Tag Archive: oil

The recent violence in Syria is a terrible thing, of that there is no doubt, such senseless killing anywhere is a tragedy.  We have become used to civil wars in what are classified as Arab countries of late, first the relatively bloodless regime change in Tunisia followed by a more rancourous one in Egypt.  At this point all seemed to be going swimmingly, dictators who had ruled with iron fists were toppled by the will and action of the people who were prepared to be cowed no more.  It gave us all a sense of hope, a sense that if such things were possible in these repressive states then we too might rid ourselves of our oppressors.  The crucial point was that these seemed quite clear popular uprisings, the only resistance came from the regimes themselves and that was only to be expected.

The situation began to get more complicated when the ‘Arab Spring’ spread to Libya.  The prevailing opinion here was not one of surprise, why would it have been the Colonel had been portrayed as a bogeyman for years in the West and was the great bugbear until being usurped by Saddam Hussein.  I knew little of the nascent opposition in Libya, as I suspect most watching and listening to the unfolding news, but I do remember early on hearing about the humiliating withdrawal of British Special Forces agents (SAS & MI6) who had been captured by farm workers in the opposition-held area near Benghazi.  They had not made contact with the opposition forces, as was claimed their mission was, they were in the country with multiple passports and weaponry and appeared somewhat inept.  This was not just an embarrassment to the British government this showed something else, it showed the West was wanted to get involved, or was already in the process of doing so, to hasten things, to topple those whom they had tried to topple from outside for many years.  It didn’t sit well.  It made me wonder what was next.  That it was Syria right after Libya was no surprise at all.

I remember when Bashar-al-Assad came to power in Syria in 2000 following his father’s death.  He was not supposed to be president, he was an ophthalmologist and but for the death of his older brother would have remained so.  He was however touted as a moderate, someone who would loosen the grip on the authoritarian state over which his father had presided.  Indeed for the last 11 years Syria has been one of the quieter of the Middle Eastern nations one that has been something of a diplomatic bridgehead for many of the parties, close enough to the Arab world not to be regarded as a Western puppet as well as maintaining support from China and Russia whilst at the same time seeming to most of the Western world as moderate enough to be a useful broker along with Turkey with whom they also continued to have close ties.

However at the time of the Stop The War actions against the war in Iraq in 2003 I remember hearing it said more than once that whilst we had not stopped the Western forces going into Iraq we had stopped them thinking they could continue on into Syria which would certainly have been their next plan.  As Syria remained unmolested the interest in it appeared to have waned but it came back to my mind late last year.  I know that Syria is also an instrumental piece in the intifada against Israel, not a vocal opponent of Israel per se it gives clear support to the Palestinians from the reasoned position of supporting a dispossessed people.  This sort of intelligent criticism is annoying to the Zionists who must paint all opposition as vehemently anti-semite.

Barbara Walters conducted the first interview from a Western news agency, ABC on 7th Dec 2011 in Damascus and stressed she had been free to ask any questions she wished.  President Assad states quite openly that Syria is not a democratic country and that it is a dictatorship, which is an autocratic form of government where the power of rule is held by one person, (think of a monarchy and you’re on the right lines).  He draws an interesting distinction between dictatorship as a form of government and a dictator as a person and makes it clear that he feels he needs popular legitimacy to continue his role and that Syria is on the path to democratic elections before 2013.  In contrast to what I have heard of his father’s reign this seems no mean achievement or ambition.

The interview is not at all like later ones of Gadaffi who rants and rages and regales against those plotting his downfall with invective and hyperbole.  Perhaps this is merely the contrast in styles between a despot who has been so surrounded by sycophants for so long that he has gone quite mad and a civilised university graduate with an excellent command of English who seems quite at home with intelligent discourse and unflustered by an interviewer so clearly looking for a chink in the armour with which to make an exclusive..

President Assad claims that he retains the support of the majority in Syria, in response it is interesting that Walters refers to the demonstrations against him by people as evidence that he does not have popular support.  Were this to be sole evidence then many of the Western governments should have fallen during the height of the Stop the War campaign due to the mass actions on a scale not seen ever before in some countries.  Where were the UN resolutions for us, where the peacekeeping troops to help us transition to a new government?  I don’t know about the former but we know where the latter were, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. etc.

