Archive for January, 2007

Wes Clark is a human being

January 30, 2007

In case you were wondering, the man has a deeper understanding of life then most of the vermin roaming Washington DC. Of course that isn’t saying much, so just go listen to this interview from 2003.

And then go read this post and the comments (from which I snagged the above interview link) over on DKos.

Wes Clark needs to be our next president. No, let me put that another way. We need Wes Clark as our next president. This country is in a world of hurt. A couple of years ago we tried to get the country a doctor to ail its woes, but now we are beyond that. We need a true leader, someone who actually gets it. Someone who grew up like the rest of us, dreamed like the rest of us, and someone who actually believes in America.

We have the rare chance to elect someone who gets it. Wes Clark has been there, done that. And he is ready to serve again. Not because of his daddy’s legacy, but because he believes in service. If he wasn’t on our side I would be terrified. But he is on our side, he is one of us. I don’t know what else to say. Go, listen to the interview and then explain to me why he isn’t president now.

Our leaders don’t have to suck. We do elect them after all. Let’s face it, if they suck it’s because we suck. We the people are supposed to be paying attention. Well, pay attention for a moment please. Our country is falling apart. We are trapped in a civil war, on the verge of starting another war, and seen as an aggressor nation by most of the world. Now is a good time to stop sucking at the democracy part of our responsibilities as citizens and elect a person who doesn’t completely suck ass. Someone who has a chance at fixing things. Someone who knows how to be an adult, work in a team, lead by example, and talk with people not at them.

I don’t want to get my hopes up, this country is good at picking assholes to lead it, but I want to believe.

I want to believe.

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Weekly World Roundup

January 28, 2007

This is my weekly news dump. Here we go.

First, we get news that India is buying jet fighters from Russia:

“We have known about the top-class MiG warplanes for a long time, but the MiG-29KUB that was developed by Russia and India is even better,” said Cdr. Jasvinder Chauhan, India’s Air Force attache in Moscow.

This is no exaggeration because Indian experts helped develop this fighter along with MiG engineers and designers, listing all the required specifications. MiG held up its part of the bargain, coming up with an advanced aircraft whose specifications are probably better than those of any similar warplane.

Indian experts helped integrate foreign computers into the MiG-29KUB’s avionics, took part in developing aircraft simulators and also chose its weaponry. Nikolai Buntin, who supervised the MiG-29K/MiG-29KUB project, said Russia’s air force and navy still lack any similar aircraft.

This is an important feature of Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation. Moscow supplies only the most sophisticated military equipment to New Delhi and actively involves Indian experts in research and production projects. It also sells production licenses enabling India to assemble T-90S main battle tanks, Sukhoi Su-30MKI multi-role fighters and other weapons at its own companies.

BrahMos, a well-known Russian-Indian joint venture, turns out its eponymous supersonic anti-ship missiles for the Indian navy, air force and coastal-defense units.

Moscow and New Delhi have signed defense contracts worth $9 billion to date. Last year, Russian arms sales to India accounted for about 40% of its total arms exports of $5.2 billion.

Next, it seems the Chinese decided to fess up:

HENZHEN, China — China sought to reassure the world Tuesday that its test of a new anti-satellite missile does not signal a “space race,” but the announcement did little to ease tensions about an uncertain new phase in China’s space program.

Political and military aftershocks from what appears to be any nation’s first successful destruction of a satellite in orbit in more than 20 years could affect security ties, technology sales and broader relations with the U.S. and other powers.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao offered the first official comment on the test nearly two weeks after China used a medium-range ballistic missile to destroy one of its aging weather satellites 535 miles above Earth.

“This test was not directed at any country and does not constitute a threat to any country,” he said.

Liu said China briefed the U.S., Japan, and other nations and that he had no knowledge of further tests.

I love it when the US gets on the high horse about other country’s weapons programs. Especially when we are developing things like this:

The US military has given the first public display of what it says is a revolutionary heat-ray weapon to repel enemies or disperse hostile crowds.

Called the Active Denial System, it projects an invisible high energy beam that produces a sudden burning feeling.

Military officials, who say the gun is harmless, believe it could be used as a non-lethal way of making enemies surrender their weapons.

Officials said there was wide-ranging military interest in the technology.

