NEW DELHI —India’s main opposition party on Friday chose controversial Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate in parliamentary elections set for next year.
The choice of Modi, chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, was long expected but opposed by many even within his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Several weeks of internal wrangling preceded Friday’s ceremonial announcement, at which the candidate was cheered and adorned with a garland of roses and jasmine....
-bth: it is simply ridiculous that DG Modi has not been issued a US visa. How is it that the prospective prime minister of India, the largest democracy in the world would not have strong and reciprocol relations with the oldest continuous democracy on the planet?
Saturday, September 14, 2013
... “On the nuclear issue, the endgame should be a win-win,” Rouhani said on Iranian state TV. “A win-lose game is meaningless. We are ready for this game. This job will begin in New York.”
He warned, however, that he wants to return to Tehran with some progress to show.
“The world should know that that the time span for settling nuclear issues will not be unlimited,” Rouhani said. “The world should use the opportunity that the Iranian nation has provided through the election.”
Part of his unexpected victory in June is a cadre of Western-educated Cabinet members and advisers. Among them is Zarif, who is scheduled to accompany him to New York. Zarif served at Iran’s U.N. Mission from 2002 to 2007.
Rouhani also received permission from the ruling clerics to make a potentially important shift in the negotiation team: taking control of the talks from security agencies and giving it to Zarif and his diplomats. His presence in New York adds significant weight to efforts at reviving the nuclear dialogue.
Zarif said he expects no direct talks with U.S. officials but could meet with former members of the Obama administration or other former policy-shapers.
Washington officials have not spoken publicly about Zarif’s claim of a letter exchange with Rouhani on the Syrian civil war.
Some Iranian news agencies have reported that a message from Obama was carried to Iran last month by Oman’s ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said, whose country was a mediator before — when Iran released three Americans convicted of espionage despite claims they innocently crossed the border while hiking in Iraq in 2009....
-bth: an article worth reading in full. It would seem an opportunity for constructive dialogue and action presents itself. Perhaps all would benefit if this obvious reach out by Iran were greated in reciprocal fashion.
...“The deepwater Gulf of Mexico is witnessing an astonishing run of discoveries and hydrocarbon augmentation," Simmons & Co International said in a note to investors in July. "Quite a renaissance from the depths of Macondo.”
According to Bloomberg News, the run is being augmented by new technologies, including innovative seismic gear that can see more clearly through rock, and new rigs that can go so deep that the earth itself could boil water at the tip of the drill.
In two years, twice as many deepwater rigs – 60 – will be operating in the Gulf compared to just before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and they could be pumping as much as 2 million barrels a day by 2020, according to Wood Mackenzie, Ltd., an industry research firm.
In July, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee grilled oil executives about the question on most Americans’ minds: If the US output is so hot, why aren’t gas prices lower, especially given that US demand is off by 8 percent since the 2008, largely thanks to lower driving miles and cleaner cars.
The main reason is that oil is a global market, and US demand and output are offset by consumption in oil-hungry nations like China. Refinery shutdowns and capacity have also played a role in higher prices.
Nevertheless, the increase in US production is ultimately helping to push down global prices, Adam Sieminski, director of the Energy Information Administration (EIA), an independent government agency, told the Senate in July.
While the US is now a net gasoline exporter, the nation still imports 40 percent of its crude, though that’s down from 60 percent just a few years ago.
Drilling supporters say the boom in Gulf oil has profound national security implications. Moreover, so-called US energy independence, once thought to be a pie-in-the-sky concept, has suddenly come to be seen as possible. Even getting imports down to 30 percent would be like the US buying “an insurance policy for the economy” since it would protect consumers from geopolitical vagaries in the global crude market, Jay Hakes, the former EIA head, told Congress.
Envirommentalists, meanwhile, bemoan the boom in the Gulf, saying it’s against the country’s ultimate, and long-term, interests.
“Recent trends in US energy consumption and production suggest we don't need to find more oil offshore,” Cindy Zipf, director of Clean Ocean Action, Inc., in Sandy Hook, N.J., wrote in the Wall Street Journal this summer. “Our investment dollars and energies are better spent on renewable energy, conservation and efficiencies such as improved mass transit, smart grids and clean-emission vehicles – an approach that creates jobs, doesn't damage the environment and addresses fossil-fuel-driven climate change.”
