PDP and BJP form Government in Jammu and Kashmir – an Unlikely Marriage; neither Jannet nor Swarg
Some external dimensions
"The Hurriyet, Pakistan and militants allowed conducive atmosphere for Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir," Chief Minister Mufti Mohamad Sayyed said at a press conference following his oath taking ceremony.
His statement, however, earned a quick backlash from his predecessor Omar Abdullah on Twitter.
"Pakistan, Hurriyet & Militants ALLOWED peaceful conduct of elections" says Mufti Syed. I guess we should be grateful for their generosity (sic)," Abdullah posted.
It was the scheming and lust for power of Congress party and Abdullah dynasty which did not allow democracy to take roots in J&K and turned the youth against India , apart from the military and other vested interests in Pakistan and machinations by slimy UK and anti-India USA to keep New Delhi on the back foot.
But India's naval watching ignorant media persons and TV channel jingoists keep on making powerful declarations to earn praise from those who are even more ignorant .I had written a comprehensive piece on the problem in which apart from the people of the state , the subcontinent , outside powers specially anti-India UK , US and Saudi Arabia and other states are involved . .
KURDISH LESSONS FOR KASHMIRIS
The author spent all his diplomatic career of 35 years countering Pak diplomats, mostly Punjabis and its backers London and Washington and Saudi Arabia, who keep the Kashmir pot boiling by providing arms, massive finances moral and political support.
To discuss Kashmir in isolation is sheer stupidity.
PDP-BJP Government formation
Departing from their respective positions on critical issues, the PDP-BJP Government today promised to maintain the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and examine the need for denitrifying 'disturbed areas' in the State to enable the Centre take a final view on the Armed Forces Special Power's Act.
The common minimum programme of the two parties, 'Agenda of the Alliance' released by the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayyed after the swearing-in ceremony, also pledged to pursue Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to enhance people-to- people contact on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) to encourage travel and trade with Pak-occupied Kashmir.
"While recognizing the different positions and appreciating the perceptions BJP and PDP have on the constitutional status of J&K, considering the political and legislative realities, the present position will be maintained on all the constitutional provisions pertaining to J&K, including the special status in the Constitution of India," the 16-page document said.
Prior to the elections in Jammu and Kashmir it was not expected that the two parties, People's Democratic party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata party BJP would come together to form a coalition, which would even include Sajjad Lone in the cabinet on behalf of BJP. Leaders like Lone must be encouraged, who have seen how Pakistan and other power have made Kashmiris fight for their cause .The Indian Union cannot exist as a secular state without Kashmir but their concerns and problems must be attended to. It has even been claimed that even police and army keep Kashmir disturbed so that they can maintain their hegemony and reap monetary and professional gains.
The runaway success of Aam Aadmi party (Aap) in Delhi is believed to have shaken the BJP to its core .It is not as sure as it used to be that it would be able to win future state elections and do whatever it wanted to do.
I will still give credence to PM Modi's 15th August speech that he wants to be the Prime Minister of the whole of India. He realizes that he got only 31% of votes cast in the Parliament elections. BJP's extreme right-wing members, some even in the Council of ministers have certainly convinced Modi and even Amit Shah that the party was losing its charisma and public support despite the utter fall of brazenly corrupt and scam ridden rule of the Congress party for the last 10 years, especially during the second half. If anything Modi went overboard when he bought a suit costing 10 lakhs rupees.
Aap party's runaway success with massive support from Muslims and poor in Delhi has brought home to Modi, BJP and even the RSS Masters in Nagpur the reality on the ground .They realise that without power they will not be able to implement whatever promises they made and want to implement. The coalition in Kashmir will assure the Muslims and discourage the Hindu hardliners. The success of Aap party in Delhi has also encouraged the mainstream, even corrupt caste and state-based parties to regroup in the hope that they can together stop BJP's onward march in the next elections in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Why did BJP compromise on its hard edged principles and statements? If power corrupts ,then the search for power also tones down the publicly taken stands and policies. As for PDP, like BJP they also wanted power and a stable and long-lasting government in Jammu and Kashmir, which has suffered rule of mostly corrupt governments almost since its inception .The worst perpetrators in this state of affairs being the Congress party which wanted to have power at all costs and the National Conference of Abdulla family. Omar is better than his father and should build the party from grass roots. Dynasties of Nehru-Gandhi, Karuna Nidhi, Yadavs and Jats , and Reddys are withering away.
The induction of Lone is a very encouraging development. It will give hope to those who are not totally sold over to disruption and to the Pakistani side and have also genuine grievances of abuse, ill treatment and torture of decades. The concerned ministers and members of the assembly can now. devote themselves for the upliftment of their constituents and the areas to make a difference in the life of average Kashmiri. A lot of development needs to be done at fast pace and the Central government should go flat out in projects and other economic benefits to the long-suffering people of the State.
In the north-east of India from the very beginning a number of young, bright and able people were provided space at the Centre and new states in the region were created . Unfortunately, the local politicians have abused it for their own gains and benefit, but then they were only following what was happening at the centre and other states in India.
