The latest in High Tech War: Supermarket of machines & gadgets designed to cause death & destruction (video)

Dandelion Salad

Global Research, October 14, 2007

Press TV

“The US army is shopping and all eyes are on the next conflict”

To view Video click here.

 

The latest in High Tech War. A Supermarket of machines and gadgets designed to cause death and destruction

“These are some of the weapons that could be used against Iran….

This stuff is so advanced, the Iranian military would not know what hit them…

“The US army is shopping. and all eyes are on the next conflict”

“All the modern American soldier needs to kill and win any kind of ground war.”

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Talk by Naomi Wolf – The End of America (video) (must-see)

Dandelion Salad

talkingsticktv

Run time: 47:46 min

Talk by Naomi Wolf author of “The End of America: Letter of Warning To A Young Patriot” given October 11, 2007 at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus.

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Privatizing Terror, Outsourcing Diplomacy By Wajahat Ali

Dandelion Salad

By Wajahat Ali
ICH
10/13/07 “
Counterpunch

The international outcry over the recent Blackwater shootings forced the world to closely examine and appreciate the complex reality of the United States government’s overdependence on private military contractors operating in Iraq. The foremost expert and most cited authority on the subject is Peter Warren Singer, a senior fellow at the prestigious Brookings Institute, co-founder of “The U.S. Policy towards the Islamic World” Program, and author of the seminal work on private military contractors, “Corporate Warriors.” This interview, his most recent, examines the most current repercussions caused by the Blackwater scandal and private military firms within an overall context of The Iraq War, U.S. Foreign policy in the Middle East, and America’s public relations with the Muslim world.

WAJAHAT ALI: Ok, the first question is an easy one. A fastball right down the middle regarding Blackwater (An American Private Military firm contracted by the U.S. government to provide security in Iraq). On September 16, Blackwater was involved in a catastrophic shooting incident in Iraq’s Nisoor Square leaving nearly 20 Iraqi civilians dead. Are you at all shocked or surprised by this revelation?

P.W. SINGER: No. Short answer, no. Long answer is that–look, I’ve been researching and writing on private military firms for over a decade now. My book, Corporate Warriors, dealt with this issue even before the Iraq War. Since the war started the outsourcing of military functions has been put on steroids not only in terms of the growth of it, but also in terms of the negative aspects coming out of that growth. The incident in question regarding Blackwater needs to be put in a proper context. It’s just one company out of 181 other private military companies operating in that space in Iraq. The incidents involving abuses of private military contractors go back to the starting of the war. This includes the incidents at Abu Ghraib (Torture Scandal) and the private contractor Aegis Trophy’s infamous video of 2005 (Aegis employees posted a video online showing them shooting at Iraqi civilians.) You also had the Triple Canopy shootings lawsuit in ’06. Blackwater is just one of the companies in the game.

Within Blackwater itself there have been multiple incidents well before this most recent one. An example is The Christmas Eve shooting where a Blackwater contractor allegedly got drunk, got into an argument inside the Green Zone with one of the Iraqi Vice President’s security guards, and then shot him and killed him. It’s been over 10 months since that happened. Weeks before the Nisoor Square September shooting, there were multiple incidents involving the Iraqi Interior Ministry. There was one such incident where an Interior Ministry employee was killed, one where there was an armed standoff between Blackwater contractors and the Iraqi police in which the U.S. military actually had to intervene. One of the U.S. government officials, embedded in the Iraqi Interior Ministry, described this as a “powder keg of anger.” That powder keg exploded several weeks later (The September Nisoor Square shooting in Iraq). To answer your question, no, I wasn’t surprised. Absolutely not.

The Iraqi government had some harsh words recently for Blackwater, publicly saying, “Blackwater uses employees who disrespect the rights of Iraqi citizens even though they are guests in the country.” Could this statement also describe the conduct of the U.S. forces and other American private firms operating in Iraq?

The Iraqi government understands that Blackwater is only one player within a much larger industry–the Iraqis understand that also. They (Blackwater) have become some sort of a symbol. If you ask most contractors, I am dubious that they would see themselves as “guests of the Iraqi government.” Most see themselves carrying out a contract, and the client in that contract is not the Iraqi government. It usually is the United States government or United States subcontractors. They view Iraqi governments with a great deal of suspicion. Remember, we are talking about an Iraqi Interior Ministry that just couple of weeks ago an investigation board found to be completely corrupt. The Ministry acted basically as a cover for a number of sectarian militias operating in Iraq, and the recommendation of the investigation board was that the best thing one can do for Iraq was to shut the Ministry down and start over again. So there are a lot of fingers that can be pointed in lot of directions.

At the end of the day, Iraq is starting to act like sovereign state. Sovereign states want to control the forces within their borders–that’s what makes them sovereign. That holds equally true for sectarian militia as it does for private military firms operating out there. They are outside the control of the government, or at least what should be the control of government. The point is if Iraq is to be a sovereign state, it needs to be resting control over this, and to be honest, this is how you get the U.S. out of there–you let Iraq have institutions that are able to carry out their jobs as a government.

Has the global microscope on the Blackwater scandal caused an overall strain between the Iraqi and US governments? If so, what are the repercussions in the “Muslim world” and also on the ground when dealing with the Iraqi insurgency?

The United States government aspect of it is – that the unfortunate truth is while contractors are carrying out a number of critical and important missions, the overall effect of their use has actually been undermining rather than assisting U.S. operations and goals. It extends all the way to tactical levels on the field to the grand strategic world.

To the question of the relationship between the Iraqi and U.S. government, it’s very interesting remember you need to put this into context. One week before the shootings in Nisoor square (September ’07), General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker (U.S. envoy to Iraq) testified to Congress about the “surge strategy.” Now, there was huge debate whether the military aspects of the surge strategy were being met or not. They really went back and forth on that. Now, one thing they did talk about was the 43 Iraqi citizens who were shot in Baghdad alone by private contractors that same week. When we talk about what President Bush refers to as a “Return to normalcy” in Iraq–this doesn’t feel all that normal, does it? There was no debate at all about the political aspects. Everyone (in Congress) on both sides of the aisle universally agreed that in the year ahead we would have to press the Iraqi government to finally take some action on the political benchmarks. The key to the “surge strategy” success was dependant on this.

Now, let’s move forward just one week–within the span of that 20 minute Blackwater gun fight (September ’07 Nisoor Square shooting) –that whole strategy falls by the wayside. A couple hours later, Secretary Condoleeza Rice calls up Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, which is extraordinary because she normally doesn’t call him. When she calls to speak with him personally, she doesn’t press him on the really important issues, such as, “We need you to pass the oil law,” or “We need you to deal with the amnesty issues”–both critical political benchmarks.

Instead, she calls to express her sympathies and to apologize for this Blackwater incident. Over the next week, she and Ambassador Crocker have to keep going back to the Iraqis, and they are almost actually begging them to let Blackwater get back into business (Resuming their routine operations in Iraq), because if Blackwater can’t operate, then the United States embassy is effectively shut down. This is the complete vulnerability that the United States has created for our operations there in Iraq by depending on private contractors.

One week later, Bush meets with Prime Minister Maliki face to face. They were already scheduled to have this meeting, but now the whole point of the meeting changes. Top of the agenda is no longer, “Prime Minister Maliki, we really need you to get serious about these sectarian killings, because if they don’t end, we don’t end this war, and I don’t get my troops home.” Instead, top of the agenda is Blackwater. So, basically this a manner in which private contractor action completely skews the relationship between two governments and undermines the overall strategy.

Now, the second question asks what does this do to the broader, as some people like to say “War of ideas,” or however you want to phrase it, regarding the broader Muslim world. And here, too, this is a complete hammer to our image; a hammer to our public diplomacy. Some U.S. military officers on the scene described this as “bad as Abu Ghraib.” I personally disagree with that, but it points to the level of negativity. While private contractors are seen as convenient, temporary manpower shift, it’s a way of dis-involving your public (American citizens), and it doesn’t play that way “outside” (Iraq). When incidents happen, the Iraqis don’t just focus on the private companies, instead they blame the U.S. government.