-bth: an article worth reading in full. A shift in imports from 60% to 40% in only a few years and the knowledge that we can push this further if necessary is an extraordinary accomplishment. The geopolitical implications are quite large and is may allow the US to step back from its do or die positions in the Middle East. One wonder what this new technology boom in the O&G field will do to other areas of the world such as Russia, or China or India. Does it make possible a surge in oil or gas production? Does it herald a period of moderate or declining energy costs? One wonders. One wonders why gasoline prices remain persistently high. One wonders whether the US should export O&G or retain it on this continent as a strategic resource.
A Concord-Carlisle School Committee member is defending a high school principal who read a Muslim poem on Wednesday’s 9/11 anniversary — but failed to line up anyone to recite the pledge of allegiance that morning.
“I’m disappointed at the reaction that some of my community,” said School Committee member Philip Benincasa. “I think what the principal was doing was an attempt to offer young people a glimpse of what binds us together as people. This was an attack carried out by extremists, not by a religious group that is as peace loving and valued member of our community, our culture, and our world as any other.”
In response to complaints, Concord-Carlisle High School principal Peter Badalament apologized for not having a student available to read the pledge on the morning of 9/11, according to school spokesman Tom Lucey. A student who was supposed to read the pledge was at a scheduled internship and Badalament had failed to find a replacement. The poem was read later in the day, not in lieu of the pledge, Lucey said.
“We had the well-being of students at the forefront of our thinking when we chose to acknowledge 9/11 by reading a poem that focused on cross-cultural understanding rather than unsettling words and images associated with the event,” the principal’s statement read. “We greatly respect all those who died and suffered loss on 9/11, the responders who gave their lives, as well as those who have served and continue to serve our country. We remain grateful for these heroic citizens.”
The poem, “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” by Syrian poet Mohja Kahf examines the clash of cultures that happens in a midwestern bathroom when her grandmother prepares for the “wudu,” a daily prayer ritual, awkwardly washing her feet in the bathroom sink....
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted Iran’s invitation to visit Tehran to work out a strategy for the Islamic regime’s nuclear program, Fars News Agency reported Saturday. The West believes the Iranian program is a front for developing nuclear weapons.... Meanwhile on Saturday, the leader of Iran’s proxy militia group in Iraq, Al-Mukhtar, warned that if America at any time attacks Syria, its forces would attack the oilfields of Saudi Arabia, thereby cutting off the “economic jugular” of the West.
“America’s attack on Syria will be the end of Saudi Arabia because the Saudi leaders promote the Syrian attack,” Wathiq al-Battat said, according to Keyhan newspaper, which is directly supervised by Iran’s supreme leader.
Battat threatened that his group would target the Saudi ports of Abqaiq, Juaymah and Ras Tanura, one of the largest in the world, and that his militants would also attack Saudi gas and oil pipelines, power lines and communication towers.
Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Forces, addressing a forum on Saturday, boasted about the power of the “Resistance Front” [Iran, Syria and Hezbollah] and stated, “In the eyes of the West, Zionists and the reactionary regimes, Syria’s real problem is not the ruling of the minority Alawites [who rule Syria] or the lack of democracy, but the reality is that the West and the reactionary regimes know that the Resistance’s powerful position in the region is indebted to the Syrian government.”
-bth: Russia cashes in in Iran for helping Syria and the iranian Quds and friends make their threats to Saudi Arabia.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
...The Shiite groups, closely linked to Iran, are also tracking his colleagues working 500 kilometers away in the giant southern oil fields clustered near Basra – a Shiite-dominated city that Iraqi officials say is a no-go zone for Western oilmen.
“The risk is of being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said a senior oil industry source.
So far, turmoil in Iraq has not hit the operations of international oil companies, or deterred them from boosting output and turning Iraq into OPEC’s second-biggest producer. But Baghdad’s oil revival has stalled due to bottlenecks at ports, pipelines and the customs office.
“Baghdad will make every effort to contain the fallout, but if we were to lose anyone, there would be huge pressure to withdraw – and we don’t want to do that.”
Long accustomed to hostile environments, foreign executives from BP, ExxonMobil, Eni, Total and Royal Dutch Shell do not scare easily.
But Iraqi security sources say Exxon, particularly at risk because as an American firm, is taking no chances, rebasing most of its workforce from the southern West Qurna-1 oil field project to Dubai until tensions ease....
