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Looking for parallels to Haiti's catastrophe, many point to China. In May 2008, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck the southwestern province of Sichuan, pancaking schoolhouses, buildings and homes and killing at least 68,000 people. But the ferocity of the tremor and a huge death toll may be the only parallels between the two quake-stricken nations.
I went back to Sichuan six months after the catastrophe and was amazed at the speed of physical and economic recovery. In Dujiangyan, the largest city in the quake zone, the rubble and the tent cities had disappeared. The jumble of debris was replaced by piles of new bricks, lumber and other construction materials. There was a building boom across the region, and dozens of temporary villages were erected to house the five million people rendered homeless by the quake. The prefab housing was made out of blue aluminum siding lined with styrofoam insulation. They had cement floors and were arranged in neat rows in flat spots at the bases of the mountains. Conditions weren't luxurious, but the camps were clean and the housing dry and fairly warm. Read more.
Even though the U.S. military budget is almost ten times that of China's (with a population more than four times as large) and Washington plans a record $708 billion defense budget for next year compared to Russia spending less than $40 billion last year for the same, China and Russia are portrayed as threats to the U.S. and its allies. China has no troops outside its borders; Russia has a small handful in its former territories in Abkhazia, Armenia, South Ossetia and Transdniester. The U.S. has hundreds of thousands of troops stationed in six continents.
While Gates was in charge of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and responsible for almost half of international military spending he was offended that the world's most populous nation might desire to "deny others countries the ability to threaten it."
On December 23 of last year Raytheon Company announced that it had received a $1.1 billion contact with Taiwan for the purchase of 200 Patriot anti-ballistic missiles. In early January the U.S. Defense Department cleared the transaction "despite opposition from rival China, where a military official proposed sanctioning U.S. firms that sell arms to the island." 
The sale completes a $6.5 billion weapons package approved by the previous George W. Bush administration at the end of 2008. In the words of the Asia bureau chief of Defense News, "This is the last piece that Taiwan has been waiting on." 
We, the undersigned global organizations and individuals, call upon the South Korean and US governments to cancel all plans to build a Navy base on Jeju Island. The base will destroy coral reefs that have been listed as world heritage environmental sites by the UNESCO Pand will destroy the fishing and way of life of the people.
The deployment of naval Aegis destroyers, outfitted with missile defense systems, will be used to surround and provoke China and will make Jeju Island a prime target.
Jeju is called the peace island and must remain free of provocative military bases.
To sign please reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Several Iranian state websites have been taken down by Chinese hackers in retaliation for Iranian attacks on China’s biggest search engine.
The websites of Iran’s supreme leader and president along with those of the ministries of defense and foreign affairs were all brought down by Chinese hackers, referring to themselves as the Honker Union, in revenge for an attack on China’s Baidu site earlier this week.
An Iranian group, the Iranian Cyber Army, claimed responsibility for the sabotage of Baidu in response to Chinese web users’ support for Iran’s opposition movement.
“The solidarity and support for the people in Iran has been limited to statements,” Iranian opposition blogger Potkin Azarmehr told The Media Line. “But this is the first cyberspace help from outside Iran on behalf of those who support the green movement.”
“It’s just more evidence to show how important cyberspace is to what’s going on in Iran,” he said. “This is probably the first revolution where it’s not just a struggle on the streets but also across cyberspace.” Read more.
The Obama administration’s Iran policy is a riddle wrapped inside a conundrum folded into a pickle. So many signals are being sent in so many directions that it’s a wonder the Iranians (or other involved parties) have any idea what’s going on. Barack Obama came into office pledging to reach out diplomatically to Iran. In fact, the administration did so in only a half-hearted way, even as the president quickly began setting deadlines for the Iranians to respond (on their nuclear program) in a way Washington considered satisfactory -- or face further “crippling” sanctions. Now, the latest of these deadlines, January 1, 2010, has passed and a move towards new sanctions, especially against companies associated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which controls significant parts of the country's economy, is evidently being prepared. But China, which holds the presidency of the Security Council for the month of January, recently rejected even a debate on the subject. Like the Russians, the Chinese are deeply involved in developing long-term energy relations with Iran, which means that no sanctions which might “cripple” that country’s economy are likely to make it through the Security Council, no matter which country has the presidency....
