today is the Israelis. They share the sense of being besieged and fearful. And they both engage in the same short-run political tactics.

The fact is that the Saudi regime has internal feet of clay. The inner elite is now shifting from the so-called second generation, the sons of Ibn Saud (the few surviving sons being quite aged), to the grandsons. They are a large and untested group who might help to bring the house down in their competition to get their hands on the spoils, which are still considerable.

The Saudis have good reason to feel besieged and fearful.

 

by Immanuel Wallerstein

 

Saudi Arabia: Besieged and Fearful

Saudi Arabia: Beseiged and Fearful

Commentary No. 372, Mar. 1, 2014

“Saudi Arabia: Besieged and Fearful”

The Saudi regime has long been considered a pillar of political stability in the Middle East, a country that commanded respect and prudence from all its neighbors. This is no longer true, and the first ones to recognize this are those who are important internal players in the regime. Today, they feel besieged on all sides and quite fearful of the consequences of turmoil in the Middle East for the survival of the regime.

This turn-around derives from the history of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom itself is not very old. It was created in 1932 through the unification of two smaller kingdoms on the Arabian peninsula, Hejaz and Nejd. It was a poor, isolated part of the world that had liberated itself from Ottoman rule during the First World War, and came then under the paracolonial aegis of Great Britain.

The kingdom was organized in religious terms by a version of Sunni Islam called Wahabism (or Salafism). Wahabism is a very strict puritanical doctrine that was notably intolerant not only of religions other than Islam but of other versions of Islam itself.

The discovery of oil would transform the geopolitical role of Saudi Arabia. It was an American firm, later called Aramco – not a British firm – that succeeded in getting the rights for prospection in 1938. Aramco sought assistance from the U.S. government to exploit the fields.

One consequence of Aramco’s interest combined with President Franklin Roosevelt’s vision of the geopolitical future of the United States was a now famous, then little noticed, meeting of Roosevelt and the ruler of Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud, on Feb. 14, 1945 aboard a U.S. destroyer in the Red Sea. Despite Roosevelt’s grave illness (he was to die two months later) and Ibn Saud’s lack of any previous experience with Western culture and technology, the two leaders managed to forge a genuine mutual respect. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s attempt to undo this in a meeting he immediately arranged soon after that turned out to be quite counter-productive, as he was seen as “arrogant” by Ibn Saud.

While much of the five-hour private discussion between Roosevelt and Ibn Saud was devoted to the question of Zionism and Palestine – about which they had quite different views – the longer-run real consequence was a de facto arrangement in which Saudi Arabia coordinated and controlled world oil production policies to the benefit of the United States, in return for which the United States offered long-term guarantees of military security for Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia became a de facto paracolonial dependency of the United States, which however permitted the very extensive royal family to grow wealthy and “modernize” – not only in their ability to use technology but even in a cultural sense, bending in their own lives many of the restrictions of Wahabite Islam. It was an arrangement both sides appreciated and nourished. It worked well until the latter half of the first decade of 2000. Two major events upset the arrangement. One was the geopolitical decline of the United States. The second was the so-called Arab spring and what the Saudis regarded as its negative consequences throughout the Arab world.

From Saudi Arabia’s point of view, the relationship with the United States soured for a number of reasons. First, the Saudis felt that the announced “Asia/Pacific” reorientation of the United States, replacing the long-dominant “Europe/Atlantic” orientation, implied a withdrawal from active involvement in the politics of the Middle East.

The Saudis saw further evidence of this reorientation in the willingness of the United States to enter into negotiations with both the Syrian and the Iranian governments. Similarly, they were dismayed by the announced troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the clear reluctance to engage in another “war” in the Middle East. They felt they could no longer count on U.S. military protection, should it be needed. They therefore decided to play their cards independently of the United States and indeed against U.S. preferences.