-bth: It would seem likely that Iran would take an indirect approach to retaliation. Also cutting Iraqi oil flow would force some buyers back to Iran even if a temporarily. The personnel are at great risk than the oil fields themselves.
.... Turkey did not get what it expected from its Western allies. Gül's statements show that Turkey is disappointed and reproachful of the US stance as it seems Washington will give more time to Assad and reduce the pressure on him,” added Okur.
“A real political exit strategy is needed to end the civil war in Syria,” added Gül on Tuesday.
Ankara, which has found itself increasingly isolated and frustrated due to the US stance on Syria, is anxious to avoid going into Syria on its own. It has been pushing the international community for intervention.
Turkey has said it would be willing to join an international coalition to take action against the Syrian regime or to go for any other option decided by such an international coalition to punish the Syrian regime for the latest chemical attack.
Turkey has also insisted that the international community not look at the issue as solely one of chemical weapons' use and should instead consider finding a permanent solution to the crisis, which has left 100,000 dead and forced more than 6 million Syrians -- nearly a third of the population -- to flee their homes.
“It would be unacceptable for nations to turn a blind eye to the other atrocities in Syria after ensuring that the chemical weapons are turned over. There needs to be a political solution in Syria to end the civil war. It is a tragedy that this has not yet been laid out,” Gül stressed.
Turkey wants to help shape roadmap for Syria's future
According to experts, the US was never in a favor of becoming the policeman in Syria; therefore, it strives to bargain with Moscow, a key ally of Damascus, rather than take military action in the country.
“Turkey was pushing for an intervention because it wanted to secure itself. However, what I understand from Gül's statements on the Russian proposal is that Turkey should not be pushed out of the picture in Syria while Washington and Moscow draw the roadmap for Syria's future,” Beril Dedeoğlu, an academic at Galatasaray University, said in comments to Today's Zaman.
Dedeoğlu believes that Turkey would not push for an intervention if the diplomatic roadmap Washington and Moscow agree to takes into consideration Turkey's demands and interests. “Turkey is one of the countries most affected by the crisis in Syria. Therefore, it wants to have a word on the roadmap for Syria's future,” she added....
-bth: so basically Turkey was expecting to goad the US to war in Syria but not commit itself. That said it wants Assad overthrown militarily and a political solution negotiated with Turkey at the table. All well and good but the US remembers that Turkey withdrew support in 2003 regarding Iraq at the last minute and simply does not trust the Turks to step up to the plate. It has a huge army and air force and a long border with Syria. It would be more the case that the US should follow a Turkish lead than the other way around. Such as it is.
MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Iran's new president for the first time this week, reportedly armed with an offer to supply missile systems and build a second nuclear power reactor that is likely to gladden Tehran and trouble the United States.
President Hassan Rowhani is set to meet Putin on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation held in Kyrgyzstan on Friday, in the newly-elected centrist cleric's first meeting with a major world leader.
The Kommersant business daily reported Wednesday that Putin will offer to supply Iran S-300 air defence missile systems as well as build a second reactor at the Bushehr nuclear plant....
The Syria researcher whose Wall Street Journal op-ed piece was cited by Secretary of State John Kerry and Sen. John McCain during congressional hearings about the use of force has been fired from the Institute for the Study of War for lying about having a Ph.D., the group announced on Wednesday.
“The Institute for the Study of War has learned and confirmed that, contrary to her representations, Ms. Elizabeth O’Bagy does not in fact have a Ph.D. degree from Georgetown University,” the institute said in a statement. “ISW has accordingly terminated Ms. O’Bagy’s employment, effective immediately.”...
-bth: so basically we have a 26 year old masters student that was paid by a 501C supporting the Syrian rebels and evidently overstated her academic credentials. On this basis, President Obama and Sec. Kerry are making our case for war. this is very similar to the overstated dissertation used in the UK in 2003 to justify war with Iraq. Bring in the clowns.
...“The recognition that this reaction by the Islamic Republic … will be an official one or not depends on the decisions made by the country’s national security officials,” Mashregh wrote in hinting at terrorist attacks. “The defensive measures of the Resistance Front must be parallel to the offensive scenario of the West’s front.”
Mashregh ended its threat that should Obama pull the trigger on a missile assault on Syria, there will be a step-by-step response to this “mistake.”