Two Movements, Two Moments
Don’t Bet on It...Yet
By Dilip Hiro
A short review of Iran’s 31-year-old revolution is in order. In February 1979, the autocratic monarchy of the Shah collapsed when the country’s economy ground to a halt due to strikes not only by the religiously observant merchants of the bazaar, but also by civil servants, factory employees, and (crucially) leftist oil workers. At the same time, the foundations of the modern state -- the armed forces, special forces, armed police, and intelligence agencies, as well as the state-controlled media -- cracked.
The street demonstrations, launched in October 1977 by Iranian intellectuals and professionals to protest human rights violations by SAVAK, the Shah’s brutal secret police, lacked both focus and an overarching set of coherent demands articulated by a towering personality. That changed when Khomeini, a virulently anti-Shah ayatollah exiled to neighboring Iraq for 14 years, was drawn into the process in January 1978. From then on, the ranks of the protestors swelled exponentially.
By Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
I try not to visit a place and then forget about the people and the struggle they are engaged in. Since my visit to Jeju Island, and the Gangjeong village last October, I have been closely following developments about the South Korean government's plan to build a Navy base where pristine coral reefs, fishing, and tangerine groves are now integral to the people's way of life.
In parallel with the escalation of the war in South Asia - counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and drone missile attacks in Pakistan - the United States and its NATO allies have laid the groundwork for increased naval, air and ground operations in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden.
During the past month the U.S. has carried out deadly military strikes in Yemen: Bombing raids in the north and cruise missile attacks in the south of the nation. Washington has been accused of killing scores of civilians in the attacks in both parts of the country, executed before the December 25 Northwest Airlines incident that has been used to justify the earlier U.S. actions ex post facto. And, ominously, that has been exploited to pound a steady drumbeat of demands for expanded and even more direct military intervention.
The Pentagon's publicly disclosed military and security program for Yemen grew from $4.6 million in 2006 to $67 million last year. "That figure does not include covert, classified assistance that the United States has provided." 
In addition, "Under a new classified cooperation agreement, the U.S. would be able to fly cruise missiles, fighter jets or unmanned armed drones against targets in the country, but would remain publicly silent on its role in the airstrikes." 
Thousands of poor farmers in India have committed suicide over the past decade as changes in India's agricultural policy set off a widening spiral of debt and despair, one environmental activist said Tuesday.
"The farmer suicides started in 1997. That's when the corporate seed control started," Vandana Shiva told CNN's Christiane Amanpour. "And it's directly related to indebtedness, and indebtedness created by two factors linked to globalization."
For Shiva, who works with farming communities across India, those two factors were the ceding of control of the seed supply to the corporate chemical industry -- leading to increased production costs for already-struggling farmers -- as well as falling food prices in a global agricultural economy.
An estimated 200,000 farmers have taken their own lives in India over the past 13 years, according to Indian government statistics.
"The combination is unpayable debt, and it's the day the farmer is going to lose his land for chemicals and seeds, that is the day the farmer drinks pesticide," Shiva said. "And it's totally related to a negative economy, of an agriculture that costs more in production than the farmer can ever earn." Read more.
Tom of TomDispatch writes:
Here, in a nutshell, is the world of 2020, as seen by Michael Klare, whose expertise in energy, scarce resources, and the politics of war is well known: "For now, expect the dragon ascendant, the eagle descending, the South rising, and the planet possibly trumping all of these." In other words, while the first decade of the twenty-first century still looked at least somewhat like the world of 1999, by 2020, this planet will have a genuinely different look to it. Momentous shifts in global power relations and a changing of the imperial guard, just now becoming apparent, will be far more pronounced by that year as new actors, new trends, new concerns, and new institutions dominate the global space.
Klare tracks all of this from China's rise to America's relative descent and the increasing power and energy of the global South. But that's only part of his canny, wide-ranging analysis of where we'll be a decade from now. The kicker is that "blowback," still a political concept today, will become a natural one by 2020. As Klare writes of the imperial and other politics of the planet to come: "Nonetheless, all of this is the norm of history, no matter how dramatic it may seem to us. Less normal -- and so the wild card of the second decade (and beyond) -- is intervention by the planet itself. Blowback, which we think of as a political phenomenon, will by 2020 have gained a natural component. Nature is poised to strike back in unpredictable ways whose effects could be unnerving and possibly devastating."
