Monday, December 29, 2008
Amid the carnage unleashed upon Gaza for making the mistake of democratically electcing a government that neither Israel or the U.S. wanted are a few uncomfortable facts. Among these are the genesis of Hamas as a group initially supported by Israel to upset the PLO movement.
Justin Raimondo gives a comprehensive history:
"Begin and his successor, Yitzhak Shamir, launched an effort to undercut the PLO, creating the so-called Village Leagues, composed of local councils of handpicked Palestinians who were willing to collaborate with Israel – and, in return, were put on the Israeli payroll. Sheik Yassin and his followers soon became a force within the Village Leagues. This tactical alliance between Yassin and the Israelis was based on a shared antipathy to the militantly secular and leftist PLO: the Israelis allowed Yassin's group to publish a newspaper and set up an extensive network of charitable organizations, which collected funds not only from the Israelis but also from Arab states opposed to Arafat.
Ami Isseroff, writing on MideastWeb, shows how the Israelis deliberately promoted the Islamists of the future Hamas by helping them turn the Islamic University of Gaza into a base from which the group recruited activists – and the suicide bombers of tomorrow. As the only higher-education facility in the Gaza strip, and the only such institution open to Palestinians since Anwar Sadat closed Egyptian colleges to them, IUG contained within its grounds the seeds of the future Palestinian state. When a conflict arose over religious issues, however, the Israeli authorities sided with the Islamists against the secularists of the Fatah-PLO mainstream. As Isseroff relates, the Islamists
"Encouraged Israeli authorities to dismiss their opponents in the committee in February of 1981, resulting in subsequent Islamisation of IUG policy and staff (including the obligation on women to wear the hijab and thobe and separate entrances for men and women), and enforced by violence and ostracization of dissenters. Tacit complicity from both university and Israeli authorities allowed Mujama to keep a weapons cache to use against secularists. By the mid 1980s, it was the largest university in occupied territories with 4,500 students, and student elections were won handily by Mujama."
Again, the motive was to offset Arafat's influence and divide the Palestinians. In the short term, this may have worked to some extent; in the longer term, however, it backfired badly – as demonstrated by the results of the recent Palestinian election.
The Hamas infrastructure of mosques, clinics, kindergartens, and other educational institutions flourished not only because they were lavishly funded, but also due to being efficiently run. Sheik Yassin and the future leaders of Hamas acquired a reputation for "clean" governance and good administrative practices, which would greatly aid them – especially in comparison to the PLO, which was widely perceived as corrupt. Indeed, "clean government" – and not the necessity of armed struggle – was the main theme of their successful election campaign."
Americans of course don't distinguish much between Sunnis (Hamas) and Shiites (Hezbollah), and thus we see Americans and Israelis trying to make the case that the problem is provoked by Iran which makes no sense at all. Israel of course is more than happy to take advantage of this and we suffer and the world suffers.As an American taxpayer I am tired of funding this travesty and as we face American financial meltdown hopefully we understand why now is the time to get with reality.
Friday, December 19, 2008
At last some sembalance of the truth begins to emerge regarding the Georgian-Russian dispute. Mark Ames gives a coherent account of media deception especially coming out of the NY Times.His account is well worth reading and taking into consideration as the U.S. supposedly transitions to better relations with the rest of the world:
"From the moment Georgia launched its invasion against the breakaway region of South Ossetia this past August, sparking a wider war with neighboring Russia, the New York Times's news coverage depicted Georgia as an innocent victim of Russia's neo-imperialist evil. In doing so, the Times engaged in the sort of media malpractice that it promised its readers wouldn't happen again after its disastrous coverage of the lead-up to the Iraq War."
Please read on.
The coalition of the "willing" gets smaller every day. Quite frankly I wasn't even aware of the Lithuanian contribution to George Bush's tilting at middle-eastern windmills.God knows we will miss all 53 of them.Perhaps there's work in Georgia. As per the UPI :
"The remaining 53 members of the Lithuanian armed forces serving in Iraq concluded their mission there in a ceremony in Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
Lithuania had deployed around 100 military personnel to aid in the international effort in Iraq. Lithuanian officials in 2005 cut that deployment in half in the wake of the Dec. 15 general elections in Iraq.
Lithuanian forces provided training to Iraqi troops in combat triage, driver's training and how to identify improvised explosive devices, the U.S. military in Iraq said in a statement.
"To Iraq's benefit and through the Republic of Lithuania's efforts, you have helped to ensure a higher quality of life for all the people of Iraq," said U.S. commander Brig. Gen. Michael Ferriter.
The departure follows similar actions by scores of other coalition forces concluding their missions in Iraq as the U.N. mandate for international force expires at the end of December."
