Thursday, September 30, 2010

Presidential Policy Directive on International Investment

The Obama administration unveiled their new global development strategy with great fanfare.  The Presidential Policy Directive includes:

Creation of a Global Development Council of leading figures from civil society and private and philanthropic sectors.

Hillary hinted at a greater role for philanthropists. She echoed the sentiment in a speech at the Peter G. Peterson Institute. 

Will the Global Development Council be like the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition?  If so, it will be stacked with private equity underwriters (PEU's).  Here are a few:

Colin Powell (Kleiner Perkins)
Madeline Albright (Albright Capital Management)
James A. Baker, III (advisor to Carlyle Group)
Frank Carlucci (Carlyle Group Chairman Emeritus)
Tom Daschle (Intermedia Advisors)
Bill Frist (Cressey)
William Perry (Global Technology Partners, Covant)
Tom Ridge (Doheny Global)

While they have billions to donate, the flip side of the PEU coin is greed, evidenced by expectations of 30% annual returns.  It's bad when the ShoreCap International crowd expects similar returns on microfinance money.

Who will be America's face in the development world?  I sense one for the public and another for personal enrichment.

Raising Lieberman

Senator Joe Lieberman echoed escalating concern regarding Iran, reinforcing Senator Lindsey Graham and Representative Howard Berman's recent speeches on the topic.  Lieberman spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where he said:

It is time to retire our ambiguous mantra about all options remaining on the table. It is time for our message to our friends and enemies in the region to become clearer: namely, that we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability -- by peaceful means if we possibly can, but with military force if we absolutely must. A military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities entails risks and costs, but I am convinced that the risks and costs of allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapons capability are much greater.

I also believe it would be a failure of U.S. leadership if this situation reaches the point where the Israelis decide to attempt a unilateral strike on Iran. If military action must come, the United States is in the strongest position to confront Iran and manage the regional consequences. This is not a responsibility we should outsource. We can and should coordinate with our many allies who share our interest in stopping a nuclear Iran, but we cannot delegate our global responsibilities to them.

The Reds kicked off bidding with Graham's talk at  the American Enterprise Institute.  The Blues countered with Howard Berman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  Independents raised the bar with a Lieberman at CFR.     The future of American power in the Middle East centers on Israel and war.  It's a sadly familiar refrain.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Iran's Bushehr Plant Won't Start until 2011

Iran pushed back it's planned start up of the Bushehr nuclear plant yet again.  Haaretz reported fuel will begin to be loaded into the central core next week.  The plant will generate electricity for the public in early 2011.

The delay may be the result of the Stuxnet worm.

Diplomats and security sources say Western governments and Israel view sabotage as one way of slowing Iran's nuclear work. Little information is available on how much damage, if any, Iran's nuclear and wider infrastructure has suffered from Stuxnet and Tehran will probably never disclose full details.

Some analysts believe Iran may be suffering wider sabotage aimed at slowing its nuclear advances, pointing to a series of unexplained technical glitches that have cut the number of working centrifuge machines at the Natanz enrichment plant.

Will the saboteurs disclose full details?  Doubtful.

Despite the escalating rhetoric from both sides, the UN has monitors in the Bushehr plant.

Russia designed and built the plant and will supply the fuel. To ease nuclear proliferation concerns, it will take back spent fuel rods that could otherwise be used to make weapons-grade plutonium. Bushehr is also being monitored by inspectors of the UN nuclear watchdog.

Washington has criticized Moscow for pushing ahead with Bushehr despite Iranian defiance over its nuclear program.
Israeli President Netanyahu said he'd never let Iran become nuclear.  U.S. President Barack Obama used similar language in the past. Do their reluctant peace efforts imply another war?

Until then, sanctions and war framing grow.

Update 7-17-11:  An ex-CIA official predicts Israel will attack Iran in September.  

