Archive for ‘Lobbies and special interests’

July 23, 2013

Soft power: Qatar’s Foreign Policy Adventurism

John Kerry with the Emir of Qatar in Doha, Foreign Policy of Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani

John Kerry with the Emir of Qatar in Doha, June 2013 (Jacquelyn Martin/Courtesy Reuters)

Earlier this month, the Taliban opened an official office in Doha, landing Qatar once more in Western headlines. That might have been part of Qatar’s plan: the decision to host such a controversial office is symptomatic of a desire to play a central role in a wide array of important diplomatic issues. Yet the debacle of the office’s first 36 hours shows just how far Qatar still has to go.

[READ THE REST]

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July 6, 2011

Is OPEC Headed for Collapse?

Opec Organization of the Petroleum Exporting C...

Image via Wikipedia

By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi:

In the comments section of one of my previous articles, a reader asked me whether the collapse of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC — responsible for 40% of the world’s petroleum output) is likely in the near future. Fair question, especially in light of the currently dysfunctional state of the Arab League. Are we really about to witness the end of a monopoly on global oil prices?

In short, it is too difficult to predict either way. I discussed earlier how the  Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC ) is starting to replace the Arab League as an inter-Arab political body and Sunni axis against Iran, shifting the onus of decision-making to the Gulf region. However, some of OPEC’s most prominent members — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, and Kuwait — are also part of the GCC, and it is notable that neither Syria nor Egypt, both of whose states of political turmoil have been responsible for the Arab League’s decline, is a major exporter of petroleum or member of OPEC. Thus, the growing importance of the GCC as opposed to the diminishing relevance of the Arab League is unlikely to have a major impact on OPEC’s future.

What is more interesting, however, is the conflict within OPEC between a bloc of states led by Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members, led chiefly by Iran and Venezuela, on the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) decision to tap into “strategic” (or “excess”) stockpiles of petroleum in an attempt to boost output, provide relief for high oil prices, and to stabilize the global economy. The IEA hopes to increase production by around 2 million barrels per day. Following a meeting that resulted in a deadlock at OPEC’s headquarters in Vienna on June 8, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait parted ways with other OPEC members and promised to raise production levels by 1.5 million barrels per day. Indeed, over the past month the Saudis have already increased output by approximately 500,000 barrels per day.

Now, ostensibly, Saudi Arabia is complying with the IEA’s initiative, but John Shimkus plausibly argues for another motive behind the Saudis’ behavior: namely, fear of Iran’s nuclear program, which is probably striving to develop nuclear weapons. As pointed out before, Iran has been at the head of an effort to block release of excess oil reserves. Hence, we should not be surprised if Saudi Arabia and its allies in OPEC might wish to flood the market with their own petroleum in the hope of bringing Iran’s government to the point of bankruptcy and thereby halting the Islamic Republic’s goals for its nuclear program. [READ THE REST]

 

July 1, 2011

Chinese imperialism and American technology

In previous posts, I have highlighted the power of Arab oil money in the British and American academy. In this post, we turn to China. The website China Threat has some interesting, if somewhat hysterical, information about some of the ways in which Chinese soft power is exploiting US corporate and academic technology development.

University Tech:

Michigan Professor Questions University’s Ties with China

A professor of aeronautics engineering at the University of Michigan says his university is engaged in transferring sensitive military technologies to China and that the practice is encouraged by the university’s faculty and administrators.
“We are transferring every bit of knowledge and know how that we have to the People’s Republic of China,”   MORE

University of Michigan’s Role in Transferring Anti-Satellite Weapons Technology

Picture

Dr. Daniel Scheeres studies how to rendezvous objects in space such as landing a spacecraft on an asteroid. However, the same technology can be used to shoot down a satellite or rendezvous a hunter killer satellite with a target satellite in orbit. MORE

Corruption

Is China Becoming a Mafia State?

John Garnaut is the China correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age newspapers. He goes into incredible detail about the operations of organized crime in China and the relationship between government officials and organized crime figures.     MORE

Rampant Fraud Threat to China’s Brisk Ascent

 By ANDREW JACOBS Published: October 6, 2010

BEIJING — No one disputes Zhang Wuben’s talents as a salesman. Through television shows, DVDs and a best-selling book, he convinced millions of people that raw eggplant and immense quantities of mung beans could cure lupus, diabetes, depression and cancer.  MORE

Is America at war with China?

