Category Archives: Middle East

Is the US about to attack Iran?

Rolling Stone 

A number of on-line media have started getting over-excited about an imminent US attack on Iran. The story is not new to the Web. It has in fact been circulating for a number of months on both sides of the political spectrum, from the far right to the moderate left. It was deemed credible enough to be scrutinised by the Guardian back in September, which claimed amongst other things the following:

Neo-conservatives, particularly at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, are urging Mr Bush to open a new front against Iran. So too is the vice-president, Dick Cheney. The state department and the Pentagon are opposed, as are Democratic congressmen and the overwhelming majority of Republicans. The sources said Mr Bush had not yet made a decision. The Bush administration insists the military build-up is not offensive but aimed at containing Iran and forcing it to make diplomatic concessions.

But today has given us the actual date of the attack, basing its statement on reports in the Russian press:

The US military attack on Iran is now on track for 4 AM on April 6, writes the well-known Russian journalist Andrei Uglanov in the Moscow weekly “Argumenty Nedeli”. Uglanov cites Russian military experts close to the Russian General Staff for his account.

What made me initially doubt this might be the case was that the blogsphere seemed to have gone rather quiet on this matter, despite earlier moments of excitement when similar reports had appeared earlier in 2006. People like Jon Stolts on‘s blog has not been posting for almost 3 weeks, for example, perhaps too busy appearing on TV shows.

Then I came across this on The Daily Scare, reporting an article from This Can’t be Happening, and I became a little more concerned:

[…] there are new reports circulating now that an attack by US air and naval forces could come in early April, and this time, the oil traders are taking them seriously. On Tuesday, oil futures shot up $5/barrel to hit $68/barrel—quite a jump, and the highest price for oil since last September.


Reports say that traders were responding to rumors—unsubstantiated—that Iran had fired on an American ship in the Gulf, and no doubt also to the ongoing tensions over Iran’s capture and detention of 15 British sailors, whom it claims had illegally entered Iranian territorial waters.


Phil Flynn, a trader with Alaron Trading in Chicago, was quoted as saying that the oil market has been “on pins and needles” because of the tensions in the Persian Gulf between the US and Iran.

This is when I start wondering whether the markets know something we don’t know…

Update 30/03/07: Apparently, the German BUND has dropped considerably over the last few hours, so this means the markets still doesn’t believe a word of these rumours… Meanwhile, Debka cites US financial sources in Bahrain reporting on American investors in Bahrain advised to pack up business operations and leave

Face 2 Face Project

Face3FaceProject Main 

An extraordinary project, bringing together ordinary Israeli and Palestinian citizens in a journey rediscovery of their common humanity. Check it out. [via Patrick]

When we met in 2005, we decided to go together in the Middle-East to figure out why Palestinians and Israelis couldn’t find a way to get along together.

We then traveled across the Israeli and Palestinian cities without speaking much. Just looking to this world with amazement.

This holly place for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
This tiny area where you can see mountains, sea, deserts and lakes, love and hate, hope and despair embedded together.

After a week, we had a conclusion with the same words: these people look the same; they speak almost the same language, like twin brothers raised in different families.

A religious covered woman has her twin sister on the other side. A farmer, a taxi driver, a teacher, has his twin brother in front of him. And he his endlessly fighting with him.

It’s obvious, but they don’t see that.

We must put them face to face. They will realize.

We want that, at last, everyone laughs and thinks when he sees the portrait of the other and his own portrait.

The Face2Face project is to make portraits of Palestinians and Israelis doing the same job and to post them face to face, in huge formats, in unavoidable places, on the Israeli and the Palestinian sides.

In a very sensitive context, we need to be clear.
We are in favor of a solution for which two countries, Israel and Palestine would live peacefully within safe and internationally recognized borders.

All the bilateral peace projects (Clinton/Taba, Ayalon/Nussibeh, Geneva Accords) are converging in the same direction. We can be optimistic.

We hope that this project will contribute to a better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.

Today, “Face to face” is necessary.
Within a few years, we will come back for “Hand in hand”.

Face2FaceProject NGO workers


Lorsque nous nous sommes rencontrés en 2005, nous avons décidé d’aller ensemble au Proche-Orient pour essayer de comprendre pourquoi les Palestiniens et les Israéliens ne parvenaient pas à vivre ensemble.

Nous avons alors traversé les villes Palestiniennes et Israélienne sans beaucoup parler. En regardant simplement ce monde avec étonnement.

Ce lieu saint pour le Judaïsme, le Christianisme et l’Islam.
Cette région minuscule où l’on peut voir des montagnes, la mer, des déserts et des lacs, l’amour et la haine, l’espoir et le désespoir mélés ensemble.

