Arab Spring Raises Hope for Era of Cleaner Business

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

2011-11-09T143612Z_1011185299_GM1E7B91KBQ01_RTRMADP_3_ABUDHABI-STRATEGY

Visitors look at models of the Saadiyat Island project during the Cityscape Abu Dhabi Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, in this April 18, 2010 file photo. When Abu Dhabi announced that it would delay establishing local branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums, it was an important signal of the emirate’s economic strategy as well as its cultural priorities.The company gave no new dates for opening the museums, which were originally scheduled to start operating between 2013 and 2014 as part of a $27 billion art and culture development on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island. But the message was clear: getting the projects right and ensuring public demand for them would be given precedence over rushing them out quickly to gain prestige.

AMMAN, Nov 9 (Reuters) – Gulf investor Omar Ayesh flew to Tripoli to meet Saif al-Islam Gaddafi when the son of Libya’s now-deposed strongman wanted to talk business, only to be caught in a web of bribery and crony capitalism.

A deal for a beachfront resort project on Tripoli’s seafront was signed with Muammar Gaddafi’s government and excavation work began, but it stopped after people linked to Gaddafi began asking for payoffs, the 43-year-old businessman says. Now, Ayesh is trying to revive the project.

“I didn’t expect influential figures within the regime would take over the project because it was lucrative. I just hope the new Libya will not repeat the mistakes of the past,” says Ayesh, chairman of United Arab Emirates-based Nobles Investments.

Across the Middle East and North Africa, the Arab Spring uprisings have hurt many businessmen. Economies have slowed sharply as political uncertainty deters investment, new governments focus on trying to restore social stability instead of reforming economic policy, and labor unrest disrupts production and drives up costs.

But Ayesh is one of a substantial number of businessmen who say the economic climate is already improving in an important way: it is becoming easier to do business without the involvement of corrupt politicians and officials.

“Corruption was a major hurdle before the revolution and now it’s much less. This has improved the business environment in Egypt. We are much more optimistic,” said Issam Hijazi, chairman of Hijazi and Ghosheh, a Jordanian meat processing firm with millions of dollars of investments in Egypt and the region.

Patronage

Many businessmen are not as positive as Hijazi. In Egypt, for example, some small company owners still report struggles with corrupt officials and parasitical government bureaucracies that only their larger, wealthier competitors have the money to overcome.

But to some extent, the ousting of president Hosni Mubarak has loosened the grip of a clique of politicians, officials and their businesses cronies on commercial opportunities and the licences and financing needed to exploit them.

Companies linked to the former regime face legal challenges over past deals and must operate under greater public scrutiny; this levels the playing field and allows a wider group of businessmen to compete. Egyptian trade with Sudan, for example, is no longer dominated by businessmen linked to the Mubarak regime; it has become more open and diversified, said a business consultant in Egypt, who declined to be named because of the political sensitivity of the issue.

Cases such as that of former Egyptian housing minister Ahmed al-Maghrabi have sent a chilling signal to officials and businessmen involved in improper deals. Maghrabi was sentenced to five years in jail in May over an illegal land deal in the Mubarak era; he and a businessman involved were ordered to return a total of 72 million Egyptian pounds ($12.6 million) to the state and were together fined a further 72 million pounds.

Much the same is happening in Tunisia, where members of the family of deposed president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali once owned or controlled many of the country’s biggest companies, with interests in media, banking and telecommunications.

“The political support and access to funds that some of the leaders of private sector in the Arab world had has been lost,” said Walid Nassan, head of the Jordan operation of Egyptian investment firm EFG Hermes.

“They now need to present themselves on their own credentials and many are tarnished. Those who exploited the system can no longer do that so openly and blatantly.”

At a meeting in Istanbul last week between executives of international oil firms and Libyan officials, who discussed Libya’s plans to buy nearly $3 billion of gasoline, oil traders were struck by the change in how the Libyans operated. The newly appointed managers of Libya’s National Oil Corp refused invitations to lunch or dinner and kept to a tight schedule.

“Before, everything was done under the table and with bribes. Now I haven’t heard anything about bribes, and tenders are being used to buy and sell,” one trader said.

In countries that have not seen their governments overthrown, the change in the business climate has been less dramatic. But here too, the Arab Spring appears to be increasing popular pressure for more transparency and an end to political patronage of business — pressure that governments cannot entirely ignore.

In Morocco, King Mohammed has ordered that the antitrust authority be given more powers to enforce transparency and good corporate governance. The authority’s head said it would be even-handed in dealing with firms owned by the monarchy, the biggest private stakeholder in the economy — although it may have to wait until late 2012 to obtain the power to intervene.

Usama Fayyad, executive chairman of Oasis 500, a Jordan-based investment firm which finances start-up firms in the region’s information technology sector, said governments had become more careful about appearing even-handed towards companies, even in countries that have been relatively untouched by the Arab Spring.

“Abuse of authority by government entities has definitely decreased. I see it applying even to countries that don’t have protests,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean it’s disappeared, but it means that they are more careful and this holds true in Lebanon, Iraq and in the Gulf in Saudi Arabia, where people are more afraid of exercising undue influence because scrutiny is coming. They know there will be more scrutiny, definitely more than before and that creates more diversified economic opportunities.”

He said big companies as well as governments had become “afraid of exercising their old methods of intimidation, influence peddling and corruption. This is helping local companies that previously were marginalized.”

Omar Bitar, head of Middle East emerging markets at consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers, said bidding processes for government contracts in the region were becoming more stringent and transparent, to the point that the award of some contracts was slowing down.

It is not clear how lasting these changes in the region’s business environment will be. New networks of corruption and economic patronage may form as post-uprising governments become more stable; public indignation over crony capitalism may fade as governments around the region buy off the public with subsidies and increased welfare spending.

Some businessmen suggest that in the short term at least, the cleaner commercial environment is actually hurting economies by making it more difficult for deals to get done.

“Legitimate business is being hurt by the perception of impropriety and few people dare to exercise their authority for fear of a witchhunt, and this is paralysing business,” said one Middle Eastern banker, who requested anonymity.

“Graft has an economic value as you measure the cost of corruption — monetary versus facilitation of business…Although companies now don’t have to buy the deal from some guy, it takes longer to secure the deal, plus the political risks have shot up.

“Business in Tunisia and in Egypt, at least on the surface, is not as tidy. You used to know someone who would facilitate business. Now it’s a big muddle.”

In the long term, though, a cleaner, fairer business environment could, even more than other economic reforms such as deregulation and fiscal policy changes, help to solve one of the Arab world’s biggest problems: job creation.

A more level playing field could spur the growth of small and medium-sized firms, which according to a World Bank study contribute only 20 percent of the region’s gross domestic product but employ 70 to 80 percent of its work force.

These firms could in turn create the tens of millions of new jobs that the Middle East and North Africa, with 65 percent of their 355 million people currently below the age of 25, will need in the next decade to avoid social disaster.

“There is no chance that the jobs needed in the years to come are going to come from government or from large businesses, because they don’t generally generate jobs. So it all has to come from entrepreneurs and new companies,” said Darin Rovere, president of Amman-based Sustainability Excellence, a management consultancy.

He said there were already signs that the Arab Spring was encouraging the growth of a new group of young, entrepreneurial businessmen.

“I think it’s exploding around us. These are all kids, young kids. It’s tech-related and you look at their ideas…and so many people just did not feel empowered or a sense of active citizenship. They are feeling different and feel an opportunity now,” said Rovere.

