I imagine myself walking down to the Beirut train station, boarding the 4pm bullet train that will steam off toward Damascus, heading across the great plains to the east to Baghdad. In a day we’ll be in Iran and then at Mashad there is a choice: one could go south through Pakistan to Delhi, or one would take the longer journey to Beijing via Samarkand. This would be the Great Asian Express that links one end of the massive continent to the other.
But it is impossible. War in Syria stops the train before it has even begun. Instability in Iraq intimates that the tracks would be blown up before they can be laid down. Iran is far more stable, which is why it has begun to build a train line that would link Turkey to Turkmenistan through northern Iran. Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are unable to create a modus vivendi that would welcome such a train, or indeed an oil and gas pipeline that might run parallel to it, bringing Iranian fuel to the consumers of the subcontinent. Central Asia oscillates between long periods of calm and bursts of dangerous violence.
A train itinerary such as the one I described sounds like a dream history – impossible even. But it is not so out of our time. The Trans-Asian Railway comes out from the 1960s, a historical artefact, a project of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific that was finally brought to the stage of an inter-governmental memorandum of understanding in 2006. This Iron Silk Road is to run from Singapore to Istanbul. The project has no timetable. Parts of it are already present, and parts of it are in the maddening future. But some of it will form part of the China-Iran rail link which is expected to go into production within a decade, and will form part of the Istanbul to Tehran route that is also already in production. Not so far that regional future.
Regionalism rests on the mantle of geography. Attempts to isolate a country for ideological reasons do not always work. The West, since 2003 at least, has attempted to isolate Iran but it cannot do so – Afghanistan, under US occupation, buys half its oil from Iran. It cannot do otherwise. Any other source would be ridiculously overpriced. The US embargo of Iran had to be violated despite the fact that it was US money in Afghan hands that was buying the Iranian oil.
Pressure from the US and the desire of the Indian political and economic elites for a close link with the US befuddled India’s Iran policy between 2003 and 2013. India is the second largest importer, after China, of Iranian oil. In the halls of the Non-Aligned Movement, India is a country that is greatly respected.
Through a nuclear deal – as I detail in my new report on India’s Iran policy, the US was able to push India to vote against Iran twice at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meetings in exchange for being brought out of the nuclear winter itself. As the sanctions regime on Iran tightened, India found it hard to buy oil from Iran and coldness between the countries set in as a result of India’s seeming eagerness to toe the US line. But beneath the surface of the IAEA votes and the statements against the buying of Iranian oil, linkages deepened – on oil buying certainly but also on the trade in pharmaceuticals and wheat as well as on the Indo-Iranian construction of a port in south-eastern Iran (at Chabahar). The sanctions regime had certainly throttled Iran, but it could not sunder fully the imperatives of regional trade.
On Sunday, November 24, the P5 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) + 1 (Germany) signed a deal with Iran to end the siege on the latter. The P5+1 promised to ease the sanctions regime in exchange for Iran’s disavowal of a nuclear weapon.
India welcomed the deal, suggesting that it was along the grain not only of Indian policy but also of the BRICS declaration from 2013 (“We believe there is no alternative to a negotiated settlement to the Iranian nuclear issue. We recognize Iran’s right to peaceful use of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations, and support resolution of the issues involved through political and diplomatic means and dialogue,” was the wording of the eThekwini Declaration).
India’s oil firms promised to hastily transfer arrears held in Indian banks for oil purchased during the previous years (now totalling $5.3 billion), and to increase orders for Iranian oil. The latter would be facilitated by the end to the pressure on insurance firms who then refused to underwrite oil tankers coming out of Iran.
India’s Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh met with Iran’s Deputy Prime Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour on Monday, November 25, and agreed that there is “considerable untapped potential to develop economic cooperation between the two countries particularly in the area of energy and transit.” India and Iran have already been at work building the Chabahar port, and India is building a 900 km train track to link the port to the Hajigak region in Afghanistan. Dreams of oil and gas pipelines and train lines remained suspended over the gathering like a huge exclamation mark.