Après une semaine, nous sommes arrivés à la même conclusion : ces gens se ressemblent, ils parlent presque la même langue, comme des frères jumeaux élevés dans des familles différentes.

Une religieuse couverte a sa soeur jumelle de l’autre coté. Un fermier, un chauffeur de taxi, un professeur, a son frère jumeau en face de lui. Et il combat sans fin contre lui.

C’est évident, mais ils ne le voient pas.

Nous devons les mettre face à face. Ils réaliseront.

Le projet Face2Face consiste à faire des portraits de Palestiniens et d’Israéliens faisant le même métier et de les coller face à face, dans des formats géants, à des endroits inévitables, du coté Israélien et Palestinien.

Nous voulons qu’enfin, chacun rie et réfléchisse en voyant le portrait de l’autre et son propre portrait.

Dans un contexte sensible, il faut être clair.
Nous sommes en faveur d’une solution dans laquelle deux Etats, Israël et la Palestine, vivraient en paix à l’intérieur de frontières sures et internationalement reconnues.

Tous les projets de paix discutés (Clinton/Taba, Ayalon/Nussibeh, Accords de Genève) convergent dans la même direction. Nous pouvons donc être optimistes.

Nous souhaitons que ce projet puisse contribuer à une meilleure compréhension entre Israéliens et Palestiniens.

Aujourd’hui, « Face2Face » est nécessaire.
Dans quelques années, nous
reviendront pour « Hand in Hand ».

Face2FaceProject Market

Face2Face Project Road

Halliburton Moving C.E.O. From Houston to Dubai

Form the NY Times [via Patrick]

Halliburton, the big energy services company, said on Sunday that it would open a corporate headquarters in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai and move its chairman and chief executive, David J. Lesar, there.

The company will maintain its existing corporate office here as well as its legal incorporation in the United States, meaning that it will still be subject to domestic laws and regulations.

Although the announcement of the new Dubai arrangement took many by surprise, Halliburton said that the move was part of a strategy announced in mid-2006 to concentrate its efforts in the Middle East and surrounding areas, where state-owned oil companies represent a growing source of business.

Halliburton, which was led by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995 to 2000, is currently in the process of spinning off KBR, its military contracting unit, to focus on its business of drilling wells and maintaining fields for oil companies. The company did not say what implications the Dubai development might have for its military contracts. Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney, referred questions about the company’s plans to Halliburton.

The Dubai announcement, which Halliburton made at a regional energy conference in Bahrain, comes at a time when the company is being investigated by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations of improper dealings in Iraq, Kuwait and Nigeria. Halliburton has also agreed to pay billions of dollars in settlements in asbestos litigation.

Read the full article here.

GlobaLab weekly round-up: 24/02/07-02/03/07

A whimsical image of the blogosphere from the edge of the core - via Datamining

This (late) update is a hasty one because over the last 2 weeks the real world is distracting me from the virtual… but this is what I collected from my feeds…


Middle East & North Africa

Globalisation debate

  • A couple of exchanges on Demos’ Greenhouse about a recent event they hosted with John Ralston Saul, a renowned philosopher, novelist, political penseur, who has provocatively pronounced the “end of globalism“. A quick scan, and it seems this provocative statement could simply be re-phrased as the rejection of neo-liberalism. Had he framed the debate in these terms, it would have sounded less plausible, slightly rehashed and probably less marketable than the grand statement above. But then, we all need to make a living.

ICT and creativity

International Development

  • Suzanne Smith on PSD blog puts an end to years of heated debates about the role of private finance investment in reducing poverty: ‘If you have ever doubted the importance of the finance sector in reducing poverty, a new paper will set your mind at rest. More finance sector development leads to more investment in tractors and fertilizers, leading to more food‘. If only we had more World Bank experts telling us children what’s right and what’s wrong, we’d all sleep better at night…
  • Meantime, always on PSD, new research reveals that privatization in 2005 has hit new records, with ‘transactions concentrated in China, Czech Republic, Hungary, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine and the top ten deals are largely in banking and telecommunications‘.



Corporat Social (ir-)Responsibility

Blog Babble and random weird stuff

Iraq Labor vs. ExxonMobil, BP and Shell (i.e. nihil novo sub sole)

Street Art in San Francisco, oil = blood

Source: OpEdNews [via Grains of Sand]

February 21, 2007

By Kathlyn Stone

A David and Goliath Story: Iraq Labor vs. ExxonMobil, BP and Shell

According to British media, the US and UK governments are on track to achieve a March victory in Iraq. This victory will not be publicized nor will it mean an end to the occupation. Written by Bush and Blair’s big oil business partners who serve as the leaders’ advisors on foreign policy, the new Iraq hydrocarbon law opens the door for international investors, led by BP, Exxon and Shell, to siphon off 75 percent of Iraq oil wealth for 30 years.