Fayyad at Oasis 500 agreed: “The desire to launch businesses is stronger than before and as far as start-ups and new companies go, private sector entrepreneurs are seeing more opportunities. More closed systems are now open.” (Additional reporting by Jessica Donati in Istanbul; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

13-46

Ahmadinejad’s Economic Savvy

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

‘He’s giving back half of the 60 billion dollars in savings directly to the people in monthly deposits. So every Iranian, man woman and child, is eligible to receive the equivalent of 40 dollars a month.’

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

2011-08-26T105634Z_682489454_GM1E78Q1GTX01_RTRMADP_3_IRAN-PALESTINIANS-AHMADINEJAD

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to worshippers before speaking at Friday prayers on Jerusalem Day in Tehran August 26, 2011.

REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

From the White House to London’s House of Commons and beyond…few Westerners have anything nice to say about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But there’s one group that has glowing words of praise for Iran’s President – and it’s based not in Tehran, but in Washington.

The International Monetary Fund’s latest report paints a pretty picture of Iran’s economy.

It says growth has hit 3.2%, and will accelerate still further.

Inflation has dropped from 25% to 12% in just two years.

And Tehran has managed to do what every major oil exporter can only dream of accomplishing: It’s slashed subsidies on gas to recoup 60 billion dollars in annual revenue. That one-sixth of Iran’s entire GDP.

Why is this happening? And how can it be despite years of economic sanctions?

What in the world is going on?

Some say the IMF’s numbers can’t be right.

But we have no reason to doubt their work. The fund reasserted this week that its projections were independent of the government.

The real story here is that Iran has actually begun implementing some economic reforms. For decades now, Iranian leaders have tried to wean its people off cheap oil – oil that is subsidized by the government.

Cheap oil that has no connection to real market prices is not sustainable. Iran knows it, and so does every country from Saudi Arabia to Venezuela. But in the same way that any talk of tax increases here in America is considered heresy, people in oil-rich countries believe as an article of faith that they deserve cheap oil.

So how did Iran finally cut out the freebies?

The backstory is a complex game of chess between Ahmadinejad and someone much more powerful – the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

One theory goes like this: The Ayatollah thought cutting subsidies would make Ahmadinejad deeply unpopular. An ensuing revolt would then remove the one man who’s come to challenge the Supreme Leader’s power.

Another theory is that Ahmadinejad felt confident enough to go ahead with the reforms because he’s crushed the opposition Green Movement.

Either way, he’s played a smart hand. He’s giving back half of the 60 billion dollars in savings directly to the people in monthly deposits.

So every Iranian, man woman and child, is eligible to receive the equivalent of 40 dollars a month.

That kind of money won’t make any difference to Tehran’s upper classes.

But that’s not Ahmadinejad’s constituency.

On the other hand if you’re poor, if you have many children, and if you make sure the whole family signs up for the deposits, you’ll probably be saying “Thanks, Mr. President”.

The key thing to note here is that President Ahmadinejad had no choice, and neither did the Ayatollah.

Iran could not afford the subsidies anymore. Its economy is highly dysfunctional with many massive distortions and subsidies. And Washington’s recent targeted sanctions are beginning to bite.

It is now harder than ever before for Iran to do business with the world. Most of the major international traders of refined petroleum have stopped dealing with Iran. Tehran now has to rely on much costlier overland shipments for its exports.

And it is now almost impossible to conduct dollar-denominated transactions with Iran. So we were left with the bizarre case last month of China resorting to the barter system to pay Iran for 20 billion dollars worth of oil.

The IMF has a point. Iran is implementing some needed reforms and as a result its economy is doing better. The irony is that it’s happening – in some part – because of our sanctions. Talk about unintended consequences.

13-36

Clinton Backs Saudi Drivers

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Andrew Quinn

2011-06-22T173003Z_1967305151_GM1E76N047F01_RTRMADP_3_SAUDI-DRIVING

Azza Al Shmasani alights from her car after driving in defiance of the ban in Riyadh June 22, 2011. Saudi Arabia has no formal ban on women driving. But as citizens must use only Saudi-issued licences in the country, and as these are issued only to men, women drivers are anathema.

REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday praised “brave” Saudi women demanding the right to drive, but she tried to avoid an open breach with a close U.S. ally by saying the Saudis themselves should determine the way forward.

The Saudi driving ban has been publicly challenged in recent weeks by women who have risked arrest to get behind the wheel. Clinton, one of the world’s best-known advocates for women’s rights, has come under mounting pressure to take a stand.

“What these women are doing is brave and what they are seeking is right, but the effort belongs to them. I am moved by it and I support them,” Clinton said in her first public comments on the issue.

Clinton’s carefully phrased remarks appeared to be an attempt to balance her deep-held beliefs with the need to keep smooth relations with Riyadh in an era of huge political changes sweeping the Middle East and concern about oil supplies.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have seen their traditionally close ties strained in recent months as popular protests erupted in a number of Arab countries including Bahrain, where Saudi security forces were called in to restore order.

Prior to her remarks, the State Department had said that Clinton was engaged in “quiet diplomacy” on the driving ban — drawing a fresh appeal from one Saudi women’s group for a more forceful U.S. stance.

“Secretary Clinton: quiet diplomacy is not what we need right now. What we need is for you, personally, to make a strong, simple and public statement supporting our right to drive,” the group, Saudi Women for Driving, said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

Clinton did just that on Tuesday, although she repeatedly added the caveat that the issue was an internal matter for Saudi Arabia to sort out.

“This is not about the United States, it is not about what any of us on the outside say. It is about the women themselves and their right to raise their concerns with their own government,” she said.

Clinton raised the issue in a telephone call with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Friday and said the United States would continue to support full universal rights for women around the world.

Clinton said mobility was important for women to both find jobs and help care for their families.

“We will continue in private and in public to urge all governments to address issues of discrimination and to ensure that women have the equal opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potential,” she said.

Saudi Arabia — a key U.S. security ally and important oil supplier — is an absolute monarchy which applies an austere version of Sunni Islam. Religious police patrol the streets to ensure public segregation between men and women.

Besides a ban on driving, women in Saudi Arabia must have written approval from a male guardian to leave the country, work or even undergo certain medical operations.

Riyadh is also an important factor in both Yemen and Syria, where protests have challenged autocratic leaders and left Washington trying to balance its support for democratic reform with concerns over stability and security in the region.

13-26

Million Gallons of Oil a Day Gush into Gulf of Mexico

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Interviews with surviving Deepwater Horizon rig workers show how explosions led to what may be the world’s worst oil spill

By David Randall

2010-05-12T172405Z_806941934_GM1E65D03XV01_RTRMADP_3_OIL-RIG-LEAK

Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) holds a can of oil collected from the Gulf of Mexico during the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce committee hearing on the Deepwater Horizon Rig Oil Spill on Capitol Hill in Washington May 12, 2010.

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

An extraordinary account of how the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred emerged yesterday in leaked interviews with surviving workers from the rig. They said that a methane gas bubble had formed, rocketed to the surface and caused a series of fires and explosions which destroyed the rig and began the gushing of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening wildlife and coastal livelihoods. Oil-covered birds caught by the outer edges of the 135-mile slick are now being found.

Word also came yesterday that the oil spill may be five times worse than previously thought. Ian MacDonald, a biological oceanographer at Florida State University, said he believed, after studying Nasa data, that about one million gallons a day were leeching into the sea, and that the volume discharged may have already exceeded the 11 million gallons of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, widely regarded as the world’s worst marine pollution incident. Mr MacDonald said there was, as of Friday, possibly as much as 6,178 square miles of oil-covered water in the Gulf.