What these developments indicate is that the time of US primacy is now over and the time of multipolar regionalism is at hand. From 1991 to the present, the US had attempted to forge strong bilateral ties with its chosen allies and sought to knit those allies into a planetary security web of military bases and inter-operatable armed forces; this was the hub and spoke system that James Baker had written about in 1992. That system meant that regional ties had to be sacrificed for the close linkages to the United States. Latin America, through the Bolivarian dynamic, was the first region to exit from the US strategy and create its own regional architecture (for political, economic and social linkages). An over-extended US military presence in Asia and the collapse of the finance-led economic model in 2008 weakened the US considerably.
The example of Latin America gave confidence for the new India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) formation, the antecedent of the BRICS bloc. With the quiet emergence of the BRICS bloc in the context of a weaker West, it was inevitable that the siege of Iran would have to be lifted. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Li uncharacteristically told the Chinese media that his country played a crucial role in concluding the deal. Pressure from Russia and China on the European Union pushed them to bring a wayward France in line. No longer can an imperial foreign policy dominate international policy without challenge. That is the lesson of the Iranian deal.
Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon. His most recent book is The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.
- India will continue to engage Iran in economic activities (rediff.com)
- Post-deal with world powers, Iran briefs India on moving ahead (thehindu.com)
- PressTV: US extends Iran oil sanctions waivers (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
The US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power is leading from the front in criticizing the recent election of China and Russia to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, the United Nations’ top rights body.
Concerns about human rights records in China and Russia are highlighted on a regular basis in western media. One cannot argue much with the fact that they have both struggled in this area.
The US, however, is not well placed to criticize or sermonize. Severe human rights violations are rampant in the US prison system. According to Pew Research, imprisonment rate (per capita) in the US is almost 50 percent higher than Russia’s and 320 percent higher than China’s.
The racist and arbitrary application of the death penalty is on historic record. African Americans are six times more likely to be incarcerated than a white person and non-white Latinos are almost three times more likely to be incarcerated, says the Pew Center.
America’s privatized health care system exclusively for the wealthy is an equal disgrace.
While critiquing China and Russia, the US has supported and is supporting some of the worst human rights violators in the world: Saudi-Arabia and Uzbekistan to name but a few. It has and is supporting the overthrow of democratically elected leaders all over the world. And, then there is Guantanamo and the drone attacks.
What’s noteworthy is that the US has not objected to other notorious human rights violators becoming members of the UN Human Rights Commission in the past.
Among the rights bodies, the US-based HRW (Human Rights Watch) has called the election “troubling” calling the new entrants ‘negative players”. I think, HRW has done outstanding work in some countries and written pro-US, biased reports in others.
Incidentally, Ms. Power, the US delegate to the UN HR Commission, had also written a eulogy for Richard Holbrooke, the man who made a career out of covering up US supported massacres in East-Timor and elsewhere and highlighting massacres by official US enemies.
She works in the same vein, much ado about human rights abuses by official enemies, apologetic about US and US-sponsored atrocities.
Being selective about human rights violations does not make the world a better place; it makes matters worse, since it sends out a clear message to the tyrants of the world. “Be on our side and do whatever you please, as long you take care of our interests, otherwise you are toast … “.
However, it would be unfair to point fingers to the US exclusively. The US is indeed not alone with its “selective indignation”.
France, UK, any EU-member state, China, Russia, Israel, they are all faithful followers of the same doctrine that divides human rights atrocities in three technical categories:
1) Human rights abuses (real ones and invented ones) committed by our official enemies: they are ‘human rights abuses’.
2) Human rights abuses committed by ourselves, our allies, our friends: they are retaliation, surgical strikes, slightly excessive responses, tactical mistakes based on incomplete information, lack of democratic culture (ours), our enemies placing their children at military target sites, etc etc … the list of excuses is endless. After all, we are ‘the good guys’.
3) Human rights abuses committed somewhere by someone where we have no interests, where we do not care, they are relegated to small print on the back pages, ‘violent clashes’, ‘a culture of internecine violence‘, … or ignored completely.
I am not inventing anything here. Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky analyzed the political instrumentalisation of human rights already in 1979 in their seminal books ‘The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume I. The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism and Volume II. Postwar Indochina & The Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology. Their case studies may be somewhat outdated, but their analysis still applies today.
