Monday, January 28, 2013

India at the UN Security Council; a retrospect

India at the UN Security Council; a retrospect

After a gap of two decades, India gained temporary membership of the UN Security Council for a two calendar year term 2011/12  in an election that was almost a grand slam triumph, joining at the famous horseshoe table other UNSC aspirants like Germany, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa. But the Indian spokesman was the only one who exulted, saying that having stepped through the door, India would never leave again. This was obviously hyperbolic; having left the Council at the end of 2012,an examination of the Indian profit and loss account is merited.
The government's view is that India's membership bolstered its standing as a major global player and received all-round recognition. It took balanced positions on issues of international peace and security, and furthered progress towards UNSC reform. As chairman of the Counter Terrorism Committee, India ensured that linkage between Taliban and al Qaeda was maintained and raised benchmarks to counter terror and concerns on maritime piracy. A UNSC statement last November for first time recognized the problem as a global one rather than region-specific and urged all states to cooperate to suppress piracy and release hostages, and constantly to review the piracy High Risk Area. India stressed the perspective of troop contributing countries on peacekeeping mandates and the importance of consultations with those countries rather than passing decisions merely from consultations between the permanent five members.   
This view is to be given full weight, because our Ambassador acts as an instrument of New Delhi's directives, and if the government feels India has concluded its term with its reputation enhanced, that is a matter for satisfaction. However, the view from the outside cannot be so sanguine. 
Despite our membership pro tem of the UNSC and our claim to be there permanently, discussions still continue in many UN over-lapping forums on the expansion of permanent and non-permanent members– the Intergovernmental Negotiations, the G-4 (Brazil, India, Germany, Japan) the L-69 (the 'South') and the African C-10. But the obstacles remain the same; each contender is strenuously opposed by other countries in its own region, the USA is indifferent, and China prefers being the only Asian permanent member.  No formula is available that can command consensus or even secure the required two-thirds majority at the UN General Assembly and the support of all the five permanent members. Meanwhile, non-permanent candidates have been nominated from the regional groups till 2034, hardly a measure of confidence in any early outcome.
On Syria, India's stand appeared confused and contradictory. In March 2011, India's representative echoed the BRICS' neutral position, tending to support the Assad government's position, supporting Annan's mission, a Syrian-led peace process, the commitment of Damascus to such a process and by implication blaming Turkey and some Gulf states for fanning the flames by supporting the insurgents. Also that month, India abstained on a UN Human Rights Council resolution alleging human rights violations by Damascus. India also supported an impartial observer group for supervision and monitoring, though India was not a part of that group and it is not known if India offered to join.
When the UNSC, led by the US and Europe, tilted against Assad and towards the insurgents, India broke ranks with the Russian/Chinese position and aligned itself with the West – as it was to do in the UNHRC vote on Sri Lanka. India backed accusations of Assad failing to live up to Syria's commitments under UN resolutions, and called on Damascus to cease using heavy weapons, (May 12) even as it was increasingly clear that human rights violations were perpetrated equally by the insurgents, who were being armed by the West, Turkey and Gulf states.
By 2012, India's position was allied increasingly with the USA and the Gulf, and broke with Russia and China, who continued to veto drafts resolutions equating the Syrian government with the insurgents. India voted for a resolution sponsored by the USA and Turkey in the UNHRC. In July 2012, India voted in the UNSC for a one-sided motion sponsored by the West which Russia and China vetoed. Pakistan abstained as did South Africa. So India parted from all the BRICS, and did not gain credibility with disingenuous explanations after the event. Supporters of India's vote assert that to abstain would have been to abdicate responsibility as an aspiring permanent member, but critics dubbed India's vote 'dishonest, unprincipled and opportunistic'.
