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2008-08-22

Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών: "Παρακολουθούμε προσεκτικά τις εξελίξεις"

Συνεργασία με τον υπουργό Αμυνας κ. Βαγγέλη Μεϊμαράκη είχε, το πρωί στο Μέγαρο Μαξίμου, ο πρωθυπουργός κ. Κώστας Καραμανής. Στη συνέχεια συναντήθηκε με την υπουργό Εξωτερικών κα Ντ.Μπακογιάννη.

Μετά τη συνάντηση ο υπουργός Άμυνας απαντώντας σε ερώτηση για την κατάσταση στην Ν. Οσετία, ανέφερε: "παρακολουθούμε πολύ προσεκτικά τις εξελίξεις και όπως γνωρίζετε η Ελλάδα προσπαθεί να υπάρχει μονίμως ένας δίαυλος επικοινωνίας και ουσιαστικού διαλόγου για να γυρίσουμε στην κατάσταση που υπήρχε πριν".

Σε άλλη ερώτηση, σχετικά με το ντόπινγκ, ο υπουργός είπε ότι μόλις τελειώσουν οι Ολυμπιακοί αγώνες, είναι μια ευκαιρία όλοι μαζί, αθλητές, προπονητές, παράγοντες, ομοσπονδίες, πολιτεία, να βοηθήσουμε ουσιαστικά να λυθεί αυτό το ζήτημα γιατί πράγματι φαίνεται ότι υπάρχει ένα θέμα για το οποίο δεν έχει ασχοληθεί κανείς επί της ουσίας, ώστε να επιλυθεί.


Είναι κρίμα, ανέφερε ο κ.Μεϊμαράκης για τον ελληνικό αθλητισμό και για τους αθλητές, οι οποίοι εν τέλει είναι τα θύματα, διότι αφοσιώνονται σε αυτό, το αγαπούν, κάνουν πολλές θυσίες, εμπιστεύονται πάρα πολύ τους προπονητές τους και τους παράγοντες των ομοσπονδιών και αυτοί φέρουν τη βαρύτερη, τη μεγαλύτερη ευθύνη.


Ο κ.Μεϊμαράκης κατέληξε ότι όλοι μαζί θα πρέπει να βρούμε τον τρόπο με τον οποίο, αυτοί που οι Έλληνες αθλητές εμπιστεύονται, να αξίζουν απόλυτα την εμπιστοσύνη τους.


Σε άλλη ερώτηση εάν θα πρέπει να παραιτηθεί ο κ.Παυλίδης από βουλευτής, για να διευκολύνει την κυβέρνηση, ο κ.Μεϊμαράκης παρέπεμψε σε παλαιότερες δηλώσεις του.





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ΕΚΠΡΟΣΩΠΟΣ ΣΥΝΕΔΡΙΟ ΑΠΟΔΗΜΩΝ

Ο Κυβερνητικός Εκπρόσωπος Στέφανος Στεφάνου συζήτησε την Παρασκευή, κεκλεισμένων των θυρών, με τους απόδημους τρόπους βελτίωσης και αναβάθμισης της διαφώτισης στις χώρες όπου φιλοξενούνται οι απόδημοι.

Σε δηλώσεις ύστερα από τη συζήτηση στο πλαίσιο της ΚΒ` Συνεδρίας των
Κεντρικών Συμβουλίων της ΠΟΜΑΚ και της ΠΣΕΚΑ και του Δ` Παγκύπριου Συνεδρίου Νεολαίας Αποδήμων Κυπρίων, που πραγματοποιούνται στο

ξενοδοχείο Χίλτον στη Λευκωσία, ο κ. Στεφάνου είπε ότι δεν ενημέρωσε τους απόδημους εν εκτάσει για τις εξελίξεις στο Κυπριακό, αφού ήδη είχαν ενημερωθεί από τον Πρόεδρο της Δημοκρατίας Δημήτρη Χριστόφια,
καθώς και από τον Πρόεδρο της Βουλής Μάριο Καρογιάν και τον Επίτροπο Προεδρίας Γιώργο Ιακώβου.

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`Σήμερα περιοριστήκαμε στο να συζητήσουμε μαζί με τους απόδημους για τα ζητήματα της διαφώτισης, της δράσης του κινήματος των αποδήμων στις χώρες στις οποίες φιλοξενούνται, για ζητήματα που έχουν να κάνουμε με τη διαφώτιση στο Κυπριακό, την ανάπτυξη σχέσεων μέσα στις χώρες στις οποίους δρουν, γιατί το ζήτημα της διαφώτισης είναι ένα πολύ μεγάλο κεφάλαιο σε ό,τι αφορά το Κυπριακό, τη στάση που τηρούν οι διάφορες χώρες, την επεξήγηση των θέσεων μας και ακόμα για μια σειρά από άλλα ζητήματα`, είπε.

Πρόσθεσε ότι σήμερα, `με πολλή ειλικρίνεια και σε βάθος`, συζήτησε αυτά τα ζητήματα με τους απόδημους, `με στόχο να γίνουμε ακόμα καλύτεροι, να γίνουμε πιο επίκαιροι, πιο έγκυροι και να αναβαθμίσουμε τη διαφώτιση που προσφέρουν και κάνουν οι απόδημοι στις χώρες στις οποίες ρίσκονται`.

Ερωτηθείς εάν έχουν ληφθεί αποφάσεις προς αυτή την κατεύθυνση, ο κ. Στεφάνου είπε ότι `ήδη έχει γίνει μία σοβαρή συζήτηση εδώ στην Κύπρο για το πώς αναβαθμίζουμε περαιτέρω το θέμα της διαφώτισης`.

`Για αυτά τα πράγματα έχω ενημερώσει τους απόδημους και πολύ σύντομα αυτά τα οποία έχουμε πει θα γίνουν και πράξη, για να βελτιώσουμε ακόμα περισσότερο το θέμα της διαφώτισης, γιατί η δουλειά γίνεται σε αυτόν τον τομέα και είναι κάτι για το οποίο θα πρέπει να ευχαριστήσουμε και να συγχαρούμε τους απόδημους μας``, πρόσθεσε.

2008-08-21

Georgian attack is Ossetia's 9/11: Russian maestro

TSKHINVALI, Georgia (Reuters) - Russian conductor Valery Gergiev led a performance of Tchaikovsky among the bombed-out buildings of South Ossetia on Thursday in a concert he said was to alert the world to the region's suffering.

An ethnic Ossetian and one of Russia's best-known musicians, Gergiev lambasted Georgia for shelling the region's capital in a failed assault this month and drew a parallel with the attacks on New York on September 11, 2001.

Gergiev -- who grew up in the neighboring Russian region of North Ossetia -- visited the devastated Jewish Quarter of South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinvali, before conducting a special concert on the town's central square.

"When the U.S. lost three and a half thousand people on September 11th, Russia became the first country to express its support," said Gergiev, referring to the al Qaeda attacks in 2001 which in fact killed nearly 3,000.

"For South Ossetia to lose 1,500 or 2,000 people today is a terrible tragedy but no one knows about it," he said. "To shoot at kids, at children from a tank, it's a shame and the world should know about this shame."

Georgia has denied using excessive forces in its assault, and counters that Russian and its separatist allies have committed abuses against ethnic Georgians who had been living inside South Ossetia.

Dressed in black, Gergiev conducted Tchaikovsky's Fifth and Sixth symphonies on an open-air stage outside Tskhinvali's wrecked parliament building.

RUSSIAN FLAG

Children sat with candles beside policemen as locals waved the Russian flag and two armored personnel carriers kept guard.

Gergiev then conducted Shostakovich's Seventh symphony, loaded with symbolism for Russians who know it as the Leningrad symphony and associate it with the Nazi siege of that city during World War Two.