Another regime media outlet, Isna.Ir, reported Sunday that sources in Lebanon said 10,000 Hezbollah fighters have been deployed in Damascus to avert the fall of Assad in case of a U.S. attack. It further claimed that those Hezbollah forces will fire missiles into Israel should the situation in Syria deteriorate in the aftermath of a U.S. attack.
Mashregh reported last year that the joint Resistance Front war room has been directed to fire a barrage of missiles from the three allies not only on Israel but also at American assets in the face of any intervention by the U.S. or NATO in Syria. It also said that groups such as Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad have been armed with chemical and biological weapons and that those weapons will first be used on Tel Aviv.
Mashregh recalled the doctrine of the founder of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: “If they stand against our religion, we will stand against their world. If all this bloodshed is to provide a better future for Israel, we will destroy their world....
-bth: this is very likely full of bravado and false statements, but it does not that there would be a proportional response from Iran to the US/Syrian confrontation if it occurs.
Experts blame many of Pakistan’s problems on the “circular debt,” which mainly arises because of the poor recovery of receivables by the distribution companies. It is estimated that for every 100 units of electricity provided by a distribution company, it gets paid for 30. Of the remaining 70 units, nearly 40 are pilfered and the bills for the remaining 30 go to long-term receivables. Corrupt utility executives and workers contribute to this dismal state.
After privatization, KESC’s new management tried to right size the company, but the move was resisted by employees, who enjoy significant political support. At any rate, analysts acknowledge that human resource costs may be high but it is transmission and distribution losses that really trouble KESC. These losses currently hover at around 35%, mostly because of theft. A one percent improvement would improve the company’s cash flow by Rs1.5 billion per month.
To overcome its electricity shortage, Pakistan has to come up with policies for the short, medium and long terms. The first step for the short term has been taken by clearing outstanding debt. Now, supporting policies must be prepared and implemented to ensure that circular debt does not rebuild. This requires containing theft and improving recovery. A hike in the electricity tariff could improve cash flow at distribution companies, but opponents argue that a higher tariff itself provides an incentive to pilfer electricity. They say the government should ensure an uninterrupted supply of electricity at affordable cost.
As a medium-term policy, all power plants operating in the public sector need to be refurbished to improve efficiency, which will help bring down the cost of generation. However, the focus should be on achieving the highest possible output from hydro power, where the cost of generation is still Rs2.00/units, compared to the bulk power purchase tariff of US$0.70/unit being paid to IPPs, mostly being run on furnace oil....
-bth: so instead of addressing these issues Pakistan builds more plutonium nuclear plants.
... In fact, according to the CNSNews.com database of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan, 73 percent of all U.S. Afghan War casualties have occurred since Jan. 20, 2009 when Obama was inaugurated.
The 91 U.S. casualties in Afghanistan so far in 2013 are more than in the first two full calendar years of the war (2002 and 2003), when 30 and 31 U.S. troops were killed there.....
The Japanese Self-Defense Forces were on a high state of alert on September 9 ahead of the first anniversary of Japan’s controversial purchase of islets in the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu archipelago, particularly after a pair of Chinese bombers flew near Okinawa the previous day.
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has ordered military personnel to strengthen their surveillance around the Senkakus, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan. A source in the Japanese government indicated that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Chinese maritime enforcement could take “outstanding” action in the area on September 11, the first anniversary of the purchase.
The “nationalization” of three of the five islets comprising the Senkakus in 2012 sparked large-scale protests across China, which also claims ownership of the oil- and natural-gas-rich area. Beijing retaliated against Japan’s attempted nationalization of the islets by increasing the frequency of naval patrols in the area, raising fears of accidental clashes and escalation. ...
-bth: why now? Well first is its an anniversary of the Japanese purchase. Second US naval resources are stretch with Syria.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday said it has decided "in principle" to free Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the former deputy commander of the Afghan Taliban, to facilitate the peace process in war-torn Afghanistan.
Foreign Office spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said Baradar's release is part of efforts to "help promote the Afghan peace process".
Baradar will be released at an "appropriate time", Chaudhry was quoted as saying by state-run Radio Pakistan.
The announcement came a day after an all-party meeting convened by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif endorsed the government's plans to end militancy through dialogue and discussed the Afghan reconciliation process.
