Posts Tagged ‘Qatar’

As Syria Continues To Simmer, Lebanon Remains in Limbo

January 16, 2013

Pat_BeirPatrick Henningsen
21stCentury Wire
Jan 16, 2012

BEIRUT – On arrival to Lebanon’s capital city, all seems very functional and normal on the surface, as the city runs business as usual.

Below the surface however, there is a feeling of trepidation, an unspoken collective worry that a city and country who has gradually managed to pick up the pieces from the decades-long conflict which stretched through the 70’s and 80’s, an Israeli occupation of its south, followed by a brief, albeit destructive, ‘33 Day War’ with Israel in 2006 – might once again be dragged into another sub-regional conflict. It goes without saying that police and security services in Lebanon are on high alert.

Tourism Hit Hard

The neighboring conflict has also had a very negative impact on Lebanon’s tourism, keeping away the much-needed outside currency for which many jobs, independent hotels and other SMEs are dependent for their economic survival. But despite the recent problems, Beirut is still moving ahead, still attracting some foreign investment made visible by the hundreds of new building projects springing up all over the city. And as expected, the restaurants seem busy and the cafes are still buzzing.

Already there is a tangible presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and in the capital Beirut, who have fled from the fighting and breakdown of society currently unfolding next door. The impact of the Syrian conflict on its neighbor Lebanon in such a short space of time is substantial.

Latest reports put the number of Syrian refugees recently accumulated in Lebanon at 300,000. This figure is contrasted by the number of Palestinian refugees whose ancestors fled Israel’s ethnic cleanings in 1947-48, still housed in Lebanon today – which is currently estimated at 500,000.

The Issue of Sectarianism

Lebanon is, more than ever, a demonstration of sectarianism par excellence. In of country of 4 million, there is differentiation within the Christian community – Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Melkite, Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic, as well as within and the Muslim community – Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Druze.  In addition to this, there is a substantial Armenian community, a large community of foreign nationals from the US and Europe, Asian and African migrant workers, and a small Jewish community. One might also note that the internal rifts between Christian and Muslim factions are almost as great as the polarity separating Christians and Muslim as a whole.

That said, it is also the only society in the region where contrasting religions and cultures are completely intermingled and where tolerance has evolved into a virtue.

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Co-existance: A scene from a recent Christmas illustrates the country’s diversity (PHOTO: Mary Henningsen)

In its totality, Lebanon consists of some of 19 religions and dozens more ethnic , groups. Many a thesis and book have sought to chronicle (and will continue to argue no doubt) this strive towards cultural détente in the Levant. One such writer is Lebanese-American Professor Walid Phares, who sums up the country’s current alignment as follows:

“Although multi-ethic and multi-religious, Lebanon was viewed by the political establishment as a unitary republic which can only have a majority and a minority. Therefore, and without a mechanism of decentralization, Federation or simply pluralism, that establishment was vying over who really represents the “majority” of all Lebanese, and who reduced to a “minority.” The debate was then about numbers, census, demographic changes, communities who have allegedly increased in numbers because of poverty versus communities who have decreased in numbers because of emigration. But that was a false problem.”

Much of the country’s political energy has been expended over the course of the last half century in determining who is the majority and who is the minority, and although the intention was to present a fair solution to representation in its central government, it has also been the source of internal power-politics, which some believe laid down a fertile soil for the sharp upheaval Lebanon experienced from 1975 onward.

Nowhere is the nation’s simmering ‘political ratio’ reflected more than in its own constitution – a document which goes to extraordinary lengths to secure some form of socio-religious balance. The Lebanese constitution mandates that the office President should be held by a Maronite Christian, the Speaker of the House held by a Shi’ite Muslim, and the post of Prime Minister held by a Sunni Muslim.

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Beirut shoulders a diverse collection of ethnic groups, along with their corresponding political issues (PHOTO: Patrick Henningsen)

Many academics such as Phares, feel that the future would be brighter if Lebanon would embrace its multicultural reality and take a feather out of Belgium’s or Canada’s cap, and consider phasing out its historical obsession with ethnic and religious minorities and majorities. In other words, if Lebanon could embrace ‘multiculturalism’, it wouldn’t need the old system. This idea is easier said than done, as vested political interests and blood spilled over decades has, to a large degree, cemented traditional political and social paradigms into place.

Syria Simmering Next Door

What’s foremost on the minds of Lebanese in 2013 is what will happen with Syria, and will Lebanon we dragged to their war. Alongside this, many are left questioning whether or not Lebanon will ever achieve some form of long-term peace with its southern neighbor Israel. The former is the key to its short-term prosperity, while the latter is the key to healing wounds still festering from the wars, as well as the influx of Palestinians it has had to shoulder since 1948.

The situation in Syria is made even more complex by the fact that a number of foreign powers with vested interests in Damascus regime change are supplying fighters, arms, logistics, money and mass media support – which has always been a recipe for chaos throughout history. Among these foreign actors vying for position in Syria are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, US, UK and France (somehow, it’s all beginning to look more and more like pre-WWI power-politics).

Syria has long played an overshadowing role in the stability – and destiny of its smaller neighbor Lebanon. The scares still run deep from Syria’s obtuse and often disjointed alliances with different factions over the course of Lebanon’s Civil Wars in the 70’s and 1980’s. The result of Syria’s hand in those affairs has been a dysfunctional, and often times confusing relationship between Damascus and Beirut, as well as the cause for political dysfunction within Beirut itself.