"I am very hopeful that music will help bring the best of memories and we are here to remember those who died in the tragic days of this aggression," Gergiev said in English.

He said about 2,000 people died in the first days of fighting. Georgia disputes that figure.

Russian forces repelled the Georgian invasion and then pushed further into Georgia, provoking an storm of international criticism. Washington said Moscow's actions had evoked Cold War memories of the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe.

Currently director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, Gergiev was born in Moscow but spent his childhood in North Ossetia.

South Ossetia, a small, pro-Russian province which broke away from Georgian rule in 1992 after a war, says it will ask the Kremlin to recognize it as an independent state.

Eduard Kokoity, South Ossetia's separatist leader, told a rally of several thousand people earlier on Thursday that Georgia had undermined its own statehood by trying to seize his region by force on August 7-8.

Widows and mothers in black, with photographs of their loved ones pinned to their chests, wept as Kokoity lambasted Georgia and its Western backers.

"I have already prepared an address to the president of the Russian Federation ... and to the heads of state of the international community, with a request to recognize our independence," Kokoity said.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Unveiled: Democrats’ Racist Past

By Frances Rice


Democrats who say they don’t care about civil rights history do so because they want to hide the Democratic Party’s racist past. Hypocritically, these same Democrats are quick to falsely accuse Republicans of being racist, while pontificating about why black Americans vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party—a party whose failed socialist policies have turned black communities into economic and social wastelands.


Surveys show that black Americans think conservative, but vote liberal because they have been barraged for over 40 years with falsehoods about the Republican Party by the Democrats who have hijacked the civil rights record of the Republican Party and taken blacks down the path of Socialism.


The time is long overdue for the curtain of deceit to be lifted and the ugly truth told about the Democratic Party’s horrendous history of racism and anti-black socialist policies that have caused so much harm to black Americans.


The Democratic Party’s Failed Socialism


The deplorable condition in black neighborhoods that have been run by Democrats for the past 40 years is well documented by black Democrat Juan Williams in his book entitled Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America. Democrats have the audacity to blame Republicans for the crisis in black neighborhoods created by the Democrats and the temerity to claim that it is Republicans who have done nothing for blacks.


In fact, Republicans have done a great deal to help black Americans, including appointing more blacks to high-level positions than at any time in our nation’s history. Record money has been spent on education, job training and health care, as well as assistance with becoming home and small business owners. Since the 1960’s, over $7 trillion has been spent on poverty programs. The Washington Post reported that as of 2006, the federal government had in place over 80 poverty-related programs costing $500 billion annually.


Here in Florida, Governor Charlie Crist has been a leader in the civil rights movement. He achieved passage of the Dr. Marvin Davies Florida Civil Rights Act to stop discrimination. He accomplished the restoration of civil rights for ex-offenders. He also signed a budget that provides $24.4 billion for education that prepares graduates for the high-tech, high-wage jobs of the future.


Money is not the issue. The socialist policies of the Democratic Party are at the root of the pathos in black communities. To their eternal shame, Democrats fight every effort of Republicans to help blacks get out of poverty. Democrats oppose school choice opportunity scholarships that would help black parents get their children out of failing schools. Democrats oppose the faith-based initiative that would help black ministers provide social services to the poor. Democrats oppose reform of Social Security even though blacks on average lose $10,000 in the system because blacks on average have a five-year shorter life expectancy.


Despite these policies that run counter to the best interest of black people, black Americans keep voting for Democrats because every election cycle Democrats preach hatred against Republicans and get blacks to cast a protest vote against Republicans and not a vote for Democrats. Deliberately, Democrats keep black poor, angry and voting for Democrats. Any black person who becomes self-reliant and prosperous is denigrated as a “sellout.” With this reprehensible strategy, Democrats have built their power base on the backs of poor blacks. Democrat Demagogues get away with this tactic because Democrats have hidden their racist past and sold Socialism to blacks, a system that sounds good but has proven to be devastating to black communities.


Knowledge is power. In addition to exposing the failed Socialism of the Democrats, a key step to helping to free blacks from the Democratic Party’s economic plantation is to shed the light of truth on the racist past of the Democratic Party.


The Democratic Party’s Racist Past


As author Michael Scheurer succinctly stated, the Democrat Party is the party of the four S's: Slavery, Secession, Segregation and now Socialism.


Facts about racism in the Democratic Party can be found in books such as A Short History of Reconstruction by Dr. Eric Foner and Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past by Bruce Bartlett. Two other books are Unfounded Loyalty and Unveiling the Whole Truth by Rev. Wayne Perryman. Rev. Perryman wrote his books after conducting five years of research. He then sued the Democratic Party for that party’s 200-year history of racism. Under oath in court, the Democrats admitted their racist past, but refused to apologize because they know that they can take the black vote for granted.


History shows that Democrats fought to expand slavery while Republicans fought to end it. From its founding in 1854 as the anti-slavery party until today, the Republican Party has championed freedom and civil rights for blacks. Republicans fought to free blacks from slavery and amended the Constitution to grant blacks freedom (13th Amendment), citizenship (14th Amendment) and the right to vote (15th Amendment). Republicans also passed the civil rights laws of the 1860's, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Reconstruction Act of 1867 that was designed to establish a new government system in the Democrat-controlled South, one that was fair to blacks.


It was Democrats who started the Ku Klux Klan that became the terrorist arm of the Democratic Party to lynch and terrorize Republicans-black and white. Democrats passed those discriminatory Black Codes and Jim Crow laws and fought every piece of civil rights legislation from the 1860’s to the 1960’s. Shamefully, Democrats fought against anti-lynching laws, and when the Democrats regained control of Congress in 1892, they passed the Repeal Act of 1894 that overturned civil right laws enacted by Republicans. Republicans founded the HCBU’s and started the NAACP to counter the racist practices of the Democrats. It took Republicans six decades to finally enact civil rights laws in the 1950’s and 1960’s, over the objection of Democrats.


It defies logic for Democrats today to claim that the racist Democrats suddenly joined the Republican Party after Republicans—including Republican Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—finally won the civil rights battle against the racist Democrats. In fact, the racist Democrats declared that they would rather vote for a “yellow dog” than vote for a Republican, because the Republican Party was known as the party for blacks.


The Modern Civil Rights Era


Undeniably, during the civil rights era of the 1960's, it was the Democrats who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other protestors were fighting. Democrat Public Safety Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor in Birmingham let loose vicious dogs and turned skin-burning fire hoses on black civil rights demonstrators. Democrat Georgia Governor Lester Maddox famously brandished ax handles to prevent blacks from patronizing his restaurant. Democrat Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in front of the Alabama schoolhouse in 1963 and thundered, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." In 1954, Democrat Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus tried to prevent desegregation of a Little Rock public school.



Historical records show that it was Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who established the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, enforced the desegregation of the military, sent troops to Arkansas to desegregate the schools, and appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren to the U.S. Supreme Court which resulted in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision ending school segregation. Eisenhower also supported the civil rights laws of 1957 and 1960.


Little known by many today is the fact that it was Republican Senator Everett Dirksen from Illinois, not Democrat President Lyndon Johnson, who pushed through the civil rights laws of the 1960’s. In fact, Dirksen was key to the passage of civil rights legislation in 1957, 1960, 1964, 1965 and 1968. Dirksen wrote the language for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Dirksen also crafted the language for the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which prohibited discrimination in housing.



Omitted from discussions today are significant facts about the struggle to pass the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. The law guaranteed equal access to public facilities and banned racial discrimination by any entity receiving federal government financing. The law was an update of Republican Charles Sumner's 1875 Civil Rights Act which had been stuck down by the Democrat-controlled US Supreme Court in 1883.