Meanwhile, their relations with other Islamic groups became more and more difficult. They were extremely wary of any groups linked to al-Qaeda. And for good reason, since al-Qaeda had long made it clear that it sought the overthrow of the existing Saudi regime. One thing that worried them especially was the Saudi citizens who went to Syria to engage in jihad. They feared, remembering past history, that these individuals would return to Saudi Arabia, ready to subvert it from within. Indeed, on February 3, by royal decree of the monarch himself (a rare occurrence), the Saudis ordered all their citizens to return. They sought to control how they returned, and intended to disperse them along the frontlines, to minimize their ability to create internal organizations. It seems doubtful that these jihadis will obey. They consider this edict an abandonment by the Saudi regime.

In addition to the potential adherents of al-Qaeda, the Saudi regime has long had a difficult relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. While the latter’s version of Islam is also Salafist, and in many ways similar to Wahabism, there have been two crucial differences. The Muslim Brotherhood’s principal base has been in Egypt whereas the Wahabite base has been in Saudi Arabia. So this has always been in part a contest as to the locale of the dominant geopolitical force in the Middle East.

There is a second difference. Because of its history, the Muslim Brotherhood has always regarded monarchs with a jaundiced eye whereas Wahabism has been tied closely to the Saudi monarchy. The Saudi regime does not welcome therefore the spread of a movement that wouldn’t care if the Saudi monarchy were overturned.

Whereas once they had good relations with the Baathist regime in Syria, this is now impossible because of the intensified Sunni-Shi’ite polarization in the Middle East.

The Saudi lack of appreciation for secularists, sympathizers of al-Qaeda, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Shi’ite Baathist regime does not leave any obvious group to support in Syria today. But supporting no one does not project an image of leadership. So the Saudi regime sends some arms to a few groups and pretends to do much more.

Is the great enemy really Iran? Yes and no. But to limit the damage, the Saudi regime is secretly engaged in talks with the Iranians, talks whose outcome is very uncertain, since the Saudis believe that the Iranians want to encourage the Shi’ites in Saudi Arabia to erupt. While the total number of Shi’ites inside Saudi Arabia is uncertain (probably circa 20 percent), they are concentrated in the southeastern corner, precisely the area of largest oil production.

About the only regime with whom the Saudis are on good terms today is the Israelis. They share the sense of being besieged and fearful. And they both engage in the same short-run political tactics.

The fact is that the Saudi regime has internal feet of clay. The inner elite is now shifting from the so-called second generation, the sons of Ibn Saud (the few surviving sons being quite aged), to the grandsons. They are a large and untested group who might help to bring the house down in their competition to get their hands on the spoils, which are still considerable.

The Saudis have good reason to feel besieged and fearful.

 

by Immanuel Wallerstein

 

Saudi Arabia: Besieged and Fearful

Saudi Arabia: Beseiged and Fearful

Commentary No. 372, Mar. 1, 2014

“Saudi Arabia: Besieged and Fearful”

The Saudi regime has long been considered a pillar of political stability in the Middle East, a country that commanded respect and prudence from all its neighbors. This is no longer true, and the first ones to recognize this are those who are important internal players in the regime. Today, they feel besieged on all sides and quite fearful of the consequences of turmoil in the Middle East for the survival of the regime.

This turn-around derives from the history of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom itself is not very old. It was created in 1932 through the unification of two smaller kingdoms on the Arabian peninsula, Hejaz and Nejd. It was a poor, isolated part of the world that had liberated itself from Ottoman rule during the First World War, and came then under the paracolonial aegis of Great Britain.

The kingdom was organized in religious terms by a version of Sunni Islam called Wahabism (or Salafism). Wahabism is a very strict puritanical doctrine that was notably intolerant not only of religions other than Islam but of other versions of Islam itself.

The discovery of oil would transform the geopolitical role of Saudi Arabia. It was an American firm, later called Aramco – not a British firm – that succeeded in getting the rights for prospection in 1938. Aramco sought assistance from the U.S. government to exploit the fields.

