• Some thoughts on the Middle East.

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 • Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by patrickm at 2004-12-05 07:56 PM

It’s clear that the Lastsuperpower ‘drain the swamp’ line has not penetrated any measurable level of the public conscience. I’m not really surprised by this, given the way the war has panned out. It’s more complex than expected by the bungling US leadership, the WMD excuse for war they ran with became a fiasco, and the abuse of prisoners further discredited the war. 

 

However, I can detect a very small degree of penetration at the level of commentators and analysts, and I think that a collapse of, ‘this war is about oil’ reasoning is central to this breakthrough.

 

All talk of an Iraqi quagmire, as has now become quite common among both opponents, and supporters of the war, ultimately incorporates the thought that there is no way that the US can stay in Iraq indefinitely nicking oil. 

 

Opponents could assume that Bush and Co., naively believed it was possible and that they have now been taught a lesson, but it’s just not credible.  There is no direct theft possible as in bygone eras. Equally, there was, and is, no hope of any installed puppet being tolerated by the Iraqi people.  Such imagined puppets could never successfully thieve oil revenues and hand them over to the US ruling elite once the US troops go, and supporters, and opponents of the war know that the troops must eventually withdraw. 

 

So, the common theme is that everyone knows the troops must eventually cease the occupation as they did in Germany, Japan, and Italy, and that then an independent outcome results.  The three WW2 examples are not now, nor ever were run by US puppets, and the same goes for a country as big and important as Iraq in 2004.  US casualties alone have demonstrated the contra argument is no longer a credible position to take, if it ever was.  So, the all important, it’s all about oil line, will have to be abandoned.

 

When a position has to be abandoned any cynicism, smug or otherwise, has to be junked simultaneously. People have to think anew and possibilities open up again. The only genuine debate now is about when the withdrawal ought to be.

 

I’m sure nobody in the US is planning on over one hundred and fifty thousand troops still being deployed and taking casualties ten years after the start of the war.  So, despite recent events, the end of a large troop deployment is reasonably predictable and will occur over the next two US Presidential terms at most. The US people won’t wear any longer commitment than that, and there is a big push on now after the US elections, precisely in order to establish conditions for a reasonable series of elections and the resulting exit of troops.

 

Iraq is not comparable to occupying Japan, Germany, or Italy and I predict that troops will be effectively gone when Bush ends his term.   But for a good each way bet, if there are troops still there, they would be few and withdrawn deep into the countryside (in an apparent repudiation of the Dien Bien Phu French defeat in Vietnam).  That seems to be the logic of a war of liberation, in this hi-tech era, in a country like Iraq. 

 

Once the forces favoring democracy have been stood firmly on their feet  (and they will be over the next two years or so) they can be expected to get on with the long term job of changing the culture and keeping up the battle against all the various reactionaries.  The Iraq people will mostly support the election winners and thus the new government will win against the terrorists and or any insurgents. 

 

My point is, that having raised these issues in discussions I’ve found that none of this is particularly controversial among reasonable opponents of the war.  Consequently, one now hears people saying that maybe Bush really does believe in spreading liberal democracy where formerly a cynical response resulted. 

 

With all hope of Bush being dumped gone, and with it all muddled-headed hopes of some alternative, if mostly unspecified, strategy being adopted in relation to Iraq and the Middle-East, and the broader ‘war on terror’, progress for a Lastsuperpower style analysis may now not only be possible as we have slowly seen but speed up given that an oil-less debate must develop. 

 

A re-think now becomes unavoidable for moderate opponents of the original war at least on what stance to take going forward.  It might be nice, but it is not essential to progressing the debate that the original position is conceded.  It is far more important to just split off the never change reactionaries and really isolate them from those who want to think through what policies have to be followed as of now.  The anti-war position must split and continue the decline, as forces for and against elections become the new issue.

 

World wide, moderate sections are now forced to re-assess their attitude to the US stance, which is defiantly set. 

 

So, what is there now to oppose?  Not many are willing to oppose elections and reconstruction efforts and that is just as true inside Iraq as well.  It may well be true that this was apparent to many of us before the war began but the point is that it’s blindingly obvious now to more, and it will become clear to many more.

 

It’s up to the military to keep hounding those in Iraq who do oppose elections while simultaneously building up Iraqi forces to replace themselves. It seems they are getting better at those jobs, and more confident in the strategy.  US imperialist, military forces, after Abu Ghraib, are definitely changing because of, and for, this war.  War criminals could not really contribute to winning this war and that has been made pretty clear by web sites like ‘Do what must be done’.  

 

A recognizable Liberal democracy will defiantly be established in Iraq and all doubters will be proved wrong within the next four years. It's not credible to think there could be a lower standard than that which was achieved in Germany, Japan, and Italy after WW2 some sixty years ago. 

 

Meanwhile, the Iraqi people, and doubters in the west keep looking at the Palestinians and all the doubt, and fears quickly and realistically return.  The US president is never so powerful as at the start of a second term. The whole world, both friend and foe, knows this one means business and we all wait with baited breath.  Enter Tony Blair, who literally hit the boards running after Bush was re-elected pushing the Palestinian issue to the front and centre of the world stage.  The issue has now gone to the top of the line, as predicted by those of us who said it was put on hold for the sake of the US elections.