Meanwhile, at the site of the ill-fated well, a mile beneath the surface, a massive metal chamber had been positioned over the rupture so it could contain and then capture the bulk of the leaking oil. The operation, which uses undersea robots, and has never before been attempted at this depth and pressure. But last night, the formation of ice crystals meant the dome had to be moved away from the leak.

The interviews with rig workers, described to the Associated Press by Robert Bea, a University of California Berkeley engineering professor, recall the chain reaction of events that led to the disaster. They said that on 20 April a group of BP executives were on board the Deepwater Horizon rig celebrating the project’s safety record. Far below, the rig was being converted from an exploration well to a production well.

The workers set and then tested a cement seal at the bottom of the well, reduced the pressure in the drill column and attempted to set a second seal below the sea floor. But a chemical reaction caused by the setting cement created heat and a gas bubble which destroyed the seal.

As the bubble rose up the drill column from the high-pressure environs of the deep to the less pressurised shallows, it intensified and grew, breaking through various safety barriers. “A small bubble becomes a really big bubble,” Professor Bea said. “So the expanding bubble becomes like a cannon shooting the gas into your face.”

Up on the rig, the first thing workers noticed was the sea water in the drill column suddenly shooting back at them, rocketing 240ft in the air. Then, gas surfaced, followed by oil. “What we had learned when I worked as a drill rig labourer was swoosh, boom, run,” he said. “The swoosh is the gas, boom is the explosion and run is what you better be doing.” The gas flooded into an adjoining room with exposed ignition sources, he said. “That’s where the first explosion happened,” said Professor Bea, who worked for Shell Oil in the 1960s during the last big northern Gulf of Mexico oil well blow-out. “The mud room was next to the quarters where the party was. Then there was a series of explosions that subsequently ignited the oil that was coming from below.”

According to one interview transcript, a gas cloud covered the rig, causing giant engines on the drill floor to run too fast and explode. The engines blew off the rig and set “everything on fire”. Another explosion below blew more equipment overboard. The BP executives were injured but nine crew on the rig floor and two engineers died. “The furniture and walls trapped some and broke some bones, but they managed to get in the lifeboats with assistance from others,” said the transcript. The workers’ accounts are likely to be presented in some form to the hearings held by the US Coastguard and Minerals Management Service, which begin next week.

By then, the success of the dome-lowering, if it is resumed, will be known. On Friday, a BP-chartered vessel lowered a 100-ton concrete and steel vault on to the ruptured well in an attempt to stop most of the gushing crude from fouling the sea. “We are essentially taking a four-storey building and lowering it 5,000ft and setting it on the head of a pin,” said BP spokesman Bill Salvin. With the contraption on the seafloor, workers needed at least 12 hours to let it settle and stabilise before the robots could hook up a pipe and hose that will funnel the oil up to a tanker. By today, the box the size of a house could be capturing up to 85 per cent of the oil.

The task became urgent as toxic oil crept deeper into the bays and marshes of the Mississippi Delta. A sheen of oil began arriving on land last week, and crews have been laying booms, spraying chemical dispersants and setting fire to the slick to try to keep it from coming ashore. But now the thicker, stickier goo is drawing closer to Louisiana’s coastal communities.

There are still untold risks and unknowns with the containment box. The approach has never been tried at such depths, where the water pressure is enough to crush a submarine, and any wrong move could damage the leaking pipe and make the problem worse. The seafloor is pitch black and the water murky, though lights on the robots illuminate the area where they are working. If the box works, another one will be dropped on to a second, smaller leak at the bottom of the Gulf. At the same time, crews are drilling sideways into the well in the hope of plugging it up with mud and concrete, and they are working on other ways to cap it.

12-20

Economist Tallies Rising Cost of Israel on US Taxpayers

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By David R. Francis, Christian Science Monitor

Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion. If divided by today’s population, that is more than $5,700 per person.

This is an estimate by Thomas Stauffer, a consulting economist in Washington. For decades, his analyses of the Middle East scene have made him a frequent thorn in the side of the Israel lobby.

For the first time in many years, Mr. Stauffer has tallied the total cost to the US of its backing of Israel in its drawn-out, violent dispute with the Palestinians. So far, he figures, the bill adds up to more than twice the cost of the Vietnam War.

And now Israel wants more. In a meeting at the White House late last month, Israeli officials made a pitch for $4 billion in additional military aid to defray the rising costs of dealing with the intifada and suicide bombings. They also asked for more than $8 billion in loan guarantees to help the country’s recession-bound economy.

Considering Israel’s deep economic troubles, Stauffer doubts the Israel bonds covered by the loan guarantees will ever be repaid. The bonds are likely to be structured so they don’t pay interest until they reach maturity. If Stauffer is right, the US would end up paying both principal and interest, perhaps 10 years out.
Israel’s request could be part of a supplemental spending bill that’s likely to be passed early next year, perhaps wrapped in with the cost of a war with Iraq.

Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid. It is already due to get $2.04 billion in military assistance and $720 million in economic aid in fiscal 2003. It has been getting $3 billion a year for years.

Adjusting the official aid to 2001 dollars in purchasing power, Israel has been given $240 billion since 1973, Stauffer reckons. In addition, the US has given Egypt $117 billion and Jordan $22 billion in foreign aid in return for signing peace treaties with Israel.

“Consequently, politically, if not administratively, those outlays are part of the total package of support for Israel,” argues Stauffer in a lecture on the total costs of US Middle East policy, commissioned by the US Army War College, for a recent conference at the University of Maine.

These foreign-aid costs are well known. Many Americans would probably say it is money well spent to support a beleagured democracy of some strategic interest. But Stauffer wonders if Americans are aware of the full bill for supporting Israel since some costs, if not hidden, are little known.

One huge cost is not secret. It is the higher cost of oil and other economic damage to the US after Israel-Arab wars.

In 1973, for instance, Arab nations attacked Israel in an attempt to win back territories Israel had conquered in the 1967 war. President Nixon resupplied Israel with US arms, triggering the Arab oil embargo against the US.

That shortfall in oil deliveries kicked off a deep recession. The US lost $420 billion (in 2001 dollars) of output as a result, Stauffer calculates. And a boost in oil prices cost another $450 billion.

Afraid that Arab nations might use their oil clout again, the US set up a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That has since cost, conservatively, $134 billion, Stauffer reckons.

Other US help includes:

• US Jewish charities and organizations have remitted grants or bought Israel bonds worth $50 billion to $60 billion. Though private in origin, the money is “a net drain” on the United States economy, says Stauffer.

• The US has already guaranteed $10 billion in commercial loans to Israel, and $600 million in “housing loans.” (See editor’s note below.) Stauffer expects the US Treasury to cover these.

• The US has given $2.5 billion to support Israel’s Lavi fighter and Arrow missile projects.

• Israel buys discounted, serviceable “excess” US military equipment. Stauffer says these discounts amount to “several billion dollars” over recent years.

• Israel uses roughly 40 percent of its $1.8 billion per year in military aid, ostensibly earmarked for purchase of US weapons, to buy Israeli-made hardware. It also has won the right to require the Defense Department or US defense contractors to buy Israeli-made equipment or subsystems, paying 50 to 60 cents on every defense dollar the US gives to Israel.

US help, financial and technical, has enabled Israel to become a major weapons supplier. Weapons make up almost half of Israel’s manufactured exports. US defense contractors often resent the buy-Israel requirements and the extra competition subsidized by US taxpayers.