It comes down to this. Our terrorism is not ‘terrorism’. Their terrorism is ‘terrorism’. We may from time to time make mistakes, judgment errors, exaggerate, but our intentions are always good, by imperial definition.
The reaction of the US to the Russian and Chinese accession to the UN HR Commission fits perfectly into that mold.
Is there a way out? Mass media not perpetuating this mythology but exposing it for the sham it is would be a start. Unfortunately and as much as it pains me to admit, today that is hardly the case.
Does this mean one should refrain from exposing human rights abuses? Certainly not. When doing so, just apply the same standards of judgment to all human rights abuses everywhere. That’s how you get credibility and real impact.
Iranian officials say they have completed decoding the surveillance data and software extracted from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone that the United States lost possession of nearly two years ago near the city of Kashmar.
Hossein Salami, the lieutenant commander general of Iran’s Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, told the country’s Fars news agency that analysts have finally cracked the systems used within the RQ-170 Sentinel drone obtained in December 2011.
Iranians claimed previously that they brought the drone down after it entered Iranian airspace without permission. Roughly one week later, CIA officials admitted the drone was conducting a reconnaissance mission over Afghanistan when it went missing.
When the US asked Iran to return the unmanned aerial vehicle, Salami told Fars news agency, “No nation welcomes other countries’ spy drones in its territory, and no one sends back the spying equipment and its information back to the country of origin.”
Nearly two years later, Salami is now celebrating Iran’s latest accomplishment with regards to the UAV.
“All the memories and computer systems of this plane have been decoded and some good news will be announced in the near future not just about the RQ-170 and the optimizations that our forces have done on the reverse engineered model of this drone, but also in area of other important defense achievements,” Fars quoted him.
When the Iranian military gained control over the drone, the unmanned aerial vehicle’s (UAV) erase sequence allegedly failed to delete sensitive data from it. Since then, Iranian experts have been decoding the captured data, occasionally reporting their progress.
Although the CIA has not admitted the extent of the drone’s capabilities, experts have said previously that reverse engineering the Sentinel could be a significant event for any nation-state looking to learn more about the technologies utilized by American spy planes.
“It carries a variety of systems that wouldn’t be much of a benefit to Iran, but to its allies such as China and Russia, it’s a potential gold mine,” robotics author Peter Singer told the Los Angeles Times in 2011.
“It’s bad — they’ll have everything” an unnamed US official added to the Times then. “And the Chinese or the Russians will have it too.”
Meanwhile, a report in the New York Times this weekend suggested that Chinese researchers have been busy on their own attempting to emulate American drones. Edward Wong wrote in the Times on Friday that Chinese hackers working for the state-linked Comment Crew cybergroup have targeted no fewer than 20 foreign defense contractors during the last two years in hopes of pilfering secrets that would be useful in programming their own UAVs.
“I believe this is the largest campaign we’ve seen that has been focused on drone technology,” Darien Kindlund, manager of threat intelligence at California-based FireEye, told Wong. “It seems to align pretty well with the focus of the Chinese government to build up their own drone technology capabilities.”
Vice’s Motherboard website reported this week that at least 123 cyberattacks waged at American drone companies have been spotted by security researchers since 2011, and quoted Kindlund as saying the attacks have been “largely successful.”
Syrian armed opposition may be ordered by its foreign sponsors to stage a false flag operation against foreign inspectors when they arrive in the country to monitor destruction of the country’s chemical weapons stockpile, says the Syrian president.
Bashar Assad voiced his concerns in an interview by China’s state television CCTV in Damascus. The Syrian leader proposed this possible scenario as he was explaining how his government may be accused of trying to dodge its obligations to destroy its chemical arsenal.
“We know that these terrorists are obeying the orders of other countries and these countries do drive these terrorists to commit acts that could get the Syrian government blamed for hindering this agreement,” he explained.
Russia brokered an agreement with Syria to dispose of its stockpile of chemical weapons amid US threats to use military force against Syrian army over alleged use of sarin gas, which killed an estimated 1,400 people in August.
