Category Archives: Saudi Arabia

Obama’s deadly compromise


President Barack Obama confirmed in his press conference Thursday that he has accepted as unavoidable the recurrent, periodic Islamic terrorist attacks in the U.S. and abroad. That was the import of his answers to questions wherein he indicated that he would not modify what he considers his winning policy in the Mideast to “degrade and destroy” Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].
His response to criticism and demands that the U.S. should undertake a more aggressive policy toward the Mideast source of Islamic terrorism was to warn about additional civilian casualties from any such American action. Yet he acknowledged that Russian intervention in the Syrian conflict is accompanied by massive attacks on the civilian population. He mocked spokesmen, including inferentially the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who have called for the kind of all-out military effort against ISIS that destroyed Nazism and held the Communists at bay during the 35 years of The Cold War. Obama’s response is despite the fact that most American military commanders and planners argue that ISIS falls only behind Russia as Washington’s principal threat.
In effect, Obama’s program of action accepts an unspecified duration when the current worldwide wave of terrorist activity would continue. His rationalization for accepting such a level of violence against the civilian population was that there has always been terrorist activity from many different quarters over the past decades and that it was therefore not a new phenomenon. The implication was that terrorism is a natural phenomenon and may not ever be completely eliminated.
Obama outlined at some length the failure of his continuing negotiations with the Russians to end their support of the Basher al Assad regime in Syria. However, he took no note of the limited Moscow commitment in Syria today compared with Soviet times because of Russia’s diminished military capacity. Admitting that negotiations with the Russians have not produced any diminishment of Moscow’s activities in Syria, he offered the admonition that should such activity continue, it would condemn Russia as an international pariah in world opinion. That such an epithet would have already been accepted in most democratic circles around the world did not seem to reduce for him the importance of such additional evidence coming out of the Syrian civil war. Nor did Obama’s concentration on the Syrian conflict take account of Russian aggression in the Crimea, its subversion among Russian-speakers in the eastern Ukraine, and its continuing threats to the Baltic states.
The President did argue that the U.S. military activity against Daesh in the Mideast, however successful, would require a more comprehensive program to meet ISIS’ ideological concept. Yet, he failed again, to grapple with that very problem, that is to meet the challenge of the terrorists’ allegiance to Islam which forms their ideological framework. Obama continues, as do most observers, to acknowledge but intellectually ignore that however perverted and distorted their view, the terrorists base their creed on their own version of Islam. Obama ignores that a discussion of Islam and its relation to the terrorists is critical to any examination of their ideology.
Like other important international spokesmen, in fact Obama refuses to advocate that the world examine and discuss whatever tenets that religion holds which produce the current wave of terrorism. Instead, he like others fall back on such clichés as “Islam is a religion of peace” and the obvious conclusion that most Moslems are not advocates of terrorism. What Obama and his supporters ignore is that the terrorists are not Christian Scientists nor Mormons, but while all Moslems are not terrorists, all terrorists are Moslems. They ignore the long history of Arab and Moslem holy war [jihad] to force non-believers [kafirs] or face death or enslavement.
Obama’s acceptance , in effect, of the current level of world terrorism will lead to further augmentation of ISIS as it spreads it network around the world, gaining psychotic and fanatical adherents of an aggressive version of Islam because of its “success” in terrorizing the civilized world.

sws-08-04-16

The Iran mystery


In all the torturous puzzles of the current Mideast chaos, perhaps the greatest unknown is what the Obama Administration thinks it is accomplishing with its Iran policy.

Again, in the past few days, we have had evidence that Pres. Barack Obama is moving – this time secretly – to accommodate the mullahs in Tehran. The explanation for the payment of an old debt to the Shah’s regime is worse than ludicrous. Even more evident is the extreme secrecy with which the $400 million was paid, indicating that the Obama Administration was perfectly aware that it was conducting a dubious deal at best.

The latest revelation builds on a series of negotiations and concessions Washington has made to Iran. The assumption has to be made that Obama believes that some sort of overall settlement can be made between the U.S. and the Tehran regime as part of an effort to stabilize the Mideast.

However, any objective review of the current situation – excluding of course the secrets passing back and forth between Obama and the mullahs – indicates there is no such possibility of an accomodation with the religious fanatics who direct the regime and its worldwide terrorist campaign. So, the mystery is what does Obama knows or thinks he knows that is not generally acknowledged by others viewing the relationship.

In fact Obama is dealing with a regime of religious fanatics who have chosen the most egregious tenets of traditional Islam to wage war against “infidels”. Their stock and trade has from the beginning of the regime been anti-Americanism. They are based on accusations of U.S. intervention in Persia’s affairs which ignore the pro-Nazi regime on the outbreak of World War II and the post-war effort of the Soviet Union to take over the country with satellite regimes among its several minorities.

Furthermore, there is considerable evidence that the regime no longer commands the majority of Iranian public support and rules only with the use of vicious internal repression. That revulsion against the regime – which in the end makes it fragile and any “deal” with it equally precarious – came with the carefully controlled elections of 2013 when the regime was threatened by a general rejection. At that time, despite calls from the dissidents who had been cheated of their victory, for American support, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ignored them

As the Obama Administration constantly acknowledges, Tehran’s mullahs are supporting anti-U.S. movements in the Mideast and terrorist activities in Latin America. It was, in fact, suicide bombers belonging to Hizb’allah’s earlier organization that killed 241 U.S. marines and 58 French servicemen, six civilians in Beirut in 1983. Today not only Hizb’allah but the Hamas terrorists in Gaza are projections of the mullahs’ power in the eastern Mediterranean. The fact that Hamas is Sunni and originally a creature of the ultra-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt, suggests Tehran’s growing international clout.

Obama’s extended negotiations – and concessions to the Tehran mullahs – has alarmed the U.S. traditional Sunni Arab allies, the Egyptians, the Saudis and the Gulf oil states. Israel, a target the mullahs have announced they want to wipe out, is having to adjust its relationship with other players in the region – including recently returned Moscow to Syria — in an effort to meet a Tehran regime strengthened through Obama’s efforts.

The Obama Administration’s rationalization that its courtship of the mullahs and the recent payment is part of settling long-standing accounts is even more ridiculous. Administration spokesmen have been forced to acknowledge that its payments are not only fungible – that is substituting for other expenditures of the mullahs – but probably actually going to support its terrorist activities.

There continue to be 4,700 private US claims against Tehran for seizure of prosperities after the fall of the Shah.. An international special tribunal has ordered payments by Iran to US nationals totaling over $2.5 billion. By 2014, almost all private claims had been resolved, but several intergovernmental claims were still to be negotiated – hardly a record on which to base a new and accommodating relationship.

It is time that the President tells the rest of us on what basis his Iran policy is formulated, the secret behind his negotiations with one of the most hideous and destructive regimes in the world?

sws-08-04-16

The Islam debate


The most difficult political and cultural debate since the decision of the Western alliance to destroy fascism in 1939 or the American decision to help resurrect Europe in 1945 has begun.

The discussion will be an intense examination of Islam and its role in the modern world.

It is an argument fraught with danger, not only for Islam, but for the democratic liberties of religion, free speech and economic well being of an increasingly interrelated world.

One could well argue that the debate is well underway, sotto voce. Certainly Pres. Barack Hussein Obama’s Cairo speech was, if not the opening, one of the curtain raisers. Obama, in essence, extended the hand of friendship to the Moslem world. As part and parcel of his message, he not only accepted responsibility as he saw it for past American aggression against the Moslem world. But he denigrated, in the eyes of most American and international historians, the unparallel magnanimity of a rich and powerful U.S. since the end of World War II..

Even most Americans are unaware of the vast outpouring of U.S. resources, overwhelmingly private but official as well, which helped rehabilitate post-World War II Europe, and then went on to attempt, however unsuccessfully, the uplifting of what was then called “the third world” of poverty and ignorance in the pre-industrial societies.

But for many reasons – not the least the unrest produced by the beginning stirrings of modernity – the Arab and Moslem world beyond it went into a revolutionary period of upheaval and violence. It is a vast exaggeration to blame this movement from Dakar to Zamboanga on the decision of the Bush Administration to topple one of the most ruthless and cruel dictatorships the world has seen in Iraq’s Sadam Hussein. Likewise, the Obama decision to abandon the Iraqis to their own machinations with the sudden and complete withdrawal of American power only added to the tumult.