The US drives the world wide arms race. We are pushing for a missile defense shield to surround the old communist nations even though the curtain fell. I wonder if this is just left over attitudes from the cold war or fear of the SCO.

MOSCOW: Russia on Friday harshly criticized U.S. plans to build missile defense sites in central Europe, shrugging off U.S. assurances that the installations would be meant to deal with a potential threat from Iran and calling them an effort to strengthen America’s military might in the region.

A statement from Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin provided a detailed account of Russia’s opposition to U.S. proposals to establish elements of its missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic — former Soviet satellites that are now NATO members.

“We believe that plans for the creation of a U.S. missile defense in Europe are a mistaken step with negative consequences for international security,” Kamynin said. He suggested Russia could seek to prevent it from happening through talks, saying it would be “a subject of serious analysis and discussion with the United States and its partners.”

Placing U.S. sites in the region “cannot be seen other than as a significant reconfiguration the American military presence in Europe,” Kamynin said. Despite U.S. insistence that the plans pose no threat to Russia, he said that “we cannot fail to see the fact of a consistent imparting of a strategic component to American military forces in this region.”

We are also pushing Japan to amend its constitution to allow for missile defense there.

Oh, and the EU has acknowledged the secret prisons.

On 23 January 2007, MEPs adopted a report that examines claims that EU member states allowed covert CIA flights to stop in or fly over their territories and also hosted secret US detention centres.

The report, slightly less damning than its November 2006 predecessor, comes after a year of investigations by a special parliamentary committee. The committee was established following allegations, in late 2005, that the CIA had secretly held al Qaeda suspects in EU member states and transferred them to countries known to practice torture.

The report says that the UK, Poland, Italy, Germany and seven other countries knew that the US was using Europe as a transit zone for illegally detaining and transporting terror suspects, in possible violation of EU human-rights law, and urges the Council to initiate an independent investigation and “where necessary, impose sanctions”.

These were not spelt out, but EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said in November 2005 that if reports of secret CIA jails were true, states would face serious consequences, including suspension of their EU voting rights.

According to the report, at least 1,245 covert CIA flights crossed European airspace or stopped at European airports between 2001 and 2005, with the highest density flying over the UK, Germany and Ireland.

Terror suspects being transported – and in some cases detained – in Europe, were tortured during interrogations, states the report.

But, in a crucial last-minute amendment passed by just one vote, the text states that “it is not possible to acknowledge” that the CIA had secret prisons based in Poland.

Gotta love the USA or we will kidnap you and torture you with our freedoms!

So, what else is going on out there?

No Legacies

January 22, 2007

Attaturk sums up the summation:

We are supposed to be a democracy not an oligarchy (or at least we should pretend to be the former). I know that is naive, but nonetheless I think we should at least keep the appearance. I simply cannot abide the United States going Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. It’s disturbingly anti-democratic looking if nothing else.

I second that.

No one is perfect

January 21, 2007

It would seem that my preferred candidate for president in 2008 once led the command that overseasthe School of the Americas.

Clark never headed the school but had dealings with it when he led the US Southern Command from 1996 to 1997. He delivered a graduation speech there in 1996 and has praised the school before Congress. George Bruno, the cochairman of Clark’s New Hampshire campaign and a former ambassador to Belize, was a paid adviser to the school when it reopened with a new charter in 2001.

Now, on the stump, Clark strongly defends the school, without denying that some graduates have committed atrocities in their home countries.

More:

When Wesley Clark was in charge of the U.S. Southern Command in 1997, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he was proud to oversee the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA), which trains soldiers from Latin American countries, saying that “This school is the best means available to ensure that the armed forces in Latin America and the armies in Latin America understand US values and adopt those values as their own.” Today, the school has changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), but its mission remains the same – and Wesley Clark remains one of its staunchest supporters.

A rebuttal here:

Some would wish to saddle Wes Clark with the total ridiculous credit for being the sole supporter and abater of the SOA based on his one year stint in 1996-97 as CICEUR, then it would be fair and appropos that he then be also given all of the credit for all of the positive changes in Latin America in them being more to the left than even America currently (more leftists have been elected and govern there than ever before!). In fact, 1996 was the year many revelations were made on the SOA and the year that changes were requested and later granted. if we’re gonna go way out there, might as well be all emcompassing in everyway imaginable!