Moscow expects the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which received detailed inventory of the Syrian arsenal last week, to prepare a deadline for the operation. It also plans to work with other members of the UN Security Council on a resolution, which would support the OPCW plan and provide for security of the inspectors, who would control the disarmament.
But Washington, London and Paris are insisting on a UNSC resolution which would involve punitive measures against Damascus for any possible hindering of the operation under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Chapter 7 allows for the enforcement of Security Council resolutions with military action. Russia opposes such provisions.
Speaking on the UNSC debate, Assad said the three Western powers are fighting an ‘imaginary enemy’.
“By submitting the draft to the UN Security Council, or by urging the US and Russia to agree on a deal, the US, France, and Britain are just trying to make themselves winners in a war against a Syria which is their imaginary enemy,” he said.
The president said he was assured that Russia and China would “ensure any excuse for military action against Syria will not stand.”
Asked for details on the stockpile of chemical weapons, Assad said, “Syria has been manufacturing chemical weapons for decades so it’s normal for there to be large quantities in the country.”
The WMD arsenal was created due to Syria’s confrontation with Israel, the Syrian leader said.
“We are a nation at war, we’ve got territories that have been occupied for more than 40 years, but in any case, the Syrian army is trained to fight using conventional weapons,” Assad assured.
While admitting that the security situation in Syria is far from perfect for the work of OPCW inspectors, Assad said the weapons are safe from being captured by any party.
They are stored “under special conditions to prevent any terrorist for other destructive forces from tampering with them, that is, destructive forces that could come from other countries,” he said.
“So there is nothing to worry about. The chemical weapons in Syria are in a safe place that is secure and under the control of the Syrian army.”
Earlier China said it is willing to send experts to contribute to the OPCW’s mission to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. Russia pledged its assistance, which would probably involve securing locations where the stockpile would be processed.
The Chinese government says it will ‘respect public opinion’ and scrap a planned $6 billion nuclear processing plant in the southern province of Guandong after hundreds of protesters took to the streets to voice opposition to the project.
A statement released by the Chinese authorities reads, “The people’s government of the City of Heshan has decided to respect public opinion and will not consider the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC’s) Longwan industrial park project.”
The proposed nuclear complex was meant to have been a uranium processing facility, but the plans caused considerable unease in the neighboring financial district of Hong Kong and in nearby Macau, as well as among local residents. The project was designed to produce 1,000 tonnes of nuclear fuel by 2020.
The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based English language newspaper, reported that the authorities in Macau had formally raised the issue with officials in Guandong.
Saturday’s announcement came after hundreds of protesters paraded through the streets of Jiangmen on Friday holding banners and wearing phrases opposing the project and chanting slogans like “give us back our rural homes. We are against nuclear radiation.”
The protest sprang up after a risk evaluation report, which was released on July 4 with a 10-day public comments period. Observers say those reports are only usually released as a formality once permission to begin construction has already been granted.
More protests in Guandong had been expected on Sunday, while the original 10-day public consultation period was only extended on Saturday after demonstrators had marched to the city offices. Soon after its extension, officials said the project was scrapped.
A Beijing nuclear expert, who did not wish to give his name as he is not authorized to speak to the press, told the Independent that he was surprised the project had been canceled.
“Compared to a nuclear power plant, a uranium processing facility is way safer, as there is no fusion or reaction taking place in the production process.”
The sudden dropping of the project reflects a change in Chinese government policy on environmental issues. The authorities have recently canceled, postponed or relocated several metal and petrochemical plants following strong public opposition.
There have been a number of reports in the Chinese and international media about the extent of pollution from rapid Chinese economic growth, including ‘cancer towns’, which are blighted by heavy metals polluting the ground water, rivers and top soil.
China is expanding its nuclear capacity from 12.6 GW at present to 60-70 GW by the end of the decade.
Guandong is already one of the country’s largest centers of nuclear power generation. It operates five nuclear reactors and plans to build another dozen. The CNNC plans are part of a concerted national effort to reduce China’s dependence on coal and boost the use of other forms of cleaner [sic] energy production.
US government has been hacking Chinese mobile operator networks to intercept millions of text messages, as well as the operator of region’s fibre optic cable network, South China Morning Post writes citing Edward Snowden.
