Daily Archives: November 29, 2011

Have US policymakers (POTUS) gone crazy?

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By: Justin Raimondo | Published: November 30, 2011

Is there a single region of the world where the United States government isn’t scheming to grab more control, more influence, and have more of a military presence?

In Pakistan, a memo has been unearthed from “President” Zardari to Admiral Mike Mullen, head of the joint chiefs of staff, proposing a coup d’etat in which the military and intelligence chiefs would be replaced – with US “political and military support” – in favour of individuals more compliant with the American agenda. Also in Pakistan: an outright attack by US and Afghan forces on a Pakistani military base, a “mistake” in which 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed.

Is the United States government actively trying to destabilise Pakistan – in order to be able to pull off a “coup” and move in with US troops in support of “democracy”? Are we, in effect, at war with Pakistan? Sure seems like it.

In Iran, we’re running a terrorist operation that strikes at both military and civilian targets, and we’ve just announced a new round of sanctions. Not content with a campaign of economic strangulation, prominent US lawmakers and former top national security officials are harbouring, succouring, and defending a known organisation whose goal is “regime change” in Iran. Hardly a day goes by without a threat of military action emanating from Washington.

In Syria, we are supporting armed “protesters” whose goal is the overthrow of the Syrian government. In Libya, our proxies recently succeeded in doing the same. In Egypt, we are reprising our record of support for mobs demanding the ouster of the government – while in Bahrain, we take the side of the reigning king as angry mobs gather in the public square.

In Eastasia, we are intervening in a regional dispute, claiming to be a “resident Pacific power,” and scheming to make the South China Sea (of all places!) an American lake. The much-vaunted “Pacific pivot” has us setting up a new military base in Australia and sending 2,500 US troops to man it. Is this because China is planning to send the Peoples Liberation Army Down Under – or because the Americans are looking to expand the string of major military bases that allows them to project power (and impose their will) all over the globe? Of course it’s just a coincidence that, in tandem with our Asian offensive, we’re about to announce an agreement to base US warships in Singapore, right on China’s doorstep.

Our ambitions, however, are hardly limited to Eastasia. In Central Asia, aside from our decade-long campaign to subjugate Afghanistan, we’re spending tens of millions of US taxpayer dollars to prop up some of the most repressive regimes on earth. The idea is to encircle both Russia and China: toward this end we are courting the dictators of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan, and haggling with the newly-elected government of Kyrgyzstan to retain our basing rights.

In Europe, we are intervening massively – via the Federal Reserve, this time – in order to shore up insolvent banks, support the Euro, and prop up the decadent welfare states of the EU. On a more militaristic note, via Nato we’re intervening – again! – in Kosovo, Serbia’s lost province, where rebellious Serbs are defying the gangster “government” in Pristina and defending their autonomy: naturally, we aim to crush them. Since the Obama administration has come into office, new bases have sprung up in Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. And if the long reach of Uncle Sam into the very heart of Europe isn’t evident in the legal troubles of Julian Assange, then one is wearing blinders.

In Africa we are invading Somalia, sending the Marines to Uganda, and scheming with Kenya and Ethiopia to pacify great swathes of the continent. This is being done in the name of the “war on terrorism,” but in reality it is a response to Chinese economic penetration of the dark continent, which the US sees as a threat. A ring of new military bases is being set up in Yemen, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, and the Seychelles from which to run our ongoing “drone war” against alleged “terrorist” outposts in Somalia and the Arabian peninsula. This is not to mention the “secret” bases reportedly operating in “Israel, Kuwait, the Philippines and many other places,” as Catherine Lutz points out in an excellent overview of what the late Chalmers Johnson called our “empire of bases.”

In South and Central America, the American military presence is rapidly expanding, with seven new bases in Colombia since 2008, two new naval bases in Panama – and those are just the ones we know about. What we don’t know is the extent of Washington’s covert operations south of the border, including supplying arms to Mexican drug cartels – a truly shocking scandal which is being steadfastly ignored by the openly pro-Obama “mainstream” media.

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Well Enhancer en route to Africa for region’s first LWI project

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The Well Enhancer is making her African debut this winter to complete the region’s first ever Light Well Intervention (LWI) campaign offshore Equatorial Guinea.