The Blackwater “Nisoor Square” shooting incident resonated negatively not only inside Iraq but throughout the Muslim world. A variety of major media out there in the Middle East like Al Jazeera reported on the Blackwater contractors as “an army that seeks fame, fortune and thrills away from all considerations and ethics of military honor. The employees are known for their roughness, they are known for shooting indiscriminately at vehicles or pedestrians.” Even the Daily Star, the regional English language newspaper which is probably one of the most moderate voices in the region, compared the uses of the company to the Mahdi army (Militant Shiite insurgency in Iraq) and put the Mahdi army in a positive light saying “at least they (The Mahdi army) can plausibly claim to be defending their community. No foreign mercenary can plead similar motivations. So, all of them should go.” These are all really major quotes, but the timing of it happens at the very same moment that Secretary Rice is in the region trying to save her historic legacy by jump starting the Arab-Israel peace process. Most people would agree the Arab-Israel situation is the real key in sucking the poison out of Muslim-U.S. relations. And instead of her efforts being positive for any kind of U.S. public diplomacy, every commentator (in Iraq) called the conference she was attending “The BlackWater- Black Heart Conference.” It is just a hammer blow to our public diplomacy.

The second thing which is fascinating to me is the reaction by Blackwater. While the Arab press is roiling, and it’s being covered in other parts of the Muslim world like Indonesia and Pakistan negatively, how did the company react?

That’s a great lead in to a question I have regarding Erick Prince, the chairman and owner of Blackwater, who recently testified on Capitol Hill and predictably defended his company’s actions.

I was there for all 5 hours of it.

Were you just steaming in the back, fuming the whole time?

Yes (Laughs). To be completely honest.

If you were on the panel, what questions would you have asked? Some key questions you thought were on point and went unasked by the panel?

Well the event played out two ways. One side was craven and the other side was clueless. One side kept going, “Mr. Prince tell us how great you are, tell us how wonderful you are, tell us how special you are.” The other side asked questions that were scatterbrained, all over the place, and didn’t deal with the issue at hand. So, I have here a couple of questions that would have been interesting if answered.

I would have asked him bout the series of incidents involving his company that date back to 2004. They range from sending out men on a mission to Fallujah without proper equipment, vehicles, training, or even good directions that led to their death, as well helping the Iraqi insurgency.

A simple yes or no question would have been, “Has your firm, based on these patterns of incidents, faced any legal or disciplinary actions from the U.S. government? Have they (the guilty contractors) ever been prosecuted, or lost a contract, or been fined for anything based on this?” Because it seems, as far as the record shows, that the only people to take action, to create consequences when there has been negative effect, has not been the folks (The U.S. Government) paying these contractors. It’s been three groups only:

1) The four mothers of the Blackwater employees killed in Fallujah.

2) The parents of the men who were killed in the Blackwater plane crash that resulted from their firm’s actions in Afghanistan.

3) And now, The Iraqi government that just got fed up waiting for our government to do something.

Here’s another question I would’ve asked: “We understand that you fired the person that got into a drunken argument on Christmas Eve and killed the Iraqi Vice President’s security guard. Our question is who flew him out of the country? Which entity made the decision to get that individual out of the country 36 hours after they potentially committed a murder, which in effect assured prosecution would be difficult and impede the investigation? Was Blackwater operating under its own discretion? Or, were they ordered to do so by its clients and the State Department? Who was it?”

Another one is “Why do your helicopters in Iraq not carry any identifying insignia, such as the numbers painted on U.S. Army vehicles? Is there something that sets the company aside from standard U.S. tactics?

It would have been very interesting to ask him, “Isn’t it interesting that the same government individual, who has been reported by one investigative committee to have made the initial decision for Blackwater to get its first contract, is the brother of the current State Department Inspector General, who was found, by the same committee, to have intervened in preventing an investigation into Blackwater’s illegal activity?”

These are some examples of the actual questions we could’ve asked. Instead, one side wanted to talk about everything from Moveon.org to diabetes medication. And the other side oddly kept asking Eric Prince why he didn’t prosecute his employees, but conceded ultimately that he couldn’t because he was just a C.E.O. of a company.

However, what’s good is that no one can claim they don’t know about this anymore. Now, when there are negative consequences, they (The U.S.) have to deal with them. But they couldn’t claim that before. For example, in 2006 in a public setting right across the street from me, President Bush was asked about the legal status and accountability of private military contractors in Iraq. One student questioned him, and Bush answered with a giggle, you can see this on the web, just Google it. Bush ultimately said, “I’m gonna ask Rumsfeld about it when I get back.” If that question had been answered a year ago, we wouldn’t be in this problem today but, it wasn’t.

Your research has borne many egregious example of private contractors’ reckless conduct in Iraq–including the Blackwater shootings, CACI and Titan firms responsible for the notorious Abu Ghraib interrogations, and Aegis Company’s “trophy video” in which they posted a video of them shooting at civilians to an Elvis song on the net. What I and others want to know is what legal repercussions do they face, if any, under international law and U.S. law?

What could happen, or what will happen? I mean there are multiple laws that could be applied. Iraqis are claiming that since Blackwater didn’t have a license to operate in Iraq, they didn’t fall under the immunity laws protecting other private military contractors (Initiated under Paul Bremer in 2003 as head of the CPA).

They also say they want Blackwater to pay over $100 million dollars to the families of the shooting victims. So, instead of sounding like they were trying to ensure rule of law, it actually sounded like an extortion attempt. They undermined their stance.

Now, there’s also application of U.S. civilian law. There is a law in the books called Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA). Basically, it says if you are working for the U.S. government abroad in a military setting, and you commit a felony, then we can potentially prosecute you back home. It has only been utilized twice in Iraq. One time when a contractor came back and was found with child porn on his computer, and another time when there was an attempted rape of a U.S. reservist by a contractor. The challenge of this law is that it gets difficult when you add a non-U.S. victim and a “battlefield environment” like we have in Iraq. So, it’ll be hard to ask a civilian jury sitting in the U.S. that we want you, the jury, to not only decide whether a law was broken, but whether the “rules of engagement” in a “battlefield environment” were broken as well. It is very difficult.

Another method is the Uniform Code of Military Justice – the court martial system. In October 2006, the law was changed to allow private contractors to fall under it, and it is probably the most apt one in finding these Blackwater contractors involved in the Nisoor square shooting liable. They were involved in a combat zone, an operational setting, and the question is did they violate the rules of engagement or not? The problem of that is that the law was passed in October, but the Pentagon never issued a procedure to its JAG officers on how to actually use it.

So, is there some semblance of hope that there could be legal accountability?

Could be, but again, it’s political will that matters most. With Blackwater, it’s like one of those things when projecting the stock market, do you look at past behavior and past facts? Or, do you try and project forward? Using past facts, you shouldn’t expect anything to happen. Projecting forward? There’s enough attention around this now that you might seem some action along the side – but not major action.

We’ve woken up to the fact that the emperor has no clothes, but right now all we’re willing to do is to ask him to please put a scarf on.

In your article “America, Islam, and the 9-11 War” you state, “The erosion of American credibility in Muslim world not only reinforces recruiting efforts of its foes, but denies Americans ideas and policies a fair hearing.” How does this play out in Iraq?

The U.S. was in a strong position during the Cold War with being internationally viewed as a “beacon on the hill.” It both had power, but also more importantly, popularity and respect. It wasn’t that we had the Atom bomb, but it was also that we had McDonalds and Coca Cola. We had universities people wanted to come to. We had blue jeans. Now, we have power, but now it’s not as easy to apply it in the current conflict. Instead of being seen as that “beacon”, America, “the land of blue jeans”, has become internationally viewed as the “land of armed jumped suits.” And that is not a positive when you’re dealing with the problem at hand.

It is not that the U.S. is locked in some battle with the broader Muslim World. That is simply false. But you do have a really weird international change, where for the first time a state and a religion are looking at each other through a different lens–a lens of misperceptions. It is a lens of ignorance, but also a lens of anger. And it’s getting worse, and we have to recognize that. It’s actually fulfilling Bin Laden’s wishes, he wanted this kind of conflict, and it is creating it. It’s both on how we conduct ourselves, but also how we speak to the world.

Peter, you’re the co-founding Director of the Project on U.S. Policy Towards the Islamic World at the Saban Center at Brookings. In your experience and opinion, how do we convince the Muslim world that our actions, whether they are rooted in “regime change”, or “humanitarian” or “reform” efforts, are not mere tools of American imperialism?