• US policy and trade sanctions reduce US exports to the Middle East about $5 billion a year, costing 70,000 or so American jobs, Stauffer estimates. Not requiring Israel to use its US aid to buy American goods, as is usual in foreign aid, costs another 125,000 jobs.

• Israel has blocked some major US arms sales, such as F-15 fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s. That cost $40 billion over 10 years, says Stauffer.

Stauffer’s list will be controversial. He’s been assisted in this research by a number of mostly retired military or diplomatic officials who do not go public for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic if they criticize America’s policies toward Israel.

12-15

Will Obama Play the War Card?

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Patrick J. Buchanan, Antiwar.com

Republicans already counting the seats they will pick up this fall should keep in mind Obama has a big card yet to play.

Should the president declare he has gone the last mile for a negotiated end to Iran’s nuclear program and impose the “crippling” sanctions he promised in 2008, America would be on an escalator to confrontation that could lead straight to war.

And should war come, that would be the end of GOP dreams of adding three-dozen seats in the House and half a dozen in the Senate.

Harry Reid is surely aware a U.S. clash with Iran, with him at the presidents side, could assure his re-election. Last week, Reid whistled through the Senate, by voice vote, a bill to put us on that escalator.

Senate bill 2799 would punish any company exporting gasoline to Iran. Though swimming in oil, Iran has a limited refining capacity and must import 40 percent of the gas to operate its cars and trucks and heat its homes.

And cutting off a country’s oil or gas is a proven path to war.

In 1941, the United States froze Japans assets, denying her the funds to pay for the U.S. oil on which she relied, forcing Tokyo either to retreat from her empire or seize the only oil in reach, in the Dutch East Indies.

The only force able to interfere with a Japanese drive into the East Indies? The U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor.

Egypts Gamel Abdel Nasser in 1967 threatened to close the Straits of Tiran between the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba to ships going to the Israeli port of Elath. That would have cut off 95 percent of Israel’s oil.

Israel response: a pre-emptive war that destroyed Egypt’s air force and put Israeli troops at Sharm el-Sheikh on the Straits of Tiran.

Were Reid and colleagues seeking to strengthen Obama’s negotiating hand?

The opposite is true. The Senate is trying to force Obama’s hand, box him in, restrict his freedom of action, by making him impose sanctions that would cut off the negotiating track and put us on a track to war a war to deny Iran weapons that the U.S. Intelligence community said in December 2007 Iran gave up trying to acquire in 2003.

Sound familiar?

Republican leader Mitch McConnell has made clear the Senate is seizing control of the Iran portfolio. “If the Obama administration will not take action against this regime, then Congress must.”

U.S. interests would seem to dictate supporting those elements in Iran who wish to be rid of the regime and re-engage the West. But if that is our goal, the Senate bill, and a House version that passed 412 to 12, seem almost diabolically perverse.

For a cutoff in gas would hammer Irans middle class. The Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia on their motorbikes would get all they need. Thus the leaders of the Green Movement who have stood up to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah oppose sanctions that inflict suffering on their own people.

Cutting off gas to Iran would cause many deaths. And the families of the sick, the old, the weak, the women and the children who die are unlikely to feel gratitude toward those who killed them.

And despite the hysteria about Iran’s imminent testing of a bomb, the U.S. intelligence community still has not changed its finding that Tehran is not seeking a bomb.

The low-enriched uranium at Natanz, enough for one test, has neither been moved nor enriched to weapons grade. Ahmadinejad this week offered to take the Wests deal and trade it for fuel for its reactor. Irans known nuclear facilities are under U.N. watch. The number of centrifuges operating at Natanz has fallen below 4,000. There is speculation they are breaking down or have been sabotaged.

And if Iran is hell-bent on a bomb, why has Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair not revised the 2007 finding and given us the hard evidence?

U.S. anti-missile ships are moving into the Gulf. Anti-missile batteries are being deployed on the Arab shore. Yet, Gen. David Petraeus warned yesterday that a strike on Iran could stir nationalist sentiment behind the regime.

Nevertheless, the war drums have again begun to beat.

Daniel Pipes in a National Review Online piece featured by the Jerusalem Post “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran” urges Obama to make a “dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a lightweight, bumbling ideologue” by ordering the U.S. military to attack Irans nuclear facilities.

Citing six polls, Pipes says Americans support an attack today and will “presumably rally around the flag” when the bombs fall.

Will Obama cynically yield to temptation, play the war card and make “conservatives swoon,” in Pipes phrase, to save himself and his party? We shall see.

12-7

Iraq Cabinet Ratifies Four Major Oilfield Deals

January 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Missy Ryan

2010-01-06T133509Z_2082907_GM1E6161NUB01_RTRMADP_3_IRAQ

Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani (Center L) and Defence Minister Abdel Qader Jassim (Center R) salute as they review troops during the Iraqi Army Day’s 89th anniversary celebration, in Baghdad January 6, 2010.

REUTERS/Stringer

BAGHDAD, Jan 5 (Reuters) – Iraq’s cabinet has ratified contracts with foreign firms to develop four oilfields, pushing Iraq a step closer toward finalising deals that may make it a leading world oil producer, the government said on Tuesday.

“The cabinet has ratified four oilfields: Majnoon, Gharaf, and in Nineveh province Qayara and al-Najmah,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

Last month, the Iraqi Oil Ministry initialled service contracts with seven foreign consortia to develop fields including supergiant Majnoon, which was awarded to Royal Dutch Shell and Malaysia’s Petronas in a December energy auction.

The firms, part of a long-awaited wave of foreign investment in Iraq’s promising oil sector, must now sign final deals before they can begin work.

The deals represent a mainstay of Iraq’s ambitions to transform its underperforming oil sector and bring output capacity to 12 million barrels per day (bpd), a huge increase from output now of around 2.5 million bpd.

The deals ratified on Tuesday were offered to foreign firms at a Dec. 11-12 energy auction, Iraq’s second this year.

Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, and Petronas won the rights to Majnoon, a major field near the southern oil hub of Basra.

Majnoon, whose reserves of 12.6 billion barrels make it one of the world’s largest untapped fields, was one of the prizes on the block in that auction.

Major Success

After a more tepid showing in an initial auction in June, Iraqi oil officials hailed the December auction as a major success. Gharaf, a smaller oilfield with 900 million in reserves, went to Petronas and the Japan Petroleum Exploration Co (Japex).

Qayara and Najmah, located in Iraq’s restive north, were both won by Angolan state oil firm Sonangol.

The 800-million-barrel Qayara field is south of Nineveh province’s capital Mosul, while nearby Najmah has around 900 million barrels.

There are three deals from Iraq’s second bidding round that must still be ratified, including Halfaya, which was won by China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), Total and Petronas. Halfaya, in southern Iraq, has estimated reserves of 4.1 billion barrels.

Badrah, a 100 million barrel reservoir, is another. Badrah went to Russia’s Gazprom, Turkey’s TPAO, Kogas and Petronas.

Last but not least is West Qurna Phase Two, which was won by Russia’s Lukoil and Norway’s Statoil. The supergiant field has reserves of 12.9 billion barrel.

After the deals were initialled, the government said it was seeking a number of technical or operational amendments to the contracts.

“Sonangol was the first company to accept the proposed amendments followed by the other companies whose contracts were approved today by the cabinet,” said Sabah Abdul Kadhim, head of the legal and commercial section of the Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate.