The campaign will include another first for the Well Enhancer as she will be undertaking her deepest project to date at approximately 1,540 ft (470 m) water depth. The Well Enhancer’s current specification allows her to work in water depths of up to 1,970 ft (600 m).

The Well Enhancer’s arrival represents the emergence of the LWI market for a region which is experiencing rapid development.

The Well Enhancer’s strong track record and Well Ops UK’s reputation as a market leader in providing subsea well intervention services in the North Sea was key in obtaining the award for the African project. This is because Well Ops North Sea clients also own significant interests offshore West Africa and key personnel already understand the methodology and technology behind riserless well intervention operations.

The campaign will include remedial workscopes on six wells by way of a subsea tree replacement, production enhancement, well maintenance and well integrity work.

The Well Enhancer, launched in 2008, provides oil and gas production companies the opportunity to undertake a multitude of workscopes across a number of wells in various locations with the ability to transit between wells and gain access to a well via a Subsea Intervention Lubricator (SIL) well control package to intervene.

This method is both a much quicker and less expensive option to the conventional approach of using a drilling rig. Using LWI vessels also frees up drilling rigs to undertake the operator’s drilling, completion and well work-over projects.

The Well Enhancer, as with sister vessel Seawell, can also provide the operator with up to an 18-man saturation diving system rated for 984 ft (300 m). This offers clients increased options and flexibility when undertaking well work and can support light construction and inspection, repair and maintenance projects within the field, thus maximizing the capabilities of the assets.

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The Coalition Against Chinese Hegemony

To resist Beijing’s maritime claims, Asean members will have to compromise and form a common front.

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By PHILIP BOWRING

Manila

Ownership of the islands, seabed resources and navigation rights in the South China Sea is now very much on the international agenda. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is more united on this issue than it has been for about a decade, and the U.S. is turning more attention diplomatically and militarily to the Pacific. Nevertheless, sustaining the coalition of interests disputing China’s claimed hegemony over the sea will not be easy.

In fact, the wonder is that the Chinese leadership managed to get itself into this predicament by so clumsily arousing neighboring countries’ fears. Having suffered constant Chinese provocations over the preceding few years, Hanoi used its chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2010 to first bring the issue of Chinese aggression to the table. Vietnam and the Philippines encouraged the U.S. to make clear its own interest in freedom of navigation and settlement of territorial disputes according to international principles.

At that point Beijing could have backed off and allowed the subject to fade from view. Instead, the People’s Liberation Army tried to punish Vietnam and the Philippines by harassing their exploration ships. Under the confident new administration of President Benigno Aquino, Manila responded with unprecedented vigor, carrying on exploration and offering new blocks for drilling.

Even this has not given China’s nationalists second thoughts. Recently the Global Times newspaper, owned by the People’s Daily, warned those who dispute Chinese claims to be “mentally prepared for the sound of cannons,” a threat that was noted around the world.

There is a sense that China’s provocations have been driven by the military, probably against the advice of its diplomats. If wiser heads among Beijing’s civilian leadership can reassert control, they will re-adopt Deng Xiaoping‘s maxim about keeping a low profile. If so, China will tone down its rhetoric and offer economic benefits on a larger scale to increase its neighbors’ dependence. It will likely quietly offer bilateral exploration deals which would divide the Asean claimants who are just starting to work together.

China has tried this before and nearly succeeded with Manila. Although the Philippines has relatively little reliance on China trade, its need for investment and pervasive corruption are vulnerabilities. The preoccupation of its armed forces—who are anyway poorly equipped—with insurgencies at home limits its ability to police the seas and protect exploration.

However, democracy can be a powerful force when it comes to protecting national interests. The Philippine public’s determination to stand up to bullying can be stronger than that of elites with business deals with China or autocracies reliant on good relations.

Vietnam’s nationalistic instincts are sure enough but Vietnam is still a relatively small and weak nation quite dependent on trade with China and likely to become more so. Good ties with India, Japan and Russia and emerging ones with the U.S. are an offset but China’s threats have already deterred some exploration on the continental shelf.

China’s efforts to divide the littoral states by pressing for bilateral negotiations have so far not met with success. But they could do so if Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei do not resolve their own differences. Significantly, China has refrained from overt threats against Malaysia even though oil and gas wells off Borneo are within its claimed territory. Malaysia in return has urged caution and cooperation with China. If Vietnam and the wider Malay world do not hang together they will surely be hung separately.

