Daily Archives: October 20, 2011

The US power grab in Africa

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By Pepe Escobar

Beware of strangers bearing gifts. Post-modern Amazon and United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally landed in Tripoli – on a military jet – to lavish praise on the dodgy Transitional National Council (TNC), those pportunists/defectors/Islamists formerly known as “North Atlantic Treaty Organization rebels”.

Clinton was greeted on Tuesday “on the soil of free Libya” (her words) by what the New York Times quaintly described as an “irregular militia” (translation: a heavily armed gang that is already raising hell against other heavily armed gangs), before meeting TNC chairman Mustafa Abdel-NATO (formerly known as Jalil).

The bulk of the US gifts – US$40 million – on top of the $135 million already disbursed since February (most of it military “aid”) is for a missile scramble conducted by “contractors” (ie mercenaries) trying to track the tsunami of mobile anti-aircraft rockets that by now are already conveniently ensconced in secret Islamist warehouses.

Clinton told students at the University of Tripoli, “We are on your side.” She could not possibly connect the dots and note that the shabab (young people) who started demonstrating against Muammar Gaddafi in February have absolutely nothing to do with the TNC’s opportunists/defectors/Islamists who hijacked the protests. But she did have time to unveil another US foreign policy “secret” – that the US wants Gaddafi “dead or alive”, George W Bush-style (or as the beneficiary of targeted assassination, Barack Obama-style).

The new Fallujah
In her exhausting six-and-a-half hours on “free Libya” soil, Clinton couldn’t possibly find the time to hitch a helicopter ride to Sirte and see for herself how NATO is exercising R2P (“responsibility to protect” civilians).

A few hundred soldiers and no less than 80,000 civilians have been bombed for weeks by NATO and the former “rebels”. Only 20,000 civilians have managed to escape. There’s no food left. Water and electricity have been cut off. Hospitals are idle. The city – under siege – is in ruins. Sirte imams have issued a fatwa (decree) allowing survivors to eat cats and dogs.

What Gaddafi never did to Benghazi – and there’s no evidence he might have – the TNC is doing to Sirte, Gaddafi’s home town. Just like the murderous US offensive in Fallujah in the Iraqi Sunni triangle in late 2004, Sirte is being destroyed in order to “save it”. Sirte, the new Fallujah, is brought to you by NATO rebels. R2P, RIP.

It gets much nastier. Libya is just one angle of a multi-vector US strategy in Africa. Wacko presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann, during Tuesday’s Republican debate in Las Vegas, may have inadvertently nailed it. Displaying her geographical acumen as she referred to Obama’s new US intervention in Uganda, Bachmann said, “He put us in Libya. Now he’s putting us in Africa.” True, Libya is not in Africa anymore; as the counter-revolutionary House of Saud would want it, Libya has been relocated to Arabia (ideally as a restored monarchy).

As for Obama “putting us in Africa” (see Obama, King of Africa Asia Times Online, October 18, 2011), those 100 special forces in Uganda billed as “advisers” should be seen as a liquid modernity remix of Vietnam in the early 1960s; that also started with a bunch of “advisers” – and the rest is history.

Murderous mystic crackpot Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is now a rag-tag bunch of no more than 400 warriors (they used to be over 2,000). They are on the run – and not even based in Uganda, but in South Sudan (now a Western protectorate), the Central African Republic and the long border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

So why Uganda? Enter London-based Heritage Oil, and its chairman Tony Buckingham, a former – you guessed it – “contractor” (ie mercenary). Here’s Heritage’s modus operandi, described by Buckingham himself; they deploy “a first mover strategy of entering regions with vast hydrocarbon wealth where we have a strategic advantage”.

Translation: wherever there’s foreign invasion, civil war, total breakdown of social order, there are big bucks to be made. Thus Heritage’s presence in Iraq, Libya and Uganda.
Profiting from post-war fog, Heritage signed juicy deals in Iraqi Kurdistan behind the back of the central government in Baghdad. In Libya, Heritage bought a 51% stake in a local company called Sahara Oil Services; this means it’s now directly involved in operating oil and gas licenses. Pressed about it, TNC honchos have tried to change the conversation, alleging that nothing is approved yet.