WikiLeaks: US vs China in battle of the anti-satellite space weapons

On the night of Feb 20, 2008, Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, was on a plane to Hawaii when his telephone rang. They told him the conditions were “ripe” to launch what can now be disclosed was a secret test of America’s anti-satellite weapons, Washington’s first such strike in space for 23 years. That night, the US navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruiser, USS Lake Erie, scored a direct hit on an American spy satellite, known as USA 193. The missile used, a highly sophisticated SM-3, took about three minutes to climb 150 miles above the Earth, where it flew past the satellite before turning back and destroying the target at an impact speed of 22,000mph.
The strike came about a year after the Chinese government had launched its own satellite attack, which started a secret “space war”…                       MORE

China Navy Reaches Far,  Unsettling the Region

New York Times By EDWARD WONG Published: June 14, 2011 photo by Andy Wong
QINGDAO, China — The photographs of Chinese warships speeding between Japanese islands in the Pacific for drills circulated quickly last week, raising what Japan’s defense minister called “serious concern.”MORE
June 17, 2011

Follow the money

Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, October 13, 1998

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Alex Joffe on Yale:

It is well known, for instance, that Yale has long been seeking support from wealthy Arab donors. In particular, it has wooed Saudi Prince Alwaleed ibn Talal, who in 2005 gave $20 million apiece to Harvard and Georgetown for Islamic-studies programs. (Yale, which competed vigorously for the prize, made it to the final round.) True to their donors’ intent, such academic programs are faithful disseminators of the “narrative” of Muslim victimization. In the same connection, it should likewise be borne in mind that in 2009, alerted to the imminent publication by its own press of a scholarly book on the Danish-cartoons controversy, the Yale administration summarily intervened to yank images of the cartoons from the final product—on the grounds that their appearance might elicit “violence.”

And, from March, on the bigger picture:

The transparency of programs like the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding—established in 2005 with the Saudi royal’s $20-million gift to Georgetown University, and staffed with reliable apologists—is glaring. Alwaleed himself could not have been clearer, stating that because of the events of 9/11, “the image of Islam [had] been tarnished in the West”; hence, his donation to Georgetown, along with one to Harvard in the same amount, was intended “to teach about the Islamic world to the United States.”

Alwaleed’s terms had been on even brighter display years earlier. Offering $10 million to New York City in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, he noted pointedly that the “United States of America should re-examine its policies in the Middle East” since “our Palestinian brethren continue to be slaughtered at the hands of Israelis while the world turns the other cheek.” Then-mayor Rudy Giuliani promptly and publicly spurned the money, calling Alwaleed’s statement not only wrong but “part of the problem.” What Giuliani explicitly rejected, universities have implicitly embraced.

The effect has been felt most saliently in academic studies of the Middle East. An early and rather clumsy attempt at influence-buying, as Martin Kramer notes in his Ivory Towers on Sand, was a 1977 grant to Georgetown from Libya; the motives behind it were so blatant that three years later the money was returned with interest. But this, like earlier sallies by the Shah of Iran (to endow chairs of Iranian studies) and the Turkish government (for an Institute of Turkish Studies in Washington), was merely the prelude to a flood of oil money.

Between 1995 and 2008, according to the researcher Stanley Kurtz, Arab Gulf states gave $234 million in contracts and about $88 million in gifts to American universities. Although amounting to only a drop in the bucket of total university endowments, such targeted gifts, like the $20 million contributed by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to the University of Arkansas, and various multi-million-dollar donations to Berkeley, Cornell, Princeton, Texas A&M, Columbia, Rutgers, and other schools, have meant a very great deal locally.

The aims of these investments are very specific: the creation of a particular sort of cultural “understanding.” And in this respect they have paid off, especially in the area of faculty hiring and concentration. Early on, there was much touting of secularization in the Middle East, a commodity that failed to materialize. As for radical Islam, a subject in much greater need of “understanding,” it was downplayed both before and even after 9/11. Instead, the supposedly “separate political wings” of Hamas and Hizballah, the way that elections in the Arab world allegedly tend to “moderate” radical groups, and the so-called “incrementalism” toward democracy of tyrants like Qaddafi were held up as hopeful signs. To this day, even as the study of Israel itself has been marginalized, the Palestinian cause has been presented as the pivotal issue of all time and the real key to everything one would ever need to know about the Middle East.