We must consider at this point that the West is in this regard also not really in a position of strength when it comes to arguments of popular opinion.  The Bush-Gore election is one of the many chequered US examples and in Britain 64% of the population who voted in 2010 did not vote for the current administration.  Why then are we immune from countries meeting to discuss how they will liberate us?  Is it because we have multiple men in suits rather than being countries that only have one?  Or is it because we the people are more cowed by the yoke than the Middle Eastern citizens and our staying at home comfortably numb is our biggest ball and chain?  If indeed Syria’s protesters are a vocal violent minority then Assad has as much right to put them down as Western governments do the G8/G20 protests, or the Occupy movements, one can condemn but only if condemning all state violence not merely someone else’s.

When Walters goes on to push for when presidential elections will take place she is forceful in her point that 2014 is not soon enough but Assad quite correctly says that they will have the parliamentary elections first which will determine the majority opinion and subsequent actions relating to the presidency.  This is perfectly acceptable, after all the anger and frustration in Britain was palpable when Tony Blair handed over the British premiership to Gordon Brown without a popular mandate or ballot.  Assad says clearly that if the parliamentary elections leave him with no mandate then he will not be taking any part in the subsequent presidential elections as he will have lost public support.  You could make noises about the chances of free elections etc. but like the freedom of the press argument the West is decidedly hypocritical in this.

What I remember of many of the dictators over the last years is how they met their ends, Saddam Hussein was killed following trial, very few seemed especially upset about this, certainly not his former masters in the US. Col. Gadaffi was killed very rapidly in the latter stages of the fighting in Libya in a hasty way that was I’m sure for many people rather convenient.  The trouble with toppled dictators is that they have at their disposal a large amount of information as to the affairs of their own state and the actions of those who would negotiate with it, much that might tarnish the images of certain states around them.  This is likely to be enhanced considerably in the case of nations with oil with whom many administrations will stop at nearly nothing in their efforts.  Of course this is nearly all conjecture, the truth may be nothing like this, it is therefore odd that it is all too frequent that those who might be able to divulge such information meet such speedy sticky ends.

I am not the only one articulating the slight raising of a quizzical eyebrow, neither Russia nor China have taken part in the calls for regime change in Syria and have openly stated that they fear that at the root of these calls is the attempt to replace the current administration with a more favourable one for the West.  The West certainly has form.

I do not wish to claim that I know what is going on in Syria, I cannot state that the opposition does not have a public mandate any more than I can state that Bashar-al-Assad does not.  I do not wish to underestimate the troubles in Syria or cheapen the loss of life that has already been too high. Without question there are many innocent civilians caught up in troubles not of their own making, the city of Homs is in crisis and is besieged such that those who might wish to leave cannot do so.  It is akin to the American policy in Helmand, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and on local issues right down to the police kettling protestors in riots and demonstrations, it isn’t right but where is the indignation there?  To hear Hilary Clinton question today why other Syrian cities are not doing the same as Homs if chastising them for their indolence leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth indeed.  The first reason is that if you sit in a safe city with your family secure and going about their business it takes an almost superhuman strength to wish to change this and even more so when you see the potential consequences of such actions.  The second is that it is grossly presumptuous that all Syrian cities should feel the same as Homs, do we know the ethnic makeup of Syria, is there a sectarian issue anywhere?  For a wealthy, comfortable woman to stand up thousands of miles from any conflict and pontificate about whose responsibility such matters are is at best crass insensitivity and political posturing.

I am presuming that my mistrust of the situation is down to my own propensity to believe in the evil doings of the West because I know more about them than I do the doings of a person who has always come across as mild-mannered and erudite.  It is the smoke and mirrors and the media whitewash that makes me deeply uneasy, it is by no means the first time we have heard it, the West preaching all the laudable tenets of representative electoral systems whilst themselves having some of the least democratic of all is nothing new and will continue for as long as the public in those countries remains anaesthetised by the right-wing press that props them up.  I cannot state that the West is directly involved in the Syrian opposition as it appeared to be pushing for in Libya, all I can say is that in the West there will be many people who stand to gain much from the deposing of President Assad. They cannot therefore be considered neutral parties and the idea of them not encouraging, if not in fact actively orchestrating the removal of the Syrian leader seems a little-more far-fetched than them doing so.  The speed with which they have established diplomatic relations with the opposition is in contrast to the reactions to Tunisia and Egypt which were much more hands-off and observational.

