28east

Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘U.S.

Fixing the rial

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Since March, when I last posted (“Iranian oil empire?”) about the currency war in Iran, things have visibly and significantly cooled. But just because there are no pipeline explosions, naval exercises, or military threats doesn’t mean the situation hasn’t progressed. Let’s start where we left off, with an Iran inconvenienced by sanctions, but essentially unfettered in its oil production and export capabilities—especially in transactions with the BRICS.

Chris Cook, former director of the International Petroleum Exchange, suggests that the sanctions on Iran may not just be ineffective, but counterproductive; and that Iran is actually better off (as March 20th might have suggested) without a market for dollars. Anyone who can foster a good relationship with an off-market Iran will now have incentive to buy discounted crude (relative to global prices) for refining and resale at a profit.

Even more significant is the possible end result of a developing energy voucher system in Iran designed to decrease domestic demand and wasteful energy use.

Taken to its logical conclusion, where this policy leads is for Iran’s Central Bank simply to fix a new rial – with several zeroes removed – to a suitable unit of energy, and for energy prices to be set against this unit. This could be implemented in a similar way that a deficit-based abstract currency unit was fixed to participating European currencies at the launch of the euro.

The transition process would need to be properly and transparently managed by a monetary authority – probably the Central Bank – in close liaison with the oil and gas complex. The outcome of adopting an “energy standard” and an energy dividend in this way would be to rapidly reduce profligate use of energy at the same time as addressing the problem of inflation.

Instead of debasing Iran’s rial entirely, the U.S. may only be encouraging Iran to rethink its currency in new, energy-based terms. If this becomes reality, the Iranian rial would effectively become a hedge against volatile global crude oil prices and dollar-denominated market manipulation. Put simply: If each rial in your reserves guarantees a fixed amount of Iranian oil, free from market volatility, you’re going to buy more rials.

I don’t think that’s what Obama intended.

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Written by M. James

April 27, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Fighting Iran with Kurds

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What follows is a must-read analysis of Turkey’s new Kurdish problem by M. K. Bhadrakumar. With a few crucial twists and turns, it all boils down to the U.S.-Iran conflict—with Turkey as a beneficiary. Read the whole article (here):

U.S., Turkey, and Iraqi Kurds join hands
M. K. Bhadrakumar; Asia Times Online; Apr. 23, 2012

The tensions between Turkey and Iraq have been steadily building up, and of late they have sharply escalated. The “crisis in Iraq” referred to in the Turkish statement is Maliki’s ongoing political battle with Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, which has taken a sectarian Shi’ite-Sunni dimension. In sum, Turkey has waded into Iraq’s sectarian politics and is positioning itself on the side of the Sunnis and the Kurds.

Conceivably, Washington and Ankara are acting in tandem and there is close coordination of the US and Turkish policies toward Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. For both, the ultimate objective is to weaken Iran’s regional influence. The Obama administration hopes that Turkey’s efforts against the PKK are successful and is providing intelligence support for the military operations.

Written by M. James

April 23, 2012 at 7:10 pm

“Threatened” Turkey justifies intervention

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The Arab world provided the moral support, the United States supplied the NATO green light, and now the “threatened” border and a legal justification make straight the path to intervention. All of this has been done to avoid the dreaded title, “neo-Ottoman.”

So if you want to make Erdoğan and Davutoğlu “particularly sensitive” about something (does Davutoğlu get angry?), then call them neo-Ottomans.

Here:

Gunfire from the Syrian side of the border has hit a refugee camp inside Turkey, wounding at least three people.

Two Syrian refugees and one Turkish translator were wounded in Monday’s incident when the Kilis border refugee camp in Gaziantep province came under fire from the Syrian side of the border, a Turkish foreign ministry official said.

And here:

Using the provisions of the Adana agreement, signed between Turkey and Syria on Oct. 20, 1998, Turkey has the ability to classify the violent crackdown on the opposition by the Bashar al-Assad government and the ensuing refugee crisis as a threat to the “security and stability of Turkey.”

Use of the khazouk will, presumably, be limited.

Written by M. James

April 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Kissinger on the Arab Spring

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Realpolitik.

A new doctrine of intervention?
Henry A. Kissinger; The Washington Post; Mar. 30, 2012

Not the least significant aspect of the Arab Spring is the redefinition of heretofore prevalent principles of foreign policy. As the United States is withdrawing from military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan undertaken on the basis (however disputed) of American national security, it is reengaging in several other states in the region (albeit uncertainly) in the name of humanitarian intervention. Will democratic reconstruction replace national interest as the lodestar of Middle East policy? Is democratic reconstruction what the Arab Spring in fact represents?

The evolving consensus is that the United States is morally obliged to align with revolutionary movements in the Middle East as a kind of compensation for Cold War policies — invariably described as “misguided” — in which it cooperated with non-democratic governments in the region for security objectives. Then, it is alleged, supporting fragile governments in the name of international stability generated long-term instability. Even granting that some of those policies were continued beyond their utility, the Cold War structure lasted 30 years and induced decisive strategic transformations, such as Egypt’s abandonment of its alliance with the Soviet Union and the signing of the Camp David accords. The pattern now emerging, if it fails to establish an appropriate relationship to its proclaimed goals, risks being inherently unstable from inception, which could submerge the values it proclaimed.

