27 February 2006

Iraq makes terror 'more likely'

Perception is reality.

Iraq makes terror 'more likely'
People across the world overwhelmingly believe the war in Iraq has increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks worldwide, a poll for the BBC reveals.
Some 60% of people in 35 countries surveyed believe this is the case, against just 12% who think terrorist attacks have become less likely.

In most countries, more people think removing Saddam Hussein was a mistake than think it was the right decision.

Some 41,856 people were questioned in the poll for the BBC's World Service.

In 20 countries, there is overall support for US-led forces to withdraw from Iraq in the next few months.

Only in nine of the remaining 15 countries do more people believe US-led forces should remain until the situation is stabilised. Six countries are divided.

The removal of Saddam Hussein in 2003 is seen as a mistake in 21 countries, compared with 11 countries where more people view it as the right decision. Three countries are divided.

"It's official. Citizens worldwide think Western leaders have made a fundamental mistake in their war on terror by invading Iraq," says Doug Miller, president of the international polling firm GlobeScan, which carried out the survey.

"Short of the Iraqi government asking them to stay longer, people think the troops should leave," he says.

The countries most eager for US coalition withdrawal are Argentina (80%), Egypt (76%), China (67%) and Brazil (67%). Those which favour troops staying for the time being are the US (58%), Afghanistan (58%), Australia (57%) and Great Britain (56%).

26 February 2006

Maslow, Wolfe Tone & Mesopotamia

In 1943, Abraham Maslow introduced his “hierarchy of needs” theory in a paper entitled A Theory of Human Motivation. His theory contended that as humans meet 'basic needs', they seek to satisfy successively 'higher needs' that occupy a set hierarchy.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the four lower levels are grouped together as deficiency needs associated with physiological needs, while the top level is termed growth needs associated with psychological needs. While our deficiency needs must be met, our being needs are continually shaping our behaviour. The basic concept is that the higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus once all the needs that are lower down in the pyramid are mainly or entirely satisfied. Growth forces create upward movement in the hierarchy, whereas regressive forces push prepotent needs further down the hierarchy. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs)

It might well be good to go back to the very simple basics of understanding what motivates people. First and foremost people want food and shelter from the elements, soon thereafter they aspire for the safety of they and their kin. It could be that you could learn a lot about politics just by an understanding of Maslow’s “Hierarchy”.

It has oft been said that the study of history is so very important so that we, as a society, aren’t forever making the same mistakes over and over again.

Theobald Wolfe Tone lived a short life from 1763 to 1798. He published an article in 1791 entitled “An argument on behalf the Catholics in Ireland” He himself was a Trinity Graduate and a Protestant. Yet, most of everything with regard to the “Give Ireland back to the Irish” and the “26+6” movements eventually trace back to Mr. Wolfe Tone.

A few days before he slit his own throat with a penknife after being sentenced to death he made the following comment:

"From my earliest youth I have regarded the connection between Ireland and Great Britain as the curse of the Irish nation, and felt convinced, that while it lasted, this country would never be free or happy. In consequence, I determined to apply all the powers which my individual efforts could move, in order to separate the two countries. That Ireland was not able, of herself, to throw off the yoke, I knew. I therefore sought for aid wherever it was to be found… Under the flag of the French Republic I originally engaged with a view to save and liberate my own country. For that purpose I have encountered the chances of war amongst strangers: for that purpose I have repeatedly braved the terrors of the ocean, covered as I knew it to be with the triumphant fleets of that Power which it was my glory and my duty to oppose. I have sacrificed all my views in life; I have courted poverty; I have left a beloved wife unprotected, and children which I adored, fatherless. After such sacrifices, in a cause which I have always considered as the cause of justice and freedom - it is no great effort at this day to add the sacrifice of my life." Theobald Wolfe Tone, 1798

What can we learn from this? Well, perhaps a couple of things. First off, as Stephen Biddle’s current article in Foreign Affairs rightly points out that the situation in Iraq is one of a communal civil war. (The article is not yet available online but feel free to read Paul Pillar’s current article, from the same issue in Foreign Affairs, highlights below.) Just like in Ireland, the situation in Iraq, and most of the greater Middle East, dates back generations. By merely changing a few of Mr. Tone’s names and places in the above quote it could be easily applied to the situation in today’s Middle East. Although, it would probably lend itself most aptly to Hamas leaders.

Which brings us to the Maslow. Why did the IRA garner local support for years? Why did Sein Fein get elected in Ireland? Why did Hamas get elected in Palastine? It all comes back to Maslow. People want food, shelter safety and a sense of belonging to a greater society. These form the basis of the pyramid. Without these basic needs being fulfilled by one form of government the people, in the very basic form of democratic speech, will rebel until they find the leadership that can provide them with what they think will help them provide those basic needs. Once those basic needs are met then the governing body either evolves or is replaced. It either continues it bloody ways which got it into power (and usually causes it to fail) or it evolves to a more peaceful form of government.

In the case of Ireland it has taken over 200 years. It has gone through many setbacks along the way and it may continue to do so. Other, long forgotten nations, have not been as fortunate. Sometimes what has been forgotten in US society, given our melting pot of ancestry, is those rich and diverse histories amongst our own ancient nationalitites. No problem in the middle east is going to be solved in but few years. The “troubles” in Ireland are the but the latest, hopefully closed, chapter in that ongoing story.

Perhaps, we should all try to understand that the last time the Middle East enjoyed the top of the Maslow pyramid was back during the time of the spice roads. That’s the route that the famous roads that Marco Polo followed to reach the riches of China… actually a dynasty who’s roots start with a Mongol invasion that eventually saw the greatest land takeover in the history of the world, which controlled more land that Alexander or even the Roman Empire at it’s height. At that time the people of the Middle East where on the top of Maslow’s pyramid.

I’m digressing but it serves the same point. The history of the Middle East has had many actors on the stage. In 1920 the Birtish took control of present day Iraq from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire as retribution for being on the wrong side in WWI. In 1922 the famous Michael Collins began drafting the constitution of the Irish Free State which eventually lead to the partition of Ireland and lasted until 1937. By 1932, the British had ended their mandate in Iraq. And then WWII happened. Then the world recovery from the decimation of the war. By the late 1960’s the Irish where in violent revolt called the “Troubles” By the late 1960’s the Middle East, after having gone through a tremendous number of bloody coups in most countries settled in to relative calm under the leadership of mostly brutal dictators.

Let's remember that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. It all totally depends on who wins and who writes the history books.

As times have changed so has the position of the common man on the pyramid.

If you don’t have food or shelter for your children you will do whatever it takes to get it for them. If that includes supporting a group of people who preach violence then so be it as it is a means to an end. Once those basics needs are met then there is a desire for safetly. This doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, as with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, you get what you wish for. But generally, the more brutal a governing body ot it’s own citizenery the more quickly it disappears.

Unless of course, there is a much longer societal history. The British Empire and all of the competing colonialist countries destroyed ancestral borders and ways of doing things. They set up artificial boundries, "lines on maps", as it where, that we continue to pay the price for today. The brutality of Afrika does not make the US media very often. Yet, those bloody purges can happen in the Middle East. The primary difference is that we are much more keenly aware of the middle east because our society relies on theirs for oil to continue to drive our economy.

So, what should we do? Well, maybe we should start by trying to understand that no solution is going to be solved in a soundbite. The histories or the world are broad and deep. There is not going to be a short term fix. The British left quite a mess in the 1920-1950’s. It is up to our generation to fix the problem so that our great grandchildren do not face the same problems. Today, there are men and woman who feel life Wolfe Tone. They will slit their own throat. By and large this is no more than 2% of any society. More than likely, if we permit ourselves to understand that there is no quick fix and that the fix we come up with today will have to evolve as the situation evolves, then we can leave a better place for our progeny. Afterall, we are the ones who can contemplate this from our position at the top of the pyramid. Hopefully, our children can look back and know that we made our decisions for altruistic reasons and not out of pure lust for wealth.

...and maybe we can learn from the lessons in Ireland of what works and what doesn't in dealing with rebellion.

Intelligence, Policy,and the War in Iraq

Summary: During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, writes the intelligence community's former senior analyst for the Middle East, the Bush administration disregarded the community's expertise, politicized the intelligence process, and selected unrepresentative raw intelligence to make its public case.

PAUL R. PILLAR is on the faculty of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. Concluding a long career in the Central Intelligence Agency, he served as National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005.


