Friday, 30 December 2011
“Iran has exported gasoil to Afghanistan over the past years but the export of gasoline and jet fuel will begin next year,” Irna quoted Ali Reza Zeighami, managing director of the National Iranian Refining and Oil Products Distribution Company, as saying.Zeighami said the price of the products will be determined based on International prices.In April, trade sources said Iran had struck a deal to sell gasoline to Iraq but that the rare cargo did not mean the Islamic Republic had became a net exporter and free from its dependence on gasoline imports.Shipping data obtained by Reuters in November showed Iran’s October gasoline imports rose more than 21 percent to 63,279 barrels per day from 51,986 bpd in September.President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday his country would become a major gasoline exporter by 2013, despite the West’s toughest-ever sanctions on the Islamic state.The sanctions have targeted a vulnerability caused by Iran’s lack of refining capacity, and many foreign companies have been forced to withdraw from Iran’s energy sector.The United States, Britain and Canada announced new measures against Iran’s energy and financial sectors last month and the European Union is considering a ban, already in place in the United States, on imports of Iranian oil.
"Afghanistan houses rich seams of copper, iron, gold, lithium and rare earth deposits worth up to $3 trillion, according to the Afghan government. Unsurprisingly, the government and international community are eager to see these resources exploited. The plan is to sell off rights to access many of the country's mineral deposits over the next three years in the runup to transition in 2014 – potentially releasing a vast amount of revenue for the Afghan economy"
Although the U.S. government has spent more than $940 billion on the conflict in Afghanistan since 2001, a treasure trove of mineral deposits, including vast quantities of industrial metals such as lithium, gold, cobalt, copper and iron, are likely to wind up going to Russia and China instead of American firms.The New York Times reported Monday that U.S. officials and American geologists have found an estimated $1 trillion worth of mineral deposits that have yet to be exploited in the country. The paper said a Pentagon report called Afghanistan potentially "the Saudi Arabia of lithium," a key component in batteries for cellphones, laptop computers and eventually, a plug-in fleet of electric cars.But while the United States and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries are providing the bulk of the security for Afghanistan.... the firms that are profiting from the resource boom are primarily Chinese, and to a lesser extent, Russian."China has an absolute advantage in Afghanistan as far as resource development goes," says James R. Yeager, a Tucson, Ariz., consultant who worked as an adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Mines.In December, 2007, China's state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corp. (MCC) signed a $2.9 billion agreement with the Kabul government to extract copper from the Aynak deposit, one of the world's largest unexploited copper deposits with an estimated 240 million tons of ore.The Washington Post, quoting a U.S. intelligence official, reported that the Afghan minister of mines was accused of taking approximately $30 million in bribes from the Chinese company in exchange for the contract. The minister denied the charge and said the Chinese firm had offered the best deal.
Disclosures in hitherto secret papers released at the National Archives under the 30-year rule are extraordinarily pertinent now. Despite Nott's claim about the prevailing view in Thatcher's government 30 years ago, the government built a four-boat Trident submarine fleet, designed and assembled new warheads, and leased the missiles from the US.Today, we do not know how many ministers are questioning the plan to replace the existing Trident system. We may have to wait for 30 more years to find out. It is known that senior members of the armed forces have serious doubts about the wisdom of investing tens of billions in a new nuclear weapons system that is widely regarded as irrelevant to the immediate interests and pressing needs of Britain's armed forces.Earlier this year, the MoD quietly acknowledged that the cost of a new fleet of Trident nuclear missile submarines – excluding the the missiles and warheads that would go on them – would amount to £25bn by the time they were built.Britain, meanwhile, is also collaborating with the US on plans to replace nuclear warhead components....
Thursday, 29 December 2011
Saturday, 24 December 2011
The omission of any stated and coherent war objectives in Afghanistan is the most sinister aspect of the way the war has become normalised. So too the way discussions about what's actually at stake are infantilised by celebrity culture and TV "awards" and trivialised by mingling the position the soldiers have been put in with prime time entertainment.
The death of 391 British troops is low by historical standards but almost every week another soldier is killed and made for bad PR about the war. So the ritual of Wootton Basset welcoming home funeral corteges was stopped and the coffins rerouted to avoid public attention and the town renamed Royal Wootton Basset.
Instead, there is the subtle propaganda inherent in interweaving the virtues of selfless military endeavour with the notion of Afghanistan as unquestionably a 'Good War' , one implanted in popular culture and entertainment through Help for Heroes Concerts and ITV's A Night of Heroes ( "the millies" ) which gives Oscar style awards for bravery.
Thursday, 22 December 2011
'The Taliban are not an enemy of the U.S. and should not be talked about in such terms, Joe Biden has claimed.The vice-president said the militant Islamist group only represents an inherent threat if it allows Al-Qaeda to strike at the U.S.In an interview with Newsweek, Mr Biden warned against labelling the Taliban as an enemy.He said: 'That's critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests.'Mr Biden's comments come as senior U.S. officials prepare to negotiate a peace deal with Taliban militants.Even after a surge in U.S. troops in Afghanistan has pushed the Taliban out of much of their southern stronghold, the group's intentions regarding peace talks remain unclear.