Friday, December 12, 2008
This week saw further deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan via Pakistan with the destruction of hundreds of transport vehicles outside of Peshawar. While American and NATO officials attempt to downplay the signifigance of the attacks it remains that 70% of supplies for NATO come through Pakistan.
The only viable option for NATO and the U.S. is the Northern one through Russia and its CIS associates. As noted in the TimesOnline:
"Nato plans to open a new supply route to Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia in the next eight weeks following a spate of attacks on its main lifeline through Pakistan this year, Nato and Russian sources have told The Times.
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the former Soviet Central Asian states that lie between Russia and Afghanistan, have agreed in principle to the railway route and are working out the small print with Nato, the sources said.
“It'll be weeks rather than months,” said one Nato official. “Two months max.”
The “Northern Corridor” is expected to be discussed at an informal meeting next week between Dmitri Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to Nato, and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato's Secretary-General.
The breakthrough reflects Nato and US commanders' growing concern about the attacks on their main supply line, which runs from the Pakistani port of Karachi via the Khyber Pass to Kabul and brings in 70 per cent of their supplies. The rest is either driven from Karachi via the border town of Chaman to southern Afghanistan - the Taleban's heartland - or flown in at enormous expense in transport planes that are in short supply.
“We're all increasingly concerned,” Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Wednesday. “But in that concern, we've worked pretty hard to develop options.”
The opening of the Northern Corridor also mirrors a gradual thaw in relations between Moscow and Nato, which plunged to their lowest level since the end of the Cold War after Russia's brief war with Georgia in August.
However, Nato and the United States are simultaneously in talks on opening a third supply route through the secretive Central Asian state of Turkmenistan to prevent Russia from gaining a stranglehold on supplies to Afghanistan, the sources said. Non-lethal supplies, including fuel, would be shipped across the Black Sea to Georgia, driven to neighbouring Azerbaijan, shipped across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan and then driven to the Afghan border.
The week-long journey along this “central route” would be longer and more expensive than those through Pakistan or Russia and would leave supplies vulnerable to political volatility in the Caucasus and Turkmenistan.
The US and Nato are, though, exploring as many alternatives as possible as America prepares to deploy 20,000 more troops - three quarters of them by the summer - to add to the 67,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan. Turkmenistan represents the only realistic alternative that bypasses Russia. A route through Iran is out of the question because Washington does not have diplomatic relations with Tehran. Afghanistan's border with China is too remote to be used.
An agreement with Georgia has already been signed and negotiations with Azerbaijan are “ongoing”, a Nato official said.
Nato began exploring alternative supply routes in response to political instability in Pakistan last year and reached an informal agreement with Russia on the Northern Corridor at a Nato summit in Bucharest in April. At the same meeting President Berdymukhammedov of Turkmenistan offered to allow Nato to take supplies across its territory and to establish logistics bases there, according to Nato sources.
Negotiations stalled after the Georgian crisis, as Nato suspended high-level contacts with Moscow and Central Asian countries grew wary of angering the former Soviet master.
They have since shown their independence by refusing to back Moscow's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.
Russia, meanwhile, has been offering preferential treatment to Nato members that it considers “friendly”, such as France and Germany, the only Nato members allowed to fly supplies to Afghanistan through Russian airspace. In November Germany also became the first Nato member allowed to bring supplies for Afghanistan through Russia by railway.
Russian officials say that Moscow is ready to open the Northern Corridor to all Nato members as soon as the alliance finalises its agreements with Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The agreements cover non-military supplies such as fuel, food and clothing, and some non-lethal military equipment.
“All Nato countries will be able to use the Northern Corridor,” one Russian official familiar with the negotiations told The Times. “As far as we understand, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have agreed to it and sent the relevant papers to Brussels. We're just waiting for Nato to sign the agreements. We've done our part.”
A spate of attacks by Pakistani militants on supply convoys to Nato and US forces has caused backlogs and border closures (Jeremy Page writes). More than 1,000 trucks are stalled on the Afghan border and haulage costs are up by almost 70 per cent.Pakistani authorities have closed the border at Torkham, near the Khyber Pass, after militants set fire to at least 260 vehicles, including American Humvees, last weekend and attacked two cargo terminals in Peshawar on Thursday."
In the long run I think its safe to say that Georgia, the Baltic states, and others who benefited from American strategic myopia had best forget their delusions and adjust to the new reality.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Global collapse continues to make itself felt in places thought to be impervious. The Russian economy is one such place:
"On 9 December, Russia’s State Statistics Service revealed the GDP growth figures for the third quarter. And – lo and behold – they are “surprisingly bad”, “much worse than expected”, “below market expectations”, etc. (Read the reports in The Moscow Times, Bloomberg and Reuters).