This economic model is called a “Production Sharing Agreement.” But is a 75/25 split, with bloated oil companies taking 75 percent of the country’s wealth and leaving just 25 percent for the devastated Iraqis, a sharing agreement or an armed robbery? The law is currently under consideration in the Iraq Parliament, with deputy prime minister Salih, chair of the oil committee, carrying the legislation. Iraq’s unions, if not its occupied government, are standing firm against the oil law. With the oil sector representing 95 percent of the country’s revenues, and with only 17 of Iraq’s 80 known oil fields under production, much is at stake. The General Union of Oil Employees in Basra has taken a strong stand against the proposed law. GUOE’s courageous members booted KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary, out of refinery workplaces shortly after the invasion despite Cheney’s award of a ‘no bid’ contract. Members also went on a two-day strike last August, winning their demands for higher pay. From what one can glean from foreign press and unfiltered words from Iraq, so does every other union in Iraq.

In his February 6 speech at a conference held at Basra University to debate the oil law, GUOE president Hassan Jumaa Awad al Assadi minced no words. “Among the objectives America wishes to achieve from the military occupation of Iraq, all the causes of which we do not want to return to, but simply to emphasize one central objective of the American political leaders who crossed oceans and wasted billions of dollars, that is Iraqi oil. Indeed we in the Federation of Oil Unions consider this the most important reason for this foul war.”

Assadi, who was jailed three times for opposing the former Baath regime, called on Iraq’s Parliament to “bear the Iraqis in mind, to protect the national wealth, and to look at the neighboring countries. Have they introduced such laws even when their relations with foreign companies are closer than in Iraq? If those calling for production-sharing agreements insist on acting against the will of Iraqis, we say to them that history will not forgive those who play recklessly with the wealth and destiny of a people and that the curse of heaven and the fury of Iraqis will not leave them.”

The oil workers must be braced for a response. After GUOE’s first anti-privatization conference last summer, the U.S. and Iraqi governments responded by freezing the union’s bank accounts.

Union members have been arrested and fired from their jobs. At least two union leaders, Hadi Saleh, of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unionists (IFTU) and Ali Hassan Abd of the GUOW, were assassinated since the invasion.

Saddam Hussein’s 1987 Law 150, banning unions and union organizing remains in effect. In 2004 U.S. administrator Paul Bremer declared them illegal.

The Iraq Freedom Congress, a non-violent anti-occupation movement of union workers, intellectuals, community leaders, womens’ and childrens’ rights activists, political parties, and individual citizens, has been working for two years to unify Iraqi unions and all citizens and create a democratic, secular, progressive government. It opposes the armed resistance and believes the coalition forces have orchestrated the sectarian violence. Some IFC leaders are also union heads who were jailed for union organizing during the Saddam Hussein regime. In September 2006, its Baghdad office was raided by U.S. troops.

Iraq unions and Iraq Freedom Congress are finding support for their resistance from other unionists, humanists, the international solidarity movement and every day citizens who know the occupation of Iraq is all about controlling the world’s oil. In Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, the UK, the United States and other countries, citizens are joining in solidarity with Iraqi workers. They are sending money to strengthen Iraqi unions, support conferences, support travel for union and IFC leaders, aid in rebuilding the civil society, and new communication channels like SANA TV that will bring unfiltered messages of unity to the Iraqi people.

The UK group War On Want is in a battle against poverty and works for international workers’ rights. It supports the General Union of Oil Employees based in Basra in its campaign against the privatization of Iraqi oil.

“Oil is the most important natural resource in Iraq, bringing in huge amounts of revenue,” according to War On Want. “Yet while the Iraqi people struggle to rebuild their nation amidst constant violence, Iraqi oil is being sold off behind closed doors to foreign multinationals.

“The overwhelming majority of Iraqis are opposed to the privatisation of their oil, yet the government has denied that privatisation is actually taking place. What’s more, the contracts being signed exempt companies from new laws which could affect their profits, so they can continue to subject their workers to inhumane working conditions which place their health and safety at risk…. War on Want supports the oil workers union in their fight against privatisation and their campaign for international solidarity for the plight of the oil workers.”

The venerable War Resistors League expressed its solidarity with Iraq’s unions in 2004 with this statement: “Union organizing efforts have begun in the Southern Oil Company and among employees in various Iraqi electrical facilities. Workers have won wage increases and better working conditions. We respectfully urge the expansion of nonviolence in the crucial context of labor organizing.”