...negotiations with the government of President Hamid Karzai on a strategic partnership agreement would “almost certainly” include “a discussion with Afghanistan of what a post-2014 force will look like.”Mr. Karzai had, “in fact, just the other day talked about his desire to have conversations with the U.S. about a post-2014 force,” the general said. “We would probably see some number of advisers, trainers, intelligence specialists here for some period of time beyond 2014.”
Alternatives have been put forth recently such as "Winterval", apparently, to avoid 'offending' Muslims. This is strange. Christmas has little to do with religion anyway, so devout Muslims who feel 'offended' can take relief from that if they actually exist.
In any case, without Christianity, it's a pagan mid winter festival. So without it being winter, it isn't anything and it's therefore obsolete. It only exists now as a way to encourage excessive shopping. Which most consumers do most of the year anyway.
It's absurd that Christmas is portrayed in film and on innumerable Christmas cards as a time of snow, hot roasted chestnuts with Santa Claus racing through snow on a sleigh with reindeer it's ridiculous with in a northern Europe now undergoing global warming. It's like having Tarzan flouncing around in midwinter Finland.
If Christmas was not an annual shopping ritual it would have no function at all.
Tuesday, 20 December 2011
The real thrust of US foreign policy towards Aghanistan revealed itself with reports that the US is now 'advocating' the Trans-Afghan TAPI Pipeline instead of the IPI pipeline as part of it's strategy to encircle and destroy the Iranian regime.
The Express Tribune ( aligned with the International Herald Tribune ) reported this today,in an article entitled Wielding Soft Power: US offers to finance TAPI Pipeline
"ISLAMABAD: The US has made a generous offer to finance the multibillion-dollar Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline, an implicit gesture to lure Pakistan away from the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline deal....Sources inform The Express Tribune that the Export-Import Bank (EIB) of the United States as well as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), an “independent” US agency, have offered Pakistan financing for TAPI"
What was not mentioned was that this 'soft power' seems to have come at the same time as a harder threat that states that non compliance with this magnanimous offer comes with the prospect of Pakistan being seen as objectively siding with Iran against 'the international community'.
As Dunya News reported that US state department press officer, speaking under conditions of anonymity claimed,
" The proposed Pakistan-Iran pipeline, if built, could raise concerns under the Iran Sanctions Act. We have raised this issue with the Government of Pakistan and are encouraging it to seek alternatives. Transactions such as these weaken international community pressure on Iran to fulfill its international obligations and address concerns about its nuclear activities"
Thursday, 15 December 2011
"The idea of a 1,700-km pipeline from Turkmenistan to India, known as TAPI, isn’t new. In the mid-1990s, Afghanistan’s then-rulers, the Taliban, talked to an American energy firm about building it. Almost 15 years and no gas later, the Taliban have been kicked out of power, thousands have been killed in Afghanistan during the US-led war, and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border is one of the most dangerous areas in the world — but the pipeline dream won’t die.“Without peace and stability in Afghanistan, the pipeline may become only a pipedream,” said Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra".Violence is at its worst since 2001, according to the United Nations. Foreign forces have already started a security handover in parts of the country, ahead of a full withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2014. Some fear that when they go, full-scale civil war could break out.“People are talking about pipelines, roads and railways, and these are all very vulnerable,” said Thomas Ruttig, a co-director with Afghanistan Analysts Network in Kabul.Afghan officials have pledged security forces, and talk about burying part of the pipeline underground, but even then it would still snake through the Taliban heartlands of Helmand and Kandahar in the south of Afghanistan.“The pipeline is very long and very difficult to defend — you can’t put a soldier every 20 metres,” Ruttig said.The Asian Development Bank earlier this year approved around half a million dollars to pay for consultancy and meetings on the project, but when asked at the end of October, it was no longer talking about TAPI.According to the Afghan Ministry of Mines, the pipeline would pump 33 billion cubic metres a year from the South Iolotan field in Turkmenistan to Fazilka in India, crossing 735 kilometres of Afghan territory, then 800 kilometres in Pakistan.Between problematic and impossible.Getting Pakistan and India to agree on anything is tough.Relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours, who have fought three wars against each other since their independence from Britain in 1947, are prickly enough to scuttle the project without any help from the Taliban.“Two of the major stakeholders in TAPI, India and Pakistan, have major differences including security and transit fee, and more importantly, trust,” Mahapatra said.
Energy experts aren’t holding their breath.
“It works economically and is even quite attractive. Needless to say, from the political side, it is somewhere between highly problematic and impossible,” said Jonathan Stern, director of gas research at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies in Britain.
In its first major report on Uzbekistan for four years, Human Rights Watch said Uzbek security forces beat people during interrogations and use electric shocks and rape to extract confessions.
But as Uzbekistan’s importance in the NATO supply chain to Afghanistan has grown, criticism of its abuses has melted away.
Steve Swerdlow, the Human Rights Watch Uzbekistan researcher, said the US and its allies know about these abuses.