The "blowback effect" -- nature paying us back for our operations against her -- is a new concept that grounds this typically provocative and carefully thought out piece by Klare.From TomDispatch this afternoon: A New Year's look deep into the future, taking up the fate of China, the United States, the Global South, and nothing short of a planet ready to strike back by 2020 -- Michael T. Klare, "The Second Decade, The World in 2020" http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175186/
The Second Decade: The World in 2020
By Michael T. Klare
As the second decade of the twenty-first century begins, we find ourselves at one of those relatively rare moments in history when major power shifts become visible to all. If the first decade of the century witnessed profound changes, the world of 2009 nonetheless looked at least somewhat like the world of 1999 in certain fundamental respects: the United States remained the world’s paramount military power, the dollar remained the world’s dominant currency, and NATO remained its foremost military alliance, to name just three.
By the end of the second decade of this century, however, our world is likely to have a genuinely different look to it. Momentous shifts in global power relations and a changing of the imperial guard, just now becoming apparent, will be far more pronounced by 2020 as new actors, new trends, new concerns, and new institutions dominate the global space. Nonetheless, all of this is the norm of history, no matter how dramatic it may seem to us. Read more.
International Conference on Achieving A Nuclear Weapons and Missile Defense Free Asia
Nagpur, India | October 9-12, 2010
Click "Read more" for Agenda, arrangements, contacts!
Yemen's Houthi fighters say scores of civilians, including many children, have been killed in US air-raids in the southeast of the war-stricken Arab country.
The Shia fighters on Friday reported the deaths of 63 people, including some 28 children, in the southeastern province of Abyan.
Almost 90 people were also injured in the attacks by US warplanes in the village of Bakazam, they added.
Yemen's southern provinces have recently been the scene of US airstrikes which Washington claims to be aimed at uprooting an al-Qaeda cell operative in the Persian Gulf state. Read more.
By Gareth Porter
WASHINGTON, Dec 19 (IPS) - In 2004, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed that a member state had violated its Safeguards Agreement by carrying out covert uranium conversion and enrichment activities and plutonium experiments for more than two decades. The nature of certain of those enrichment activities, moreover, raised legitimate suspicions of interest in a nuclear weapons programme.
The state was found to have lied to the IAEA even when it began investigating these suspicious activities, claiming that its laser enrichment research did not involve any use of nuclear material.
If that sounds like a description of Iran's troubled relationship with the IAEA up to 2004, that's because it bears striking resemblance to it. In fact, however, it is a description of the deception of the IAEA by the government of South Korea.
I just returned from the US Labor Against the War Assembly in Chicago, December 4-6. There were lots of high points, including the fact that oil workers from the U.S. got together with the heads of the oil unions in Iraq and Venezuela.
But for me the most exciting part was the release of a new 28-minute DVD entitled "Why Are We in Afghanistan?" I admit to being biased, as I participated in the early drafts of the DVD, but I think it will be a great tool for educating and mobilizing union members to oppose the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Education about the facts and the costs of the war was the number one item in USLAW’s Plan of Action; the hope is to show it at union meetings at all levels. There’s also a ten-minute version.
We have our work cut out for us. Many people who opposed the Iraq war are torn about the war in Afghanistan. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan was and is a haven for Al Qaeda cells. "Why Are We in Afghanistan?" helps to answer these doubts. Click "Read more."
As a U.S. senator during the 1960s, I agonized over the badly mistaken war in Vietnam. After doing all I could to save our troops and the Vietnamese people from a senseless conflict, I finally took my case to the public in my presidential campaign in 1972. Speaking across the nation, I told audiences that the only upside of the tragedy in Vietnam was that its enormous cost in lives and dollars would keep any future administration from going down that road again.
I was wrong. Today, I am astounded at the Obama administration's decision to escalate the equally mistaken war in Afghanistan, and as I listen to our talented young president explain why he is adding 30,000 troops -- beyond the 21,000 he had added already -- I can only think: another Vietnam. I hope I am incorrect, but history tells me otherwise.