Do these same people know that Clark did not institute the SOA (which was established back in the 40s)? Do they know that it is congress that funds it? Do they know that it was while Wes Clark was CIC that reforms were done there? Do they know that the worse abuse in Latin America by those who may have graduated from the SOA occurred in the ’60, ’70 and ’80s way before Clark’s time? Do they know that Wes Clark is not responsible for the SOA and has stated that if anyone can point to abuses there, if he were President, he would shut it down? Do all of the “left” anti SOA peeps know that maybe what they should also concentrate on are the human abuses going on in China and in Iraq and many other p, as opposed to this old Red Herring always pulled out and slammed into Wes Clark’s face as though he really is more responsible for its existence than all those folks in the senate, the house and the executive branch….while Wes Clark never had a vote? They must not know any of these things, otherwise same folks would be busy writing their senators and congressional representatives telling them to defund the school.

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Clark’s main “support” for the School came in 1996, when he was the CinC of Southern Command for 1 year and at that time the school fell under his leadership.

Second, by the middle of the Clinton Administration, the U.S. had started to clean up its act significantly, with even State Department officials admitting that “they had done a lot of bad stuff in South America” in the ’50s-’70s. The School now has a mandatory democratic education and civil rights component. It is a military training center that helps train officers from South American countries: newsflash–by the 1990s, most of the countries in South America had become developing democracies, as opposed to the authoritarian regimes the U.S. had supported in the ’50s-’70s. The SOA also went through further reform, with an external independent oversight board. It’s supported by countries like Canada–OK, not ALWAYS the paragon of virtue, but hardly an enthusiastic supporter of imperialism in the contemporary era.

And from the Clark 04 site:

Statement of General Wesley Clark on the School of the Americas
(now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation)

I strongly condemn human rights abuses of any kind. Throughout my career, I have fought to protect the fundamental rights of all people and to promote democratic values that empower people to prevent abuses of power and combat them when they occur.

It is unacceptable that some who passed through the School of the Americas (now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) committed human rights abuses. Those that did should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – as should all who commit war crimes or crimes against humanity. In order to prevent such abuses from happening in the future, we must promote a policy of engagement and education with friends and allies in the region.

I strongly support the reforms that have been implemented at WHISC and encourage careful vetting of students. I strongly support oversight measures that ensure that antidemocratic principles are not taught at the school. Thanks to the work of human rights campaigners and others, WHISC is constantly improving the way it teaches the Army’s values of respect for human rights, for civil institutions, and for dissent.

Not sure how to feel about this one. On the one hand, commands are part of being a general, and I would bet every command has something fishy under its control. And his continued support of the school may stem from his loyalty to the service and those under his command. I am still not sure I believe the school has been reformed. Or perhaps I should say that currently, under a Bush presidency, the school is no doubt being used to train anti-socialist movements in South and Central America. That’s not to say there weren’t attempts at improvements in the 90’s, but I seriously can’t imagine anything changing there overall.

I don’t see his command as a big deal, but I am bugged by his support of the school. I am also trying to understand his views on the invasion by Israel of Lebanon. When I read transcripts of his appearances on the MSM, I see two things; a man calling for diplomacy and international intervention and a general discussing military strategy. Which makes sense, being as how the reason news programs had him on is because of his military expert ease.

Neil Cavuto: Do you think Israel seriously underestimated the strength of Hezbullah?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: That’s not clear. I’m sure there’s going to be a long series of investigations, and we’ll probably read a lot of it in the American press after this. But I don know this: I, I’m, I was a Commander of an air campaign, and when you rely on air power, you’ve got to really understand how you’re using the air power to achieve your objective. And you have to use diplomacy to back up the air power. In this case, it wasn’t clear to me on the outside how the air campaign related to the overall objectives. I heard statements, but ultimately war is settled by political means.

What gets me is that Clark seemed to at the same time support action against Hezbollah while pushing for support of the Lebanese government.

Speaking for two long segments on “Dayside,” Clark drew careful distinctions and avoided simplistic either/or discussions about the use of force versus diplomacy. Clark rejected negotiations with Hezbollah, but stressed the need to support the Lebanese government and provide humanitarian assistance to its citizens, to have diplomatic talks with Iran and Syria, and to save military force as a last resort. He affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself, called Hezbollah wrong for its actions, but insisted innocent civilians in Lebanon should not have to suffer as a result.