The chief opponents of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were Democrat Senators Sam Ervin, Albert Gore, Sr. and Robert Byrd. Senator Byrd, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, filibustered against the bill for 14 straight hours before the final vote. Former presidential candidate Richard Nixon lobbied hard for the passage of the bill. When the bill finally came up for a vote, the House of Representatives passed the bill by 289 to 124. 80% of Republicans in the House of Representatives voted yes, and only 63% of Democrats voted yes. The Senate vote was 73 to 27, with 21 Democrats in the Senate voting no, and only 6 Republicans voting no.

Equally important was the 1965 Voting Rights Act that authorized the federal government to abolish literacy tests and other means used to prevent blacks from exercising their constitutional right to vote that was granted by the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. With images of violence against civil rights protestors led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shaping the national debate, Democrats in Congress finally decided not to filibuster the Voting Rights Act of 1965. When the bill came up for a vote, both houses of Congress passed the bill. In the House of Representatives, 85% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats voted for the bill. In the Senate, 17 Democrats voted no, and only one Republican voted no.

Notably, in his 4,500-word State of the Union Address delivered on January 4, 1965, Johnson mentioned scores of topics for federal action, but only thirty five words were devoted to civil rights. He did not mention one word about voting rights. Information about Johnson’s anemic civil rights policy positions can be found in the “Public Papers of the President, Lyndon B. Johnson,” 1965, vol. 1, p.1-9.


The statement by President Johnson about losing the South after passage of the 1964 civil rights law was not made out of a concern that racist Democrats would suddenly join the Republican Party that was fighting for the civil rights of blacks. Instead, it was an expression of fear that the racist Democrats would again form a third party, such as the short-lived States Rights Democratic Party. In fact, Alabama’s Democrat Governor George C. Wallace in 1968 started the American Independent Party that attracted other racist candidates, including Democrat Atlanta Mayor (later Governor of Georgia) Lester Maddox.


Democrat President John F. Kennedy is lauded as a civil rights advocate. In reality, Kennedy voted against the 1957 Civil rights Act while he was a senator, as did Democrat Senator Al Gore, Sr. After he became president, John F. Kennedy opposed the 1963 March on Washington by Dr. King that was organized by A. Phillip Randolph who was a black Republican. President Kennedy, through his brother Attorney General Robert Kennedy, had Dr. King wiretapped and investigated by the FBI on suspicion of being a Communist in order to undermine Dr. King.


The relentless disparagement of Dr. King by Democrats led to his being physically assaulted and ultimately to his tragic death. In March of 1968, while referring to Dr. King's leaving Memphis, Tennessee after riots broke out where a teenager was killed, Democrat Senator Robert Byrd, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, called Dr. King a "trouble-maker" who starts trouble, but runs like a coward after trouble is ignited. A few weeks later, Dr. King returned to Memphis and was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Exposing the Democrats’ Litany of False Assertions about Republicans – From Barry Goldwater to Hurricane Katrina


Democrats today denounce Republican Senator Barry Goldwater as anti-black. However a review of Senator Barry Goldwater’s record shows that he was a Libertarian, not a racist. Goldwater was a member of the Arizona NAACP and was involved in desegregating the Arizona National Guard. He supported the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and the Civil Rights Act of 1960, as well as the constitutional amendment banning the poll tax. His opposition to the more comprehensive Civil Rights Act of 1964 was based on his libertarian views about government. Goldwater believed that the 1964 Act, as written, unconstitutionally extended the federal government's commerce power to private citizens, furthering the government’s efforts to "legislate morality" and restrict the rights of employers.


Contrary to the false assertions by Democrats today, the racist "Dixiecrats" did not all migrate to the Republican Party. With the party slogan: "Segregation Forever!," the Dixiecrats, who were Democrats, formed the States Rights Democratic Party for the presidential election of 1948. The Dixiecrats remained Democrats for all local elections and all subsequent national elections.


Today, some of those Dixiecrats continue their political careers as Democrats, including former Democrat Senator Ernest Hollings who put up the Confederate flag over the state capitol when he was the governor of South Carolina.


Another former "Dixiecrat" is Democrat Senator Robert Byrd who is well known for having been a "Keagle" in the Ku Klux Klan. There was no public outcry when Democrat Senator Christopher Dodd praised Senator Byrd as someone who would have been "a great senator for any moment," including the Civil War. Democrats denounced Senator Trent Lott for his remarks about Senator Strom Thurmond. However, Senator Thurmond was never in the Ku Klux Klan and, after he became a Republican, defended blacks against lynching and the discriminatory poll taxes imposed on blacks by Democrats. If Senator Byrd and Senator Thurmond were alive during the Civil War, and Byrd had his way, Thurmond would have been lynched.


In the arsenal of the Democrats is a condemnation of Republican President Richard Nixon for his so-called “Southern Strategy.” These same Democrats expressed no concern when the racially segregated South voted solidly for Democrats; yet unfairly deride Republicans because of the thirty-year odyssey of the South switching to the Republican Party that began in the 1970's. Nixon's "Southern Strategy was an effort on his part to get fair-minded people in the South to stop voting for Democrats who did not share their values and were discriminating against blacks. Georgia did not switch until 2004, and some Southern states, including Louisiana, was still controlled by Democrats until the election of Republican Bobby Jindal in 2007.


As part of their efforts to keep blacks toeing the Democratic Party line, Democrats falsely accuse Republicans of “disenfranchising“ blacks, citing the 2000 election, even though second recounts of the votes in Florida by the Miami Herald and a consortium of major news organizations confirmed that President George W. Bush won the election. Also, investigations by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division found that no blacks were denied the right to vote. If even one black person had been denied the right to vote, that person’s name would have been blasted on the front page of every newspaper in the nation. As for the “felon purge list,” the Miami Herald found that whites were twice as likely to be incorrectly placed on the list as blacks.


An example of hypocrisy is how the Democrats use the name “Willie Horton” to castigate Republicans. Democrats do not mention that it was former Vice President Al Gore who first brought up Willie Horton’s name against Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis during the 1988 primary election because, after Dukakis released convicted murderer Willie Horton from prison on a weekend furlough, Horton raped a woman and stabbed her husband.


In the general election, former President George H. W. Bush followed the example of Al Gore and used the name of Willie Horton against Dukakis who was the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. Today, Democrats condemn George H. W. Bush about Willie Horton, but hypocritically give Al Gore a pass.


To their eternal infamy, Democrats used the tragedy caused by Hurricane Katrina for their own partisan political gain. While criticizing President Bush, Democrats turned a blind eye to the failures of the Democrats running the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. The black Democrat officials in New Orleans did not execute the emergency evacuation plan and allowed over 1,000 school buses and city transit buses to stay in parking lots and become ruined by the flood.


Further, the Posse Comitatus Act passed by Congress in 1878 prevents a president from sending federal troops to a state without the governor’s consent. The Democrat governor of Louisiana, a white woman, refused to cooperate with President Bush when the president asked for her consent to begin a mandatory evacuation four days before the storm. The Democrats in the Louisiana homeland security office also refused to let the Red Cross bring truckloads of food, water and supplies to the Superdome. Since 1980, Louisiana emergency personnel knew that the levees in New Orleans would not withstand a category 3 or 4 hurricane. Yet, the Democrats in Congress filibustered President Bush’s energy bill which was introduced in 2001 and contained $540 million for repairing the levees in New Orleans.


Today’s Challenge


The challenge for Republicans is to conduct a broad-based educational campaign to overcome the misinformation about the Republican Party put out by Democrats and echoed in the media.


Until blacks stop voting overwhelmingly for Democrats and start leveraging their votes, as other groups do, there will be no changes in black communities run by Democrats. Black Americans need to stop having their vote taken for granted, seize control over their own destiny and hold politicians accountable for the content of their policies, not the label of their party.