 

Then along comes happenstance.

 

Arafat could not have died more opportunely, and either by design, most probably, or further happenstance, he has ended autocratic rule for the Palestinians for good by not nominating a successor!  The institutions and processes of Palestinian democracy will now leap to the forward position, just as the US would want, and as the Zionists would not want.  November 2004 has been on reflection a sensational month.

 

Coincidentally, and beneficially, Palestinian presidential elections are to be held three weeks earlier than first stage elections in Iraq.  My prediction is that in both cases in the country wide election results ‘militants’ will get belted. While there will be attempts at disruption or boycott, they will ultimately fail in their political objectives and there will be a useful result in Palestine, and a useful proportional result in Iraq.

 

In the Palestinian territories the armed Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, control various districts in a ‘no go’ manner and have recently indicated they would boycott the election. This is a tactical problem for all other parties, not boycotting, as there  will most probably be almost a hundred percent stay away in these areas. This will be due to both support for these groups, but also from outright fear and intimidation.

 

Some districts are clearly ‘governed’ by the boycotters, and other districts by participants but there are disputed districts where there is contention between the parties.  It is these places that provide an important test for the more democratic parties.  Electoral intimidation and the false and uncertain result that comes from it is the issue.  Non compulsion allows boycotters to know who is attending the polling booth.  What to do?

 

Seems best to ensure there is a compulsory turn out so that those wishing to boycott, as is their right, can spoil their ballot casting an informal vote, and those wishing to vote can do so without being identified. 

 

A one hundred percent boycott is meaningless because it would be upheld out of fear.  So, in areas where there is contention it is up to the ten candidates who are standing to convince people that attendance is good for democracy and not just to campaign to vote for themselves necessarily.  Their campaign ought to include encouragement to attend and to go so far as to cast a spoiled ballot as the correct way to boycott as ultimately it is the secrecy of the ballot box that protects the fledgling democracy. 

 

The complexities of this campaign are far too great to be resolved in the next 35 odd days prior to the poll I would think. So large areas will be undemocratically threatened and prevented from taking part this time.  But ultimately these issues must be addressed in any emerging democracies where the risk of intimidation is there.  People must allow others to vote by removing the fear that the threat of being seen to attend can generate.

 

Apparently, some of the Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades re-named themselves the Arafat Martyrs, and may have tried to kill Abu Mazen. I think he would win an election, so the ‘hardliners’ (read outright bully boys) call him a sell-out and could try to prevent that by the simple expedient of shooting him.  They would be kidding themselves, as any attempt to provoke Palestinian civil war during this period would fail because the Palestinian masses just will not put up with it.  An election will be held on January 9th and they will take a stand and vote.  The ‘hardliners’ will have to try to shoot him later on.

 

Incidentally, Marwan Barghouti, given his imprisonment, had no real choice but to stand for election.  His supporters, and loved ones know that out of sight is out of mind, and so I think they convinced him that any opportunity to remind the world where he is ought to be taken advantage of.  Despite his popularity he probably only has a serious chance of winning if Hamas and IJ were to abandon their call for a boycott of the vote, and to promote him, as there is no real time to develop the required campaign between now and the election.  He may even withdraw by Dec. 15., We have to wait and see.

 

Even if the hardliners, and boycotters were to kill one, or more, of the leading candidates and there is some tit for tat, revenge killings etc., the election will proceed, and the party candidate of the leading person assassinated would win.  It is mostly the person but also the policies that are the issue.  After so many years of Israeli aggression and targeted killings of their factional leaders, the Palestinians are used to losing leaders and so killing a few more won’t change much and everyone ought to know this. 

 

There will be meaningful if imperfect electoral processes, even if driven mainly by candidate prestige this time around (sounds familiar).  Where everyone is armed to the teeth and a civil war has been designed for them there’s not much choice for an occupied people but to accept the result.  Although Zionists have been trying to provoke civil war for years it is the good sense of the Palestinian factional leaders rather than just Arafat, who have prevented it eventuating to date.  A stronger leadership will emerge rather than the greater divisions, and civil war hoped for by Sharon et al.

 

If the new leadership ‘eats the meal one mouthful at a time’, rather than trying to fix everything at once, and every area at once, then the future will bring more democratic elections and their authority will extend.

 

Meanwhile, the US after having delayed for the last two years in the run up to Bush's election, has been given an early Christmas gift. Arafat’s death has meant that the US does not have to ‘save face’ as they engage again, and they are engaging big time using their heaviest hitters like Powell to facilitate this election. 

 

The first issue has sharply arisen with the issue of electoral campaigning in East Jerusalem and they can’t afford to let Sharon dictate the outcome of this.  Election campaigning will result in mass actions in East Jerusalem in a month’s time, and could well bring on Zionist outrages that Bush and Blair will have to condemn. 

 

The region has now moved into very dramatic times and meaningful elections with all the associated processes, such as a relatively free press etc., will cascade across the Middle-Eastern map over the next few years and continue onwards for more than a couple of decades, as we have just witnessed in Eastern Europe. I think that not even a world wide economic recession, or crisis, could make things any worse for the people in Iraq and Palestine, or much worse for the rest of the region.  So, it’s hard to see what will slow this cascade down.