It was the actions of Israel that lead to destabilization of the Lebanese government, and which killed the Cedar Revolution and empowered Hezbollah support in the country.

Wes Clark is a military man. But he is also a progressive. I will have to read up more on all this before I make any decisions. There are other issues I need to follow up on before I mention them here. Oh well, no one is perfect.

Chemical Warfare

January 19, 2007

From COHA

Throughout December of 2006, tensions began to flare between Ecuador and Colombia over the latter’s continued policy of sanctioning aerially-dispersed defoliants as a means to destroy narcotic crops along the two countries’ shared border. Ecuador, along with several other nations and non-governmental organizations, has repeatedly asserted that the powerful chemicals and the purported reckless methods of their dispersal pose a serious danger to the environment, essential crops, and human health in areas where they are used.

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Serious accusations concerning the jeopardy to those living in areas which are being fumigated have become commonplace. These have been underlined by claims made by scientific, humanitarian, and environmental groups that exposure to the defoliants employed in such sprayings may lead to “gastrointestinal disorders (e.g. severe bleeding, nausea, and vomiting), testicular inflammation, high fevers, dizziness, respiratory ailments, skin rashes, …severe eye irritation” and possible birth defects or miscarriages. These dangers have been anecdotally corroborated by copious complaints filed by affected populations.

In addition to the risks of direct exposure, recent studies have posited that the consumption of food exposed to or grown in fields that had earlier been sprayed with the chemicals under discussion may also be leading to considerable health problems. This comes as a result of a propensity of the fumigants to linger in agricultural soil and leave measurable residues on crops . These leftover deposits and the herbicide’s indiscriminate destruction of plant life can also have a widespread effect on the local environment. In addition to the plausible fears that drift or accidental sprayings may adulterate fresh water sources, there are good grounds to be apprehensive over the grievous impacts on animal species relying upon certain plants or levels of biodiversity .

In addition to concerns over the defoliant’s active ingredient, glyphosate, repeated accusations have been made regarding the additives with which it is mixed. Though there have been credible concerns voiced that the concentrations of glyphosate used in Colombia are dangerously potent, glyphosate has been tested by the Environmental Protection Agency as well as by its manufacturer and has been shown to cause little harm to people when properly applied. However, the surfactant Cosmo-Flux 411f, which in Colombia is routinely added to the glyphosate-based herbicide, has only had its ingredients speculatively examined and remains unregistered with the EPA. In fact, the EPA was not even provided with and did not study concentrations in the spray mixture as a whole. As Dr. Milton Guzman, the Public Health Director in the provincial capital of Popayán, describes, the danger is that Cosmo-Flux 411f is used for its highly corrosive properties that help the glyphosate penetrate the waxy protective coating on plant leaves. But, as Guzman asserts, this property potentially gives the defoliant the same ability to adversely affect human skin . Concern over the possible dangers of Cosmo-Flux 411f prompted the British multinational Imperial Chemical Industries, a supplier of one of Cosmo-Flux 411f’s ingredients, to announce in 2001 that it would terminate its involvement in the chemical’s manufacture as a precaution against being associated with U.S./Colombian fumigation campaigns.

More here and here. And some related goodies from previous posts. This is chemical warfare pure and simple. Which, I thought, was illegal.

(a) Unlawful Conduct.— Except as provided in subsection (b), it shall be unlawful for any person knowingly—
(1) to develop, produce, otherwise acquire, transfer directly or indirectly, receive, stockpile, retain, own, possess, or use, or threaten to use, any chemical weapon; or
(2) to assist or induce, in any way, any person to violate paragraph (1), or to attempt or conspire to violate paragraph (1).

The End gets a little nearer

January 19, 2007

Time

It’s springtime for anti-satellite missiles — again — now that China has fired a missile into space and destroyed an aging weather satellite orbiting 500 miles above the earth. The James Bond-style exercise left a several-hundred- meter-wide cloud of scrap metal floating around in space. Some of the debris could pose a threat to spacecraft passing through the region, scientists say, and will remain a problem for hundreds of years to come. And there will be repercussions on Earth, too.