In August 2012, at the UN General Assembly, India abstained on a Saudi-sponsored resolution condemning Syria because it implied that Assad should step down, though Russia and China voted against.
Five days after the Israeli attack on Gaza in November 2012, New Delhi finally took a neutral equidistant position, calling on both sides to show restraint, which actually favoured Israel, which seems to have become our 'strategic partner'. India will not comment on the disproportionate violence used by Israel and the blockade of Gaza, the root cause of the problem. While no nation disputes Israel's right to defend itself, an IBSA statement from New York correctly emphasized the urgent lifting of the blockade and supported Palestine's observer status at the UN.
From the American standpoint, the Middle East has been an important yardstick in its relationship with India, though India has no common cause with USA and champions of democracy and human rights like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who have their scores to settle with Assad, Iran and Shias. India is not interested in inciting sectarian strife in the Arab World or elsewhere and no one has the least idea what a regime change in Syria may portend. So India was buffeted by contradictory considerations. Reluctant to oppose the USA, perhaps it had a pragmatic eye on relations with Assad's successor government, and manpower, remittances and energy from the Gulf against exiguous economic ties with Syria. 
There was little India could do against general support for Annan's successor Lakhdar Brahimi as UN special envoy to Syria, but the appointment is curious: Brahimi is a busted flush who failed in his previous UN roles as facilitator in Iraq (2004) and Afghanistan(1997-99).
Pakistan joined the UNSC in January 2012, the election being won in the first round by the smallest margin, with 55 countries voting for rival no-hoper Kyrgyzstan as an obvious negative vote.  India voted for Pakistan and proclaimed it had done so, resulting in a rare display of Indo-Pak amity at the UN until the political appointee Hussain Haroun was replaced by a career diplomat who reverted to Pakistan's default uncooperative attitude. The Pakistani army does not hold the UN as priority other than for peacekeeping benefits cherished by its soldiery, and the UNSC did not deal with issues on which India and Pakistan differ.
From the outset, Washington had indicated that 'responsible behaviour' at the UNSC, in keeping with that of a permanent member, was expected of India. Such criteria may have weighed on India when it voted with the West on Libya and Syria .
India regarded its term on the UNSC as a dress-rehearsal for permanent membership, and in seeking to win the confidence of the West, especially the USA, and perhaps guarantee oil flows from the Gulf, compromised our position as a progressive free-thinking state. It did not show fierce independence or use the opportunity to carve out a distinctive made-in-India foreign policy. One sixth of humanity deserves to have creative thinking and an independent opinion.  Our abhorrence of regime change seems to have got diluted: we cannot be complicit in toppling secular authorities by authoritarian Islamist ones.
India was unable to contribute substantially to thematic, macroeconomic and humanitarian issues such as HIV/AIDS, climate change, and empowerment of women, and introduced no new ideas. There was no progress on cross border terrorism or its financing despite being the chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Committee. We were unable to use this position to put pressure on Pakistan and there was no progress on a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
We were not able to capitalize on association with Germany, Brazil, Nigeria and South Africa. No resolution on Syria was introduced by this group, and neither Annan nor Brahimi visited India for consultations. Manmohan Singh did not attend the UNGA in 2012, though he was at the Tehran Non Aligned summit the same month. This hardly displayed interest in the UNSC, or permanent membership.
The Ministry of External Affairs is not to blame. It receives eleventh hour instructions from multiple sources; the National Security Adviser, the Prime Minister's Office and even 10 Janpath.  There is tension between India's traditional foreign policy positions and the new demands of international relations resulting in lack of articulated definition of India's role in the world. What might endure in the memory of India's latest tenure in the UNSC might be the unlamented former foreign minister S. M. Krishna reading out someone else's speech