 

Overall, gangsters rigging elections, like the present Russian backed debacle in Ukraine is going to get dramatically more difficult to do.   This is because the Middle-East mass media is already relatively wide open (or sufficiently open to do its job) with Internet, and satellite TV, Al Jazeera (Qatar), and Al-Arabiyya (Saudi) and their competitors etc.. This region has very young populations and the process is speeding up so the trend lines are blindingly obvious. 

 

Just consulting the blog’s today, I see that Reporters Without Borders, are reporting that the hated ruling Mullah’s in Iran have arrested five bloggers, and six non blogging cyber-journalists over the last few months.  I conclude that this demonstrates Mullah madness to go along with their badness. There will be no end of ways around this sort of repression, which always builds up before regimes are pushed over. 

 

I can’t believe that Iranians are going to be left behind once the Iraqi people start enjoying the benefits of living in a liberal democracy, and I look forward to reading of the various methods used to overcome the censorship. The drowning Mullah's will just be swamped by ever more creative and determined youth and it will be joyous to watch. 

 

Pressure for meaningful voting has been growing virtually world wide for years.  Now though, in order to install anti-terrorist regimes the US administration is on the side of the angels.  The US really means what it says, just as it did in WW2, about establishing bourgeois liberal democratic regimes wherever it can, and in its own interests to be sure.  This is the heart of the drain the swamp Lastsuperpower line. Were it not for Israel and the delays involved in reversing policies on Zionism, this would be far more apparent.

 

As we have seen in Eastern Eurpoe a revolution like this is infectious.  With any luck, even the Mullah’s will fall and Iran will become a liberal democracy in the next four years.  I am very bullish over the prospects for Bush’s second term but the next six months are the key.  If he does not set a cracking pace then I would have to do some re-thinking which I have not been prepared to do over the last eighteen months.

 

Bush, will, at any rate, deal with whomever is chosen by the Palestinians even if he were to have a harder line than Arafat. If he were not to, then the line (that Bush is pushing democracy) would be wrong. Either that or he has gone weak at the knees and reversed policy and we would therefore see little progress over the next four years, and I doubt that very much. 

 

However, it's likely that the Palestinians will choose Abu Mazen as the new President, and that will be well. But we have to wait and see.

 

It’s interesting that Bush is saying that he may not have the time over four years to complete the task of setting up the two state ‘solution’. So, while Blair will get something for his efforts of late, I’m sure that Bush is not brave enough for the full job of ridding the US of the Israel Albatross.  It’s just not possible for them to do such a job in one fell swoop anyhow.  That policy reversal may have to be part of a multi decade type project. 

 

Nevertheless, to the extent that they are prepared to move, the old adage of, 'if t'were well it were done, then t'were well it were done quickly' must be the motto.  Especially so, considering what Sharon did to Bush over the past two years.  However, to me it still doesn’t seem like it is Bush’s motto just yet!  For example, I think Bush could have backed a harder line on the wall, without much risk. i.e. Keeping it far closer to the green line but he failed that test. (I’m not happy with an explanation that he was just giving Sharon more rope to hang with either).  I think once the decision was made to disengage all else was slackly permitted to follow by this bungling leader.  Anyhow 2005 will tell our tale.

 

Bush is now pitted directly against Sharon, and his efforts to force the pace right through the year will be decisive for the general line.  If the US just accepts Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza and other settlements in the West Bank as a big deal and he does not bring on a serious diplomatic fight during this year, then he is an even bigger bungler than I have thought.  

 

The problem as I see it, is that no Palestinian leadership could accept less than what was on offer with Barak. Meanwhile time moves on and Sharon continues to establish his 'facts on the ground' that make the Barak position seem obsolete.  The wall, and those big settlements, combined with years of bulldozing homes and confiscating land, etc., has really produced some nasty new 'facts' that have to be reversed if there is to be a political settlement. 

 

Pulling out of Gaza and the most provocative settlements in the West Bank, just to move these settlers into the big settlements around Jerusalem looks like the sort of crap that will resolve nothing for the Palestinians but could be used to drag proceedings out for another couple of years.  It may require another change of government for Israel before this part of any ‘peace deal’ is settled.

 

The trend line for Zionism however is clear as the cumulative effect of its expansions, being defeated on all fronts, and the change of real US interests combine with the well-known relative demographic decline, and persistent economic problems take effect. 

 

Zionist Israel, is an embarrassment to ruling classes, world wide, and is since South Africa’s collapse, a real racist stand out.  The world wide, spread of bourgeois democratic norms and secularism, together with the media and general communication revolution speeds up the exposure!  At the moment I am not hopeful that the full reversal of US policies that is required will fully go through any time soon.



It's true that nothing else makes much sense BUT I still think the
US is run by bungling amateur revolutionaries who just happen to live in interesting times and are still on a steep learning curve. I hope I’m being unduly pessimistic but either Bush will change in 2005, or I will.  Meanwhile, the war against Saddam remains on the side of the angels, and the Pseudo-Left can do nothing about the Bush contribution to that.  Bring on the elections.  What a happy new year.