Kashmir is very beautiful state and if policies make people happy and peace comes it is a paradise for tourists .which will make people richer, happy and contented. An example being Turkey, where tens of millions of tourists come every year from all over the world. A peaceful Kashmir will invite millions of Indians during the hot summer months and provide employment to millions of crafts men also , who could sell locally and also export to India. Effort should be made to include youngsters in civil services, paramilitary forces and sports and games. Cricket is already popular and it should be given all encouragement. It is good that an institute of management would be opened in Jammu and Kashmir.
Like strategically located Kurdistan, divided among three states, the people of Jammu and Kashmir were divided soon after the independence of the subcontinent from the British colonial rule. It is now clear that the British were responsible for dividing India so that a weak West reliant state of Pakistan would keep India away from Middle East and its oil resources then under British and American tutelage. No link was allowed between India and USSR.
Look at what UK and the US have done to its ally Pakistan, a diseased , violent and failed state, then on to Afghanistan, Middle East, Ukraine, you name it. Fortunately for the subcontinent and Asia, USA is a declining power and UK is a third-rate country. USA is receding but leaving behind chaos and destruction on its way out from South West Asia, West Asia, North Africa and Eastern Europe.
The repair to peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan remains the main concern and occupation of neighbouring countries like China, India, Iran, Central Asian republics and Russia. Peace in Jammu and Kashmir, followed by elimination of terrorist groups and outfits in Pakistan and Afghanistan with financial inducements from China can bring development and growth in the whole region.
Let us hope so.
Regarding the formation of PDP and BJP government, I would like you to read an excellent article by Prem Shankar Jha on the evolution and developments in the coalition government of Jammu and Kashmir.
K.Gajendra Singh March 1, 2015, Delhi
Meeting point Srinagar
Written by Prem Shankar Jha |
The agreement between the PDP and BJP to form a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir has been attacked from both sides. In Kashmir, the PDP is being accused by the radicalised intelligentsia of selling out to come back to power. And on February 16, the RSS launched a scathing attack on the BJP's negotiators for resiling from the party's long-standing commitment to delete Article 370 of the Constitution and agreeing to phase out the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
Government formation will not end the acrimony. Before the elections, both the BJP and the PDP had confidently predicted that they would win handsomely on their own. The suspicion will therefore linger that both have sacrificed their basic principles in order to save face. These suspicions do justice to neither party. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed could have easily formed a government with the Congress, the five independent MLAs and Sajjad Lone's party, all of whom had offered him their support. But he deliberately chose the harder option of trying to forge an alliance with the BJP because he understood that this was the only way of making Narendra Modi's BJP truly understand and address the specific concerns of the Valley.
Chief of these is the conviction of Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC, born out of six decades of bitter experience, that they will never know peace till the conflict with Pakistan over their status is resolved. Mufti also learned from his own bitter experience in 2008 that Kashmir would never get a stable government, and true peace, till the growing rift between Jammu and Kashmir was healed.
The origins of this rift go back to the days of the maharajas, when Kashmir's emerging intelligentsia began to chafe against Dogra, that is Jammu's, dominance of the kingdom. Kashmir gained ascendancy when the National Conference came to power in 1947, but it was Jammu's turn to nurse a grievance. In 1949, the maharaja's party, the Praja Parishad, merged with the Bharatiya Jana Sangh on a platform of complete union with India. This presented a threat to Kashmiri ethno-nationalism — "Kashmiriyat".
The 2002 elections, possibly the first entirely free elections in the Valley, ousted the National Conference but the fragility of the PDP-Congress alliance showed how deep the divide had grown. For, as the 2008 elections approached, then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was forced to attach greater importance to fending off the BJP's challenge in Jammu than preserving the autonomy of Kashmir. The conflict finally came to a head with the Amarnath land scam of 2008, when the BJP in Jammu blockaded the Kashmir Valley and prevented most of its fruit harvest from reaching the Indian market.
The 2014 election results have shown that, far from subsiding after the 2008 crisis, the divide between Jammu and Kashmir has become almost unbridgeable. After his own searing experience in 2008, Mufti was convinced that healing the rift had to be his first task. He had appreciated the promptness with which the court martial and sentencing of the five soldiers involved in the killing of three boys in the Machil fake encounter of 2010 had occurred under the Narendra Modi government. He therefore chose the harder path of forming a government with the BJP.
The BJP had reasons for pursuing an alliance with the PDP that had nothing to do with conspiracies to "saffronise" the Valley. It had gained an absolute majority in Parliament last May, with a vote share of just 31 per cent, only because of the collapse of the Congress and the resulting absence of an organised opposition. It knew that this would not last forever. Its leaders, therefore, faced the same choice that Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani had after 1991: to retain power, the BJP had to broaden its support base, but to do so, it had to dilute its ideology and move further towards pragmatism. Modi had been begun moving away from the Sangh Parivar's hardliners shortly before President Obama's visit. This shift has gained momentum after the visit: in recent weeks, it is not only Modi, but also RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who has made a point of quoting Swami Vivekananda's immortal 1894 speech on Hinduism in public addresses.
The two parties have taken so long to arrive at an agreement because the gap between them was very large. Jammu wants an end to the ambivalence of its position within the Indian Union. It wants refugees who fled from Pakistan in 1947 to be granted full citizenship and voting rights in the state, and a redrawing of constituencies to accommodate them. It also wants a series of state laws on citizenship and inheritance to be brought in line with Indian law.