In 2013, however, the alignments are markedly different from previous decades. For starters, Syria, itself, is now a major piece on the global chessboard, not least of all because of its three major allies, all of whom seem to run contrary tocentral planning in the West – namely, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran and now Russia. All interested parties see Syria as the key domino, and this, rightly so, is the cause for much worry right now.

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Stunning countryside: Sunset over the historic Chouf mountain range in southern Lebanon (PHOTO: Patrick Henningsen)

Lebanon has a number of internal issues I’m sure it would prefer to sort out first before being dragged into another sub-regional conflagration – like it’s own central government, its economy, its potentially massive tourism trade, and of course, the Palestinian refugee issue.

Yesterday, I was able to travel south the ancient city of Tyre, some 16km from the the Israeli border. The ruins are stunning, but so are the Palestinian refugee camp which runs alongside it. It’s was a little tragic, if not amusing to discover there that some Palestinians in need of rock for building their homes had permanently borrowed some of the antiquity ruins next door. In a certain way, some five millennia of history puts the current protracted upheaval into some perspective.

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Ancient city of Tyre in Lebanon (PHOTO: Patrick Henningsen)

The recent past certainly has pulled Lebanon down in a spiral of social tension and extreme economic strife, but set against the larger backdrop of successive empires and cultures who have been overlaid on to this small, but historically pivotal region, it’s merely the latest chapter in a much larger epic novel. Many people outside of Lebanon – academics, archeologists, tourists – all long to see Lebanon achieve stability and one day showcase its incredible cultural and historical wealth to the world.

In essence, making the difficult transition from a fractured state, to one of stability and eventual prosperity. I talked about this to one long-term Beirut resident, named Jamal, who put it simply, “To do all this, first we need to have peace.”

It’s that simple. On paper anyway.

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Writer Patrick Henningsen is a roving correspondent for the UK Column, as well as host of 21st Century Wire TV programme airing Thursdays at 6pm on PSTV SKY channel 191 in the UK.

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BLIND LEADING THE BLIND: ‘False Flag Energy’ and Syrian Regime Change

October 14, 2012

Andrew McKillop
21st Century Wire
Guest Columnist

For the Libya war and regime change, things seemed straightforward: Libya is a big supplier of oil and gas to Europe.

Quickly replacing the Gaddafi regime was necessary, despite “the Colonel” being recycled back into grace with a Condoleeza Rice, Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi smile and handshake, only a few years before.

Once corporate penetration was underway, western central planners quickly replaced Gaddafi with a Shariah-proclaiming shaky government and its fundamentalist militias, who celebrated Sept 11th 2012 in a special way, by killing the US ambassador and staff in manner mirroring the demise of the late Colonel. But hydrocarbon supplies are vital!

On to Syria

Syria is a very minor exporter of oil (about 0.14 Mbd or 0.27% of world export supplies), with its exportable surplus on a slow downhill for more than 10 years. Kurdish separatists operating in and partly controlling eastern Syria have big plans to raise oil output, but their longstanding war with the el-Assad regime has blighted foreign drilling and related oil E&P activity. Most major oil investors (especially Canadian and Indian) have been tapering down their eastern Syria E&P for more than 3 years, since 2008-2009. Conventional gas resources are not large, mostly difficult access, and their development has been stunted by political and security concerns. Shale gas and shale oil potentials in Syria are however large, but like conventional gas resources are impossible to develop at present.

The country’s hydropower and water resource potential is also large, but any claim that Syria is a “resource-rich jewel” to be liberated, democratized and brought to market as soon as possible – but possibly not Libya-style – is way off the mark.

The nearest-term regional economic role for Syria is development of its agriculture potential, which has been attempted by the father-and-son el-Assad regime, since the 1980s but bad planning, execution and management, and endemic corruption inside the regime only resulted in Syria attaining exporter status in a major agrocommodity (wheat) for a few years in the 1990s. Since that time Syria has tilted back into food import dependence – exactly like Saudia Arabia and the Gulf states whose leaderships pretend to believe in Syria becoming “the Arab world’s bread basket”, under strict Sunnite rule, of course.

Energy resource or energy transport issues are unimportant players in this regime-change experiment, but in a recent Market Oracle posting on the supposed energy drivers behind regime change, William Engdahl writes: “Huge gas resource discoveries in Israel, in Qatar and in Syria combined with the emergence of the EU as the world’s potentially largest natural gas consumer, combine to create the seeds of the present geopolitical clash over the Assad regime”.

He continued: “Natural gas is rapidly becoming the “clean energy” of choice to replace coal and nuclear electric generation across the EU most especially since Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear after the Fukushima disaster. Gas is regarded as far more “environmentally friendly” in terms of its so-called “carbon footprint.”

Too Much Gas – Too Many Pipelines

Huge unconventional (deep offshore) gas reserves have been discovered, and proven or are in the process of being proven in the territorial waters of the following countries:
Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Cyprus, Azerbaijan.