Protests and expressions of concern were lodged over the test by the U.S., Japan, Canada, South Korea and Australia, but Beijing has so far refused to comment on the issue or even confirm the test took place. “The brazenness of this is a bit frightening,” says Mike Green, former senior Bush Administration Asia adviser. “It shows that the Peoples Liberation Army has considerable leeway — a great deal of influence if not autonomy — to increase their capacity even at considerable diplomatic cost.”

The obvious irony of anyone from the US criticizing the Chinese military for not playing nice aside, what really freaks out the US government is:

The Dr. Strangelovian angle on what the Pentagon calls ASAT — anti-satellite — weapons is that a foe could use them to blind key U.S. spy satellites as the first punch in a massive war. While such a notion carried some weight during the Cold War, such a war seems markedly less likely in today’s world, some U.S. officials believe. Still, developing its anti-satellite capability is only one of a series of steps China is taking aimed at leveling out the playing field in case of a clash with the U.S. Other examples include the training of units designed to hack into military computers, and the development of massive shore-to-ship missile batteries that would make it very difficult for U.S. carrier groups to approach China’s coast. The U.S. dependence on its technological edge is considerable: Green explains that in recent joint exercises held with the Indian Air Force, less technologically advanced Russian Sukhoi jets defeated American F-15s when the latter were deprived of support from satellite and AWACs systems.

And the escalation continues. The fear of war drives the creation of bigger, better weapons. Mutual destruction is not a policy, it is insanity.

People I will not vote for in 2008

January 18, 2007

Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq

Alphabetical by Senator Name:

Akaka (D-HI), Nay
Allard (R-CO), Yea
Allen (R-VA), Yea
Baucus (D-MT), Yea
Bayh (D-IN), Yea
Bennett (R-UT), Yea
Biden (D-DE), Yea
Bingaman (D-NM), Nay
Bond (R-MO), Yea
Boxer (D-CA), Nay
Breaux (D-LA), Yea
Brownback (R-KS), Yea
Bunning (R-KY), Yea
Burns (R-MT), Yea
Byrd (D-WV), Nay
Campbell (R-CO), Yea
Cantwell (D-WA), Yea
Carnahan (D-MO), Yea
Carper (D-DE), Yea
Chafee (R-RI), Nay
Cleland (D-GA), Yea
Clinton (D-NY), Yea
Cochran (R-MS), Yea
Collins (R-ME), Yea
Conrad (D-ND), Nay
Corzine (D-NJ), Nay
Craig (R-ID), Yea
Crapo (R-ID), Yea
Daschle (D-SD), Yea
Dayton (D-MN), Nay
DeWine (R-OH), Yea
Dodd (D-CT), Yea
Domenici (R-NM), Yea
Dorgan (D-ND), Yea
Durbin (D-IL), Nay
Edwards (D-NC), Yea
Ensign (R-NV), Yea
Enzi (R-WY), Yea
Feingold (D-WI), Nay
Feinstein (D-CA), Yea
Fitzgerald (R-IL), Yea
Frist (R-TN), Yea
Graham (D-FL), Nay
Gramm (R-TX), Yea
Grassley (R-IA), Yea
Gregg (R-NH), Yea
Hagel (R-NE), Yea
Harkin (D-IA), Yea
Hatch (R-UT), Yea
Helms (R-NC), Yea
Hollings (D-SC), Yea
Hutchinson (R-AR), Yea
Hutchison (R-TX), Yea
Inhofe (R-OK), Yea
Inouye (D-HI), Nay
Jeffords (I-VT), Nay
Johnson (D-SD), Yea
Kennedy (D-MA), Nay
Kerry (D-MA), Yea
Kohl (D-WI), Yea
Kyl (R-AZ), Yea
Landrieu (D-LA), Yea
Leahy (D-VT), Nay
Levin (D-MI), Nay
Lieberman (D-CT), Yea
Lincoln (D-AR), Yea
Lott (R-MS), Yea
Lugar (R-IN), Yea
McCain (R-AZ), Yea
McConnell (R-KY), Yea
Mikulski (D-MD), Nay
Miller (D-GA), Yea
Murkowski (R-AK), Yea
Murray (D-WA), Nay
Nelson (D-FL), Yea
Nelson (D-NE), Yea
Nickles (R-OK), Yea
Reed (D-RI), Nay
Reid (D-NV), Yea
Roberts (R-KS), Yea
Rockefeller (D-WV), Yea
Santorum (R-PA), Yea
Sarbanes (D-MD), Nay
Schumer (D-NY), Yea
Sessions (R-AL), Yea
Shelby (R-AL), Yea
Smith (R-NH), Yea
Smith (R-OR), Yea
Snowe (R-ME), Yea
Specter (R-PA), Yea
Stabenow (D-MI), Nay
Stevens (R-AK), Yea
Thomas (R-WY), Yea
Thompson (R-TN), Yea
Thurmond (R-SC), Yea
Torricelli (D-NJ), Yea
Voinovich (R-OH), Yea
Warner (R-VA), Yea
Wellstone (D-MN), Nay
Wyden (D-OR), Nay