The difficulty lies in sacrificing some overlapping claims to form a united front. Vietnam claims all the Spratlys, the Philippines most but not all of them, Malaysia just a few, and Brunei only a couple of banks. Many of the islets, rocks and reefs lie outside their 200-mile exclusive economic zones and none qualifies for its own EEZ as none is capable of independently supporting permanent habitation.

Vietnam’s claim is as successor to its French colonial rulers as well as Vietnamese imperial assertions and the legacy of the Cham trading kingdom which flourished in central Vietnam until about 1500. The U.S. never claimed the Spratlys but an independent Philippines did so on the basis of proximity and as part of the Philippine archipelago. Malaysia and Brunei make claims based on rights to the continental shelf off Borneo.

Compromise among these four countries, who together own two-thirds of the coastline, is essential to prevent China from establishing hegemony over Southeast Asia. If the Asean nations cannot agree among themselves they could ask the International Court of Justice for a ruling, as did Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia in previous island disputes. The court could also be asked to adjudicate the EEZ boundaries. China would object, but that would only underline its unwillingness to agree to arbitration based on the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention.

In the end, only leadership from Indonesia, the largest Malay state and the cornerstone of Asean, can resolve this conflict. It can do more to refute China’s history-based claims, which ignore centuries of Malay trading across the sea a thousand years before the Chinese. And Jakarta can be the honest broker in finding a compromise to share resources that lie outside the EEZs of the claimants.

Vietnam, the Philippines and the other smaller states are never going to be able to remove China from the Spratly Islands that it now occupies, let alone the Paracels that it seized from Vietnam in 1974. But if they can maintain a common front with backing from Indonesia, they should be able to defend their interests in the South China Sea and their future sovereignty.

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Bangladesh: Looks to joint oil-gas exploration with Myanmar (Burma)

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Bangladesh is keen to import natural gas from Myanmar or explore oil and gas in joint ventures with the neighboring country from its offshore blocks, Bangladeshi government officials said Saturday.

Myanmar is likely to consider the issue of gas exports to Bangladesh after meeting its domestic demand.

The two countries are considering bilateral talks regarding Bangladesh’s interest in exploring offshore blocks.

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Burma’s oil and natural gas sectors eyed by Malaysia

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Transocean International’s semi-submersible drilling rig the Actinia. Last autumn, the Actinia was contracted to drill in Burmese waters.

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Malaysian companies are preparing to invest more in Burma’s inland oil and natural gas blocks.

Nineteen Malaysian companies and Burmese businessmen will discuss investment opportunities on Tuesday at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) office in Rangoon.

In mid-July, foreign energy companies were invited to bid for permits for exploratory rights for oil and natural gas on 18 inland blocks along the Irrawaddy River. A total of 52 companies including the 19 Malaysian companies applied for permits through their embassies.

Some of the blocks are offshore blocks. The ministry did not disclose the exact number. Half of the companies’ proposals were rejected, the ministry said.

“Tomorrow local businessmen will explain the investments, the laws and other things the companies want to know. If they decide to invest in these blocks, local businessmen will agree to partnership with them,” said Sein Win Hlaing, a central executive UMFCCI committee member.

On November 2, during former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s visit to Burma, Malaysia signed four memorandum of understanding including investments in palm oil and tourism, another UMFCCI official said. The former Malaysian Prime Minister was invited by UMFCCI.

There are 47 oil and natural gas production blocks in inland Burma. China, which is extracting oil and gas in 23 of the 47 inland blocks, is the largest investor; Malaysia is the second largest.
If a company finds a productive field, it must then apply for a production permit granted by the ministry to extract oil and natural gas.

“After the agreement, in a case where the companies find productive fields, the government and the companies will need to negotiate to determine how much in profits must be given to the government and the amount of a cash award,” said another UMFCCI official.

The Ministry of Energy said that to promote the oil and natural gas sectors, it cooperates with companies from Russia, China, India, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea on oil and natural gas projects.
There is only one Burmese oil company, Myanmar Petroleum Resources Limited, which is owned by Michael Moe Myint. The Htoo Company owned by Tay Za and Nay Aung, who is the son of former Industry No. 1 Minister Aung Thaung, are shareholders in foreign oil and gas companies, according to sources close to the Ministry of Energy.