 

Patrick  M

smile Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by patrickm at 2005-04-06 05:29 AM
I was being too pessimistic. 

The US ruling elite are learning very quickly. Appointing Wolfowitz, and Rice, and cranking up the pressure all round is just the sort of measures I had hoped to see as indicators of pushing the new policies further. 

What a change in four months! Things are looking up.  Even a dead pope for Hitchens to speak ill of. 

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-11-16 04:21 PM

On your home page you say that  " Egypt and Palestine are two important places to watch."

OK. But what are we watching for? I would expect that before there were any significant developents in Palestine, Marwan Barghouti  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marwan_Barghouti would have to be released from jail in a similar  way as Nelson Mandela was released in South Africa. And yet,  there are no signs of this at all. There'd have to be some sort of preparation of public opinion in both Israel and the US in the weeks and months before. There'd be press articles and TV programs on his life and politics. Has anyone noticed anything?

It is becoming increasingly apparent that the mistake LS comrades have made, and you just have to look back at earlier comments on this thread to see what I mean,  is to look to the USA to act rather than backing the international left and progressive movements. Mandela wasn't released through any US initiative or action.  Rather the US backed his release when it was clear that it was going to happen anyway. Unless the international community campaign for Barghouti's release in the same way they did for Mandela then there is every liklihood that he'll rot away in jail for the next 20 years and there'll be no progress at all towards a Palestinian settlement.

On another thread, "Gaza",   Gurujane lays the blame  on Condoleezza Rice and the State department. Come on, get real! There is no evidence for this at all. If anything, it looks like the Annapolis forthcoming  'meeting' ( non event?) , downgraded from the original promised 'conference',  on the Middle East  is just a bone thrown to her by Bush and the neo-cons. 

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by GuruJane at 2007-11-18 10:50 AM

Barghouti's power and influence is on the wane. In the latest poll he only managed 11% in the " most trusted Palestinian personality" question - just in front of Haniyeh (9%) and Abbas (24%).

If this poll is to be believed Hamas is finished as far as the Palestinians are concerned.  It would only get 9% in any election. 70% want an early election, 48% see the Fayyad government as the legitimate government and 70% support a peace settlement with Israel.

http://www.neareastconsulting.com/surveys/all/p29/

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by patrickm at 2007-11-18 09:18 PM

Guru; I doubt that ‘Barghouti's power and influence is on the wane.’  In my rambling thoughts of three years ago, that started this thread, I said;


Incidentally, Marwan Barghouti, given his imprisonment, had no real choice but to stand for election.  His supporters and loved ones know that out of sight is out of mind, and so I think they convinced him that any opportunity to remind the world where he is ought to be taken advantage of.  Despite his popularity he probably only has a serious chance of winning if Hamas and IJ were to abandon their call for a boycott of the vote, and to promote him, as there is no real time to develop the required campaign between now and the election.  He may even withdraw by Dec. 15., We have to wait and see.


 

As we know he did withdraw.


 

My point is that out of sight, is to a very great extent out of mind, and for him to still have that 11% (ahead of Haniyeh at (9%)) is very solid.  I think Hamas is indeed in deep doo-doo. 


 

Remember Abbas is elderly and not going to be around that much longer and when he stops running for President Barghouti will, and will win.  There has to be a prisoner deal or nothing is going to be done at all, so as far as I can see, his power and influence is about to flower. 

 


I think you can effectively add Abbas’ 24%, to Barghouti’s 11%, because, ‘70% support a peace settlement with Israel’, but it is not going to be without the return of prisoners, and that will happen in stages - before ‘all’ the settlers are removed, also in stages.  The only settlers left will be those in the mutually agreed swaps and there can’t be many prisoners left either and he could not be one of them.

 


Anyway, the Israeli stalling goes on, with still no date for Annapolis!  The U.S. are showing all the signs of being the last superpower as Rice and Bush are given the runaround by the likes of Olmert.  Extremely humiliating to be wagged by such a tail!

 

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by GuruJane at 2007-11-19 11:25 AM

As I recall it Barghouti regularly used to get around 30% when that question was asked? Where are the signs of Barghouti  being turned into a Mandela-like cause celebre? The shock of the Hamas coup and the division of Palestine has changed everything there. The independent, technocratic Fayyad government is competent, popular and west-looking. So the last thing  Israel/Abbas and co would want is a popularist rabble rouser in the mix stirring things up. The fact is, in the present circumstances, Barghouti has nothing to offer and is of no value. He couldn't even bridge the gap with Hamas now that the military there has taken control over its political wing. Gaza is only going to be reunited with the PA as result of an IDF action or, increasingly likely, a mass protest movement by the Gazans.

 

It was very interesting to re-read your "ramblings" in Dec 04, written after Bush's re-elections. It struck me that you were describing then the situation that is beginning to exist now in Iraq? What was not fully realised back then was the extent to which Al Qaeda was driving and controlling the agenda of the insurgency. Over the following two years it swallowed up the Baathists and the non AlQ jihadis.  But now the swamp is being well and truly drained, with the Sunnis turning to the US for help to drive AlQ out of the country. And nobody is talking  "it's all about oil" any more.