Several other close-by countries are highly prospective, meaning likely also to possess very large reserves of deep offshore gas, called “stranded gas”. This only concerns local and regional, eastern Med and Caspian unconventional gas resource finds: worldwide finds are truly massive, and concern all continents. Any talk about world gas shortage, or control of gas resources by a small number of countries mostly hostile to the West has been exploded, since 2007-2009. This real world state of facts has yet to filter through to Think Tank strategists, deep in their bunkers mulling 1970s-vintage energy crisis issues with a Cold War mindset, in which War on Terror was as unknown as global stranded gas and shale gas resources and reserves.

As recently as 2008 and playing a major role in the setting of Europe’s climate-energy package of policies and programs basically seeking energy independence and energy security, the dark shadow of these Cold War-era energy crisis issues – now bolstered by Al Qaida shadows, played a major role in the European quest to reduce gas import dependence by any means. Increased dependence on Qatari gas, let alone Libyan, Algerian, Russian and Norwegian gas – Europe’s 4 largest pipeline gas suppliers –  featured nowhere in this 2008 plan, and was in fact the exact opposite of the plan’s published goals.

The basic reason for this, despite the energy security, geopolitical and terror war trimmings, is economic. Europe’s 4 largest pipeline gas suppliers, utilising an already overcapacity pipeline system feeding Europe, with zero need for pipeline capacity growth, operate “oil indexed prices” for gas. In simple terms this prices gas imports to Europe at up to $16 per million BTU, equivalent to oil at $92.80 a barrel. US gas prices this year have average about $2.50 per million BTU before a very recent “surprise comeback” to a little over $3.

Importing either Israeli gas (after 2020-2022 when the gas is developed) or Qatari gas through a hypothetical trans-Syria pipeline would have no interest at all to Europe, unless their offer price fell well below current prices operated by the 4 largest pipeline suppliers.

Possibly unknown to the deep-thinking Think Tank community, too often based in the US – the southern, south-eastern and eastern European regions are now criss-crossed with gas pipelines at a variety of stages: existing and operational; in construction; planned and in project. The major problem is not the transport capacity – but filling the lines at prices Europe is prepared to pay. Many pipeline projects are now on hold, not for geopolitical reasons, but because at the same time and rapidly, LNG re-gasification terminals are under construction in all coastal EU27 states. Rates of construction are so fast, despite high costs, that certain countries such as France will by 2015-2016 have sufficient LNG terminals to handle LNG imports covering entire national gas consumption needs. At the same time, gas pipeline capacity to northern and western Europe, including France, continues to grow.

World LNG supplies are on an unstoppable upward growth track, running at well over 20% per year, as LNG suppliers and potential suppliers also grow at an unstoppable rate. Under any hypothesis, LNG prices will be far below present European and Asia gas import prices and will surely and certainly force down global gas prices. Arab suppliers of LNG such as Qatar will have no dominance in the coming global LNG supply system and will be price-takers, due to the vast size of new stranded gas resources discovered and proven in countries such as Mozambique, Tanzania, west African states, Australia and Brazil, as well as the eastern Mediterranean “new gas” countries. Gas shortage does not exist.

Pipelines (and Gas) the World Doesn’t Need

Energy resource shortage in Europe is decreasingly on the menu, and hard to defend under any rational study of European regional, west Asian, MENA (Middle East and North Africa), African and world energy resource potentials. The former dominance of oil from Arab states, and gas from Russia was in any case the focus of European Commission and member state energy policies – with the target of diversifying energy sources and supply sources – since the 1960s and has continued and intensified ever since. The current supposed “CO2 based” clean energy policies of the Commission, enacted as energy law in the member states since June 2009 (but in no way cast in stone) only push the quest for energy independence further. These long-term policies, concerning gas, have been responsible for the massive growth of pipeline gas capacity to Europe – which is now accompanied by the massive growth of LNG import terminal capacity, to feed national based gas pipelines, all of which are interconnected in continental Europe.

Washington self-styled White Witch, Hillary Clinton, is working overtime to try and dislodge the Assad dynasty from power in Syria.

Related to the Syrian regime change experiment, or simply the grisly end of a Mafia-type Arab dictatorship, getting rid of el-Assad is in no rational way the signal for yet another, one more, high cost natural gas pipeline linking West Asia and Europe – this would certainly be one more underutilized or even useless pipeline! Taking overpriced Qatari gas, by pipeline, is for the least eccentric: Qatar is able to export LNG to Europe at high prices, already.

The real interest is to force Qatar to cut its prices – which will happen, however many football teams and luxury hotels the “western-friendly” Qataris can buy to curry favour with European political, media and corporate elites.

The claim that the only “realistic way” that EU governments, from Germany to France to Italy to Spain, will be able to meet EU mandated CO2 reduction targets by 2020 is a major shift to burning gas instead of coal, is also unreal on technical grounds. This claim ignores the complex realities of EU27 energy, and world energy – especially fast-evolving technology in power generation.

Heavily criticised by the Greens and Climate Crazies, Germany’s decision to build more coal-fired power plants takes no account of the Syrian situation, but pays plenty of attention to the fact that even if gas-fired power plants can reduce CO2 emissions by 50-60% over conventional coal-fired plants, they are distanced in CO2 reduction performance by new generation clean coal plants, like IGCC power plants developed and built, in Germany – by Siemens.

Replacing old coal-fired facilities with IGCC technologies can reduce Germany’s current coal power related CO2 emissions by 40 million tons per year for the same amount of power supply (about 46% of total German power supply). For the US, Siemens pitches “clean coal” as follows.