Presidents John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon all believed that the best way to save the government in Saigon and defeat Ho Chi Minh and his Viet Cong insurgents was to send in U.S. troops. But the insurgency only grew stronger, even after we had more than 500,000 troops fighting and dying in Vietnam.
We have had tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan for several years, and we have employed an even larger number of mercenaries (or "contractors," as they're called these days). As in Vietnam, the insurgent forces are stronger than ever, and the Afghan government is as corrupt as the one we backed in Saigon.
Why do we send young Americans to risk life and limb on behalf of such worthless regimes? The administration says we need to fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. But the major al-Qaeda forces are in Pakistan. Read more.
From Hiroshima to Gaza
By Hisae Ogawa
The first time I met and had a chance to talk to Palestinian women was back in 1975, the United Nations International Women’s Year. I was then working for the Women’s International Democrat Federation (WIDF), one of the Non-Governmental Agencies accredited by the United Nations.
WIDF’s head office was in East Berlin, the capitol of the German Democratic Republic. It had over 100 member groups all around the world and representatives that were called “secretaries” were sent from more than ten countries from Europe, Africa, Asia and America. At the time the General Secretary of WIDF was from Argentina and the President was from Australia. It was indeed an international place. But at the same time I was so disturbed to see the East Berliners suffered lack of freedom due to the wall dividing the city.
One of my co-workers was a young girl from Iraq. She was working hard trying to cover the whole issues in the Middle East. From her I learned what was happening in the Middle East.
It was through her that I got to know the Palestinian issue and made friends with Palestinian women. One day she brought some women from Palestine to the WIDF office. They were touring Europe to publicize their plight. They said Israel was doing the same things to Palestinian people as the Nazis had done to the Jewish people during the World War II.
The U.S. (and Britain) began bombing the Afghan capital of Kabul on October 7, 2001 with Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from warships and submarines and bombs dropped from warplanes and shortly thereafter American special forces began ground operations, a task that has been conducted since by regular Army and Marine units. The bombing and the ground combat operations continue more than eight years later and both will be intensified to record levels in short order.
The combined U.S. and NATO forces would represent a staggering number, in excess of 150,000 soldiers. By way of comparison, as of September of this year there were approximately 120,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and only a small handful of other nations' personnel, those assigned to the NATO Training Mission - Iraq, remaining with them.
"Secretary Gates has made clear that the conflicts we're in should be at the very forefront of our agenda. He wants to make sure we're not giving up capabilities needed now for those needed for some unknown future conflict. He wants to make sure the Pentagon is truly on war footing....For the first time in decades, the political and economic stars are aligned for a fundamental overhaul of the way the Pentagon does business."
Over the past ten years citizens of the United States and other Western nations, and unfortunately most of the world, have become accustomed to Washington and its military allies in Europe and those appointed as armed outposts on the periphery of the "Euro-Atlantic community" engaging in armed aggression around the world.
Wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq and lower profile military operations and surrogate campaigns in nations as diverse as Colombia, Yemen, the Philippines, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Chad, the Central African Republic, South Ossetia and elsewhere have become an unquestioned prerogative of the U.S. and its NATO partners. So much so that many have forgotten to consider how comparable actions have been or might be viewed if a non-Western nation attempted them.
Innocent Uighurs Still Detained at Guantánamo after Being Cleared for Release Since As Long Ago As 2003 Ask SC to Set Them Free
"To the founders of this republic, freedom was a national conviction. Today neither the President nor the Congress has the courage of that conviction. We urge the Court to remind us all of our ancient trust, and at last set these men free."
December 4, 2009, New York – Today, attorneys asked the Supreme Court to allow seven men who remain imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay despite being cleared for release to be released into the United States when there is no other remedy available. The men, Uighurs from the East Turkestan region of China, are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel Bingham McCutchen LLP, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, Miller & Chevalier, Baker & McKenzie LLP, Reprieve and Elizabeth Gilson.
This will be the first time the Court hears a Guantánamo case since it decided the landmark cases brought by CCR and co-counsel, Boumediene v. Bush, in June 2008, and the first time the Obama administration will defend a Guantánamo case before the high court.