 

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-11-21 02:17 PM

Gurujane,

If even " left-wing Zionists" are happy to use the term "rabble" when describing the Palestinian population, what more  confirmation  of the racist characteristic of the Israeli state do we need?

If no-one is using the phrase "it's all about oil" any more, it because there are permanent, sorry enduring,  US military bases included in the motivation for the Iraqi war too.

Even the Wall Street Journal isn't bothering to keep up the pretence any more. 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119482675431289543.html?mod=hpp_us_whats_news&apl=y&r=442705

 

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by keza at 2007-11-21 06:47 PM

Cyberman, I have just re-read this thread from the beginning and I have to point out that yet again you are not engaging with the issues but instead  reverting to link posting and distortion.

You said two things only in your most recent message. First you distorted gurujane's use of the  expression  "rabble rousing" and accused her of calling the Palestinian population "rabble" and then you "argued" that the war in Iraq must be "about oil" because  of the  existence of "enduring US bases"  and because the Wall Street Journal said  so (and the link that you posted (without any summary)   can't be read anyway because  WSJ articles expire and become available only to subscribers within a few days) .

You entirely ignored the interesting debate between gurujane and patrickm who have real and interesting  political disagreements and are actually trying to discuss them in a reasonable manner rather than simply flinging around accusations and counter-accusations.

The difference between your contributions and theirs is startling.  To me it shows the complete vacuity of your position.  You don't analyse, you just assert that "it must be so".

We are trying to work out what is going on, we have proposed a theory (the "draining the swamps theory") and we are actively watching and trying to understand the unfolding of history to check out that theory.  So far the empirical evidence is on our side.  No theory  about how history will unfold  can make totally precise predictions about  exactly what will happen.  Complex dynamic systems  cannot be predicted  with the  same degree of accuracy as simple linear systems.   Many events will be contingent.  What we are talking about is the direction in which we think that events have to move over time, due to current reality.  That is not a mechanical process, all sorts of unexpected events will occur in the process.  Many things will only be understood with hindsight.

You choose not to engage in the discussion on this level but to latch on to particular events, generally cited out of context , while at the same time distorting what others have written.   Somehow you seem to think that this is "arguing" your case (ie  that US imperialism has not been forced to change direction) and that  you can continue to understand current events by applying the old categories and forms of explanation with which you grew up.

I don't regard myself as being "up to speed" on what is currently occurring with regard to Israel/Palestine. Recently  I have had no time to study events there in any great detail.  However from my position of relative ignorance as to the detailed ins and outs of what is occurring in that  complex arena, the difference between your contributions and those of of GJ, Patrickm is stark.    They cite events and issues and attempt to analyse  them. They actually attempt to argue  for their views and they give me something to think about and to follow up when I get the time.

You on the other hand don't.   You just fire off short empty posts which to me are obviously  no more than straw-clutching.    You are a believer, not a thinker.




 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by GuruJane at 2007-11-21 09:01 PM

Cyberman - must say I did not expect my slang to be read literally. Did not mean for one moment to describe the Palestinians as rabble, although Barghouti could be fairly described as a "rouser" don't you think?

 

Whatever. I withdraw "rabble rouser" and replace with "a populist Mr Charismatic Strongman". Is that better?

 

I must say I find it very funny that at least you and the unreconstructed maoists here can agree on one thing, to wit Mr CS being the only possible savior of the Palestinian cause. But I fear Abu Mazen, Abu Ala and Salam Fayyad might have other views. In fact either of the latter gentlemen might quite like to be president of the PA themselves when Abu Mazen retires? 

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-11-22 12:25 AM

Gurujane,

Yes Mr Charismatic is a lot better. Lenin was probably the classic 'rabble rouser' and the term would have been used by his enemies, on a class rather than racial grounds, so it was unfair of me to link the term rabble with race.  And I'd like to make clear that I'm not accusing you of that personally. It doesn't change that fact, though,  that a "Jewish State" , can only be non-racist in the most literal and biological interpretation of the term.

 

While Marwan Barghouti may not be the only candidate to represent the Palestinian people in any future peace negotiations, and its a big ask for anyone to be another 'Nelson Mandela', I do agree with the LS line that he is probably the most likely. However, contrary to the LS line, there is really no evidence that real peace negotitions are about to happen any time soon. A lack of precision, and a certain amount of inaccuracy in future predictions is one thing; getting those predictions totally and completely wrong is quite another!

 

It's pretty clear that the Bush presidency is going to end with no real progress having been made on the Israel/Palestine question. If a Democrat gets elected in 2008, as seems likely, the prospects for progress aren't good. And yet, such progress is an essential part of the 'draining the swamps' theory. Please explain!

 

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by dalek at 2007-11-28 09:47 PM

A discussion on the role of Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF) as they impact on US Imperial strategy and tactics may be of assistance in reconciling the stated aims of the US and the actual effect of their invasion and occupation plans for the ME.

It appears to me that the US has no option but to establish long term control of the ME hence the plans for the long term occupation of Iraq.Note that most of the cash in the SWF's comes from oil. Unless the US can itself control a major oil resource it will become hostage to these funds and to those who set the price and to the risk that the oil sellers will abandon the Dollar for the Euro.