18 January 2013
Krishnan Srinivasan is a former foreign secretary

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tiny but Hyper-Wealthy Qatar punching beyond its weight

Tiny but Hyper-Wealthy Qatar punching beyond its weight
Relations with Egyptian Regime and among Gulf States
Qatar, a peninsular small state attached to Saudi Arabia in the Gulf, with an area of 11,571, has a citizen population of fewer than 250,000 people only. According to the World Bank its total population was 1,870,041(in 2011).
Foreign workers outnumber native Qataris and  come mainly from other Arab nations (20% of population), the Indian subcontinent (India 20%, Nepal 13%,Pakistan 7%, Sri Lanka 5%), Southeast Asia (Philippines 10%), and other countries (5%).
Its GDP was 173 billion USD (2011-World Bank) .Qatar has attracted an estimated $100 billion in investment, with approximately $60 to $70 billion coming from the United States in the energy sector. It is estimated that Qatar will invest over $120 billion in the energy sector in the next ten years.
A former pearl-fishing centre and once one of the poorest Gulf states, Qatar is now one of the richest countries in the region, thanks to the exploitation of large oil and gas fields .Possessing more than 15% of the world's proven gas reserves, Qatar has ambitions to become a global energy giant. Oil money funds an all-embracing welfare state, with many services being free or heavily subsidized.
Dominated by the Thani family for almost 150 years, the mainly barren country was a British protectorate until 1971, when it declared its independence after following suit with Bahrain and refusing to join the United Arab Emirates.
In 1995 Crown Prince Hamad bin Khalifa deposed his father to become emir and since then he has introduced some liberal reforms. But it remains an absolute monarchy.
Beginning in 1992, Qatar has built intimate military ties with the United States, and is now the location of U.S. Central Command's Forward Headquarters and the Combined Air Operations Center
It owns the satellite TV station Al-Jazeera which has attracted a growing audience as well the displeasure of some neighboring states .It was first criticized in the West but has now become an arm of Western propaganda and its Arab Allies, like CNN, BBC, and other propaganda arms of the West, since the revolt of the Arab masses against US propped up and supported Arab autocratic and repressive regimes in the region.
From the very beginning Qatar's massive coffers have been open to rebels of most extremist types in Libya, Syria and elsewhere in the region.
It is unlikely that the fires ignited and being fanned across West Asia ,north Africa and even down south along Sahara states in Africa will not blow back into the Gulf States , where over 6 million Indians work .
Do not forget that the Algerian Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed "Untouchable", the Terror of the Sahara, who organized the siege of Oil site in Algeria is a product of the nurseries of terrorism financed trained and organized by US led west and Saudi led Muslim states in Pakistan and Afghanistan in early 1980s.
Below is an interesting and thought provoking article on the role of Qatar and interplay of relations between Egypt and other Arab states in the region especially in the Gulf.
K.Gajendra Singh 26 Jan 2013.
Qatar's Brotherhood Ties Alienate Fellow Gulf States
The Arab Gulf States may not admit it publically, but a schism is slowly emerging between these countries in the wake of the rise of Islamist powers in the region. Qatar, on the one hand, has wholeheartedly endorsed the new Islamist powers of the Arab world in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood, while the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have been skeptical at best. Although disagreements concerning external relations have previously emerged within the Gulf Cooperation Council states — for instance, some states have stronger ties with Iran than others would like to see — this is the first time that a member state has allied itself closely with a party that another member state accuses of undermining its system of government.
Qatar's relations with the Muslim Brotherhood are multi-pronged. On the media front, Qatar has dedicated Al Jazeera, the country's most prized non-financial asset, to the service of the Muslim Brotherhood and turned it into what prominent Middle East scholar Alain Gresh calls a "mouthpiece for the Brotherhood." The channel has in turn been repeatedly praised by the Brotherhood for its "neutrality." Qatar has also been very generous with the income from its gas wealth. Qatar's influential prime minister pledged that his country would not allow Egypt to go bankrupt. Doha has already transferred five billion dollars to Egypt to help it meet its financial obligations and prevent the pound from sliding further.