Frances Rice is a lawyer, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and Chairman of the National Black Republican Association.

Russians halt Nato Co-operation

Russia has told Nato that it is halting military co-operation over the continuing crisis in Georgia, an alliance spokeswoman has said.

The Nato spokeswoman said it had been notified of the decision through military channels. She said the alliance "takes note" of the decision but had no further reaction to it.

Nato and Russia began co-operating on various projects following an agreement in 2002.


Meanwhile, the separatist leaders of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have urged Russia to recognise their independence at mass rallies.


Story from BBC NEWS

2008-08-20

Without Russia or Iran, Europe's energy options could be shaky

Commentators have been quick to point out that Russia's defeat of Georgia has pretty much killed the chances that new oil and gas pipelines will be built to increase the security of supplies to Europe. It's clear that there is little to stop Russia from rolling its forces up to the existing pipeline or knocking it out of commission if it wanted to. The Washington Post's Steve Pearlstein even suggested that demonstrating the pipeline's vulnerability may have been one of the underlying motives for the Russian incursion.

The United States has been promoting the idea of pipeline routes skirting Russia as a way to promote European energy security, but the chances of making that work have always been slim. The reason: The United States has been simultaneously trying to keep Iran, the world's other major holder of natural gas reserves, out of world markets and out of alternate pipeline networks. Without the Iran card, it's very difficult to win a pipeline game against Russia.

The U.S. has long been pushing for oil and natural gas pipelines from the Caspian Basin that would bypass Russia, especially via Georgia. The current Georgia pipeline began in the late 1990s as a project to carry the estimated 35 billion barrels of oil, and natural gas, from the Caspian Sea area to European markets. One current line, the Baku-Tblisis-Cyhan line, runs through Georgia and then on to Turkey's Mediterranean coast for shipment. Another oil line ends up at the Georgian port of Supsa, which the Russian navy blockaded. A proposed natural gas line, called Nabucco, would go through Georgia to Austria, reducing Europe's heavy dependence on Russian natural gas pipelines.



Was it ever possible for a non-Russian natural gas pipeline route from the Caspian basin to supply enough gas to free Europe from Russia's grip? Not likely given Europe's large needs. Moreover, Iran has perhaps the biggest natural gas reserves outside Russia, and the United States has been simultaneously trying to block any expansion of Iranian natural gas exports. It's hard to think realistically about supplying enough natural gas to the world without either of the countries with the biggest reserves.

One European oil company executive told me today that the Nabucco line, named after a Verdi opera, was simply "not a doable project because there is not enough gas to justify the investment" -- at least without Iranian gas coming into it. "The only thing that can make it viable is by using Iranian gas," he continued. Otherwise, he said, it is "pie in the sky." American policy makers, he said, "want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to keep Europe from using Russian gas and they want to keep Iran in a corner too."

Finally, if the United States is trying to marginalize Russia and Iran, that means a big role not only for the Caspian line but also for the capital-intensive liquefied natural gas projects in Qatar. Will Europe feel more secure by building a new natural gas dependency on the Persian Gulf?

Suddenly the pipelines that run through Georgia seem like just another facet of global energy insecurity rather than enhanced security. Oil and gas experts are fond of saying that energy security lies in diversity.

But especially when it comes to natural gas, achieving enough diversity of supply to feel secure may be impossible.


By Steven Mufson on August 19, 2008 6:27 PM

2008-08-14

Georgia War: A Neocon Election Ploy?

By Robert Scheer

Is it possible that this time the October surprise was tried in August, and that the garbage issue of brave little Georgia struggling for its survival from the grasp of the Russian bear was stoked to influence the US presidential election?

Before you dismiss that possibility, consider the role of one Randy Scheunemann, for four years a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government, ending his official lobbying connection only in March, months after he became Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain's senior foreign policy adviser.

Previously, Scheunemann was best known as one of the neoconservatives who engineered the war in Iraq when he was a director of the Project for a New American Century. It was Scheunemann who, after working on the McCain 2000 presidential campaign, headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the US Iraq invasion.

There are telltale signs that he played a similar role in the recent Georgia flare-up. How else to explain the folly of his close friend and former employer, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, in ordering an invasion of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which clearly was expected to produce a Russian counter-reaction.

AdvertisementIt is inconceivable that Saakashvili would have triggered this dangerous escalation without some assurance from influential Americans he trusted, like Scheunemann, that the United States would have his back. Scheunemann long guided McCain in these matters, even before he was officially running foreign policy for McCain's presidential campaign.

In 2005, while registered as a paid lobbyist for Georgia, Scheunemann worked with McCain to draft a congressional resolution pushing for Georgia's membership in NATO. A year later, while still on the Georgian payroll, Scheunemann accompanied McCain on a trip to that country, where they met with Saakashvili and supported his bellicose views toward Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Scheunemann is at the center of the neoconservative cabal that has come to dominate the Republican candidate's foreign policy stance in a replay of the run-up to the war against Iraq. These folks are always looking for a foreign enemy on which to base a new cold war, and with the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, it was Putin's Russia that came increasingly to fit the bill.

Yes, it sounds diabolical, but that may be the most accurate way to assess the designs of the McCain campaign in matters of war and peace. There is every indication that the candidate's demonization of Putin is an even grander plan than the previous use of Hussein to fuel American militarism with the fearsome enemy that it desperately needs.

McCain gets to look tough with a new cold war to fight while Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, scrambling to make sense of a more measured foreign policy posture, will seem weak in comparison. Meanwhile, the dire consequences of the Bush legacy McCain has inherited, from the disaster of Iraq to the economic meltdown, conveniently will be ignored. But it will provide the military-industrial complex, which has helped bankroll the neoconservatives, with an excuse for ramping up a military budget that is already bigger than that of the rest of the world combined.

What is at work here is a neoconservative, self-fulfilling prophecy in which Russia is turned into an enemy that ramps up its largely reduced military, and Putin is cast as the new Joseph Stalin bogeyman, evoking images of the old Soviet Union. McCain has condemned a "revanchist Russia" that should once again be contained. Although Putin has been the enormously popular elected leader of post-Communist Russia, it is assumed that imperialism is always lurking, not only in his DNA but in that of the Russian people.

How convenient to forget that Stalin was a Georgian, and indeed if Russian troops had occupied the threatened Georgian town of Gori, they would have found a museum still honoring their local boy, who made good by seizing control of the Russian revolution. Indeed, five Russian bombs were allegedly dropped on Gori's Stalin Square on Tuesday.

It should also be mentioned that the post-Communist Georgians have imperial designs on South Ossetia and Abkhazia. What a stark contradiction that the United States, which championed Kosovo's independence from Serbia, now is ignoring Georgia's invasion of its ethnically rebellious provinces.

For McCain to so fervently embrace Scheunemann's neoconservative line of demonizing Russia in the interest of appearing tough during an election is a reminder that a senator can be old and yet wildly irresponsible.

Copyright © 2008 The Nation

U.S., Poland agree to missile defense deal

Russia infuriated with plan, had threatened to redirect missiles to Poland


WARSAW, Poland - Poland and the United States reached an agreement Thursday that will see a battery of American missiles established inside Poland — a plan that has infuriated Russia and threatened to exacerbate tensions with the region's communist-era master.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk — speaking in an interview televised on news channel TVN24 — said the United States had agreed to help augment Poland's defenses with Patriot missiles in exchange for placing 10 missile defense interceptors in the Eastern European country.

Tusk said the deal, to be signed later Thursday in Warsaw, includes a "mutual commitment" between the two nations to come to each other's assistance "in case of trouble."

The clause appeared to be a reference to potential challenges from Russia.