More information on National Security Agency activity in China and Hong Kong has been revealed by SCMP on Sunday, shedding light on statements Snowden made in an interview on June 12.
“The NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cell phone companies to steal all of your SMS data,” Snowden was quoted as saying on the SCMP website.
In a series of reports the paper claims Snowden has provided proof of extensive US hacking activity in the region.
The former CIA technician and NSA contractor reportedly provided to the paper the documents detailing specific attacks on computers over a four-year period, including internet protocol (IP) addresses, dates of attacks and whether a computer was still being monitored remotely. SCMP however did not reveal any supporting documents.
The US government has been accused of a security breach at the Hong Kong headquarters of the operator of the largest regional fibre optic cable network operator, Pacnet. Back in 2009, the company’s computers were hacked by the NSA but since then the operation has been shut down, according to the documents the paper claims to have seen.
Pacnet’s network spans across Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore and provides connections to 16 data centers for telecom companies, corporations and governments across the region.
The whistleblower has also allegedly revealed the US had viewed millions of text messages by hacking Chinese mobile phone companies. That is a significant claim since the Chinese sent almost billion text messages in 2012 and China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile network carrier.
In his very first leak to the media, Snowden had already exposed the scale of the American government spying operation on its domestic mobile network operators. He later revealed that the US and the UK possessed technology to access the Blackberry phones of delegates at two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009.
In a third article, SCMP claims that the US on a regular basis has been attacking the servers at Tsinghua University, one of country’s biggest research institutions. The whistleblower said that information obtained pointed to hacking activities, because it contained such details as external and internal IP addresses in the University’s network, which could only have been retrieved by a security breach.
Tsinghua University is host to one of Chinas’ six major backbone networks, the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) containing data about millions of Chinese citizens.
Russian shale oil reserves are estimated at 75 billion barrels, which puts the country on top of the global standings, followed by the US and China.
According to the report by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the estimated American shale gas resources equal 58 billion barrels, with third-place China having 32 billion barrels.
But it’s the Chinese, who hold the leadership in shale gas reserves, with 1,115 trillion cubic feet. 802 trillion cubic feet puts Argentina in second, with Algeria not far behind on 707 trillion cubic feet.
The US is fourth when it comes to shale gas (665 trillion cubic feet), while Russia is ninth with 285 trillion cubic feet.
The EIA’s report indicates that the worldwide resources of oil and gas from shale formations are greater than was previously thought.
The global shale oil resources are estimated at 345 billion barrels and shale gas – at 7,299 trillion cubic feet, which is a 10 per cent increase in comparison with the 2011 data.
According to EIA’s administrator, Adam Sieminski, the report shows “a significant potential for international shale oil and shale gas.”
The increase in estimates is explained by more countries joining the efforts to search for deposits, following the ‘Shale Revolution’ in the US.
“As shale oil and shale gas production has grown in the United States to become 30 percent of oil and 40 percent of natural gas total production, interest in the oil and natural gas resource potential of shale formations outside the United States has grown,” Adam Sieminski explained in a statement.
Also on Wednesday, British oil giants BP have Russia’s natural gas reserves estimate at 32.9 trillion cubic meters from 44.6 trillion in last year.
According to the company’s benchmark Statistical Review of World Energy, it’s Iran, who climbed to the top of the global standings, with the proven reserves of 33.6 trillion cubic meters.
BP said that this year they decided to adjust its estimates for the former Soviet Union states, including Russia, where data on reserves remains classified.
“Traditionally countries of the former Soviet Union had different criteria than used elsewhere. So we used a conversion factor to convert that from those countries where we don’t get direct data,” Christof Ruhl, BP’s chief economist, is cited as saying by Reuters. “In some countries, reserves are still a state secret, so we have to rely on these data.”
But Russia remains a much larger gas producer than Iran as the international sanctions prevent the Islamic Republic from exploiting its natural resources in full.
The estimate of gas reserves in the US where the energy industry has been transformed by shale oil and gas, due to lower prices and reduced drilling.
The American gas reserves ended 2012 at 8.5 trillion cubic meters, down 0.3 trillion from indications of 2011.