What is basic to the argument is the very nature of Islam.

The continued repeating of the cliché that Islam is a religion of peace does not alter the fact that history proves otherwise. The Arab acceptance of Mohammed’s preaching, according to their own and what other accounts we have, led immediately to warfare. Islam, first against Medina Jews who refused to accept Mohammed as the messiah, but thereafter, spread by the sword through the Middle East, crushing ancient Christian and other beliefs,. Tenets from forced conversion to death for those who Moslem believers who reject the faith are still part and parcel of the Moslem ethic and in the hadith, the literature surrounding Mohammed’s life, times and values.

A complicating factor, of course, is that the fundamental Islamic concept that the Koran, the store of Moslem teaching, is the word of Allah, the supreme being. Even though there has been historical research indicating at least some of the Koran predates Islam, that fundamental of the Moslem creed is basically different from both Christianity, Judaism and most other religions which accept even their holy writ as created by others. Thus the cliché that all three religions are “Abrahamic” and based in “the book’ is erroneous as is the Moslem claim that at times sanctifies certain relationships with others ‘of the book”, such as marriage. From almost the beginning of Judaism, and certainly of Christianity, exegeses of sacred texts has continued, although at times considered heresy and punished, It was this tradition which eventually led Martin Luther to success in his Reformation of the medieval Catholic Church and its Catholic Counter-Reformation which produced modern Christianity..

Today no matter how much non-violent Moslems refute the accusations that the Islamic terrorists – a name Obama and his associates refuse to use – have their roots in Islam, there is considerable contradictory evidence. Furthermore, there is also evidence that in recent terrorist episodes in the U.S., family members or other Moslems had information about the preparation for these outrages but either were sympathetic or intimidated into remaining silent. Some traditional concepts continue unreformed; for example, that Moslems who lie to nonbelievers are excused from moral stigma if the deed can be ascribed to fostering the fortunes of Islam..

There are numerous spokesmen today calling for a “ Moslem Reformation”. But they work at the margins of Islamic society and rarely have a foothold in the mosques, the halls of prayer, where inforunately too much of the recent violence has been plotted. Unquestionably, U.S. authorities responsible for the defense of the American people as their first and foremost responsibility, will have to servile domestic Moslem circles for possible terrorists in hiding. They certainly will have to examine as carefully as possible new migrants where agents of the terrorists may well be entering the U.S. as they have Western Europe as they have been publicly instructed to do.

. The bounds of this surveillance will have to be carefully monitored by human rights organizations. But if they are to assume that it is not necessary, as seems to be the case with the venerated but increasingly ideological National Association of Colored People [NAACP], then their role will not only restricted but useless. There are guidelines that might be adduced from the long fight against Communist penetration during The Cold War. But there is no way that the necessary pursuit of terrorism can be avoided unless and until there is an administration in Washington which is willing to declare an all-out war and is successful in destroying their sanctuaries to reduce “the victories” of the Mideast terrorists which unfortunately continue to draw malcontents and deranged adherents.

sws-07-15-16

The only strategy


Originally posted on June 13, 2016 |

While the authorities continue to sort out the career of Omar Mateen, the killer who perpetrated the greatest mass killing in American history, U.S. strategy remains confused.

There never has been a question of the enormous potential for Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] to inflict suffering on Americans and other Westerners. The world has rarely seen such naked brutality. But alas! it is that dramatic aspect of the Daesh cult which attracts psychopaths, particularly from the Moslem world, to its colors, even attracting other terrorists. Its weapons in the fight with U.S. authorities are formidable. As its followers sometimes boast, it believes in death not in life as do its victims. Suicide bombers are an almost invincible enemy. Relying on old Moslem concepts, it justifies any deceit of non-believers if it can be rationalized as promoting Islam, something no other religion condones.

The infinitely complicated arguments over how to go after suspicious individuals who may be hidden terrorists has dominated the headlines and the conversations about a breakdown in American security. But in the end, proposed reforms are insufficient to prevent other attacks such as these
That is because the U.S. could not be a more attractive target for the Islamic terrorists. An open society, the first thing to acknowledge is that there are tens of thousands of potential American targets like the gay nightclub in Orlando.

It is true, of course, that there were ”mistakes” in handling Mateen when he came under official U.S. scrutiny. But as FBI spokesmen have admitted, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of potential Mateens in this country, and thousands more who could be infiltrated with relative ease given our immigration problems and the opportunities afforded through worldwide commerce and tourism.
There is, of course, a strong argument for tightening up our security procedures.

But the reality is that were we to move beyond a certain line in addressing the issue of suppressing terrorists among us, we would emasculate our hard fought civil liberties, the essence of the American political system. That, of course, is precisely what the Moslem terrorists intend: to create an atmosphere of such suspicion and repression that the whole concept of American liberty which they detest would be lost.

Pres. Barack Obama and Democratic Party presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton avoid the use of the words Islamic terrorists and any other attributes that associate these acts with the religion of Islam. They may have a very pragmatic argument for doing so; that is, official association of terrorism with the religion of Islam may encourage new anti-Western sentiments among its 1.2 billion adherents around the world.

But if so, their logic is at fault. We opposed Nazism despite the assumption that there were millions of “good Germans” who opposed it. We went through the long Cold War opposing Soviet Communism even though we hoped that true Russian autocracy and its European culture were being suppressed. After those battles were won, internal opponents of the dictatorships more often than not, were quick to concede that their position was strengthened by Western resolve.

Today we face a similar totalitarian opponent; Islam is not only a religious belief but it has always been indivisible from an attempt to create an authoritarian political regime. Even Mohammed, its founder, was a chief of government.

Pres. Obama has said U.S. strategy would “contain and dismantle” Daesh. In fact, ISIS has continued to grow, spreading its influence to other regions, and enlisting the support of radical Moslems everywhere.

The only strategy that the U.S. can successfully pursue is to go after ISIS in the same way the U.S. and its allies destroyed the Nazis and then Communism. It calls not only for an effective repression of Daesh but in a dramatic fashion that matches its own challenge, a strategy that calls on all our resources to destroy Islamic terrorism at its roots and quickly. That may not destroy the Islamicists’ concept. But anything less will lead to a long and debilitating struggle in which the priceless freedom of American life will be eroded and eventually destroyed.

sws-06-20-16

Undiplomatic diplomacy


Fifty-one career diplomats have signed a protest to the Secretary of State and Pres. Barack Obama concerning U.S. policy toward the chaotic situation in Syria. Their essential point, that the U.S. should be doing everything it can to unseat the barbarous regime of Haffez al Assad, is well taken. Al Assad’s regime is now responsible for some 400,000 deaths by using weapons of war including aerial bombing against innocents caught up in the fighting. The barbarism of the regime is unparalleled. save perhaps that of Al Assad’s father, the former Syrian dictator. Unfortunately the regime is now regaining lost territory and taking a stronger line against any negotiated settlement of the civil war proposed by the U.S. and its allies in the Geneva peace conference which would see Al Assad go.
Yet we think the diplomats’ protest is a mistake. First of all, diplomats are civil servants, whose duty lies in implementing policies in which they have a participatory contribution, but one that demands public loyalty. For diplomats who cannot and will not abide by what they see as unredeeming strategic or policy mistakes, there is only one position: either keep still and work against policies within the Department or, resign with a public denunciationt as the Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, a career diplomat, did in May 2014. Ford was pulled out of Syria in a U.S. protest in February 2012 as the civil war escalated. He remained ambassador until 2014 but with an active campaign on against the regime on the social media.
But the diplomats’ statement – and surrounding publicity engendered by its being leaked to The New York Times. — has a much graver problem. The memorandum, or at least what has been released to the media, places the entire onus for the current state of Syria, on the al Assad regime. Unfortunately, there is not much now to choose from as far as U.S. policy is concerned in the parties in the chaotic internal struggle.
A moderate and democratic opposition to the al Basher regime — if it ever existed in sufficient numbers and influence even had it had American assistance which was not forthcoming from the Obama Administration — has been wiped out. Opponents of the regime now consist of Islamic terrorists of whatever flavor, but including both the two principal American enemies, Al Qaeda and Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].
While one can make the argument, and that is implied in the diplomats’ statement, that the nature of the al Basher regime was the fundamental reason for the breakdown in civilization in the country, today the threat to U.S. national security comes from the Islamicist opponents of the regime. That has been proved conclusively in the series of terrorist attacks in the U.S. over the last year culminating in the greatest mass killing in U.S. history in Orlando.
The final outcome of the civil war in Syria – with growing Russian and participation by other Arab regimes – appears likely to culminate in an international conflagration ended only by an international negotiation. From the U.S. standpoint, absolutely essential to such a settlement would be the disarming and destruction of the regime’s Islamicist enemies. In that, at least, we appear to have the support of Moscow and certainly of our Western allies, led by the French with their long influence in the country and who have long advocated a more aggressive policy than the Obama Administration.
The Obama Administration has made its concept of threats to U.S. national security the sine qua non of its foreign policy. Whether it has, indeed, always recognized the issue in the tangled Syrian environment is another question. It may well be argued that it was Pres. Obama’s reluctance to intervene, after initially announcing a “red line” in Syria, and his earlier overly rapid withdrawal from Iraq, which brought on the current situation.
It would be well, then, were the concerned diplomats to consider the broader issues involved in the current Syrian inferno, before taking a position outside what are their normal demanding functions.
sws-05-18-16