But it can only have these if it respects, and concedes, the Valley's need to preserve its distinct identity, its Kashmiriyat. Thus, the demands of the PDP add up to just this: let sleeping dogs like Article 370 lie, and do not disturb the process of normalisation with Pakistan that began in 2005.
With sagacious leadership, a BJP-PDP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir could create a win-win situation not only for Kashmir, not only for India, but also for the whole of South Asia. It would prove to Kashmiris that they have nothing to fear from a Hindu-dominated Central government in India. By reassuring the world that India remains wedded to religious pluralism and syncretism, it would enable Modi to wield India's "soft power" more effectively in the shaping of a new international order. It would enable India to resume the normalisation process in Kashmir and substantially improve Pakistan's chances of winning the do-or-die battle against sectarian terrorism initiated by its 20-point National Action Plan and its 21st constitutional amendment. The resulting build-up of trust could also facilitate cooperation to stabilise Afghanistan after the US leaves.
Finally, working with the PDP could wear down the hard edge of prejudice against Muslims that lies at the core of the Sangh Parivar's ideology. Six years of peaceful, responsible coalition rule in J&K, India's only Muslim-majority state, will therefore go a long way towards healing the wounds that Partition inflicted on the Hindu psyche 67 years ago.
Jha is a senior journalist and author.
Monday, March 2, 2015
Strategic Moves for Control of Gas Reserves in Eastern Mediterranean
The Great Game in the Holy Land
How Gazan Natural Gas Became the Epicenter of An International Power Struggle -And poor Gazans pay the price.
In spite of claims for other forms of energy, hydrocarbons, especially gas, would still continue to rule for the time being. The various wars going on in Middle East are to control the reserves and the routes for transfer of gas to those who require it. Below is a fascinating article on how discovery of reserves of gas in Eastern Mediterranean have brought in almost all neighbouring countries into clash with each other, with support from outside powers who have become allies, protectors and possible beneficiaries.
In 2005 I had delivered a lecture at Foreign Service Institute, New Delhi to a score of diplomats from Iraq. In a chat after the lecture was over, one of them moaned that it was unfortunate that Iraq had oil, which attracted invasion and occupation of his country by US and UK. It may be recalled that even before George Bush was sworn in his presidential team had already decided to invade Iraq for its oil. This fact was admitted by US before and after the illegal invasion of 2003.
The Gazans have suffered the most from the region without being beneficiary at all. The situation is at a standstill and nobody has been able to exploit the gas reserves so far. The article below would explain many other events which are taking place along and inside the eastern Mediterranean coast.
K. Gajendra Singh, 27 February 2015, Delhi.
Tomgram: Michael Schwartz, Israel, Gaza, and Energy Wars in the Middle East
Talk of an oil glut and a potential further price drop seems to be growing. The cost of a barrel of crude now sits at just under $60, only a little more than half what it was at its most recent peak in June 2014. Meanwhile, under a barrel of woes, economies like China's have slowed and in the process demand for oil has sagged globally. And yet, despite the cancellation of some future plans for exploration and drilling for extreme (and so extremely expensive) forms of fossil fuels, startling numbers of barrels of crude are still pouring onto troubled waters. For this, a thanks should go to the prodigious efforts of "Saudi America" (all that energetic hydraulic fracking, among other things), while the actual Saudis, the original ones, are still pumping away. We could, in other words, have arrived not at "peak oil" but at "peak oil demand" for at least a significant period of time to come. At Bloomberg View, columnist A. Gary Shilling has even suggested that the price of crude could ultimately simply collapse under the weight of all that production and a global economic slowdown, settling in at $10-$20 a barrel (a level last seen in the 1990s).
And here's the saddest part of this story: no matter what happens, the great game over energy and the resource conflicts and wars that go with it show little sign of slowing down. One thing is guaranteed: no matter how low the price falls, the scramble for sources of oil and the demand for yet more of them won't stop. Even in this country, as the price of oil has dropped, the push for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring expensive-to-extract and especially carbon-dirty Canadian "tar sands" to market on the U.S. Gulf Coast has only grown more fervent, while the Obama administration has just opened the country's southern Atlantic coastal waters to future exploration and drilling. In the oil heartlands of the planet, Iraq and Kurdistan typically continue to fight over who will get the (reduced) revenues from the oil fields around the city of Kirkuk to stanch various financial crises. In the meantime, other oil disputes only heat up.
Among them is one that has gotten remarkably little attention even as it has grown more intense and swept up ever more countries. This is the quarter-century-old struggle over natural gas deposits off the coast of Gaza as well as elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean. That never-ending conflict provides a remarkable and grim lens through which to view so many recent aspects of Israeli-Palestinian relations, and long-time TomDispatch regularMichael Schwartz offers a panoramic look at it here for the first time.