What’s certain is that Heritage barged into Libya via a former SAS commando, John Holmes, founder of Erinys, one of the top mercenary outfits in Iraq apart from Xe Services, former Blackwater. Holmes cunningly shipped the right bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue Label to Benghazi for the right TNC crooks, seducing them with Heritage’s mercenary know-how of enforcing “oil field security”.

Got contractor, will travel
Obama’s Uganda surge is also a classic Pipelineistan gambit. The possibly “billions of barrels” of oil reserves discovered recently in sub-Saharan Africa are located in the sensitive cross-border of Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Believe it or not, Heritage was the top oil company in Uganda up to 2009, drilling on Lake Albert – between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo – and playing one country against another. Then they sold their license to Tullow Oil, essentially a spin-off, also owned by Buckingham, bagging $1.5 billion in the process and crucially not paying 30% of profits to Washington’s bastard, the government of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

Enter Libya’s state oil company, Tamoil, which was part of a joint venture with the Ugandans to build a crucial oil pipeline to Kenya; Uganda is landlocked, and badly needs the pipeline when oil exports start next year. The NATO war on Libya paralyzed the Pipelineistan gambit. Now everything is open for business again. Tamoil may be out of the picture – but so may be other players.

Trying to sort out the mess, the parliament in Uganda – slightly before Obama’s announcement – decided to freeze all oil contracts, hitting France’s Total and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, but especially Tullow oil.

But now, with Obama’s special forces “advising” not only Uganda but also the neighbors, and linking up with Heritage – which is essentially a huge oil/mercenary outfit – it’s not hard to fathom where Uganda’s oil contracts will eventually land.

The Amazon rules
Unified Protector, Odyssey Dawn and all other metaphors Homeric or otherwise for the Africom/NATO 40,000-plus bombing of Libya have yielded the desired result; the destruction of the Libyan state (and much of the country’s infrastructure, to the delight of disaster capitalism vultures). It also delivered the lethal unintended consequence of those anti-aircraft missiles appropriated by Islamists – a supremely convincing reason for the “war on terror” in northern Africa to become eternal.

Washington couldn’t care less about R2P; as the Libyan Clinton hop shows, the only thing that matters is the excuse to “securitize” Libya’s arsenal – the perfect cover story for US contractors and Anglo-French intel ops to take over Libyan military bases.

The iron rule is that “free” Libya should be under the control of the “liberators”. Tell that to the “irregular militias”, not to mention the Abdelhakim Belhaj gang and his al-Qaeda assets now in military control of Tripoli.

It’s useful to remember that last Friday, the same day the US State Department announced it was sending “contractors” to Libya, was the day Obama announced his Uganda surge. And only two days later, Kenya invaded Somalia – once again under the R2P excuse of protecting civilians from Somali jihadis and pirates.

The US adventure in Somalia looks increasingly like a mix of Sophocles and the Marx Brothers. First there was the Ethiopian invasion (it failed miserably). Then the thousands of Ugandan soldiers sent by Museveni to fight al-Shabaab (partially failed; after all the Washington-backed “government” barely controls a neighborhood in Mogadishu).

Now the Kenyan invasion. A measure of the Central Intelligence Agency’s brilliance is that operatives have been on the ground for months alongside bundles of mercenaries. Soon some counter-insurgency hotshot in Washington praying in the altar of new CIA head David Petraeus will conclude that the only solution is an army of MQ-9 Reapers to drone Somalia to death.

The big picture remains the Pentagon’s Africom spreading its militarized tentacles against the lure of Chinese soft power in Africa, which goes something like this: in exchange for oil and minerals, we build anything you want, and we don’t try to sell you “democracy for dummies”.

The Bush administration woke up to this “threat” a bit too late – at Africom’s birth in 2008. Under the Obama administration, the mood is total panic. For Petraeus, the only thing that matters is “the long war” on steroids – from boots on the ground to armies of drones; and who are the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department to disagree?