Mr. Obama’s conscience


The schizophrenic nature of the Obama Administration continues to run amok.
Polls, for what they are worth with liberal media sponsors, say the President’s approval rating is high; over 50% of the population admires him. But the Administration’s failures are becoming more apparent with each day.
It’s early but there are strong indications that the horrendous Orland mass shooting attack was a product of Mideast terrorism. And while the Administration claims gains in its declared war against Daesh [ISIS or ISIL], the organization continues to expand its influence throughout the Moslem world. Inevitably, that means recruits will emerge among American Moslems for such attacks.
The Administration has failed to root out terrorist sympathizers among our native Moslem population, abandoning methods used so successfully by the New York Police department after the 9/11 attacks. Politically correct nostrums in and out of the Administration defy the logic that hidden terrorists exist in the community. Those who would reveal suspects are intimidated by some muddled-headed Moslem imams and pure and simple threats to their own lives. Nor has the Administration tackled the problem that our ostensible ally, Saudi Arabia, permits its closely aligned Wahabi Moslem fundamentalists to finance mosques and Moslem centers in the U.S. and around the world. Their doctrines reinforce traditional Islamic beliefs in forced conversion, the exclusion of other religious practices, and even political jihad and death to nonbelievers.
To examine and to argue against these beliefs among American Moslems and even foreign Moslem communities is not Islamophobia, a prejudiced and irrational attitude toward that religion and its followers. The truth is that Islam has never had its Reformation and Counterreformation and many of its adherents today nominally at least believe in concepts incompatible with American democratic values.
Any campaign to destroy Daesh and other manifestations of internationally organized Islamic terrorism has no alternative but to examine and openly discuss this problem. An ancillary is, of course, to provide security and protection to those American Moslems willing to speak out against misbegotten interpretations of their religion, or those which glorify instances of Moslem Jihad in its long struggle with the West. [The Crusaders, incidentally, were not a prejudiced aberration of the West as so often presented in arguments today, but an effort to defend native Christians and their sacred places in the Middle East.]
But living up to the requirements of its own declared war on Daesh is not the only problem of conscience for those in the Administration and its supporters.
Pres. Obama has now endorsed Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the next presidency. He does so with a host of contradictions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, with its highly respected chief, James Comey, confirms that it is directing a criminal investigation of Ms. Clinton. Comey is somewhat protected from the narrower politics of Mr. Obama’s Democrats with his nine-year tenure. There is already enough evidence in the public record to charge Ms. Clinton with irresponsibly in using her private e-mail account. Such a charge has cost other public officials their careers. Much worse apparently is to come when more is known of why Ms. Clinton went to such effort to use nonofficial communications for official documents
It will be Attorney-General Loretta Lynch who must decide whether a prosecution goes forward. Ms. Lynch received the approval of Republicans as well as Democrats when Mr. Obama nominated her for the post because of her considerable record as prosecutor. But she is a member of the President’s cabinet and subject to his oversight and decisions. A decision not to prosecute Ms. Clinton, whether now, after her nomination, or after the election, would be a violation of the trust and duty demanded by her office.
These are issues which should be if they are not on Mr. Obama’s conscience. And they, more than his minimal legislative and administrative accomplishments, will be the historic legacy he seems so eager to advance in his last months in office.
sws-06-19-16

The Saudi revolution


The Saudi family is engaged in a struggle to overhaul their notoriously pragmatic if autocratic regime.
Younger, foreign [many American] educated members of the farflung family recognize that The Shale Revolution has changed the whole nature of the world energy market. They recognize that despite opposition from enviromentalists and lack of technology in some countries, the exploitation of shale oil and gas deposits widely distributed around the world is going to continue to produce fossil fuel surpluses. That may even be the case if the world economy and consumoption take an upturn from the near-recession conditions in Europe and China reverse.
America is again emerging as a gas and oil exporter to challenge the longtime hold of the Saudis as the arbiter of world prices. Pres. Barack Obama’s “deal” with the Iranians, whether successful or not, for ending their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, has begun to lifted sanctions against the Tehran mullahs. And Iran is slowly moving back into world markets with its reserves, among the largest in the world. Other smaller producers are emerging in West Africa and throughout Asia and Latin America. To some extent they will compensate in the world market for any temporary blocs against Libyan, Syrian or other Mideast producers.
Thirty-year-old Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince and the king’s favorite son is leading the charge for a radical departure from the norm. Saudi policy in the post-World War II era, after securing a tacit alliance with Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt, has been preservation of the status quo. As the guardians of the Moslem holy shrines in Mecca, they have had disproportionate influence not only on their fellow Arabs but throughout the Moslem world. [One of the religious duties of all Moslems is to make at least once in a lifetime to these shrines.]
Bin Salman recognizes that the kingdom’s public finances are unsustainable and unlikely to rebound in a future oil market . He wants to radically change all that with. “Vision 2030”. The plan aims to slash wasteful government spending, develop a non-oil economy and wean the population off its total dependency on cradle to grave benefits. It also aims to boost private sector investment and job creation. Khalid al-Falih, the new chairman of state-owned oil company Aramco, recognizes that he is unlikely to hold the central role in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC], that in the past dictated world oil prices.
The Saudis are late in following in the footsteps of their oil-rich neighbors who have moved away from crude oil. Abu Dhabi, much wealthier on a per capita than Saudi Arabia, has struggled to do so. But fellow emirate Dubai has engineered a transformation over the past 40 years that has weaned it almost entirely off oil, which once contributed 50 per cent of its GDP.
The planned changes will be extremely difficult to execute. Public wages are to be reduced as a proportion of the budget to 40 per cent by 2020 from the current 45 per cent currently, a goal that could increase public opposition given expectations of rising inflation. It would mean a decrease in total salaries from Sar480 billion to Sar456 billion by 2020, with two-thirds of Saudi workers state-employed.
Other equally difficult targets include raising non-oil revenues to Sar530 billion from Sar163.5 billion last year by 2020 through an increase in government fees and taxes, including a sales tax, income taxes on non-Saudi residents and “sin taxes” on harmful products such as tobacco. The Saudis aim to balance the budget by 2020, with debt rising to 30 per cent of GDP by 2020 from 7.7 per cent currently. But the IMF forecasts a budget deficit of 14 per cent this year.
All this is to be accomplished while the Saudis continue to try to mobilize their fellow Arabs – with American support – against the continuing threat of Daesh [ISIS or ISIL], terrorists in Syri and Iraq threatening its neighbors. Crossing the Sunni-Shia, these Saudi enemies will try to exploit the traditional unrest among Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority in the critical southeastern oilfields.
No Middle East phenomenon matches the long-time outcome of these events in Saudi Arabia.