He said responses from the other companies were expected by Thursday. (Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; editing by James Jukwey)

12-2

Mideast Firms Ramp Up in Iraq, Western Firms Trail

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Deepa Babington

2009-11-27T155315Z_1505821627_GM1E5BR1TSO01_RTRMADP_3_IRAQ-OIL

Workers dig a new oil well at South Rumaila oil field, in southern Iraq November 26, 2009. Britain’s BP and China’s CNPC have clinched a final agreement to operate Iraq’s biggest field, Rumaila, and groups led by Italy’s Eni and U.S. major Exxon Mobil have secured initial deals over Zubair and West Qurna Phase One. Picture taken November 26, 2009. 

REUTERS/Atef Hassan

BAGHDAD, Nov 30 (Reuters) – While Western firms notch up high-profile energy deals in Iraq, smaller regional firms from Iran to Turkey are quietly building a broader Iraqi presence by pumping billions of dollars into housing and other projects.

Pledges by companies to invest in Iraq are suddenly taking off as violence falls sharply and the government seeks help to rebuild after years of war, sanctions and bloodshed.

Investors have announced $156.7 billion worth of projects in Iraq this year, not all of which are likely to bear fruit, Dunia Frontier Consultants said in a report.
Much of the spotlight has fallen on mega-deals by Big Oil firms like Exxon Mobil <XOM.N> and BP <BP.L> for oilfields, but high security costs — 26 percent of total costs according to one estimate — have deterred Westerners from other sectors.

Meanwhile, Iranian investors have been piling into the Shi’ite Muslim tourism business, Turkish companies have cornered the market in the Kurdish north and Gulf companies, some run by Iraqi expatriates, are nailing construction deals.

Middle East firms are perhaps more accustomed to operating in difficult environments, and have an easier time navigating Iraqi red tape and corruption, analysts said.

“It is easier for Gulf and regional companies to operate here because they know the mentality here,” said Munther al Fattal, director of investment promotion at the U.S. agency for international development’s Tijara project.

“Security has greatly improved but there still are a lot of impediments such as bureaucracy and lack of transparency.”

While most investment projects announced in Iraq never seem to get off the ground, the growing business clout of regional firms is increasingly obvious.

Turkish firms have been investing in projects in the north and plan an $8 billion mixed development project in the south, while Iranian firms have catered to tourism supporting Shi’ite pilgrimages to the holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala as well as industrial projects in Basra in the south, Dunia says.

Lebanese investors have opened up a bank and plan to set up a $500 million residential city and dairy factory in Diwaniya, while investors from the United Arab Emirates have been eyeing residential complexes and infrastructure projects.

US is Small Fry Outside Energy

The United Arab Emirates has emerged as the top foreign investor in Iraq this year with pledges of $37.7 billion, followed by South Korea and the United States, Dunia said.

But South Korea owes its number two spot almost entirely to a planned $20 billion investment in a new industrial city in Anbar province’s untapped gas fields, which appears to be little more than a pipedream or at the very least, aspirational.

The U.S. position in the rankings is almost entirely due to Exxon’s $25 billion contract for the West Qurna oilfield, which has yet to be ratified by the Iraqi cabinet. U.S. investment into Iraq accounts for less than 1 percent of the total if government contracts and oil are excluded.

A look at smaller deals offers a more revealing picture of the players with a wider presence in Iraq.

Lebanon tops the list of investment deals below $1 billion, followed by South Korea, Iran, the UAE and Turkey, Dunia said.

Once again, South Korea’s position in the list is misleading, exaggerated due to a single energy project.

“Once the major energy deals are stripped away, it is largely regional players that dominate,” the Dunia report said.

Some analysts say the dominance of Middle East players is likely to continue.

“Most of the investment will come from Gulf States and Jordan — with a significant contribution from Iran,” said Gavin Jones of Upper Quartile, an Edinburgh-based research firm.

He said repatriation of wealth by Iraqis living in Jordan or the Gulf could account for a sizeable chunk.

(Editing by Michael Christie; Editing by Victoria Main) ((deepa.babington@thomsonreuters.com, Baghdad newsroom, +964 7901 917 023, deepa.babington.reuters.com@reuters.net))

11-50

Iraqi Mujahideen

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Iraqi Resistance Responds to President Obama

Press Release, The Political Committee / Baghdad / The Republic of Iraq, Official English Transcript

Editor’s note:  We are printing this March 2009 announcement because it is absolutely newsworthy and even essential to consider in order to understand Iraq, and absolutely not as an endorsement of the insurgency in Iraq.  Also due to the length of the statement only part of it is here, for the rest please see our website.

Statement in Response to President Obama’s Remarks made on the 27th or February 2009 regarding the proclaimed ending to the occupation of The Republic of Iraq.

Good Evening, 

In Respect to the remarks of President Barak Hussain Obama, The president of the United States of America. The Political Committee of a number of factions in the Iraqi Resistance, mainly the factions present in our front, respond with our point of view on the contents of his speech.

Over the last four months, as the battle of our people continues to free Iraq of all foreign occupation. We have been studying the movements on the ground as well as analyzing the intelligence in order to assess the next strategy that the US administration will take under the leadership of the new presidency. 

We had formulated our own plan of action based on the above mentioned, but have chosen to give the new president enough time to gather his thoughts and have a suitable amount of reports & briefings that would give him also a good picture of the daily developments on the ground. 

President Obama, After listening to your speech on the 27th of February 2009, in which you declared your general and public understanding of the ongoing war against our people, and gave your military and the honorable people of the United States brief points on your intentions in our country, we felt the spirit of the speech that your predecessor President JFK gave on the 20th of January 1961, on his inaugural address. In this speech, he offered a turbulent world, a way out of tensions and paid with his own blood for challenging the interests of those in your consecutive governments who hold the true keys to power. Those who would do anything to preserve their interests, wealth, & power to create wars & conflict.  

We mention this with great honesty in hope to spread awareness and remembrance that a new Caesar may be betrayed, by his own, if he chooses to follow a different path. We do believe, on the other hand, that the spirit of the speech was well chosen. 

We have listened well to your economic plans for your country released before this speech as well, and as ambitious as it may seem, we believe that if intentions are genuine within your congress, a considerable number of  what you seek will eventually be fulfilled, but in case of failure, the republicans will be looking for a scapegoat to relate all their failures to. In this case it would be your administration. This will guarantee them a fast comeback. 

You have inherited a nation at war, a failed economy, and a desperate people who are bearing the full brunt of an economic crisis that was not of their making. As well as thousands of young men dead and handicapped. 

We have inherited a foreign occupation, endless counts of innocent dead, injured, and handicapped, millions of refugees, in essence, Mr. President, the complete and planned disintegration of our nation and people. 

We believe that the funds wasted in this war would have been more useful if it were spent on research to develop alternative energy, which no doubt would have reduced energy conflicts, cures for cancer, agricultural solutions to prevent worldwide poverty, advancements to develop Africa, where people still die of starvation and intentional neglect. Endless causes, all in need of immediate attention.

By the will of God almighty, the resilience of our men, and the patience of our humble people, we have so far managed to halt and render useless all imperialist agendas set for Iraq and the region in whole. Simply by choosing to resist occupation, a right guaranteed by God first and then by international conventions to all men. A right your country’s policies continue to disrespect and dishonor, in clear example to state sponsored Terrorism. 