In exchange for its assistance, Al Ahram reports that Egypt's new government gave Qatar a number of assurances, including "technical support" for the Syrian opposition, the rotation — possibly to a Qatari citizen — of the Arab League Secretary General post, and "Egyptian approval of Qatari nominees on behalf of the Arab group in several international and regional forums." Egypt has also given Qatar a number of perks, such as excluding Qatari investments from laws governing foreign ownership.
Saudi apprehension
While Saudi Arabia has also been generous with its assistance — the Kingdom granted Egypt $4 billion in assistance — it is still wary of the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi skepticism stems mainly from two issues. The Brotherhood's stance towards Saddam Hussein's forces invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was seen by many in Saudi and other Gulf states as an endorsement of the aggression. This may also explain Kuwait's cold shoulder treatment of the Brotherhood. The oil-rich Gulf state, whose sovereign wealth fund is estimated to reach $300 billion, hasn't offered any meaningful aid to Egypt since the Brotherhood came to power. However, no Gulf official has been as public with voicing his distaste for the Brotherhood as the late Saudi Crown Prince and Interior Minister Prince Nayef, who was quoted as saying in 2002: "Without any hesitation I say it, that our problems, all of them, came from the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood." The Saudis accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of "betraying" the Kingdom after it hosted their members who were persecuted during the Nasser era. While the UAE's strict opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood stems from the country's allegations that the group seeks to establish an "Islamist state in UAE."
Although publically welcoming the Brotherhood, Saudi Arabia has privately been opposing them. I was informed by a source that was present at recent negotiations to form the Syrian opposition of the Saudi delegation's strong rejection of any Brotherhood figure. Saudi's financial assistance could be read as an attempt to keep relations relatively warm and not allow this most important of Arab states to drift into an Iranian orbit.
The UAE has publically taken the strictest position towards the Muslim Brotherhood and what it claims are the group's activity on its territory. It has detained dozens of individuals it alleges are Brotherhood members, both citizens and more recently non-citizens. Looking back, the UAE was amongst the first countries to pledge aid to Egypt, as early as June 2011, in the form of $3 billion in small businesses and housing projects. However, none of that money has materialized, no doubt due to the deteriorating relations.
UAE-Qatar at opposite ends
The UAE and Qatar have accomplished an almost complete reversal of roles in relations with Egypt over the past two years. Egypt was a steadfast ally to the UAE under the previous Mubarak government, while relations with Qatar were cold at best. Following the ascent to power of the Brotherhood, Qatar was catapulted to the forefront of Egypt's friends in the region. A case in point is the size of Qatari investments in Egypt prior to the revolution, which Egyptian government estimates put at a measly $260 million. On the other hand, the size of UAE investments in Egypt is estimated to be $5 billion, while trade is growing in double digits despite the spiraling of relations. Saudi investments in Egypt, probably the largest of any country, are estimated to be $12 billion. It is notable that Qatar announced plans to invest $18 billion in Egypt in the next five years.
On Mar. 5, 2012, Al Jazeera broadcast a show with Brotherhood televangelist Yousef Al-Qaradawi in which he warned the leadership of the UAE that they will be "facing the wrath of God" after a number of Syrians were deported to Egypt. The following day, the Emir of Qatar visited Abu Dhabi on an unannounced visit and is said to have reassured the UAE president of Qatar's ties with its Gulf neighbor. That episode was never uploaded onto Al Jazeera's website, but is available on YouTube. Al Qaradawi is amongst a group of Muslim Brotherhood leaders who immigrated to Qatar during the Nasser era and set up a branch in the Gulf state. In 1999, the Qatari chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood decided to dissolve its operations and by 2003 the dissolution was complete. In the same year, a series of meetings were held between the current Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders in the hopes that a similar deal could be reached for the UAE chapter. The deal stipulated that the UAE chapter of the Brotherhood, known as Al Islah and established in the 1970s, can continue operating within the UAE in exchange for ending its pledges of allegiance to the Supreme Guide and ceasing political activities. According to the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group agreed to stop recruiting members from the UAE armed forces and to cease offering allegiance as of 2003, although nothing was said about halting political activities. Relations between the Brotherhood and the UAE never recovered following the collapse of this deal that for some reason succeeded in Qatar, but not in the Emirates.

