29 November 2011

Palestinians and the UN Saga

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the significance of Palestinian membership to UNESCO.

A largely overlooked consequence of this membership was their almost automatic acceptance to other agencies like WIPO and IAEA. Since there are, not one but two US laws that automatically cuts funding to any UN agencies that allows Palestine membership, the US could find itself unable to participate in the decision making process of the World Intellectual Property Organization or the International Atomic Energy Agency. UN rules do not require the expulsion of members who fail to pay their dues. But they strip them of their vote and presence at the table.

At a time when people worry about a nuclear Iran posing a mortal threat to Israel, it would have been ironic for the US to quit the decision-making process of the Agency that deals with nuclear monitoring just to support Israel.

Not surprisingly, the corporate media did not pay much attention to that potentially embarrassing and costly repercussion. It was mostly online sites that discussed the issue. MJ Rosenberg lamented the shortsightedness of the US foreign policy and its blind subservience to Likud's vision. There was another reference in Americablog, which erroneously stated that the US left UNESCO and asked whether WIPO and ITU would be next. ITU is the international telecommunication body and chief among its concerns is the Internet. Clearly, being removed from that would also be a major headache for the US.

But to me, the real question is this: How come the Palestinians did not make a lot of noise about their intention to apply to these organizations?

For instance, UNIDO's biennial General Conference started yesterday and the outgoing chair is Iran. Why not give your dossier right now?

More importantly, why not publicize your next move?

That would almost certainly attract a lot of attention and start a whole new debate. Especially in the context of IAEA and the Iranian monitoring issue. In that case, it is not just the US interests that are in jeopardy but Israel stands to lose a lot as well.

Since the two US laws in question were written with specific language that precludes to introduction of a national security waiver, the Obama administration is in no position to prevent the US from leaving its chair empty in these critically important agencies.

In the past, the US were able to browbeat most member nations, as they did with WHO, who refused a Palestinian bid in 1989 because George Bush the father told them he would cut funding to the organization. John Bolton, who, like every neocon, is not very bright, recommended that the US threatens every organization and withdraws from all of them, if need be.

Except, this time around it would be a disaster for the US and Israel.

So, how come the Palestinians are not even mentioning the possibility?

Is it possible that my contrarian hypothesis is correct and a change is in the offing?

26 November 2011

This Is Not Good

Nato helicopters from Afghanistan have intruded into north-west Pakistan and attacked a military checkpoint near the border, killing as many as 25 Pakistani troops, intelligence officials in the country have said.
As they did before, Pakistan promptly closed off its border to stop all supply trucks going into Afghanistan.

This comes after a sustained propaganda campaign, which included this damning documentary. Also also, right after the memogate, which cost the Pakistani Ambassador to the US his job.

I don't know if there is some sort of plan behind this or if this was done by frustrated soldiers who are convinced of that Pakistan is playing a double game.

Either way, this is not good news. Pakistan is a very volatile country, and for me, its itchy fingers on a nuclear stockpile is much more worrisome than a nuclear Iran could ever be.

Tahrir Square 2.0

A distinguished member of my tiny readership inquired why I was not commenting on the recent events in Egypt.

The reason for my reluctance to write about Egypt is a focus issue. For the most part, I tend to write about the long game, that is, I try to present a coherent perspective anchored in an explicit framework. I find the short game (the daily news) distracting and conducive to "he said, he said" type of analyses. Also, I would like to stay away from moralizing observations and that is hard to do if you deal with the sound and fury of daily events.

There is a complex game being played out in Egypt and the two main actors, the army and the Muslim Brotherhood are taking unusual steps that complicate the situation further. Field Marshall Tantawi, the artist formerly known as Mubarak's poodle, is a wily adversary but he has too many constraints. The Brotherhood, being no slouch themselves, are using a familiar playbook and countering his moves with gusto. But, they, too, have limited options.

22 November 2011

Syria The Denouement Rapidly Approaching

My tiny readership will remember that I predicted many months ago that Turkey will play a pivotal role in removing Bashar al Assad and his government from power.

That prediction made sense in light of my hypothesis that the US was in the process of undertaking a large scale transformation of the Middle East to control the distribution of oil and gas and entrusting Turkey with the regional super power role.

It looks like things are evolving in that direction.

When the Arab League suspended Syria on 12 November, King Abdullah of Jordan went on BBC World News Television and said:
"If Bashar has the interest of his country [at heart] he would step down, but he would also create an ability to reach out and start a new phase of Syrian political life," 

18 November 2011

Iran and Israel

If you have been reading international news headlines lately, you must have noticed a flurry of military threats emanating from Israel about Iranian nuclear installation.