Pakistan freed seven Afghan Taliban leaders on Saturday, taking the total number of commanders released so far to 33.
Media reports said Baradar, arrested by Pakistani security agencies and the CIA in Karachi in 2010, could be released by the end of this month.
President Hamid Karzai's government has been pushing Pakistan to free Baradar in the hope that he could lead talks with the Afghan High Peace Council.
After Baradar's arrest, Pakistan was accused of sabotaging the Afghan peace process. Reports at the time said Baradar was a key commander who favoured peace and that he was detained as he was operating independently without consulting Pakistan's intelligence agencies....
Sunday, September 08, 2013
The woman whose opinion lawmakers are relying on to go to war in Syria is also a paid advocate for the war-torn country’s rebels.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry encouraged members of the House of Representatives to read a Wall Street Journal op-ed by 26-year-old Elizabeth O’Bagy — an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War — who asserted that concerns about extremists dominating among the Syrian rebels are unfounded.
“Contrary to many media accounts, the war in Syria is not being waged entirely, or even predominantly, by dangerous Islamists and al-Qaida die-hards,” O’Bagy wrote for the Journal on Aug. 30. “Moderate opposition groups make up the majority of actual fighting forces,” she wrote.
But in addition to her work for the Institute for the Study of War, O’Bagy is also the political director for the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a group that advocates within the United States for Syria’s rebels — a fact that the Journal did not disclose in O’Bagy’s piece.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, O’Bagy said that despite her title as the group’s political director, she is paid as a contractor.
She insisted that she is not involved in the political lobbying that SETF does. “They kind of have two departments within the Task Force — one focused on working with the government on the Hill on advocacy and then the other working inside Syria and directly implementing government contracts,” she said.
O’Bagy’s relationship with SETF is a serious conflict of interest, according to David Reaboi, vice president for strategic communications at the Center for Security Policy.
“While there’s been a lot of worthwhile effort to expose activists considered pro-Assad or pro-Hezbollah — or, at least, to consider their analysis as coming from an interested party — O’Bagy seems to pass herself off as an impartial observer of the situation. Her access to Congress, intelligence services and to think tanks should be regarded as what it really is, which is a reflection of the Syrian rebels’ cause and aspirations,” Reaboi said.
In speaking with TheDC, O’Bagy regularly insisted that she was not a salaried employee of SETF, but a paid contractor acting in an advisory role....
-bth: this is an important article worth reading in full. The use of paid shills to act as imparital sources of information was a tactic used going into the Iraq War as well. The same use of contractors to supply press feeds is occurring again. The public is not paying enough attention to the sources of information. It is being fed 'news' that uses intelligence as advocacy instead of intelligence as analysis of facts. So as a result, we may know there was a gas attack but it is presumed by the administration that it was ordered by Assad facts be damned. If there are facts, the American people and the world need to hear them. If there are specific smoking gun voice intercepts then please release them as it and unedited.
... The last time Chrysostomos saw his older brother was before he boarded a bus in Lowell bound for the war.
Chrysostomos said he always regretted not hugging Peter goodbye.
“I was 6 or so. My brother [Christie] was 4. He doesn’t remember,” Chrysostomos, now 77, said in a telephone interview. “We were playing in the dirt and as he was leaving he wanted us to give him a hug, but I was afraid to dirty his uniform.’’
Talking about Peter’s farewell remains difficult all these years later.
“We thought he would be back soon,” he said.
What Chrysostomos remembers most clearly is when the news arrived that Peter was not coming home.
He was the only one of the siblings present.
“This elderly fellow was shaking as he handed the telegram to my mother,” Chrysostomos recalled. “Of course, when she received it, she was so hysterical. She was an opera singer so it carried through the neighborhood.”
He said he had not expected to be so overcome when he recently visited the World War II Memorial on the National Mall with his daughter.
But, he said, trying to steady his voice, his brother “was so young and never came back.”
In the coming weeks, in a corner of Arlington National Cemetery under the shade of a sturdy ginkgo tree, Chrysostomos, his younger brother, Christie, and their sisters, Mary and Esther, plan to attend a ceremony unveiling the only memorial to their brother Peter, and bid him farewell.
“I am so pleased and look forward to coming down,” Chrysostomos said. “The family will love to have that.”
-bth: an excellent article by Bryan Bender worth reading in full.