Basically there was an era where the U.S. had it right, and Louis Armstrong sang about it during his jazz tours when he went around the world on behalf of the United States. Louis Armstrong wasn’t a stooge, but he spoke the truth and that compared very positively to what they, the people, were seeing from the Soviet Union. But the line that encapsulates what we need to do today is to “Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.”

There are clearly things that are dragging us down and are not all that useful. Accentuate the positive. There are lot of things that the U.S. does like help local NGOs on the ground, and investment in education. We have an amazing spirit as a nation, in terms of not just with the government does, but what the broad base of American society does. We do that but we can do a lot more.

For our generation, this is the equivalent of our cold war. This is our calling: to bridge this growing divide between the U.S. and the Muslim world. It’s incumbent on us whether we are in government or outside government. Whether we are a corporation or an NGO. Whether it’s faith based or not, it’s incumbent on us to bridge this divide.

The same thing goes for the clear negatives that are dragging us down. Those are easy to pick off, you know, most people universally recognize that while the Arab-Israeli peace will not be easy in any shape, way, or form, at least showing action on it is something we can do, instead of ignoring the problem. Same thing goes for GITMO (Guantanamo Bay). We painted ourselves in a corner with that, and we need to find a way out.

Iraq. It’s very clear that not only now is it a half trillion dollar investment gone bad, but in terms of U.S. funds, that money could have been spent on lot more effective things. Like I’ve said, it has been hammer to our public diplomacy.

And finally, the problem with our relationship via authoritarian leaders in the Middle East region. It is clear we have struck a deal with the devils and we are not getting much out of that deal – and that is true. We can pick off the regimes where that is happening and not only does that not help our battles with the extremist groups, but it also undermines our broader effort to speak on behalf of democracy every time we cozy up to a dictator. Clearly, we have to start to disentangle ourselves and start to pressure them on some of the things they can do. An example, I’d say to a current ally, “Buddy, we love what you’re doing in giving us intelligence, although it’s sorta funny you only give us intelligence a day before one of our senior official visits. But, we don’t really like what you did to crack down on free media or that you jailed democracy activists. We are not going to turn aside from that anymore.”

We have a record of doing that–that type of dialogue – and it worked in the transformation within South Korea during the Cold War, the transformation that happened within Philippines is another example. We can have a similar attitude towards our very ostensible authoritarian allies.

What of “Islamofascism”: An accurate assessment of our enemy or a politically convenient and sexy, new term of choice by certain ideological pundits?

It’s not new, and no one likes it. It was a stupid, stupid phrase to use in the first place. It was completely politicized, and they very quickly realized that. Now, the flip side is there are certain people running with it these days to make it appear that the broader U.S. really does believe this term.

Can there honestly be a lasting peace between the United States and the “Muslim world” in our lifetime, or this just whimsical naiveté?

I think there can be, but it’s not going to come in a matter of years. It’s going to be generational and maybe even multigenerational if we are going to be honest about it. But the fact is there are all sorts of amazing transformation and changes that are going on in the world. This is only one part of it. In part, it’s because the world is changing so fast, but I think there are things that can happen. The problem for us on the U.S. side is that we’ve really wasted the first couple of years of this (Post 9-11). We could’ve done things more positively, and we did a lot negatively that we are going to be dealing with the consequences for at least a generation. But that doesn’t meant all is lost.

Look at the French and the Germans. They spent literally almost a millennium fighting each other. If you would’ve said in 1945, “The French and German would later be part of this grand consortium. They would have a fairly closely aligned foreign policy and domestic policy. They would be sharing laws, sharing economics, basically they are not going to be considering each other as enemies, but considering themselves as friends they can’t live without.” If you would’ve said that in 1945, someone would’ve sent you to the Loony Bin. So, we can take hope from those examples. There we are today.

Wajahat Ali is a playwright, essayist, humorist, and J.D. whose work, “The Domestic Crusaders,” (www.domesticcrusaders.com) is the first major play about Muslim Americans living in a post 9-11 America. He can be reached at wajahatmali@gmail.com

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The ‘Good Germans’ Among Us By Frank Rich

Dandelion Salad

By Frank Rich
ICH
10/14/07 “New York Times”

“BUSH lies” doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves.

Ten days ago The Times unearthed yet another round of secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture. President Bush gave his standard response: “This government does not torture people.” Of course, it all depends on what the meaning of “torture” is. The whole point of these memos is to repeatedly recalibrate the definition so Mr. Bush can keep pleading innocent.

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Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy (video)

Dandelion Salad

ICH

Democracy Now!

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Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage joins us to talk about his new book, “Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy.” Savage charts the ways the Bush administration has circumvented laws and expanded presidential authority.

TRANSCRIPT

JUAN GONZALEZ: The House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees approved a bill Wednesday granting federal judges greater oversight over the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program. Rejecting President Bush’s request, the bill does not provide retroactive legal immunity to phone and internet companies that shared information with intelligence officials. President Bush criticized the bill Tuesday and outlined his demands to renew the government’s broad eavesdropping authority.

    PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The final bill must meet certain criteria. It must give our intelligence professionals the tools and flexibility they need to protect our country. It must keep the intelligence gap firmly closed and ensure that protections intended for the American people are not extended to terrorists overseas who are plotting to harm us. And it must grant liability protection to companies who are facing multi-billion-dollar lawsuits only because they are believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend our nation following the 9/11 attacks.

    Terrorists in faraway lands are plotting and planning new ways to kill Americans. The security of our country and the safety of our citizens depend on learning about their plans. The Protect America Act is a vital tool in stopping the terrorists, and it would be a grave mistake for Congress to weaken this tool.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Wednesday’s bill updates the Protect America Act that was pushed through Congress in August of this year and is set to expire in February of 2008. Although the bill restores some of the checks and balances removed by the Protect America Act, it also increases other spying powers. It continues the policy of warrantless eavesdropping of overseas communications and increases the period of warrantless emergency surveillance of US residents. Also, the so-called “basket” or “blanket” warrants issued by the secret Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court would only need to be reviewed once a year. The American Civil Liberties Union criticized this provision as “not anywhere close to the rigorous privacy safeguards Americans deserve.”

AMY GOODMAN: Charlie Savage is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter from the Boston Globe, has written extensively about President Bush’s signing statements and other White House efforts to expand executive branch secrecy and unchecked power. Warrantless wiretapping is one part of this story. Charlie Savage has just published a book charting the means the Bush administration devised to circumvent laws and expand presidential authority. It’s called Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy. Joining us now in our firehouse studio, Charlie Savage. Welcome.

CHARLIE SAVAGE: Thanks for having me on.

AMY GOODMAN: Charlie, you begin in a very dramatic way on September 11, 2001. Tell us about what Dick Cheney was doing.

CHARLIE SAVAGE: That’s right. Well, I began with this sort of unusual moment in the midst of the 9/11 attacks, in which the military believed that at least one more plane is still in the air and hijacked, and they asked Dick Cheney in the bunker beneath the White House whether they should shoot this plane down. And Cheney gives them authority to shoot down United 93, as it were. Now, it turns out that that was a moot point, because United 93 had already crashed amid the passenger uprising. They were looking at an image of where it would be if it were still in the air.

But this shoot-down order became the subject of an intense dispute with the 9/11 Commission, because Cheney later told the commission, and Bush agreed with him, that Bush had given Cheney prior authority as the commander-in-chief, who actually commands the military to take such an extraordinary step. But the 9/11 Commission looked at all the notes of the people aboard Air Force One and in the bunker, and they looked at all the switchboard logs from the bunker and the military of communications going in and out, and they found no evidence, no documentary evidence that that call existed.

And so, I use that moment to open this book, Takeover, because it’s a very vivid illustration of, first of all, the climate, you know, the atmosphere of 9/11, which really helped this push to concentrate more power in the White House, but also Cheney taking command inside the administration, especially in the national security context, Bush acquiescing to Cheney’s point of view, and then their effort — their administration’s effort to control the flow of information about kind of what’s happening behind the closed doors at the executive branch.

AMY GOODMAN: And when they had the 9/11 Commission hearing meeting, the insistence by Cheney and Bush that it not be sworn testimony, that Cheney be sitting physically directly next to President Bush, and that there be no recording of their statements made about this conversation, about whether Bush had given the actual command or whether it was Cheney.