The process began in early November with Shimon Peres declaring that "military option against Iran was closer." Ehud Barak chimed in and said that he cannot rule out the military option against Iran.

Russian President Medvedev promptly reacted to this saying that such overheated statements were very dangerous and a military action could have grave consequences

A couple of days later, Leon Panetta, US Defense Secretary joined Medvedev and issued a warning against such an attack.

Since then, the back and forth has been continuing. A friend of mine recently told me that he believed Israel would attack Iranian installations, like the fabled Operation Opera against Saddam's Osirak reactor. And I have been hearing the same view from a number of observers I respect.

However, my contrarian view is that there will be no such attack.

11 November 2011

Saudi Arabian Succession and the Future of the Middle East

Saudi Arabia's strategic importance and the attention it gets in corporate media are inversely proportional.

When Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al Saud died on 22 October, we got the usual commentary about how he was the Minister of Defense from 1962 onward and how he dealt with every US president since JFK.

To their credit, on that day, Daily Beast got the old CIA hand and presidential adviser Bruce Riedel* ask the very pertinent question about Crown Prince Nayef and his chances to become king. Despite the existence of an Allegiance Council created to ratify the next in line, most people assume that Nayef will succeed his half brother Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud, who is also quite old and quite ill.

Nayef is a hardliner and he is likely to reverse the modest reforms started by the current king Abdullah. He also hates Iranians with a passion and he has close ties to the Wahhabi clerics. The fact that he hates Al Qaeda seems to reassure some people in Washington but I do not share their perspective of benign neglect.

Let's examine where we stand right now.

03 November 2011

Papandreou's Move and the Future of Euro

Dubious Causality

When I first wrote about the Eurozone crisis, I objected to the misleading presentation of the problem as bailing out Greece (or Ireland or Spain or Portugal), when in fact, it was bailing out German and French banks whose combined exposure the Southern debt is almost a trillion euros.

This is done to create a bogus causality to shield reckless banksters. Blaming Greece is like saying the US housing bubble was caused by poor people who were offered huge mortgages. Banks pushed cheap money like there was no tomorrow and devised dubious ways to push some more. If my bank offers me ten million euros fully knowing I have no way of paying back, do I have the responsibility to tell them they are out of their minds?

So, everyone is scrambling to hide the banksters role in all this. They gambled for short term gains and lost. (Just like MFGlobal) But, as we know from the US, these banks are "too big to fail" which means that if they incur those losses they will need a serious injection of capital. Lending fresh money to Greece is a way of doing this. Just like AIG bailout was in fact a bailout of banks (Societe Generale, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch), this is an indirect way of rescuing these banks.

01 November 2011

UNESCO Palestine Vote

When I am wrong about something, I am the first one to admit it.

A short while ago I wrote about the proposed Palestinian membership to UNESCO and stated that it was not a helpful move at this point. Today, I am here to state that I was wrong in that assessment.

If you read this blog you know that while AIPAC-Likud-Republican folks use similar language for the Palestinian move, my perspective have nothing to do with theirs as I do not share their disdain for the peace process and their cynicism about a viable two-state solution.

On the contrary, I am probably the only person alive who is convinced that such a solution is likely to take place in the next couple of years. My reasoning is based on the fact that such a solution is in the interest of the US who wants to control the distribution of oil and gas in a stabilized region and in the interest of Israel who would have a hard time maintaining the regional status quo and address its security needs after the fall of Mubarak (and the eventual fall of Al-Assad in Syria).

I believe that one way or the other a Palestinian state will happen.

It is because of that belief that I thought the Palestinian move at UNESCO was unnecessary. But now that it happened, far from considering it pointless, I can see the benefits of it.

A Curious Sale

According to Reuters, the US is selling three AH-1W Super Cora attack helicopters to Turkey. Nothing unusual there. Turkey routinely buys military equipment from the US and they already have several of these helicopters.

What is unusual is the fact that these three Super Cobras come from the current inventory of the Marine Corps. As the news item noted, "such sales from the U.S. military's current inventory are extremely rare."

It seems to suggest that Turkey will need these Super Cobras in the very near future. Since they already own ten of these choppers, I doubt that they need them for their almost routine incursions into northern Iraq in pursuit of PKK forces.

So the question I am not able to answer is: why is there a sense of urgency in bolstering Turkey's attack capabilities?