Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pre-independence Egypt takes step to cancel secret gas supply deal to Israel

Egypt is not yet free from the control of US colonialism, but there are hopeful signs that it may be moving in that direction. On example is that the pro-US military dictatorship may be surrendering in its fight against the people of Egypt over the secret gas supply deal it has with Israel.
CAIRO (AP) — The head of the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company said Sunday it has terminated its contract to ship gas to Israel because of violations of contractual obligations, a decision Israel said overshadows the peace agreement between the two countries.
It is interesting that some Americans and Israelis seem to have a very broad understanding of Egypt's obligations under its peace treaty. I've seen Egypt's participation in the siege on Gaza described as compliance with its peace treaty, though I'm certain there is no term in the treaty ratified in 1979 that mandates Egypt's behavior in this siege that intensified in 2006. There is a good chance that in secret, Mubarak has reached other later agreements with Israel, but a future democratically accountable Egyptian government will not be bound by those. It is also interesting that Israel insists the price of the gas is fair, but refuses to say what that supposedly fair price is. Of course this refusal makes its vehement assertions of its fairness doubtful.
Israel insists it is paying a fair price for the gas. Israel's electricity company has been warning of possible power shortages this summer, partly because of the unreliability of the natural gas supply from Egypt.


Under the 2005 deal, the Cairo-based East Mediterranean Gas Co. sells 1.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas to the Israeli company at a price critics say is set at $1.50 per million British thermal units — a measure of energy.
We are still not seeing the behavior of an independent Egypt that is accountable to the people it governs. Egypt's relationship with Israel will certainly be a campaign issue in the presidential elections that are coming this summer. Possibly the Obama administration may succeed in directing the current pro-US dictatorship to keep its commitment to prevent foreign policy from coming under popular control after any partial transfer of power. But if the Obama administration fails, which seems very possible, then an Egypt that does not respect Mubarak's corrupt secret agreements with Israel on the gas issue and probably many other issues will mark a drastic change in Israel's relationship with its region.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hassan Nasrallah: The only solution is one state where Muslims, Jews and Christians live in peace in one democratic state

I have not even finished watching this video when I'm posting this, but Hassan Nasrallah appeared on Jullian Assange's Russian talk show "The World Tomorrow" and the first question was "what is your goal". The answer is that Nasrallah does not want to kill anyone, does not want to treat anyone unjustly, but wants one democratic state.
Time 1:25 - 3:20

What is your vision for the future of Israel and Palestine? What would Hezbollah consider victory? If you had that victory, would you disarm?

The state of Israel is an illegal state. It is a state that was established on the basis of occupying the lands of others, of usurping the lands of others, of controlling by force the lands of others, of committing massacres against the Palestinians who were expelled and this includes Muslims and Christians too.

So, for this reason, justice remains on the side, where even if ten years pass, the progress of time does not negate justice. If it is your house and I go occupy it by force it doesn't become mine in 50 or 100 years just because I'm stronger than you and I've been able to occupy your house. That doesn't legalize my ownership of your house. At least this is our ideological view and legal view and we believe that Palestine belongs to the Palestinian people.

But if we wanted to combine ideology and law and political realities and relations on the ground we should say that the only solution is we don't want to kill anyone, we don't want to treat anyone unjustly. We want justice to be restored to them and the only solution is the establishment of one state, one state on the land of Palestine in which the Muslims and the Jews and the Christians live in peace in a democratic state.

Any other solution would simply not be viable and wouldn't be sustained.
One of the bases on which US imperialism in the Middle East depends is that Muslims are not able to speak for themselves. Assange allowing Nasrallah to answer this question and others himself translated into English may well be a more important and damaging blow to the US Middle East imperial project than all of the previous wikileaks releases.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is US imperialism ending? Kwasi Kwarteng thinks so. He may be wrong.

I've come across a New York Times op-ed by Kwasi Kwarteng, a member of the British parliament of Ghanaian descent. He expresses the idea that the United States is unable and unwilling to be a colonial power the way Britain was 100 years ago. He may ultimately be proven right about the US being unable to maintain its empire, and in much of the world he is arguably right about the US not being fully committed to empire. But in the region of the world where the United States is most active as a colonial power, the Middle East, he is completely wrong if he thinks there is any ambivalence about US control of policy in direct opposition to the ideas of democracy, popular accountability and local control.

Here is a link to the piece.
America’s position today reminds me of Britain’s situation in 1945. Deep in debt and committed to building its National Health Service and other accouterments of the welfare state, Britain no longer could afford to run an empire.