Well, Hillary will never get my vote for president. But this is not the only reason. No, she really lost me when she backed the Israeli invasion of Lebanon last summer.

US stance delights neo-cons, dismays moderates

Last week Hillary Clinton, a potential presidential candidate, scolded Nouri al-Maliki, the visiting Iraqi prime minister, for having criticised Israel.

“His refusal to denounce Hizbollah and his condemnation of Israel send exactly the wrong message about the importance of fighting terrorism and bringing stability and peace to the Middle East,” said Mrs Clinton. “[He should] recognise the right of Israel to defend itself from terrorist aggression.”

I could care less for Biden. Or Edwards.

That Reid voted Yea saddens me.

Please don’t waste our time running again Kerry. You were a disappointment and an embarrassment.

But I believe the ego that is Joe-mentom will dare to seek the presidency. Why the hell not. What does he have to loose? His dignity?

Does America Matter?

January 14, 2007

Do we matter any more? Has the US lost its influence in the world? As the US becomes more and more aggressive, countries around the world are forming partnerships, both economically and militarily, to counter an imperialist Washington.

From Asia to South America nations once victims of the Cold War are building relationships. South and Central America are having a socialist democracy movement, Asia Minor has the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and Africa has the African Union. Even Europe, after two world wars, has join resources under the banner of the European Union.

An International Court has been established, global cooperation on things like pollution are being signed, and the world is more connected then ever thanks to the internet.

Where does all this leave the US?

At a time when the US should be working with the international community to right the wrongs committed during 40+ years of cold war against the USSR, it is instead waging a global imperial war on ideology, alienating itself from a world grown tired of empires.

What George Bush fails to realize is that by exerting his will upon the Middle East he is hastening the need for the rest of the world to balance Washington’s power. The neocon dream has been the world’s nightmare for too long, and it would seem that the rest of humanity is beginning to see that there is more of them then there is of us.

At what point does the international community attempt to isolate the US? Or will we simply isolate ourselves? China is growing in influence because they don’t meddle in others politics. And we empower them because we don’t have a leg to stand on thanks to the reckless actions of the Bush administration. The US becomes the enemy of liberty and freedom while Chavez becomes a champion of democracy, even as he openly befriends a man who kills those that cry for liberty.

The US faces the stark reality of a hostile world. And we deserve it. We inherited a world wounded by colonialism, and proceeded to rub salt in the wounds in the name of fighting communism. Now the world is healing, and it is getting tired of the US boot on its neck.

Republicans love to use the events of September 11, 2001 to justify the neocon adventure of world domination. But they failed to see the true opportunity wasted that day. As the world opened its heart to us, we should have opened a real dialog of healing with the world.

Israel

January 14, 2007

While the Iranian president visits South and Central American leaders, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert visits China.

China’s Middle East journey via Jerusalem
By M K Bhadrakumar

Two prominent leaders of the Middle East headed abroad last weekend, canvassing support from the international community. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad went on a tour of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador, the “red rain land” of Latin America, while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert headed for China.

By coincidence, on Wednesday, while Ahmadinejad was being received in Managua by the charismatic Marxist revolutionary Daniel Ortega at his inauguration as the democratically elected president of Nicaragua, Olmert was received with state honors in Beijing. Nothing can bring home as vividly the complexities of the emerging “multipolar” world order.

