Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Let's go to the video tape

Hugh Hewitt was on CNN last night, being interviewed by Anderson Cooper along with Time's Michael Ware and CNN's Nic Robertson. Hugh recaps the interview and I have to agree that Anderson is does indeed run a "fair show." I did get the sense that he was going out of his way to let Hugh talk when Ware was spinning out of control. However, was Anderson in charge of the Iraq footage being shown next to Hugh and the others during the segment?

The discussion was about the portrayal of Iraq by the news media, which is something I've seen covered on a few channels in the last day or so. But while Hugh was arguing that the MSM is out to support a bad version of events there, all the Iraq footage was of burned out cars, and troops investigating other sorts of Baghdad violence. So, while they were talking about the media's eagerness to show more bad then good, they were showing all bad.

Maybe the segment producer knew that Hugh was gonna mention Eason Jordan and he couldn't restrain himself from presenting such lopsided video feed.

(Cross-posted at StonesCryOut)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Some signals aren't as "strong and clear" as they should be

I've recently added Regime Change Iran to the blog roll at the left because it's a good round up of news relating to a country with "suspect" nuclear aspirations. It's mostly links and quotes of news articles, but the subtleties of the Iran situation are often left out of major news headlines - so having an extensive list of articles to peruse is quite useful.

The real question is...What kind of useful things are the articles describing? The answer: apparently not much. Friday's Daily Briefing (posted on Thursday) said John Bolton was "very encouraged" about the Security Council discussions on Iran. Well, sure. But what does that mean?

Again...not much. On Friday, RCI linked a Fox News Article quoting Bolton as saying "The mood of the discussion is certainly in the direction of a strong and clear signal to Iran on the part of the Security Council."

I agree that the signal is strong, but I think the content of the signal is more important than the strength. What is the Security Council strongly signaling?

Here's what I know they are strongly signaling:
* We are talking about Iran
* We are talking about Iran and its nuclear weapons program
* We are determined to keep talking about it
* We are so determined that we are not complaining about the fact that Russia and China are trying to drag this out as long as possible

Fox assumes early in the article that the council is determined that this strong and clear signal will be concerning Iran's "suspect nuclear program."

No kidding. But what is contained in the signal? That's the whole point. The UN is already communicating a bunch of things just by sitting around and having discussions. When it finally releases a formal statement, I don't know how strong and clear it will be or what it will ask but I'm not all that hopeful. Mostly because of this last paragraph:
The diplomats will try to come up with a "clear strategy" on what happens next, Russia's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Konstantin Dolgov told The Associated Press. "We need to have an agreed way ahead within the IAEA, in the Security Council."
You see? They are planning a strategy about what to do next. In other words, they aren't deciding what to do next, they are planning about making a plan about what to do next.

Springing into action indeed.

This reminds me of something I read just this morning from James Lileks' 2005 roundup in The American Enterprise:
Iran announces it will no longer allow inspectors into the Khomeini Memorial Peaceful Nuclear Research Facility for Hastening the Destruction of Israel. European diplomats threaten to take the matter to the U.N. Subcommittee of the Task Force for Occasionally Threatening to Issue a Strongly-Worded Report. But the group's next meeting isn't until 2007, and it must first take up the horror of Israel's security fence. Iran promises to allow inspections in exchange for 500 million Euros, payable in coins of enriched uranium. The E.U. agrees, with the condition that the interest rate on the loan will be adjusted upward if Iran makes nuclear bombs. If they actually detonate a bomb there would be an immediate balloon payment, make no mistake about it.

"Occasionally Threatening to Issue a Strongly-Worded Report"?
Yeah. That sounds about right.

(Cross-posted at StonesCryOut)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

International Energy Games

This is interesting:

Ministries Agree on Bill To Limit Foreign Investment in Russian Economy
When I saw that headline I thought it odd because everything else I've read has indicated that Russia wants to use the possibilities of foreign investment as leverage in global policy making. That is, if European countries like France and Germany become dependent on Russian oil and gas resources, then those countries would be more likely to side with Russia against the US or whomever else Russia contended with diplomatically. But Russia cannot afford to keep drilling for oil and gas because of its weak infrastructure. So it needs investment. Countries like China would be happy to invest, because China wants the same thing from Russia - dependency and an ally on the world stage. So, I thought, maybe Russia is getting wise.

But then of course, I read the article:

Vladimir Taraskin, director of the Industry and Energy Ministry's legal relations department, said that the law may come into force in July 2007. He said that the draft law deals with 39 strategic types of activity, which are divided into five sectors: the space industry, the nuclear power sector, arms and military technology production, special technology and aviation.

I've thought about it a bit, and I don't think gas and oil fit into any of these categories. So basically, they are limiting investment, but only in smaller areas that will not affect its ability to make alliances or dependencies.

And as for resources for those industries? Mother Russia isn't giving up control of those either:

"There are other criteria covering monopoly activity and the development of resource fields of federal significance," Taraskin said.

And just to make us think that maybe they are going to bend on the energy issue, the article quote Taraskin as saying:
There is a proposal to include the electricity sector in the draft law also - concerning wholesale generating companies, but this is only being discussed

I don't know what his definition of "discussed" is, but I'd imagine that any discussion isn't all that serious. The ministries can have all the discussions they want, but there happens to be a G8 energy conference this week, where they are seriously discussing foreign investment in Russia.

On Monday Russia was laying out its demands concerning foreign investment in the energy sector.
"We have set ourselves the task of providing the world with energy resources on a reliable, long-term basis," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at the conference.
Notice, they have done it themselves. They want to be the ones to provide energy to the world - and I think they want the rest of us to pay them to do it.

It's no secret that Europe does not want to fall into this dependency trap, but they have few other options. And that is no secret to Russia:

"Gazprom was, is and will be a reliable guarantor of gas supplies to Europe," [Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander]Medvedev said...

"[EU] dependency is only going to increase," Medvedev said. "There are only four sources of gas in the world: Qatar, Iran, Algeria and Russia."
Wow. Quite a group. Russia's economy isn't great, but it's gas resources are, and they probably have one of the most stable energy infrastructures. And once again, they know it too -
When asked whether Russia was the only one of the four that could be considered stable, Medvedev said, "You can answer that question yourself."
Of course we can, but Russia wants to answer it for us. Russia has the resources, but not the money. So the other question is, who has the money and the need for resources?

The biggest answer to that is China. China wants legitimacy as a diplomatic and capitalistic power. They have their hands in investments all over the world, places like Africa, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia & Iran.

If China can pump enough money into countries that are desperate for investment, then China can count on them to take their side in global diplomatic arguments. Perhaps it seems that countries like Sudan and Zambia are not important political allies, but what about Venezuela and Iran? These countries need neither more money, nor more strength in their anti-US positions. Russia may seem weak, but a government run by a group of former KGB spies is not the government I want controlling Europe behind the scenes.

There isn't a petition or a protest that we can start to stop these machinations. All we can do is be aware and hope that policy makers know that we may be able to trust our allies only as long as they can afford it.

(Cross-posted at Stones Cry Out)