BP cut proven global gas reserves by nearly 21 trillion cubic meters from 208.4 trillion cubic last year to 187.3 trillion cubic meters as of end of 2012.
A lot of people in the US media are asking why America’s most famous whistleblower, 29-year old Edward Snowden, hied himself off to the city state of Hong Kong, a wholly owned subsidiary of the People’s Republic of China, to seek at least temporary refuge.
Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the US, they say. And as for China, which controls the international affairs of its Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, while granting it local autonomy to govern its domestic affairs, its leaders “may not want to irritate the US” at a time when the Chinese economy is stumbling.
These people don’t have much understanding of either Hong Kong or of China.
As someone who has spent almost seven years in China and Hong Kong, let me offer my thoughts about why Snowden, obviously a very savvy guy despite his lack of a college education, went where he did.
First of all, forget about Hong Kong’s extradition treaty. When it comes to deciding whether someone will be extradited, particularly for a political crime, as opposed to a simple murder or bank heist, the decision will be made in Beijing, not in a Hong Kong courtroom. Second, Hong Kong has a long history of providing a haven to dissidents — even to dissidents wanted by the Chinese government. Consider, for example, the Chinese labor movement activist Han Dongfang, who was the subject of a massive dragnet after the Tiananmen protests, but who successfully fled to Hong Kong before the handover of the place from Britain to China, and is continuing to monitor Chinese labor strife and protest from his home on Hong Kong’s Lamma Island. Hong Kong also has a public that is very supportive of democratic values — certainly more so than the majority of American citizens. Hong Kong people may not be paying too much attention to Snowden’s situation right now, but if the US were to actively seek to extradite him, I am confident that the place would erupt in support for him, including the local media.
As for China, while the issue that has Snowden on the run — exposing an Orwellian spying program targeting the American people and run by the super-secret National Security Agency — is certainly not one that the Chinese like to discuss in terms of their own locked-down society, you can bet that the folks in the Propaganda Bureau in Beijing, and in the inner circle of the government, are rubbing their hands with glee both at the incredible embarrassment their harboring of Snowden causes the hypocritical US, and at the trove of intelligence information he has, which they may be able ultimately to lure him into disclosing if they treat him well.
Then too, there is the matter of the Confucian concept of gift-giving and mutual obligations. It was, I am sure, no accident that Snowden chose the weekend that President Obama was hosting a summit in California with China’s new president Xi Jinping to disclose his identity as the NSA whistleblower who exposed the national spying program to the Guardian and the Washington Post. In doing that, he gave President Xi an incredible gift — the chance to hold the upper hand in his negotiations with a hugely embarrassed and compromised Obama over issues like Chinese computer hacking of US corporate and government secrets, and theft of intellectual property. For of course it is clear that the NSA is at least as active in hacking Chinese computers and spying on Chinese communications.
Such a gift as that is not easily ignored or forgotten in Chinese culture. President Xi owes Snowden a lot, and I believe he will honor that debt by seeing that Snowden is protected from any threat that might be posed to him by a vindictive or frightened US government.
But Snowden isn’t relying solely on Chinese cultural values to protect himself.
He was also careful to send a powerful message of warning to the US officials in the videoed public interview he gave outing himself. As he told interviewer Glenn Greenwald, “I had access to the full rosters of everyone working at the NSA, the entire intelligence community, and undercover assets all over the world. The locations of every station, we have what their missions are and so forth. If I had just wanted to harm the US? You could shut down the surveillance system in an afternoon.”
That one line at the end had to make the folks in Langley and at NSA headquarters sit up straight or to head to the bar for a stiff one! And indeed he could. And I will guarantee you, Snowden being as smart as he is, that he has already taken that information and dispersed it to a number of trusted people, perhaps including Greenwald, with instructions that they should put it all out on the Web if anything happens to him, such as his being kidnapped or disappeared or terminated. It’s a wonderful insurance policy and one that would not have escaped him. Nor would he have bothered to discover that he had all that information available to him if he hadn’t thought that he might need it.
It would be a relatively easy matter for the high-tech spooks at the NSA to retrace Snowden’s electronic trail to see if he really did download all that super-secret information and really could blow up the entire US spy machine. If they find out that he really has that information, he’s basically untouchable.