German hard coal resources, notably in the Ruhr basin, are now a highly politicised issue also confused by technology issues – especially concerning in situ underground gasification by fracking, extending to much greater depths than economically extractable “physical coal”. Even in IGCC power plants “physical coal” would emit as much, or more CO2 per unit kWh of electric power generated as gas-fired plants using gasified coal, making coal gasification a major focus of German energy R&D. Resource estimates for German remaining coal reserves range from as high as 75 to 100 billion tons coal equivalent, to less than 500 million tons, due to the politicised spin – very like the “imaginative” estimates of recoverable oil reserves in Arab countries of the Middle East, which always increase, on paper, at any time of geopolitical stress like the present.

Similar politicised and radical variations of coal reserve estimates apply to Poland’s USB, Ukraine’s Donbass and Russia’s western coalfields. Under any rational scenario however, these European coal resources could cover 350 – 500 years of current European and Russian coal needs.

The need for any kind of energy transported across Syria’s frontiers – either oil or gas – is zero in Europe.

We should ask here that Washington and London’s brain-trust take note then, and think about ceasing to promote a bankrupt drive to break yet another nation state – and for the wrong reasons, whilst risking wider regional instability through their own reckless efforts.

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Washington’s plan to isolate Iran is drifting towards a profitable stalemate

January 11, 2012

By Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire
January 11, 2012

On the surface, the latest spat between the West and Iran looks like a step closer to war, with tensions reaching a fever pitch on both sides of this potential conflict. Upon closer examination however, present conditions are not particularly ideal for a preemptive strike against Iran by the US and Israel. There is still much money to be made from the current crisis – on both sides, before the winds of war could be unleashed on the region.

Military posturing by the United States and Israel near the Strait of Hormuz reached a new level this week with announcement of Austere Challenge 12, a naval drill which looks designed to apply increased pressure on Iran to abandon their alleged nuclear weapons ambitions. At the same time, Iran has announced it will be shoring up its defensive positions by conducting its own war games in neighboring waters. From a military standpoint, exactly how far and how fast these tensions escalate is still uncertain. There have been a number of key indicators though in the last week that hint at a longer, drawn out affair.

Real military conflict not looking favourable

Unlike Iraq or Afghanistan – two countries which offered little or no real military resistance when attacked by the US, Iran actually has the means to fight back and sustain its defensive position, as well as retaliate regionally, over a long period of time. The first target would be any US naval vessels parked or patrolling regional waters. Such a scenario may lead to a multi-regional World War III condition, and without a doubt, will be hugely unpopular in the West, plunging a global economy into a worldwide depression.

In addition, the US and Israel have yet to secure Syria and eliminate the military might of loyal Iranian allies Hezbollah in Lebanon – which must be done in order for the US and Israel to gain the upper hand regionally. Both these points are key factors in achieving a green light for any preemptive strike against Tehran, and both those lights are currently red.

Most experts are also in agreement that any serious clash between the West and Iran could result in a disruption in the flow of oil to a petroleum-dependent global economy that surely needs it now – more than ever.

These stark realities could be pushing the current standoff closer towards a stalemate, than towards the hot conflict that many mainstream media analysts are expecting to take place between now and spring 2012.

Signals from traditional US military and ‘coalition’ ally Great Britain are also not looking great. Addressing a recent conference entitled, “NATO and the Case for Collective Defense in the 21st Century” at Atlantic Council in Washington, the UK’s Defense Secretary Philip Hammond clearly noted, “We would not be in favor of a preemptive strike on Iran.”

Sanctions will not isolate Iran for long

US-led calls for economic sanctions against Iran may partially isolate Iran politically in the short-term, but they do not have the teeth to sustain enough severe pressure over the long run.

Already this week, South Korea announced that it will still be buying Iranian crude oil in 2012. China is also defying the US call for sanctions, stating its plans to make Iran its second largest oil importer in 2012. In addition to these, another trading partner of Iran – Japan, is expecting to receive an exemption from US penalties on Japanese banks doing business with Iran. “We are not considering banning imports,” Japan Times quoted a Japanese Foreign Ministry late last week.

Major oil companies are also represented throughout America’s elite clique of foreign policy think tanks, and like their corporate siblings in the defense industry, they will also reap huge dividends from the appearance of instability and crisis around the Persian Gulf. Such a ‘strategy of tension’ normally sees winners in those industries which are best placed to benefit.

Unlike the steady dollar slide between 2007-2008 which help drive the oil price spike of over $140 per barrel during the summer of 2008, this week’s oil highs of over $100 per barrel are a direct result of the present war-hype and threats of escalation. This will result in an overnight bumper economy for many of the OPEC petrol nations, as well as the major US oil distribution and retail corporations.

A New Cold War is emerging

The West’s last real military standoff was against the former Soviet bloc which came to a political finale in 1991 following the disintegration of the Iron Curtain. It was the world largest-ever arms race, fueled by 20th Century power politics, played out in the form of a Cold War.

The real winners of this long Cold War between the West and the Soviet bloc were those military defense contractors who became incredibly wealthy and influential as a result of decades of 20th Century global power politics. Their influence remains to this day and already, a handful of companies have reaped incredible rewards from the current protracted diplomatic deadlock with Iran. It is little wonder that some of these same corporations actually dictate most US foreign policy to a large degree, through their own CEO’s and board members that also belong to the dominant US-UK foreign policy think tanks including the Council on Foreign Relations, Chatham House and the Atlantic Council who then dictate their international policy recommendations to Washington and London, whose governments finally adopt these as official foreign policy. Their names include Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Raytheon, Boeing and others.