Moreover, Britain, which so proudly ruled the waves a generation ago, was tired; it lacked the willpower to pursue its imperial destiny. America’s role as an imperialist is even more fragile, as it never had Britain’s self-confident faith in its own imperial destiny. Americans have always been ambivalent about the role of global hegemon.
The problem is that Israel is either not viable or just barely viable, not comfortably viable without a US empire in the region, and the US is committed to Israel being comfortably viable.

So the US is committed to an empire.

Saudi Arabia spends 2.5x what Israels spends on its military. If the voters of that country, who by a huge consensus consider Israel their primary adversary more than Iran, controlled policy then a Republic of Arabia would be militarily dominant over Israel and Israel would not be able to withstand Palestinian demands, vigorously supported externally, either for a full state (with an army) in all of the West Bank or for repatriation of descendents of the refugees.

Relatedly, what exactly is the dispute between the US and Iran based on? Why is it that Iran cannot have the nuclear capabilities Brazil can have? Without empire, the US can’t prevent Iran from reaching a position, even without any Republic of Arabia, from which it could aid the Palestinians in forcing a resolution to the dispute over Zionism that is unacceptable to supporters of Israel.

And of course, maybe most importantly, we are seeing now the US’ efforts to ensure that the voters of Egypt remain unable to direct Egypt’s foreign policy. Again empire, again Israel cannot prevent the Palestinians of Gaza from developing into a genuine strategic threat to Zionism without the an effective US empire overruling the potential voters of Egypt.

At least in the Middle East, the idea of the US as a reluctant, half-hearted or almost-voluntarily-declining empire is wrong. When Barack Obama says the US will do whatever it takes to ensure that Israel can overwhelm any potential threat, he is making as full throated and enthusiastic an endorsement of imperialism as Cecil Rhodes or Winston Churchill ever did.

Monday, April 16, 2012

How the current nuclear negotiations may look from Iran's point of view

A good way to understand the issues in the current discussions of Iran's nuclear program would be to read 's history of official proposals from both sides on Iran's nuclear issue.

That website seems to consistently make mistakes in favor of making the US/EU seem more reasonable than they have been. Notable ones are that the EU 2005 proposal would have given the each of the EU negotiators a permanent veto over Iran ever enriching uranium again, that the 2009 proposal would have possibly seen deliveries of TRR fuel over three years rather than one and ignoring the US/EU's criticism of the Brazil/Turkey proposal that it would have permitted Iran to actually retrieve its uranium if the US/EU did not ever supply TRR fuel.

My current take is that the US nuclear policy community has completely given up on preventing Iranian enrichment to 5% and is now hoping to prevent Iran from stockpiling 20% LEU.

The Russian proposal which seems to be the basis for the current discussions seems to call for freezing Iran's program where it is, including ongoing 5% enrichment I guess for as long as Iran wants. At this point, additional 5% LEU is not very strategically valuable and there is no plausible pretext to reduce Iran's stock from almost six tons to less than one any more.

I don't know if Iran will or should accept the Russian proposal. It depends, I think on how Iran perceives additional sanctions. If Iran perceives then the way a commenter over at Race For Iran named FYI does, as an opportunity to increase its independence from the West, then it will not be willing to trade anything of strategic value for it.

Elsewhere on that site we also see more details about the dispute over Parchin.

It looks like the West wants to test if experiments were done on explosions of natural uranium. These experiments would not violate Iran's safeguards agreement if they happened. If they did happen, it is close to certain that analogous experiments have at one time or another been performed by states in good standing such as Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Germany and others and whether or not in some sense they are illegal, any of those states would, as would be completely within their rights under the NPT, just deny the IAEA access to any facilities where such experiments occurred.

Because Iran is saying that it is willing to allow inspections if a work-plan such as the one Iran reached with ElBaradei is established that will lead to a statement that all questions have been answered - the US has simply prevented the IAEA from holding up its agreement on the previous work plan - my best guess is that Iran would be exonerated by an inspection of Parchin. But that's just a guess.

This all brings us to the question of what happens in May.

Iran pretty clearly, I think can have a deal much better than what it was willing to accept in 2005 or 2006. On the other hand, Iran has paid a lot more for its program than it had in 2005 or 2006, including five nuclear scientists who were killed probably by the US or its allies.

I think the key issues are:

1) Iran cannot allow a US veto to be imposed on future generations of Iranian leaders. Under some objective set of circumstances, such as by a set time, any limitations Iran accepts will have to be, by the explicit terms of any deal, subject to be unilaterally released by Iran.

2) If we assume Iran will have six months, or some amount of months, of warning as a crisis develops that could actually lead to military action against Iran, what could Iran do with its nuclear program over that time? The stockpile Iran has of 5% LEU already gives Iran some flexibility in such a scenario, but a stockpile of 20% would give more. This is fairly unlikely to be a concern over the next three or five years but the future becomes more difficult to predict further away so flexibility over longer time frames becomes more important.