Moscow had threatened to redirect missiles toward Poland if the country agreed to host elements of the U.S. missile defense shield.

The recent Russian military incursion into Georgia, along with its bombing of Georgian military outposts and airfields, has rattled former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe.

Poland said the conflict in Georgia underlined Poland's need for U.S. military assistance if it were to cooperate on the U.S. missile defense shield.

The United States has also reached an agreement with the Czech government to place a radar component of the shield in that country. That deal still needs approval from Czech parliament.

Source: Associated Press

Overhyping Georgia




The conflict between Russian and Georgia is certainly important -- but the majority of the rhetoric in the United States has been overheated.





By: Matthew Yglesias

The war between Russia and Georgia, which appears -- mercifully -- to have ended, is, of course, a searing experience for the small republic that provoked and then badly lost the war. The consequences for the populations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the splinter regions of Georgia whose independence under Russian "protection" (originally declared back in 1991 when Georgia seceded from the USSR) now seems secure, may well prove lasting. And one can at least imagine that the conflict was a huge psychological boost for Russia, which is eager to move beyond the decline of Soviet power. But for the rest of the world, despite a lot of overheated rhetoric to the contrary over the past week, the consequences will be minimal.

Of course not everyone sees it that way. On Monday night's show, CNN Headline News' resident hysteric, Glenn Beck, termed the war a "pivotal moment for the United States of America" claiming prescience for having "been warning people for a while now that Russia is trying to corner the market" on hydrocarbons. Max Boot warned that "the Russian attacks on Georgia, if left unchecked, could easily trigger more conflict in the future … today, Georgia; tomorrow, Ukraine; the day after, Estonia?" John McCain sought to build the sense of crisis, arguing that "world history is often made in remote, obscure countries."

The reality, however, is that world history in the relevant sense isn't made often at all. That's what makes it noteworthy. And it's especially unlikely to be made in remote, obscure countries unless -- as in Sarajevo in 1914 -- major countries use events in obscure ones as a pretext to escalate longstanding conflicts. The idea that the Caucuses clash is an epochal event depends, crucially, on the argument, made notably by Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, and John Barry, that the Ossetia crisis is equivalent to the Sudetenland crisis of 1938 and that any failure to punish Russia would repeat the mistakes of the Munich agreement when Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement failed to head off further German aggression but did weaken the West’s ability to resist such aggression.

The reality, however, is that Russia has no actual ability to move from Tblisi to Kiev. Georgia is tiny, poor, and geographically located so as to make it difficult for the West to provide it with any practical support. Ukraine has 10 times Georgia's population, 20 times its economic output, and extensive land borders with countries firmly in the Western orbit. The practical impossibility of conquering Ukraine, not American threats, is what will keep the Russians out of Kiev. Meanwhile, it turns out that, contrary to the fears of the hysterics, Russia isn't even going to Tblisi today, much less Ukraine tomorrow or Estonia the day after that. Vladimir Putin, unlike the leader of the United States, is apparently shrewd enough to recognize that military occupations of foreign territories have high costs and scarce benefits.

But while Russia's punishment of Georgia may not have major consequences for America or for world security, a hysterical American response just might. Most obviously, if we were to take things like John McCain's Aug. 12 proclamation that "we are all Georgians" seriously, we would be in the midst of a shooting war with Russia and literally risking the end of human civilization in a nuclear exchange.

By all accounts, McCain just wants to engage in some irresponsible posturing rather than to follow through on the implications of his words, but even excessive posturing and loose talk of a new Cold War with Russia would have real costs. Specifically, both McCain and Barack Obama have recognized that an agreement with Russia related to nuclear-weapons reductions is key to revitalizing the global nonproliferation regime. Russia can't conquer Ukraine or Estonia, but it can play a key role in helping or hindering American efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. And unlike the status of South Ossetia, nuclear proliferation is actually important to the United States. Having frittered away the past seven years on a foreign policy driven by hubris, the United States can ill-afford to misplace its priorities. With the active phase of the war over, we need to move beyond it as quickly as possible to more important issues, not indulge baroque fantasies of renewed great-power conflict.

Russia: 'Forget' Georgian territorial integrity

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, August 14, 2008

Russia's foreign minister declared Thursday that the world "can forget about" Georgia's territorial integrity, and American and Georgian officials said Russia appeared to be targeting military infrastructure — including radars and patrol boats at a Black Sea naval base and oil hub.

An AP Television News crew in the oil port city of Poti saw one destroyed Georgian military boat, and two Russian armored vehicles and two Russian transport trucks. Soldiers who identified themselves as Russian peacekeepers blocked the crew from going further.

Russia's president met in the Kremlin with the leaders of Georgia's two separatist provinces — a clear sign that Moscow could absorb the regions. The comments from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appeared to come as a challenge to the United States, where President Bush has called for Russia to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia."

The Russian refusal to withdraw from Georgia presents a challenge to the cease-fire agreement designed to end seven days of fighting. The EU-sponsored accord had envisioned Russian and Georgian forces returning to their original positions.

In Washington, an American official said Russia appears to be sabotaging airfields and other military infrastructure as its forces pull back. The U.S. official described eyewitnesses accounts for The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The official said the Russian strategy seems like a deliberate attempt to cripple the already battered Georgian military.

The United States poured aid into the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Thursday and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice launched emergency talks in France aimed at heading off a wider conflict.

Russia's deputy chief of General Staff Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said he was not sure that the U.S. planes carried exclusively humanitarian cargo. "It causes our concern," he said.

At least 20 explosions were heard near Gori, along with small-arms fire. It could not immediately be determined if the blasts were a renewal of fighting between Georgian and Russian forces, but they sounded similar to mortar shells and occurred after a tense confrontation between Russian and Georgian troops on the edge of the city.

The strategically located city is 15 miles south of South Ossetia, the Russian-backed separatist region where Russian and Georgian forces fought a five-day battle. Russian troops entered Gori on Wednesday, after the two sides signed the cease-fire.

In Washington, a Pentagon official said U.S. intelligence had assessed that the number of Russians in Gori was small — about 100 to 200 troops. But the Russian presence in Gori, only 60 miles west of Tbilisi, was viewed as a demonstration of the vulnerability of the capital.

Nogovitsyn said Russian troops went to Gori to establish contact with local civilian administration and take control over military depots left behind by the Georgian forces. "The abandoned weapons needed protection," he said.

Georgian government officials who went into the city for the possible handover left unexpectedly around midday, followed by a checkpoint confrontation outside Gori which ended when Russian tanks sped toward the area and Georgian police quickly retreated.

A Russian general in Gori had said Wednesday it would take at least two days to leave the city.

Besides the hundreds killed since hostilities broke out, the United Nations estimates 100,000 Georgians have been uprooted; Russia says some 30,000 residents of South Ossetia fled into the neighboring Russian province of North Ossetia.

Russian troops also appeared to be settling in elsewhere in Georgia outside the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"One can forget about any talk about Georgia's territorial integrity because, I believe, it is impossible to persuade South Ossetia and Abkhazia to agree with the logic that they can be forced back into the Georgian state," Lavrov told reporters.

The White House bluntly rejected Lavrov's message.


"Our position on Georgia's territorial integrity is not going to change no matter what anybody says," White House press secretary Dana Perino said Thursday. "And so I would consider that to be bluster from the foreign minister of Russia. We will ignore it."

Georgia's coast guard said Russian troops had burned patrol boats and destroyed radars and other equipment at the port city of Poti, home to Georgia's main naval base and a major hub for oil exports to Europe. The APTN crew saw one destroyed boat, about 60 feet long.


On Poti's outskirts, the APTN crew followed a different convoy of Russian troops as they searched a forest for Georgian military equipment.