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More Signs Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks Are for Show

Haaretz reported:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu countered a controversial United Nations address by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday, rejecting Lieberman's views on a possible land swap and asserting his belief that Israel and Palestinians could reach a peace deal within a year. 
The Israeli government looked as divided as the Palestinians (Fatah-Hamas).  The U.S. response brought to mind Donald Rumsfeld "unknown unknowns."

State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley, referring to the possibility the Israeli prime minister and defense minister are at odds concerning the ongoing direct peace talks with the PA, said: "Maybe there are divergent vision between the Prime Minister and the Foreign minister, I'll defer to the Israeli government to explain the difference. I will let the Israeli government comment on whether it reflects the views of the Israeli government."

When things get dicey and the parties look as if they might walk away, change the peace sponsor:
The Prime Minister's Office added that the premier (Netanyahu) also accepted (French President) Sarkozy's invitation to a peace summit to be held in Paris during the coming October, which would also be attended by Abbas. 

An aim could be to keep the parties at the table when conflict with Iran begins.  Israel wielded major carrots for neighbors during their last two wars.  Might it do so again?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stuxnet Worm & Iran's Nuclear Facilities

Jerusalem Post reported:

Iran's official news agency reported Sunday that a complex computer worm has affected the personal computers of staff at the country's first nuclear power plant weeks before the facility is to go online.  

Experts from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran met this week to discuss how to remove the malicious computer code, or worm, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported Friday.

The computer worm, dubbed Stuxnet, can take over systems that control the inner workings of industrial plants.
Do the U.S. and Israel have to prove they didn't create the Stuxnet worm?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Obama Wants to Secretly Kill American Citizens

The Obama administration believes it is legal to assassinate American citizens, at least those on the military/CIA's targeted killing list.  The government's defenses to a legal challenge are:

1.  Relatives of targeted citizens have no legal standing to challenge the case in court
2.  Targeting decisions are solely the executive branch's discretion
3.  Litigating the matter would jeopardize state secrets
This is the due process of law guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment?  Obama loves summary execution, using predator drones to execute people in other sovereign countries. 

How might courts breakdown the rule of law via Obama’s Justice Department?  Who can the President assassinate under the Constitution?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Peace Deal Contingent Upon Stopping Settlements

The AP reported:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday there will be no peace deal with Israel unless the Jewish state stops settlement construction in areas the Palestinians claim for their future state.
The shakiest peace talks ever initiated took an early turn for the worse.

Peace Talks: Real or Choreography

While the Palestinian Authority-Israeli peace talks hang by a thread, experts stressed the role of Syria and Lebanon in achieving Middle East peace.

The intensity of Israeli peace talks with neighbors is highly correlated with the odds of war.  The Jewish state does not want an all fronts conflict.  It needs quiet on its borders to deal with Iran.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Obama's UN Code

I was puzzled by President Obama's plea for Arab states to push for peace without any feedback from Israel on the long standing Arab League Peace Plan.  Haaretz provided an answer.

Member states of the United Nations nuclear watchdog narrowly rejected an Arab-sponsored resolution on Friday calling on Israel to join a global anti-atomic weapons treaty in a diplomatic victory for the United States.
Washington had urged countries to vote down the symbolically important although non-binding resolution, saying it could derail broader efforts to ban nuclear warheads in the Middle East and also send a negative signal to the relaunched Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Obama's speech missed the numerous times the United States failed to prevent nuclear proliferation, India, Israel and Pakistan.  Israel spoke strongly on the Arab resolution:

"Adopting this resolution will be a fatal blow to any hope for future cooperative efforts toward better regional security in the Middle East," Israel's IAEA envoy Ehud Azoulay said, shortly before the vote. 
Fatal blow?  The U.S and Israel sat on the Arab League Peace Plan for eight years.  Peace already looks like a corpse.   Obama may be a war president (of his initiation) come 2012.

Update:  Hillary Clinton scrambled to keep PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the negotiating table.  An Arab League representative warned of a Middle East arms race if Israel keeps nuclear weapons.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Obama's Odd UN Speech

President Obama gave an odd talk at the United Nations.  He continued the U.S. call on freezing settlement expansion, at least a decade in running.  Israel ignored these pleas with no apparent consequences..