The most serious problem with U.S. intelligence today is that its relationship with the policymaking process is broken and badly needs repair. In the wake of the Iraq war, it has become clear that official intelligence analysis was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized. As the national intelligence officer responsible for the Middle East from 2000 to 2005, I witnessed all of these disturbing developments.

Public discussion of prewar intelligence on Iraq has focused on the errors made in assessing Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons programs. A commission chaired by Judge Laurence Silberman and former Senator Charles Robb usefully documented the intelligence community's mistakes in a solid and comprehensive report released in March 2005. Corrections were indeed in order, and the intelligence community has begun to make them.

At the same time, an acrimonious and highly partisan debate broke out over whether the Bush administration manipulated and misused intelligence in making its case for war. The administration defended itself by pointing out that it was not alone in its view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and active weapons programs, however mistaken that view may have been.

In this regard, the Bush administration was quite right: its perception of Saddam's weapons capacities was shared by the Clinton administration, congressional Democrats, and most other Western governments and intelligence services. But in making this defense, the White House also inadvertently pointed out the real problem: intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs did not drive its decision to go to war. A view broadly held in the United States and even more so overseas was that deterrence of Iraq was working, that Saddam was being kept "in his box," and that the best way to deal with the weapons problem was through an aggressive inspections program to supplement the sanctions already in place. That the administration arrived at so different a policy solution indicates that its decision to topple Saddam was driven by other factors -- namely, the desire to shake up the sclerotic power structures of the Middle East and hasten the spread of more liberal politics and economics in the region.

If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war -- or, if war was going to be launched, to prepare for a messy aftermath. What is most remarkable about prewar U.S. intelligence on Iraq is not that it got things wrong and thereby misled policymakers; it is that it played so small a role in one of the most important U.S. policy decisions in recent decades....

click to read the entire article above...

Some highlights:
"The Bush administration deviated from the professional standard not only in using policy to drive intelligence, but also in aggressively using intelligence to win public support for its decision to go to war. This meant selectively adducing data -- "cherry-picking" -- rather than using the intelligence community's own analytic judgments."

"The actual politicization of intelligence occurs subtly and can take many forms. Context is all-important. Well before March 2003, intelligence analysts and their managers knew that the United States was heading for war with Iraq. It was clear that the Bush administration would frown on or ignore analysis that called into question a decision to go to war and welcome analysis that supported such a decision. Intelligence analysts -- for whom attention, especially favorable attention, from policymakers is a measure of success -- felt a strong wind consistently blowing in one direction. The desire to bend with such a wind is natural and strong, even if unconscious."

Will SOMEONE in the White House please read this?!?!

Say "No" to "Yes-men"

I think that it's now fairly common knowldge that if you don't agree with your direct boss in the Cabinet or White House then you don't have a job. To that end I think that someone there only read half the book. They read the part that said once the executive makes the decision then everyone in the organization should rally round the decision.... what they missed was hot those decisions are made. I've put together some key elements from the About.com article in the following:

"We all get complacent sometimes. We have comfort zones. We do the things we enjoy, that feel good, that come easily. That's why many people surround themselves with people who agree with them, think like them, and support them. The CEO of a large company does not have that luxury.

In return for the outlandish compensation being heaped on them by the shareholders, the CEO must immerse himself or herself in the uncomfortable, the unfamiliar, the different opinion. Only in that way can they keep the company strong and growing. Only then can they earn what they are being paid. Only then can they, and their shareholders, avoid a debacle like Enron.

It starts at the top
It is the leader's job to provide the vision for the group. A good executive must have a dream and the ability to get the company to support that dream. But it is not enough to merely have the dream. The leader must also provide the framework by which the people in the organization can help achieve the dream. This is called company culture.

When your company culture allows people to challenge ideas, suggestions, and plans, you create an organization of thinking, committed people capable of producing the kind of innovation and productivity required to succeed today. However, if your company culture does not allowed dissent, if people who suggest alternatives are castigated for not being "team players", you produce an environment of fear, stagnation, and antipathy. Not allowing appropriate dissent will kill your company.

Discuss and debate - up to a point
You're smart manager. You encourage your people to challenge you and suggest alternatives. But are you a good subordinate? Do you challenge your boss? Or do you sit back and protect your job by agreeing with everything the boss suggests? Such agreeing won't protect your job, as Enron's employees have learned.

Every manager has a boss. It is our responsibility to our bosses to be honest with them, to tell them what we really think, even if we disagree. Especially if we disagree. You, and everyone of your peers, need to discuss issues openly, frankly, and with the best interests of your area clearly visible. You need to give the boss as much information and as many options as possible. Don't be afraid to fight hard for what you believe to be right. Be professional about it, but be candid too.

However, once the boss has made a decision, the discussion and arguing and dissent must stop. Once the decision has been made you have an obligation to support your boss in that decision. You expect it of your people; you should do no less.

Disagree without being disagreeable
You think your position is right. You want what is best for your people. You want things done in the way that works best for your department. So you argue your points strongly. That's good, but don't overdo it. You won't win every battle. After all, your boss is looking after the best interest of his or her entire organization, not just your part of it. Recognize the aspects of negotiation involved. Remember you will be working with these people again in the future. For those reasons it's important that you "disagree without being disagreeable".

Manage This Issue
Foster a culture in your company where differing opinions are encouraged. Avoid the temptation to surround yourself with individuals who are so similar to you that they can't offer a different perspective. Don't surround yourself with people who are so afraid that they won't dissent. Reward creativity and original thought in your decision-making process. Hang on to those people who have mastered the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable. Maybe then you can avoid being blindsided by events such as Enron has encountered.

In case you missed it: Foster a culture in your company where differing opinions are encouraged. Avoid the temptation to surround yourself with individuals who are so similar to you that they can't offer a different perspective. Don't surround yourself with people who are so afraid that they won't dissent. Reward creativity and original thought in your decision-making process. Hang on to those people who have mastered the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

22 February 2006

the wheel

Sometimes I come accross information that is noteworthy only because it's just, well, noteworthy. Stuff like King Harald Bluetooth lived in Denmark between 910-940 AD, and was the son of Gorm. Contrary to popular opinion, Bluetooth or "Blåtand" as it was in old Viking language had nothing to do with a blue tooth. It means dark complexion – he had very dark hair, which was unusual for Vikings. Not only did Harald not fit the classic image physically, he was a rather unusual Viking. That is, if your understanding was that the life of a Viking was all battles and pillage. The good King Harald brought Christianity to Scandinavia and also "united" Denmark and Norway.

A couple years back that was all you could find out if you did a Google search on "bluetooth" For those of you who actually read the stuff I write you probably invested money and made money of that tidbit of information on Harold Bluetooth...and how many of you are now citzens of Sealand I wonder.....

So listen up and pay attention to this cool noteworthy info I've posted below, but please remember:

The wheel is turning
and you can't slow down
You can't let go
and you can't hold on
You can't go back
and you can't stand still
If the thunder don't get you
then the lightning will...

Solar Sails
Solar sails are a creative and unique way to harness the sun's energy for transportation, requiring no other fuel. Solar sails act just as the name implies: They are a physical sail, pushed by the sun's energy. The sun constantly spews out a high-energy stream of photons. (Photons create the images "caught" by camera film, digital camera CCDs, and the rods and cones in our eyes. "Photograph" and "photon"... It's not a coincidence. In fact, a solar sail is sometimes called a "photon sail". But for this article, the literal - and perhaps more appropriate - name loses out to the conceptual one: Photon sails are out, and we'll stick with "solar sails".

Now that we closed down that scenic pacific coast language school near Pebble Beach:
A ‘Puppet’ Who Pulls the Strings
A game designer presents his work on a computer engine that automates an assortment of nonverbal expressions. The goal: to help soldiers learn unfamiliar languages by interacting with animated characters. an excerpt: “To introduce players to a culture that is unfamiliar to them,” Vilhjálmsson notes in his presentation, “it is important to have them both observe nonverbal behavior that reflects the culture and have them be able to perform … appropriate behaviors in return.”

US 'losing media war to al-Qaeda'
The US is losing the propaganda war against al-Qaeda and other enemies, defence chief Donald Rumsfeld has said.
It must modernise its methods to win the minds of Muslims in the "war on terror", as "enemies had skilfully adapted" to the media age, he said. Washington and the army must respond faster to events and learn to exploit the internet and satellite TV, he said....Mr Rumsfeld said al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists were bombarding Muslims with negative images of the West, which had poisoned the public view of the US. The US must fight back by operating a more effective, 24-hour propaganda machine, or risk a "dangerous deficiency," he said.