The item below may reveal stuff of which many readers of LS are unaware. For example "On their current growth trajectory, sovereign growth funds could total $10 trillion by 2012. That's not far short of US GDP (currently around $12 trillion),".

Would have posted this in the Iraq oil thread but a chicken has taken over. 

Dalek

 

Sovereign wealth funds... nationalisation in disguise

ALF YOUNG November 29 2007

It's not nationalisation as we used to know it. However, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority's decision this week to write a $7.5bn cheque to the troubled US banking behemoth, Citigroup, is part of an accelerating global investment trend.

And that trend - the increasing financial clout of sovereign wealth funds - is troubling governments, many in the West, whose major businesses are on the receiving end of such attention.

ADIA invests on behalf of the ruling family in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, where less than a fifth of the 4.4 million population are UAE citizens. The huge current account surpluses this oil producer is managing to run up on the back of a near-record global price need a profitable home.

So, ADIA is ploughing some of the UAE's excess billions into convertible Citi securities. In the first instance these will pay an eye-watering 11% rate of interest.

Then, in 2010 and 2011, that paper will convert into Citi stock at only a little above today's depressed Wall Street prices. Abu Dhabi could end up Citigroup's largest shareholder with a near 5% stake.

The West's battered financial services sector is currently a favoured hunting ground for sovereign wealth funds seeking investment bargains. But their activity is on a much broader front than that. The Abu Dhabi National Energy Company recently spent $5bn acquiring PrimeWest Energy Trust of Canada.

Other Abu Dhabi funds have recently taken significant stakes in Sony and the US chipmaker AMD. Two other Gulf states, Qatar and Dubai, bought up almost half of London Stock Exchange. The Delta Two fund in Qatar came close to buying control of J Sainsbury.

In the past two years, such funds have done deals worth nearly $140bn. Thirty-seven of these deals were each worth $1bn or more. And as this wall of state money seeking a profitable home rises, the megadeals will just keep on coming.

And it's not just oil-rich Arab states that are ramping up this buying spree. Other government-backed investment funds in Russia, China, Norway and a growing clutch of smaller countries, such as Trinidad and Tobago, enjoying such burgeoning surpluses are turning sovereign wealth funds as a whole into a serious global force in investment.

Such funds have been around for a long time. Certainly from the 1950s when the Kuwait Investment Authority was formed. But as Simon Johnson from the International Monetary Fund points out, while as recently as 1990 they accounted, in total, for at most $500bn, collectively they now command funds of around $2.5 trillion.

On their current growth trajectory, sovereign growth funds could total $10 trillion by 2012. That's not far short of US GDP (currently around $12 trillion), but still some considerable way behind the global value of traded securities (some $165 trillion).

However, even at present levels, sovereign wealth funds are comparable in scale to the global hedge fund industry. A major player, likely to become even more significant in future. And that's what's worrying some leading politicians in the West.

When the China Investment Corporation, launched just this year with a mere $200bn at its disposal, puts $3bn of that into the flotation of American private equity group Blackstone and the China Construction Bank follows that up by sinking $1bn into ailing US investment bank Bear Stearns, the scope for a protectionist backlash is obvious.

After all, in 2005, the US Congress forced the Chinese state-owned oil company, CNOOC, to scrap its $18.5bn attempt to buy control of Unocal of California. And then it insisted Dubai Ports World sell off five port terminals on the US mainland acquired as part of its takeover of P&O.

US Treasury secretary Hank Paulson wants the IMF and the World Bank to draw up tough guidelines on how sovereign wealth funds are allowed to invest in assets in other sovereign states. French president Nicholas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel have also voiced concern.

Even our own embattled Chancellor, Alistair Darling, has voiced concern. In October he told a meeting of the G7 in Washington that while Britain believes in liberal free trade, the growing number of sovereign wealth funds need to play by more transparent rules.

The fear is that such investment by the Gulf states, China, Russia and others becomes not just a search for decent financial returns but an interventionist tool of foreign policy.

Were, for instance, state-owned Russian energy giant, Gazprom, to activate its long-rumoured interest in acquiring Centrica, the parent of British Gas, it can expect a pretty dusty answer, especially when western interests in Russian oil companies have come under such intense pressure to renegotiate their stakes.

Now that China and Abu Dhabi are nibbling away at the ownership of Citigroup and some of the other big names of Wall Street finance, the doubts about what some sovereign wealth funds are really up to are bound to intensify.


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 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by byork at 2007-11-29 01:08 PM

Nothing in dalek's post proves anything about the reasons for the US toppling of the former fascist regime in Iraq. The actual effect of the invasion and occupation was the overthrow of the old regime and the establishment by referendum of a federal democratic constitution, and the holding of two federal competitive elections in which a majority of Iraqis voted in a government. dalek has openly opposed the elections and is therefore on the other side and to the Right of George W. Bush. Another 'effect' was the rise of an insurgency consisting of former fascists and jihadis, and the rise of sectarian violence involving illegal militia and death squads. Leftwingers naturally supported the overthrow of the old regime, its replacemnt with an attempt at democracy, the embryonic new democracy, and the defeat of those who were destabilizing it. The word 'resistance', with its noble connotation of oppressed peoples rising up in Vietnam, South Africa, and other places, is sullied when applied to the attempts by remnant fascists and religious fanatics to overthrow an attempt at democratic ogvernment in a region that otherwise lacks it in tragic ways.