One consequence of Aramco’s interest combined with President Franklin Roosevelt’s vision of the geopolitical future of the United States was a now famous, then little noticed, meeting of Roosevelt and the ruler of Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud, on Feb. 14, 1945 aboard a U.S. destroyer in the Red Sea. Despite Roosevelt’s grave illness (he was to die two months later) and Ibn Saud’s lack of any previous experience with Western culture and technology, the two leaders managed to forge a genuine mutual respect. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s attempt to undo this in a meeting he immediately arranged soon after that turned out to be quite counter-productive, as he was seen as “arrogant” by Ibn Saud.

While much of the five-hour private discussion between Roosevelt and Ibn Saud was devoted to the question of Zionism and Palestine – about which they had quite different views – the longer-run real consequence was a de facto arrangement in which Saudi Arabia coordinated and controlled world oil production policies to the benefit of the United States, in return for which the United States offered long-term guarantees of military security for Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia became a de facto paracolonial dependency of the United States, which however permitted the very extensive royal family to grow wealthy and “modernize” – not only in their ability to use technology but even in a cultural sense, bending in their own lives many of the restrictions of Wahabite Islam. It was an arrangement both sides appreciated and nourished. It worked well until the latter half of the first decade of 2000. Two major events upset the arrangement. One was the geopolitical decline of the United States. The second was the so-called Arab spring and what the Saudis regarded as its negative consequences throughout the Arab world.

From Saudi Arabia’s point of view, the relationship with the United States soured for a number of reasons. First, the Saudis felt that the announced “Asia/Pacific” reorientation of the United States, replacing the long-dominant “Europe/Atlantic” orientation, implied a withdrawal from active involvement in the politics of the Middle East.

The Saudis saw further evidence of this reorientation in the willingness of the United States to enter into negotiations with both the Syrian and the Iranian governments. Similarly, they were dismayed by the announced troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the clear reluctance to engage in another “war” in the Middle East. They felt they could no longer count on U.S. military protection, should it be needed. They therefore decided to play their cards independently of the United States and indeed against U.S. preferences.

Meanwhile, their relations with other Islamic groups became more and more difficult. They were extremely wary of any groups linked to al-Qaeda. And for good reason, since al-Qaeda had long made it clear that it sought the overthrow of the existing Saudi regime. One thing that worried them especially was the Saudi citizens who went to Syria to engage in jihad. They feared, remembering past history, that these individuals would return to Saudi Arabia, ready to subvert it from within. Indeed, on February 3, by royal decree of the monarch himself (a rare occurrence), the Saudis ordered all their citizens to return. They sought to control how they returned, and intended to disperse them along the frontlines, to minimize their ability to create internal organizations. It seems doubtful that these jihadis will obey. They consider this edict an abandonment by the Saudi regime.

In addition to the potential adherents of al-Qaeda, the Saudi regime has long had a difficult relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. While the latter’s version of Islam is also Salafist, and in many ways similar to Wahabism, there have been two crucial differences. The Muslim Brotherhood’s principal base has been in Egypt whereas the Wahabite base has been in Saudi Arabia. So this has always been in part a contest as to the locale of the dominant geopolitical force in the Middle East.

There is a second difference. Because of its history, the Muslim Brotherhood has always regarded monarchs with a jaundiced eye whereas Wahabism has been tied closely to the Saudi monarchy. The Saudi regime does not welcome therefore the spread of a movement that wouldn’t care if the Saudi monarchy were overturned.

Whereas once they had good relations with the Baathist regime in Syria, this is now impossible because of the intensified Sunni-Shi’ite polarization in the Middle East.

The Saudi lack of appreciation for secularists, sympathizers of al-Qaeda, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Shi’ite Baathist regime does not leave any obvious group to support in Syria today. But supporting no one does not project an image of leadership. So the Saudi regime sends some arms to a few groups and pretends to do much more.