Nogovitsyn avoided comment on the Russian presence in Poti, saying only that Russian forces were operating within their "area of responsibility."


Another APTN camera crew saw Russian soldiers and military vehicles parked Thursday inside the Georgian government's elegant, heavily-gated residence in the western town of Zugdidi. Some of the soldiers wore blue peacekeeping helmets, others wore green camouflage helmets, all were heavily armed. The scene underlined how closely the soldiers Russia calls peacekeepers are allied with its military.


"The Russian troops are here. They are occupying," Ygor Gegenava, an elderly Zugdidi resident told the APTN crew. "We don't want them here. What we need is friendship and good relations with the Russian people."


Georgia, bordering the Black Sea between Turkey and Russia, was ruled by Moscow for most of the two centuries preceding the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.


A steady, dejected trickle of Georgian refugees fled the front line in overloaded cars, trucks and tractor-pulled wagons, heading to Tbilisi on the road from Gori. One Soviet-era car carried eight people, including a mother and a baby in the front seat. The open back door of a small blue van revealed at least a dozen people crowded inside.


The Russian General Prosecutor's office on Thursday said it has formally opened a genocide probe into Georgian treatment of South Ossetians. For its part, Georgia this week filed a suit against Russia in the International Court of Justice, alleging murder, rape and mass expulsions in both provinces.


More homes in deserted ethnic Georgian villages were apparently set ablaze Wednesday, sending clouds of smoke over the foothills north of Tskhinvali, capital of breakaway South Ossetia.

One Russian colonel, who refused to give his name, blamed the fires on looters.

Those with ethnic Georgian backgrounds who have stayed behind — like 70-year-old retired teacher Vinera Chebataryeva — seem increasingly unwelcome in South Ossetia.

As she stood sobbing in her wrecked apartment near the center of Tskhinvali, Chebataryeva said a skirmish between Ossetian soldiers and a Georgian tank had gouged the two gaping shell holes in her wall, bashing in her piano and destroying her furniture.


Janna Kuzayeva, an ethnic Ossetian neighbor, claimed the Georgian tank fired the shell at Chebataryeva's apartment.


"We know for sure her brother spied for Georgians," said Kuzayeva. "We let her stay here, and now she's blaming everything on us."

North of Tskhinvali, a number of former Georgian communities have been abandoned in the last few days. "There isn't a single Georgian left in those villages," said Robert Kochi, a 45-year-old South Ossetian"

But he had little sympathy for his former Georgian neighbors. "They wanted to physically uproot us all," he said. "What other definition is there for genocide?"

___

Associated Press writers Misha Dzhindzhikhavili in Tbilisi; Mansur Mirovalev in Tskhinvali, Georgia; Jim Heintz in Moscow; and Anne Gearan, Matthew Lee and Pauline Jelinek in Washington contributed to this report.

Georgia-Russia fight endangers U.S. oil goals

Jad Mouawad, New York Times



When the main pipeline that carries oil through Georgia was completed in 2005, it was hailed as a major success in the U.S. policy to diversify its energy supply. Not only did the pipeline transport oil produced in Central Asia, helping move the West off its dependence on the Middle East, but it also accomplished another American goal: It bypassed Russia.

U.S. policymakers hoped that diverting oil around Russia would keep it from reasserting control over Central Asia and its enormous oil and gas wealth and would provide a safer alternative to Moscow's control over export routes that it had inherited from Soviet days.

A bumper sticker that U.S. diplomats distributed around Central Asia in the 1990s summed up Washington's thinking: "Happiness is multiple pipelines."

Now energy experts say that the hostilities between Russia and Georgia could threaten American plans to gain access to more of Central Asia's energy resources in a year when booming demand in Asia and tight supplies helped push the price of oil to records.

"It is hard to see through the fog of this war another pipeline through Georgia," said Cliff Kupchan, a political risk analyst at Eurasia Group and a State Department official during the Clinton administration. "Multinationals and Central Asian and Caspian governments may think twice about building new lines through this corridor. It may even call into question the reliability of moving existing volumes through that corridor."

At the very least, they warn, Russia may figure even more prominently in shaping the region's energy future.

The latest struggle over Caspian oil started in the 1990s under President Bill Clinton, after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The building of the pipeline that passes through Georgia, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan line remains one of the signature successes of the American strategy to put a wedge between Russia and the Central Asian countries that had been Soviet republics.

Previous attempts to get oil out of Kazakhstan through a non-Russia route have failed. Most of the oil production from the giant field of Tengiz, for example, in which Chevron is the largest investor, now travels through a pipeline known as the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which runs along the northern Caspian coastline to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.

Some analysts believe the armed conflict between Russia and Georgia is rooted not only in historical enmity, but also an outgrowth of Russia's fears that Georgia, with its pro-Western bent, could prove to be a lasting competitor for energy exports.

"Russians treasured the fact they had a monopoly on oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia, as it gave them considerable clout," said Marshall I. Goldman, a senior scholar for Russian studies at Harvard. "By agreeing to having an oil pipeline, Georgia made itself more vulnerable." A big concern now centers over Kashagan, the giant oil field in the Caspian Sea that holds more than 10 billion barrels of reserves. Located off Kazakhstan, Kashagan is the most ambitious attempt to date by Western companies to develop new supplies in the Caspian.

It will be at least five years before oil starts flowing from there, but the operating consortium, which includes Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips, plans to transport Kashagan's oil through the BTC pipeline. That would involve building a new pipeline under the Caspian Sea, which might encounter opposition from Russia.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, 1,100 miles long, transports 850,000 barrels a day of oil, or 1 percent of global supplies, from Azerbaijan through Georgia and into the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. Much of the oil is bound for Europe and the United States.

The oil comes from several fields in Azerbaijan, offshore in the Caspian. When the pipeline was under construction, the West struggled to find routes that would avoid trouble spots.

The United States, for instance, did not want the line to pass through Iran. In the end, BP, which operates the pipeline, and other investors decided the line had to proceed on its current route, through three countries struggling with separatists.

Report: Iraq contracts have cost at least $85B

By KIMBERLY HEFLING,
Associated Press Writer


WASHINGTON - Military contracts in the Iraq theater have cost taxpayers at least $85 billion, and when it comes to providing security, they might not be any cheaper than using military personnel, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Congressional Budget Office report comes on the heels of increased scrutiny of contractors in the last year, some of whom have been investigated in connection with shooting deaths of Iraqis and the accidental electrocutions of U.S. troops.

The United States has relied more heavily on contractors in Iraq than in any other war to provide services ranging from food service to guarding diplomats. About 20 percent of funding for operations in Iraq has gone to contractors, the report said.


Currently, there are at least 190,000 contractors in Iraq and neighboring countries, a ratio of about one contractor per U.S. service member, the report says.


The study does not include monetary figures for 2008, so the total paid to contractors for work in the Iraq theater since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is probably much higher. If spending for contractors continues at about the same rate, by the end of the year, an estimated $100 billion will have been paid to military contractors for operations in Iraq.


Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Budget Committee, which requested the CBO review, said the Bush administration's reliance on military contractors has set a dangerous precedent.


The use of contractors "restricts accountability and oversight; opens the door to corruption and abuse; and, in some instances, may significantly increase the cost to American taxpayers," Conrad said in a statement.


The death of a Green Beret from Pittsburgh, Sgt. Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted in January while showering in Iraq, prompted a House committee oversight hearing last month into whether contractor KBR Inc. has properly handled the electrical work at bases it is tasked with maintaining. The military has also said that five other deaths were due to improperly installed or maintained electrical devices, according to a congressional report.


Senators have also been looking into the electrical work done by contractors.