 

dalek has never been able to show any mechanism by which the US will control Iraq's oil and an entire thread had to be put on hold because he just wouldn't provide evidence for his claims but kept dominating the posts with dogmatic generalities and repitiion of unsubstantiated (indeed unsubstantiable) claims, despite being given every opportunity to engage in proper debate. And let me make it clear: I'm not getting back into that 'scene' with him via this thread.

 

No doubt he, and others who think like him, are disappointed that the levels of sectarian and other violence in Iraq are diminishing and that over the coming months key legislation will probably be passed by the Iraqi parliament that will place the country on a much more solid footing. The Iraqi security forces are also expandiing and better trained.

 

It will be up to the elected government to decide when and how to ask the US to leave. You can bet there will be celebrations in the streets when that happens, because it will signal a time when Iraq's democracy will be able to more or less stand on its own feet. Of course, the pseudo-left will declare that such celebrations prove that the people opposed the US presence all along - but by then they will be even more on the margins of history, because Iraq's democracy will have been established more securely.

 

The 'permanent occupation' refers to a likely long-term military base. Again, as a sovereign state, Iraq decides whether this is in its national interests or not. Personally, I would hope Iraq would opt for such a base, as a real and symbolic warning to autocratic and clericalist neighbours not to interfere and also to help protect the oil lines that are the life-blood of Iraq's economy and future.

 

Barry

 

 

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-11-29 02:52 PM

Well it's good that one of the LS comrades has finally understood that the US occupation of Iraq is intended to be long lasting. The  prediction that kicked off this thread of the US troops being "effectively gone when Bush ends his term" is looking rather naive now.  I won't say permanent because even Iraq's oil won't last forever!

It's good too that you're wedded to the idea of democracy in Iraq. But, just suppose,  that this democracy actually starts to work there and the Iraqis have the temerity to elect a government which actually represents popular opinion and asks the US to leave? Do you really think that the US will respect democracy after spending $billions on fitting out their bases?

Unlike most of the LS comrades, I have never classed myself as a Maoist. And yet I would say that his well known quotation: " Every Communist must grasp the truth, Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun"  can never have been more accurate than when applied to the current situation in Iraq!

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by byork at 2007-11-29 03:28 PM

Dear me, where can I/we find some real debate?

 

Should Iraq opt for a long term US military base on its soil, it will not require the retention of the majority of US troops as, the way things are progressing currently, the Iraqi security forces are improving and the 'resistance' is crumbling. The presence of a military base, in accord with the sovereign government's approval, does not constitute an 'occupation'. (If it does, then, hey, Australia is under US occupation - Kevin, help us!)

 

It was the barrel of a gun that did away with the fascist regime and the barrel of a gun - plus political strategy - that is defeating the enemies of democracy in Iraq. Cyberman's problem is that he doesn't support democracy in the first place.

 

cyberman thinks he knows what Iraqis really want better than the 12 million Iraqis who voted in the parliament/government.

 

I'd like to echo a previous contributor's final comment to cyberman: Grow up!

 

Barry

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by dalek at 2007-11-29 05:04 PM

Barry resorts to sophism once again. There is no significant US troop presence in Australia Barry, why do you lie about it.? Sure there are military attaches, spooks, spying facilities etc but no US bases with more than a handful of security personnell. "The presence of a military base, in accord with the sovereign government's approval, does not constitute an 'occupation'. (If it does, then, hey, Australia is under US occupation - Kevin, help us!)"

The US occupation of Iraq is qualitatively and quantitively different from the US presence in Australia, last time I looked there were no armed US troops strutting up Boundary Street. No Garrisons any-where. I have seen a few totally pissed US sailors but they were un-armed (and legless).

I assume that the Barry who once campaigned strongly against US bases in Australia  now welcomes them! Providing some supine Quisiling government invited them of course.

Barry should check out this - among many other reports on the latest developements in Iraq. In particular: " Under the proposed formula, Iraqi officials told the Associated Press, Iraqi forces will take charge of internal security, and US troops will relocate to bases outside the cities. They foresee at least 50,000 American troops remaining in the country indefinitely. The White House says the bilateral agreement will not contain timetables for the withdrawal of troops".

Can you point me to a US base in OZ that has 50,000+ troops Barry?  Can you point to a bilateral agreement with Australia that establishes a permanent troop presence on Australian soil?

 

More: "Debka-Net-Weekly, a web site associated with Israeli military intelligence, said the US has plans to remove 100,000 troops by the end of 2009, leaving behind 50,000-70,000 in 20 huge land and air bases. "These bases," the site wrote, "are under construction; they will be secured by broad swathes of space, fortified with weaponry and remote-controlled electronic devices." US troops will be responsible for protecting Iraq's borders from "external threats," Debka reported, adding, "US air strength and special forces in these bases will have rapid deployment capabilities for reaching points outside Iraq at need."