By the way, following the news that 2014 set a global heat record, those of us freezing on the East Coast of the U.S. this winter might be surprised to learn that the first month of 2015 proved to be the second hottest January on record. And when you're on such a record-setting pace, why stop struggling to extract yet more fossil fuels? Tom
The Great Game in the Holy Land
How Gazan Natural Gas Became the Epicenter of An International Power Struggle
By Michael Schwartz
Guess what? Almost all the current wars, uprisings, and other conflicts in the Middle East are connected by a single thread, which is also a threat: these conflicts are part of an increasingly frenzied competition to find, extract, and market fossil fuels whose future consumption is guaranteed to lead to a set of cataclysmic environmental crises.
Amid the many fossil-fueled conflicts in the region, one of them, packed with threats, large and small, has been largely overlooked, and Israel is at its epicenter. Its origins can be traced back to the early 1990s when Israeli and Palestinian leaders began sparring over rumored natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gaza. In the ensuing decades, it has grown into a many-fronted conflict involving several armies and three navies. In the process, it has already inflicted mindboggling misery on tens of thousands of Palestinians, and it threatens to add future layers of misery to the lives of people in Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus. Eventually, it might even immiserate Israelis.
Resource wars are, of course, nothing new. Virtually the entire history of Western colonialism and post-World War II globalization has been animated by the effort to find and market the raw materials needed to build or maintain industrial capitalism. This includes Israel's expansion into, and appropriation of, Palestinian lands. But fossil fuels only moved to center stage in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship in the 1990s, and that initially circumscribed conflict only spread to include Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey, and Russia after 2010.
The Poisonous History of Gazan Natural Gas
Back in 1993, when Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed the Oslo Accords that were supposed to end the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and create a sovereign state, nobody was thinking much about Gaza's coastline. As a result, Israel agreed that the newly created PA would fully control its territorial waters, even though the Israeli navy was still patrolling the area. Rumored natural gas deposits there mattered little to anyone, because prices were then so low and supplies so plentiful. No wonder that the Palestinians took their time recruiting British Gas (BG) -- a major player in the global natural gas sweepstakes -- to find out what was actually there. Only in 2000 did the two parties even sign a modest contract to develop those by-then confirmed fields.
BG promised to finance and manage their development, bear all the costs, and operate the resulting facilities in exchange for 90% of the revenues, an exploitative but typical "profit-sharing" agreement. With an already functioning natural gas industry, Egypt agreed to be the on-shore hub and transit point for the gas. The Palestinians were to receive 10% of the revenues (estimated at about a billion dollars in total) and were guaranteed access to enough gas to meet their needs.
Had this process moved a little faster, the contract might have been implemented as written. In 2000, however, with a rapidly expanding economy, meager fossil fuels, and terrible relations with its oil-rich neighbors, Israel found itself facing a chronic energy shortage. Instead of attempting to answer its problem with an aggressive but feasible effort to develop renewable sources of energy, Prime Minister Ehud Barak initiated the era of Eastern Mediterranean fossil fuel conflicts. He brought Israel's naval control of Gazan coastal waters to bear and nixed the deal with BG. Instead, he demanded that Israel, not Egypt, receive the Gaza gas and that it also control all the revenues destined for the Palestinians -- to prevent the money from being used to "fund terror."
With this, the Oslo Accords were officially doomed. By declaring Palestinian control over gas revenues unacceptable, the Israeli government committed itself to not accepting even the most limited kind of Palestinian budgetary autonomy, let alone full sovereignty. Since no Palestinian government or organization would agree to this, a future filled with armed conflict was assured.
The Israeli veto led to the intervention of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who sought to broker an agreement that would satisfy both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. The result: a 2007 proposal that would have delivered the gas to Israel, not Egypt, at below-market prices, with the same 10% cut of the revenues eventually reaching the PA. However, those funds were first to be delivered to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York for future distribution, which was meant to guarantee that they would not be used for attacks on Israel.
This arrangement still did not satisfy the Israelis, who pointed to the recent victory of the militant Hamas party in Gaza elections as a deal-breaker. Though Hamas had agreed to let the Federal Reserve supervise all spending, the Israeli government, now led by Ehud Olmert, insisted that no "royalties be paid to the Palestinians." Instead, the Israelis would deliver the equivalent of those funds "in goods and services."
This offer the Palestinian government refused. Soon after, Olmert imposed a draconian blockade on Gaza, which Israel's defense minister termed a form of "'economic warfare' that would generate a political crisis, leading to a popular uprising against Hamas." With Egyptian cooperation, Israel then seized control of all commerce in and out of Gaza, severely limiting even food imports and eliminating its fishing industry. As Olmert advisor Dov Weisglass summed up this agenda, the Israeli government was putting the Palestinians "on a diet" (which, according to the Red Cross, soon produced "chronic malnutrition," especially among Gazan children).
When the Palestinians still refused to accept Israel's terms, the Olmert government decided to unilaterally extract the gas, something that, they believed, could only occur once Hamas had been displaced or disarmed. As former Israel Defense Forces commander and current Foreign Minister Moshe Ya'alon explained, "Hamas... has confirmed its capability to bomb Israel's strategic gas and electricity installations... It is clear that, without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement."
Following this logic, Operation Cast Lead was launched in the winter of 2008. According to Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, it was intended to subject Gaza to a "shoah" (the Hebrew word for holocaust or disaster). Yoav Galant, the commanding general of the Operation, said that it was designed to "send Gaza decades into the past." As Israeli parliamentarian Tzachi Hanegbiexplained, the specific military goal was "to topple the Hamas terror regime and take over all the areas from which rockets are fired on Israel."