Although report after report has documented the strong anti-Israel bias coming out of these programs, the U.S. government has also abetted them financially through Title VI of the Higher Education Act of 1998, which provides funds to centers of Middle East studies undertaking language instruction and, ominously, outreach to local primary and secondary schools. But the American government is one thing, foreign donors something else, and these particular foreign donors something else again. Here the fundamental issue remains: why was the money taken in the first place?

Sometimes, to be sure, the deal stinks a little too much. In a surprising display of backbone, UCLA returned a $1-million gift from Turkey after it was revealed that scholars would be prevented from using Ottoman archives that might confirm evidence of genocide against Armenians in World War I. But this was a rare exception. In 2003, the Harvard Divinity School would have been happy to take $2.5 million from Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi, despite his support for Holocaust denial, were it not for the activism of one persistent student. The next year, back at the trough, Harvard accepted two $1-million gifts from unnamed donors in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and another $14.5 million two years later. In 2008, thanks to a gift of $50 million, New York University set up a campus for international students in the UAE (sorry, no Israelis allowed), as have other American universities.

And, from across the Atlantic, Student Rights report:

Our latest report uncovers the links with the Saudi Arabian Regime which has resulted in SOAS directly receiving £755,000 from the Saudi Arabian Royal family. Further scandals are also uncovered by this report.

The briefing unveils the fact that SOAS provided Mutassim Gaddafi, the National Security Advisor to the Murderous Gaddafi regime, with private English tutoring and that an agreement between SOAS and Al-Fateh University in Tripoli was signed just months before the uprisings began in Libya.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation is that Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a cleric who is banned from the UK and US for endorsing suicide bombings and the killing of pregnant women, is on the editorial board of the SOAS journal of Quranic Studies. Al-Qaradawi has in addition been condemned by over 2,500 Muslim scholars worldwide.

An article on our report has been written by The Jewish Chronicle and the brief is also the subject of a new Early Day Motion proposed by Robert Halfon MP.

And from back in April:

It has emerged that the august institution of St. Andrews, the UK university renowned for its ties to the British Royal family, has been taking money from Bashar Assad’s despotic Syrian regime.

As democratic protesters are slaughtered in their hundreds in Syria,The Guardian has uncovered that over £100,000 has moved from the Syrian government to St. Andrews.

“Opened in November 2006 as part of the university’s school of international relations, funding for the centre was only secured with the assistance of Khiyami, who, according to the centre’s head, Prof Raymond Hinnebusch, persuaded Syrian-born British businessman Ayman Asfari to pay for it.”

Raheem Kassam, Director of counter-extremism pressure group Student Rights has said, “It is deplorable that in the wake of the LSE-Libya scandal, universities have not come forward and ceased to work with murderous regimes across the Arab world.  If these institutions persist in taking money from dictatorships who insist on oppressing their people, then the UK government should immediately cease funding to them.”

The Guardian has quoted Robert Halfon MP, advisory board member for Student Rights:“We need to learn from what’s happened with Libyan funding of our universities, that universities should not accept money from governments like Syria, or those with connections to the Syrian government. The danger is that you get compromised by the amount of money, and it inevitably influences your outlook on the Middle East. I’ve argued that universities that take money from dictatorships should receive a reduction in their public subsidy.”

April 8, 2011

War in the Middle East: follow the money

From Der Spiegel:

Weapons Sales to the Arab World under Scrutiny

By Benjamin Bidder and Clemens Höges

Bernhard Zand/ DER SPIEGEL

In recent years, Western countries have made a bundle selling arms to Arab despots. But, as with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, some of yesterday’s buyers have become today’s enemies. Now major weapons exporters must seek a new balance between arms profits and human rights.

The revolutions in the Arab world caught British Prime Minister David Cameron off guard. For some time, diplomats had been planning a trip for Cameron that would take him to several countries in the Middle East. In fact, it was meant to be more of a trade mission, with Cameron’s delegation consisting largely of high-level executives from Great Britain’s weapons industry.

But then came the revolutions in Arab countries and the fighting in Libya. Ignoring them was impossible, and Cameron added a six hour stopover in Cairo to his already tight schedule. It was almost exactly a month ago that he visited Tahrir Square in the center of the city, the focal point of mass demonstration which ultimately forced Egypt’s aging leader, Hosni Mubarak, out of office.