By Alan Boyle, Science editor: Updated: 7:37 p.m. ET Feb. 16, 2006
ST. LOUIS - Satellite observations indicate that Greenland's glaciers have been dumping ice into the Atlantic Ocean at a rate that's doubled over the past five years, researchers reported here on Thursday. The findings add yet another factor to the long-running debate over the effect of climate change on the world's ice sheets and sea levels...Virtually everyone agrees that the complete disappearance of the 2-mile-thick (3-kilometer-thick) Greenland Ice Sheet would cause an estimated 23-foot (7-meter) rise in global sea levels. That would inundate coastal regions around the world...."There's a lot of fear out there right now, even among scientists, that ice caps are not all that stable," he told MSNBC.com. If the pace of global ice loss accelerates, sea levels might conceivably rise 6 to 16 feet (2 to 5 meters) over the course of a century, which he said would be "devastating."

Ok, now stop reading this stuff 'cause it will make you blind... or at least increase the decay of your brain:
Alzheimer's Progresses Faster in Educated People
Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- High levels of education speed up the progression of Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published in next month's issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. Mental agility dropped every year among Alzheimer's disease patients with each additional year of education, leading to an additional 0.3 percent deterioration, the researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York found. The speed of thought processes and memory were particularly affected...

ahhh, that explains alot.///why am i typing this again? who are you people?
"My time coming, voices saying, they tell me where to go. Don't worry bout me, no no"
---Estimated Prophet

Good stuff...

USJFCOM’s Joint Warfighting Center hosts Joint Knowledge Development and Distribution Capability ribbon cutting

U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Warfighting Center became the new home of the Joint Knowledge Development and Distribution Capability Joint Management Office, assuming responsibility for one of the key pillars of DoD's Training Transformation program.

By JOC(SW/AW) Chris Hoffpauir
USJFCOM Public Affairs

(SUFFOLK, Va. – Feb. 21, 2006) –- U.S. Joint Forces Command’s (USJFCOM) Joint Warfighting Center (JWFC) became the new home of the Joint Knowledge Development and Distribution Capability (JKDDC) Joint Management Office (JMO) in a ribbon cutting ceremony here today.

JWFC assumed primary responsibility for the capability earlier this month. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Readiness Dr. Paul Mayberry directed the move to better integrate JKDDC with the Joint National Training Capability (JNTC) and the entire spectrum of what USJFCOM and the JWFC provides.

JKDDC and JNTC represent two of the three capabilities that form the foundation of DoD’s Training Transformation (T2). JKDDC addresses individual training and education, developing and distributing joint knowledge through a dynamic global network.

“This is a great day for the entire training transformation triad,” USJFCOM Director of Joint Training and JWFC Commander Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Jon A. Gallinetti said. “It’s a great day for training the joint warfighter. I believe we’re going to see tremendous synergy and economies of effect from this.

“Combining JKDDC with what we’re doing here in JWFC is the meeting of the two best worlds. JNTC trains and exercises at the unit-collective level, and now we’re adding JKDDC and training at the individual-distributed level. I’m proud and very pleased to welcome JKDDC onboard JWFC and USJFCOM.”

According to JKDDC JMO Program Manager Joseph Camacho, his office’s next task is to engineer how to take advantage of that synergy and advance T2.

“We’re delighted to have the program here. We know that the JKDDC program will be able to use all the lessons learned from JNTC and USJFCOM’s directorates,” Camacho said. “What we’re going to do in the next six months is to determine where all those efficiencies are, so we can bring them to bear on the JKDDC process.

“That’s the main reason JKDDC was moved to USJFCOM,” he added. “We intend to be the premier provider of globally accessible joint knowledge for preparing individuals for supporting the combatant commanders and national security. The mechanism for that is a portal that has everything in it and that warfighters can find what they need, whenever they need it.

“Our job is to determine what those needs are, what needs to be developed to satisfy those needs and to make that accessible to the warfighter 24 hours a day, globally. That’s a tough job, but we’ll make it happen.”

13 February 2006

"dumbed down doublespeak" or "fueling the arab street"

It always seems to take me a bit of time to understand President Bush's State of the Union address. Before you can really let things sink in as to what he said you have to wait for the inevitible "well that's what he said but here's what he really meant" round of press conferences. You see, it seems that the President's speech writers seem to assume that the vast majority of the electorate is ill-informed sheep who need to only understand the sound bites otherwise the message gets confused in their tiny little brains. So plEase read on in this article taken from Knight-Ridder...then follow the logic all the way through. I think you'll like the plot twist at the end...

Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports
By Kevin G. Hall
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

What the president meant, they said in a conference call with reporters, was that alternative fuels could displace an amount of oil imports equivalent to most of what America is expected to import from the Middle East in 2025.

But America still would import oil from the Middle East, because that's where the greatest oil supplies are.

The president's State of the Union reference to Mideast oil made headlines nationwide Wednesday because of his assertion that "America is addicted to oil" and his call to "break this addiction."

Bush vowed to fund research into better batteries for hybrid vehicles and more production of the alternative fuel ethanol, setting a lofty goal of replacing "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."

He pledged to "move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past."

Not exactly, though, it turns out.

"This was purely an example," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.

He said the broad goal was to displace foreign oil imports, from anywhere, with domestic alternatives. He acknowledged that oil is a freely traded commodity bought and sold globally by private firms. Consequently, it would be very difficult to reduce imports from any single region, especially the most oil-rich region on Earth.

Asked why the president used the words "the Middle East" when he didn't really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands." The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him in trouble."

Source: http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/13767738.htm

Well, you say, that is understandable. Let's forgive the President for him dumbing down his speech. Afterall, we've all seen the Leno and Letterman's asking questions like: "Who was George Washington?" on President's Day and getting answers like "Didn't he win a grammy like, 10 years ago, or something?" So can we really fault the President for trying to make all Americans understand?

With the number of troops deployed around the world and many people knowing people with friends deployed I am personally inclined to believe that many many more people are aware of world politics than the President's speech writers give credit. Yes, there are the retired folks in Flordida and Arizona watching Fox and grumbling at there 3PM dinner meetings, and yes, they do vote, but I suspect that there are a lot of 18-25 year olds who vote and are also reading blog sites and listening to iTunes. I don't think that group need to spoken down to.

They are probably the ones asking the questions like the following interplay from the Press Conference that the Knight Ridder article is based upon....

"Q Hi, gentlemen, I had two questions. The first is, with the goal of reducing the reliance on Middle Eastern oil, sort of, to what end? Is the idea to weaken Middle Eastern nations? Or is the idea to reduce the U.S. need to be involved in Middle East affairs? And won't China and India just gobble up all that oil and won't it be a wash?

SECRETARY BODMAN: Let me try that, and then I may ask Al if he wants to comment on it.

The idea here -- the President, in using that example, was to just simply do that, to give an example of what would be accomplished if we are successful in the combination of the plug-in hybrids, of hybrids, the availability of ethanol in the quantities that we have mentioned, and have been successful with the hydrogen car in the year 2025. All of those things are assumed to be successful, which we hope they will be. We're going to work hard to see to it that they will be.

Oil is a commodity, you're quite right in suggesting that, that we would continue as a nation. Most of the purchases of oil in this country are done by the private sector. Thankfully, they're not done by the federal government. And they're done by people who are in these markets every day, that are very good at it, and they would make judgments as to where they would optimize whatever business they had at that point in time.

So this was, as I say, is purely an example. It was not mean to suggest anything related to the politics of the situation, other than to indicate that, presumably, at that point in time, if we see changes and we see a more stable situation, where one is buying from a more stable supplier, presumably one would rather do business with a more stable supplier rather than a less stable supplier. So as the world evolves over the next 20 years, I would think that you would see more interest in one supplier rather than another, but it was merely meant to give an example.

Q Mr. Secretary, I would just like to follow up real quickly, because I still don't really get it. I mean, I guess what I'm trying to get to is, even if the private sector does oil purchases, the President must have either a domestic or a foreign policy goal. Is the goal national security, geopolitical dominance, or a concern that the world is going to run out of oil? I mean, I don't really understand. Are we --

SECRETARY BODMAN: Let me try again. Oil is a commodity. It is traded on the world market. Its prices change minute by minute. As we sit here today, it's changing in the various markets of the world. The President's goal, it seems to me -- I haven't asked him specifically this -- but it seems to me is an improvement in our national security that would come from a more readily available supply of domestic motor fuel. And so that's the goal, so that we would therefore be less dependent on the supply of motor fuel from countries that are less able than we would like to see them.