I don't think Iran is worrying about an attack from either the US or much less Israel. For an explanation, there is a pdf at the same site:
Marvin Weinbaum, scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute, recently explained in The National Interest how a “rationally thinking Iranian leadership” could even welcome the “rich dividends” that a military strike on Iranian soil could yield:
International sympathy for Iran would increase dramatically.... The hard fight for economic sanctions against Iran would, in all probability fall apart.... Washington and Tel Aviv would be lumped together as aggressors.... The continued presence of American military bases in the Gulf could become untenable.
Weinbaum sees the domestic payoff to be equally appealing to Khamenei’s hard-line regime:
An attack on the homeland could set back chances for the revival of the reformist Green Movement for at least a decade. Even the reformers have been solidly in favor of Iran retaining its nuclear program. Who now at home or abroad would dare question the regime’s argument if it decide[d] to build a bomb?
Outside the borders of the United States, incessant repetition of Washington’s intention to launch a unilateral preventive attack on Iran, if necessary, is widely construed as evidence that the United States perceives itself to be immune from international law.
Iran also still has the advantage that for whatever reason, the US refuses to publicly acknowledge an Iranian right to enrich. So the US would not be able to go over the head of the Iranian government and tell the Iranian public that 20% enrichment is what is blocking a deal, if that was the case.

The US also can be trusted to add some terms, especially such as a permanent effective US veto over the development of Iran's nuclear industry that Iran's public would reject anyway.

So maybe in May we'll get a work plan that trades Parchin for a statement that all of the IAEA's questions have been resolved and an agreement that Iran will, for some time, refrain for enriching beyond 5% or otherwise expanding its nuclear program.

Just as likely, maybe more likely, in May we'll see that the US intends for Parchin to be one more of an never-ending string of contrived questions and if so, Iran will refuse to indulge it. We'll also see that Iran, now that it has about 120kg of 20% LEU is willing to stop there, but not willing to relinquish it, even though it would have been willing to forego enriching to 20% as recently as this time in 2010.

The question is how afraid is Iran of additional sanctions. One thing to remember is that regimes in Cuba, North Korea and Iraq survived sanctions much more stringent than anything feasible for Iran. Another is that if Iran gets to the table in 2017, after the next US presidential term, reducing the stock of 20% may then be as unimaginable then as reducing the stock of 5% is now. Then the issue might be an agreement not to bring a heavy water reactor on line - which itself might be off the table two or three years later.

Whenever Iran makes a deal, it can get what it asked for in 2006, lifting sanctions - but if it gets it later, it can have traded the short term or temporary cost of sanctions for a longer term strategically valuable improvement in its nuclear position.

Iran might be magnanimous and willing to put the nuclear dispute into the past. The difference between having and not having 20% LEU, and the size of any 20% stockpile is much smaller than the difference between enriching and not enriching which was the point of dispute until this year.

Or Iran might not be as clumsy in public, but in effect adopt George W. Bush's position of "bring it on". If the West thinks it will scare Iran with sanctions and this stupid "military option on the table" stuff, what happens if Iran does not blink? I don't think there is anyone important in Iran today who thinks Iran should have taken any of the deals previously offered. It is somewhat reasonable to expect that its position in April 2013 will be better than its position today, so that making a deal today could be counter-productive.

We shall see. Iran's nuclear issue is shaping into the second most important strategic event in the Middle East today after the question of whether or not in Egypt the US will be able to maintain the pro-US colonial dictatorship's control over foreign policy contrary to local popular preference.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Hillary Clinton says US will hold Egyptian politicians accountable

Not much to say here. Clinton never held the rulers of the effective US colonies in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Kuwait and others, including Egypt's Mubarak accountable.
"We will watch what all the political actors do and hold them accountable for their actions," she added when asked about the Brotherhood changing plans and announcing a candidate for the May 23-24 presidential vote.


"We want to see Egypt move forward in a democratic transition, and what that means is you do not and cannot discriminate against religious minorities, women, political opponents," said Clinton, who did not mention the Brotherhood by name.

"There has to be a process starting in an election that lays down certain principles that will be followed by whoever wins the election. That is what we hope for the Egyptian people."

She added that she "really" hoped the Egyptian people got what they staged their uprising for, "which is the kind of open, inclusive, pluralistic democracy that really respects the rights and dignity of every single Egyptian."
The United States, on behalf of Israel, is probably today the most vigorously anti-democratic force in the world. But if Hillary Clinton respected the rights or dignity of any Egyptians, the United States would have had a different relationship with Egypt's dictatorship as soon as the Barack Obama administration came into office.