It just makes me wonder…

Song Of The Day ~ Gerry Rafferty – One Drink Down

Money doesn’t grow on trees
yet it seems to do for banks
and the coffers overflow when it comes
to submarines and tanks

nuclear deterrent
the supposed death of classes
one wonders if the people
will ever get up off their arses

final salary pensions now
a relic of the past
and it isn’t clear at all
how long the NHS will last

house prices over precipice
inexorable rise in rents
pretty soon it ain’t the campers
who’ll be living out of tents

the lottery seduces
with the tag “It could be you”
whilst punitive taxes
serve but to turn the screw

can alternative systems
really be so bloody worse
when we’ve boxed up civil liberties
and manuflected at its hearse

where now the fear of chaos
what comfort are your Gods
whose books are full of platitudes
for malleable sods

the consent is manufactured
the narcosis fed by drip
and freedom’s only realised
when the body bag is zipped

It’s time to shuffle off the yoke
before this mortal coil
and show that people are not pawns
in chess games played for oil

Song Of The Day ~ The The – Jealous Of Youth

“The greatest state corruption since the Second World War and Western governments and banks are turning a blind eye to it.” Robert Amsterdam, lawyer for Mikail Khordakovsky. Khodorkovsky seems to have many people who will say what a good person he is, not just Robert Amsterdam who is in his pay of course, in fact if you hear his supporters speaking you’d be forgiven for wondering if this were not the second coming of the Messiah. This is unsurprising and hardly an objective state of affairs but of course he is very rich and powerful and consequently can afford to get people to do this for him. This is not new or rare, in the modern business world he would be very much the exception to the rule if he did not employ people to do this for him. Khordorkovsky has every angle covered, he has his parents to tell the media that he isn’t interested in material wealth and that he pays himself just enough to fund a modest family life. It does strike me as a little strange for a billionaire to claim that he’s not in it for the money. Is this a new movement of the caring and sharing oil baron, the antithesis of the Bush family? I’ll leave you to decide that one. Khordorkovsky has the very best lawyers on the case as well as a well-heeled PR machine, anyone with serious power does not give it up lightly and the Russian oligarchs are no exception.

If you chose to see things from a completely orthodox socialist/communist perspective you could respond by saying that these oligarchs in Russia are the same as so many magnates and moguls in the West and they themselves are in the situation they are in based on wholesale rape of resources and moral as well as usually physical corruption. Thus I could simply choose to say that’s the system as it stands, deal with it. But I like the sound of my own text too much for that!!! And besides perhaps I’m biased, though I would like to state here and now I am not some apologist of the Russian regime in some Svoiet-revisionist policy. I am however an anti-capitalist and I see many reasons for my stance as such, not least for the fact that capitalism doesn’t work in the long-term and it is delusional to think otherwise.

I do see something of a paradox in the Khordokovsky situation. Many companies are taken over in hostile fashion and this is seen as the system in operation in fact perhaps at its most latent and voracious. All bets are off though when the state intervenes for any reason, this is seen as interventionism or steps to renationalisation and stopping the system organically expanding the way it would if unfettered, despite that expansion generally resulting in the same circumstances with moderately different protagonists. Strange then that the same sort of rhetoric is not applied to hostile takeovers by private companies on each other, the big fish devouring all the smaller fish in the area. What people don’t seem to acknowledge is that if the state is responsible for the people within it then it has a duty to ensure that things are done as best possible for those in its care and if this includes interventionist policy then to my mind so be it, would one rather something functioning for the few or the many? Personally I do not agree with State Capitalism and I question whether many states do genuinely have the best interests of their citizens at heart but this is a totally seperate issue, one could debate the nature of Hegelian benevolent state and whether or not it can or will exist until one is blue in the face.

I find it a little rich to hear Robert Amsterdam talking about how when governments feel themselves above the law everyone should worry, when in the private sector companies have felt themselves above the law for many decades, especially when it comes to oil companies. Perhaps had they been a little less latent and exploitative they would not have left themselves open to such reciprocal behavour. Ethical capitalism, bollocks, no such thing, you cannot put reins on a system like this because the free marketeers will claim this is a ‘restriction on the free movement of capital and goods’ and all that shite. These are of course the same free marketeers who ensure that their products are subject to tariff protections so as not to face competition from cheaper, often better and usually more ethically produced 3rd world imports. Look into how protectionist that great land of the free America is, start with the steel industry and work back.

