I’m still puzzling over Qatar. Could it be that Saudi Arabia’s hostility toward Qatar is a proxy war for its more entrenched adversary, Iran? If the tensions involving Qatar escalate into a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, oil prices will rise and expensive energy sources elsewhere will suddenly become competitive. I imagine the gas frackers and denizens of the tar sands are keeping a weather eye on the Middle East just now. Will Saudi Arabia make a play to annex Qatar, possibly as a blackmail payout to avert a larger conflict with Iran? Not likely, according to Thierry Meyssan. He claims that “one rule has been imposed on the world since British decolonisation – no-one has the right to touch boundaries laid by London.” This seems to have remained true, even in spite of the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Israel, Pakistan, India, and now, it seems, Saudi Arabia.
Since the PATRIOT act was passed, it has never occurred to me that the NSA isn’t collecting and analyzing every electron of data that I produce or consume. But it does amuse me to learn, from time to time, how they do this. Remember, they’re not actually supposed to spy on Americans. (And, of course, they do.) The latest revealed trick up the NSA’s sleeve is to divert internet traffic out of the United States, collect it overseas, and then divert it back. That way, it isn’t collected on US soil. Cool, eh? (Here’s a technical article for the geeks and a leaked presentation for the hackers.) And this is just because they feel a bit sheepish about spying on their countrymen. You can kind of imagine how they feel about spying on everybody else.
I don’t know if Qatar’s troubles began with The Donald, but he would certainly like to take credit for them. In the World of Trump, “The nation of Qatar unfortunately has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level….We have to stop the funding of terrorism. I decided … the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding.” Pretty straightforward. Makes a sort of sense, I suppose–at least until you listen to the folks at the US state department. They seem to be wondering why the gulf states are picking on Qatar. Some speculate that the rift was caused primarily by Qatar’s recent $1 billion ransom payment to terrorists in Iraq. Recently, the Saudis have given the Qataris a list of demands and the Emiratis say they want the US and Europe to step into the fray. The Qataris remain unimpressed. Their friends in Iran seem to be helping them get enough food until the siege is over. Among other demands, the Saudis want the Qataris to shut down Al Jazeera (Al Jazeera has no intent to be shut down). I’m not sure how shutting down Al Jazeera is going to reduce terrorism. The more I try to figure this out, the sillier the whole charade seems to be. It’s not that it’s great having Trump in America, but it does tend to isolate the confusion to one part of the world.
I’m not sure how I missed this when it came out, but here is the president of Egypt, the king of Saudi Arabia, and the president of the United States touching a glowing orb in a darkened room (NYT, Business Insider, Business Insider again). As I pan across this image from left to right, what I see is the president of Egypt looking as if he has done this before, the king of Saudi Arabia looking terrified, Melania Trump looking pretty much the way she always does, and the president of the United States looking like this is how he thinks a president of the United States is supposed to look in a situation like this. Perhaps the Theseus Protocol is coming sooner than expected.
The only thing that’s clear about Syria is that everyone seems to think that they’re fighting the Islamic State. (I haven’t read any reports directly coming from the Islamic State (I’m not sure which media outlet they use) but I suppose they may be the exception.) Iran just fired a few missiles into Syria at the Islamic State faction that they think is fighting against the Syrian government (WP, Reuters, LAT, NYT). The US just shot down a Syrian jet that the Syrian government said was bombing Islamic State targets (The US says the jet was bombing anti-Syrian forces in Syria that were not–it repeats, were not–Islamic State fighters) (Fox, Slate, Bloomerg, Haaretz). The US says it’s fighting the Islamic State and so does Russia. Yet, somehow, this feels like the place where World War 3 could start because it’s a bizarre proxy war where the backers are, officially, all fighting the same enemy. A little ‘friendly fire’ could cause a big row. Meanwhile, the common enemy’s strength only grows over time as it takes pot shots at the ‘civilized’ world and feeds on the gathering discontent and hatred. It’s hard to imagine a happy ending to all of this.
One of the few things that Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress seem to be able to agree on is Iran. Everyone loves to hate Iran. When the United States president reacted to the recent terrorist event in Iran by mocking Iran, no one (other than Iran) seemed to mind. After all, isn’t Iran a major sponsor of terrorism? Isn’t this just a case of the chickens coming home to roost (albeit, rather violently, for chickens)? Isn’t Iran a “rogue state“?
Interesting place, Iran. Fans of CIA history (a MAJOR subculture among readers of this blog) remember that a few decades ago another rogue state found a way to overthrow the democratically elected leader of this country. This led to some ill will, and, eventually, a taking of some hostages (more roosting chickens), and a cooling of international relations. Well, much of this history between the US and Iran has been officially buried–until today! Thanks to the sharp eyes of Steven Aftergood, we now know that the Office of the Historian (I bet there’s more than one) has provided a full official history of the US involvement in the overthrow of Mohammad Mosadeq.
So, now let’s turn on the irony machine. The US accuses Iran of sponsoring terrorism and Russia of interfering in the US election. Well, the US cut its teeth on interfering in the democracy of other nations by starting with Iran. It worked so well, the CIA went on to try this trick all over the world. As for sponsoring terrorism, remember how Saudi Arabia just accused Qatar (and the US accuses Iran) of doing this? Well, Iran just accused Saudi Arabia of doing the same. Can you imagine anything so ironic? US ally Saudi Arabia–supporting terrorism? Next thing you know, we’ll hear that Saudi Arabia is being sued for its involvement in the terrorist strike on the US on 9/11/01 and that its ambassador, ‘Bandar Bush‘ was implicated in the planning of it in highly classified files that were recently released. Yes, that would be ironic.
It would be almost as ironic as a US navy destroyer being run over by a Philippine-flagged cargo ship in the sea of Japan (CNN, BBC, WP, FOX) when the US’s only real leverage over North Korea is its ability to appear competent. With all respect for the sailors lost at sea and the folks who love them, the irony sometimes stings.
With today’s announcement that the U.S. is pulling out of the the Paris Climate Agreement, it seems that the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency has won his greatest victory to date in advancing his mandate to destroy the environment. Scott Pruitt warmly commended his commander in chief (whom he let open for him in his speech today) with these kind words:
America finally has a leader who answers only to the people — not to the special interests who have had their way for way too long. In everything you do, Mr. President, you’re fighting for the forgotten men and women across this country. You’re a champion for the hardworking citizens all across this land who just want a government that listens to them and represents their interest.
Which makes one wonder, which special interests and which citizens he’s referring to. Recent polls show that the U.S. public overwhelmingly wants America to remain in the Paris agreement. And, I’m pretty sure that the coal and oil lobby interests are as special as any other. In fact, I think they’re probably having a very special celebration now that oil is flowing through the Keystone pipeline and protesters against it are being tracked down as ‘jihadists.’
America is now one of only three countries in the world that have rejected the Paris Accord. The other two are Syria and Nicaragua. One, they bombed a couple of decades ago and one they bombed a couple of months ago. I hope these countries have short memories, because the U.S. is running out of friends.