Operation Cast Lead did indeed "send Gaza decades into the past." Amnesty International reported that the 22-day offensive killed 1,400 Palestinians, "including some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians, and large areas of Gaza had been razed to the ground, leaving many thousands homeless and the already dire economy in ruins." The only problem: Operation Cast Lead did not achieve its goal of "transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel."
More Sources of Gas Equal More Resource Wars
In 2009, the newly elected government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inherited the stalemate around Gaza's gas deposits and an Israeli energy crisis that only grew more severe when the Arab Spring in Egypt interrupted and then obliterated 40% of the country's gas supplies. Rising energy prices soon contributed to the largest protests involving Jewish Israelis in decades.
As it happened, however, the Netanyahu regime also inherited a potentially permanent solution to the problem. An immense field of recoverable natural gas was discovered in the Levantine Basin, a mainly offshore formation under the eastern Mediterranean. Israeli officials immediately asserted that "most" of the newly confirmed gas reserves lay "within Israeli territory." In doing so, they ignored contrary claims by Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus, and the Palestinians.
In some other world, this immense gas field might have been effectively exploited by the five claimants jointly, and a production plan might even have been put in place to ameliorate the environmental impact of releasing a future 130 trillion cubic feet of gas into the planet's atmosphere. However, as Pierre Terzian, editor of the oil industry journal Petrostrategies, observed, "All the elements of danger are there... This is a region where resorting to violent action is not something unusual."
In the three years that followed the discovery, Terzian's warning seemed ever more prescient. Lebanon became the first hot spot. In early 2011, the Israeli government announced the unilateral development of two fields, about 10%of that Levantine Basin gas, which lay in disputed offshore waters near the Israeli-Lebanese border. Lebanese Energy Minister Gebran Bassil immediately threatened a military confrontation, asserting that his country would "not allow Israel or any company working for Israeli interests to take any amount of our gas that is falling in our zone." Hezbollah, the most aggressive political faction in Lebanon, promised rocket attacks if "a single meter" of natural gas was extracted from the disputed fields.
Israel's Resource Minister accepted the challenge, asserting that "[t]hese areas are within the economic waters of Israel... We will not hesitate to use our force and strength to protect not only the rule of law but the international maritime law."
Oil industry journalist Terzian offered this analysis of the realities of the confrontation:
"In practical terms... nobody is going to invest with Lebanon in disputed waters. There are no Lebanese companies there capable of carrying out the drilling, and there is no military force that could protect them. But on the other side, things are different. You have Israeli companies that have the ability to operate in offshore areas, and they could take the risk under the protection of the Israeli military."
Sure enough, Israel continued its exploration and drilling in the two disputed fields, deploying drones to guard the facilities. Meanwhile, the Netanyahu government invested major resources in preparing for possible future military confrontations in the area. For one thing, with lavish U.S. funding, it developed the "Iron Dome" anti-missile defense system designed in part to intercept Hezbollah and Hamas rockets aimed at Israeli energy facilities. It also expanded the Israeli navy, focusing on its ability to deter or repel threats to offshore energy facilities. Finally, starting in 2011 it launched airstrikes in Syria designed, according to U.S. officials, "to prevent any transfer of advanced... antiaircraft, surface-to-surface and shore-to-ship missiles" to Hezbollah.
Nonetheless, Hezbollah continued to stockpile rockets capable of demolishing Israeli facilities. And in 2013, Lebanon made a move of its own. It began negotiating with Russia. The goal was to get that country's gas firms to develop Lebanese offshore claims, while the formidable Russian navy would lend a hand with the "long-running territorial dispute with Israel."
By the beginning of 2015, a state of mutual deterrence appeared to be setting in. Although Israel had succeeded in bringing online the smaller of the two fields it set out to develop, drilling in the larger one was indefinitely stalled"in light of the security situation." U.S. contractor Noble Energy, hired by the Israelis, was unwilling to invest the necessary $6 billion in facilities that would be vulnerable to Hezbollah attack, and potentially in the gun sights of the Russian navy. On the Lebanese side, despite an increased Russian naval presence in the region, no work had begun.
Meanwhile, in Syria, where violence was rife and the country in a state of armed collapse, another kind of stalemate went into effect. The regime of Bashar al-Assad, facing a ferocious threat from various groups of jihadists, survived in part by negotiating massive military support from Russia in exchange for a 25-year contract to develop Syria's claims to that Levantine gas field. Included in the deal was a major expansion of the Russian naval base at the port city of Tartus, ensuring a far larger Russian naval presence in the Levantine Basin.
While the presence of the Russians apparently deterred the Israelis from attempting to develop any Syrian-claimed gas deposits, there was no Russian presence in Syria proper. So Israel contracted with the U.S.-based Genie Energy Corporation to locate and develop oil fields in the Golan Heights, Syrian territory occupied by the Israelis since 1967. Facing a potential violation of international law, the Netanyahu government invoked, as the basis for its acts, an Israeli court ruling that the exploitation of natural resources in occupied territories was legal. At the same time, to prepare for the inevitable battle with whichever faction or factions emerged triumphant from the Syrian civil war, it began shoring up the Israeli military presence in the Golan Heights.