US Labor Against the War, a network of more than 140 unions, labor councils, state federations, and other labor organizations with millions of members, hosted six leaders of the Iraqi trade union movement on a 20-city U.S. solidarity tour in summer 2005. USLAW has established an Iraqi Labor Solidarity Fund to help the workers “defend themselves against the invasion of U.S. and other multinational corporations – like Bechtel, Halliburton, and Stevedoring Services of America – the same anti-union companies we face at home.” USLAW states: “The U.S. and the government it created can not claim to be for democracy while attempting to strangle Iraq’s labor movement.” USLAW has asked labor and social justice activists across the United States to protest the interference with unions that are fighting to defend the interests of Iraq’s society.

Remember the tale of David and Goliath? People from many nations are telling their leaders they will not stand by and let an entire country be sacrificed to corruption and aggression. We can hope and work for an outcome in Iraq that favors union workers who struggle valiantly, like David, and hope that they are successful in felling the Giant oil industry, huge in stature like Goliath, but blinded by greed. We know how the story ends.

Recommended reading:
A sampling of Iraq labor groups and those working in solidarity:

“Crude Designs: The Rip-Off of Iraq’s Oil Wealth,”
by Greg Muttitt, Platform with Global Policy Forum, Institute for Policy Studies (New Internationalism Project)
New Economics Foundation, Oil Change International, and War on Want

Unraveling the Carbon Web (A Platform project)

Oil for Freedom,
photojournalist David Bacon

“Meeting Face-to-Face: The Iraq-U.S. Labor Solidarity Tour,” Stony Brook University documentary

News articles:

GlobaLab weekly round-up: 17/02/07-23/02/07

Febraury - Les très riches heures du Duc de Berry



  • The opening of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai will mark the unveiling of the newly constructed eco-city of Dongtan. The first of four eco-cities to be built in China by Arup, Dongtan will be ecologically friendly, with zero greenhouse-emission transit and self-sufficient water and energy systems. Read more on carljames’ blog.
  • Tree-Nation is a Barcelona-based project that wants to plant 8 million trees in Niger, in the shape of a giant heart. Their hope is that this re-forestation campaign will help the environment and the people of the country, as media continue reporting on the unstoppable march of the deserts, from Rwanda to Cameroon. What is particularly interesting for me is their incredibly innovative use of the Internet (especially the on-line map) to achieve this purpose [via Sociolingo].
  • The EU Observer lashes out at those corporations – such as Exxon Mobil – that fund NGOs in Brussels to spread doubt about the human causes of climate change. Wanabehuman has a good overview of how the global media have dealt with the issue, and in particular with the IPCC report published last week.

Innovation & Information Technologies

Middle East

  • The IAEA publishes its report (PDF) on the Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolution 1737 (2006) in the Islamic Republic of Iran, basically stating it is towing the line, but not 100%, prompting declarations by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran will defend its nuclear programme to the bitter end.


International Development


Baghdad keeps on burning…

Baghdad Burning

Bughdad Burning is back after a long absence, blogging about the rape case that is splitting the Iraqi government.

A message to those who are forgetting what Iraq has become:

And yet, as the situation continues to deteriorate both for Iraqis inside and outside of Iraq, and for Americans inside Iraq, Americans in America are still debating on the state of the war and occupation- are they winning or losing? Is it better or worse. Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile.

Dr Mohamed ElBaradei on Global Security – Challenges and Opportunities

The Bomb 

Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), gave a lecture this afternoon at the LSE, in which – talking aloofly and rather uninspiringly about the challenges and opportuniteis of global security – he initially came across as the usual hardened UN diplomat and civil servant. But it was during the Q&A session that ElBaradei the man captured with refreshing frankness and a tinge of humour the LSE audience’s hearts.

I am reproducing some of the remarks I found most interesting below for your consumption.