Even more on oil

"Earlier this month the Iraqi government, guided by American legal advisors, cancelled a contract originally signed by the Saddam Hussein government in 1997 with the Russian company Lukoil, for the development of the vast oil field in Iraq's southern desert. The West Qurna fields-with estimated reserves of 11 billion barrels, the equivalent of the worldwide proven oil reserves of ExxonMobil, America's largest oil company-will now be opened to international, and in particular, US bidders.

Vladimir Tikhomirov, the chief economist at the Russian bank UralSib, told the New York Times, "From the Russian government perspective, Iraq is seen as occupied and its administration directed by Washington, particularly when it comes to oil. The Russians see the cancellation of the contract in Iraq as part of the US drive to keep control over the major oil fields there."
There is even more but you can open the link for yourself
BTW Barry, don't blame me for your closure of the Oil thread, It's not my fault you that you have turned ino a chicken.

Dalec

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by byork at 2007-11-29 07:29 PM

The issue of principle is sovereignty. The Iraqi government has every right to enter into a bilateral agreement with another country (the US) to establish a military base of how ever many foreign troops it considers in its national interest. (Nothing false or misleading in my reasoning here - so stop accusing me of sophistry, dalek).

 

Readers already know that your view and that of the authoritarian Russian government are very similar on the Iraq issue, and that you preferred the fascist regime's oil policy. The new Iraqi government has something Saddam never had: a mandate from the people through competitive multiparty elections involving a majority of Iraqis. As the security situation improves and greater stability is achieved within Iraq, some real wheeling and dealing on oil can happen. I support the cancelling of contracts signed by the old regime as they lacked moral legitimacy. The new government is at least accountable to the people so, great, wipe the slate clean and open up to new bids. Way to go.

 

It's true that I supported the campaign against US bases in Australia in the late 1970s. I was quite perplexed at the time as to why Mao and Zhou En Lai were defending US bases in our region. Eventually I got it (ie, Soviet social-impeiralism was a greater enemy) but, sure, I'm a little embarrassed now.

 

Barry :)

 

 

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by Cyberman at 2007-12-22 03:36 PM

Indulging in written predictions, can result in looking quite foolish,  as some LS comrades have recently discovered. However,I think I'm on pretty safe ground with this one for 2008: All the 'mainstream', meaning the ones with funding from US capitalism,  US presidential candidates will try to extract as much benefit as possible from the situation in which the US military have found themselves in Iraq and the US generally in the Middle East, but they'll be careful to avoid any commitment to changes in the fundamentals of future US ME policy.

 

The cynics amongst us would suggest that these have already been decided, as evidenced by the billions of dollars being spent on permanent military bases,  and are too important to be left to the vagaries of the democratic process.  Any lack of understanding of this point, on the part of any of the candidates, would very quickly result in a drying up of campaign funds.

 

Watch out for phrases such as "the U.S. must maintain a long-term, powerful military presence in the region ". Hillary Clinton, for example, has talked about  "preventing Iraq from becoming a petri dish for insurgents". Barack Obama, in one of his his most important speeches on the subject, spoke of "maintaining our influence" and "allowing our troops to strike directly at al Qaeda."

 

One of the more common cliches, as applied to the Middle East, will be "our vital national interests" and we all know what  that's code for!

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by Cyberman at 2008-01-29 09:03 PM

Patrick,

I'd just like to remind you that, in 2004, you said  "I hope I’m being unduly pessimistic but either Bush will change in 2005, or I will."

Could you tell us if, and how,  it was President Bush who changed in 2005, or you,  in 2006 or later?

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by Cyberman at 2008-01-31 05:53 PM

Patrick,

The last question has been unanswered for a while now. Time's up. If you don't have an answer, let's move on to the next one.

In 2004 you also wrote: 

"If the US just accepts Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza and other settlements in the West Bank as a big deal and he does not bring on a serious diplomatic fight during this year, then he is an even bigger bungler than I have thought."

Sharon isn't on the scene now of course, and we wouldn't expect you to foresee that. The Gazan withdrawal has been completed and maintained. But what about the West Bank? I would say that there have been only new settlements since and no withdrawals at all. Or do you disagree?

Is President Bush a bigger bungler than you thought? Or, given recent events in Gaza, have you considered the possibility that he doesn't have quite the same agenda that you'd imagined.

 • Re: Some thoughts on the Middle East.

Posted by byork at 2008-02-01 03:10 PM

cyberman, this is just not on: "The last question has been unanswered for a while now. Time's up".

 

It has been clear for a long time now that you are unable to argue reasonably or fairly - and also that you are oblivious to that reality - but a period of less than 48 hours, even by the standards of an obsessive pseudo-leftist like yourself, does not warrant a "time's up" admonition.

 

You cannot see unfolding events that don't fit your pre-existing formulaic truth. And you cannot see, in your smugness, that that is your problem. If you could step outside your quasi-religious outlook for a moment and do that, it might begin to be worth taking you seriously. Merely reasserting reactionary positions does nothing for you at this site, though you have sadly (and probably intentionally) come to dominate it.

 

Barry