sws-06-15-16

Hillary’s E-mails, Obama and Common Sense


Not a lot that is being said by The Talking Heads makes sense in the case of Hillary Clinton’s E-mails.
First of all, everything would tell us that any domestic or foreign political figure would be interested in the very fact that a specific subject had reached the Himalayan heights of the Secretary of State’s eyes. She is, after all, in addition to her vast power and influence as the decision-maker after The One in foreign relations matters, one of the most powerful figures in government.. And, of course, the secretary of state is the fifth in line to the presidency in the event a catastrophe eliminates the vice president, the speaker of the house, the majority leader of the house, and the pro temp leader.
It may well be, as many government officials have long argued, that too many documents are “classified”, said to be of lesser importance than their originator believed when he accorded them a secret status. But, as is obvious, that decision must be left with the originator of the document, not to be trifled with by the recipient. And as some of the released e-mails indicate, not only did Clinton disregard the classification, but she instructed subordinates in the State Department to remove the classification, acknowledging that she knew their significance even if she did not agree with its evaluation.
It is probably impossible for third parties, unless they are directly involved and know the subject matter, to evaluate the damage done by Clinton’s purposefully declassification. It is not even self-evident why she did it. But one has to assume that there are such things as state secrets, many of them in fact, and the necessity to prevent their disclosure to enemies foreign and domestic is an obligation all government employees or political appointments take on in their oath of office as well as the commonsensical performance of their duty. This, Clinton did not do.
Again, a good deal of speculation has gone on about whether the continuing inquiry into the matter of her e-mails will result in an indictment by the Attorney General of this Administration. It is, of course, possible that Loretta E. Lynch., who after all was confirmed with a bi-partisan vote based on her record for judicial perspicuity and balance, will proceed to authorize a prosecution after the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] inquiry is completed with evidence for an indictment of Clinton. Its results according to all the speculation in Washington would seem to lie in that direction.
But it appears for her to do so would require great political bravery, and probably self-sacrifice, judging from the President’s TV interview April 10. In that interview, he made it clear that he already has taken a decision that nothing in the investigation would incriminate Clinton. It bears noting, of course, that for a former supposed university law professor – of course, he was instead a part-time instructor and then a rather poor one by all accounts – the President has violated one of the principal axioms of executive conduct. That is that no executive should offer a public appraisal of a future verdict while any judicial or police inquiry is under way. He has done it, of course, repeatedly. Sub judice in the law, means according to the dictionary, “under judicial consideration and therefore prohibited from public discussion elsewhere”. That would include, and above all, by the president of the United States as the chief executive officer and enforcer of our laws.
Last, and perhaps most important, for some time the Mainstream Media have been talking about the Attorney-General’s office and the Justice Department as another branch of what has until now been considered a three part government, executive, legislative and judicial. That still remains the case. The Justice Department and its head under Pres. Obama remains, as it has always been, a part of the president’s cabinet – not mentioned in the Constitution. And, therefore, it is under his jurisdiction and control. Given his now infamous public statement, it seems unlikely that any justified prosecution of Clinton will be pursued for whatever miscarriage of justice. At least not until 2017 at the earliest.
sws-104-12-16

Saudi Arabia: It’s time!


With gas [and oil] gushing out of our shale deposits and the Persian Gulf states [now including Iran courtesy Pres. Obama’s appeasement policies and lifting of sanctions], it is time to readjust our policies toward the oil exporters, not least Saudi Arabia.
U.S. policy, rightly or wrongly, has put up with too much guff from the Saudis for decades because it was the arbiter of world oil prices and the cost of our own growing imports.
But all that is a part of the past for the foreseeable future.
In fact, the Saudis – and now the Persians, are pumping like mad, while counter intuitively, attempting to set up agreements to limit the fall in prices. In a recession-prone world economy increases in consumption are severely limited. We doubt that their attempts, now even supposedly including the high-cost Russian producers, will bear any more fruit than such attempts to set up cartels in the past. Even the vaunted Organization of Petroleum Exporters [OPEC] was only partially able to control prices for a short time in a formerly much narrower market.
As American exports grow – they have already started – so will the free for all.
What brings all this to mind is the idiotic report that the Saudis have just zipped off one of their star soccer players’ Mohawk to the consternation of his fellow teammates on the sidelines of an opening sporting event because it was considered “un-Islamic”.
Unfortunately, most of the individual Saudi billionaires’ nefarious actions are not as ludicrous, and indeed are a major menace to world peace and stability. It is no secret that Islamic terrorists often get their financing from Saudis, perhaps even indirectly from the rather fragile and multifarious Saudi government of the ruling family.
The Saudis are already shaking in their boots from the growing thrust of the Tehran mullahs to carve for themselves a Shia regional hegemony. Tehran’s ability to reach across the Shia-Sunni divide to become the sponsor and supplier of Hamas in Gaza, originally a creature of the arch-Sunni Moslem Brotherhood, makes the case. Our former Sunni Persian Gulf allies’ growing suspicions of Obama’s strategic intentions in the area have even driven them into a tacit alliance – as is the case with Egypt – with their old sworn, bitter, blood enemy, the Israelis.
To expect the Obama Administration, with its total absence of foreign policy experience – and now successes in seven years — to subtlety move in on the Saudis to end their Islamic excesses is probably too much to ask. But to do so effectively would go a long way toward defusing the radical Moslem terrorist sects now, unfortunately, coagulating in Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].
With its continuing hold on Syrian and Iraq territory, despite what Obama has called a gradual campaign to unseat them, Daesh is the prime menace to international peace and security. The incremental additions to American force being used against them – the Administration has just quietly moved B52s into closer range in the region – is not the way to go.
Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have all taught us the simple lesson that if you go to war, it must be with the anticipation as so many generals have said, that all war plans are kaput once the first shot is fired. It is, ultimately, as another American general so succinctly put it, a case of who gets there the “fustest with the mostest”. Obama’s “subtleties”, based on his lack of real knowledge of history and experience surrounded by advisers who have even weaker credentials, have retaught us this lesson.
sws-04-12-16

A Pakistan time-bomb?


Although the Obama Administration may well not recognize it, Pakistan is turning into the U.S.’ number one problem in fighting worldwide Islamic terrorism.
The massacre of 79, many of them children, by an Islamic terrorist group aiming at Christians on a community playground on Eastern Sunday – large numbers of Moslems were also killed and wounded – marks a new downturn in Pakistan. The suicide bomber’s choice of a target in Lahore, Pakistan’s most sophisticated and second largest city, marks a new turn in the two decades of terrorist activity. Lahore is capital of Punjab province with almost twothirds of Pakistan’s 185 million people. Noted for their pragmatism, Pujabis are widely represented in the Pakistan diaspora in the West and despite their religious differences, share much with their neighbors in bordering Indian Punjab.
It’s significant that the Jamaat ul-Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistan Taliban, which claimed credit for the attack, pledges allegiance to Daesh [The Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL].
Punjab is the power base of its native son Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, the province’s chief minister and power broker. It had been largely spared ghowing terrorism over the last two decades and the military’s counteroffensive.
The Sharifs’ political success has depended on support from the more religious, and financial help from Saudi Arabia. Their civilian rule – Pakistan has spent more than half its existence under military rule – is now in jeopardy. The military has been battling a growing insurgency from Islamic terrorists it out in Karachi, Pakistan’s huge port city. [In December 2014, terrorists, massacred 132 children at a military supported Army school in Peshawar, in the northwest frontier province adjoining Afghanistan.].
. Pakistan’s losses, far greater than those of Western terrorist episodes in the West, have been largely ignored by the foreign media. But this new turn of events, a strike at the heart of the Pakistan civilian regime, signals an increasing a growing threat to what has always been an unstable country. From its creation, carved from Moslem majority areas in British India in 1947 in a bloody partition of the Subcontinent, Pakistan originally included two disparate areas at the extremes of the Subcontinent separated by 1500 miles of the new India. That was resolved with a brief war with India when Bangladesh broke away in 1972. But Pakistan was also bound by other contradictions. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founding leader of the country who died shortly after its creation, while basing his claims on the distinction of “two nations” in British India, one Moslem and the other Hindu, like most of Pakistan’s leadership including its military were not devout Moslems.
Fanatical Moslem groups have become more and more active despite a campaign by the military to curb their sanctuaries in the Pakistan-Afghanistan areas. Always keying their foreign policy to their Indian neighbors with whom they have fought three wars since independence, Pakistan has drifted in and out of an alliance with the U.S. since Partition. With the U.S.’ growing ties to India, anti-Americanism is on the rise in Pakistan.
Washington policy makers had generally seen Pakistan as a bloc to former Soviet – and even older Russian imperial – efforts to reach the Indian Ocean and as a counter to Jawaharlal Nehru’s alliance with the Soviets. After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the end of 1979, the U.S. used Pakistan as a base to oust Moscow in 1980-82 with the help of NATO allies, and again, after the 9/11 [2001] attack by Osama Ben-Ladin from his base in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime.
If the Pakistan military are unable to curb the growing terrorist movements, Pakistani fanatics could well become the most important recruits for Daesh and its attempt to create a worldwide Moslem terrorist network. Contrary to much that has been written, Daesh’s recruits are largely from relatively privileged disaffected Moslems, not the impoverished mass. With the Pakistanis’ large English-speaking minority and its large body of technical immigrants in the West – widely represented in Silicon Valley, for example – it could add immeasurably to Washington’s effort to curb growing international terrorism.
sws-03-31-16