CHARLIE SAVAGE: That’s right. You know, and, of course, it is a moot point. The planes were down. It doesn’t really matter that much, but it’s a vivid way of illustrating Cheney’s role in the administration, and therefore getting into the topic of what Cheney used that influence to do. And one of the most important things and one of the most successfully implemented policies of this administration, one that they never talk about and that I think has received scant attention, just depending on how sweeping it is and how successfully they pulled it off, was that he had wanted, when they arrived in office long before 9/11, to use that time in office to reshape American democracy by concentrating more power in the White House, by expanding presidential power, by throwing off checks and balances.

This was an agenda that he had with him, dating back thirty years to his time in the White House as chief of staff to Gerald Ford in that period after Watergate and Vietnam, when Congress was re-imposing some checks and balances on the imperial presidency that had grown up during the early Cold War. And Cheney would spend the next thirty years trying to throw that off. Finally, as vice president, the most experienced vice president in history dealing with one of the least experienced presidents in history, he was in a position to shape this administration’s practices and tactics as it went forward, now pushing into eight years, in order to take actions and set precedents across a huge range of issues and ways that were going to leave the presidency much stronger than it was when they arrived.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And specifically the use of the signing statements, which, of course, was the subject of much of your reporting — how did the signing statements fit into this overall policy?

CHARLIE SAVAGE: The signing statements are one tactic among many, but it’s an illustration of how much more aggressive this administration has been than any that came before and how it’s kind of thrown off sort of unofficial constraints, practices of restraint. A signing statement is an official legal document the President issues on the day he signs a bill into law. It consists of instructions to his subordinates in the executive branch about how they are to implement the new laws created by a bill. And it becomes controversial when the President says, “You will interpret Section 103 as being unconstitutional, because I alone have said it’s unconstitutional, and you do what I tell you. And if it’s unconstitutional, that means you don’t need to enforce it.” And where that becomes very controversial is when Section 103 is a check or a balance on the President’s own power, because then not enforcing that law means not having to obey that law.

Now, previous presidents have occasionally used signing statements like this, but President Bush has challenged more laws than all previous presidents in American history combined, using signing statements, a dramatic escalation of this tactic, in what the American Bar Association has said is evolving into kind of a backdoor override-proof line-item veto power, which can really prevent Congress from ever again imposing any new checks on presidential power. It’s just but — it’s an extraordinary thing, an extraordinary development in our constitutional law, and yet it’s just one of many, many different tactics the administration has used to concentrate more unchecked power in the White House.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about wiretapping, the controversy now, the frustration that people have with the Democrats, supposedly the opposition party, going along with the Republicans.

CHARLIE SAVAGE: Well, the background is that after 9/11, as we all know now, Bush gave the military the authority to wiretap phone calls without warrants, in defiance of a 1978 law that required warrants for that situation. And he used a very aggressive legal theory about the President’s powers as commander-in-chief to bypass laws at his own discretion. Because that program was only legal if that theory were true, that meant that the fact that they did this set a precedent that says that theory is true, and future presidents will be able to cite that precedent when they want to evade any other law that restricts their own authority.

So now, going forward, one of the ways this agenda has been able to be so successfully implemented was that there was no resistance from Congress. At the very moment there was this stronger push coming out of the Vice President’s office to expand the presidential power as an end to itself in any way possible, because of one-party rule for six years and because of the atmosphere of crisis after 9/11, there was no push back. And that’s how the ball was moved so far down the field.

And one of the things that’s been very interesting about the last year is now we have split control of government again, and so the question was, how is that going to change things? And what we’ve seen from the Protect America Act in August and the dynamic going forward is that even with split control of government, the dynamic is still there. Congress is just as it was for the first twenty or thirty years of the Cold War, when the original imperial presidency was growing under presidents of both parties, by the way. Congress is again unwilling to push back against the White House’s assertion that it needs ever more authority, and checks and balances will result in bloodshed. And so, I think, going forward, that you can see that this dynamic is going to be with us. And, of course, two years from now, we may have one-party control of government again, the other party, but that will just sort of hurl us further down this path, I think.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And this issue of the President seeking to protect those in the corporate world who go along with his policies — well, first of all, obviously, there was the retroactive immunity to the airline companies after 9/11 for their failure to act to provide a kind of security on their planes, giving them immunity from any possible lawsuits, and now this effort by the administration to try to provide retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that went along with his surveillance program.

CHARLIE SAVAGE: Well, and what this is, is because Congress has demonstrated that it’s really not going to do anything about the basic fact that the President asserted he could bypass a law and then he acted on that assertion, and, you know, that established he can do that, or whoever else is president at any given moment from now on can do that, that the one sort of last place where critics of this sort of extraordinary development could still have some traction was the lawsuit against the companies, which had also evidently broken privacy laws by going along with this. So, by seeking retroactive immunity, it’s sort of the last place closing off the possibility of accountability.

And accountability for how people use their power is one of the great ways in which the administration has successfully expanded their own powers, as well. For example, by dramatically expanding secrecy surrounding the executive branch in all kinds of ways, going after open government laws, expanding executive privilege, expanding the use of the state secret privilege to get rid of lawsuits in courts, and on and on and on, what they’ve done is they’ve made the executive branch much more of a black box so that outsiders, whether Congress, the courts or just voters, don’t know what officials are doing with these powers at the very moment that the powers are being dramatically increased, and that means that the officials who have that power, whoever they are at any given moment, are much freer to do whatever they want with them.

AMY GOODMAN: Charlie Savage, how is the Bush administration remaking the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department?

CHARLIE SAVAGE: This is another example of the myriad ways in which they’re concentrating more power in the White House, in this case centralizing greater control over the permanent government, the bureaucracy. There’s eight or nine case studies in my book that explain different tactics for this, which have been very successfully implemented. One of them is in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, which is an agency set up by statute with a mission by statute of enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws, primarily to protect minorities against discrimination.

Conservative presidents have long tussled with his agency, because they have different ideas about, you know, how much affirmative action should be part of these kinds of things. But no president, until this administration, has messed with longstanding traditional procedures for hiring career lawyers in the Civil Rights Division. And even under Reagan, even under Nixon, they never went this far.

But what this administration did, starting in 2002, is they changed the procedures, whereby — if there was a vacancy in the career ranks, previously career veterans would decide who should fill that position, and that meant that they were still hiring people who had a demonstrated commitment to enforcing civil rights laws. In 2002, in an unprecedented step, the administration changed that and centralized control among political appointees for hiring replacement career lawyers and stopped hiring people with a demonstrated commitment to enforcing civil rights and started hiring people who are members of the Federalist Society and who had no experience on civil rights law, or if they did have experience, their experience was fighting against the traditional enforcement of civil rights, defending companies against discrimination lawsuits, and so forth.

And so, they’ve been remaking that division as a way of sort of behind the scenes seizing and imposing greater political control over it. Lawsuits alleging systematic discrimination against minorities have fallen — against African Americans, that is — and the agency is redirecting its resources now towards reverse-discrimination against whites, discrimination against Christians, these sorts of things that are more in line with the President’s agenda, just one more example of centralizing greater control in the White House.

AMY GOODMAN: We have ten seconds. Do you think the takeover is complete?

CHARLIE SAVAGE: I think this has been the single most successfully implemented policy of this administration, and I think that presidential power acts like a one-way ratchet. It’s easier to increase than it is to roll back again. And I don’t see, because of the continuing dynamic of the war on terror, this being reversed.

AMY GOODMAN: Charlie Savage is the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, won in 2007 for his reporting on this issue. Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy is the name of his new book.

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The “Great Game” Enters the Mediterranean: Gas, Oil, War, and Geo-Politics by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Dandelion Salad

by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Global Research, October 14, 2007

Preface: The Caspian Sea Summit and the Historical Crossroads of the 21st Century

This article is part of The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging America’s Ambitions in Eurasia by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya (September 23, 2007). For editorial and reasons the article is being published in three parts. It is strongly advised that readers also study the prior piece.

History is in the making. The Second Summit of Caspian Sea States in Tehran will change the global geo-political environment. This article also gives a strong contextual background to the what will be in the backdrop at Tehran. The strategic course of Eurasia and global energy reserves hangs in the balance.

