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|OIL AT RISK
Special police outside the offices of Russian oil giant Yukos, which may default on loan payments
|Technicians repair an Iraqi oil pipeline blown up by insurgents
over the weekend
OIL PRODUCTION FLIRTS WITH ITS OWN 'PERFECT STORM'
Looters attacking Iraq's vulnerable oil pipelines over the weekend cut output in half. That was bad enough, but on Saturday, Moscow special police swarmed into the offices of Russia's petroleum giant, Yukos, raising immediate questions about whether it would be able to continue producing oil. To make matters worse, OPEC oil producers are hinting that they find the current high prices acceptable, and may fudge on their promise to step up production at the end of July, and Nigerian oil workers are threatening to go on strike. (Middle East on Line.com, July 5, 2004)
• The Moscow Times reports on the police raid on Yukos' offices (July 5)
•Economist provides an over view of the reasons behind Moscow's moves
YUKOS' SHAREHOLDERS FILE SUIT IN NEW YORK
A class action suit filed by investors in New York alleges that Yukos managers created phony organizations as part of a massive tax evasion scheme which artificially inflated prices for the investing public. The suit is based on information coming from investigations in Moscow, and seeks to lay claim to Yukos' holdings outside Russia. (The Russia Journal, July 5, 2004)
IRAQ COMPLICATES U.S. POSITION IN CENTRAL ASIA
Dr. Elizabeth Wishnick, writing in the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute series, notes that a number of Central Asian dictatorships have used the Bush administration's prosecution of the war in Iraq and the "War on Terror" as an excuse to repress legitimate political oppositions with brutal police tactics. What is really needed is more attention to the social, political and economic factors that spawn radical groups. The current approach is playing against the United States at a time when Russia, China and India are competing for influence in an area that is critically important for oil and other resources. (Elizabeth Wishnick, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, May 2004)
•Report in pdf format (54 pages)
RUSSIA MOVES TO COUNTER WESTERN EXPANSION IN CENTRAL ASIA
Upset at NATO's plans to establish closer links with Central Asian republics, Moscow is now launching a strategy to promote "democracy" in the region, and to offer what it thinks may be a better deal. (Sergei Blagov, Eurasianet.org, July 5, 2004)
JEFFREY SACHS CALLS ON AFRICAN NATIONS TO REFUSE PAYMENTS ON DEBT
Speaking at the opening of the African Union summit in Adis Ababa, Sachs, who is now a special economic advisor to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, said that it would be better for the develop countries to cancel the debts of Africa's poorest countries, but failing that, the countries should take the initiative themselves and refuse to pay.
(BBC, July 6, 2004)
•Reactions to Sach's comments
•Summit web site
IRAN CLAIMS THAT IT IS NOW WORLD'S SECOND LARGEST OIL PRODUCER
Iran's oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh claims that new oil discoveries in the southwest put Iran just behind Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer. Iran now claims to have 132 billion barrels of proven reserves. Its Kushk and Hosseinieh oilfields are now lumped together as a single field and renamed Yadavaran. Zanganeh has indicated that he may oppose increasing oil production to bring down prices. Iran's nearest competitor is likely to be Iraq, if Iraq's transitional government can control the insurgency, which some observers feel is getting support from Iran. (Beirut Daily Star, July 5, 2004)
OVERLOOKING THE OTHER CRISES
The International Crisis Group's most recent Crisis Watch Report notes
that already dangerous situations are worsening in a number of countries besides Iraq. Most potentially dangerous trouble spots are Afghanistan, Iran, Georgia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Sudan, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire and Bolivia. (ICG, July 5, 2004)
U.S. RUSHED TO SPEND IRAQ'S OIL MONEY BEFORE TURNING OVER SOVEREIGNTY
The Baltimore Sun's Mark Matthews reports that the U.S. made a last minute splurge to drain nearly all of an $18 billion reconstruction fund financed largely by Iraq's oil for food program. Much of the money went in contracts awarded to U.S. companies without competitive bidding. An international board now wants to investigate how the money was spent. (Mark Matthews, The Baltimore Sun, July 5, 2004)
•Al Jazeera reports that the U.S. has spent almost none of the funds appropriated by Congress for development (July 5, 2004)
•FULL GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE REPORT ON IRAQ RECONSTRUCTION
TAKING A SECOND LOOK AT COMBAT LOGISTICS IN IRAQ