“Meeting the young people and the representatives of the groups in Tahrir Square was genuinely inspiring,” Cameron said. “These are people who have risked a huge amount for what they believe in.”

From Egypt, Cameron flew on to Kuwait, where he got down to the real purpose of his trip: selling weapons to Arab autocrats. When members of parliament back home attacked him for this lack of tact, the prime minister insisted there was nothing wrong with such business transactions and that, in any case, his government made weapons buyers pledge to not use them to violate human rights under any circumstances. Great Britain, he said, has “nothing to be ashamed of.”

Britain, though, has exported over €100 million ($142 million) in weapons to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in the last two years alone. Included in those shipments are sniper rifles that may currently be in use against the Libyan opposition. Furthermore, Gadhafi’s terror police are British-trained. Indeed, British officials were forced to hastily revoke 50 arms export licenses to Libya and Bahrain.

Friends of Convenience

Cameron now finds himself in a tight spot shared by many Western politicians. Policies that seemed fine prior to the revolutions are now questionable. Regional paradigms are shifting and, at a time when populations are throwing off the yoke of oppression, Realpolitik is a poor guide to Western policy.

Until recently, the West had been arming despots in the Arab world with a series of ever-larger, billion-dollar deals that served to stabilize their regimes. Some are close allies when it comes to Iran and al-Qaida, making questions about human rights and democracy secondary.

In addition, many of the region’s potentates were convenient partners for the West: They had their people more or less under control, and some provided oil. Even Gadhafi proved useful by keeping poor African refugees out of Europe. Likewise, many of the rulers bought whatever the West’s defense industry put up for sale.

The Ascent of German Arms

This was certainly also the case with Germany’s defense industry. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), though it still lags far behind the United States and Russia, Germany has become the world’s third-largest weapons exporter in recent years.

Indeed, SIPRI statistics show that, over the last decade, the German defense industry’s share of the global arms market has doubled to 11 percent. In 2008, the total value of these arms sales amounted to just under €6 billion. Germany primarily supplies high-tech items, such as submarines and military electronics. German defense corporations — such as EADS, Rheinmetall and Heckler & Koch — together employ roughly 80,000 people.

German military wares are so good that even Russia has become a reliable customer. Although Russia’s own products are perfectly suited for guerilla warfare in Africa, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov admits that they no longer meet “modern requirements.”

For this reason, Russia plans to order military hardware worth nearly €500 billion by 2020, including many items from the West. The Russian army would like to replace its T-90 tanks for the German Leopard 2, and Rheinmetall is to provide armored plating for other Russian vehicles. Even Russia’s mobile military camps will soon be “made in Germany.” Kärcher Futuretech, a company based in Winnenden, near Stuttgart, manufactures the finest in field kitchens and water purification systems.[…]

From Le Monde Diplo:

by Samir Aita
[…] Monarchies in the Arab world have been absolute, and life-long presidents (with hereditary office) ruled the republics, because they created a supreme power above both state and post-independence institutions (1). They set up and controlled their own security services to ensure that their powers would endure; the services escaped parliamentary or government supervision, and their members could reprimand a minister and impose decisions. It costs money to run such services, and the clientelist networks of one-party states. The funds derive not from public budgets, as do those for the police and the army, but from different sources of revenue. (The New York Times recently reported that Muammar Gaddafi had demanded in 2009 that oil firms operating in Libya should contribute to the $1.5bn he had promised to pay in compensation for the Lockerbie terrorist murders – or lose their licences. Many paid. And Gaddafi’s immediate cash holdings of billions of dollars are thought to be funding his mercenaries and supporters to defend him.)

read more »

April 8, 2011

The oil lobby and dirty energy

Modernity writes:

There is often talk about “the Lobby”, and those words have a certain resonance and conjure up an unpleasant mental picture for most of us, however, I am going to argue that the real lobby in the world is hardly ever discussed, in any meaningful way.

That is the extent of its power.

Clearly, we hear bits about it, in a broad sense, yet it is rarely analysed for its component parts, wider geopolitical influence and negative effect on human rights.

It spans the globe.