It is no mere change that before the upcoming summit in Tehran that three important post-Soviet organizations (the Commonwealth of Independents States, the Central Security Treaty Organization, and the Eurasian Economic Community) simultaneously held meetings in Tajikistan. Nor is it mere coincidence that the SCO and CSTO have signed cooperation agreements during these meetings in Tajikistan, which has effectively made China a semi-formal member of the CSTO alliance. It should be noted that all SCO members are also members of CSTO, aside from China.

This is all in addition to the fact that the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and the U.S. Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, were both in Moscow for important, but mostly hushed, discussions with the Kremlin before Vladimir Putin is due to arrive in Iran. This could have been America’s last attempt at breaking the Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition in Eurasia. World leaders will watch for any public outcomes of the Russian President’s visit to Tehran. It is also worth noting that NATO’s Secretary-General was in the Caucasus region for a brief visit in regards to NATO expansion. The Russian President will also be in Germany for a summit with Angela Merkel before arriving in Tehran.

On five fronts there is antagonism between the U.S. and its allies with Russia, China, and their allies: East Africa, the Korean Peninsula, Indo-China, the Middle East, and the Balkans. While the Korean front seems to have calmed down, the Indo-China front has been heated up with the start of instability in Myanmar (Burma). This is part of the broader effort to encircle the titans of the Eurasian landmass, Russia and China. Simultaneous to all this, NATO is preparing itself for a possible showdown with Serbia and Russia over Kosovo. These preparations include NATO military exercises in Croatia and the Adriatic Sea.

On May, 2007 the Secretary-General of CSTO, Nikolai Bordyuzha invited Iran to apply to the military pact; “If Iran applies in accordance with our charter, [CSTO] will consider the application,” he told reporters. In the following weeks, the CSTO alliance has also announced with greater emphasis, like NATO that it too is prepared to get involved in Afghanistan and global “peacekeeping” operations. This is a challenge to NATO’s global objectives and in fact an announcement that NATO no longer has a monopoly as the foremost military global organization.

The globe is becoming further militarized than it already is by two military blocs. In addition, Moscow has also stated that it will now charge domestic prices for Russian weaponry and military hardware to all CSTO members. Also, reports about the strengthening prospects of a large-scale Turkish invasion of Northern Iraq are also getting stronger, which is deep related to Anglo-American plans for balkanizing Iraq and sculpting a “New Middle East.” A global showdown is in the works.

Finally, the Second Summit of Caspian Sea States will also finalize the legal status of the Caspian Sea. Energy resources, ecology, energy cooperation, security, and defensive ties will also be discussed. The outcome of this summit will decide the nature of Russo-Iranian relations and the fate of Eurasia. What happens in Tehran may decide the course of the next century. Humanity is at an important historical crossroad. This is why I felt that it was important to release this second portion of the original article before the Second Summit of Caspian Sea States.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroya, Ottawa, October 13, 2007.

 



The “Great Game”
Enters the Mediterranean: Gas, Oil, War, and Geo-Politics

The haunting spectre of a major war hangs over the Middle East, but war is not written in stone. A Eurasian-based counter-alliance, built around the nucleus of a Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition also makes an Anglo-American war against Iran an unpalatable option that could turn the globe inside-out. [1]

America’s superpower status would in all likelihood come to an end in a war against Iran. Aside from these factors, contrary to the rhetoric from all the powers involved in the conflicts of the Middle East there exists a level of international cooperation between all parties. Has the nature of the march to war changed?

Tehran’s Rising Star: Failure of the Anglo-American attempt to Encircle and Isolate Iran

 

Shrouded in mystery are the dealings between Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan during an August, 2007 meeting between President Ahamdinejad and President Aliyev. Both leaders signed a joint declaration in Baku on August 21, 2007 stating that both republics are against foreign interference in the affairs of other nations and the use of force for solving problems. This is a direct slur at the United States. Baku also reemphasized its recognition of Iran’s nuclear energy program as a legitimate right.

However, the meetings between the two sides took place after a few months of meetings between Azerbaijan and the U.S. together with NATO officials.

Baku seems to be caught in the middle of a balancing act between Russia, Iran, America, and NATO. At the same time as the meetings between the Iranian President and Aliyev in Baku, Iranian officials were also in Yerevan holding talks with Armenian officials.

This could be part of an Iranian attempt to end tensions between Baku and Yerevan, which would benefit Iran and the Caucasus region. The tensions between Yerevan and Baku have been supported by the U.S. since the onset of the post-Cold War era, with Baku within the U.S. and NATO spheres of influence.

 

At first glance, Iran has been busy engaging in what can be called a counter-offensive to American encroachment. Iranian officials have been meeting with Central Asian, Caucasian, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and North African leaders in a stream of talks on security and energy. The SCO meeting in Kyrgyzstan was one of these. The importance of the gathering was highlighted by the joint participation of the Iranian President and the Secretary-General of the Supreme Security Council of Iran, Ali Larijani.

 

Iran’s dialogue with the presidents of Turkmenistan, the Republic of Azerbaijan, and Algeria are part of an effort to map out a unified energy strategy spearheaded by Moscow and Tehran. Iran and the Sultanate of Oman are also making arrangements to engage in four joint oil projects in the Persian Gulf. [2]

Iran has also announced that it will start construction of an important pipeline route from the Caspian Sea to the Gulf of Oman. [3] This project is directly linked to Iranian talks with Turkmenistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan, two countries that share the Caspian Sea with Iran. Furthermore, after closed-door discussions with Iranian officials, the Republic of Azerbaijan has stated that it is interested in cooperating with the SCO. [4] In addition, Venezuela, Iran, and Syria are also coordinating energy and industrial projects.


The Nabucco Project, Eurasian Energy Corridors, and the Russo-Iranian Energy Front

Across Eurasia strategic energy corridors are being developed. What do these international developments insinuate? A Eurasian-based energy strategy is taking shape. In Central Asia, Russia, Iran and China have essentially secured their own energy routes for both gas and oil. This is one of the reasons all three powers in a united stance warned the U.S. at the SCO’s Bishkek Summit, in Kyrgyzstan, to stay out of Central Asia. [5]

 

In part one of the answers to these questions leads to the Nabucco Project, which will transport natural gas from the Caucasus, Iran, Central Asia, and the Eastern Mediterranean towards Western Europe through Turkey and the Balkans. Spin-offs of the energy project could include routes going through the former Yugoslav republics. Egyptian gas is even projected to be connected to the pipeline network vis-à-vis Syria. There is even a possibility that Libyan gas from Libyan fields near the Egyptian border may be directed to European markets through a route going through Egypt, Jordan, and Syria which will connect to the Nabucco Pipeline.

At first glance, it appears that the transport of Central Asian gas, under the Nabucco Project, through a route going through Iran to Turkey and the Balkans is detrimental to Russian interests under the terms of the Port Turkmenbashi Agreement signed by Turkmenistan, Russia, and Kazakhstan. However, Iran and Russia are allies and partners, at least in regards to the energy rivalry in Central Asia and the Caspian Sea against the U.S. and the European Union.

In May, 2007 the leaders of Turkmenistan, Russia, and Kazakhstan also planned the inclusion of an Iranian energy route, from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, as an extension of the Turkmenbashi Agreement. A route going through either Russia or Iran is mutually beneficial to both countries. Both Tehran and Moscow have been working together to regulate the price of natural gas on a global scale. If Turkmen gas goes through Russian or Iranian territory, Moscow will profit either way. Both Tehran and Moscow have hedged their bets in a win-win situation.

Russia is also involved in the Nabucco Project and has secured a Balkan energy route for the transportation of fuel to Western Europe from Russia vis-à-vis Greece and Bulgaria. To this end on May 21, 2007 the Russian President arrived in Austria to discuss energy cooperation and the Nabucco Project with the Austrian government. [6] One of the outcomes of the Russian President’s visits to Austria was the opening of a large natural gas storage compound, near Salzburg, with a holding capacity of 2.4 billion cubic metres. [7] The Nabucco Project and a united Russo-Iranian energy initiative are also the main reasons that the Russian President will visit Tehran for an important summit of leaders from the Caspian Sea, in mid-October of 2007.


Map: Contours of the Nabucco Project
© Jan Horst Keppler, European Parliament (Committee on Foreign Affairs), 2007.

One might ask if Russia, Iran, and Syria are surrendering to the demands of America and the E.U. by providing them with what they sought in the first place.