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China has to keep up the image of a responsible rising power on the world stage. Besides, its relationship with the US and other Western powers must have foreign-policy priority. China’s trade, investment and technological exchanges with the US are profound. China sees that six-party talks over the North Korea nuclear crisis have strengthened China-US relations. China counts on the United States to rein in the independence elements in Taiwan as well as in working out its differences with Tokyo.

Also, China could be losing patience with Iran’s perceived “intransigence” and “inflexibility” with regard to nuclear negotiations with the permanent five plus Germany, and with Tehran’s actions that might undermine the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. Thus, having largely deferred to Russia to take the initiative on Iran so far, China seems to be gently disengaging from Moscow. Beijing’s interests in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf do not coincide with Moscow’s.

But the most important factor in Chinese thinking will be the strategic considerations of its relationship with Saudi Arabia. The exchange of visits by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud and Hu to each other’s capitals within a four-month period early last year greatly cemented Saudi-Chinese political equations.

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The heart of the matter is that ideology or no ideology, as China’s integration with the world economy grows deeper it is in China’s interest to help the Bush administration preserve the stability of the Middle East’s political order. China’s low-key presence in the international debate over the US occupation of Iraq, China’s readiness to play a bigger role in peacekeeping operations in Lebanon, and China’s acquiescence with the US strategy of pressuring Iran over the nuclear issue can be seen in this light. Curiously, within the three-way equation involving the US, China and Saudi Arabia, the Bush administration is justified in seeing interesting possibilities.

Washington has already grasped China’s helping hand in steering the Security Council resolution on the tribunal for Lebanon (which serves the Saudi-Israeli regional agenda). The agenda in Iraq is much more complex. China’s cooperation in the Security Council could prove crucial in the coming months. Whatever downstream success there is for Bush’s Iraq strategy will depend on the establishment of a UN-mandated Arab peacekeeping force under the Arab League, under the pretext of supporting Iraq’s Sunnis, which, in turn, would enable a US troop withdrawal and Washington’s extrication from the Iraqi quagmire.

What webs we weave. I think the Chinese are smart enough to play every side of the equation. And Israel understands that China, not the US, is the gateway to dealing with Iran.

Iran II

January 14, 2007

While the US squanders its influence in South and Central America, the Iranian president is on a mission to make friends.

MANAGUA, Nicaragua: The presidents of Nicaragua and Iran promised to battle poverty and work against “common enemies” on Sunday, as Iran’s hard-line leader made the second of three Latin American stops aimed at courting allies in his standoff with Washington.

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Ahmadinejad was in Managua as part of a whirlwind tour of Latin America’s newly inaugurated leftist leaders as he seeks allies in the international debate over his country’s nuclear program and its alleged meddling in Iraq. On Saturday, he and Chavez pledged to spend billions of dollars (euros) financing projects in other countries in a bid to offset Washington’s influence around the globe.

Ortega, while pledging close ties to both Ahmadinejad and Chavez, is tempering his anti-U.S. remarks as he tries to maintain friendly relations with Washington, which is wary of his Marxist roots and waged a bloody insurgency against his leftist government during the 1980s.

Ortega and Ahmadinejad were scheduled to sign a cooperation agreement later in the day and the Iranian leader also planned to pray at the Nicaraguan capital’s Islamic center.

On Monday, Ahmadinejad will attend the inauguration of Ecuador’s new president, Rafael Correa, and meet with Bolivian President Evo Morales, both outspoken critics of the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush and Washington’s policies in Latin America.

Venezuela and Iran, both oil-rich nations, had previously announced plans for a joint US$2 billion (€1.55 billion) fund to finance investments in their own countries, but Chavez and Ahmadinejad said Saturday that the money would also be used for projects in friendly third countries.

“It will permit us to underpin investments … above all in those countries whose governments are making efforts to liberate themselves from the (U.S.) imperialist yoke,” Chavez said.

Ahmadinejad called it a “very important” decision that would help promote “joint cooperation in third countries,” especially in Latin American and African countries.

So while Iran works on deals with countries in South and Central America, the EU, and the SCO nations, our government continues to act like a spoiled child throwing a fight because everyone won’t do what it wants. Something tells me there won’t be many countries signing up for the “coalition of the willing” to invade Iran.