As the threat of a regional confrontation with Iran continues to drag itself out, the trend of profitability looks likely to continue as most of the West’s regional partners continue to both re-arm and upgrade their own defense  systems – with US-made hardware.

The Arab GCC countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait have already begun their process of re-arming. In December 2011, the United States announced a $3.48 billion arms deal with the UAE, which included state-of-the-art THAD missile defense systems, as part of a wider American effort to build up missile defenses among Gulf allies to counter Iran. On December 29, the White House announced that it was sending nearly $30 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, part of a $60 billion package – the largest arms deal in history.

In addition, the US and Saudi Arabia signed a $1.7 billion deal earlier in 2011 to boost their Patriot missile batteries, and Kuwait put in their order to purchase 209 GEM-T missiles – at a cost of $900 million. These regional missile defense strategies will also need land-based interceptors to knock out incoming missiles, backed up by a detection network… aboard a group of US Navy Aegis-class warships. By the time this current round of re-arming is complete, US defense contractors will have seen a rise in profits which also means a rise in their all-important share prices.

Still, despite all these significant acquisitions on the part of the GCC so far, by no means do they provide blanket protection from an Iranian retaliatory strike against the Arabian Western allies. They are simply the latest chapter in that time-honoured tradition of Washington stoking regional tension on one hand, and America’s arms industry bleeding the Arab states of hard cash for still more expensive military hardware on the other. The Arabs can naturally afford to pay for their new military hardware from a sustained surge in world oil prices…. caused by the continued hyping of a potential military confrontation which could block the oil industry’s most key transit waterway – the Strait of Hormuz. One can see the geopolitical relationship between these events happening right now.

Here we have the ideal set of conditions for a New Cold War to emerge in the early 21st Century – one where the Western Axis powers of the US, Europe, Israel and the Emirates sit on one side, and Iran, Syria, China, Russia sit on the other. This Cold War will be more about sub-regional dominance in terms of economics – natural gas, mineral and trade relationships, than it will about the political ideologies that seemed to dominate the infamous 20th Century face-off.

How long this current stalemate drags on is anyone’s guess right now, but one thing is for sure – while it continues to brew, there are still massive profits to be made by key players in both the global defense and petroleum industries.

Why Attacking Iran Will NOT Work in 2012

January 5, 2012

Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire
January 5, 2012

All signs coming out of Washington, London, Paris and Tel Aviv are pointing towards a pre-emptive military strike against Iran in 2012. But a number of key indicators are also pointing towards an unsuccessful, unlikely operation, whose failure could result in a military and economic tailspin from which the United States and Israel are unlikely to recover.

Currently, the US is following a trajectory of past unsuccessful empires that were unable to sustain themselves resulting in an eventual collapse from within. The US is currently running up a budget deficit which is not only threatening to bankrupt its entire economy, but also threatening the hegemony of its sole instrument for advantage and influence on the world stage – the US dollar. Any threat to the supremacy of the dollar is also a threat to the empire.

It is difficult to calculate the outcome of a western attack against Iran -because there are so many variables.

No moral mandate

For centuries, even Rome required a moral mandate as it conquered the known world. As was the case with the Iraqi invasion and occupation in 2003, the West and its Axis powers led by Washington will require a multi-nation coalition backed by some form of moral mandate in order to move forward with their plans.

Previously, a US-UK campaign against Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction was waged through the UN, and was sufficient at the time in achieving a minimal sway in public opinion needed from both the American and British people, justifying their governments’ foreign policy goals enough to get the war off the ground. But the cost in 2012 of pushing forward under false pretences with both Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003, means that the Axis coalition powers have already played their best hand under the current social democratic system.

It is clear now, after multiple failures by the UN’s IAEA to implicate Iran in developing nuclear weapons that a moral mandate is not there, so despite the best efforts of the hawks and FOX News, there cannot be the sway in public opinion needed to move forward militarily. The only remaining technique available to trigger a military conflagration is a false flag attack orchestrated by either the US, Israel or the UK, whereby Iran can be blamed for firing the ‘first shot’.

The war has already begun

As far as the Islamic Republic of Iran is concerned, the war has already begun. US-backed sanctions imposed against the Central Bank of Iran have been put into effect, even though no proof has actually been presented to the UN justifying such a pre-war move. But sanctions are still the first step in a physical war. The result of the Axis open abuse of the UN’s Security Council resolution process, a number of influential nations have already announced their disregard for these US-backed sanctions.

This week, South Korea has announced that despite the White House’s wishes, it will still be buying roughly 10 percent of its crude oil from Iran in 2012. China is also defying the US call for sanctions, stating it will ‘resume its existing trade relationship’ with Iran this year. In 2012, China plans to make Iran its no.2 oil importer, adding to an already existing relationship worth approximately $30 billion per year. The West are in no position to challenge China over Iran at present. This means that the Axis powers will struggle to keep anything near an air-tight international mandate. They may hurt Iran in the short-term, but in the long run, such sanctions will have no teeth.