The answer is no. The Franco-German entente is very interested in the Nabucco Project and through Austria has much at stake in the energy project. French and German energy firms also want to get involved as are Russian and Iranian companies. This is also one of the reasons Vienna has been vocally supporting Syria and Iran in the international arena. Total S.A., the giant French-based energy firm, is also working with Iran in the energy sectors.

 

Tehran, Moscow, and Damascus have not been fully co-opted; they are acting in their national and security interests. The leverage they now have can be used to drive a wedge between the Franco-German entente and Anglo-American alliance. A case in standing is the initial willingness of France and Germany to accept the Iranian nuclear energy program. It is believed in Moscow and Tehran that the Franco-German entente could be persuaded to distance itself from the Anglo-American war agenda with the right leverage and incentives.

This could also be one of the factors for the marine route of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which runs from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany and bypasses existing energy transit routes going through the Baltic States, Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland. Eastern Europe is part of what is called “New Europe” as a result of Donald Rumsfeld’s 2003 comments that only “Old Europe,” meaning the Franco-German entente, was against the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. [8] For example Poland is an Anglo-American ally and could block the transit of gas from Russia to Germany if it was prompted to do so by Britain and America. Moreover, Russia could exert pressure on these Eastern European countries by cutting their gas supplies without effecting Western Europe. Several of these Eastern European states also were pursuing transit fee schemes and reduced gas prices because of their strategic placements as energy transit routes.

Russia and Iran are also the nations with the largest natural gas reserves in the world. This is in addition to the following facts; Iran also exerts influence over the Straits of Hormuz; both Russia and Iran control the export of Central Asian energy to global markets; and Syria is the lynchpin for an Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor. Iran, Russia, and Syria will now exercise a great deal of control and influence over these energy corridors and by extension the nations that are dependent on them in the European continent. This is another reason why Russia has built military facilities on the Mediterranean shores of Syria. The Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will also further strengthen this position globally.

Map: Nabucco Gas Pipeline Project Gas Supply Sources for Nabucco
© Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH, 2007.


Map: Levantine Energy Corridor
© Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Global Research, 2007.


Map: Gas-Pipeline vom Iran bis Österreich
English translation from German: Gas Pipeline from Iran to Austria
© Der Standard, 2007.

The Baltic-Caspian-Persian Gulf Energy Corridor: The Mother of all Energy Corridors?

To add to all this, American and British allies by their very despotic and self-concerned natures will not hesitate to realign themselves, if presented with the opportunity, with Russia, China, and Iran. These puppet regimes and so-called allies, from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to Egypt, have no personal loyalties and are fair-weather allies. If they can help it the moment they believe that they can no longer benefit from their relationship as clients they will try to abandon the Anglo-American camp without hesitation. Any hesitation on their part will be in regards to their own political longevity. Iran, Russia, and China have already been in the long process of courting the leaders of the Arab Sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf.

The ultimate aim of Russo-Iranian energy cooperation will be the establishment of a north-south energy corridor from the Baltic Sea to the Persian Gulf and with the Caspian Sea as its mid-axis. An east-west corridor from the Caspian Sea, Iran, and Central Asia to India and China will also be linked to this. Iranian oil could also be transported to Europe through Russian territory, hence bypassing the sea and consolidating Russo-Iranian control over international energy security. If other states in the Persian Gulf were included into the equation a dramatic seismic shift in the global balance of power could occur. This is also one of the reasons that the oil-rich Arab Sheikhdoms are being courted by Russia, Iran, and China.

Eurasian Energy Corridors: Two-Edged Knives?

However, the creation of these energy corridors and networks is like a two-edged sword. These geo-strategic fulcrums or energy pivots can also switch their directions of leverage. The integration of infrastructure also leads towards economic integration. If other factors in the geo-political equations are changed or manipulated, the U.S., Britain, and their partners might wield control over these routes. This is one reason why Zbigniew Brzezinski stated that the creation of a Turkish-Iranian pipeline would benefit America. [9] It should also be noted that Turkey will also be jointly developing three gas projects in the South Pars gas fields with Iran. [10]


If regime change were initiated in Iran or Russia or one of the Central Asian republics the energy network being consolidated and strengthened between Russia, Central Asia, and Iran could be obstructed and ruined. This is why the U.S. and Britain have been desperately promoting covert and overt velvet revolutions in the Caucasus, Iran, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Central Asia. To the U.S. and E.U. the creation of a Baltic-Caspian-Persian Gulf energy grid is almost the equivalent, in regards to energy security, of a “Unipolar World.”

The “Great Game” Enters the Mediterranean Sea

 

The title “Great Game” is a term that originates from the struggle between Britain and Czarist Russia to control significant portions of Eurasia. The term is attributed to Arthur Conolly. A romanticized British novel, Kim, written by Rudyard Kipling and published in 1901 arguably immortalized the concept and term. This Victorian novel was a suspenseful story about the competition between Czarist Russia and Britain to control the vast geographic stretch that included Central Asia, India, and Tibet. In reality the “Great Game” was a struggle for control of a vast geographic area that not only included Tibet, the Indian sub-continent, and Central Asia, but also included the Caucasus and Iran. Additionally, it was London that was the primary antagonist, because of British attempts to enter Russian Central Asia. In fact the British had spying networks and facilities in Khorason, Iran and Afghanistan that would operate against the interests of St. Petersburg in Russian Central Asia.

 

A contemporary version of the “Great Game” is being played once again for control of roughly the same geographic stretch, but with more players and greater intensity. Central Asia became the focus of international rivalry after the collapse of the former U.S.S.R. and the end of the Cold War. For the most part Central Asia, aside from Afghanistan, has been insulated. It has been the Middle East and the Balkans where this contest has been playing itself out violently.

The “Great Game” has also taken new dimensions and has entered the Mediterranean. This gradual outward movement has been creeping in a westward direction from the Middle East and the Balkans as the area of contention is expanded. This is not a one-directional competition. With the drawing in of Algeria, this push has reached the Western Mediterranean or the “Latin Sea” as Halford J. Mackinder refers to it, whereas before it was limited to the Eastern Mediterranean. This extension of the area of the “Great Game” is also a result of the outward push from Eurasia of the Eurasian-based alliance of Russia, Iran, and China. Examples of this are the emerging inroads China is making in the African continent and Iran’s alliances in Latin America.

However, in reality the Mediterranean region is no stranger to international rivalry or conflicts similar to the “Great Game.” The Second Turkish-Egyptian War (1839-1849), also called the Syrian War, was a historical example of this. It was during this war that Beirut was bombarded by British warships. The Ottoman Empire, supported by Britain, Czarist Russia, and the Austrian Empire, was facing-off against an expansionist Egypt, which was supported by Spain and France. The whole conflict had the overtones of underlying rivalries between Europe’s major powers. Another example is the three Punic Wars between the ancient Carthagians and the Romans.

Gas, Oil, and Geo-Politics in the Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean has literally become an extension to the international and dangerous rivalries for control of Central Asian and Caucasian energy resources. Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, and Egypt are all Arab countries involved. Algeria already supplies gas to the E.U. through the Trans-Mediterranean Pipeline which runs to the Italian island of Sicily via Tunisia and the Mediterranean Sea. Niger and Nigeria are also building a natural gas pipeline that will reach the E.U. via Algerian energy infrastructure. Libya also supplies gas to the E.U through the Greenstream Pipeline which connects to Sicily via an underwater route in the Mediterranean Sea.

Russia and Iran are spearheading a move to bring Algeria into their orbit in order to establish a gas cartel. If Algeria, and possibly Libya, can be brought into the orbits of Moscow and Tehran the leverage and influence of both would be greatly increased and both would tighten their control over global energy corridors and European energy supplies. Approximately 97 percent of the projected amount of natural gas that will be imported by continental Europe would be controlled by Russia, Iran, and Syria under such an arrangement, whereas without Algeria approximately 93.6 percent of the natural gas exported would be controlled. [11] Algeria is also the sixth largest exporter of oil to the U.S., following behind Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria.

Western and Central European energy security would be under tight controls from Russia, Iran, Turkey, Algeria, and Syria because of their control over the geo-strategic energy routes. This is one of the reasons that the E.U. has unsuccessfully tried to force Russia to sign an E.U. energy charter that would obligate Moscow to supply energy to the E.U. and one of the reasons that NATO is considering using Article 5 of its military charter for energy security. [12] In addition, the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America obligates America’s top energy sources, Canada and Mexico, to supply the U.S. with oil and gas. Worldwide the securing of energy resources has become an issue of force and involuntary compulsion.