Qatar's interests
The Qatar-UAE-Egypt triangle has gone through different phases. In the mid-20th century, Dubai, the second emirate in the UAE, was the closest Gulf state to Qatar. Familial ties between both states translated into a common currency and strong economic ties. Following the Qatari coup d'├ętat in 1996, in which the current Emir replaced his father who had good ties with Egypt, relations between Doha and Cairo deteriorated. Soon after, Qatar launched Al Jazeera, which hosted Egyptian and Saudi opposition for years until a thaw in relations took effect around 2008. Interestingly, Mubarak's first visit in over a decade to Qatar took place only in November 2010, exactly two months before he fell from power.
Saudi and the UAE were also apprehensive of Qatar's ties with Iran. These states were taken aback when Qatar invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attend a meeting of the GCC in December 2007, making him the first Iranian leader to do so. Qatar's attempts at smoothing relations with Iran are understandable in the light of both countries sharing the world's biggest gas field. What is not so understandable is Qatar's unwavering commitment to the Muslim Brotherhood to the degree that it may jeopardize relations with its neighboring Gulf States.
One Qatar-based researcher attributes the country's active role to the Emir's desire to "secure a legacy for himself," while a soon to be published paper by a Princeton academic argues that Qatar sees the Brotherhood as a platform to exponentially increase its regional and global influence. There is no doubt that Qatar's global significance has multiplied through piggybacking on Egypt's stature and the regional influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.
While the UAE has alienated Egypt's new leaders, Qatar has alienated Egypt's population. It is yet unclear which strategy will work in the medium-to-long term. Qatar has certainly scored points of influence over the UAE at present, but the same will not apply to Saudi. For Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the grand prize is no doubt the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with its massive wealth fund of $637 billion. The host of two of Islam's three holiest sites in Mecca and Medina also includes over 1.5 million Egyptian immigrants. Ultimately, neither Qatar nor the UAE can ever replace the significance of Saudi Arabia for Egypt and its Muslim Brotherhood government.
Egypt's welfare
Amidst the simmering disagreements between the wealthy Gulf states, it is important to consider what is best for Egypt. The country is facing major challenges including 4 million unemployed officially, tourism arrivals down by double-digit percentile points, underpaid doctors, over a million street children, poor infrastructure that results in the deaths of hundreds a year, and a variety of educational, environmental, social and other economic challenges. Egypt clearly needs all the friends it can get. No matter how honorable the Qatari Prime Minister's intent to not let Egypt go bankrupt, the latter's debts are far too large for it to be covered through Doha's generosity.
Egypt's public debt is estimated at $224 billion, while Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, while growing rapidly, is estimated at $136 billion. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood needs foreign help to finance and implement its neo-liberal economic plans. This will include not only funding from Qatar, Saudi and the UAE, but also technical transfer from the latter to Egypt to help it tackle its various challenges.
Qatar rapprochement with the Muslim Brotherhood has drawn the ire not only of its Gulf's neighbors, but also the Egyptian intelligentsia. News leaks about Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood concessions to the Gulf peninsula state — along with the bypassing of diplomatic norms such as neglecting to notify the Egyptian ambassador to Doha about Qatar's Prime Minister's recent visit to Cairo — only exacerbates tension with non-Islamists in Egypt. The Qataris have had to deny claims of attempting to "dominate" Egypt, and rebut allegations that it is buying the Suez Canal, one of Egypt's main sources of revenue. One must only visit social media pages of Egyptian activists and intellectuals to see their heavily negative reaction to the warming of relations between the Brotherhood and Qatar, a phenomenon also reported widely in the Egyptian media. Local outlets have also been reporting on growing discontent within the Egyptian street over ties to Qatar, with one former Egyptian minister threatening to throw himself off a tower if the Brotherhood handed the Suez Canal to the Gulf state.
Concern in Qatar
On online private messages too, citizens of Qatar, traditionally a Salafi Wahhabi, state have been telling me of their discontent with the state policy towards the Brotherhood. I sought permission to publish parts of an email I received from a Qatari commenting on the state's close ties and financial aid to the Brotherhood:
"The problem is that the amount of aid isn't beneficial to any party except the MB. Egyptian aid from Qatar is now tied into the MB. The people of Egypt know this and it can create a problem later with the question of democracy.
Qatar's diplomacy is at some level now delegitimized by their aid being tied to a party. Qatar aids parties that, in return, they influence. Rather than being a respectable third party, Qatar has now interjected itself in Egyptian, Libyan and Syrian politics, for better or worse.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are a bit different because now they can help in future situations without question (or as much controversy) on how objective they can be. While Qatar has a stake in the MB, the success of the MB means more influence for Qatar."
Doha's Brotherhood gamble
Clearly Qatar is taking a giant leap of faith with the Brotherhood, something it is not unknown to do before when it built ties simultaneously with Hamas and Israel, Iran and the US, the Taliban and the West. This time Qatar will be hoping that its Muslim Brotherhood allies succeed in their political and economic project and, since it is so heavily invested in them, they may also hope that their hold on power lasts for some time. Qatar will also, at minimum, expect Egypt's Brotherhood to be a loyal friend in return, although many who have dealt with the Brotherhood may advise Doha to read about the group's record of keeping promises and alliances when they are no longer beneficial. Consider for an instant a scenario in which Saudi Arabia presents Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood with a choice of expanding its relations with the Kingdom in exchange for an easing of ties with the Qataris. It probably won't be a difficult decision for the Brotherhood to make.
Qatar, after all, presents the Brotherhood with two major assets. First, the country's Al Jazeera satellite channel which — although no longer popular in Egypt following the advent of numerous local channels — still enjoys substantial regional viewership from which the network can continue to propagate the Brotherhood's message. Second, Qatar is today the Muslim Brotherhood's banker and personal financier, bankrolling its budget and investing heavily in the group's projects. However, Qatar's vast per-capita wealth pales in comparison to Islamic heavyweight Saudi Arabia's several hundred billion dollars in assets and investable funds. Whatever diplomatic and regional weight Qatar and Al Jazeera can offer the Brotherhood could easily be matched by Saudi Arabia's much larger media and diplomatic network. Meanwhile, the UAE and Saudi will continue to wonder what exactly Qatar wants from the Brotherhood as they see their smaller Gulf neighbor fully immerse itself in the Brotherhood's challenges, hopes and ambitions.
It would indeed be ironic if the Brotherhood, having been nurtured and supported by Qatar so carefully, turns its back on the state in the coming few years. Ironic perhaps, but not unlikely.
Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi is a commentator on Arab affairs.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Western Colonial Wars in North Africa and Sahara