You have spoken to our people in part of your speech, and we thank you for these words, you have displayed a far better understanding our nation, than your predecessor, who preferred to dive deep into the oceans of illiteracy and ignorance. Despite the fact that you did not mention the Iraqi resistance in your speech, and chose to label us as terrorists along with those who arrived with your troops, we will set that aside for now, and mention a few facts for the record.

1-     The people of Iraq whom you addressed, in all their sects colors and religions, refuse your occupation, and those who accept it, are those who benefit from it.

2-     The Iraqis you addressed, as we truly hope, are not the ones who bathe in the riches of treason, behind your walls of the green zone, nor are they the likes of Ahmed Al Chalabi, whom your previous government conspired with and his likes from the dark alleys of 5 star hotels in the US and Europe prior to your occupation.

3-     The Iraqi people you talked to, are those who never invited your occupation, and were trying their best to survive on what was possible, under the criminal sanctions that went on for 13 years only to be crowned with a foreign occupation, unmatched in criminal acts, in today’s modern world.

President Obama, The suffering, that our people had to go through is beyond comprehension. And the endless crimes of your troops as well as that of neighboring countries, cannot simply be undone or dismissed, nor can they be brushed under the carpet. Your troops still occupy the land and kill the innocent, that is why we can only address you as the president of an occupying nation.  

The Iraqi People are disappointed in your plan. They expect your troops to leave our country in full and not in part. Our people, seek a complete end of occupation and not the fulfillment of a strategic treaty that was rushed against the will of our people, in the last few days of your predecessor. 

Our people, as well as the majority of people around the world, and in your country, want to see the last president be presented to an international war crime tribunal for all the crimes he has committed in the name of your country, only to benefit those who brought him to power in the first place.

We have never invited your occupation, nor have we asked your country to steal our country’s resources to benefit your corporations and to those neighboring states which historically fall under your influence. We have never asked you for your precious blood or ours, to us, all blood is precious even that of the your soldiers sent by your government to die not knowing what they were truly fighting for. This has to be addressed to the man who started this war, and is hiding now in Texas, while you try to undo his damage. 

We the Iraqi People and their resistance demand the following:

1-     The fulfillment of all the conditions presented to your government through the mediators you sent in 2006.

2-     The hand over of all the traitors & Collaborators in the green zone to the Iraqi people where they will be dealt with as any nation would do with in cases of high treason. 

3-     The full & just compensation for our people for the losses they have suffered.

4-     The halting of all compensations paid to those who fall under your umbrella in the region from the resources of our people.

5-     The return of all land stolen from our country.

6-     The departure of all foreign corporations mainly in the sectors of energy, communication, & infrastructure rebuilding, specifically those linked to Neocon interests. Our people are more than qualified to rebuild and operate our institutions.

7-     The hand over of all mercenaries accused of killing innocent civilians mainly security contractors in Black Water and their CEO to be tried for murder.

8-     All foreign advisors are to leave Iraq with your troops.

9-     The dismantling of all militias equipped by your country and Iran together to shift the nature of battle towards the sectarian nature in order to allow your troops to concentrate on the major resistance activities in the central region of Iraq.

10-  The halting of all support to the sectarian government elected in the orchestrated elections in the green zone.

11-  The reduction of the influence of your Persian allies in Iraq which your previous government worked with in close conjunction and who continue to fund Al Qaeda on behalf of  your intelligence agency’s behalf.

12-  The return to the old constitution of a unified Iraq. And the Upholding of new elections Within 6 months of the resistance taking power of the nation, this will be supervised, by must be conducted in the presence of a number of credible international monitors. Not the ones sponsored by the CIA.

13-  Cities and provinces are to be handed over one by one starting with the four main cities and airports of  Baghdad, Basra, then Mosul and Kirkuk in the same order. The rest will fall immediately in our hands. The borders will have other arrangements. 

The list goes on, but the intention is to give you an idea of what we pledged our people to achieve. In return for our people’s demands, we will cease to attack all occupation forces withdrawing to the south and beyond the border post of Safwan.  

Without these straightforward moves on your part, we regret to inform you that the resistance of the people of Iraq will continue until that last boot of US/British/Persian occupation is thrown across the borders of our country. 

If you choose change as you claim, then you must have reached the conclusion that to continue dealing with the same people your predecessor appointed to fulfill his dirty work, will fail to deliver positive results for both our people. It is not the thieves of the green zone who brought the defeat of your military. 

You must search further for the honest Iraqis and from the ranks of our people and not those of your collaborators to achieve a  just solution. You can also recognize the right for the Iraqi people to resist and publicly ask for our advice and representation. The Iraqi people intend to be masters of their own house as they always have, and by following the plan you have declared, you have not yet fully understood Iraq well.

There are those who will claim, that a quick  withdrawal from Iraq will cause civil war, and that is a possibility, but we would also like to clarify that the forces of the puppet government which has been equipped to defeat the resistance will not stand ground, nor will they block our efforts to liberate our cities one by one if we had to, and all the efforts of your collaborators to move to the north and south of the country and create their own federal states have been studied well for their weaknesses and will be crushed within a short period. This is a more realistic scenario. True there will be still the Persian occupation which will offer it’s militias support, but we know that the US cannot leave the oil rich south to be occupied by Iran, and they would rather see it fall in our hands instead. As it would be giving too much to a close yet not so trust worthy ally, and would deprive your military necessary funds that would support long-term military presence necessary in Iraq and throughout the region. Funds that  some in your government think they can still rely on. Funds that your economy can no longer bear in the midst of the turmoil in the globalized economy of your nation, to control the world.  

The Iraqi resistance understands well that the US could not continue to sell oil at a high price of 120 USD/Barrel to cover the costs of it’s war, as this strengthens old adversaries. And it would be only a matter of time before this tactic backfires on the US foreign policy. But it also understands that the US cannot fund foreign occupation any more without depending on local resources and revenues to cover the expenses. This is the true cause of the change of “Strategy” as you named it President Obama.

With oil prices falling to their true realistic market values, & the winter ending in the consuming economies, the oil prices should fall to 30 USD plus mark, which is also effecting the local economies of your allies in the region, as anything below 55 USD per barrel, is already becoming a burden on these economies, which in turn can no longer assist to their full potential in funding and supporting the costs of US aggression in the Region. 

The Declining of oil revenues, which we truly thank you for mentioning in your speech, will make it more difficult to fund your military’s operations in Iraq, and that is why the numbers of your troops is to be reduced. To match the income predicted from the oil projects sponsored by your corporations in the south and the oil theft operations run by your agent, Hamid Jaffar in the north of Iraq in collaboration with NGO oil of Norway, is what your strategists think is possible. 

Yes President Obama, we do agree with you, that the US needs a smarter, more sustainable & comprehensive approach, but rest assured, that what your predecessor has failed to achieve with all the military might at his disposal, we will make sure that you will fail to achieve the same goals through the soft hand of the Democratic party. 

In fact, it is more logical and practical to follow the alternative energy programs that you have set wisely, to ensure the non reliance of your economy on oil as well as the utilization of  advancements and added fruits of R&D to employ the unemployed, and support a new and young market for the shift in energy dependence, and in turn end the monopolization of energy, practiced by the corporations that control it and control world political and social stability, than to merely dream of  expecting the Iraqi People to hand you over their resources. 

We on the other hand intend to nationalize and use our resources to build an alternative energy base our selves and offer our people a life of prosperity, & stability, as well as supporting the energy transition of other nations that are oil dependant, a task we truly believe is noble and worthwhile. 

The Iraqi Resistance will not accept any short term or long term energy contracts with the US until we ensure that the rights of our people are properly addressed. And within the parameters of relations based on mutual respect first and mutual interests second. 