But it's not a matter of world domination, it's not a matter of anything other than trying to improve the security of our country by broadening the availability, the domestic availability of motor fuels and, therefore, lessening the reliance on foreign producers.

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: And just to expand on that, the goal is energy independence. And what the President is saying is by -- we believe there's a very good chance that with these new technologies we will be able to reduce the imports of our oil enough to the equivalent to what we currently project to be 75 percent of what we would have imported from the Middle East. But the goal is to -- you know, beyond 2025, is to continue to achieve more and more energy independence, and this will occur through new technologies.

And, obviously, the big one in the '20s, beginning in the early '20s is the hydrogen car, which the goal there is to have a commercially viable hydrogen car by the early '20s."

Okay, now we're at least at the real starting point. We've got a good understanding of what the President SAID and WHAT HE MEANT! Now, let's look at it from some other perspectives. Let's pretend that you are the family man in the Gaza Strip trying to cross the border every day to make money to afford some food. How does this affect you when you hear the President say we'll be replacing "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."? "Wow" he might say, "it's a good thing we jsut voted for Hamas 'cause they provide me health care and police and keep the peace...what a nightmare it's going to be in Saudi Arabia!!!"

Can you understand why he would say that? Think about it. Outside of oil what industry does the 'Middle East" have going for them? There's a lot of sand and not much of anything else. In Saudi Arabia for example 37% of the population is under the age of 15. The population is approximately 25M people right now and expected to grow to 37M by 2025 (www.prb.org). So over 1/3 of the population in Saudi Arabia is under that age fo 15. What do you think that 15 year old heard on the news? He heard the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES say "We'll be replacing "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025." That 15 year old stops, looks around and sees the poverty that he lives in now. Sees how his country's oil wealth has been squandered and realizes that it is only going to get worse.

So are you surprised to read the following:
"Saudi surprise at Bush oil call"
Sunday 05 February 2006, 22:24 Makka Time, 19:24 GMT
President George Bush's call to reduce America's dependence on Middle Eastern oil has sparked "serious concern" in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom's ambassador to Washington has said.

"I was taken aback," Prince Turki al-Faisal told CNN television in an interview on Sunday. He was commenting on Bush's State of the Union speech last Tuesday in which he said America needed to end its addiction to oil. Expressing his suprise, al-Faisal said he had brought up Saudi concerns over the speech with White House officials. "This is something that is of serious concern to us because oil is our major income earner," the prince said.

Do you think the speech writeres knew what they where doing? Do you think they realized the implications on the Arab Street? Do you think they knew it would add fuel to the fire? If you've ever seen a Tom Clancy book made into a movie I think you can appreciate the sublteties of statecraft. Of course they knew. But why in God's name WOULD THEY DO IT?

07 February 2006

Do you want to play global thermonuclear war?

For some time I have been wondering what I have been observing in world politics as it hasn't made lot of sense. I compared this, in discussions with some people, like watching a game of chess and not quite understanding why someone would make such stupid moves.

Perhaps the moves weren't stupid at all. Perhaps there was method to the madness. So, I've been searching for the method to the gameplay. Am I missing a longer term strategy? How can I make sense of all of the disjointed diplomatic moves taking place in the world. There are just too too many signs of diplomatic positioning and sublte signals that have not been clear to me. I got the feeling that I was watching one level of a three level chess game but wasn't aware of the other two boards. Now, perhaps, I have found the beginning of clarity.

This is a rather long article from Asia Times. I have posted it in it's entirety lest you have problems finding it. If you click the link above you find several other articles including Jim Lobe's Article "US Places Guns Before Butter" (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/HB08Ak01.html), but start with this one.

Middle East
Jan 31, 2005
A high-risk game of nuclear chicken
By F William Engdahl

In the past weeks, media reports have speculated that Washington is "thinking the unthinkable", namely, an aggressive, preemptive nuclear bombardment of Iran, by either the United States or Israel, to destroy or render useless the deep underground Iranian nuclear facilities.

The possibility of war against Iran presents a geostrategic and geopolitical problem of far more complexity than the bombing and occupation of Iraq. And Iraq has proved complicated enough for the US. We try to identify some of the main motives of the mainactors in the new drama and the outlook for possible war.

The dramatis personae include the Bush administration, most especially the Dick Cheney-led neo-conservative hawks in control now of not only the Pentagon, but also the Central Intelligence Agency, the UN ambassadorship and a growing part of the State Department planning bureaucracy under Condoleezza Rice.

It includes Iran, under the new and outspoken President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. It includes President Vladimir Putin's Russia, a nuclear-armed veto member of the UN Security Council. It includes a nuclear-armed Israel, whose acting premier, Ehud Olmert, recently declared that Israel could "under no circumstances" allow Iranian development of nuclear weapons "that can threaten our existence". It includes the European Union, especially Security Council permanent member, France, and the weakening President Jacques Chirac. It includes China, whose dependence on Iranian oil and potentially natural gas is large.

Each of these actors has differing agendas and different goals, making the issue of Iran one of the most complex in recent international politics. What's going on here? Is a nuclear war, with all that implies for the global financial and political stability, imminent? What are the possible and even probable outcomes?

The basic facts
First the basic facts as can be verified. The latest act by Ahmadinejad in announcing the resumption of suspended work on completing a nuclear fuel enrichment facility along with two other facilities at Natanz, sounded louder alarm bells outside Iran than his inflammatory anti-Israel rhetoric earlier, understandably so.

Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Peace Prize-winning head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN body, has said he is not sure if that act implies a nuclear weapons program, or whether Iran is merely determined not to be dependent on outside powers for its own civilian nuclear fuel cycle. But, he added, the evidence for it is stronger than that against Saddam Hussein, a rather strong statement by the usually cautious ElBaradei.

The result of the resumption of research at Natanz appears to have jelled for the first time a coalition between US and the EU, including Germany and France, with China and even Russia now joining in urging Iran to desist. Last August, President George W Bush announced, in regard to Iran's announced plans to resume enrichment regardless of international opinion, that "all options are on the table". That implied in context a nuclear strike on Iranian nuclear sites.

That statement led to a sharp acceleration of EU diplomatic efforts, led by Britain, Germany and France, the so-called EU-3, to avoid a war. The three told Washington they were opposed to a military solution. Since then we are told by German magazine Der Spiegel and others the EU view has changed, to appear to come closer to the position of the Bush administration.

It's useful briefly to review the technology of nuclear fuel enrichment. To prepare uranium for use in a nuclear reactor, it undergoes the steps of mining and milling, conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication. These four steps make up the "front end" of the nuclear fuel cycle.

After uranium has been used in a reactor to produce electricity it is known as "spent fuel", and may undergo further steps, including temporary storage, reprocessing and recycling before eventual disposal as waste. Collectively these steps are known as the "back end" of the fuel cycle.

The Natanz facility is part of the "front end" or fuel-preparation cycle. Ore is first milled into uranium oxide (U3O8), or yellowcake, then converted into uranium hexaflouride (UF6 ) gas. The uranium hexaflouride then is sent to an enrichment facility, in this case Natanz, to produce a mix containing 3-4% of fissile U-235, a non-weapons-grade nuclear fuel. So far, so good, more or less in terms of weapons danger.

Iran is especially positioned through geological fortune to possess large quantities of uranium from mines in Yazd province, permitting Iran to be self-sufficient in fuel and not having to rely on Russian fuel or any other foreign imports for that matter. It also has a facility at Arak which produces heavy water, which is used to moderate a research reactor whose construction began in 2004.

That reactor will use uranium dioxide and could enable Iran to produce weapons-grade plutonium, which some nuclear scientists estimate could produce an amount to build one to two nuclear devices per year. Iran officially claims the plant is for peaceful medical research. The peaceful argument here begins to look thinner.

Nuclear enrichment is no small item. You don't build such a facility in the backyard or the garage. France's large Tricastin enrichment facility provides fuel for the nuclear electricity grid of Electricite de France (EDF), as well as for the French nuclear weapons program. It needs four large nuclear reactors, just to provide more than 3,000MWe (megawatts electrical) power for it. Early US enrichment plants used gaseous diffusion. Enrichment plants in the EU and Russia use a more modern centrifuge process that uses far less energy per unit of enrichment. The latter or centrifuge process is also the Iranian type.