Is the great enemy really Iran? Yes and no. But to limit the damage, the Saudi regime is secretly engaged in talks with the Iranians, talks whose outcome is very uncertain, since the Saudis believe that the Iranians want to encourage the Shi’ites in Saudi Arabia to erupt. While the total number of Shi’ites inside Saudi Arabia is uncertain (probably circa 20 percent), they are concentrated in the southeastern corner, precisely the area of largest oil production.

About the only regime with whom the Saudis are on good terms today is the Israelis. They share the sense of being besieged and fearful. And they both engage in the same short-run political tactics.

The fact is that the Saudi regime has internal feet of clay. The inner elite is now shifting from the so-called second generation, the sons of Ibn Saud (the few surviving sons being quite aged), to the grandsons. They are a large and untested group who might help to bring the house down in their competition to get their hands on the spoils, which are still considerable.

The Saudis have good reason to feel besieged and fearful.

 

by Immanuel Wallerstein

 

Saudi Arabia: Besieged and Fearful

Saudi Arabia: Beseiged and Fearful

Commentary No. 372, Mar. 1, 2014

“Saudi Arabia: Besieged and Fearful”

The Saudi regime has long been considered a pillar of political stability in the Middle East, a country that commanded respect and prudence from all its neighbors. This is no longer true, and the first ones to recognize this are those who are important internal players in the regime. Today, they feel besieged on all sides and quite fearful of the consequences of turmoil in the Middle East for the survival of the regime.

This turn-around derives from the history of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom itself is not very old. It was created in 1932 through the unification of two smaller kingdoms on the Arabian peninsula, Hejaz and Nejd. It was a poor, isolated part of the world that had liberated itself from Ottoman rule during the First World War, and came then under the paracolonial aegis of Great Britain.

The kingdom was organized in religious terms by a version of Sunni Islam called Wahabism (or Salafism). Wahabism is a very strict puritanical doctrine that was notably intolerant not only of religions other than Islam but of other versions of Islam itself.

The discovery of oil would transform the geopolitical role of Saudi Arabia. It was an American firm, later called Aramco – not a British firm – that succeeded in getting the rights for prospection in 1938. Aramco sought assistance from the U.S. government to exploit the fields.

One consequence of Aramco’s interest combined with President Franklin Roosevelt’s vision of the geopolitical future of the United States was a now famous, then little noticed, meeting of Roosevelt and the ruler of Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud, on Feb. 14, 1945 aboard a U.S. destroyer in the Red Sea. Despite Roosevelt’s grave illness (he was to die two months later) and Ibn Saud’s lack of any previous experience with Western culture and technology, the two leaders managed to forge a genuine mutual respect. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s attempt to undo this in a meeting he immediately arranged soon after that turned out to be quite counter-productive, as he was seen as “arrogant” by Ibn Saud.

While much of the five-hour private discussion between Roosevelt and Ibn Saud was devoted to the question of Zionism and Palestine – about which they had quite different views – the longer-run real consequence was a de facto arrangement in which Saudi Arabia coordinated and controlled world oil production policies to the benefit of the United States, in return for which the United States offered long-term guarantees of military security for Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia became a de facto paracolonial dependency of the United States, which however permitted the very extensive royal family to grow wealthy and “modernize” – not only in their ability to use technology but even in a cultural sense, bending in their own lives many of the restrictions of Wahabite Islam. It was an arrangement both sides appreciated and nourished. It worked well until the latter half of the first decade of 2000. Two major events upset the arrangement. One was the geopolitical decline of the United States. The second was the so-called Arab spring and what the Saudis regarded as its negative consequences throughout the Arab world.

From Saudi Arabia’s point of view, the relationship with the United States soured for a number of reasons. First, the Saudis felt that the announced “Asia/Pacific” reorientation of the United States, replacing the long-dominant “Europe/Atlantic” orientation, implied a withdrawal from active involvement in the politics of the Middle East.