The ghost of Bork rides again


Robert Heron Bork was a renowned American legal scholar, serving as a Yale Law School professor, U.S. Solicitor General, Acting Attorney General, and a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Bork was also in his time the foremost advocate of “Originalism” – an interpretation of the Constitution as fixed in the time of enactment. Originalists insist the constitutional meaning can only be changed by the procedures for amendment set out in Article Five . Bork saw this interpretation as the only way jurists could be prevented from creating new law without a popular consensus through legislation. Bork’s Originalism with its delving into origins is sometimes confused with another school on the right, Textualism, which holds to a narrower interpretation that the law’s meaning can not go beyond its stated language. Scalia saw himself as a Textualist.
The current dispute over the naming of Scalia’s replacement on The Court, recalls an earlier dramatic conflict. In 1987 President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork to the Supreme Court. The almost immediate violent opposition from the left to his elevation never questioned his credentials, neither his scholarship nor his practical experience on the bench. But less than an hour after Reagan’s announcement, Ted Kennedy eviscerated him in a nationally televised speech from the floor of the Senate. “Robert Bork’s America,” Kennedy said, “is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.”
Although the views as well as the credentials of nominees to the courts had been questioned all through U.S. history, the controversy over Bork’s appointment marked a departure in which his political/judicial leanings would be a test. Then Sen. Joseph Biden presided over a committee hearing of Bork’s nomination, generally considered fair despite the uproar in the liberal media which had left no charge unmade. [It was, ironically, during a period when Biden’s own campaign for the presidency was falling apart.] On October 6, Bork’s nomination was rejected in committee by a 9–5 vote.
Despite the fact that a committee rejection made a negative vote by the full [Democratic controlled] Senate almost certain, Bork continued what had become a losing battle on principal. He maintained that “xxx there should be a full debate and a final Senate decision. In deciding on this course, I harbor no illusions. But a crucial principle is at stake. That principle is the way we select the men and women who guard the liberties of all the American people. That should not be done through public campaigns of distortion. If I withdraw now, that campaign would be seen as a success, and it would be mounted against future nominees. For the sake of the Federal judiciary and the American people, that must not happen. The deliberative process must be restored.”
But Bork’s political support went mum. Bork even complained of Reagan’s lukewarm continued endorsement. And on October 23, 1987, the Senate rejected his confirmation, with 42 Senators voting in favor and 58 against. The vern “Bork” entered the dictionaries. New York City. Feminist Florynce Kennedy later would lead a movement to defeat the nomination of Clarence Thomas, saying, “We’re going to bork him. We’re going to kill him politically. … This little creep, where did he come from?” But Thomas, perhaps in no small part because of the color of his skin, was not Borked, but confirmed after a contentious confirmation hearing.
It now remains to be seen whether “turn-about is fair play”, whether Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, again a justice with the proper credentials but unacceptable for his political beliefs to the conservative majority in the Senate, will make the grade. Or will he be Borked.

sws-03-17-16

Calling it Christian genocide


 

Among the many anomalies of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, none appear so anachronistic as its refusal to label the persecution and annihilation of Christians in the Middle East as genocide.

Granted that the term has been too often thrown around carelessly, used incorrectly as a synonym for prejudice and persecution of minorities. It does of course have a specific meaning. In the 1948 United Nations Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide it was defined as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group,” including by the means of “killing members of the group.” 

The stubborn refusal of the Obama White House and State Department to apply it to current events in the Mideast is therefore something of a mystery. Hundreds of thousands of Christians, Azidis and other religious minorities have been driven from their ancestral homes in Iraq and Syria or have been slaughtered during the rise of Daesh [ISIS or ISIL].

Iraq’s Christian population 10 years ago was about 1.5 million, but now is estimated at only 500,000. In Syria, of the 1.1 million Christians, about 600,000 have fled or died. Christians have been tortured, raped and even crucified. Mosul, Iraq, which was home to 35,000 is now empty of Christians after an ISIS ultimatum that they either convert to Islam or be executed. In Syria, Gregorios III Laham, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of the Church of Antioch, reported “entire villages” have been “cleared of their Christian inhabitants.”

American human rights activists – Jews as well as Christians – have called on the Obama Administration to admit Christian refugees to the U.S. under special quotas In an ironic twist, American policy now discriminates against Mideast Christian entry. The State Department accepts refugees from lists prepared by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees which oversees large refugee camps in the Mideast. However, endangered Christians do not dare enter these camps where they have been attacked by fellow Moslem refugees.

Christian groups and human rights and religious freedom advocates have been calling on the Obama administration to label the situation as a “genocide” — arguing that the terminology would help to bring a global community response to the crisis. But Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress last week that he is having an “additional evaluation” to help him determine whether the systematic murder of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East should be declared “genocide.” Earlier White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest conceded that the Obama administration’s hesitation to label the Islamic State’s persecution of Christians and other religious minorities as “genocide” is because of the legal ramifications. Kerry was responding to Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R.-Neb.), sponsor of a resolution that would declare on behalf of Congress that the slaughter of Christians is in fact genocide.

The Administration’s hesitation appears to be part of its general effort to find common ground with Moslem regimes in the Middle East, many of whom have long placed restrictions on Christian religious practice or looked the other way when violence occurred. This is after all an Administration which refuses use the words “Islamic radical” or “Islamic terror”and coming to the defense of the Christians in the region would clearly not fit into their strategy.

But U.S. Christian groups are demanding that the label genocide be invoked and that the Administration come up with a program to end it. Co-sponsored by an organization called In Defense of Christians and the Knights of Columbus, a petition is being promoted with a new nationwide TV ad. The ad includes quotes by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio endorsing a genocide declaration, a position supported by 55 percent of Americans, according to a 2015 K of C-Marist poll. The signers “implore” Secretary Kerry “to speak up on behalf of these brutalized minority populations and urge him “to declare that Christians, along with Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities, are targets of ongoing genocide.”

sws-03-09-16

 

 

Venezuela, the world – and the U.S.


 

Another chapter in the long and tortured history of Venezuela is being written.

But this time, given the new digital world of communication and interdependence, what happens there is not just a spectacle for occasional American Marine intervention to keep the peace. Not only are U.S. firms being clobbered in a hapless manipulation of currency by government now rapidly going toward chaos. [Goodyear Tire & Rubber reported a $646 million loss against fourth-quarter earnings, mostly the result of the collapse of the Venezuelan Bolivar.]

Most observers expect the Venezuelans will meet the $1.5 billion in debt payment due later this month But after that, the picture gets murky. With oil prices a third of what they were just a few months ago, and apparently to rock along the bottom for some time, the will await a worldwide economic upturn and increasing world consumption. All out Saudi pumping of its super low-cost Gulf reserves has made a dent in the new American shale technologies playing a big role in the lower world wide energy prices. But new technology there has mitigated the blow. And now Iranian [and additional Iraqi oil] is about to enter the market as Pres. Obama’s deal on nuclear weapons with Tehran lifts sanctions, especially for the Europeans and the Chinese.

A Venezuelan default on its $120 billion in government and state oil company loans from overseas investors during the past decade.would go a long way toward creating a new world financial crisis.

Meanwhile, Veneuela’s 32 millions are taking it on the chin. The latest is government trimming electricity to a 100 malls which have been sanctuaries for escaping the growing discomfort and violence in the tropical country. In this latest crisis to hit the country, El Nino has caused a drought and shortages from hydro plants. This, of course, is taking place in a county with some of the largest reserves of fossil fuels in the world, The fact is that Venezeuela has suffered brownouts for decades. One of the reasons is that electricity is virtually free in the country leading to incredible waste. Meanwhile, unlike other oil producers, in the good times Venezuela did not set up a rainy day fund and has now had to dig into its vurrency reserves.