Map: Missing link between giant sources (in bcm) and potential markets
Note: The missing link implied is the Nabucco Pipeline, giant sources are the Middle East and former Soviet Union, and potential markets are the western and central members of the European Union.
© Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH, 2007.

 

 

Oceania versus Eurasia in the Mediterranean Littoral

“…we might weld together the West and the East, and permanently penetrate the Heartland with oceanic freedom.”

-Sir Halford J. Mackinder (Democratic Ideals and Reality, 1919); In regards to “oceanic freedom” refer to George Orwell’s definition or warning in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

It was also in the Mediterranean Sea that the geo-strategic paradigm of sea-power versus land-power that was observed by Halford Mackinder first came into play. [13] Mackinder put forward the concept, which one is tempted to almost label as organic, that rival powers or entities, as they expand, would compete for dominance in a certain area and as they reached maritime areas this competition would eventually be taken to the seas as both powers would try and turn the maritime area into a lake under their own total control. This is what the Romans did to the Mediterranean Sea. It was only once a victor emerged from these competitions that the emphasis on naval power would decline in the maritime areas.

According to Mackinder, the First World War was “a war between Islanders [e.g., Britain, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Japan] and Continentals [Eurasians; e.g., Germany, Austro-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire], there can be no doubt about that.” [14] Also, according to Mackinder it was dominant sea-power that won the First World War.

Naval power has clearly had a cutting edge over land-power in establishing empires. Western European nations like Britain, Portugal, and Spain are all examples of nations that became thalassocracies, empires at sea. Through the control of the seas an island nation with no land borders with a rival can invade and eventually expand into a rival’s territory.

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) is a modern embodiment of Halford J. Makinder’s oceanic power versus land power paradigm. [15] The Anglo-American alliance and their allies represent oceanic-power, while the Eurasian-based counter-alliance, based around the nucleus of a Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition, represents land-power.

It can also be observed that historically Eurasian economies did not require far-reaching trade and could exist within a smaller geographic trading area, while the economies of the oceanic powers such as Britain and the U.S., also called “trade-dependent maritime realms” by some academics, have depended on maritime and international trade for economic survival. If the Eurasians were to exclude the U.S. and Britain from the trade and economic system of the Eurasian mainland, there would be grave economic consequences for these “trade-dependent maritime realms.” This was what Napoléon Bonaparte was trying to impose through his Continental System in Europe against Britain and this is also one of the reasons for the survival of the Iranian economy under American sanctions.

Two blocs are starting to manifest themselves in similarity to the geographic boundaries of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and Mackinder’s Islander versus Continental scheme; a Eurasian-based bloc and a naval-based, oceanic bloc based on the fringes of Eurasia as well as North America and Australasia. The latter bloc is NATO and its network of regional military alliances, while the former is the reactionary counter-alliance formed by the Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition as its nucleus.

 

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is an independent writer based in Ottawa specializing in Middle Eastern affairs. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

NOTES


[1] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, The Sino-Russian Coalition: Challenging America’s Ambitions in Eurasia, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), August 26, 2007.

[2] Iran, Oman to develop joint oilfields, Press TV (Iran), August 25, 2007.

 

[3] Iran to lay Caspian-Oman seas oil pipelines, Mehr News Agency (MNA), August 27, 2007.

[4] Azerbaijan interested in ties with SCO – official, Interfax, August 25, 2007.

[5] Leila Saralayeva, Russia, China, Iran Warn U.S. at Summit, Associated Press, August 16, 2007.

[6] Putin heads for Austria, energy high on agenda, Reuters, May 21, 2007.

[7] Russia, Austria to open gas storage facility – Putin, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), May 23, 2007.

[8] Outrage at ‘old Europe’ remarks, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), January 23, 2003.

[9] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (NYC, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), p.204.

 

[10] Roman Kupchinsky, Turkey: Ankara Seeks Role As East-West ‘Energy Bridge,’ Radio Free Europe (RFE), August 27, 2007.

[11] These figures are based on calculations that are built on mid-2006 statistical figures from British Petroleum (BP). They are based on imports and exclude each E.U. member state’s domestic or indigenous production.

 

British Petroleum (BP), Quantifying Energy: BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2006 (London, U.K.: Beacon Press, June 2006), p.22.

 

bcm = billion cubic metres

1 bcm = 263.96 billion gallons

 

Total amount of natural gas imports projected for European energy markets: 139, 960 bcm.

139, 960 bcm = 100% of natural gas imports

 

Total amount of natural gas imports projected from Algeria: 4, 580 bcm.

4, 580 bcm/ 139, 960 bcm ≈ 0.037 bcm

0.037 bcm X 100 = 3.27% ≈ 3.3%

Therefore: 4, 580 bcm ≈ 3.3% of natural gas imports

 

Total amount projected from the Middle East, Caspian Sea, and Central Asia sources: 83, 140 bcm.

83, 140 bcm/ 139, 960 bcm ≈ 0.594 bcm

0.594 bcm X 100 ≈ 59.4%

Therefore: 83, 140 bcm ≈ 59.4% of natural gas imports

* Calculations include Egyptian natural gas reserves.

 

Total amount projected from Russia, Caspian Sea, and Central Asian sources: 47, 820 bcm.

47, 820 bcm/ 139, 960 bcm ≈ 0.3416 bcm

0.3416 bcm X 100 = 34.16% ≈ 34.2%

Therefore: 4, 580 bcm ≈ 34.2% of natural gas imports

 

[12] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, The Globalization of Military Power: NATO Expansion, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), May 17, 2007.

The Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) in North America between Canada, the United States, and Mexico is also related to this parallel drive in Eurasia and the Mediterranean littoral to ensure access to energy resources. Under the framework of the SPP both Mexico and Canada are obligated, without choice, to supply the United States with its energy needs, even at the expense of Mexican and Canadian national, economic, demographic, and environmental interests. The matter of energy supplies has been transformed into a security issue. There is a strong link between NATO, E.U., and North American energy initiatives in this regard.

[13] Halford John Mackinder, Chap. 3 (The Seaman’s Point of View), in Democratic Ideals and Reality (London, U.K.: Constables and Company Ltd., 1919), pp.38-92.

[14] Ibid., p.88.

“The Heartland, for the purposes of strategical thinking, includes the Baltic Sea, the navigable Middle and Lower Danube, the Black Sea, Asia Minor, Armenia, Persia [Iran], Tibet, and Mongolia. Within it, therefore, were Brandenburg-Prussia and Austria-Hungary, as well as Russia a vast triple base of man-power, which was lacking to the horse-riders of history [a reference to the people’s of the Eurasian steppes that invaded Europe and the Middle East, such as the Iranic Scythians, the Magyars, and various Turkic tribes]. The Heartland is the region to which, under modern conditions, sea-power can be refused access, though the western part of it lies without the region of the Arctic and Continental [Eurasian] drainage. There is one striking physcial circumstance which knits it graphically together; the whole of it [the Heartland], even to the brink of the Persian Mountains [the older English name for the Zagros Mountains] overlooking torrid Mesopotamia [Iraq], lies under snow in the winter time (Chap. 4, p.141).”

[15] Supra. note 12.

“Aside from the global naval force being created by the U.S. and NATO, a strategy has been devised to control international trade, international movement, and international waters. The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), under the mask of stopping the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) components or technology and the systems for their delivery (missile technology or components), sets out to control the flow of resources and to control international trade. The policy was drafted by John Bolton, while serving in the U.S. State Department as U.S. Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (Nazemroaya, NATO Expansion).”

Mackinder also argued for a super-navy under the control of the League of Nations that would control Germany and Russia: “None the less the League of Nations should have the right under International Law of sending War fleets into the Black and Baltic Seas (Chap. 6, p.215).” This is part of Mackinder’s solution to securing the Eurasian Heartland through what he called an “internationalisation” process in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

SOURCES FOR MAPS

[1] Jan Horst Keppler: Institut français des relations internationales (Ifri) Energy Program of the Université Paris Dauphine, France (International Relations and Security of Energy Supply: Risks to Continuity and Geopolitical Risks).