The Saudis saw further evidence of this reorientation in the willingness of the United States to enter into negotiations with both the Syrian and the Iranian governments. Similarly, they were dismayed by the announced troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the clear reluctance to engage in another “war” in the Middle East. They felt they could no longer count on U.S. military protection, should it be needed. They therefore decided to play their cards independently of the United States and indeed against U.S. preferences.

Meanwhile, their relations with other Islamic groups became more and more difficult. They were extremely wary of any groups linked to al-Qaeda. And for good reason, since al-Qaeda had long made it clear that it sought the overthrow of the existing Saudi regime. One thing that worried them especially was the Saudi citizens who went to Syria to engage in jihad. They feared, remembering past history, that these individuals would return to Saudi Arabia, ready to subvert it from within. Indeed, on February 3, by royal decree of the monarch himself (a rare occurrence), the Saudis ordered all their citizens to return. They sought to control how they returned, and intended to disperse them along the frontlines, to minimize their ability to create internal organizations. It seems doubtful that these jihadis will obey. They consider this edict an abandonment by the Saudi regime.

In addition to the potential adherents of al-Qaeda, the Saudi regime has long had a difficult relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. While the latter’s version of Islam is also Salafist, and in many ways similar to Wahabism, there have been two crucial differences. The Muslim Brotherhood’s principal base has been in Egypt whereas the Wahabite base has been in Saudi Arabia. So this has always been in part a contest as to the locale of the dominant geopolitical force in the Middle East.

There is a second difference. Because of its history, the Muslim Brotherhood has always regarded monarchs with a jaundiced eye whereas Wahabism has been tied closely to the Saudi monarchy. The Saudi regime does not welcome therefore the spread of a movement that wouldn’t care if the Saudi monarchy were overturned.

Whereas once they had good relations with the Baathist regime in Syria, this is now impossible because of the intensified Sunni-Shi’ite polarization in the Middle East.

The Saudi lack of appreciation for secularists, sympathizers of al-Qaeda, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Shi’ite Baathist regime does not leave any obvious group to support in Syria today. But supporting no one does not project an image of leadership. So the Saudi regime sends some arms to a few groups and pretends to do much more.

Is the great enemy really Iran? Yes and no. But to limit the damage, the Saudi regime is secretly engaged in talks with the Iranians, talks whose outcome is very uncertain, since the Saudis believe that the Iranians want to encourage the Shi’ites in Saudi Arabia to erupt. While the total number of Shi’ites inside Saudi Arabia is uncertain (probably circa 20 percent), they are concentrated in the southeastern corner, precisely the area of largest oil production.

About the only regime with whom the Saudis are on good terms today is the Israelis. They share the sense of being besieged and fearful. And they both engage in the same short-run political tactics.

The fact is that the Saudi regime has internal feet of clay. The inner elite is now shifting from the so-called second generation, the sons of Ibn Saud (the few surviving sons being quite aged), to the grandsons. They are a large and untested group who might help to bring the house down in their competition to get their hands on the spoils, which are still considerable.

The Saudis have good reason to feel besieged and fearful.

 

by Immanuel Wallerstein

 

Saudi Arabia threatens to blockade Qatar over terrorism – The Irish Times – Tue, Mar 11, 2014

Saudi Arabia threatens to blockade Qatar over terrorism – The Irish Times – Tue, Mar 11, 2014.

Riyadh wants to contain radical groups and media at odds with foreign jihad policy

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal attends  an Arab foreign ministers emergency meeting to discuss the Syrian crisis  at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo yesterday. Photograph: Reuters Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal attends an Arab foreign ministers emergency meeting to discuss the Syrian crisis at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 01:00

First published:Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 01:00

Saudi Arabia has threatened to blockade neighbouring Qatar by air, land and sea unless Doha cuts ties with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, closes global channel al-Jazeera, and expels local branches of the US Brookings Institution and RandCorporation think tanks.