The electricity crisis is only the latest in a bundle of incompetencies and ideological perversions inherited by the Maduro government from its predecessor, the charismatic Hugo Chavez. Chavez ran a regime o bread and circuses, destroying among other things the efficiency of its oil industry which he nationalized.  Now the country’s economy after decades of mismanagement has been one of the worst hit worldwide by oil price fall, accounting 95 per cent of the country’s trade revenue. At the moment, Caracas  has four exchange rates: three official ones and the black market which has been trading at some 1016 a dollar against official rates a quarter of less of that..

Before Chavez took the Caribbean country of 32  millions down the road toward state capitalism, it for many years after the second world war one of the richest in the region, with a vibrant economy buoyed by oil exports, much of this heavy oil to Texas refineries.

But were it to default in the months ahead, its debt failure would ripple through emerging-market economies, many of which borrowed heavily when commodity prices were soaring. China had provided Venezuela with a steady source of financing in exchange for oil but as its economy slows and it tries to staunch a hemorrhage of capital outflow, Beijing is reluctant to lend more.

Venezuela’s story, by and large, is being repeated in the oil-dependent countries scrambling for funding. Nigeria and Angola are already seeking help from international institutions to plug their deficits.

For the moment, the U.S. Treasury appears to be listening and cringing. But here too the world is waiting for an Obama initiative.

sws-2-11-16

 

 

Mideast peace threat accelerating


 

The chaotic Middle East is taking on convolutions which bring it ever closer to a clash among the major powers.

  • Despite his rapidly deteriorating economy, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is taking an increasingly aggressive role in supporting the Basher Al Assad Syrian regime and its Iranian partners. His efforts to strengthen the Damascus regime have kept it alive but show no signs of a significant victory against its opponents, some of whom represent jihadist goals with liaison to international Islamic terrorism.
  • Israel’s security on its northern border is deteriorating as its traditional Lebanese enemy, Hezbollah – with a long record of terrorism against the U.S. – becomes increasingly embroiled as an Iranian ally in Syria. Hezbollah’s operations beyond the Middle East, especially in Latin America in league with local guerrillas and drug traffickers, are a growing challenge to American influence and stability there.
  • A seemingly leaderless explosion of individual terrorist acts against Israeli civilian and military targets has assumed new significance with an attack by a U.S.-trained Palestinian Liberation Organization security official on Israeli military. The knifing attacks are generally by teenagers schooled by UN-supported Palestinian educational institutions where anti-Semitism is standard curriculum. They are an expression of the collapse of secular Palestinian leadership which is hanging on Israeli security support. The growing strength of the Muslim terrorists Hamas, again being rearmed by Iran, are now infiltrating the West Bank from Gaza.
  • Saudi Arabians are persuaded of their abandonment by the Obama Administration in its pursuit of agreements with Tehran. In the face of an Iranian attempt at Mideast hegemony, Jeddah is lashing out militarily with the support of its traditional Arab allies in the Persian Gulf. But explosions of Sunni-Shia violence, including in the Saudi’s southeastern oilfields, and its see-saw battle in Yemen against Iranian-back rebels is inconclusive at best.
  • Daesh [ISIS or ISIL] continues to recruit young Muslims, even in the West and the U. S. Those who remain in their homelands present the prospect of “lone wolf” terrorist massacres resembling the almost daily occurrences in the Mideast. Despite effective continued FBI surveillance and discovery of terrorist plots, it seems only a question of time until new episodes such as San Bernardino and Ft. Hood will erupt in the Homeland.

The Obama Administration’s strategic response to this growing catastrophe is an incremental injection of small special forces teams in the Mideast conflicts. Sec. of State John Kerry has carried on frenzied whirlwind diplomatic activity. [Are secretaries of state now being judged by how many flight miles they put in?] And he has persuaded all parties to attend a Syria peace conference. But no one believes in its success with parties – including the U.S. and the Russians — pursuing directly contradictory goals.

Not even the other Republican candidates for president appear prepared to adopt Jeb Bush’s formula for a massive all-out military effort to destroy Daesh as a threat to U.S. national security. Meanwhile,Yeltsin pretends to have a common enemy with Washington in the Daesh terrorists, but Russian initiatives in Syria have been largely limited to direct support of the al Assad regime. Israeli, and American interventions in pursuit of their own direct security – for example, transfer of Iranian weapons to Hezbollah in Syria by Iran – run the risk of confrontation despite intense communications to control the traffic. The continued violation of Turkish sovereignty by Russian fighter-bombers and Ankara’s past winking at jihadist communications through its territory pose a growing problem for NATO and Washington.

Despite its continued professions of loyalty to the U.S.-Israeli alliance, the Obama Administration moves closer to the growing antagonism and pro-Palestinian policies of the Europeans. Paris, for example, now threatens to recognize a non-existing Palestinian state if bilateral negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians do not go forward, an exceedingly unlikely phenomenon given the lack of a viable Palestinian negotiating partner.

The latest sign that the Obama Administration is moving away from Israel is its adopting the Europeans’ designation [and implied boycott] of Israeli manufactures from the Jewish Settlements on the West Bank which employ tens of thousands of Palestinian Arabs. Indeed, the “Palestine” cause has united old European anti-Semites with the traditional left for the creation of a Palestinian state which would be a direct threat to Israeli security.

Whether this turmoil will await a new approach, at least one generally anticipated, by a new U.S.  president in another year before some unintended action ignites a larger explosion, remains problematical.

sws-01-02-16.

 

 

 

The Shale Revolution [Cont.]


The  Shale Revolution continues to wreak havoc as revolutions are wont to do.

The abundance of U.S. natural gas, in many ways a more satisfactory fossil fuel than either coal or oil because of its lesser emissions, has dynamited the whole worldwide energy market. Whether or not the Obama Administration wants it, the export of oil and gas is going to be a function of the new energy picture with the growing economic pressure to sell off our low priced gas to a world market which hasn’t yet taken advantage of the new mining technologies.

Along with the flagging economies of Europe, and now China, and subsequent lower demand, energy prices are under attack everywhere. The stock markets, long dependent on high energy costs and their very profitable producers, are lurching under the torpedoing of the old price structures. Fuel economies, sometimes at the insistence of government fiat as in the American automobile industry, are also finally having their effect and slowing growing energy demand.

In the long run, there is every reason to hope and believe that lower energy prices will be an enormous fillip for the U.S. and the world economies. But, as Maynard Milord Keyes once quipped, in the long run, we will all be dead. Projections of energy demand and supply have in the past been notoriously wrong. And they may be again. But for the moment, what looks likely for several years if a continuing low price for energy. The U.S. which has always prospered on low energy costs, as compared with Europe, is likely to benefit from this new situation.

Geopolitical developments overseas, for the moment at least, seem to be bolstering this new abundance of energy. Iraq’s fabulous oil and gas reserves are coming back onstream after so many years of war and destruction. Pres. Obama’s “deal” with Iran is likely to see sanctions against its sales of oil lifted with new entries to the market.

Most important has been the effort of our friends the Saudis to regain their role as the marginal producer and dictator of the international market pricing. They have opened all the valves and are producing and marketing at record levels. The intent, without doubt, was to hammer the American shale gas and oil producers with their higher costs than those on the Persian Gulf. But while there have been some difficulties and cutbacks for the U.S. producers, the shale oil entrepreneurs have been adept at coming up with new technological fixes which have in the main maintained their role in this new struggle for prices and markets.

Meanwhile, much propaganda and pure and simple idiocy dominates much of the talk about energy and its application. Electric cars, for example, may eventually become a reality because of new battery developments. But recharging the electric car off their baseboard plug – if that becomes the reality – is going to demand that more electricity be produced somewhere and by someone with some fuel. Coal which has until recently dominated the electrical generating plants, about 60% of the total energy consumption, is fading as more and more quick fix gas generators go into service and environmental constraints demand cutbacks in coal emissions. The pain in the old and often poverty-stricken coal mining areas is something the rest of the country is going to have to be attended [and be paid for].