To make weapons-grade uranium requires more than conventional civilian electric power-grade uranium fuel. "Unmaking" weapons-grade uranium today is also a geopolitically interesting process, not irrelevant to the current dispute over Iran. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, under agreements designed to ensure that the Soviet nuclear arsenal would be converted to peaceful uses, military weapons uranium came on to the civilian market under a US-Russian agreement.

Today more than half of all the uranium used for electricity in the US nuclear power plants comes from Russian military stockpiles. Currently, 20% of all electricity produced in the US is nuclear-generated, meaning that Russian uranium fuels some 10% of all US electricity.

In 1994, a US$12 billion contract was signed between the US Enrichment Corporation (now USEC Inc) and Russia's Techsnabexport (Tenex) as agents for the US and Russian governments. USEC agreed to buy a minimum of 500 tonnes of weapons-grade uranium over 20 years, at a rate of up to 30 tonnes/year beginning in 1999. The uranium is blended down to 4.4% U-235 in Russia. The USEC then sells it to its US power utility customers as fuel. In September this program reached its halfway point of 250 tonnes, or elimination of 10,000 nuclear warheads.

Worldwide, one sixth of the global market of commercial enriched uranium is supplied by Russia from Russian and other weapons-grade uranium stocks. Putin has many cards to play in the showdown over Iran's nuclear program.

The issue of whether Iran was secretly building a nuclear weapon capability first surfaced from allegations by an Iranian exile opposition group in 2002.

Natanz has been under the IAEA's purview since suspicions about Iran's activities surfaced. It was prompted by reports from an Iranian opposition organization, National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and led ElBaradei to tour Iran's nuclear facilities in February 2002, including the incomplete plant in Natanz about 500 kilometers south of Tehran.

The NCRI is the political arm of the controversial People's Mujahideen of Iran, which both the EU and US governments officially brand terrorist but unofficially work with increasingly against the Tehran theocracy.

Possible Iranian strategy
It's undeniably clear that Ahmadinejad has a more confrontational policy than his predecessor. The Iranian ambassador to Vienna, speaking at a conference in Austria where this author was present last September, shocked his audience by stating essentially the same line of confrontational rhetoric: "If it comes to war, Iran is ready ..."

Let's assume that the Western media are correctly reporting the strident militant speeches of the president. We must also assume that in that theocratic state, the ruling mullahs, as the most powerful political institution in Iran, are behind the election of the more fundamentalist Ahmadinejad. It has been speculated that the aim of the militancy and defiance of the US and Israel is to revitalize the role of Iran as the "vanguard" of an anti-Western theocratic Shi'ite revolution at a time when the mullahs' support internally, and in the Islamic world, is fading.

Let's also assume Ahmadinejad's actions are quite premeditated, with the intent to needle and provoke the West for some reason. If pushed against the wall by growing Western pressures, Ahmadinejad's regime has apparently calculated that Iran has little to lose if it hit back.

He is also no rogue agent in opposition to the Iranian clergy. According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn of January 24, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, secretary of the Guardian Council of the Constitution, stressed Iran's determination to assert its "inalienable" rights: "We appreciate President Ahmadinejad because he is following a more aggressive foreign policy on human rights and nuclear issues than the former governments of [Mohammed] Khatami and [Hashemi] Rafsanjani," the ayatollah reportedly said. "President Ahmadinejad is asking, 'why only you [Western powers] should send inspectors for human rights or nuclear issues to Iran - we also want to inspect you and report on your activities'."

The paper's Tehran correspondent added, "The mood within the country's top leadership remains upbeat and the general belief was that it would be possible to ride out international sanctions - if it comes to that."

In this situation, some exile Iranians feel it would bolster Ahmadinejad and the ayatollahs to be handed a new UN sanction punishment. It could be used to whip up nationalism at home and tighten their grip on power at a time of waning revolutionary spirit in the country.

Ahmadinejad has been taking very provocative, and presumably calculated measures including breaking nuclear-facility seals, and announcing a major conference that would question evidence that the Nazis conducted a mass murder of European Jews during World War II. Yet he also has stressed several times publicly that in accord with strict Islam law, Iran would never deploy a nuclear device, a weapon of mass destruction, and that it is only asserting its right as a sovereign nation to an independent full-cycle civilian nuclear program.

The history of Iran's nuclear efforts should be noted. It began in 1957 when Reza Shah Pahlevi signed a civilian Atoms for Peace agreement with Dwight D Eisenhower's administration. Iran received a US research reactor in 1967. Then in 1974 after the first oil shock, the shah created the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, explicitly tasked to develop civilian nuclear power to displace oil, freeing more oil for export, and for developing a nuclear weapon.

The Bushehr reactor complex of civilian power reactors was begun by West Germany in the 1970s under the shah, the same time Iran began buying major shares of key German companies, such as Daimler and Krupp. After his 1979 ascent to power, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ordered all work on the nuclear program halted, citing Islamic beliefs that weapons of mass destruction were immoral.

In 1995, the Russian Foreign Ministry signed a contract with the Iranian government to complete the stalled Bushehr plant, and to supply it with Russian nuclear fuel, provided Iran agreed to allow IAEA monitoring and safeguards. According to an article in the March 2004 MERIA Journal, that 1995 Russia-Iran deal included potentially dangerous transfers of Russian technology, such as laser enrichment from Yefremov Scientific Research Institute. Iran's initial deal with Russia in 1995 included a centrifuge plant that would have provided Iran with fissile material. The plant deal was then canceled at Washington's insistence.

The monitoring of Bushehr continued until the reports from the NCRI of secret nuclear weapons facilities in 2002 led to increased pressure on Iran, above all from Bush, who labeled Iran one of a three-nation "axis of evil" in his January 2002 State of the Union speech. That was when the Bush administration was deeply in preparation of regime change in Iraq, however, and Iran took a back seat, not least as Washington neo-conservatives such as Ahmad Chalabi had convinced the Pentagon his ties to Tehran could aid their Iraq agenda.

Since that time, relations between Washington and Tehran have become less than cordial. Iran has been preparing for what it sees as an inevitable war with the US. Brigadier General Mohammad-Ali Jaafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, told the official IRNA news agency on October 9: "As the likely enemy is far more advanced technologically than we are, we have been using what is called 'asymmetric warfare' methods. We have gone through the necessary exercises and our forces are now well prepared for this." This presumably includes terrorist attacks and the use of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, ballistic missiles.

On January 20, Iran announced it had decided to withdraw investments from Europe. This was the same week UBS Bank in Zurich announced it was closing all Iranian accounts. According to US Treasury reports, Iran has an estimated $103 billion in dollar-denominated assets alone. There is potential to cause short-term financial distress, though likely little more should Iran sell all dollar assets abruptly.

What seems clear is that Iran is defiantly going ahead with completion of an independent nuclear capability and insists it is abiding by all rules of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the IAEA.

Iran also apparently feels well-prepared to sit out any economic sanctions. The country is the second-largest Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil producer (4.1 million barrels per day in 2005) next to Saudi Arabia (9.1 million.) Russia with 9.5 million bpd production in 2005 takes claim to being the world's largest oil-producing country.

Iran has also accumulated a strong cash position from the recent high oil price, earning some $45 billion in oil revenue in 2005, double the average for 2001-03. This gives it a war chest cushion against external sanctions and the possibility to live for months with cutting its oil exports, all or partly. That is clearly one of the implicit weapons Iran knows it holds and would clearly use in event the situation escalated into UN Security Council economic sanctions.

In today's ultra-tight oil supply market, with OPEC producing at full capacity, there would be no margin to replace 4 million Iranian barrels a day. A price shock level of $130 to $150 is quite likely in that event.

Iran now has decisive influence within the Shi'ite-dominated new Iraqi government. The most influential figure in Iraq is Shi'ite spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the 75-year-old cleric born in Iran. On January 16, after the new Iraqi government offered Sistani Iraqi citizenship, he replied, "I was born Iranian and I will die Iranian." That also gives Tehran significant leverage over political developments in Iraq.

The Israeli options
Israel has been thrown into political crisis at just this time of Iran's strident moves, with the removal of the old warrior, Ariel Sharon, from the scene following his illness. Israeli elections will be held on March 28 for a new government. Contenders include the current acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert. Israeli media report that Bush has decided to do what he can to try and ensure that Olmert, standing in for the incapacitated Sharon, is elected to be full-time prime minister. Rice has invited Olmert to visit Washington, probably some time next month.