The threat was issued by Riyadh before it withdrew its ambassador to Doha and branded as “terrorist organisations” the brotherhood, Lebanon’s Hizbullah and al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Although the kingdom has long been the font of Sunni ultra-orthodox Salafism and jihadism, it now seeks to contain radical movements and media and other organisations giving them publicity.

King Abdullah has decreed that any Saudi who fights abroad could be jailed for 20-30 years, and those who join, endorse or provide moral or material support to groups classified as “terrorist” or “extremist” will risk prison sentences of five to 30 years.

The decree followed the gazetting of a sweeping new anti- terrorism law prohibiting acts that disturb public order, promote insecurity, undermine national unity or harm the reputation of the kingdom.
Contradiction
While the law and decree are meant to curb jihadi operations on Saudi soil as well as counter non-jihadi dissidence, these legal instruments appear to contradict government policy on foreign jihad.

While 400 Saudis have returned home from Syrian battlefields, another 1,000-2,000 are believed to be fighting with jihadi groups funded by the government as well as wealthy Saudis, Kuwaitis and Qataris.

An informed source speculated the decree sends a message to Saudis: “Don’t come home. Fight unto death or victory.”

For half a century Saudi Arabia used its oil wealth to promote Muslim fundamentalists, notably the brotherhood and its offshoots, to counter the secular pan-Arab nationalism preached by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Syrian and Iraqi Baath parties.

The kingdom provided refuge for brotherhood officials and activists from Egypt and other countries where governments were battling the movement. However, in recent years, Riyadh fell out with the brotherhood because it did not follow Saudi dictation.

After Shia clerics overthrew the shah of Iran in 1979 and tried to export their “Islamic revolution” to the wider Muslim world, which is 85 per cent Sunni, Saudi Arabia, which sees itself as the guardian of Sunni orthodoxy, turned to evangelism.

The object has been to convert Muslims to “Wahhabism,” the Saudi puritanical interpretation of Islam. The Saudi campaign in Syria is against Damascus’s ally Shia Iran as well as godless, secular Baathism.

The rise in the price of oil since the 1970s has enabled the Saudis to train clerics and build schools, Islamic centres, universities and mosques around the world.

Traditionally gentle, tolerant, mystic Sufis, who had served as Islam’s missionaries, have been replaced by narrow, harsh Wahhabi preachers and imams. Over the past 30 years the kingdom has spent more than $100 billion (€72 billion) on promoting Wahhabism.

Even before the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia – partnered by the US Central Intelligence Agency – trained and armed mujahideen (holy warriors) from Afghanistan and across the Muslim world to fight the Soviet Afghan republic. After the war ended with the Soviet withdrawal from that country in 1989, veterans of this conflict fanned out to fight in Bosnia, AlgeriaLibya, the Caucasus and elsewhere.
Blowback
Fearing blowback from Saudi jihadis engaged in the Syrian war, Riyadh has recently given the Syrian file to the interior minister Prince Mohamed bin Nayef, who has been in charge of an anti-terrorism campaign in the kingdom and Yemen, replacing intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

The Wall Street Journal has quoted a key Saudi source who said the shift suggests that Riyadh could rely more on diplomatic than military means by exerting pressure onRussia, Iran and Hizbullah, Damascus’s chief supporters, to resolve the conflict by removing President Bashar al-Assad.

Nevertheless, Riyadh also favours providing shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to “vetted” rebels, well aware these weapons could fall into al-Qaeda hands.

Peak Oil: Facts Annoy – Peak Oil Matters

Peak Oil: Facts Annoy – Peak Oil Matters.

IMG_4756_Watermarked

TRUTH BE TOLD

 

Crude oil production is heavily concentrated in a small number of countries and a small number of giant  fields….Future global production is therefore heavily dependent on the future prospects of the giant fields, but this remains uncertain—in part because the required field-level data are either unavailable or unreliable. (links/citations in original) [1]

Those of us who’ve been paying more attention to fossil fuel production information than most citizens are well aware of the fact that precise information about remaining crude oil supplies—notably in the petro-states of the Middle East—is all but impossible to come by.