Said Sabin Willett, of Bingham McCutchen, lead attorney for the Uighur detainees:
"Today we have asked the Supreme Court to free Uighur clients who now pass their eighth year in the Guantanamo prison. The courts and the Defense Department have said they are neither enemies nor criminals. They fled from communism, and were taken in error. Companions live in Europe and Bermuda, and yet we imprison them still. These men are a living rebuke to America’s boast to be a freedom-loving people.
A new report (pdf) from the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence describes Iran's naval order of battle, as well as the Iranian Navy's history, strategic options, and favored tactics.
"Today, Iran's naval forces protect Iranian waters and natural resources, especially Iran's petroleum-related assets and industries. Iranian maritime security operations guard against the smuggling of illegal goods (especially drugs) and immigrants, and protect against the poaching and stealing of fish in territorial waters."
"Additionally, Iran uses its naval forces for political ends such as naval diplomacy and strategic messaging. Most of all, Iranian naval forces are equipped to defend against perceived external threats. Public statements by Iranian leaders indicate that they would consider closing or controlling the Strait of Hormuz if provoked, thereby cutting off almost 30 percent of the world's oil supply."
The unclassified U.S. intelligence assessment was published on the Office of Naval Intelligence website, but last week it was abruptly withdrawn, along with another ONI report on China's navy. A copy of the report was obtained by Secrecy News. See "Iran's Naval Forces: From Guerilla (sic) Warfare to a Modern Naval Strategy," Fall 2009.
Bill Moyers, of PBS' Bill Moyers Journal, began this week's program this way:
Our country wonders this weekend what is on President Obama's mind. He is apparently, about to bring months of deliberation to a close and answer General Stanley McChrystal's request for more troops in Afghanistan. When he finally announces how many, why, and at what cost, he will most likely have defined his presidency, for the consequences will be far-reaching and unpredictable. As I read and listen and wait with all of you for answers, I have been thinking about the mind of another president, Lyndon B. Johnson.
I was 30 years old, a White House Assistant, working on politics and domestic policy. I watched and listened as LBJ made his fateful decisions about Vietnam. He had been thrust into office by the murder of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963-- 46 years ago this weekend. And within hours of taking the oath of office was told that the situation in South Vietnam was far worse than he knew.
Less than four weeks before Kennedy's death, the South Vietnamese president had himself been assassinated in a coup by his generals, a coup the Kennedy Administration had encouraged.
South Vietnam was in chaos, and even as President Johnson tried to calm our own grieving country, in those first weeks in office, he received one briefing after another about the deteriorating situation in Southeast Asia. Read the transcript, watch the videos.
By Bruce K. Gagnon, email@example.com
I just got home from 3-weeks in South Korea. It was quite a trip.
During my last two days I was visiting Jeju Island (about 500 miles south of the Korean peninsula) which is recognized by UNESCO as being a place of world class environmental quality and one that hosts many endangered forms of corals and other sea life. To say it is a jewel would be an understatement.
Azerbaijan could scuttle the Nabucco pipeline over the Turkey-Armenia rapprochement, Brian Whitmore writes for RFE/RL.
By Brian Whitmore for RFE/RL
Azerbaijan has apparently decided to play its energy card.
As much of the world applauded Turkey's historic rapprochement with Armenia last week, Azerbaijan felt left out in the cold and abandoned by its closest ally.
Baku had argued strenuously that a deal to reestablish relations between Ankara and Yerevan should not be signed while Armenia continued to occupy Nagorno-Karabakh, and it threatened to take unspecified countermeasures if one was.
Speaking at a nationally televised cabinet meeting on October 16, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev revealed one of those steps: "It is not a secret to anyone that for many years Azerbaijan has been selling its gas to Turkey for one-third of market prices."
Aliyev added: "What state would agree to sell its natural resources for 30 percent of world market prices, especially under current conditions? This is illogical."
Aliyev presented the move as a purely commercial decision and did not explicitly link it to the Turkish-Armenian deal. Azerbaijan currently sells Turkey natural gas at the bargain rate of $120 per thousand cubic meters. But the timing of Aliyev's announcement, less than a week after the accord between Yerevan and Ankara was signed, left little doubt.
If Baku follows through on the move, analysts say it could severely undermine - if not completely kill - the Western-backed Nabucco pipeline project to bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey.
"Potentially this is very important because it could potentially deliver a knockout blow to Nabucco. Without Azerbaijan it would be even more difficult than it is," says Federico Bordonaro, an energy-security analyst with the Italian-based group equilibre.net. Read more.