Currently, Burma’s inland blocks are producing more than 9,300 crude oil barrels a day and more than 100 million cubic feet of natural gas a day. Meanwhile, the Yadana and Yetagun offshore natural gas blocks are producing more than 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day.

According statements by the Ministry of Energy, there are a total of 0.46 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the inland area in Burma and 17 trillion cubic feet in offshore blocks.

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Burma Today

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Darlene Casella
November 22, 2011

Evolved from the colonial poems of Kipling to the specter of nuclear weapons, world leaders are taking a renewed look at provocative Burma.

Rudyard Kipling wrote The Road to Mandalay; a poem about the sometime capital of the British Colony, Burma.

“Come you back to Mandalay, Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay on the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’ fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!”

Kipling’s poem became a song for Paramount’s first “Road “picture, with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. The Road to Mandalay was renamed The Road to Singapore. Frank Sinatra made the song a hit in his Come Fly With Me album.

Songs and laughter are not the reality of Burma today. Myanmar was renamed after the brutal uprising in 1998. Yangon, formerly Rangoon, means “End of Strife.” This name is an antonym to Burmese life. Pervasive government control, electricity and food shortages, corruption and rural poverty abound. State assets have been “privatized” to military families and government cronies. In spite of abundant natural resources, Burma remains one of the world’s poorest countries.

Human trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation; conscription of child soldiers, and forced labor camps are found. Extreme human rights violations cause the United States, the European Union, and Canada to impose financial and economic sanctions.

Myanmar sits at the crossroads of Asia’s great civilizations between India, Bangladesh, Laos, China, and Thailand. Strategically located on the vast Indian Ocean; she stretches to the Eastern Himalayan Mountains, but is smaller than Texas.

Ancient cities, spectacular monuments, well preserved pagodas, stupas, and temples make Myanmar a rich archaeological find. People communicate in their own languages, wear their own style of clothing, celebrate festivals, and perform rituals that have existed since time immemorial. Buddhism is influential. Most boys, and many girls, take part in novitiation which is a temporary monastic life; which includes a shaved head, wearing a robe, and staying in a monastery (a nunnery for girls). Monks in yellowish robes hold alms bowls, heads bowed, humbly asking for whatever food is offered.

The George Soros Foundation created The Burma Project in 1994 to increase international awareness of conditions in Burma and help the country to make transition from a closed to an open society.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese national hero, a Noble Laureate, and head of the pro democracy movement. She was under house arrest for most of the last 20 years; during this time her husband died in England. At the age of 65, she was released in November 2010 and saw her son for the first time in ten years. Bono wrote the song “Walk On” for Kyi. She has millions of supporters worldwide.

Former First Lady Laura Bush, an advocate of Suu Kyi, worked with 16 women senators to draft a letter to the UN to secure Kyi’s release. Mrs. Bush wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, was interviewed in Time Magazine, and personally called General Secretary Ban Ki Moon asking him to pressure the Burmese regime to release Suu Kyi. In 2010 Laura Bush made a U Tube video about Suu Kyi. Happily Laura Bush spoke by phone with the recently freed pro democracy activist. Encouraged by recent developments, Aung San Suu Kyi announced a return to politics. She had meetings with President Thein Sein.

Burma remains a close ally of China. China and Myanmar have multibillion dollar joint venture pipelines to transport oil and gas. It will link refineries in Western China across Myanmar. Offshore natural gas will go to China. Under civilian control since March 2011, Myanmar has embarked on a series of reforms; released 220 political prisoners, relaxed media control, and legalized trade unions. Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has named Burma as the Chair starting in 2014. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has accepted an invitation to visit the country as soon as possible.

Troubling aspects of Sein’s new government include their nuclear ambition, and their military relationship with North Korea. Norway based “Voice of Burma” broadcast this in a one hour documentary film on Aljazeera television in the Middle East. A young Burmese military specialist on rocket engines shows that Burma has components for a nuclear weapons program, including technology for uranium enrichment and long range missiles.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are climbing on the Burma bandwagon. Mr. Obama called Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit to Australia last week. Hillary Clinton is scheduled to visit next month.

Let us pray that the Obama Administration does better with nuclear weapons in Burma than it has done with nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran.

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