[2] Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH.

[3] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

[4] Der Standard, Austria.

[5] Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH.

NABUCCO GAS PIPELINE INTERNATIONAL GmbH PROPERTY RIGHTS

NIC has full and exclusive property rights (e.g., ownership, industrial property rights, copyrights) regarding the map material provided. The publication of this material can not be construed as the granting of a license or of any other right. The material made available are for private use and information only and must not be commercially reproduced, presented, distributed, or used in any other form unless prior written consent by NIC has been obtained.

RELATED ARTICLES AND REFERENCES

America’s “Long War”: The Legacy of the Iraq-Iran and Soviet-Afghan Wars by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

War and the “New World Order” by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

The March to War: Détente in the Middle East or “Calm before the Storm?” by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

The Globalization of Military Power: NATO Expansion by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Global Military Alliance: Encircling Russia and China

Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East” by Nazemroaya

Nabucco Gas Pipeline Project: Gas Bridge between Caspian Region/ Middle East/ Egypt and Europe (pdf)

Global Research Articles by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
see
The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging America’s Ambitions in Eurasia by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

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The New World Order, Forged in the Gulf by Andrew G. Marshall

by Andrew G. Marshall
featured writer
Dandelion Salad
Global Research, October 13, 2007

This article is Part 2 of the author’s essay: Imperial Playground: The Story of Iran in Recent History by Andrew G. Marshall

Imperial Playground in The Post Cold War Era

After Iran-Contra, and the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted until 1988, new developments began to occur in the region of and around Iran, which have a great deal to do with the current situation we are facing today. In 1989, George H.W. Bush became President, and, after pardoning all the former Contra criminals who kept his part in the Affair secret, had his eyes set on the Middle East as well. This was also an extremely pivotal point in history, as in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, which was the great symbol of the division between the West and the Soviet Union. Before the world, the Soviet Union began to collapse, just as Brzezinski had hoped, as the war between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan ended in 1989, with the Soviets defeated.

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Just Like Old Times for Panic in Memphis (09/21/07) by Luke DiStefano

Reposted with permission from the author, Luke DiStefano, a friend of mine. For pics from the show go to Gratefulweb.com ~ Lo

Dandelion Salad

by Luke DiStefano
Gratefulweb.com
Published on 10/4/2007 4:21:49 PM

Widespread Panic made their return to Memphis, this time with a new twist, a new guitarist and a few old tricks up their sleeve.

This year’s Fall Tour-opening run marked the band’s first shows in this melting pot of American Music since the end of July, 2006, and a few changes were apparent this time around.

Not only was this their first time playing the new downtown FedEx Forum, only a stone’s throw from world-famous Beale Street, but it was new guitarist Jimmy Herring’s first Memphis Panic shows since he joined the band at this time last year.

The band’s last shows at their old home, the dark, dingy and loveable old space ship that was MidSouth Coliseum, were also two of the final three shows for former guitarist George McConnell, who had replaced founding member Mikey Houser just before his death from pancreatic cancer on August 10, 2002. McConnell quit last summer’s tour after the next day’s show in St. Louis, once he confronted the rest of the band regarding rumors of his lame-duck status.

But in a new venue, with a new guitarist, the same old road warriors lit the same old town on fire, showing the versatility that has made them a stalwart of consistency for over twenty years.

This show had a little bit of everything you could ask for from a Panic show.

There was the bouncy, happy sound, exemplified by the show opening trio of A of D, Space Wrangler and Walkin’ (For Your Love). It was Herring’s first try at the instrumental A of D, a song not played since longtime producer John Keane and Houser’s old guitar tech Sam Holt shared the lead spot to help the band finish last summer’s tour, before Herring was hired for fall. Wrangler and Walkin’ got the band warmed up and the crowd in the mood and ready to keep singing along with front man and resident preacher John Bell.

Another bit of joy marked the opening of the second set, with the instrumental Party at Your Mama’s House showcasing Herring’s growing sense of comfort with his new band in the form of a very patient jam. Bell also chimed in throughout with nice work on the slide, which is pretty much the only time during a show you can easily hear his instrumental contribution. But, hey, they don’t pay the man to play the guitar.

But that wasn’t all this show had in store.

There were the hard rocking foot-stompers. The upbeat Tie Your Shoes followed Walkin’, and gave the crowd a usual second set piece of sandwich bread in the first set. The song allowed both the rapid-fire notes of Herring and the rolling bass line of Dave Schools to shine.

More songs in this vein would follow the rest of the night, from the dark rollercoaster of funk that is Pigeons in the first set to their heavy take on the traditional blues of Junior in the second set.

One of the hardest rockers came in the person of Glory, making its first appearance in a set in nearly six full years. And the band nailed this version, appropriately providing a rare surprise for the fans in a town with its own special place in Panic lore.

And while Herring continues to find his comfort zone with this group, there are still noticeable growing pains. It seemed as though he approached shows in the spring as a contest to see how many notes he could play during solos, this Eddie Van Halen-esque style being a stark contrast to the floating, psychedelic sound of Houser. He began picking his spots a little better over the summer, but he overdid it a bit this time on songs like Big Wooly Mammoth and Surprise Valley.

The rest of the band had their moments, too. One can expect some hiccups during tour openers, and this Friday in Memphis was no different. Schools started early for the encore, Imitation Leather shoes, before becoming visibly agitated. Bell appeared to sound unsure of himself as he began the vocals to Climb to Safety, which led to a slightly disjointed beginning. And a second set drop back into Chilly Water from You Got Yours was a bit sloppy.

But, as it is with most Panic shows, the good far outweighed the bad inside the Forum.

The highlight of the first set came with the jam out of Rebirtha, into the fan favorite Ribs and Whiskey. The former ended with lots of funk and great work from Herring, before dissipating into easily one of the longest, most patient Ribs intros that this reviewer has heard, with Herring accented nicely by great slide work from Bell, both flowing over Todd Nance’s steady kick drum.

More exemplary jamming followed in the second set, first with the opener, Party, and then with one of the funkiest versions of Climb to Safety you will ever hear. Keyboardist Jojo Hermann carried the jam with his clavinet, riding on top of a funky bass line from Schools that reminded one of their cover of Solid Rock, and song from Bob Dylan’s Christian revivalist period. It was a wonderful change of pace for a song too often mailed in with little variation within the jam.

Hermann was not done there, however. His next standout moment would begin a stretch of the show that exemplified why fans still come back to Panic after all these years, because they feature a dark, evil edge to their sound that is truly unmatched by anyone else in the scene.

A drum intro from Nance and percussionist Sunny Ortiz led into an especially sinister version of Dr. John’s I Walk on Guilded Splinters, featuring Hermann putting the fear into the crowd with a mix of funky Hammond B-3 and chaotic piano. The jam also featured outstanding work by Herring and a lot of call-and-response between the two of them.

Guilded segued nicely into a Chilly Water sandwich, the meat being more loud, dark, thunderous rock in the form of You Got Yours. The band followed this with the unquestionable highlight of the evening, Colonel Bruce Hampton’s Time is Free, which Herring effectively carried on his back with one stretch of psychedelic shredding after another, helped by Bell’s growling vocals and rambling raps.

The set very well could have ended after Chilly Water, and probably should have ended after the marathon version of Time is Free, but Herring jumped right into the roaring stomp of Neil Young’s classic, Mr. Soul, finally ending a monster second set and leaving much of the crowd exhausted, undoubtedly nursing sore arms from constant fist-pumping.

The crowd hardly seemed bothered by the short encore, but, after the previous stretch, who could blame them?

After all, once Imitation Leather Shoes gave them time to catch their breath, the debauchery of Beale Street awaited them outside the Forum’s doors.

Luke DiStefano,

The Grateful Web

09/21/07 FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN

1: A of D, Space Wrangler, Walkin’ (For Your Love), Tie Your Shoes > Pigeons, Blue Indian, Rebirtha > Ribs and Whiskey, Big Wooly Mammoth

2: Party at Your Mama’s House > Junior, Glory, Smoking Factory, Surprise Valley > Climb to Safety, Guilded Splinters > Chilly Water > You Got Yours > Chilly Water, Time is Free > Mr. Soul

E: Imitation Leather Shoes

 

see

STS9 Reaches New Heights in Lawrence, KS (9.18.07) by Luke DiStefano