But, returning to our original point, progress is rarely achieved without considerable pain – for some part or other of our society. And it is clear that is going to be case as the Shale Revolution with almost daily announcements of increased reserves is no exception. Government subsidies for wind and solar will continue to feed the trendy enviromentalists’ pressure on more innocent lawmakers. That, too, is a burden which the taxpayer appears inevitably going to bear.

sws-01-26-26

 

 

Beijing’s water politics


There is increasing concern in South and Southeast Asia over Beijing’s control and implied threat to the major water arteries flowing through the region. Six of the major South Asian and Southeast Asian rivers, the heart of life in South and Southeast Asia, rise on the Tibetan plateau. The Chinese Communists have been on an intensive program of dam building on the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra, the Irrawady, the Meman Chao Phya and the Mekong, which would give them control of these arteries of commerce as well as irrigation for vast areas downstream.

The issue is further complicated by the effect of global warming on the Tibetan glaciers where snows are melting at an unusually rapid pace on 46,000 glaciers, the largest concentration of ice after the south and north poles. Tibet has some of the most rapidly rising temperatures on the planet. One of Tibet’s lakes, Namtso, a holy site where pilgrims circumnavigate its banks in prayer, expanded by 20 square miles from 2000 to 2014 from the melting ice and snow. It’s estimated that Tibet’s glaciers have shrunk by some 15% over the past 30 years. And some scientists have warned that if melting continues at current levels, the warmer temperatures will wipe out two-thirds of the plateau’s glaciers by 2050, affecting more than two billion people in China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh Bhutan, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

It is against this background that China has been building politically potent barrages. The most dramatic example is China’s plan to divert the Brahmaputra from its upper reaches where it flows a thousand miles through Tibet and then another 600 miles through India., including emptying into the harbor of its second largest city and port, Calcutta. The Brahmaputra is the lifeline of northeast India, an already troubled region with caste and other ethnic conflicts, some traditionally fed by Chinese subversion.

Concern has also been expressed by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia over eight dams it is building on the upper reaches of the Mekong river. The Burmese military junta canceled a dam under construction inside Myanmar.one of six other Chinese-led hydroelectric projects planned for the upper reaches of the Irrawady which would have exported electricity to southern China.

Governments and the business communities are worried that Beijing’s apparent intention to dam every major river flowing out of Tibet will lead to environmental imbalance, natural disasters, degrade fragile ecologies, and most of all, divert vital water supplies. The extent of the Chinese program is monumental — on the eight great Tibetan rivers alone, Beijing has already completed 20 dams or has them under construction while it has announced plans for three dozen more.

The Dalai Lama has pointed out the obvious, that China’s program could lead to conflict. He warned that India’s use of the Tibetan water “is something very, very essential. So, since millions of Indians use water coming from the Himalayan glaciers… I think you [India] should express more serious concern. This is nothing to do with politics, just everybody’s interests, including Chinese people.”

The Chinese program for the Brahmaputra is only one of many issues which dog the India-China relationship. Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi, from the nationalistic Bharatiya Janata Party, has blown hot and cold over this issue as with other irritants in the relation ship between the two countries. Despite extensive contacts, the Himalayan border disputes which date back almost a century are no more near solution than they ever were with frequent if small set-tos by the countries’ military. Increasing penetration of the Himalayan kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan, once dependencies of British India, has become a continuing concern for New Delhi.

Meanwhile, however, China has become India’s No. 1 trading partner – up to an estimated $80 billion in 2015, $10 billion more than 2014. That’s despite concern in New Delhi that Indian exports are largely raw materials and imports Chinese electronics and other manufactured goods. Extensive economic relations are often seen as insuring political disagreements would somehow be sorted out – but that has to contend with the U.S.-Japan relationship on the eve of World War II. An outbreak of uncontrolled violence between the two Asian giants is one more high priority concern that must be on America’s foreign policy agenda.

This takes on new weight as Washington negotiates with Modi for access for unlimited refueling and basing in Indian ports, a mutual treaty which of course is largely meaningless for Indians deployment in American waters. But access to Indian ports would be of considerable strategic advantage the U.S. operating in the vast Indian Ocean.

 

sws-01-15-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrong man, wrong job


Pres. Barak Obama repeatedly refers to the end of his time in office and that he is no longer campaigning. There is more than a little ambiguity there, however, for his modus operandi is a permanent campaign – even when it is for more limited objectives than the highest office in the land.
But now come rumors from the Middle East that he is, indeed, campaigning, and for a new and powerful job. The Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida says he has been secretly sounding out Democrats, Republicans and Jewish officials in the U.S. for support for a campaign to become the UN chief.
There is no confirmation anywhere of these Arab media reports, but they take the possibility serious and also refer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu already engaged in a campaign to head Obama off.
Al-Jarida says Netanyahu is recruiting the Persian Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, his new tacit allies in their fear and opposition to Iran. Obama’s attempt to reach new accomodation with the Persian mullahs has raised the hackles of the Arabs and raised the ante in the Arab-Persian, Sunni-Shia conflicts.
The Jerusalem Post claims a source close to Netanyahu doesn’t deny that the prime minister is aiming to “torpedo the Obama project.” The source added: “His presidency was characterized by Washington’s moving closer to the Muslim Brotherhood, toppling the regime of Hosni Mubarak, and attempts to ally itself with political Islam.”
According to some sources, Obama figures he can somehow resolve the internecine warfare between Shi’ites and Sunnis, between Persians and Arabs, Turks and Kurds, Copts and Salafists, and get all “the fifty-seven [UN] states” to support for him as a messianic UN Secretary General. The UN boss is appointed by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council. The Secretary-General’s selection is therefore subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council. The UN General Assembly, dominated by anti-American leftist and autocratic regimes, the argument runs, would support even an American candidate, one who has made reducing U.S. power abroad his principal strategy. But an okay from China and Russia, both of whom as permanent members of the UN Security Council and have a veto over the secretary-general’s appointment, is another question.
It seems likely that the whole story is another of those wild figments of the imagination which characterize the Arab world and its media. But, then, Obama was a most unlikely candidate for president of the U.S. and there is still something of a puzzle of just how he made it to the office, and furthermore, was reelected. And one gets the impression that outrageous ambition is not far from the center of the President’s personality.
We can’t think of a worse idea, however. Even under the lackluster former South Korean foreign minister, Ban Ki-moon, the eighth Secretary-General whose term ends this year, the office has taken on increased activities never intended in the original UN proposals. Ban, much more than his predecessors, has taken to advancing his own policy proposals, when, in fact, he was supposed to be a creature of the Security-Council limited to its convoluted and often stymied instructions. The office in the hands of an activist like Obama – moving his current controversial presidential initiatives to an international level – would create an unelected, unrepresentative new element into an already increasingly unstable international scene.
Offhand, we don’t have a job for a former U.S. president, still too young and obviously too vigorous, to settle for retirement and elder statesmanship. But running the UN certainly isn’t the right niche.
sws-901-11-16

The energy revolution [cont.]


“You and me we sweat and slave, but that old man energy just keeps rolling along”. Good news to sing about!

In one of that witches ’ brew that come out of the Congress and are called “compromise”, a bill seems to be working its way through the toils of the legislative process to end the four-decades-old ban on oil exports. In exchange, the Republicans and oil companies have agreed to put more money into the so-called green energy subsidies.

It’s not the best of solutions. But the possibility of shoving the growing gas and oil surpluses in the U.S. – a product of the Shale Revolution – on the world market argues well for the American economy. We hope it makes it.

The ban on exports – proving again when a law gets into place it is hard to dislodge even in the face of revolutionary changing conditions – dates back to the 70s. That’s when our growing imports were hit by the price-fixing Persian Gulf and others’ monopoly, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC]. But OPEC, despite recent huffing and puffing, has been dying on the vine, or rather swamped by the world energy glut.

The leading OPEC producers are now pumping violently, even though it is tearing the world energy price to shreds, in order to garner more market share. They obviously see the possibility of the Americans reentering the market, particularly in Western Europe. The Saudis, particularly, see their once catbird seat as the arbiter of world oil pricing dissolving in the American technology which has opened up enormous new possibilities in gas and oil in shale deposits worldwide once beyond the bit of the drills. [Don’t look now but that may also affect how the rest of the world views the Saudis’ sponsorship of reactionary Islamic religio-political movements.]