“Being located next to Afghanistan should not give Uzbekistan a pass on its horrendous record of torture and repression”
Without Uzbekistan being onside, NATO would have strategic problems in withdrawing from Afghanistan
Uzbekistan was the Soviet Union’s regional transport hub and still has strong rail and road connections with Russia. This makes the country useful to Nato and it was able to switch its re-supply effort to Central Asia and Uzbekistan when US relations with Pakistan deteriorated over the past year.
Britain will also use this network to pull out equipment when it quits Afghanistan in 2014 and last month officials visited Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, for talks.
Since it became an ally, public criticism of Uzbekistan’s human rights record by NATO governments has dried up. The US has even publicly stated that human rights in Uzbekistan are improving.
The Human Rights Watch report disagreed with this assessment and gave detailed firsthand accounts of torture.
This came at the same time as Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake, Jr discretely visited Ashgabat to meet with President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov before the conference on Afghanistan in Bonn regarding the future of Afghanistan some 10 years on after the "war on terror" was proclaimed.
At the meeting Blake mused on the subject of Can Virtue be Taught ? and emphasised the importance of adhering to human rights whilst fighting terrorism.
The Joint Plan of Action includes a commitment to abide by and uphold the core values, including respect for human rights and the rule of law, that are too often compromised in efforts to combat terrorism. This is a very important point, because counterterrorism efforts can best succeed when they place respect for human rights and the rule of law front and center. Abusive and extra-legal behavior often only make the terrorism situation worse in the long-term, and it is important in our zeal to protect our citizens that we do not weaken their legal rights and protections.
Catherine Fitzpatrick mused on this subject,
Blake's remarks came on the eve of an unfortunate development at home tending to undercut his message, as the US Senate voted for the defense re-authorization act but failed to uphold the principle that American citizens arrested in the US in the war on terror shouldn't be subject to indefinite military detention on the president's order.
Just days before the meeting with Turkmenistan's president, Blake had returned to the real business of the USA and NATO in Afghanistan-the development of the TAPI pipeline. None of that is actually reported in the mainstream media in the West as being the reason for continuing the war in Afghanistan.
Blake stressed that
"The United States appreciates the leadership of Turkmenistan in ensuring stability and sustainable development in Central Asian region and, in particular, on supporting the socio-economic reconstruction of Afghanistan" He continued "the U.S. government welcomes Ashgabat's leading role in promoting the project of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline".
At the same time "huge importance of the transnational project, designed to become a reliable link between the states of the region, to promote their effective economic integration and to contribute to recovery of the Afghan economy and improving the social situation in this country" .
The Afghan War is now solidly about the New Silk Route, excluding and diminishing Iran's regional interests and encircling it the better to cripple it economically and target it for "regime change", and developing Afghanistan's copious resources of lithium and cobalt through the Asian Development Bank.
In this New Great Game. human rights are entirely secondary and expendable as and where necessary.
What was said about international aid and military cost?Then: The initial international aid estimate was put at $10 billion over 10 years.For the United States, the actual military cost at the time of the first Bonn meeting was over $30 million a day, or more than a billion dollars a month.The Bonn agreement requested the United Nations to authorize the creation of an international protection force for Afghanistan. The first International Security Assistance Force in 2002 numbered 5,000 soldiers from around the world.Now: Total international aid between 2002 and 2010: $29 billionTotal U.S. military spending: $443 billion spent since 2001, $118 billion in 2011 alone, and another half a trillion over the next decade where America will continue to have a presence in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.Total U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan: 1,829Total Canadian military spending: By the end of 2011, estimated cost of total Canadian mission in Afghanistan is expected to be up to $18 billion.Total Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan: 158Total Afghan civilian casualties: “The rising tide of violence and bloodshed in the first half of 2011 brought injury and death to Afghan civilians at levels without recorded precedent in the current armed conflict,” said the UN's mid-year report on civilian deaths, which numbered 1,462 from January to June 2011.What was said about the Taliban?Then: “Generally the Taliban movement or that regime has completely gone away from Afghanistan. The main terrorist bases associated with them have been removed,” Mr. Karzai said after his first meeting of the country’s new government in December 2001.“There may be individuals hiding in parts of Afghanistan. We are looking for them. In recent days some have been arrested and we are looking for more.“We will see to it that terrorism is completely finished in Afghanistan in all its forms.”As US troops fought in Afghanistan, the Bush administration rejected any negotiated settlement with senior Taliban leaders.Now: President Karzai said at the Bonn conference that he remained open to talks with the Taliban. His peace envoy, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated in September. The killing blamed on the Taliban.“The political process will continue to be inclusive, open to Taliban and other militants who denounce violence, break ties with international terrorism, accept the Afghan constitution and defend peaceful life,” Mr. Karzai said in Bonn.Countries like Germany are also pushing for negotiations and a political solution that includes the Taliban: “Reconciliation does not happen among friends but rather between erstwhile opponents. That is what we need to work on,” Germany’s foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said in the lead-up to the Bonn conference.