The real question is not what they are going to do to Snowden. It’s what we Americans are going to do now that we know how truly insane and totalitarian our government has become.
Will we go back to watching our sports teams and our reality TV programming, and forget about the fact that we no longer have any privacy in our lives, that our elected leaders and our judges are operating on the assumption that if they get out of line the fascist machine at the NSA that works in service of the corporate elite will blackmail or destroy them with its access to all their communications. Or will we rise up and demand an end to this high-tech tyranny in the name of a fraudulent “War” on Terror?
Snowden exiled himself and gave up a great job in Hawaii in the hope that we would rise up when we learned that our democracy has been hijacked.
Let’s hope he’s right.
- The NSA Black Hole: 5 Basic Things We Still Don’t Know About the Agency’s Snooping
- NSA Document Leak Proves Conspiracy To Create Big Brother Style World Control System
- DOJ launches criminal probe of NSA leaker
- US security officials said NSA leaker, journalist should be ‘disappeared’ – report
- Government Spying: Should We Be Shocked?
- Boundless Informant: NSA’s complex tool for classifying global intelligence
- The NSA’s Favorite Weasel Word To Pretend It’s Claiming It Doesn’t Spy On Americans
- The “Congress knew” defense
- NSA memo pushed to ‘rethink’ 4th Amendment
Iran has officially inaugurated a railroad which connects the northern Iranian city of Gorgan to Incheh Borun town along the border with Turkmenistan.
The Gorgan-Incheh Borun railroad came on stream in a ceremony attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Roads and Urban Development Minister Ali Nikzad in Golestan Province on Monday.
The 80-kilometer long rail project, which is part of a broader railroad network, links Iran to Central Asia, Russia and China and has the capacity to annually transfer 10 million tons of goods and more than 4 million passengers.
The initial agreement on the construction of the railroad was signed between the presidents of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan in the city of Turkmenbashi in April 2007 and Iran joined the deal in September 2007.
The 920-kilometer railroad will shorten more than 600 kilometers of the route for transporting goods from the Central Asia to the Persian Gulf, and will become one of the important international transportation links between China and Europe.
Earlier on Sunday, Nikzad said projects are underway to connect Iran’s railway system to the international network via five points.
The Iranian minister said the five projects include linking Sarakhs in the northeast of the country to Azerbaijan Republic, Khosravy in the west of Iran’s Kermanshah Province to Iraq, southern border town of Shalamche to Iraq, southeastern port city of Chabahar to the Sea of Oman as well as the one which will link Iran to Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and China.
- Caspian Rail Corridor to link Russia to India (rbth.asia)
Turkmenistan is persevering with efforts to persuade an international oil major to join the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, according to reports in India, despite being unwilling to give up a stake in its gas fields to potential investors.
A series of road shows in New York, London and Singapore in the autumn, aimed at attracting international oil and gas companies to the project, ended in failure, even though companies including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP, BG Group, RWE and Petronas attended. That disappointment flew in the face of claims from Turkmen officials that they had all expressed an interest in the project, which carry gas from the secretive Central Asian state via Afghanistan to the Indian sub-continent.
Ashgabat’s refusal to allow participating companies to take a stake in the Turkmen hydrocarbons fields that would fill the pipeline has been cited as the main reason for the flop, although the continuing instability in Afghanistan is another factor.
India’s Economic Times cites an unnamed Indian government official as saying that, as the four participating countries prepare for a meeting on May 15, Turkmen officials continue trying to persuade an unnamed international oil major to take part. “Our understanding is that [Turkmenistan is] quietly working with international oil companies to work a way around the question of upstream stake,” the official said.
However, he also noted that the ban on sales of stakes in Turkmen fields to foreign buyers remains a sticking point. “They have told us that they have passed a law after the Chinese were given a stake and this now does not allow them to give a stake to anybody else in the gas fields,” the official said. It’s unclear to which deal he was exactly referring.