  • On multilateralism: it is often said that multilateralism is dying. This is imprecise. Security multilateralism has suffered significant drawbacks over the last 10 years, but functional multilateralism – the one that created the WTO for example – appears well alive and kicking.
  • On North Korea: the ‘deal‘ wasn’t just due to Chinese sticks, but to a committment to renewed engagement by the US, together with hefty donations of fuel aid and food provisions, provided the vital carrots.  
  • On the rationale for still having an IAEA: the big boys (read: US, China) might be striking deals with the naughty kids (read: N Korea, Iran) on the block, so the IAEA might appear to be doing the dishes (read: be kept out of the negotiating table), but in fact it’s doing more than that, it’s cooking the dessert (read: monitoring compliance), and it’s the only one who has the qualifications for cooking it (read: it’s still recognised as the only impartial actor in the international nuclear security scene) and everyone loves a dessert (read: er…).
  • On nuclear energy and climate change: switching to nuclear energy that is clean, well controlled and safe might be a way to address the global warming challenge while meeting the energy needs of the world. Nuclear energy does not automatically lead to nuclear proliferation as some have argued. These are quite distinct for several reasons, including the fact that the technology to achieve nuclear weapons (such as fuel enrichment processes) is quite different to the one needed to produce atomic energy.
  • On Iran’s Bushehr deal with Russia: this is not illegal and for the reasons explained above it does not mean Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons.
  • On nuclear weapons: these should become a global taboo like slavery and genocide. Full stop.

And finally, the 3 key priorities for an enhanced IAEA:

  1. Stronger legal powers to enforce its mandate;
  2. Stronger committment by the political elites to move towards global nuclear disarmament;
  3. More cash.

We heart ElBaradei.

GlobaLab weekly round-up: 10/02/07-16/02/07

February Woods (courtesy IL University)

More on the Africa and China debate

  • William Gumede on the Washington Post strikes another point against China in Africa, outlining why its antics are condemning the continent to a further period of underdevelopment…
  • … but receives a good response from Andrew Mwenda, who argues that the debate is misplaced, and calls for more trade to help the continent rise out of poverty. He makes an interesting point on the alleged ‘lack of conditionality’ debate: ‘arguments that Chinese aid is good or bad because it does not have conditionality is misplaced. Conditionality has consistently failed to work. A lot of studies on Africa have demonstrated this. What China is doing in Africa is not changing direction, but offering more of the same’. [both via Africa Unchained]
  • And Paolo de Renzio from ODI jumps into the debate, asking a simple, yet powerful question: ‘Amidst all the noise, however, the most deafening roar is that of China’s silence. Its silence on the vision it has for a different world order. Should the international community engage with China in dialogue at this higher level, rather than focus narrowly on good governance in Africa?’

South Asia



Innovation and Technology

The US in the Middle East

Economy and International Development

  • Much to the horror of debt-relief campaigners, the Guardian and the BBC report on a British High Court ruling, which allows British Virgin Islands-based Donegal International to sue Zambia for a $42m repayment for a debt that the African nation owed and which the company purchased at less than $4m (£2m). Oxfam urges campaigners to send an angry message to the company’s CEO.


  • Edward Lucas lashes out not once, but twice from the Economist’s pages at Poland’s ‘pig-headed’ government led by the Kaczynski twins, depicted as ‘vengeful, paranoid, addicted to crises, divided and mostly incompetent‘. An unusually politically-savvy position for an Economist correspondent to take, given Poland has taken in a record $14.7 billion in foreign investment last year, and the economy is growing at almost 6% a year.
  • Eurozone reviews Germany’s 2.9% GDP growth in 2006, which has allowed the German economy to outgrow the US one in per-capita terms.
  • Clive Matthews/Nosemonkey reports on racial representation in the European Parliament (from a Guardian article stating that of 785 MEPs – representing 492 million people from 27 countries – just 9 are not white) and does an excellent round-up of the major European blogs, from debates on the future of the constitution to the French presidential elections.
  • Mariann Fischer-Boel starts warming up to her new blog-toy, reporting from her recent US trip where she discussed farm subsidies and the future of the WTO Doha negotiations: ‘My discussions in Washington showed that the Farm Bill will be written very much with domestic concerns in mind. DOHA does not seem to be high on the agenda in farm bill discussions. This is a very different approach to ours, where we reform first and then look to lock these reforms into a WTO agreement‘. Is my euro-speak rusty, or is the pot calling the kettle black?
  • And finally, for those of you who are wondering what happened to the oneseat campaign (which collected over 1m signatures to try and stop 200 million euros being spent every year to move the European Parliament between Brussels/Belgium and Strasbourg/France), read Nanne’s entry on trading seats and proposals to try and woo France’s bruised ego on the subject!

GlobaLab weekly round-up: 13-19/01/07

Blogs, the new newspapers? 

Proudly presenting a new (but not innovative, alas) weekly format to try and share with you some of the interesting things I am spotting on the net and across the blogsphere, but which I cannot comment on widely for lack of time and/or want. I am not sure this will be the way forward – too many people are seemingly using this diffused system, leading to a sort of informational climax, without the corresponding pleasure – but let’s see how it goes…




  • Fedia Kriukov takes issue with the Economist calling Stalin ‘a mass murderer’… bless!

Middle East

Information Technology & Innovation