Obama moved on to elements of the Arab League Peace Plan, put on the table in 2002 and recently cited by Hillary Clinton as a remarkable document.  He failed to mention Israel's lack of response to the plan.  Instead, the President encouraged Arab states to implement their part.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Betting on Iran

The Blue team saw the Red's Lindsey Graham on Iran and raised them a Howard Berman. Both spoke on CSPAN.

Representative Berman indicated Iranian sanctions had months to work. He painted a dire situation beginning at the 7:40 mark. He gave a one year time frame for Iran to have a functional nuclear weapon.

Berman is connected. He told an Israeli newspaper Israel would attack Gaza in December 2008. The unleashing of Graham and Berman on Iran is telling. Attack dogs on Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza are now trained on Iran.

Bank Branches in Iran to Stem WWIII

The International Harry Schultz Letter, a highly respected investment newsletter, had an odd reference in a recent edition. MarketWatch reported:

I’m happy to announce the end of World War 3. The Iran war, which triggered World War Three, planned by the Pentagon and Mossad, has ended, actually before they began. It’s a first in history!

“How do I know this? Follow the money, not the propaganda. Four US banks are to open branches in Iran!...Citibank and Goldman Sachs are among the first applicants! Since Goldman Sachs is the alternate, or behind the scenes US government, as we all know, that name/news assured me of the good news.”

Who does Goldman Sachs apply to? Is that Ahmadinejad, the man decrying capitalism at the United Nations? Why would he let in a Trojan Horse?

Is it the U.S. State Department or another global mechanism that will run Iran post pummeling? Hopefully, Mr. Schultz will clear this up in his next letter.

America has a record of waging war on behalf of U.S. branded multinationals. Iran knows this well. It was President Eisenhower's biggest regret.

(Thanks to Economic Policy Journal)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Compromised by Unidentified Aerial Objects

Reuters reported:

Witness testimony from more than 120 former or retired military personnel points to an ongoing and alarming intervention by unidentified aerial objects at nuclear weapons sites, as recently as 2003. In some cases, several nuclear missiles simultaneously and inexplicably malfunctioned while a disc-shaped object silently hovered nearby. Six former U.S. Air Force officers and one former enlisted man will break their silence about these events at the National Press Club and urge the government to publicly confirm their reality.

The National Press Club will host a panel on the topic Monday, September 27. Will this event make CSPAN? It turns out UFO stories have been told at the NPC before.

Maybe UFO's can make the Middle East a nuclear weapons free zone.

Israeli Peace Talks Often Mean War

Israel prefers to fight one war at a time. They dangled fruit to keep other groups off the battlefield during their 2006 pummeling of Southern Lebanon and 2008-09 razing of Gaza. The setup for war with Iran finds Israel's hawkish leaders returning to the bargaining table

The Israeli negotiating team is busy with peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, but leaders want to add Syria. Syria is fresh off a missile deal with Russia.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham made the case for war with Iran yesterday. It had an Iraq 2002 ring. Graham said Israel might attack Iran's nuclear facilities, but the U.S. would be the better nation to ensure Iran had no ship afloat, no plane capable of flying, and no missiles left to use on their neighbors. In the vacuum new Iranian leadership can arise. Funny, that sounds much like the lack of planning America had for post war Iraq.

Meanwhile at the UN, Lebanon and Iran walked out on Shimon Peres speech of Israeli friendship and uniting through science. Turkey canceled a planned meeting with Peres. Canada walked out on Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who complained about the translation of his remarks. But he got to speak his mind on Charlie Rose.

Senator Graham Lays Out Case for Iran War

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) spoke at the American Enterprise Institute. He cogently laid out the case for war with Iran. President Obama spoke at the United Nations, stating the military option remains on the table. These actions echo Iraq in 2002.

Hillary Clinton called for responsible leaders in Iran to step up.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Olmert Details Palestinian Peace Deal

Haaretz reported:

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that the Bush administration had assured him that the United States would be willing to absorb some 100,000 Palestinian refugees immediately as American citizens, should Israel reach a permanent settlement with the Palestinian Authority.