Italian geographer and political scientist Manlio Dinucci is one of the few to point out how neo-colonialism 2.0 works; one just needs to look at the map. In Central Africa, the objective is US military supremacy – on air and in intel – over Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Libya, the objective is to occupy an absolutely strategic crossroads between the Mediterranean, northern Africa and the Middle East, with the added (nostalgic?) benefit of the West – as in Paris, London and Washington – finally getting to hold military bases as when King Idris was in power (1951 to 1969). As a whole, control must be established over northern Africa, central Africa, eastern Africa and – more problematically – the Horn of Africa.

The trillion-dollar question ahead is how China – which plots strategic moves years in advance – is going to react. As for Amazon Clinton, she must be beaming. In Iraq, Washington meticulously destroyed a whole country over two long decades just to end up with nothing – not even a substantial oil contract. Clinton at least got a private army – the “advisers” who will be stationed in the bigger-than-the-Vatican US Embassy in Baghdad.
And considering that Obama’s new African “advisers” will be paid by the State Department, now Clinton’s also got her own African private army. After November 2012, Clinton might well consider a move into the contractor business. In the sacred name of R2P, naturally.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Merkel Won’t Let Euro Split, Could Cause ‘Dark Age,’ Rifkin Says

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Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) — Angela Merkel won’t allow the euro region to split because she understands that could cause “a dark age” by wrecking the markets leading energy policy as oil supplies dwindle, said an adviser to the German chancellor.

Europe‘s 500 million residents, the wealthiest market on Earth, have led the development of technologies in clean energy, transport and communications that can drive global growth that doesn’t rely on oil, said Jeremy Rifkin, a Wharton Business School professor who has advised Merkel for six years.

“I hope they pull this off, there’s no one else,” he said yesterday in Madrid of Merkel’s struggle to boost growth as part of Europe’s rescue strategy and preserve the single currency area. “If it splits up, we’re into a dark age.”

Rifkin argues that record oil prices in 2008 pushing up the costs of everything from food to clothing rather than the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. was the main cause of the financial crisis. The global economy won’t return to its pre-crisis growth until it moves away from fossil fuels because rising oil prices will continually hold down expansion, he said.

The global economy sputtered again this year after oil prices surged. The European Central Bank started buying Italian and Spanish government bonds to control the sovereign debt crisis on Aug. 8, three months after oil prices reached their highest since 2008. Stock markets slumped this summer, with the S&P 500 losing 17 percent from July 22 to Aug. 8.

Germany’s deployment of renewable energy, intelligent power grids and electric vehicles leaves it best-placed to lead the world economy beyond its reliance on fossil fuels, Rifkin said. His vision involves creating an “energy Internet.”

Energy Networks

The EU has led the global battle to limit the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are almost certainly the cause of global warming, establishing the world’s biggest market for carbon-dioxide emission permits in 2005. That infrastructure, as well as the bloc’s targets for transforming its energy networks over the next 30 years, would likely be wrecked if the single currency area split, Rifkin said.

Merkel meets European Union leaders in Brussels on Oct. 23 as they seek a solution to the debt crisis that has brought the euro area to the brink of recession, according to Christian Schulz, an economist at Joh Berenberg Gossler & Co. in London.

“If the euro fails, Europe fails,” Merkel said yesterday. “But we shall not allow this to happen.”

Global crude output likely peaked in 2006, the International Energy Agency said last year. Oil companies will have to spend trillions of dollars drilling in increasingly hostile environments such as the deepwaters of the Gulf of Mexico or the Arctic to meet demand, it said in its 2011 World Energy Outlook.

Merkel, Sarkozy, Zapatero

Rifkin, in the Spanish capital to speak today at a Del Pino Foundation conference, has advised Merkel, French Premier Nicolas Sarkozy and Spain’s Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero that the global economy’s fundamental problem stems from the end of a growth model based on fossil fuels.