In a separate matter, a federal grand jury is investigating whether Blackwater Worldwide guards acted illegally when they opened fire in a busy Baghdad intersection last September. Seventeen Iraqis died and the shooting strained US-Iraqi relations.


The Justice Department is expected to decide soon whether to bring charges. The company itself is not expected to be prosecuted. Executives from Blackwater, based in Moyock, N.C., said recently that they planned to scale back their security contracting business and focus on other areas, in large part because of the negative attention after the shooting.


The CBO estimated Tuesday that $6 billion to $10 billion has been spent on security work, and that the prices paid are comparable to a U.S. military unit doing that work. It estimated that about 25,000-30,000 employees of security firms were in Iraq as of early 2008.


The report said the legal status of contractor personnel is uncertain, particularly for those who are armed. It also noted that military commanders have less direct authority over the actions of contractors than they would a subordinate because the contract is managed by a government contracting officer and not a military commander.


That's because that's how the government designed the relationship, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel for the Professional Services Council, which represents government contractors.


"There is accountability through the contract and to the contracting officer," Chvotkin said.


The use of military contractors dates to the American Revolution. During the Vietnam War, U.S. contractors were targeted by protesters who accused the companies of profiting from the war.


Since the end of the Cold War, the military has relied more heavily on contractors as it reduced the size of its force. Also, the government in general has sought to outsource more activities that are not inherently governmental.


In Iraq and surrounding countries, contractors have performed duties that otherwise would have required the deployment of more troops. About 20 percent are U.S. citizens; 40 percent are citizens of the country where they are working; and the rest are from other countries.


The personal cost to many of the employees has been great.


They've faced kidnappings and at least 1,200 have died — including four Blackwater employees who were ambushed in 2004 by insurgents in Fallujah who strung their remains from a bridge. Some female employees of contractors have alleged they were raped by co-workers in Iraq. Investigators have said a contractor was electrocuted when the air conditioner in his living room shorted, and the death is among the electrocutions under investigation.


Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, much criticism has been directed at Halliburton, an oil services company once run by Vice President Dick Cheney.


Last year, KBR — formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root — separated from Halliburton and is now the Army's largest contractor, according to its Web site. It holds a multibillion-dollar contract to provide basic services including food and shelter for U.S. soldiers.


It agreed in 2006 to pay $8 million to settle six-year-old claims that it overcharged the Army for construction and other support services in the Balkans.


A KBR spokeswoman declined to comment on Tuesday.


In May, an internal audit from the Defense Department's inspector general of about $8 billion paid to U.S. and Iraqi contractors found that nearly every transaction failed to comply with federal laws or regulations aimed at preventing fraud.


A copy of the report can be found at: HERE

War in Georgia: The Israeli connection

For past seven years, Israeli companies have been helping Georgian army to preparer for war against Russia through arms deals, training of infantry units and security advice
Arie Egozi
Latest Update: 08.10.08, 11:53 / Israel News

The fighting which broke out over the weekend between Russia and Georgia has brought Israel's intensive involvement in the region into the limelight. This involvement includes the sale of advanced weapons to Georgia and the training of the Georgian army's infantry forces.

The Defense Ministry held a special meeting Sunday to discuss the various arms deals held by Israelis in Georgia, but no change in policy has been announced as of yet.

"The subject is closely monitored," said sources in the Defense Ministry. "We are not operating in any way which may counter Israeli interests. We have turned down many requests involving arms sales to Georgia; and the ones which have been approves have been duly scrutinized. So far, we have placed no limitations on the sale of protective measures."

Israel began selling arms to Georgia about seven years ago following an initiative by Georgian citizens who immigrated to Israel and became businesspeople.


"They contacted defense industry officials and arms dealers and told them that Georgia had relatively large budgets and could be interested in purchasing Israeli weapons," says a source involved in arms exports.


The military cooperation between the countries developed swiftly. The fact that Georgia's defense minister, Davit Kezerashvili, is a former Israeli who is fluent in Hebrew contributed to this cooperation.


"His door was always open to the Israelis who came and offered his country arms systems made in Israel," the source said. "Compared to countries in Eastern Europe, the deals in this country were conducted fast, mainly due to the defense minister's personal involvement."


Among the Israelis who took advantage of the opportunity and began doing business in Georgia were former Minister Roni Milo and his brother Shlomo, former director-general of the Military Industries, Brigadier-General (Res.) Gal Hirsch and Major-General (Res.) Yisrael Ziv.


Roni Milo conducted business in Georgia for Elbit Systems and the Military Industries, and with his help Israel's defense industries managed to sell to Georgia remote-piloted vehicles (RPVs), automatic turrets for armored vehicles, antiaircraft systems, communication systems, shells and rockets.


According to Israeli sources, Gal Hirsch gave the Georgian army advice on the establishment of elite units such as Sayeret Matkal and on rearmament, and gave various courses in the fields of combat intelligence and fighting in built-up areas.


'Don't anger the Russians'


The Israelis operating in Georgia attempted to convince the Israeli Aerospace Industries to sell various systems to the Georgian air force, but were turned down. The reason for the refusal was "special" relations created between the Aerospace Industries and Russia in terms of improving fighter jets produced in the former USSR and the fear that selling weapons to Georgia would anger the Russians and prompt them to cancel the deals.


Israelis' activity in Georgia and the deals they struck there were all authorized by the Defense Ministry. Israel viewed Georgia as a friendly state to which there is no reason not to sell arms systems similar to those Israel exports to other countries in the world.


As the tension between Russia and Georgia grew, however, increasing voices were heard in Israel – particularly in the Foreign Ministry – calling on the Defense Ministry to be more selective in the approval of the deals with Georgia for fear that they would anger Russia.


"It was clear that too many unmistakable Israeli systems in the possession of the Georgian army would be like a red cloth in the face of a raging bull as far as Russia is concerned," explained a source in the defense establishment.


For instance, the Russians viewed the operation of the Elbit System's RPVs as a real provocation.


"It was clear that the Russians were angry," says a defense establishment source, "and that the interception of three of these RPVs in the past three months was an expression of this anger. Not everyone in Israel understood the sensitive nerve Israel touched when it supplied such an advanced arms system to a country whose relations with Russia are highly tense."


In May it was eventually decide to approve future deals with Georgia only for the sale of non-offensive weapon systems, such as intelligence, communications and computer systems, and not to approve deals for the sale of rifles, aircraft, sells, etc.


A senior source in the Military Industry said Saturday that despite some reporters, the activity of Georgia's military industry was extremely limited.


"We conducted a small job for them several years ago," he said. "The rest of the deals remained on paper."


Dov Pikulin, one of the owners of the Authentico company specializing in trips and journeys to the area, says however that "the Israeli is the main investor in the Georgian economy. Everyone is there, directly or indirectly."


Georgian minister: Israel should be proud


Photo: Dana ZimmermanYakobashvili. Proud of Israel Photo:

Dana Zimmerman
"The Israelis should be proud of themselves for the Israeli training and education received by the Georgian soldiers," Georgian Minister Temur Yakobashvili said Saturday.

Yakobashvili is a Jew and is fluent in Hebrew. "We are now in a fight against the great Russia," he said, "and our hope is to receive assistance from the White House, because Georgia cannot survive on its own.


"It's important that the entire world understands that what is happening in Georgia now will affect the entire world order. It's not just Georgia's business, but the entire world's business."


One of the Georgian parliament members did not settle Saturday for the call for American aid, urging Israel to help stop the Russian offensive as well: "We need help from the UN and from our friends, headed by the United States and Israel. Today Georgia is in danger – tomorrow all the democratic countries in the region and in the entire world will be in danger too."