Ashgabat is secretive over its agreements in the oil and gas sector. In 2007, China’s CNPC was given the right to develop the Bagtyyarlyk gas field, which supplies the Central Asia-China (CAC) gas pipeline exporting to China. However, the level of access Bejing enjoys to the Galkynysh (previously South Yolotan) gas field remains unknown after the Chinese State Development Bank pledged $4.1bn to help develop it in 2010. On the one hand, it’s thought Turkmenistan may have signed over a stake. Other speculation suggests Ashgabat has offered no more than a firm commitment that CAC is filled.
Either way, India is clearly pushing for a similar level of security. It has been pushing for an equity stake in the massive Galkynysh for itself, to ensure supply issues do not compromise the massive financial commitment needed to build TAPI. Indian officials say that since CNPC has been given access to upstream assets in Turkmenistan, India’s state owned GAIL should have the same privilege.
At the same time, the four states participating in TAPI have maintain that they aim to start construction of the pipeline, which has support from the Asian Development Bank, by the end of 2013. However, on top of the jockeying between themselves, they are trying to drum up support from international oil companies to invest in the project, which may cost as much as $12bn.
Agreements on the price of gas exports to Afghanistan, India and Pakistan have already been signed. In September, the four participating governments agreed to proposal from Turkmenistan to set up a company with shared capital of $20m to carry out a feasibility study and design the pipeline.
Tehran: In a strategically significant move to counter China’s presence in the region, India has announced that it will upgrade Iran’s crucial Chabahar port that gives a transit route to land-locked Afghanistan.
India’s decision was conveyed by Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid in Tehran today during his meeting with his counterpart.
An expert team from India will visit Iran to assess investment needed for the upgrade of the port on the Iran-Pakistan border facing the Arabian Sea. Sources say an investment to the tune of $100 million is required for the upgrade.
The move comes despite strong pressure from America, which doesn’t want any investment in developing infrastructure in Iran to put pressure on the Western Asian country over its covert [sic] nuclear programme. But India has been worried and keen to open an alternative route to Afghanistan ever since China took over Pakistan’s Gwadar port in the region, which is just 76 km from the Chabahar port.
Chahbahar port, which is surrounded by a free trade zone, is crucial particularly since Pakistan does not allow transit facility from India to Afghanistan.
India will also discuss ways to increase trade with Iran as it is concerned over the “grave” imbalance. The two-way trade is around US $15 billion, out of which Indian exports account only for around US $2.5 billion.
Oil is the biggest item of Indian import from Iran but India feels there is a lot of scope for increasing Indian exports to the Persian country particularly in pharmaceuticals and food.
However, efforts to enhance trade have been facing hurdles because of sanctions imposed by the UN and European Union, which make payment difficult.
There are also problems like re-insurance of oil refineries and transportation of consignment from Iran because of the sanctions.
- India to sign pact with Iran soon to ship goods to Afghanistan (en.trend.az)
- Iran, India to discuss gas pipeline extension (news.in.msn.com)
- Iran, India set to ink economic co-op MOUs (alethonews.com)
MOSCOW – Moscow hopes proposals made by world mediators to Iran over its nuclear program could lay the foundation for negotiations on solving the problem, Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said Wednesday.
Russia was “closely coordinating” with the P5+1 group, which includes China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany, on the Iranian nuclear issue, Morgulov told the Interfax news agency.
Moscow expected “an updated package of demands” given by the Sextet to Iran during the late February Almaty meeting could lay the foundation for “consistent progress” in the nuclear talks, Morgulov said.
The parties held expert-level nuclear talks in Istanbul in late March to discuss a revised proposal that asks Iran to suspend its enrichment of uranium and disable the underground Fordow facility in exchange for limited sanction relief.
The next round of nuclear talks is scheduled for April 5-6 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Russia believes a long-term settlement towards the Iranian nuclear issue should be based on the recognition of Iran’s “unconditional right to develop its civilian nuclear program,” Morgulov said.
Meanwhile, Russia highly values close dialogue with China over the Iranian nuclear program, as the two countries shared common positions in many aspects, he added.
Russia, together with China, believe the use of unilateral sanctions and political pressure on Iran only lead to a dead end, Morgulov said, adding that such moves were counterproductive and undermined diplomatic efforts in solving the problem.