Sustainable expansion will only return when officials and executives can produce “the third industrial revolution,” the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School professor argues in a book of the same title due to be published next month.

The shift will involve harnessing Internet technology to manage a decentralized network of renewable power generators based in homes and offices, he said. Domestic hydrogen batteries and computer software will allow consumers to buy and sell power over a smart network, he said.

“This is the completion of the legacy Steve Jobs started,” he said, referring to the Apple Inc. chief who died on Oct. 5. Energy “collecting technologies are going to get cheaper and cheaper. They are following same cost curves as computers and phones.”

Rifkin has also advised executives at companies including Samsung Electronics Co., Citigroup Inc., McKinsey & Co. and Ford Motor Co. as well as the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Interior.

–Editor: Randall Hackley

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350-foot specialized diving ship makes stop at Pensacola port

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The Skandi Achiever makes a stop at the Port of Pensacola on Wednesday for a crew change.
by Katie McFarland

The Port of Pensacola continues to be busy with the arrival of a specialized diving vessel Wednesday morning.

The Skandi Achiever, a dive-support boat, is stopping in Pensacola for an equipment and crew change, said Buddy McCormick, director of business development and public relations for Offshore Inland.

The saturation dive system allows 18 divers to trade off staying in four, three-man decompression chambers. The divers can descend and perform work on equipment like offshore rigs then recover from deep-water diving, McCormick said.

The 350-foot vessel arrived at the port at about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday after a trip from Europe, he said.

The vessel, owned by French oil and gas infrastructure giant Technip, will be at the port for four to five days before going on its next three- to four-week job in the Gulf of Mexico. It will return to Pensacola to pick up equipment after the job.

Technip recently purchased Global Industries and now owns the Global 1200 pipe-laying vessel that recently was berthed at the port and is scheduled to return Oct. 27.

Technip will have almost 30 vessels working in the Gulf of Mexico, McCormick said.

Offshore Inland leases a warehouse at the port and has the right of first refusal for vessels docking at berths one and two.

McCormick said he’s pleased with the recent influx of vessels at the port and hopes to create jobs by bringing even more into the port.

The massive catamaran-style lift with double golden arches that arrived at the port Oct. 7 is scheduled to depart today, port officials said.

The Versabar 10,000 stopped in Pensacola for routine maintenance because of high winds and seas in the Gulf. It was scheduled to depart Oct. 11, but made one trip into the Gulf and returned for a second stop Saturday.

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Would U.S. Export Laws Hinder Efforts To Mitigate Cuban Oil Spills?

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by Clif Burns

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing yesterday, reported here by the Oil & Gas Journal, on the possible impact of exploratory oil drilling by non-U.S. companies in Cuban territorial waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Michael R. Bromwich, Director of the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (“BSEE”) tried to assure the Committee that U.S. companies could respond quickly to an oil spill in Cuban waters notwithstanding the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

He said that the US Departments of Commerce and the Treasury have a long-standing practice of providing licenses to address environmental challenges in Cuban waters, and that DOC’s Bureau of Industry and Security has issued a number of them for booms, skimmers, dispersants, pumps, and other equipment and supplies to minimize environmental damage from a spill. “I believe the Commerce and Treasury departments would move quickly to approve more licenses if needed,” he said.

Not all witnesses before the Committee shared Bromwich’s rosy view of our ability to respond to a Cuban spill:

Paul A. Schuler, president of Clean Caribbean & Americas, an international spill response cooperative operating in the region, said only three US companies have such licenses that must be renewed every 1-2 years. “It needs to be handled in advance, and not as an ad hoc action as part of a response to an oil spill,” Schuler said. “Others would have to go through the entire licensing process, and my experience has been that it has not been quick.”

I suspect that exporters with experience obtaining licenses from BIS and OFAC might also share Schuler’s scepticism about whether the agencies could move quickly on licenses by U.S. companies to provide clean-up services in Cuban waters (which would require an OFAC license) and export equipment to be used in that clean-up effort (which would require a BIS license).

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