Nevertheless, much of the discussion relating to it comes across in a rather crude materialistic fashion, lacking subtlety and depth

There is seldom any piercing critique of the countries involved, the powerful players, the governments, the vested interests, the paid lobbyists, the various parliamentarians on the payroll, etc and above all, the oil companies.

Yes, that is the Lobby I am talking about, the oil lobby.

Dan Froomkin at HuffPost has a good article, which touches upon some of the issues.

The Froomkin piece, “How The Oil Lobby Greases Washington’s Wheels“, is quite hard-hitting.

Clout in Washington isn’t about winning legislative battles — it’s about making sure that they never happen at all. The oil and gas industry has that kind of clout.

Despite astronomical profits during what have been lean years for most everyone else, the oil and gas industry continues to benefit from massive, multi-billion dollar taxpayer subsidies. Opinion polling shows the American public overwhelmingly wants those subsidies eliminated. Meanwhile, both parties are hunting feverishly for ways to reduce the deficit.

But when President Obama called on Congress to eliminate about $4 billion a year in tax breaks for Big Oil earlier this year, the response on the Hill was little more than a knowing chuckle. Even Obama’s closest congressional allies don’t think the president’s proposal has a shot.

At an angle to this, read Ellen Cantarow on dirty energy. TomDispatch sets the context:

If BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster was the elephant in the room, Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station was a blue whale.  “Now, in light of the ongoing events in Japan, I want to just take a minute to talk about nuclear power,” the president began, before extolling its supposed virtues as a clean energy source.  “So those of us who are concerned about climate change, we’ve got to recognize that nuclear power, if it’s safe, can make a significant contribution to the climate change question.”  By the end, he left no room for debate about the future of atomic power in the United States, telling the audience: “[W]e can’t simply take it off the table.”

Ongoing events.  It was a curious and entirely disingenuous way to describe the ever-worsening disaster at Fukushima when, just the day before, Japan’s prime minister, Naoto Kan, told his Parliament, “The earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear accident may be Japan’s largest-ever crisis.”  He said this, it’s worth reminding ourselves, about a country that, within living memory, saw more than 60 of its cities reduced to ashes through systematic firebombing and two metropolises obliterated by atomic bombs, losing hundreds of thousands of its citizens in one of the most devastating wars of a conflict-filled century.  In fact, the very morning that Obama gave his speech, the New York Times quoted Tetsuo Iguchi, a professor in the department of quantum engineering at Nagoya University, about a subject that only a few outside observers had dared to previously broach: the prospect of a swath of Japan becoming an irradiated dead zone.  “The worst-case scenario is that a meltdown makes the plant’s site a permanent grave,” Iguchi said.

Between his soft-peddling of ecological and humanitarian catastrophes resulting from dirty energy and his advocacy of a variety of dubious strategies for freeing America from the chains of foreign petroleum, the president admitted that the U.S. would continue to import oil for the foreseeable future. “It will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time until we’ve gotten alternative energy strategies fully in force,” Obama told the crowd.  “And when it comes to the oil we import from other nations, obviously we’ve got to look at neighbors like Canada and Mexico that are stable and steady and reliable sources.”

Unlike offshore drilling and nuclear power, reliance on neighboring countries for a particularly dirty form of energy didn’t prompt any excuses or handwringing from the president, as if petroleum from Mexico (a place his secretary of state likened to insurgent-embattled Colombia of the 1990s) and Canada posed no problems.  If you believe that, then I’ve got an electric power company in Japan to sell you.

And here’s an extract from Ellen:

read more »

April 6, 2011

Old news: BP and the axis of evil

Only just saw this, by Adam Curtis, from last year:

BP is accused of destroying the wildlife and coastline of America, but if you look back into history you find that BP did something even worse to America.

They gave the world Ayatollah Khomeini.

Of course there are many factors that led to the Iranian revolution, but back in 1951 the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company – which would later become BP – and its principal owner the British government, conspired to destroy democracy and install a western-controlled regime in Iran. The resulting anger and the repression that followed was one of the principal causes of the Iranian revolution in 1978/79 – out of which came the Islamist regime of Ayatollah Khomeini.

And what’s more, BP and the British government were so arrogant and bumblingly inept at handling the crisis that they had to persuade the Americans help them. They did this by pretending there was a communist threat to Iran. The American government, led by President Eisenhower, believed them and the CIA were instructed to engineer a coup which removed the Iranian prime minister Mohamed Mossadegh.