Other reports are that the vice president, we might say the "spiritual leader" of the US hawks, Cheney, has been covertly aiding the Benjamin Netanyahu candidacy as new head of the right-wing Likud. Netanyahu is also directly tied to the indicted US Republican money-launderer, Jack Abramoff, during the time Netanyahu was Sharon's finance minister.

Washington journalists report that Cheney, and his advisers David Addington and John Hannah, are working behind the scenes to ensure that former premier Netanyahu succeeds Olmert. Cheney is working to defeat the more moderate Kadima Party formed by Sharon and his more moderate ex-Likud allies.

Bush has not come out with direct vocal support for Olmert, but Olmert has stressed that he will continue to work with America to realize a Palestinian state. Israeli media report the new middle-of-the-road (Israeli middle) party of Olmert and Sharon-Kadima will probably win a landslide - to the dismay of Cheney's and Karl Rove's Christian Right and the neo-conservative base.

According to the Palestine newspaper, al-Manar, the Bush administration is conducting secret contacts with the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries in an effort to have them help strengthen Olmert's stature. The US reportedly informed them that it was interested in having Olmert head Kadima and "continue the process that Sharon began to solve the Palestinian-Israel conflict".

The paper further reports that Washington feels that Olmert is a "smart leader who will be able, with his advisors, to lead the peace process and rebuff the political machinations against him".

The Bush White House even informed Olmert, according to the paper, that it would like him to keep Sharon's advisors on his team, especially Dov Weisglass and Shimon Peres. Weisglass, Sharon's personal lawyer and broker of ties to Washington, recently said he was in almost daily contact with Rice.

On January 22, Olmert addressed the issue of Iran. According to Israeli State Radio, he said Iran was trying to engage Israel in the conflict surrounding Tehran's ongoing nuclear enrichment efforts, and that he concurred with Sharon's position that Israel would not lead the battle against Iran. He said that "responsibility falls first and foremost on the United States, Germany, France and the Security Council. We do not have to be the leaders".

By contrast, his defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, stated Israel would not tolerate Iran achieving nuclear independence, a statement that analysts feel signals a military action by Jerusalem is possible, with or without official US sanction.

This all would indicate that there is a definite split within Israel between a future Olmert government not eager to launch a preemptive military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities versus the ever-hawkish, neo-conservative-tied Netanyahu. Notably, prominent Washington neo-conservative, Kenneth Timmerman, told Israeli radio in mid-January that he expected an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran "within the next 60 days", ie just after Israeli elections or just before.

Timmerman is close to Richard Perle, the indicted Cheney chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Douglas Feith and Michael Ledeen.

The question is whether ordinary Israelis are war weary, whether with Palestine or with Iran, and seek a compromise solution. Polls seem to indicate so. However, the very strong showing of Hamas in the January 25 Palestine elections could change the Israeli mood. The day after their vote success, Hamas leader Mahmud al-Zahhar claimed that his movement would not change its covenant calling for the destruction of Israel, reported the Israeli online news portal Ynet.

Last week, a new element appeared in the chemistry of the long-standing Israeli Likud-US Congress influence nexus. Larry A Franklin, a former Pentagon Iran analyst and close friend of leading Pentagon neo-conservatives, was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in jail for sharing classified Pentagon information with pro-Israel lobbyists through an influential Washington-based lobby organization, AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee.

AIPAC has been at the heart of ties between the Israeli right-wing Likud and members of the US Congress for years. It is regarded as so powerful that it is able to decide which Congressmen are elected or re-elected. Previously it had been considered "untouchable". That is no longer true it seems.

Franklin pleaded guilty last October to sharing the information with AIPAC lobbyists and Israeli diplomat, Naor Gilon. Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, who were fired from AIPAC in 2004 in the affair, are facing charges of disclosing confidential information to Israel, apparently about Iran. The sentencing is causing major shock waves throughout leading US Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith. The conviction has hit a vital lobbying tool of AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobby groups, namely, expenses-paid trips for US Congressmen to Israel. Hundreds of politicians are taken to Israel every year by non-profit affiliates of groups such as AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee - trips Jewish leaders say are a vital tool in pro-Israel lobbying.

The Bush administration had tried to bury the Franklin case, unsuccessfully. It could only delay the trial until after the November 2004 US elections. The Franklin scandal as well as the Abramoff lobbying affair have both hit severe blows to the suspicious money network between Likud and the White House, potentially fatally weakening the Israeli hawk faction of Netanyahu.

The Russian factor in Iran
The role of Putin's Russia in the unfolding Iran showdown is central. In geopolitical terms, one must not forget that Russia is the ultimate "prize" or endgame in the more than decade-long US strategy of controlling Eurasia and preventing any possible rival from emerging to challenge US hegemony.

Russian engineers and technical advisers are in Iran constructing the Bushehr nuclear plant, involving at least 300 Russian technicians. Iran has been a strategic cooperation partner of the Putin government in terms of opposing US-United Kingdom designs for control of Caspian oil. Iran has been a major purchaser of Russian military hardware since the collapse of the Soviet Union, in addition to buying Russian nuclear technology and expertise.

In March, Iran-Russia relations took a qualitative shift closer when Moscow agreed to the sale of a "defensive" missile system to Tehran, worth up to $7 billion when taking future defense contracts into account. In 2000, Putin had announced Russia would no longer continue to abide by a secret US-Russia agreement to ban Russian weapons sales to Iran that the government of Boris Yeltsin had concluded. Since then, Russian-Iranian relations have become more entwined, to put it mildly.

Moscow currently says it is in talks with Iran to build five to seven additional nuclear power reactors on the Bushehr site after completion of the present reactor. Russia expects to get up to $10 billion from the planned larger Bushehr reactors deal and additional arms sales to Iran.

It is currently building the reactor on credit to be paid by Iran only after the completion of the project. Sanctions and admonitions will not change Russia's relationship with one of the most demonized states in America's "axis of evil". Iran has become a major counterweight for Moscow in the geopolitical game for Washington's total domination over Eurasia, and Putin is shrewdly aware of that potential.

A look at the map will reveal how geopolitically strategic Iran is for Russia, as well as for Israel and the US. Iran controls the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the choke point for oil from the Persian Gulf to Japan and the rest of the world. Iran borders the oil-rich Caspian Sea. Significantly, on January 23, the Russian daily Kommersant reported that Armenia, sandwiched between Iran and Georgia, had agreed to sell a 45% control of its Iran-Armenia gas pipeline to Russia's Gazprom. The Russian daily added, "If Russia takes over this [Iran-Armenia] pipeline, Russia will be able to control transit of Iranian gas to Georgia, Ukraine and Europe."

That would be a major blow to the series of Washington operations to insert US-friendly pro-North Atlantic Treaty Organization governments in Georgia as well as Ukraine. It would also bind Iran and Russian energy relations. While the Armenian government denies it has agreed, negotiations continue, with Gazprom holding out the prospect of demanding double the price or $110 per 1,000 cubic meters rather than the present $54 unless Armenia agree to sell the stake to Gazprom.

Russia is pursuing a complex strategy regarding its cooperation with Iran. Minatom, the Russian nuclear energy group, announced some time back that Russia was in discussion with Tehran to increase Iran's nuclear capacity by 6,000 megawatts by 2020. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed a year ago that Moscow would supply Iran with fuel for the Bushehr reactor, even if it did not sign the IAEA Additional Protocols.

While Putin has assured the world that Iran must demonstrate full NPT compliance before the Russian nuclear transfers occur, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated previously that the IAEA's failure to condemn Iran opened the door for Russia to help build future reactors in that country.

Putin has managed to put Russia square in the middle of the present global showdown over Iran, a position which clearly tells some in Moscow that Russia is indeed again a global player. Undoubtedly more.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, in a January 18 discussion with the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, stated: "It is not profitable for Russia to impose sanctions on Iran, since we just recently signed an agreement to sell them nearly $1 billion worth of medium-range anti-aircraft weapons. These modern weapons are capable of hitting targets up to 25 kilometers away and will probably be used to defend various testing sites in Iran. Therefore, if some attempt is made to strike at the country and the deliveries from Russia are made quickly enough, we can expect a strong response. In other words, Iran will be able to defend itself."

Ivanov added a significant caveat: "However, if ballistic missiles are used, then nuclear sites can be targeted effectively. We must not forget that Russia has its experts working on some of these sites, and is not interested in a military scenario, if only to protect them."