Quartet Middle East Envoy Tony Blair referred to a secret peace deal between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Since then Blair ran like a frightened child from people trying to serve him a war crime indictment and Olmert has been charged with corruption.

It just happens Tony Blair and Ehud Olmert are selling books. What didn't make Tony's book? His trading the Lockerbie bomber for BP's access to Libyan oil fields. Also omitted, his revelation that Israel would change strategy on Gaza, with the approval of Obama's Hillary Clinton and General James Jones. Bombs fell within a week.

Olmert, Blair and Bush made war their signature strategy. Little has changed with their replacements.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Trade in Violence

Strange news from the Middle East:

U.S. plans to sell $60 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia to offset Iran.

Israeli defense firms stand to make tens of millions from the Saudi arms sale.

Israel settlement freeze to expire.

Abbas threatens to resign (again).

After twisting their arm to the negotiating table, I don't know how the U.S. can keep the parties there.

With regards to the issue of settlement construction, the PA official reiterated that the Palestinians would pull out of the talks if the current freeze, which expires later this month, is not extended. He said that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised Abbas to solve the issue, but did not elaborate.

That Clinton magic failed with Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak. The world has seen a decade of contention, conflict and settlement expansion. It doesn't look like leaders want peace.

Who will stand for peace when the bombs fall in earnest? It won't be war profiteers or their purchased politicians.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bad Sign for War: More Israeli Peace Talks

Haaretz reported:

U.S. confirms intense efforts to restart Israel-Syria peace efforts

U.S. envoy Mitchell, arriving in Damascus Thurs., says Israeli-Palestinian talks could support simultaneous Israeli-Syrian negotiations.
Israel has a pattern of dangling peace benefits to neighbors as it makes war plans. The Jewish State does not want to fight a multi-front war. Prime Minister Netanyahu told Palestinian and Syrian leaders that a peace agreement could be reached within a year.

What else might happen within that year? Could it be war? Look for "bomb you back to the Stone Age" threats, as sides are chosen.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mossad Chief Suggests Attacking Iran

The Jerusalem Post reported:

Western countries need to mobilize together into a coalition that will strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities, former head of the Mossad Danny Yatom said on Sunday.

Yatom said that Israel could not live with a nuclear Iran.
The impetus for Western countries to align and attack came from another JP story:

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano on Monday warned that he cannot confirm that all of Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful because Teheran is not fully cooperating with his inspectors.

Amano also chided Iran for barring some of those inspectors and for stonewalling his agency's attempt to probe allegations that Teheran is interested in developing atomic arms.
The Pentagon has put together $90 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia. America's friends in the region will need to rule the skies and seas after Iran is taught a lesson.

The narrative grows piece by piece.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Netanyahu to Offer a Partial Settlement Freeze

Haaretz reported:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to adopt a policy identical to that of his predecessor for construction in West Bank settlements - a partial freeze - as the September 30 end of the moratorium approaches.

Under Ehud Olmert, more than 90 percent of construction was carried out in the major settlement blocs - Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel.

After a decade of U.S. calls to "stop building settlements," Hillary Clinton called Israel's settlement restraint unprecedented. Oddly, negotiations could fall back to the secret Olmert-Abbas agreement indicated by Tony Blair. That could make PM Netanyahu uncomfortable, given his past positions.

The current lineup of officials aiding a settlement thaw includes Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell and Tony Blair. When Tony "Change in Gaza Strategy" Blair meets with leaders in the region, war is not far away.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Netanyahu Says He & Obama Could Bring Peace

Ynet reported:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House that an agreement could be achieved had it been up to the two of them.
Aren't they on the same side, sharing an unshakable bond? Senator Obama defended Israel publicly and privately, as it attacked its neighbors in 2006 & 2008. President Obama pushed "economic peace" on the Palestinians, before handcuffing the parties for peace talks..

I'm not sure I've ever seen peace talks start with so little hope.