And the resulting anger at the coup among Iranians went very deep. It is the root of why America is now known as “The Great Satan” in Iran, and why the American embassy in 1979 was hated as “the nest of spies” by the revolutionaries.

kbp.jpg

Read the rest.

Related Articles
March 17, 2011

The UK: oilier than ever

Daniel Elton writes:

The Cameron administration has a firm aspiration to be the ‘greenest government ever‘, but the reality is turning out to be quite different. Alongside having a transport secretary who advocates gas-guzzling changes to public policy, and continuing to encourage road-building in a time of austerity, it turns out that the person almost certain to head up the coalition’s environment and energy policy is a former BP policy advisor.

Deep-sea-oil-drilling

Ben Moxham is currently working at the Riverstone private equity group which focuses on energy investment. In line with civil service practice, he has been put forward on a short list of one by civil servants for approval by the prime minister and Nick Clegg.

Moxham was previously director of policy of BP’s alternative energy department and part of the team pledged to move BP  ‘Beyond Petroleum’. However, the initiative concerned environmental campaigners as ineffective. [READ THE REST]

March 16, 2011

Arming the dictators: How the west profiteers from anti-democracy actions in the Middle East

In its broadest sense, the arms industry encom...

Image via Wikipedia

Saudi Arabia uses UK-made armoured vehicles in Bahrain crackdown on democracy protesters

Saudi Arabia has sent scores of UK-made armoured personnel carriers into Bahrain to aid the government’s bloody suppression of pro-democracy protesters. The armoured vehicles, marketed as Tacticas, were manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems Division in Newcastle Upon Tyne with final assembly taking place in Belgium (Jane’s Armour and Artillery 2009-10 pp. 664)

The Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) ordered 261 of the vehicles in 2006 for delivery in 2008. Saudi forces entered Bahrain in a convoy of the Tacticas on 13 March, at the invitation of the Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa family. It seems that the Saudi forces are being held in reserve, leaving the front-line repression of protesters by Bahrain’s military and security forces.

Saudi Arabia has been a major market for market for UK arms since the 1960s. The majority of contracts have been through the controversial Al-Yamamah arms deals of the mid-1980s, and their successor, the Salam Project, which involved arms giant BAE Systems (formmerly British Aerospace). However, the Tactica purchase was not part of either package but a separate contract with SANG.

Bahrain is also a market for UK arms. In the first nine months of 2010, the UK approved export licenses for over £5 million worth of arms including tear gas and crowd control ammunition, equipment for the use of aircraft cannons, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles and sub-machine guns. In response to an earlier crackdown on 18 February 2011 the UK government revoked 24 individual licences and 20 open licences to Bahrain.[…]

Arms made in Newcastle used by Saudis to suppress protests

Saudi Arabia has sent scores of UK-made armoured personnel carriers into Bahrain to aid the government’s bloody suppression of pro-democracy protesters. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has criticised the UK government for allowing the sale of the armoured vehicles, made by BAE Systems.

The vehicles, marketed as Tacticas, were manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems Division in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with final assembly taking place in Belgium.[…]

Britain reviewing crowd control weapons exports, says Hague

Britain is reviewing its arms exports to the Middle East and north Africa, which have included crowd control weapons and small arms to Bahrain and Libya, the foreign secretary, William Hague, said on Wednesday.

Exports recently cleared for export to Bahrain include more than 100 assault rifles, over 50 sub-machine guns, stun grenades, tear gas ammunition, riot control agents, and components for “military devices for initiating explosives”, according to the latest official figures.

The Guardian reported last month that the British government had approved the sale to Libya of a wide range of equipment for use against civilians, including teargas and “crowd control ammunition”, as well as sniper rifles.

Export licences increased significantly and were valued at more than £200m over the first nine months of last year, according to figures compiled by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for the Foreign Office.[…]

Bahrain Crisis: Is U.S. Military Assistance Hindering Democracy?

The increasingly violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in Bahrain has rekindled debate over whether U.S. military aid is being used to crush popular uprisings.

The Obama administration launched an investigation last week into the possibility that U.S. arms and training money were used by Bahraini security forces in violent crackdowns on protesters. The outcome of that probe is not yet known, but the Bahrain situation is stirring up uncomfortable questions about the effectiveness of military aid and to what extent U.S. assistance undermines emerging democracies, said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Christopher L. Naler, a federal executive fellow at The Brookings Institution, in Washington, D.C….