Russia's current strategy is to renew its earlier offer, rejected initially by Tehran, to take the uranium fuel from Iran to Russia for reprocessing - then returned to Iran for use in the country's reactors - thus defusing the crisis significantly. Last Wednesday, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said that Tehran viewed Moscow's offer as a "positive development", but no agreement has been reached between the countries. Talks have continued over the specifics, including Tehran's proposal to have China involved in the Russian enrichment process.

After his meeting with Russian Security Council chief, Igor Ivanov, Larijani told the media, "Our view of this offer is positive, and we are trying to bring the positions of the sides closer." Further talks come in February, after the planned emergency IAEA meeting of this Thursday. Iran opposition groups claim the Russian talks are merely a ploy to divide the West and buy more time. Larijani and Ivanov said in a joint statement that Tehran's nuclear standoff must be resolved by diplomatic efforts in the UN atomic watchdog agency.

The China factor in Iran
China, in its increasingly urgent search for secure long-term energy supplies, especially oil and gas, has developed major economic ties with Iran. It began in 2000, when Beijing invited Iranian president Mohammed Khatami for a literal red carpet reception and discussion of areas of energy and economic cooperation. Then in November 2004, curiously at the occasion of the second Bush election victory, the relation took a major shift as China signed huge oil and gas deals with Tehran.

The two countries signed a preliminary agreement worth potentially $70 billion to $100 billion. Under the terms, China will purchase Iranian oil and gas and help develop the Yadavaran oil field, near the Iraqi border. That same year, China agreed to buy $20 billion in liquefied natural gas from Iran over a quarter-century.

Iran's oil minister stated at the time, "Japan is our number one energy importer for historical reasons ... but we would like to give preference to exports to China." In return, China has become a major exporter of manufactured goods to Iran, including computer systems, household appliances and cars. In addition, Beijing has been one of the largest suppliers of military technology to Tehran since the 1980s. The Chinese arms trade has involved conventional, missile, nuclear and chemical weapons. Outside Pakistan and North Korea, China's arms trade with Iran has been more comprehensive and sustained than that with any other country.

China has sold thousands of tanks, armored personnel vehicles and artillery pieces, several hundred surface-to-air, air-to-air, cruise and ballistic missiles as well as thousands of antitank missiles, more than 100 fighter aircraft and dozens of small warships.

In addition, it is widely believed that China has assisted Iran in the development of its ballistic and cruise missile production capability. In addition, China has supplied Iran scientific expertise, technical cooperation, technology transfers, production technologies, blueprints and dual-use transfers.

In sum, Iran is more than a strategic partner for China. In the wake of the US unilateral decision to go to war against Iraq, reports from Chinese media indicated that the leadership in Beijing privately realized its own long-term energy security was fundamentally at risk under the aggressive new preemptive war strategy of Washington. China began taking major steps to outflank or negate total US domination of the world's major oil and gas resources. Iran has become a central part of that strategy.

This underscores the Chinese demand that the Iran nuclear issue be settled in the halls of the IAEA and not at the UN Security Council, as Washington wishes. China would clearly threaten its veto were Iran to be brought before the UN for sanctions.

EU relations with Iran
The EU is Iran's main trading partner concerning both imports and exports. Clearly, they want to avoid a war with Iran and all that would imply for the EU. The EU's balance of trade with Iran is negative due to large imports of oil. Germany's new government under Chancellor Angela Merkel has made a clear point of trying to reaffirm close ties with Washington following the tense relations under former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who openly opposed the Iraq war along with France's Chirac in 2002 and 2003.

Chirac for his part is the subject of major controversy since he gave a speech on January 19 in which he overturned the traditional French nuclear doctrine of "no first strike" to say that were a terrorist nation to attack France, he would consider even nuclear retaliation as appropriate.

This declaration by a French president triggered an international uproar. Whether it was French psychological warfare designed to pressure Iran, or the reflection of a fundamental change in French nuclear doctrine to one of preemptive strike or something similar, is so far not clear. What is clear is that the Chirac government will not stand in the way of a US decision to impose UN sanctions on Iran. Whether that also holds for a US-sanctioned nuclear strike is not clear.

The EU-3, whose negotiations diplomatically have so far produced no results, are now moving toward some form of more effective action against Iran's decision to proceed with reprocessing. The only problem is that other than nuclear saber-rattling, the EU has few cards to play. It needs Iranian energy. It is also aware of what it would mean to have a war in Iran in terms of potential terror retaliations. The EU, to put it mildly, is highly nervous and alarmed at the potential of a US-Iran or Israel-US vs Iran military showdown.

The Bush administration role in Iran
Unlike the Iraq war buildup where it became clear to a shocked world that the Bush administration was going to war regardless, Washington with Iran has so far been willing to let the EU states take a diplomatic lead, only stepping up pressure publicly on Iran in recent weeks.

On January 19, the US repeated that neither it nor its European partners wanted to return to the negotiating table with Iran. "The international community is united in mistrusting Tehran with nuclear technology," said Rice. "The time has come for a referral of Iran to the [UN] Security Council." Rice's choice of the word "referral" was deliberate. If Iran is only "reported" to the Security Council, debate would lack legal weight. A formal "referral" is necessary if the council is to impose any penalty, such as economic sanctions.

The neo-conservatives, although slightly lower profile in the second Bush administration, are every bit as active, especially through Cheney's office. They want a preemptive bombing strike on Iran's nuclear sites. But whatever Cheney's office may be doing, officially, the Bush administration is pursuing a markedly different approach than it did in 2003, when its diplomacy was aimed at lining up allies for a war. This time, US diplomats are seeking an international consensus on how to proceed, or at least cultivating the impression of that.

Iraq and the deepening US disaster there has severely constrained possible US options in Iran. In 2003, in the wake of the Iraqi "victory", leading Washington neo-conservative hawks were vocally calling on Bush to move on to Tehran after Saddam Hussein. Now, because of the "bloody quagmire" in Iraq, the US is severely constrained from moving unilaterally. With 140,000 troops tied down in Iraq, the US military physically cannot support another invasion and occupation in yet another country, let alone Iran.

Because of Iran's size, a ground invasion may require twice as many troops as in Iraq, says Richard Russell, a Middle East specialist at the National Defense University in Washington. While an air campaign could take out Iran's air defenses, it could also trigger terrorism and oil disruptions. Washington is internally split over the issue of a successful nuclear strike against Iran,

The AIPAC and Abramoff impact Washington
Another little-appreciated new element in the US political chemistry around the Bush White House are two devastating legal prosecutions that have hit the heart of the black and grey money network between Washington Republicans and the Israeli right-wing Likud.

Abramoff, the financial patron of several prominent Republicans, including ex-House majority leader, Tom Delay, and Steve Rosen, the key force behind AIPAC, were two of the most influential Jewish lobbyists in Washington before legal scandals effectively ended their careers and sent them scrambling to stay out of prison.

Abramoff has pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy arising out of his work lobbying for Indian gambling casino interests. That scandal could implicate far more Congressmen and even some in the White House.

Rosen is fighting allegations that as chief strategist at AIPAC, he received and passed classified national security information, received from Pentagon aide Larry Franklin, to unauthorized parties. Perhaps it is coincidence that two such high-profile damaging cases to the lobbying power of right-wing Israeli hawk elements surface at the same time, at just this time when war drums are pounding on Iran.

AIPAC's drama began on August 2004, when on the eve of the Republican national convention, the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the organization's offices, looking for incriminating documents. A year later, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia indicted Rosen, by then AIPAC's director of foreign policy issues, and Keith Weissman, who had been an AIPAC Iran analyst.

The government disclosed it had had the men under surveillance for more than four years and alleged that they had received and passed along classified information. The indictment named Franklin as their co-conspirator. Franklin, who has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, pleaded guilty in October to passing classified documents to unauthorized persons and improperly storing such documents in his home. He was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in prison last week.

Bush, as de facto head of his party, faces a potentially devastating November Congressional election. With the quagmire of Iraq continuing and more Americans asking what in fact they are dying for in Iraq, if not oil, Bush's popularity has continued to plunge. He has now only 46% of popular support. More than 53% of people have expressed an unfavorable opinion of Bush. The Hurricane Kartina debacle of bungled responses by the White House, the growing perception that Bush has "lied" to the public, all are working to seriously undermine Republican chances in November.

The stench of insider deals, not only with Cheney's Halliburton, is growing stronger and getting major media coverage, which is new. Conservative traditional Republicans are outraged at the unprecedented federal spending binge Bush Republicans have indulged in to protect their own special interests.