President Obama, It is time that people in Washington understand that there are no shared interest between an occupying tyrant and an oppressed victim of occupation. 

Your government would have stayed forever in Iraq if the traitors who conspired with your consecutive administrations had their way in starving the Iraqi people into submission and force them to welcome your occupying troops with flowers as Chalabi promised you. But after three wars and over a decade of sanctions, there were enough honest men to defeat the world’s most powerful army & play a major role in destroying the most imperialistic Globalized economy ever developed by expansionary capitalism. 

These are the type of people you are speaking to Mr. Obama. And if you were not presented with this reality throughout the briefings that occurred, and understood the true scale of the economic disaster with all the social and geopolitical  implications of your military defeat in Iraq, then please allow us to mention a few of the major achievements that the Iraqi Resistance have promised it’s people and the free people of the world and has delivered:

1-     We promised to pin down your troops in Iraq and drain your economy until you admit defeat and withdraw your troops. And this we fulfilled.

2-     We promised to halt the US plan for Middle East in full, and prevent the loss of other innocent lives in other neighboring countries, and that we fulfilled.  

3-     We embraced the war and continue the fight on behalf of all the oppressed world, which not only stood still and watched the massacre of our people and the illegal occupation of our nation, but many of it’s leaders participated and continue in harming our people inside and outside Iraq and assist in the theft of our resources. This, apart from the support of honest people all around the world,

4-     including citizens of your country, who marched day and night to support the cause of Iraq’s right to resist, marches that defied the weather, and weathered criminal defiance and ignorance of world politicians. Marches that we will ever be indebt to, and in gratitude & in appreciation for. May God bless those people wherever they are.  And this we fulfilled and continue to do so.

5-     We have understood the nature of international balances of power and most importantly predicted the primitive mind of the occupation and played a major role in forcing the US to increase oil prices in clear desperation for cash. And use that to allow other powers to recover. And the numbers never lied, this we also fulfilled.

6-     The Iraqi People wrote a new chapter in Urban warfare, and invented the art of remote combat, and in turn gave the world lessons and set a new standard in how to defeat the world’s most powerful army. In this, the most dangerous achievement that threatens US global influence is that all the oppressed people who suffer from negative US influence, can use this experience to free themselves as well. This also has been delivered. 

7-     The Resistance has already drafted its 2, 5 and 10 year plan to engage Iraq in rebuilding programs that will set a new standard for development in the Region and restore Iraq to it’s rightfully earned place in world politics and positive human development. This while maintaining Iraq’s isolation from harmful neighboring countries at the same time, these plans was prepared and drafted in the early months of 2007 and are ready to implement once we see the end of your occupation.  

8-     The resistance created a new battle field and utilized every tool available to break free of the corporate media and tell, inform, and educate the world of the true nature of the struggle, and present every curious man and woman daily reports and videos of your military’s defeat and in every language possible. People from all over the world, chose out of their own free will and time, people of different religions and backgrounds chose to be soldiers  of the cyber wars and translated all what we had to tell, asking nothing in return but the truth. The true casualties of your war are yet to be declared. (We refer to the green card soldiers) 

9-     The resistance has sparked not only the collapse of the US economy, but also caused the domino effect and the destruction of your fine tuned and delicate Globalized economy, and forced the return to national economic protection, and the rights of local and regional economies to grow and ensure a decent life and practice their right to develop as well.  All your efforts to restore the globalized economy  will deliver nothing of value, and puppet governments that maintain your oversight of world resources will eventually fall, one after the other, as their faults will be more evident to their average citizens, and that is why you are now receiving daily reports, from the CIA about the world economy. 

ALL THE ABOVE, AND YOU STILL CHOOSE TO IGNORE THE RESISTANCE OF THE IRAQI PEOPLE AND THE RESISTANCE OF THE GLOBAL ALLIANCE OF THE FREE, WHICH WE INTENT TO PROPOSE TO THE WORLD AS THE NEXT STAGE OF FREEING THE PLANET FROM YOUR DOMINENCE WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT. 

ALL THIS SAID, AND THE GLOBAL MEDIA WHICH YOU STILL MAINTAIN CONTROL OVER STILL LABELS FREE PEOPLE AS TERRORISTS AND EQUALS THE RESISTANCE OF OCCUPATION WITH CRIMINAL ACTS OF STRIKING CIVILIANS IN BUILDING AND TERRORISING THE LIVES OF THE INNOCENT. 

TRULY IRONIC !! Nevertheless represents the true state of shock you policy makers have reached. But all can be reversed if you truly believe in Change Mr. President. 

The resistance along with the votes of the peace loving people in your country and choice of the world

Who brought you to power, are more than capable to pull you down and defeat your new strategy, if you choose to lie to them and follow the plans of your predecessor.  

You must understand that the time when your foreign policy bullied and bribed people into submission is over and for a considerable time. And your politicians and strategists have to understand that to be accepted as a superpower you must first learn to speak to the world with modesty and respect that others in this planet, also have the right to provide for their families a decent life, the right to food and water, the right to education and knowledge, the right to industry and employment, and free from your corporate despotism. 

We in the Iraqi resistance, renew our pledge to our people and to our brothers and sisters in the global family, to continue the fight and struggle to free Iraq and give our allies the chance to follow suite. 

While you were preparing your new strategy in leaving the streets and highways of Iraq to your collaborators, and hiding your troops behind the walls of the castles and green zones you have prepared for your minimized long term presence, we have been preparing to address your new tactics and will deal with them in the proper manner.

Remember, that hiding behind and holding castles is no longer sustainable in modern warfare!  

Your finest fighting force as you name it, is up against the most witty, resilient & innovative self-propelled resistance honorable humanity has ever presented. Rest assured that we are not impressed with your plan and will follow your movements on the ground and cross examine them to your declared intentions and daily economic reports. There is no such thing as friendly occupation, and we advise you to revise your plans to vacate Iraq at a time suitable for our people and not suitable for your agents in the green zone. 

And if you need to talk to honest Iraqis, then you know very well, where to find them. John F Kennedy also said “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate” 

You choose to negotiate with all the parties that worked for your predecessor and have caused all this harm, yet you choose to ignore the only true party that can offer you a decent outcome.

Good Luck President Obama! 

Investments in Complex Plants Backfire

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ikuko Kurahone, Reuters

LONDON, Aug 12 (Reuters) – Oil firms that invested in complex refineries to process the most difficult crude and in theory generate big profits have inadvertently forced up the cost of feedstock, wrecking the economics of their plans, especially in Europe.

An increase in the cost of high quality lighter crude, which began about seven years ago, first inspired investment either in complex new plants or in adding cokers and residual hydrocrackers to existing refineries so they can process heavier oil.

What the refiners did not predict was the extent to which heavy crude costs would be driven higher by increased demand from more complex refineries and the plunge in refined products that followed the end of the oil market rally last year.

As profit margins have diminished, some new projects, particularly in Europe, are likely to be shelved, raising the prospect of supply tightness when demand recovers and as heavy crude supplies are expected to outstrip availability of lighter oil.

“The first wave of large investment in conversion capacity and new complex refineries is coming on line in 2009-2010. Whatever was planned for 2009-2010 is going to come on, cancellation/postponement more likely to affect projects scheduled from 2011 onward,” BNP Paribas oil analyst Harry Tchilinguirian said.

“The economics are more challenging as profitability of more expensive complex operations is eroded when the discount between the medium/heavy grades narrows relative to light grades.”