His own research revealed some troubling numbers. Between 2006 and 2011, annual U.S. assistance to Bahrain ranged from $5 million to $18 million. And even though the U.S. government can choose to allocate the aid to non-military programs, in this case it earmarked every penny to the security sector, Naler said. “This is one that caught me by surprise.” […]

Britain under fire for selling arms to Bahrain

The British Government has been heavily criticised for allowing arms sales to a number of Arab governments that have cracked down on pro-democracy protests in recent weeks, killing scores of people and injuring thousands more in demonstrations across the region….

David Cameron and other leading Conservative cabinet ministers have long standing ties to Bahrain. A year before last May’s General Election, the then Leader of the Opposition received a “gift of a fountain pen and half suite cufflinks and studs, provided by His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa,” the King of Bahrain. The present is listed in the Register of MPs’ interests. Defence Secretary Liam Fox registered travel expenses worth £1,400 paid for by the Bahrain government….

Denis MacShane said that the idea of civilians dying because of British manufactured arms made him feel “physically sick”. “With the protests spreading across the Middle East, I am very concerned that once Britain is going to be caught on the wrong side of history again, defending the indefensible,” he said.

The Foreign Office policy to date chimes with a determination at the top of government to put commercial interests at the heart of British foreign policy. Within weeks of entering Downing Street last year, David Cameron embarked on one of Britain’s biggest ever trade delegations, to India, during which the two governments announced a deal between BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Indian aerospace group Hindustan Aeronautics to supply 57 Hawk trainer jets….

Britain’s ingrained position in the Middle Eastern arms market is further underlined by the expected presence of at least 92 British companies at a pan-Middle East arms fair, scheduled to be opened in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. The chairman of the IDEX event, Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, and the chairman Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, says on its website: “Over the recent years significant investment in resources and facilities at our host venue… have enabled IDEX to sustain its reputation as the largest defence exhibition in the Middle East and North Africa region.”[…]

German arms used to crush protests in Bahrain: MP

German weapons are being used to suppress peaceful protests in Bahrain, said a senior legislator of the opposition party The Left (Die Linke) here Wednesday.

Addressing the German parliament during a live debate on the upheavals in the Arab world, Wolfgang Gehrcke pointed out that part of the weapons deployed by Bahrain’s security forces against anti-government protesters were supplied by Germany.

The foreign policy spokesman of The Left party called for an ‘immediate end’ to the delivery of German arms to the Bahraini regime. Germany’s overall arms export to the Near-and Middle East hovers around 1.1 billion euros and includes other recipient countries like Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. In 2009, the United Arab Emirates was among the three leading recipients of German weapons, according to the latest report released by the German government.

The tiny Persian Gulf sheikdom was ranked second after the US in terms of total German arms exports last year which stood at 5.04 billion euros. Germany sold around 540.7 million euros worth of military hardware to the UAE, among them radar and steering systems, torpedoes, simulators, missiles, hand grenades, armored vehicles, tank spare parts, automatic cannons. amphibious vehicles and trucks.

Meanwhile, another Persian Gulf country, Saudi Arabia, was listed sixth in the overall export of German weaponry with 167.9 million euros.[…]

March 16, 2011

Libya and the politics of oil

Gene, in an aptly titled post ,”The anti-imperialism of boneheads“, writes:

At his 21stcenturymanifesto blog, the Communist Party of Britain’s Nick Wright has posted this devastating graphic argument against a no-fly zone in Libya.

A classic example of boneheaded anti-imperialism in purest form: Companies like BP lust after Libyan oil; therefore they must be pushing to overthrow the government which is supposedly blocking their access to it.

In fact, reports BloggingStocks:

The political turmoil in Libya must be chilling for BP as it could bring into limbo the future of the $900 million exploration and production agreement BP had signed with the Libya’s National Oil Company in 2007. The deal was BP’s single biggest exploration commitment at that time and gave BP the rights to explore 21,000 square miles onshore and offshore of Libya.

That is to say: the last damn thing BP wanted was a rebellion against a regime with which it signed a $900 million deal. And now that the rebellion is underway, the last damn thing BP wants is for it to succeed.

It would be bad for business.