In a recent article Michael Reagan, conservative son of the late president Ronald Reagan, wrote, "Republican congressional leaders promised individual members of Congress up to $14 million 'in free earmarks' [special spending allocations] if they would support, which they did, the massive $286.5 billion Bush transportation bill." According to Reagan: "The bill came to a total of 6,300 earmarked projects costing the taxpayers $24 billion, a clear case of bribery. The people being bribed were members of Congress. The people making the bribes were members of Congress. Congressmen bribing congressmen."

A recent Fox News poll indicated that Americans saw the Republican congressional majority as materially more corrupt and more responsible for the current spate of scandals than the Democrats by a wide margin.

Conplan 8022
In January 2003, Bush signed a classified presidential directive, Conplan 8022-02. This is a war plan different from all prior in that it posits "no ground troops". It was specifically drafted to deal with "imminent" threats from states such as North Korea and Iran.

Unlike the warplan for Iraq, a conventional one, which required coordinated preparation of air, ground and sea forces before it could be launched, a process of months, even years, Conplan 8022 called for a highly concentrated strike combining bombing with electronic warfare and cyberattacks to cripple an opponent's response-cutting electricity in the country, jamming communications and hacking computer networks.

Conplan 8022 explicitly includes a nuclear option, specially configured earth-penetrating "mini" nukes to hit underground sites such as Iran's. Last summer, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a top secret "Interim Global Strike Alert Order" directing around-the-clock military readiness to be directed by the Omaha-based Strategic Command (Stratcom), according to a report in the May 15 Washington Post.

Previously, ominously enough, Stratcom oversaw only the US nuclear forces. In January 2003, Bush signed on to a definition of "full spectrum global strike", which included precision nuclear as well as conventional bombs, and space warfare. This was a follow-up to the president's September 2002 National Security Strategy, which laid out as US strategic doctrine a policy of "preemptive" wars.

The burning question is whether, with plunging popularity polls, a coming national election, scandals and loss of influence, the Bush White House might "think the unthinkable" and order a nuclear preemptive global strike on Iran before the November elections, perhaps early after the March 28 Israeli elections.

Some Pentagon analysts have suggested that the entire US strategy towards Iran, unlike with Iraq, is rather a carefully orchestrated escalation of psychological pressure and bluff to force Iran to back down. It seems clear, especially in light of the strategic threat Iran faces from US or Israeli forces on its borders after 2003, that Iran is not likely to back down from its clear plans to develop full nuclear fuel cycle capacities, and with it the option of developing an Iranian nuclear capability.

The question then is, what will Washington do? The fundamental change in US defense doctrine since 2001, from a posture of defense to offense, has significantly lowered the threshold of nuclear war, perhaps even of a global nuclear conflagration.

Geopolitical risks of nuclear war
The latest Iranian agreement to reopen talks with Moscow on Russian spent fuel reprocessing has taken some of the edge off of the crisis for the moment. On Friday, Bush announced publicly that he backed the Russian compromise, along with China and ElBaradei of the IAEA. Bush signaled a significant backdown, at least for the moment, stating, "The Russians came up with the idea and I support it ... I do believe people ought to be allowed to have civilian nuclear power."

At the same time, Rice's State Department expressed concern the Russian-Iran talks were a stalling ploy by Tehran. Bush added. "However, I don't believe that non-transparent [sic] regimes that threaten the security of the world should be allowed to gain the technologies necessary to make a weapon." The same day at Davos, Rice told the World Economic Forum that Iran's nuclear program posed "significant danger" and that Iran must be brought before the UN Security Council. In short, Washington is trying to appear "diplomatic" while keeping all options open.

Should Iran be brought before the UN Security Council for violations of the NPT and charges of developing weapons of mass destruction, it seems quite probable that Russia and China will veto imposing sanctions, such as an economic embargo on Iran, for the reasons stated above. The timetable for that is likely some time about March-May, that is, after a new Israeli government is in place.

At that point there are several possible outcomes.

The IAEA refers Iran to the UN Security Council, which proposes increased monitoring of the reprocessing facilities for weapons producing while avoiding sanctions. In essence, Iran would be allowed to develop its full fuel cycle nuclear program and its sovereignty is respected, so long as it respects NPT and IAEA conditions. This is unlikely for the reasons stated above.
Iran, like India and Pakistan, is permitted to develop a small arsenal of nuclear weapons as a deterrent to the growing military threat in its area posed by the US from Afghanistan to Iraq to the Emirates, as well as by Israel's nuclear force.

The West extends new offers of economic cooperation in the development of Iran's oil and gas infrastructure and Iran is slowly welcomed into the community of the World Trade Organization and cooperation with the West. A new government in Israel pursues a peace policy in Palestine and with Syria, and a new regional relaxation of tensions opens the way for huge new economic development in the entire Middle East region, Iran included. The mullahs in Iran slowly loose influence. This scenario, desirable as it is, is extremely unlikely in the present circumstances.
Bush, on the urging of Cheney, Rumsfeld and the neo-conservative hawks, decides to activate Conplan 8022, an air attack bombing of Iran's presumed nuclear sites, including, for the first time since 1945, with deployment of nuclear weapons. No ground troops are used and it is proclaimed a swift surgical "success" by the formidable Pentagon propaganda machine. Iran, prepared for such a possibility, launches a calculated counter-strike using techniques of guerrilla war or "asymmetrical warfare" against US and NATO targets around the world.

The Iran response includes activating trained cells within Lebanon's Hezbollah; it includes activating considerable Iranian assets within Iraq, potentially in de facto alliance with the Sunni resistance there targeting the 135,000 remaining US troops and civilian personnel. Iran's asymmetrical response also includes stepping up informal ties to the powerful Hamas within Palestine to win them to a Holy War against the US-Israel "Great Satan" Alliance.

Israel faces unprecedented terror and sabotage attacks from every side and from within its territory from sleeper cells of Arab Israelis. Iran activates trained sleeper terror cells in the Ras Tanura center of Saudi oil refining and shipping. The Eastern province of Saudi Arabia around Ras Tanura contains a disenfranchised Shi'ite minority, which has historically been denied the fruits of the immense Saudi oil wealth. There are some 2 million Shi'ite Muslims in Saudi Arabia. Shi'ites do most of the manual work in the Saudi oilfields, making up 40% of Aramco's workforce.

Iran declares an immediate embargo of deliveries of its 4 million barrels of oil a day. It threatens to sink a large oil super-tanker in the narrows of the Strait of Hormuz, choking off 40% of all world oil flows, if the world does not join it against the US-Israeli action.

The strait has two 1-mile-wide channels for marine traffic, separated by a 2-mile-wide buffer zone, and is the only sea passage to the open ocean for much of OPEC oil. It is Saudi Arabia's main export route.

Iran is a vast, strategically central expanse of land, more than double the land area of France and Germany combined, with well over 70 million people and one of the fastest population growth rates in the world. It is well prepared for a new Holy War. Its mountainous terrain makes any thought of a US ground occupation inconceivable at a time the Pentagon is having problems retaining its present force to maintain the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations. World War III begins in a series of miscalculations and disruptions. The Pentagon's awesome war machine, "total spectrum dominance" is powerless against the growing "asymmetrical war" assaults around the globe.

Clear from a reading of their public statements and their press, the Iranian government knows well what cards its holds and what not in this global game of thermonuclear chicken.

Were the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld axis to risk launching a nuclear strike on Iran, given the geopolitical context, it would mark a point of no return in international relations. Even with sagging popularity, the White House knows this. The danger of the initial strategy of preemptive wars is that, as now, when someone like Iran calls the US bluff with a formidable response potential, the US is left with little option but to launch the unthinkable - nuclear strike.

There are saner voices within the US political establishment, such as former National Security Council heads, Brent Scowcroft or even Zbigniew Brzezinski, who clearly understand the deadly logic of Bush's and the Pentagon hawks' preemptive posture. The question is whether their faction within the US power establishment today is powerful enough to do to Bush and Cheney what was done to Richard Nixon when his exercise of presidential power got out of hand.

It is useful to keep in mind that even were Iran to possess nuclear missiles, the strike range would not reach the territory of the US. Israel would be the closest potential target. A US preemptive nuclear strike to defend Israel would raise the issue of what the military agreements between Tel Aviv and Washington actually encompass, a subject neither the Bush administration nor its predecessors have seen fit to inform the American public about.

F William Engdahl, author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, Pluto Press, can be contacted via his website, www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.

(Copyright 2006 F William Engdahl.)