And then there was Cyprus, the only Levantine claimant not at war with Israel. Greek Cypriots had long been in chronic conflict with Turkish Cypriots, so it was hardly surprising that the Levantine natural gas discovery triggered three years of deadlocked negotiations on the island over what to do. In 2014, the Greek Cypriots signed an exploration contract with Noble Energy, Israel's chief contractor. The Turkish Cypriots trumped this move by signing a contract with Turkey to explore all Cypriot claims "as far as Egyptian waters." Emulating Israel and Russia, the Turkish government promptly moved three navy vessels into the area to physically block any intervention by other claimants.
As a result, four years of maneuvering around the newly discovered Levantine Basin deposits have produced little energy, but brought new and powerful claimants into the mix, launched a significant military build-up in the region, and heightened tensions immeasurably.
Gaza Again -- and Again
Remember the Iron Dome system, developed in part to stop Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel's northern gas fields? Over time, it was put in place near the border with Gaza to stop Hamas rockets, and was tested during Operation Returning Echo, the fourth Israeli military attempt to bring Hamas to heel and eliminate any Palestinian "capability to bomb Israel's strategic gas and electricity installations."
Launched in March 2012, it replicated on a reduced scale the devastation of Operation Cast Lead, while the Iron Dome achieved a 90% "kill rate" against Hamas rockets. Even this, however, while a useful adjunct to the vast shelter system built to protect Israeli civilians, was not enough to ensure the protection of the country's exposed oil facilities. Even one direct hit there could damage or demolish such fragile and flammable structures.
The failure of Operation Returning Echo to settle anything triggered another round of negotiations, which once again stalled over the Palestinian rejection of Israel's demand to control all fuel and revenues destined for Gaza and the West Bank. The new Palestinian Unity government then followed the lead of the Lebanese, Syrians, and Turkish Cypriots, and in late 2013 signed an "exploration concession" with Gazprom, the huge Russian natural gas company. As with Lebanon and Syria, the Russian Navy loomed as a potential deterrent to Israeli interference.
Meanwhile, in 2013, a new round of energy blackouts caused "chaos" across Israel, triggering a draconian 47% increase in electricity prices. In response, the Netanyahu government considered a proposal to begin extracting domestic shale oil, but the potential contamination of water resources caused a backlash movement that frustrated this effort. In a country filled with start-up high-tech firms, the exploitation of renewable energy sources was still not being given serious attention.
Instead, the government once again turned to Gaza.
With Gazprom's move to develop the Palestinian-claimed gas deposits on the horizon, the Israelis launched their fifth military effort to force Palestinian acquiescence, Operation Protective Edge. It had two major hydrocarbon-related goals: to deter Palestinian-Russian plans and to finally eliminate the Gazan rocket systems. The first goal was apparently met when Gazprom postponed (perhaps permanently) its development deal. The second, however, failed when the two-pronged land and air attack -- despite unprecedented devastation in Gaza -- failed to destroy Hamas's rocket stockpiles or its tunnel-based assembly system; nor did the Iron Dome achieve the sort of near-perfect interception rate needed to protect proposed energy installations.
There Is No Denouement
After 25 years and five failed Israeli military efforts, Gaza's natural gas is still underwater and, after four years, the same can be said for almost all of the Levantine gas. But things are not the same. In energy terms, Israel is ever more desperate, even as it has been building up its military, including its navy, in significant ways. The other claimants have, in turn, found larger and more powerful partners to help reinforce their economic and military claims. All of this undoubtedly means that the first quarter-century of crisis over eastern Mediterranean natural gas has been nothing but prelude. Ahead lies the possibility of bigger gas wars with the devastation they are likely to bring.
Michael Schwartz, an emeritus distinguished teaching professor of sociology at Stony Brook University, is a TomDispatch regular and the author of the award-winning books Radical Protest and Social Structure and The Power Structure of American Business (with Beth Mintz). His TomDispatch book,War Without End, focused on how the militarized geopolitics of oil led the U.S. to invade and occupy Iraq. His email address is Michael.Schwartz@stonybrook.edu.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
Copyright 2015 Michael Schwartz
Big powers courting Iran; Moscow building bridges with Balkan states
Like Orthodox Christian Greece, Serbia and Montenegro
A few days ago I had circulated articles underlining the growing importance of Iran as a regional power, since the Shia revolution in Iran in 1979, when the Shah of Iran, Washington policeman in the region was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini. U.S.-led West and Sunni powers in the region with vociferous support from Israel have tried to squeeze and browbeat the Iranian nation, which had survived Arabs ,Mongols ,Turks, Russians ,British and others has done so again by remaining steadfast in face of vile propaganda and sanctions against Iran. Since 1979 the importance of Israel looms very large as the outpost of Western military power and corporate houses. Tel Aviv has been most obdurate and callous and criminal in dealing with Palestinian rights and aspirations.
It was unwise of the Indian government to have voted against Iran in the International Atomic energy agency in Vienna, according to reports on the basis of a telephone call to IMF pensioner Manmohan Singh. Even Pakistan and Morocco had abstained.