The cost to America and Europe of dragging out this ‘war of words’

The most likely outcome in the first part of 2012, is the West dragging a war of words via press briefings and imperial rhetoric. An increasingly media savvy Iran will naturally follow suit, winning favour at home as the underdog in this imperial clash. The result is a war of the words in the media.

But even the cost of this ‘posturing war’ to the US and Europe may be too much to bear at this time.

Even the threat of an attack on Iran will automatically drive oil speculators to push up the price of oil futures, which will in turn raise the price of oil at the pump at a time when Western businesses and consumers can hardly afford it. And this series of events is already in motion. The Strait of Hormuz is the world’s busiest oil shipping lane, with 17 million barrels of oil per day passing through. Iranian announcements this week stating they will not only defend their territorial waters, but retaliate by closing the Strait’s shipping lanes if it’s attacked by the US or Israel – have already driven up the global price, with the price of Brent Crude jumping another $5 today to an eight-month high of $111.65 per barrel. CNN reported this week:

Oil prices surged 4% Tuesday, fuelled by continued anxiety over Iran’s growing threat to shut down the Strait of Hormuz after the Iranian military launched a missile test.

“It’s mostly about Iran right now,” said Peter Beutel, analyst with energy risk management firm Cameron Hanover. “That’s the most bullish factor.”

Oil prices jumped 4.2% to settle at $102.96 a barrel. That’s the highest closing price since May 10, when prices ended the day at $103.88 a barrel.

The picture gets progressively worse as the US-Iran face-off continues into 2012. Business Insider released a report today detailing a likely scenario whereby barrel costs skyrocket to $150:

Managers of the Guinness Global Energy fund have warned of an oil price spike to $150 per barrel if Iran were to carry out its threat of closing the Strait of Hormuz and blocking 15% of global oil exports.

“The exports transported through the Strait of Hormuz are equivalent to two Saudi Arabia’s or two Russia’s, so the potential impact on the price is massive. We do not think this will happen but we cannot rule it out completely.”

Cash windfall for the oil industry

OPEC oil producing Gulf nations led by monarchies Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, will certainly benefit financially from any initial UN sanctions as well as any protracted stand-off between the West and Iran fueled by hype, with speculation driving up the price of oil, allowing the producer nations to effectively printing money overnight.

GCC foreign companies and joint ventures include Aramco, Harken Oil (Bush family company), Texas Oil, Union Oil of California, and a host of others. Distributors and retail winners include the likes of Exxon, Royal Dutch/Shell, BP, Chevron, Getty, Phillips,  Texaco, Mobil, Occidental/Gulf and Amoco. Each of these transnational oil refiners, distributors and retailers can expect a cash windfall and a rise in their all-important share prices, but more importantly, the current crisis will be an opportunity for this cartel – to fix a new, higher price at the pump.

Even if the stand-off were to climb down between the West and Iran, and the price per barrel were to somehow drop back below $100, this cartel of oil companies will still work to maintain a new higher overall pricing standard at the pump. Past price relationships between barrel price and pump price will verify this cartel practice. The economic implications, particularly on American and European economies which relies so heavily on petroleum to distribute and deliver staples like food and other day-to-day goods – could be horrific, instigating a wave of inflation on an already inflation-battered US consumer. Likewise, such a crisis will have a negative effect on the value empire’s holy grail – the US dollar.

A spike in US prices will also trigger-off that old predictable debate during the coming 2012 US  Presidential election cycle – over lifting any moratoriums on domestic oil drilling within the United States (drill baby, drill). If any are lifted, again, it’s yet another win for the oil industry and its shareholders.

Risks involved in a regional conflict

For a perspective of the Libyan model of intervention, NATO is unlikely to involve itself in a large-scale military operation in Iran. It would prove too costly from both economic and political standpoints.

Neither the US or Israel has engaged in a bona fide naval conflict in decades. In the case of the US, owner of the world’s largest navy, its last true naval military affair was WWII. As Great Britain painfully discovered during its costly Falkland Island War adventure, even one rudimentary French-made Exocet Missile launched by Argentina below radar, was enough to not only cripple a major piece of its naval fleet, but also enough of a black eye to nearly derail majority public support for their ill-conceived war effort from the opposition and back-benchers home in London.

Similarly, the Iranian defense has the capability to sink not one, but many US Naval ships currently flexing their muscles on the periphery of Iranian territorial waters. Such an event would register with shock and horror in the US public mind, but worse, may be used by Washington hawks to justify a revenge nuclear strike against Iranian civilians. Both Washington and Tel Aviv have already raised the talking point of deploying “tactical nukes” against Iran. Such foreshadowing should not be ignored, as it is often a clear indicator of things to come.

Any nuclear conflagration by the US or Israel would most certainly result in a global backlash against the West – at its worst acting as a procession into the hot stages of World War III – or at its very least, re-balkanizing the geopolitical scene into a New Cold War, with the West on one side and Iran, China, Pakistan, and Russia on the other.

Watch author Patrick Henningsen in this segment from Al Jazeera’s program Empire: Targeting Iran, as analysts spec out potential wargames between the West and Iran:

GCC becomes a target

Another factor seldom mentioned by vocal proponents of regime change in Iran, like Hillary Clinton and neocon war hawks in Washington, is that any attack on Iran will most certainly mean that all US allies in the region will become a potential target. This means it is unlikely that those wealthy and developed GCC countries would remain untouched by a conflict happening only a mere hundreds of miles away. Neither would nearby major US military installations in Iraq, Qatar and Afghanistan. All are likely targets in a hot Iranian conflict.