Hey DC! Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam: Exposing Official Lies, This Wednesday Evening, 10/21, American U.
AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN, IRAN, IRAQ, VIETNAM: EXPOSING OFFICIAL LIES
Where: Ward Circle Building, Room 2, American University
When: Wednesday, October 21 at 8:10 pm
Who: Keynote Speaker:
Col. Larry Wilkerson (USA, ret.) Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell during the critical period from August 2002 until January 2005; Served as Army officer for 31 years;
Recipient of 2009 Award from Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence
Daniel Ellsberg, Former Defense and State Department official who released the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971, for which he was put on trial facing a possible sentence of 115 years; Author, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers; Subject of newly released documentary “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” which he was called at the time by Henry Kissinger
Coleen Rowley, Former Special agent and legal counselor, Minneapolis FBI, who called the FBI director's attention to serious flaws that might have prevented 9/11; Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2002; Sam Adams Award Recipient, 2002
Craig Murray, Former U.K. Ambassador to Uzbekistan, who exposed the use of torture, declaring, "I would rather die than have someone tortured in attempt to give me more security." Sam Adams Award Recipient, 2005
Ray McGovern, Veteran CIA analyst, whose duties included preparing and briefing the President's Daily Brief under Nixon, Ford, and Reagan; Co-founder Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS); Colleague of Sam Adams
Peter Kuznick, Professor of History; Director, American University’s Nuclear Studies Institute; Co-writer (with Oliver Stone) “Secret History of the United States” (forthcoming on Showtime)
By Dave Lindorff
On Oct. 13, the New York Times ran a news story headlined “Door Opens to Health Claims Tied to Agent Orange,” which was sure to be good news to many American veterans of the Indochina War. It reported that 38 years after the Pentagon ceased spreading the deadly dioxin-laced herbicide/defoliant over much of South Vietnam, it was acknowledging what veterans have long claimed: in addition to 13 ailments already traced to exposure to the chemical, it was also responsible for three more dread diseases—Parkinson’s, ischemic heart disease and hairy-cell leukemia.
Under a new policy adopted by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the VA will now start providing free care to any of the 2.1 million Vietnam-era veterans who can show that they might have been hurt by exposure to Agent Orange.
By Lawrence S. Wittner
Editor: John Feffer, Foreign Policy In Focus
Although the smashing victory of the opposition Democratic Party in Japan's parliamentary elections of August 30 had numerous causes, one of the results will be a strengthening of the campaign for a nuclear weapons-free world.
Back before email, a world traveler who wanted to keep in touch and couldn't just pop into the nearest Internet café, might drop you a series of postcards from one exotic locale after another. Pepe Escobar, that edgy, peripatetic globe-trotting reporter for one of my favorite on-line publications, Asia Times, has been doing just that for TomDispatch readers as he explores the geography that undergirds our civilization, the pipelines that crisscross Eurasia through which flow energy -- and trouble. This, then, is his third "postcard" from what he likes to call Pipelineistan. The first in March began laying out a great, ongoing energy struggle across Eurasia via an embattled energy corridor (and a key pipeline) that runs from the Caspian Sea to Europe through Georgia and Turkey -- and the Great Game of business, diplomacy, and proxy war between Russia and the U.S. that has gone with it.
In May, he plunged eastward into tumultuous Central and South Asia and the devolving battleground that, in Washington, goes by the neologism AfPak (for the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations). Now, he heads west toward Europe and another developing struggle, this time over just how natural gas from the Caspian Sea will reach Europe. Think of this as a story that lurks under so many other stories. For instance, this very day, the representatives of Russia, Germany, China, France, Britain, and for the first time, the United States, will be sitting down with Iran's representative in Geneva for what's billed as an historic exchange. On the table -- and in global headlines -- will be the Iranian nuclear program, a
previously secret Iranian nuclear site, Iranian medium-range missile tests, sanctions of various sorts, the possibility of future attacks on that country's nuclear establishment, and so on. What won't be in the headlines, or the accompanying reams of analysis, is the approximately 15% of the world's natural gas deposits Iran controls. As it happens, for the Europeans and the Russians (and so for Washington), that's the story hidden under the Iranian imbroglio, which is why we need Pepe Escobar. Tom
Jumpin' Jack Verdi, It's a Gas, Gas, Gas
Iran and the Pipelineistan Opera
By Pepe Escobar
Brussels -- Oil and natural gas prices may be relatively low right now, but don't be fooled. The New Great Game of the twenty-first century is always over energy and it's taking place on an immense chessboard called Eurasia. Its squares are defined by the networks of pipelines being laid across the oil heartlands of the planet. Call it Pipelineistan. If, in Asia, the stakes in this game are already impossibly high, the same applies to the "Euro" part of the great Eurasian landmass -- the richest industrial area on the planet. Think of this as the real political thriller of our time.