David Zucchino reports in the Los Angeles Times that according to the U.S. Army's first comprehensive analysis of the combat phase of the war in Iraq, the quick military victory was achieved in spite of logistical SNAFUs. Writes Zucchino, " American soldiers who defeated the Iraqi regime 15 months ago received virtually none of the critical spare parts they needed to keep their tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles running. They ran chronically short of food, water and ammunition. Their radios often failed them. Their medics had to forage for medical supplies; artillery gunners had to cannibalize parts from captured Iraqi guns, and intelligence units provided little useful information about the enemy..." The conclusions are in a 542-page study, entitled "On Point," which was recently declassified, and it is likely to raise more questions about Donald Rumsfeld's strategy of relying heavily on civilian contractors such as Halliburton to provide logistical support in combat situations. (David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times News Service in the San Francisco Chronicle, July 4, 2004)
•The Full Text of the On Point Report available on line
(Center for Lessons Learned, Leavenworth, Kansas)
THE WOMAN BEHIND THE WAR
Peter Bergen, writing in the Guardian, notes that the U.S. did not get into the war in Iraq because it wanted to improve Iraqi democracy. The president was convinced that there was an imminent threat to the world and that Saddam was a terrorist mastermind. Where did that idea come from? Bergen thinks that the notion may have come from Laurie Mylroie, a Quixotic scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who had originally favored coexisting with Saddam, but turned against him after the invasion of Kuwait. After the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Mylroie became convinced that Saddam was backing terrorists to get revenge for Desert Storm. She was brought into the Pentagon as a special advisor, where she was able to sway U.S. policy because no one else in the neoconservative clique trying to take over the show knew much about Iraq. (Peter Bergen, The Guardian, July 5, 2004)
JELLY FISH INVASION IN THE CASPIAN THREATENS CAVIAR
The fist-sized Mnemiopsis leidyi jellyfish is nearly transparent, but its impact on plankton, the main source of food for nearly everything else in the Caspian, has been dramatic. Fish stocks have dropped precipitously. The economically catastrophic jelly fish appeared in the Caspian some 20 years ago, after being carried from the U.S. Atlantic coastline in the ballast water of a ship which deposited it in the Black Sea. Fish stocks in the Black Sea plummeted by 80%. The jelly fish then entered the Caspian via the ballast water in a boat using the Volga-Don canal in 1999. The solution to the problem may be a second American jelly fish, Beroe Ovata, which feeds exclusively on Mnemiopsis leidyi. The new predator has raised fish stocks back to nearly normal in the Black Sea, and it dies off once it runs out of Mnemiopsis leidyi to eat. Russian and Iranian scientists are thinking about introducing the species into the Caspian. (Antoine Blua, Eurasianet.org, July 3, 2004)
Michael Moore: modern Tom Paine, political propagandist or both?
Polarizing the Political Landscape?
Was the U.S. drawn into an unnecessary and increasingly costly war in Iraq by deception, or by innocent mistake, and how does one characterize what happened?
Nicholas Kristof, in a thoughtful New York Times Op-Ed, maintains that the president genuinely believed Saddam was a threat. He may have overestimated the menace of Saddam and his alleged weapons of mass destruction, but to call him a liar is to resort to the same kind of overreaction that the Right engaged in against Clinton. Kristof takes Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11, and "lefties" to task for further polarizing the "political cesspool" that has come to characterize the American political debate.
David Corn, author of "The Lies Of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception" sees it a bit differently. "My hunch," Corn writes,"is Kristof is talking less about principle and more about politics. During our chat--and it was pleasant--he argued that using the word 'lying' is inflammatory and reduces persuasive power. Middle of the road people are turned off by it. It really is important to avoid getting swept up in anger. That reduces analytic power.' He added, 'Not that we should not criticize any of these things.' But he advocated focusing on specifics and eschewing overarching name-calling. For example, he is all for blasting Bush for falsely claiming his tax cuts would benefit the poor more than the rich. But he advises anti-Bush forces not to cite such a statement as a lie. This is 'a more effective way,' he asserted, 'to convince swing voters.'
"Whether this would be a more productive political strategy, I do not know" Corn continues."I did not write the book to win over the 37 swing voters in Ohio that will decide the election. My aim was to produce a straightforward examination of a pattern of deception that Kristof and many other recognize. Why not call a lie a lie? Politeness has its place in public discourse. But so does straight talk...The important question is not whether Bush's false and exaggerated assertions are "lies" or "deceptions," as if the outcome of this word game is important. What matters most is that Bush has misled the public. If Kristof wants to pussyfoot around the topic of "lies" in order to convince people of the dangers of four more years of Bush, more power to him. Others of us are willing to engage in plain speaking. In this regard, perhaps we have been inspired by the president. "
•Read Nicholas Kristof's Op-Ed in the New York Times
•Read David Corn's essay in The Nation
The Security Policy Working Group
Hartung, Marcus Corbin, Winslow T. Wheeler
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