Petrol monarchies like the UAE (most notably Abu Dhabi and Dubai), Kuwait and Qatar currently rely heavily on a high standard of living and complete domestic security and stability in order to survive as societies. These fragile petrol monarchies rely on a very thin veneer of law and order – one which props up their marketing image of a luxurious “Middle East destination”. Any Iranian retaliation against these fragile US allies would result in a massive flight of persons, ex-pats and financial capital from the GCC to much safer havens – like Europe, the US, or Singapore.

If there is to be a war, it will be the US, UK, France, Israel and their allies who will do the fighting. But the GCC would still need to defend itself from reprisals. In December 2011, the United States announced a $3.48 billion arms deal with the UAE, which included state-of-the-art THAD missile defense systems, as part of a wider American effort to build up missile defenses among Gulf allies to counter Iran. In addition, the US and Saudi Arabia signed a $1.7 billion deal earlier in 2011 to boost the country’s Patriot missiles and Kuwait purchased 209 GEM-T missiles at a cost of $900 million. This regional missile defense strategy will need land-based interceptors to knock out incoming missiles, backed up by a detection network aboard a team of US Navy Aegis-class warships.

Although these are significant acquisitions on the part of the GCC, they are by no means blanket protection from an Iranian retaliation, and are most likely the result of America’s arms industry, in its honored tradition, bleeding the GCC of cash with yet more expensive hardware, a hard sell based on fear and war hype.

Taking all this into account, and noting the incredibly concentration of wealth in the GCC, it’s hard to see a scenario where the monied interests would tolerate such a risk to their progressive Arabian project that they have spend decades investing in and building from scratch.

Post-Bombing Blowback

Aside from the GCC risk, it is with near certainty that one could predict a full-scale regional backlash, and genuine uprising around the Muslim world should the US or Israel come good on their threats of a pre-emptive strike against Iran. Iranian civilian deaths could not be avoided, and hence, their would be a blood price to pay by the West in the eyes of many Muslims. Such a pan-Arab uprising would stretch US and Israel capabilities in the region past their ability to maintain control of the situation. The results for Israel could be dire in such a scenario, and it’s only expected that a tit-for-tat would spiral into a long regional conflict.

The West’s best chance to weather such a storm would be to overtake, or set up a military base in either Lebanon or Syria in order to neutralize traditional Iranian ally and Israeli opponent – Hezbollah – currently based in Lebanon. Without wiping out Hezbollah’s military capabilities, Israel cannot safely move forward with a unilateral/US attack on Iran. The time table for such a Syria or Lebanese take-down would put any possible attack on Iran well into late 2012, or even 2013 and beyond.

A Giant Dirty Bomb

If the US or Israel were to hit any of the said Iranian nuclear facilities or reactors, it has the potential to become a giant ‘dirty bomb’. In such a scenario, the civilian deaths could exceed 1,000,000 and a radioactive fall-out would certainly spill over into the surrounding US clients like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait and possibly as far as Israel/Palestine, Turkey, Georgia, Pakistan, India and parts of southern Europe.

Following such a radiological event, the West would certainly be blamed for any and all environmental damage and death which occurs, resulting in a massive loss of international face, followed by massive financial reparations which would ultimately cripple their already weak economies. Worse than this however, it would certainly throw the global economy into a long economic depression.

Most sane analysts would agree, this is a risk too high, and a price too high to pay. So the real question remains then, are analysts in Washington and Tel Aviv sane enough to make policy decisions?

An Israeli driven effort

Like previous AIPAC campaigns to hit Iraq, the current drive to isolate and demonize Iran has been cooked up in the Israeli lobby’s kitchen. Due to a revolving wheel of campaign contributions to each and every US Congress and Senate candidate, ‘putting Israel first’ has become a top priority for any politician with any ambition in Washington. If any official steps out of line and criticizes Israel, AIPAC functionaries like the ADL and SPLC are sprung into action and a PR campaign is usually waged against the offending public official.

The Israeli lobby will claim that a pre-emptive strike on Iran is needed because Iran has stated that it wishes to, “Wipe Israel off the map”. Most war hawks would be surprised when they learn that such words were never actually spoken by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Shouldn’t this revelation change the entire Israeli perspective? It should, but it doesn’t. Regardless of any evidence to the contrary, the lobby and its media partners will continue repeating their faux version of the event as if it were something that actually happened, or spelled a genuine threat to the physical state of Israel. Likewise, US politicians will in turn acknowledge the lobby’s version of events, themselves repeating the very same faux threat – as if this somehow justify plans for a pre-emptive strike on Iran.

What is most important here again, is that at no point during any of this political maneuvering, could either the US, or Israel produce any compelling evidence at all that Iran has, or is near possessing a nuclear weapon in their military arsenal. Even if they could fabricate such evidence to start a war, there are simply too many pieces out of place on the grand chessboard right now to indicate an imminent attack on Iran in the spring or summer of 2012.

So far, however, the clear winner is the oil industry and the OPEC nations, winning a shift in wealth from the global middle class into the hands of petrol monarchies and oil company shareholders.

Washington’s agenda revealed: NTC rebels asking NATO to ‘stay in Libya’

October 28, 2011

Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire
October 28, 2011

It seems that Libya’s US-backed Rebels don’t quite possess the stomach for regime change that their bosses in Washington DC and London have.