The U.S. production boom in Texas and the Dakotas and Montana, is cranking out more than one million barrels of crude a day. Current law does permit the export of half a million barrels a day from Alaska to Asian customers and exchanges with Canada. And as the largest consumer in the world, the U.S. even during an economic downturn is burning 19 million barrels a day according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

So far, at least, although the Saudis have oil that can be produced at a few cents a barrel, their gushers have not totally crippled the American shale producers. Good old American technological innovation continues to make leaps in shale productivity – and moderate world demand in a period of economic “malaise” – has so far saved a good part of the new industry.

Still, the glut causing low prices is keeping a lot of rigs from pumping full blast. Luckily for all concerned, the new crudes are mostly light, not the kind of heavy oil the huge Texas refineries were geared to handle from older U.S. fields and Caribbean imports but are welcomed by foreign refineries. The lifting of the export ban would produce an immediate spurt in jobs for the oil transportation systems and suppliers of their equipment needed for the new export capacity. The Aspen Institute says that means adding 630,000 new jobs and an additional $165 billion annually to the Gross Domestic Product for the next six years.

Hopefully, this deal is not going to get sidetracked as the Congress winds down for the holidays.

Not everyone is happy about the new developments, of course. Some investors in oil stocks are holding their heads. But we have always argued that cheap energy is the soul of American economic progress and development and that hasn’t changed, even if some of the players have. [Electricity producers are turning from coal to gas, or combinations of natural gas and coal gas – switches that probably are still in their infancy and too early to judge. But the gains in trimming emissions are already obvious.]

So bring on the oil – and gas [liquidifed natural gas] – exports!

sws-12-16-15

 

 

 

Dangerous Mideast Reality


The volatility of Middle East events notwithstanding, a new picture is emerging of alliances very different from those preceding the outbreak of the Arab Spring and the now five-year-old Syrian civil war.
That new reality is obscured by the Obama Administration, suspended in contradictory strategies of removing the American military option from the table while incrementally increasing U.S. special forces and bombing, adamantly calling for the ouster of Basher al Asaad in Damascus but negotiating for his participation in a “settlement”, and most of all, insisting on talking up an Israeli-Palestinian negotiation which has died.
There are growing signs that the relatively artificial national-states created by Britain and France in the Ottoman Empire breakup after World War II may be crashing.
Central to the new picture emerging is Saudi Arabia’s position. Western pressure and internal reformists are moving against the most egregious aspects of the regime, e.g., its long time allegiance to Wahhabism – an Islamic fundamentalism at the root of much of the current terrorism. Although the Saudis are flooding the world oil markets in an attempt to criiple their competitors, the Shale Revolution in the U.S. has deflated its once pivotal energy role. Saudi movement is occasioned by some internal reform elements, but more importantly the Obama Administration’s flirtation with Riyadh’s chief rival Iran. [Thet have just announced women will be permitted to vote, a revolution in a country which does not permit them to drive.] The Saudis themselves have been forced into direct talks with Tehran in an effort to short circuit Washington-Tehran deals. But at the same time, the Saudis are rallying Sunni allies in Syria against the growing influence – including direct military participation – of Iran. The nomination of a pro-Syrian president in Lebanon and the growing domination of the Iranian ally, the Shia Hezbollah, is a defeat for the Saudis.
Whether traditional family domination and loyalties can withstand this turmoil remains to be seen.
The Israeli-Arab conflict which has dominated Mideast politics may be dissolving in the face of the greater fear of an aggrandizing Iran. The recent announcement that Israel is opening a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi, although enmeshed in a number of subterfuges, is the most dramatic recent evidence of the growing new tacit alliances. Jerusalem and Cairo are in a tight security and military alliance against Hamas in Gaza, supported by Iran, and the remnants of the Moslem Brotherhood fighting a guerrilla movement against the al Ssisi regime. But virtual disintegration of the Palestinian Liberation Organization under aging Pres. Mohammed Abbas – under bitter attack from Hamas– means there is no negotiating party on the Palestinian side. The current wave of Palestinian violence –“lone wolf” episodes unorchestrated by any Palestinian organization if encouraged by Hamas – is being met stoically by an Israeli public. It has not slowed a growing French Jewish in-immigration occasioned by violent anti-Semitic episodes in France, Despite American and EU opposition [the latter in a trade offensive], Israel is consolidating its enclaves [”settlements”] in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
The Obama Administration’s response to these dramatic reversals in the region is an attempt to find a negotiated settlement to the Syrian Civil War. While Russia’s Pres. Vladimir Putin has nominally joined the effort, he has bid up his hand in the Syrian conflict in support of the al Basher regime which Washington still insists must go. How long Putin, with a collapsing economy facing Western sanctions over the Ukraine issue and a tumbling international oil price for its only export, can maintain the Syrian thrust remains to be seen. But the use of sea-born missiles this week was a dangerous escalation, not the least because some Russian missiles fired earlier from the Caspian earlier had fallen short in Iran
While references to World War III [by none other than Pope Francis himself] are exaggerated, the volatility of events suggests the possibility of miscalculations at any moment with even more escalating violence.
sws-12-11-15

Russians facing up to a Syrian climax?


With Pres. Obama’s self admission that the U.S. has no Syria strategy and a destabilizing flood of millions of refugees piling into neighboring countries and now Europe, Vladimir Putin who usually plays it by ear seems to be betting on a climax to the barbarous five-year civil war.
U.S. sources report that Moscow is expanding its base at Latakia, Syria’s chief port and the traditional home of Pres. Basher al-Assad’s Alawite minority. The Alawites, a Shia offspring and therefore culturally linked to Iran’s mullahs, despite their inferior numbers have dominated recent Syrian regimes. Their hold on the Syrian Air Force, long time client of the Soviets/Russians, was a fulcrum to power in the multi-ethnic, always unstable caricature of a state the French created in the post –World War Ottoman empire implosion.
But when peaceful demands for reform of the Syrian regime were brutally repressed by al-Assad and loosed the whole gamut of conflicting religious and ethnic forces, al-Basher reacted with unrestrained violence. That hasn’t been enough, despite the fragmentation of the opposition and no help from the U.S. – after an initial Obama statement of support and then withdrawal – to restore his rule. The Damascus regime, despite the conflict among its opponents, appears to be on its last legs.
Furthermore, Obama’s flirtation with the Tehran mullahs, ostensibly to end their immediate pursuit of nuclear weapons, has realigned Mideast forces. Fear and opposition to Tehran’s bid to become the hegemonic power in the region – now seemingly with U.S. acquiescence — has created a new and tacit alliance among the Gulf states, Egypt, and even Israel, against the American-Iranian modus operandi – if indeed one has been successfully negotiated.
In order to reassure America’s traditional allies in the region that his deal with Iran would not jeopardize their security, Obama has made repeated promises to increase U.S. assistance. This past week in Washington, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz publicly accepted Obama’s assurances – even though Saudi spokesman privately leaked their unassuaged andd growing concern with the U.S.-Iran deal.
Encouraged by their beating off, at least temporarily, a takeover by pro-Iranian forces in neighboring Yemen which the Saudis consider vital to their security, the Saudis are privately announcing their continued effort to topple al-Basher in Syria. The aggressive nature of what is traditionally accommodating Saudi policy obviously has to do with al-Basher’s Iranian alliance, anathema to Jeddah and its Sunni Arab following.
The Saudis are buying billions worth of arms, from the U.S. and Western Europeans, in what their friends in the Western media call their attempt to turn themselves into a major military power. Ironically, Obama has had to go along with what now is the seemingly inevitable unstable arms race in the region between Iran and its allies and the Gulf states and Egypt, which critics of his Iranian deal promised would be its dangerous outcome.
Although it has been trumpeted as Putin’s renewed effort to bolster the besieged al-Assad regime – with its main support coming from Iran and the mullahs’ Levantine ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah – something else may be afoot.
Putin just told a Vladivostok audience – at the other end of a Russian empire suffering economic devastation with a halving of the oil and gas price and U.S. and European sanctions over his Ukraine aggression – that al-Assad was ready for a compromise. But what the reinforcement of the Russian installations in Latakia may mean is that Putin anticipates a Syrian breakup and he is grabbing onto a piece of the carcass dominated by his Alawite allies. That would give even Moscow’s sagging international stature a continuing spoon in the continuing boiling Mideast pot.
But it puts the catch-up incremental U.S. strategy for peace and stability in the area in that much more jeopardy.
sws-09-05-15