INDIAN VOTE ONLY STRENGTHENS WESTERN NUCLEAR APARTHEID
India thus lost the leadership of those countries which are opposed to demonic power of five nuclear weapon states who have veto power in the United Nations Security Council, including such pygmies as United Kingdom and France. The word United Nation itself came from the alliance of those countries which had fought against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Japan. The United Nations needs overhaul, but will take place only when there is a tectonic change in world military and economic power balance or a serious economic crisis in the United States, which as jokes go produces little except green backs and military hardware .
By signing the Indo US nuclear agreement, New Delhi gained little than it lost, as it is becoming apparent every day, but those who suffer from IMF syndrome keep on supporting their masters in Washington.
Some seven years ago when the so-called grand daddy of strategic thinking in India K.Subrahmanyam was chiding the Indians for supporting Saddam ,a constant friend of India and badmouthing Iran, I sent him my article on Iran and some other reading material on Islam and regional situation. He was generous enough to acknowledge that he had benefited from that article URL reproduced below.
Dear Mr.Gajendra Singh
I read your article on Iran with great personal benefit. I shall certainly go through ypur list of articles. Thanks a lot
With best wishes. 2 May8
I am now reproducing below two articles about how, USA, Russia and China are courting Iran and on Russia which in spite of being pressurized somewhat like Iran and kept pre-occupied by blatant and open intervention in Ukraine bringing US troops up to 300 m to the Russian border. Putin has been withstood all attempts, including economic warfare and sanctions and criminal interference in Ukraine and in Middle East. In fact, with the change for a New Leftist government in Greece, Moscow is now trying to establish a partnership with Athens. Moscow is also trying to come back Serbia and Montenegro, countries which like Russia believe in the Orthodox form of Christianity.
The Turkish Stream gas pipe will go upto the Greek border .Putin has already visited Hungary.
K Gajendra Singh, 27 February 2015, Delhi
February 24th, 2015 - 1:00 pm
The world now anticipates that the U.S. will reach a strategic agreement with Iran. Russia and China are responding by offering their own deals to Tehran. A possible game-changer is Russia's offer of the Antey-2500 air defense system to Iran. After canceling the planned delivery of the older, shorter-range S-300 system in 2010, Russia has now escalated drastically by proposing to sell Iran a much more effective system. Western air forces have never engaged the Russian system, so we don't know how exactly good it is. No-one I know in the military wants to find out; by Western estimates, the Russian systems are extremely good. It is possible that Russia's unwelcome intervention might make Iran effectively impregnable from attack by Israel. The Antey-2500 can take down missiles as well as airplanes.
In addition, Russia is retaliating against the West's stance on Ukraine. Russia has made it clear all along that it would respond to Western efforts to remove Crimea from Russia by making trouble in Iran, as Russia's deputy foreign minister warned last March. Russia, unlike the U.S., views the world as a single chessboard: attack my position here, and I will hurt you somewhere else where you are not prepared. Putin isn't crazy; he's a Russian commander in the classic mold, forcing the burden of uncertainty onto his adversary, muddying the waters and leaving his opponent guessing. His countermoves on the global chessboard include a prospective alliance with China as well as mischief in the Persian Gulf. My conservative friends who urge us to "stand up to Putin" should take a cold, dispassionate look at the whole of the chessboard and anticipate moves of this sort; otherwise, the whole thing is a lot of beery blather. As I wrote recently, Israel takes the brunt of American policy blunders. What happens if Putin gives Iran the means to shoot down anything Israel (and a good deal of what the U.S.) might throw at it? No-one in Washington seems to ask such questions. I've been warning about such a development for the past five years (see "When the Cat's Away, the Mice Kill Each Other," Oct. 20, 2009).
U.S. President Barack Obama, who admitted that Washington "brokered a deal to transition power in Ukraine" a year ago, has warned that a collapse in the peace process could push his country into approving deliveries of weapons to the East European country. Such a proposal is not only counterproductive, but also dangerous. Indeed, the Americans might be the only one poised to gain from the Ukraine crisis with both Europe and Russia being weakened, but they should be mindful that one who sees the crisis as a power game would only drag itself into the quagmire. By antagonizing Russia, for instance, Uncle Sam might lose a possible – and powerful – partner in its ongoing anti-terrorism drive in the Middle East.
That hardly needs translation: Beijing is worried about instability in the Persian Gulf, whose oil China needs more than any other major economy, and observes that Russia is in position to stir up instability in retaliation for Western intervention in Ukraine. Russia may be a second-rate power, but it still is a power in the Middle East, as well as the purveyor of game-changing military technologies.
China, meanwhile, is courting Iran. Visiting Tehran Feb. 15, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi "said that increasing relations with Iran is one of his country's foreign policy priorities….Cooperation between Beijing and Tehran is of strategic importance and beyond bilateral relationship, Wang added. The Chinese foreign minister also said that the nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 group (the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany) have entered final phases and nothing should be done to prevent the talks to yield a result….Wang also expressed his country's opposition to Western-led sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program." China operates on the principal that one should keep one's friends close and one's enemies closer. It has sold a great deal of weapons to Iran, but sold much better weapons to Saudi Arabia, including top-of-the-line intermediate range missiles that give KSA "a formidable deterrence capability" against Iran, in the words of one Chinese analyst.