Khodorkovsky cites the retired employees of Yukos, who will suffer from the state’s takeover of the company, that he says have been treated unfairly. This is a slightly new tack on a hackneyed type of defence, after all how many times have we seen such workers shafted by the same industrialists without the cries of foul. I don’t think the Daily Mirror employees would be particularly inclined to agree with the notion that big company bosses have set a precedent of compassionate capitalism. Look closer into the company Yukos and its directors, many of them American – these are people with large amounts of money like CEO Stephen Theede and such people generally possess a strong desire to protect their interests. It is for this reason that they have sought to embroil the US court in the dispute and thus sour US and Russian relations. Interestingly one of the opposers to their case in the US was Deutsche Bank not reknowned for its social democratic stance. Yukos parent company, Group Menatep, has sued Russia in Europe for $28.3 billion in financial damages, and the company is also seeking $20 billion in a separate U.S. lawsuit against Rosneft Oil Company and Gazprom for their role in the sale of Yuganskneftegaz, the company’s key production asset. This does not sound to me like the action of a company or individuals primarily concerned with the welfare of former employees, after all these directors retain their large fortunes and there appears to be no sign of them magnanimously giving any of that personal wealth up for the common good. The misappropriation of a genuine concern to appear better in the PR stakes is just another tool that magnates wield in the pursuit of their aims, one should treat it with the suspicion and contempt that such a callous approach deserves.

I do not agree with Spetznatz raiding orphanages like the one funded by Khodorkoshky, however whilst it is no justification for such actions it is well known that in order to hide money many capitalists will go to almost any lengths, particularly in terms of money laudering in seemingly benign projects to protect it from the state and their agents, the taxman. I would be very cautious in assuming that just because the subject in question is an orphanage that the reasons for the purchase are completely altruistic. Let us not forget that Khordorkovsky put his parents in charge of the orphanage in question and thereby killed multiple birds with one stone, he sank money into a project that should be safer from state intervention than his personal or corporate bank account, whilst at the same time safeguarding a pension for his parents. In my experience billionaires whatever their country or method of riches do not get or maintain where they are by being romantic idealists. After all Roman Abramovitch has been especially shrewd in his investment pumping his money into one of the most high-profile offshore transactions possible. I am not aware of him having been a die-hard Chelsea fan previous to his investment. In fact he invested in CSKA Moscow first before deiciding to go more for pan-global domination. This is a clever business deal because should Putin or the Russian state choose to pursue Abramovitch it is one thing to freeze Russian assets, after all he might have thought that since Putin thinks nothing of moving the Spetznaz into an orphanage Abramovitch’s CSKA Moscow investment may have been in the balance, naturally it would be quite another thing to order that players at Chelsea football club are sold to pay back money removed from the population of Siberian provinces. Any hint of such a move from Russia would be sufficiently unpopular, not to mention a complete crossing of legal jurisdiction, to render it highly unpalatable in the extreme to the British jurisdiction

In the midst of all this one must not forget that oil is a natural resource, perhaps the Russian govt has a reason for wanting control, the re-appropriation of the countries assets for public ownership and the good of the population, ok that may be a little far-fetched but perhaps it is to ensure that the Russian economy is balanced rather than the books of wealthy trans-national private corporations.

Companies have for many years done whatever they could to push the boundaries, people whether, workers, customers or bystanders have been treated appalingly, now the state is accused of being the gangster. It astonishes me that the richer the investor the greater the self-righteous indignation when something goes wrong. These people are not keen on the system biting back and they think they are immune on account of the wealth they have ammassed. One does not hear the same outcry when middle class individuals lose their money on the stock market, or when small companies go bust or when national economies are brought to their knees by currency speculators, so why is it that a select few people should feel that the value of their investments should always go up instead of down?

Attempts by the Khodorkovsky PR machine to portray that he is being poisoned, his fingernails taken to Prof Henry, world-renowned toxicologist at St. Marys hospital London, no evidence found of any poisoning.

After Khordorkovsky’s trial verdict Sen Tom Lantos and colleagues issued statement saying they would propose motion to have Russia removed from G8 – interesting coming from group of Americans who think nothing of the defying countless UN resolutions or free-trade agreements.