The Arab Spring is widely presented as a regional, youth-led revolution on behalf of liberal democratic principles. Yet Libya is not ruled by such forces; it hardly continues as a state. Neither is Egypt, whose electoral majority (possibly permanent) is overwhelmingly Islamist. Nor do democrats seem to predominate in the Syrian opposition. The Arab League consensus on Syria is not shaped by countries previously distinguished by the practice or advocacy of democracy. Rather, it largely reflects the millennium-old conflict between Shiite and Sunni and an attempt to reclaim Sunni dominance from a Shiite minority. It is also precisely why so many minority groups, such as Druzes, Kurds and Christians, are uneasy about regime change in Syria. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

April 6, 2012 at 12:20 am

Salaries for Syrian rebels

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In case you were fooled by the visible support for and “acceptance” of Kofi Annan’s six-point plan, or Turkey’s call for a Syrian truce—nothing has changed:

Nations pledge millions for Syrian opposition
Bradley Klapper; AP; Apr. 1, 2012

ISTANBUL (AP) — A coalition of more than 70 partners, including the United States, pledged Sunday to send millions of dollars and communications equipment to Syria’s opposition groups, signaling deeper involvement in the conflict amid a growing belief that diplomacy and sanctions alone cannot end the Damascus regime’s repression. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by M. James

April 1, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Syria: On your mark, get set…

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I outlined in my last post the reasons to believe that Bashar al-Assad is on the way out. First, the Saudis are now overtly arming the opposition; and second, the U.S. and Turkey are overtly providing “nonlethal” assistance, a vacuous claim in the face of the undoubtedly coordinated effort with Saudi Arabia.

The real significance is in the first event, however, which establishes an ethnic Arab mandate for NATO to latch on to. This anti-Assad mandate has only been strengthened today by Syria’s “rejection” of “any Arab League initiative” to end the crisis. Bashar al-Assad, already ostracized by the Arab community, will now be perceived as completely beyond reason. He is, effectively, no longer an Arab.

The second event, “nonlethal” assistance, is just a first step toward a now-plausible Plan B—NATO troops on the ground (they’re getting ready). But Plan A is still in effect, and the training, assisting, and arming of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) will continue in Turkey. But even more important will be the training of the Syrian National Council (SNC), which has been officially chosen as the sole representative of the Syrian opposition. Though some assure us that the Syrians are well-equipped for a government restructuring, actions have thus far spoken louder than words. The SNC will have all it can do to convince the world it isn’t just another Libyan NTC.

At the moment, though, there is one missing piece. The Turks, the dogs that barked but wouldn’t bite, suddenly seem ready to bite—after a timely meeting from President Obama. But it would be an oversight to say that the Saudis’ lethal assistance in Syria was the Turks’ breaking point. Although the Turks are not ethnic Arabs, and (given their Ottoman past, especially) need the Arab mandate just as much as the rest of NATO, they have also been undoubtedly fearing one particular result of regime collapse in Syria.

Kurds.

And here’s more reason for the Turks to be afraid:

Most of the opposition factions present signed the statement [to recognize the SNC as the formal representative of the Syrian people] except for a few representatives of Kurdish factions upset over the absence of a reference to a settlement for Kurdish Syrians.

So why, suddenly, is Turkey sending its generals to the Syrian border, hosting the SNC conference, and smiling in the face of Syrian anarchy—and unhappy Kurds?

I imagine it has something to do with what Obama said during that “one-hour and 45 minute meeting” with Erdoğan.

Bashar al-Assad knew that his regime’s collapse would change things in the Middle East. We are about to find out what he meant.

Written by M. James

March 28, 2012 at 11:24 pm

The beginning of the end in Syria

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Eight days ago, an Arab diplomat—on condition of anonymity—claimed that Saudi Arabia is now sending “military equipment” to the Free Syrian Army via Jordan. I posited that this, an overt statement of support for the Syrian opposition by ethnic Arabs, would catalyze NATO into action. With what could pass as a mandate from an Arab country, NATO is finally justified to intervene on humanitarian grounds.

Today, the U.S. and Turkey made an official announcement, agreeing to provide “nonlethal” assistance to the Syrian opposition. Officially, that means anything short of guns. Practically, that means U.S. intelligence, advice, and telecommunications.

Fully weaponized and coached, only incompetence stands between a united Syrian opposition and regime change in Damascus. But the incompetence and disunity of the Syrian opposition have long been causes for delay—and the U.S. and Turkey haven’t taken any real policy risks by (overt) support in Syria until this announcement.

Which leads us to believe that the only new development, overt Saudi intervention, is the ticket to guaranteed regime change—and is the reason that NATO is finally willing to stick its neck out. With an Arab mandate, an incompetent opposition will be no obstacle. If the Free Syrian Army can’t pull itself together within the next few months; no-fly zones, Turkish buffer zones, and humanitarian war will all—finally—be justified.

Though the form the opposition will take from now on is still impossible to discern, we can expect that this is the beginning of the end of Bashar al-Assad’s Syria.

Written by M. James

March 25, 2012 at 11:11 pm