Now Beijing faces the prospect that Iran will become the dominant regional player with de facto help from the United States, and is trying to reposition itself as an Iranian ally — while Russia does the same thing. It's a bidding war for the good graces of the craziest regime on earth.
Read more: http://pjmedia.com/spengler/#ixzz3SrIIaLqK
Russia's Quest for Balkan Influence and Bases
Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 35
February 25, 2015
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Russia has long harbored an expansionist drive to the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. And the prelude or precondition for Moscow to be able to make real progress toward securing its influence in these areas has been its domination of Ukraine and the Black Sea (see EDM, ; ). Furthermore, it is quite apparent that Moscow believes its main geopolitical threat is European integration (see , May 29, 2014). Therefore, it is no surprise that Russian foreign policy has invested heavily in raising its influence throughout this entire geographic expanse in order to break up the Euro-Atlantic community.
No sooner had the new Greek government been elected, Russia made clear its interest and readiness to support Greece in its economic crisis and to expand military-technical collaboration with the country, should Athens request it (Mid.ru, February 11). This led to a great deal of, as yet, unconfirmed speculation that Russia is asking Greece for a naval or other base there. What these reports have apparently done is conflated the more authoritative accounts, based on statements by Cypriot Prime Minister Nicos Anastasiades, which were originally presented in Greek and Cypriot sources (Cyprus-mail.com, February 10). These reports then led RIA Novosti to claim that an agreement would soon be signed from Paphos Air Force Base (RIA Novosti, February 9). Russian interest in Paphos and acquiring Cypriot and Balkan military bases is longstanding. Moscow has sought Paphos as a base since at least 2012–2013, as well as a naval base on the Adriatic at Bar in Montenegro. And it has previously acquired a land base at Nis in Serbia, ostensibly for humanitarian operations (see , November 30, 2011).
So far, Moscow has apparently not reached host-country agreements for any of these Mediterranean-region bases—with the exception of Nis—and the recent reports about Russo-Greek talks on the subject raised a media firestorm. Numerous Western and Russian sources have commented on the new extreme-left-and-right Greek government's links to figures like Russian neo-imperialist and Eurasianist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin as well as other members of Russia's elite establishment. Consequently, Russian interests in splitting Greece from its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union make perfect sense for Vladimir Putin, especially as he has been trying to accomplish this goal for a decade now, if not longer (Moscow Times, February 4). But while these incidents have received the most Western media coverage in the past few weeks, they are not isolated developments.
The Russian press has lately been particularly exercised over events in the NATO-aspirant Balkan country of Macedonia, whose ongoing discord with North Atlantic Alliance–member Greece over Macedonia's constitutional name could open it to Russian influence. In particular, reports of an attempted coup in Macedonia in late January–early February by the leader of the Social Democratic Party, Zoran Zaev, have led Moscow to attempt to intervene politically there. Macedonian intelligence declared, on January 31, that it had foiled this coup, which involved the Social Democrats and foreign intelligence services that were not identified. And on February 2, Moscow called for a thorough investigation into this thwarted coup plot (Skopje, MAKFAX, February 2). Russia accepted the Macedonian government's allegations that a coup had, indeed, been attempted. And through its direct involvement, Moscow demonstrated its obsession with what it believes to be continuous Western activities aiming at sparking coups across the Eurasian space (such as the "coup" the Kremlin believes the United States and the West initiated in Ukraine one year ago). Accordingly, Russia intervened in this case to show its support for the Macedonian regime, while simultaneously attacking the US and its allies for purportedly interfering in Macedonia's internal affairs (Skopje, Lajm, February 3). Ironically, Moscow adopted this position just three months after protesting Macedonia's efforts to join NATO and the EU, claiming they would be regarded as a mistake and a provocation (Skopje, Utrinski Vestnik, February 3).
In other words, for all the obsession about Western-sponsored coups, Russian policy is supremely opportunistic and anti-Western and is willing to exploit any opening to enhance its status and influence throughout the Balkans and the adjoining seas: Adriatic, Aegean and Mediterranean. This relates, as well, to Russia's contemporary efforts to increase its leverage in the Levant and Middle East (see , August 16, 2012). Meanwhile, Russian militarization of the Black Sea continues unabated, and the second Minsk ceasefire agreement covering the war in eastern Ukraine, which Russia will almost certainly not abide by in the coming weeks, looks particularly fragile. Taken together, these intersecting regional trends have only intensified existing Western and, especially, Balkan concerns that Moscow is seeking to destabilize the Balkans to prevent these states' integration with the wider Euro-Atlantic community.
Increasingly, the Kremlin's grand designs in the Balkans—embracing energy deals, subversion, military bases, arms sales, organized crime and intelligence penetration—are becoming ever clearer. President Putin and his subordinates have been active throughout Southeastern Europe, deploying all these instruments of Russian power for over a decade. The invasion of Ukraine makes all these activities even more topical and dangerous. Consequently, Western inability to devise a coherent response to Russia simply exacerbates the threat to the Balkans as a whole and to individual states within it.