Light, sweet crude, with low sulphur content, gives a high yield of high value products such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

Heavier, sour crude, which includes more sulphur that has little commercial value and requires longer processing, historically traded at a deep discount.

The medium heavy, sour Russian benchmark grade Urals, for instance, traded at discounts of about $7 a barrel when Brent and U.S. light crude futures hit a record high above $147 in July last year.

But since July this year, it has traded at near parity to lighter North Sea streams, including Brent and Forties.

Another of the variables relates to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as the group’s output cuts have reduced the amount of heavier crude available.

Thomas O’Malley, chairman of Europe’s top independent refiner Petroplus, told a webcast last week the narrower gap between light and heavy differentials would continue to constrain complex refiners.

“We may see three years of contraction of heavy light spreads … coker builders in the last couple of years are not happy builders,” he said.

Some analysts have said European refiners might have missed out on the cost advantage of a wide light-heavy spread once and for all.

By contrast with refiners in the United States, which has been processing heavy crude from domestic fields, as well as Mexico and Venezuela, for many years, deep conversion projects in Europe are recent.

They have been mostly geared to taking Russian medium-heavy Urals, which would have been unlikely to make the kind of profits possible from processing heavier Mexican and Venezuelan grades.

“Low demand and new refining capacity coming onstream in 2009 are likely to keep refining margins below those seen in recent years, unless serious disruptions occur on the supply side,” said one refiner in its second quarter earnings report.

11-34

The Pullout

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

2009-06-30T122617Z_01_BAG405_RTRMDNP_3_IRAQ-USA-TROOPS

Iraqi soldiers march during a parade in Baghdad, June 30, 2009. U.S. combat troops left the last of Iraq’s cities on Tuesday, restoring to the country a proud sense of sovereignty that many applauded even though some fear it may leave them more vulnerable to attacks.

REUTERS/Saad Shalash

In a burst of fireworks that illuminated the Baghdad sky, jubilant Iraqis celebrated the pullout of US forces from their country this past Tuesday. It has been six long and bloody years with over 100,000 civilian lives having been lost since the Bush-era “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq changed the country and, by extension the World, irrevocably.  U.S. Forces handed over the reins of power to Iraqi security personnel. However, it will take at least two more years for the American armed forces to complete the withdrawal in 2011.

The long awaited pullout, which many political commentators believe helped President Obama win the Presidency, is a component of a security deal that was reached last year by Washington and Iraq. In a press interview, U.S. General General Ray Odierno said about Iraqi security forces, “I do believe they are ready. They’ve been working towards this for a long time.”

In a symbolic gesture, Iraqi security personnel retook the former Ministry of Defense building even though there are still more than 130,000 U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq. The remaining soldiers will continue to train and advise the 750,000 strong Iraqi army in a primarily ‘back-seat driver’ role. The Iraqi security forces remain on high alert as the government expects insurgents to do their best to spoil the transfer of power. Iraqi security personnel are visible on the city streets in a show of force against anyone attempting to disrupt the current calm. Security checkpoints remain in place and motorcycles have been banned from the streets, as they are often the mode of transport for suicide bombers.

The Americans may be leaving, but Iraq will never be the same. The country bears the scars of an unwelcome war and occupation. Lives have been lost, innocent civilians maimed and the course of history has been changed forever although it remains to be seen if it will be for the worse or better. Likewise, hearts and minds have also been changed. Many Iraqis are exercising more freedoms than under the reign of the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, which are in line with their American counterparts. The influence of the U.S. in Iraq can be seen as near as the local marketplace where western-inspired clothes are quickly scooped off the racks by customers eager to dress like the characters from their favorite American movies or sitcoms.

The stakes are high as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has promised his people that the Iraqi security personnel can effectively protect the country. If Maliki can keep that promise, the future looks very bright for Iraq. No less than 31 companies are vying for coveted oil-development contracts, which will make Iraq a force to be reckoned with in the global oil market.  The plan is to develop six massive oil fields and two gas fields located in the Iraqi deserts. The Iraqi government wants to double production from 2.4 million barrels per day to a whopping 4 million barrels per day, which will give the Iraqi government an estimated 1.7 trillion dollars in revenue that can be used to rebuild the country’s beleaguered infrastructure. It has been almost 40 years since any oil company has been willing to do business with Iraq. And it could take another 40 years if the Iraqi government cannot maintain a high level of peace and stability to appease investors.

11-28

“New Urgency” to Curb Iran

April 24, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

“New Urgency” to Curb Iran
By Christian Lowe
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Wednesday it wanted to refrain from taking action before a U.N. deadline set for Tehran to halt uranium enrichment expired, but a top U.S. official believed other countries were inching toward action.
Tensions remained high, with oil prices hitting a new high above $73, partly driven by fears the dispute could disrupt shipments from the world’s fourth-largest oil exporter.
“What I heard in the room last night was not agreement on the specifics but to the general notion that Iran has to feel isolation and that there is a cost to what they are doing,” UnderSecretary of State Nicholas Burns told reporters.
“Now we need to go beyond that and agree on the specifics of what measures we need to put that into operation,” he said.
He said Iran’s shock announcement last week that it had enriched uranium to a low level and planned to produce it on an industrial scale had focused the minds of the international community.
The US and its European allies say Tehran could divert highly enriched uranium to make bombs.
“What is new is a greater sense of urgency given what the Iranians did last week … Nearly every country is considering some sort of sanctions and that is a new development. We heard last night and again today that all of those that spoke are looking at sanctions,” Burns said.
In a surprise development, an Iranian delegation appeared later in the day in Moscow for talks with officials from the EU3—Britain, France and Germany—although one European official said he did not expect a “breakthrough.”
The Security Council on March 29 gave Iran a month to halt enrichment and answer questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on its nuclear program.
Russia and China, which both have veto power in the council, say they are not convinced sanctions would work. U.S. officials had hoped to use the talks to persuade them to take a tougher line on Iran, which it suspects of seeking nuclear weapons.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said some countries, including Russia, wanted to wait until the U.N. nuclear watchdog reports on Iranian compliance on April 28 before acting.
“We are convinced of the need to wait for the IAEA report due at the end of the month,” Lavrov told reporters.
An Iranian delegation headed to Moscow for talks on the dispute, Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki told state radio.
He said officials from the Foreign Ministry and the Supreme National Security Council would “discuss possible solutions which could pave the way to reach a comprehensive understanding based on a recognition of Iran’s right to nuclear technology.”
Iran says it only wants nuclear power for civilian use, but Russia said Tehran was not responding to international demands.
One diplomat from a country that opposes Iran’s nuclear work said Iran could suggest a “pause.”
“This is to prepare the ground for renewing negotiations with the Europeans,” the diplomat, said about the proposal. It was unclear how long the pause would be.
A senior EU3 diplomat said he would welcome Iran’s presentating such an initiative and halting their enrichment research. But it would have to be more than a brief technical pause in order for the Europeans to revive negotiations with Tehran.
Burns said Washington was opposed to allowing Iran any kind of pause, calling some of Iran’s negotiating positions “a ruse.”
Market worries that the nuclear crisis might disrupt Iranian oil exports pushed oil above $73 a barrel, a fresh record.
Tuesday’s meeting of deputy foreign ministers from Russia, China, the United States, Germany, France and Britain underlined international differences over punitive action against Iran.
All the powers have said they are determined to solve the problem through diplomatic means, but the US is alone among them in not ruling out military action.
Pres. Bush plans to raise the issue during PM Hu Jintao’s visit.