The movie of the week in Brussels is: When NATO Meets Pipelineistan. Though you won't find it in any headlines, at virtually every recent NATO summit Washington has been maneuvering to involve reluctant Europeans ever more deeply in the business of protecting Pipelineistan. This is already happening, of course, in Afghanistan, where a promised pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India, the TAPI pipeline, has not even been built. And it's about to happen at the borders of Europe, again around pipelines that have not yet been built.
If you had to put that Euro part of Pipelineistan into a formula, you might do so this way: Nabucco (pushed by the U.S.) versus South Stream (pushed by Russia). Be patient. You'll understand in a moment. Read more.
The Defense Intelligence Agency and its contractors conclude that a nuclear test was conducted jointly by South Africa and Israel.
An ad hoc presidential panel contradicts that analysis and suggests a meteoroid struck the satellite causing it to sound a false alarm.
Which was it? What should've been the U.S. response? Can you decide?
But perhaps the questions we should really be deciding is does Iran have nuclear weapons; and if so, should the U.S. attack Iran and North Korea”.
Proxy wedding means Marine's widow, baby unwelcome
By Kristin M. Hall, Associated Press | Yahoo! News
Hotaru Ferschke just wants to raise her 8-month-old son in his grandparents' Tennessee home, surrounded by photos and memories of the father he'll never meet: a Marine who died in combat a month after marrying her from thousands of miles away.
Sgt. Michael Ferschke was killed in Iraq in 2008, leaving his widow and infant son, both Japanese citizens, in immigration limbo: A 1950s legal standard meant to curb marriage fraud means U.S. authorities do not recognize the marriage, even though the military does.
Ferschke and his bride had been together in Japan for more than a year, and she was pregnant when he deployed. They married by signing their names on separate continents and did not have a chance to meet again in person after the wedding, which a 57-year-old immigration law requires for the union to be considered consummated.
"She is being denied because they are saying her marriage is not valid because it was not consummated — despite the fact that they have a child together," said Brent Renison, an immigration lawyer in Oregon who has advised the family. Read more.
The United States and five partner countries have accepted Iran's new offer to hold talks, even though Iran insists it will not negotiate over its disputed nuclear program, the State Department said Friday.
Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that although Iran's proposal for international talks - presented to the six powers on Wednesday - was disappointing for sidestepping the nuclear issue, it represented a chance to begin a direct dialogue.
"We are seeking a meeting now based on the Iranian paper to see what Iran is prepared to do," Crowley said. "And then, as the president has said, you know, if Iran responds to our interest in a meeting, we'll see when that can occur. We hope that will occur as soon as possible."
In its proposal, Iran ignored a demand by the six world powers - the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - for a freeze of its uranium enrichment, which is suspected of leading to production of a nuclear weapon. Iran insists that its nuclear work is strictly for peaceful non-military purposes.
Iran pronounced itself ready to "embark on comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations." Read more.
...former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev...told an anti-nuclear conference in Rome last spring, "In the final analysis, the nuclear danger can only be removed by abolishing nuclear weapons. But could one regard as realistic the prospect of one country retaining the quantities of conventional weapons that exceed the combined arsenals of practically all other nations - the prospect of one country achieving absolute global superiority? Unless we address the need to demilitarize international relations, reduce military budgets, put an end to the creation of new kinds of weapons and prevent weaponization of outer space, all talk about a nuclear-weapon-free world will be just inconsequential rhetoric."
This trip report covers the period of July 22-August 23 as I traveled to Japan and South Korea for my longest and most successful speaking tour ever.