New Western Colonial Wars in North Africa and Sahara
Blow back in Algeria, after Benghazi and Timbuktu
What is happening in North West Africa known as Arab Maghreb and down south in Sahel i.e. Sahara region  , is the beginning of a new colonial style era  to wrest and control vast resources of these poor nations , i.e. Libya, Mali , Algeria, Mauritania , Niger, Chad  and others .Still mostly untapped , not even fully mapped . It is a vast region with Mali twice as large as whole of France.
Neo- Imperial power, USA, now fading economically and almost bankrupt, in cahoots with former colonial exploiters of the region, equally bankrupt, are in competition with the Chinese who are using their vast wealth accumulated by hard work to invest in and buy African raw materials .West wants to acquire the resources by military force.
The article at the end by a widely travelled and respected journalist Pepe Escobar very clearly explains what is happening in  a region about which there is so little knowledge .He has travelled by road and boat in Mali in early 21 century and knows the area .
I was posted in Algiers in 1964 and 65, soon after a fierce war of independence .It was still very tense and disorganised .When I transited Algiers and Oran in end 1980 it was aglitter with its energy wealth .While posted at Dakar, Senegal (1978-81) I was concurrently accredited to Mali and went by road to Segou and Mopti and then by boat to Timbuktu in 1979.
Some extracts on the region from another article of 2005.
"While posted at Dakar in Senegal in West Africa ,I commenced in October 1980 the first leg of my travelathon crisscrossing continents on an Air Algeri flight which after a brief halt at Nouakchott , Mauritania , zigzagged East to Niamey, Niger's throbbing capital (thanks to uranium). Looking down from the plane, the journey across Sahara , crossing river Niger , over Timbuktu and Gao was fascinatingly dull.
I wondered if all these little known places and Bamako (Mali), N'djamena (Chad) and Bangui (Central African Republic) might become household words like Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, once the reportedly buried uranium wealth underneath were mined to fuel energy needs of last decade of this century and early 2lst century.
But in spite of wake up calls in 1970s of hydrocarbon energy shortage, the corporate interests in oil and gas, which is so profitable, did little to develop nuclear or other means of energy. So Niger has become notorious for its uranium mines for weapons use, and sometimes for its famines. President George W. Bush used alleged attempts by Saddam Hussein, proved concocted, to get uranium from Niger for weapons, as one of the causes belli to invade Iraq.
However, it was the Bhopal ( India) born Pakistan national and German trained metallurgist and nuclear scientist and a globaliser in nuclear weapons technology ,Dr. Abdul Qadir Khan, who last year brought into world focus, Timbuktu ,which even the much traveled Indian journalist Khuswant Singh thought was a only a verbal expression , when I told him about it. For in November 1979 after presenting my letters of credence in Bamako, saying now or never, I undertook a journey by road and by boat on river Niger, to sample some romance of the earlier travelers, to the famous Eldorado, where during medieval centuries a pound of salt fetched an ounce of gold, attracting traders, invaders and scholars making Timbuktu a great centre of Islamic culture and civilization. 
Who would have ever thought in 1979 that Khan would love Timbuktu so much that he would even invest in a hotel there (It appears that Hotel La Colombe (?) has been named for his wife -shades of a minor Shah Jehan).But even Dr Watson would tell Sherlock Holmes why, so that he could travel from Pakistan to Timbuktu and back and supervise transfer of yellow cake to Pakistan and elsewhere. One can easily fly east from Timbuktu to Niger or go by road or river. He went around openly, flying around to Morocco, Mali , Chad, Sudan and every where the maker of the Islamic bomb was a welcome hero. "
Do not be fooled by Washington whistling in the dark that US will become an energy exporting nation, which many ill informed US proxies are hawking in India.
Oil optimism relying on fudged statistics