What’s more important than whether we have accurate information is letting most others know that what oil industry spokesman offer as definite responses to any peak oil concerns isn’t exactly iron-clad, either. A lot of it is also the end result of some careful massaging and specific extraction of the “best” parts of their stories, with most of the factual content and context intentionally omitted. It’s helpful, but only to them and their interests. Consumers are left high and dry.

This is a nice summary of some of those other inconvenient facts left out of the conversation:

In interpreting these numbers, it is essential to recognize that large quantities of resources within the Earth’s crust provide no guarantee that these can be produced at particular rates and/or at reasonable cost. There are huge variations both within and between resource types in terms of size of accumulation, depth, accessibility, chemical composition, energy content, extraction cost, net energy yield (i.e. the energy obtained from the resource minus the energy required to find, extract and process it), local and global environmental impacts and, most importantly, the feasible rate of extraction—to say nothing of the geopolitics of access. Higher quality resources tend to be found and developed first, and as production shifts down the ‘resource pyramid’, increasing reliance must be placed upon less accessible, poorer quality and more expensive resources that have a progressively lower net energy yield and are increasingly difficult to produce at high rates. [2]

None of that is off-the-charts complex. We’ve been relying on a select group of genuinely bountiful conventional crude oil fields to supply our ever-growing needs for decades now. The ride has been a marvelous one, and the technologies developed and creativity let loose have been nothing short of incredibly impressive.

 

BUT….

 

Those conventional crude oil fields are finite resources. Despite the nonsense uttered by a handful of nitwits who proclaim (based on the solo work by a Russian more than half a century ago), oil is not self-replenishing. There’s no hose in Earth’s center filling those fields once the tanks run low.

So we’re now turning to fossil fuel supplies whose primary drawbacks are set forth above. That’s a problem. It’s an even bigger problem because instead of offering up those realities to both officials to whom we turn for solutions and to us lowly consumers who ought to know that what we rely upon may not be so reliable for much longer, the standard MO is to offer up feel-good messages.

One big potential challenge gets crossed off the consumer’s list; oil industry continues to insist on high prices (which—shockingly!—turn into enormous profits, not that that’s always such a bad thing, but….), and another day passes with all of us losing another opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations about what to do when the Happy Talk stories run their course. Reality won’t bend to half-truths. Production rate declines and oil field depletions will continue on their not-so-merry path notwithstanding.

Another part of this same story which should get much more airplay than it does:

This is not simply an issue of the steeply rising production costs of poorer quality resources because technical and net energy constraints may make some resources inaccessible and some production rates unachievable regardless of cost. Kerogen oil is especially constrained in rate and net energy terms and may never become economic to produce, yet it accounts for 19% of the IEA estimate of remaining recoverable resources. Hence, a critical evaluation of future supply prospects must go beyond appraisals of aggregate resource size and examine the technical, economic and political feasibility of accessing different resources at different rates over different periods of time. (links/citations in original) [3]

And for all the ongoing talk about our recent energy bonanza/boom/you pick the descriptive phrase, the basic realities about fracking and tight oil production increases aren’t changing to accommodate the industry cheerleading efforts:

The production cycle for tight oil resources is driven by a slightly different set of mechanisms since this resource is located in continuous formations rather than discrete fields. Nevertheless, the outcome is similar to that for conventional oil. With exceptionally high decline rates for individual wells), regional tight oil production can only be maintained through the continuous drilling of closely spaced wells. But tight oil plays are heterogeneous, with much higher well productivity in the ‘sweet spots’ than elsewhere. So when the sweet spots become exhausted, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain regional production. (links/citations in original) [4]

So much for good news! How about we find room in the narrative for some truth-telling and planning?

~ My Photo: Quebec City skyline – 09.19.09

 

 I invite you to view my other work at richardturcotte.com

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