You might think that by now economists would no longer be surprised by the stream of dire economic news. For anyone who has been closely following what has been happening in Russia’s economy over recent weeks, it’s increasingly obvious that it has essentially stepped off a cliff. As Danske Bank economist Lars T. Rasmussen writes in a research note: “The question is whether there will be any economic growth at all in Russia next year.”
“But surely 6.2% growth in the third quarter isn’t so bad?” I hear you say. Think again. That figure is the year-on-year change, not the quarterly change. In other words, it includes the rapid growth that took place in the first half of this year and the fourth quarter of 2007, when Russia’s GDP was still growing by 8%. The month-on-month trends show that output is already contracting. Russia’s GDP fell by 0.4% in October, according to government officials.
Now, the signs are that production in Russia is not simply stagnating: It is in fact plummeting like a stone. Industrial output, generally an early indicator of GDP trends, has been falling for months – by a cumulative 5% between July and October. And the output decline appears to have accelerated dramatically in November and December. According to the latest government figures, cited in the Moscow Times article, manufacturing production will have plummeted by an additional 10% by the end of the year."
This puts the Kremlin in a precarious and perhaps more agreeable position than it has been regarding international relations but of course this remains to be seen. Energy concerns of course contintue to drop:
"With Russia’s reserves the third biggest after China’s and Japan’s, fiscal stimulus is a “feasible option” for authorities to counter the slowdown, though with revenue from oil eroded, a spending boost “faces constraints,” wrote Vogel. Russia’s reserves may be tied up in supporting banks through the lending drought, he said.
“Lower oil-price risk scenarios imply greater-than-expected defaults in the private sector, failures among smaller banks, continuing high interest rates and banking system problems,” Vogel wrote. Commodities-based companies will cut back capital investment by 20 percent to 30 percent, he added.
Urals crude, Russia’s main export blend, was at $39.81 today, plunging almost 60 percent in the past three months. Oil prices of $70-a-barrel average are required to balance Russia’s budget.
Russia’s reserves, including oil funds that exclusively act as a safety cushion for the budget, stood at $454.9 billion in the week ended Nov. 28. The government has pledged more than $200 billion of tax cuts, loans and other measures to support economic growth.
Russia has also drained about a quarter of its foreign-cash reserves to prop up the ruble since July, which it is now allowing to gradually depreciate. Vogel expects another 15 percent decline in the ruble’s value by the middle of next year against the central bank’s basket of dollars and euros.
The currency was at 27.9128 per dollar by 4:38 p.m. in Moscow, from 27.9279 yesterday. Against the euro, the ruble traded at 36.1476, from 36.1014. The ruble was little changed at 31.6153 versus the basket.
Barcalys lowered its forecast for Russian growth next year from a 4.6 percent prediction in June. "
Monday, December 08, 2008
In case you wondered how the extra-continental experiences of the Big Three were going here's an answer:
"Hopes dimmed Monday that Russia and other emerging markets could help tide over the automotive industry in the U.S. and European markets as Ford Motor followed Volkswagen and Renault in suspending production at Russian assembly lines.
Although Ford's fortunes were less than glittering elsewhere, the company has over the past decade anticipated a huge surge in demand for cars in Russia. As sales fell in the United States, Russia had remained an engine of growth for imports and the domestically assembled sedans. Ford chose Moscow as the site for its largest dealership in Europe.
In fact, the Ford Focus was the best-selling brand in Russia in recent years, easily outpacing its Japanese and European competition and proving that Ford could make profits by efficiently building a compact family car.
Demand exploded so quickly that the company at one point had a six-month backlog of orders for the Focus, which is built at a plant near St. Petersburg.
The company, citing poor sales, said Monday that it would idle that plant from Dec. 24 until Jan. 21 for an extended New Year's holiday. Focus sales in October were down 30 percent from a year earlier, the news agency Interfax reported."
"When it opened in 2002, the Ford plant became the first fully owned foreign automobile assembly line in Russia. Factories for Nissan, Toyota and parts makers followed. The district around St. Petersburg now has so many such plants that it has come to be known as Russia's Detroit.
The Russian car boom seems over now. Volkswagen and Renault have also idled Russian plants for an extended winter holiday."
Umm... let me see.... unemployed Americans,... unemployed Russians, tons of nukes, WTF is next?
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
A little explanation is in order, the past month has been a whirlwind in every way. The U.S. election was of course the culmination of local effort by Mrs.WINston Smith and to a lesser degree myself. Two days later, as according to plan, we fled to southern Chile and spent an unforgetable 10 days or so amongst the lakes, volcanoes, and wine bottles. Now it's back home and the truly challenging reality of contemporary America.