"Headlines about 2012's World Energy Outlook (WEO) from the International Energy Agency (IEA), released mid-November, would lead you to think we are literally swimming in oil. 

The report forecasts that the United States will outstrip Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer by 2017, becoming "all but self-sufficient in net terms" in energy production - a notion reported almost verbatim by media agencies worldwide, from BBC News to Bloomberg.
-- But all the media attention was on the oil man's oil-funded report. Tverberg's peer-reviewed study in a reputable science journal, with its somewhat darker message, was ignored. 

What happens when the shale boom goes boom?
These scientific studies are not the only indications that something is deeply wrong with the IEA's assessment of prospects for shale gas production and accompanying economic prosperity. Indeed, Business Insider reports that far from being profitable, the shale gas industry is facing huge financial hurdles. 

"The economics of fracking are horrid," observes US financial journalist Wolf Richter. "Production falls off a cliff from day one and continues for a year or so until it levels out at about 10% of initial production." 

The result is that "drilling is destroying capital at an astonishing rate, and drillers are left with a mountain of debt just when decline rates are starting to wreak their havoc. To keep the decline rates from mucking up income statements, companies had to drill more and more, with new wells making up for the declining production of old wells. Alas, the scheme hit a wall, namely reality." 

Now read on Pepe's piece on What west is up to in NW Africa and Sahara region .
K Gajendra Singh 18 January , 2013 .
Burn, burn - Africa's Afghanistan
By Pepe Escobar  Asia Times ;119 Jan 2013

LONDON - One's got to love the sound of a Frenchman's Mirage 2000 fighter jet in the morning. Smells like... a delicious neo-colonial breakfast in Hollandaise sauce. Make it quagmire sauce. 

Apparently, it's a no-brainer. Mali holds 15.8 million people - with a per capita gross domestic product of only around US$1,000 a year and average life expectancy of only 51 years - in a territory twice the size of France (per capital GDP $35,000 and upwards). Now almost two-thirds of this territory is occupied by heavily weaponized Islamist outfits. What next? Bomb, baby, bomb. 

So welcome to the latest African war; Chad-based French Mirages and Gazelle helicopters, plus a smatter of France-based Rafales bombing evil Islamist jihadis in northern Mali. Business is good; French president Francois Hollande spent this past Tuesday in Abu Dhabi clinching the sale of up to 60 Rafales to that Gulf paragon of democracy, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

The formerly wimpy Hollande - now enjoying his "resolute", "determined", tough guy image reconversion - has cleverly sold all this as incinerating Islamists in the savannah before they take a one-way Bamako-Paris flight to bomb the Eiffel Tower. 

French Special Forces have been on the ground in Mali since early 2012. 

The Tuareg-led NMLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad), via one of its leaders, now says it's "ready to help" the former colonial power, billing itself as more knowledgeable about the culture and the terrain than future intervening forces from the CEDEAO (the acronym in French for the Economic Community of Western African States). 

Salafi-jihadis in Mali have got a huge problem: they chose the wrong battlefield. If this was Syria, they would have been showered by now with weapons, logistical bases, a London-based "observatory", hours of YouTube videos and all-out diplomatic support by the usual suspects of US, Britain, Turkey, the Gulf petromonarchies and - oui, monsieur - France itself. 

Instead, they were slammed by the UN Security Council - faster than a collection of Marvel heroes - duly authorizing a war against them. Their West African neighbors - part of the ECOWAS regional bloc - were given a deadline (late November) to come up with a war plan. This being Africa, nothing happened - and the Islamists kept advancing until a week ago Paris decided to apply some Hollandaise sauce. 

Not even a football stadium filled with the best West African shamans can conjure a bunch of disparate - and impoverished - countries to organize an intervening army in short notice, even if the adventure will be fully paid by the West just like the Uganda-led army fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia. 

To top it all, this is no cakewalk. The Salafi-jihadis are flush, courtesy of booming cocaine smuggling from South America to Europe via Mali, plus human trafficking. According to the UN Office of Drugs Control, 60% of Europe's cocaine transits Mali. At Paris street prices, that is worth over $11 billion. 
Full article