Zvi Zinger and Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report

2008-08-13

Iraq, Foreign Companies Stalled in Oil Negotiations


Ministry Backs Off Over Deals' Terms; Political Concerns

By GINA CHON
August 13, 2008


BAGHDAD - Oil negotiations between a handful of foreign companies and the government here appear stalled, setting back once again efforts to open up Iraqi oil fields to international companies.


A petroleum law that would provide a legal framework for foreign investment has long languished in Parliament. Still, momentum had built up in the spring and early summer for a series of limited so-called technical-service contracts negotiated between a group of major oil companies and the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

The deals, essentially consulting contracts, were limited in nature and small-scale by oil-industry standards. They were intended to serve as short-term deals that would halt or reverse declining production at a handful of specific fields, while tenders for longer-term technical contracts could be vetted.

Oil Ministry officials had said they hoped to sign contracts by the end of June. That deadline came and went without a deal. Now, talks with major oil companies, such as Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BP PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp., appear to have hit new snags.

"I'm not sure if they are going to go through," said Charles Ries, who heads economic affairs at the U.S. Embassy.

The Oil Ministry, which had been championing the deals for months, is now balking. Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahrastani in an interview said that is because the companies are insisting that part of the payment for the consulting work be in oil, and the foreign companies want preferential treatment for future oil-exploration deals. Political sensitivities in Baghdad also appear to be in play.

The Oil Ministry was scheduled to announce the contracts on June 30. But that day, Mr. Shahrastani said they weren't yet ready after all. Instead, he said that 35 companies had made the first round of bidding for separate, longer-term contracts that the ministry hopes to award next year. Bid terms for those contracts will be revealed next month as planned, the Oil Ministry said.

While the short-term consulting deals had been widely reported, they drew fresh scrutiny in Baghdad and Washington just before they were set to be signed. Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and other U.S. politicians criticized them as lucrative, no-bid contracts. Mr. Shahrastani said they were negotiated in a transparent manner.

BP spokesman David Nicholas said the company is continuing discussions with the Iraqi authorities and said the company had no further comment. A spokesman for Exxon declined to discuss specifics of its negotiations.

"If the Iraqi government decides it wants international oil companies to partner with them in developing their resources, Exxon Mobil would be interested in participating," said spokesman Len D'Eramo.

A Shell spokesman declined to discuss specific talks but said the negotiations are continuing.

In the meantime, deals for new exploration and production won't occur until Iraq passes an oil law. That bill has been stalled for more than 18 months, mainly because of differences among Kurdish and Baghdad officials over who has control over signing contracts for development and other issues. The Kurds have signed several deals on their own with international companies for development inside their semi autonomous enclave.

For years, Iraqi officials have tried to lure international oil companies to help it develop its vast but underdeveloped fields. Saddam Hussein awarded some contracts in an apparent attempt to gain diplomatic leverage amid United Nations sanctions. But the sanctions restricted meaningful development.

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, many Iraqi and U.S. officials, along with many Iraqi oilmen, pushed for opening the fields to competitive bidding. International participation, these people said, would raise production. Since the invasion, however, several attempts at inviting foreigners in have withered. After wresting control of its oil resources from Western powers decades ago, many Iraqis are still loath to see foreign companies back.


Write to Gina Chon at gina.chon@wsj.com

2008-08-12

China stirs over offshore oil pact

By Peter Navarro

In yet another skirmish over oil rights in the South China Sea, China has fired a stern warning shot across the bow of ExxonMobil Corporation. China is miffed that Exxon is seeking to enter into a deal with PetroVietnam to explore for oil in waters surrounding the disputed Spratly and Paracel island chains.


China has warned Exxon to pull out of the exploration deal, describing the project as a breach of Chinese sovereignty, according to the South China Morning Post at the weekend, citing unnamed sources close to the US company.

Chinese diplomats in Washington had made verbal protests to ExxonMobil executives in recent months, and warned them the
company's future business interests on the mainland could be at risk, the report said. The protests involved a preliminary cooperation agreement, it said, without indicating when it was signed.

There is much at stake in this latest dispute, and much to be learned about China's growing blue water navy strategy. According to the US Energy Information Agency, the South China Sea has estimated oil reserves of around 7 billion barrels while the US Geological Survey has estimated there may be another 20 billion barrels to be discovered. For its part, China optimistically claims the undiscovered reserves could top 200 billion barrels. This latter amount would be enough to provide China with one to two million barrels of oil a day, or as much as 25% of its current daily consumption of close to 8 million barrels.


Much of the undiscovered reserves are believed to be beneath the disputed Paracel and Spratly island chains. The Paracels are roughly equidistant from China, Vietnam and the Philippines; and both China and Vietnam as well as Taiwan lay claim to the islands. However, to Hanoi's outrage, it is China that actually commands the Paracel turf.


In 1974, China took advantage of the ongoing civil war between South and North Vietnam to overrun a garrison on the Paracels manned by South Vietnamese troops, and China has held this position to this day, over the strenuous protests of the Vietnamese government.


As for the Spratlys, all or portions are laid claim to by China and Vietnam as well as Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. They similarly consist of a large number of small islands and reefs and contain an undetermined but possibly vast amount of reserves.


Given the high energy stakes involved, it is hardly surprising that China has also engaged in military clashes with Vietnam over the Spratlys. In 1988, Vietnam and China fought a brief naval battle over the contested islands. This left China in control of six more islands and reefs for a total of nine. In 1994, Vietnamese gunboats forced a Chinese research vessel from a disputed area.


China's latest salvo against Exxon follows on the heels of a successful effort to push another foreign multinational oil company out of the Spratlys. Last year, a similar threat by China forced BP (formerly British Petroleum) to halt plans to cooperate with Vietnam on a US$2 billion natural gas project.


China's latest effort at intimidation can only escalate tensions between two countries that have longed maintained very large standing armies. China's army is the largest in the world while Vietnam's is the largest in Southeast Asia.


While economic relations have been blossoming of late between China and Vietnam, the longer term historical and political context is one of great enmity and mistrust. In this regard, neither side has forgotten that other "Vietnam War". In 1979, China invaded Vietnam with tanks and about 90,000 troops in retaliation for Vietnam’s pro-Soviet actions in Cambodia. In the space of fewer than 10 days of fighting, anywhere from 40,000 to more than 100,000 Chinese and Vietnamese troops were killed or wounded, depending on the estimates. These figures rival the entire number of American soldiers killed in battle during its more than 10-year war in Vietnam (about 52,000).


It's not just standing armies that enter into the geopolitical equation here. As noted, China has built a string of military bases in the South China Seas while the country is the only nation seeking to develop a deep water navy capability to challenge the United States is China. A major goal of such a deep water navy would be to protect and defend the Strait of Malacca against a US oil embargo in time of conflict.


In fact, the very narrow Strait of Malacca connecting the Pacific and Indian oceans is generally regarded as a maritime choke point. It is of supreme strategic significance because most of the imported crude oil that fuels China's mighty industrial machine passes through this Strait, and China has long feared a US embargo by America's Pacific fleet should relations sour over Taiwan or some other issue.


In the particular energy context, China's South China Sea bases and growing sea power also serve another synergistic strategic agenda. They not only help protect an important sea route. They allow for the "encirclement" of the potentially energy-rich Spratlys and Paracels - a realpolitik fact of life that has not been lost on Vietnam and a possibility noted as far back as 1998 by US Congressman Dana Rohrbacher.


Of course, the tragedy here is that continued China bullying and blustering is further delaying the development of oil and gas reserves that will be urgently needed by the region as oil markets continue to tighten. Cooperative development of these reserves would boost the fortunes of all of the countries involved in the dispute while reducing pressures on the supply side of the world oil market.


Peter Navarro is a business professor at the University of California-Irvine, a CNBC contributor, and author of The Coming China Wars (FT Press). www.peternavarro.com

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