Why has the US government not intervened more publicly, well my hypothesis is that as usual they are acting in the interests solely of the US businesses they represent. With the increasing dependence on the Russian oil and gas reserves to safeguard the US’s long-term supply and need to provide an alternative to Venezuela since attempts to remove Hugo Chavez have proven ineffectual, the US government finds itself in something of a quandry. Many of its business friends are obviously lobbying for Khordorkovsky’s release, many of the US businesses have investments to lose if Russia decides to go all “commie” again. Leaving aside the morals of the wholesale rape of Eastern European resources by greedy Western Trans-Nationals, the US government must consider who it would rather deal with. As a trading partner and member of the G8 the Russian government has considerable influence but it’s post-Soviet infrastructure meltdown also requires continued US investment, the US can still exact pressure on Russia should it need to do so and energy provision is the one area where the US will exert whatever pressure it deems necessary. A private individual or business has less of an allegiance to any world affairs and is more interested in hard currency. Therefore it is perfectly plausible that Yukos could decide that the US is not the only market it wishes to satisfy, of course the US government would not stand for this unopposed but it would be more difficult for them to do anything about this without being accused of interventionism, something they would face criticism for from all sides as both the businessmen and Russian government would likely be against the involvement. Thus the current solution is ammenable to the US, the Russian government takes all the flack whilst the US can portray itself as incandessant and take the moral high ground without actually having to do anything.

“A strange thing has happened the government has become the biggest oligarch” editor of Novaya Gazzetta, himself a close associate of another disgraced oligarch Boris Berezovsky. The paper did not exercise the same critique of the oligarchs when they were at the height of their power, so if that’s the system is anyone surprised just that the government plays it better and uses the tricks at its disposal, after all the Russian Godfathers have very much shown it the way since the collapse of the Soviet Union, just as so many Western companies have in Eastern Europe, why is it more acceptable for a private individual to play such a strategy as opposed to a government?

Song Of The Day ~ Editors – The Diplomat

Original Comments:

John made this comment,
They can’t get at his money. It’s right here next to me on some computer in this tax haven, in a trust fund for his family. To think, if he bought a football club it’d all be okay again…
comment added :: 14th May 2006, 01:27 GMT+01 :: http://jangliss.livejournal.com

It was no surprise that there have been no WMDs found in Iraq despite all the protestations to the contrary by Bliar and Bush on the intelligence they allegedly had. One could be a little surprised at the time of the invasion that there appeared no plans on what to actually do once the Iraqi army was defeated. As time went on the protestations grew weaker and the evidence that this was a war founded on economics became almost irrefutable.

What has been most perturbing is the, at best astonishing ineptitude and at worst systematic repression of civilians that has taken place during the US occupation of Iraq. The treatment of prisoners at Iraqi jails was brought to light after the discoveries of Abu Gharaib and one might have thought that this problem had been stamped out since there has been no reporting of a continuation of the problem. You would not think this were the case though if you were in Iraq where it is well-known that the Shia-dominated and US-trained security forces. “I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating, one or two detainees were paralysed and some had their skin peeled off various parts of their bodies” Hussein Kamal (Deputy interior minister). The case in question involves 170 detainees but is believed to be only the tip of the iceberg. Most or very likely all, of the 170 heldwere Sunnis and were found to be in a state of both malnutrition as well as showing clear signs of having been subjected to torture.

Anne Clywd, Tony Blair’s envoy in Iraq claims to have known about such problems since May when she received reports from the Sunni community that such actions were going on. What Ms Clywd, who was strongly in favour of military action to depose Saddam Hussain, did regarding these reports she did not make clear, in a BBC Newsnight interview, they were certainly not heavily publicised at the time and the cynical amongst you might summise that this would have been too close to the whole Abu Gharaib incidents thus causing further embarrassment at a time when it would have been even more politically disastrous. Outside the blinkered government circles, a report by Human Rights Watch earlier in the year had said that methods used by Iraqi police included beating detainees with cables, hanging them from their wrists for long periods and giving electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body.

As if the torture of prisoners angle wasn’t enough the Pentagon has confirmed after many previous denials that they used white phosphorus in the attacks on Fallujah, this type of weapon is a dangerous incendiary and causes horrific burns on contact with skin, there are serious questions over whether or not this constitues a chemical weapon. Unsurprisingly the military does not consider this a chemical weapon although of course the military’s assessment of chemical weapons at the moment is something of a moot point. I’m sure no-one who reads this blog by now will be shocked to know that he US is not a signatory to the International treaty restricting the use of white phosphorus as a weapon (Protocol III of Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons).

In the case of Fallujah the US army claim that 1,600 people killed all of whom were allegedly insurgents. This would be the most staggeringly accurate war in all history were it to have any chance in hell of being even remotely true. Initially we were told that resistance in Fallujah was a small group of extremists and not a widespread popular revolt against US occupying forces. Now we are expected to believe that the US indescriminately bombed the city and wiped out all of the resistance without any innocent lives being lost. Usually if something smells like bullshit, that’s probably because it is bullshit, this is no exception.

Song Of The Day ~ Alabama 3 – Mansion On The Hill