The west’s new vichy-style government in Libya, aka the ‘National Transitional Council’ (NTC) have now asked NATO to stay until 2012, this allegedly in order ‘to stop Gaddafi loyalists fleeing’.

It’s more likely, however, that the rebels are fearing reprisals from the thousands of innocent Libyans who have been maimed, raped and whose family members have been killed in the name of NATO’s liberation of Libya. The list of atrocities done in their name seems to be endless, with new reports of Rebel mass graves and executions coming out daily.

Of course, nothing defines NTC’s barbaric nature better than the brutal execution of Moammar Gaddafi, beaten and shot to death, along with members of his family in Sirte.

Yes, these are the violent animals that US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and British PM David Cameron have backed and fought alongside of in the war for Libya’s riches.

Call it mission creep, or call it 21st century imperialism, but it’s very easy to gather from this latest move that the NTC were never stable enough to facilitate numerous US and European multinational companies who are currently being lined up for hundreds of new ‘reconstruction projects’ and contracts in the country.

NATO and US have long-range plans for Libya

Far from being in control of the country and able to govern, it appears that NATO’s NTC rag-tag band of international al-Qaida mercenaries and tribal paramilitary gangs do not have anything near a mandate by the people to rule Libya, as western TV audiences have been led to believe for the last 9 months.

The London Guardian reported this week on this latest bombshell, announced at a meeting with the US brokered military alliance in Qatar on Wednesday, where  NTC interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil announced:

“We look forward to Nato continuing its operations until the end of the year,” said Jalil, adding that stopping the flight of Gaddafi supporters to other countries was a priority. “We seek technical and logistics help from neighbouring and friendly countries,” 

Among other illegalities which contravene the UN’s flimsy Resolution 1973, which only allowed for a no-fly zone over Libya, Qatar stood in for the US as far back as March 2011, when it recognised the NTC as the legitimate authority in Libya. Writing its own rules, Qatar then went ahead to supply NATO-Rebel fighters with military provisions, heavy weaponry and more than $400m (£250m) in cash towards regime change.

Worse yet, it was revealed today that the Qatari government has provided boots on the ground in support of the US and NATO’s plan for regime change in Libya. According to Ahram Online:

For the first time, Qatar reveals that it had soldiers on the ground across Libya assisting in the fight against Gaddafi’s regime, with the country to play a major role in integrating the rebels into the Libyan military…

“We were among them and the numbers of Qataris on the ground were hundreds in every region,” said Qatari chief of staff Major General Hamad bin Ali Al-Atiya.

Under international law, this move by long-time US puppet Qatar is a flagrant violation of UN 1973, and other international laws, a crime of opportunity which should place Qatar firmly in international court.

The US agenda in Libya was always to exact regime change- but without getting its hands dirty by being caught in public with troops on the ground. In this twisted operation, it assigned the job of fall guy to its chief partner in the Middle East, Qatar.

But now it appears that the US and Britain are both reported to have had special forces troops on the ground in Libya in the run-up to Gaddafi’s assassination last week.

Israeli intelligence news service DEBKA quoted US sources who admit that American drones kept Gaddafi’s home in Sirte under surveillance, while it was surrounded by US and British forces.

American sources are willing to admit that US drones operated by pilots from Las Vegas pinpointed the fugitive ruler’s hideout in Sirte and kept the building under surveillance for two weeks, surrounded by US and British forces.

Both therefore had boots on the ground in breach of the UN mandate which limited NATO military intervention in Libya to air strikes.

In addition, US emirate puppet Qatar put its hands in the cookie jar very early on, providing the marketing and facilitating the selling of rebel-controlled Libyan oil exports beginning in March – oil which, under Gaddafi, was used to pay government salaries and state benefits on which most families depend. That system is now in chaos, as NTC Rebels and assorted western companies scramble to carve up the country’s state-owned assets and natural resources.

The UK was then next to join in the party, when on Oct 4th, independent oil and gas explorer Heritage Oil became the first foreign firm to pump Libyan oil thanks to its acquisition of a Benghazi-based oil company.

Qatar has stated yesterday that it will remain in Libya as the US proxy. Military commander Atiya said yesterday, that following the eventual departure of NATO troops in 2012, a new “international coalition”, led by Qatar would oversee “military training, collecting weapons, and integrating the rebels in newly established military institutions.” What is not mentioned here, is that any Qatari military operation will be accompanied by its numerous US advisers, as well as US military equipment, and CIA intelligence support.

And so it begins. “The liberation of Libya”, to be divided up by a series of multinational companies, along with a permanent attachment of US and European military specialists.

In a few months time, internal struggles will be rife and naturally, NATO will still be there- along with UN blue helmets. Whatever is left of the original NTC and their CIA contracted al-Qaida freedom fighters, will likely have ripped each other to pieces fighting over the scraps of wealth that are left by the US, Europe and Qatar.

Surprised?

This writer is not, as it was easily predicted on Oct 4th that NATO would be staying in Libya, and that there would be boots on the ground in 2012:

By that time, all the horrors and atrocities which have been carried out by NATO and its Rebels will have been flushed out, and with any luck, people in the west might realize who brought real brutality and tragedy to the country of Libya.

Let the rebuilding commence.