Daily Archives: August 29, 2012
Why Revolutionary Sunni Islamism is the World’s Greatest Strategic Threat and None of it is Moderate
No, it sure isn’t the age of Aquarius or of Multicultural, Politically Correct love-ins. It’s the age of revolutionary Islamism, especially Sunni Islamism. And you better learn to understand what this is all about real fast.
(Shia Islamism, important mainly because of Iran and especially because of its nuclear ambitions, is number two on the threat list. But that’s not our topic today.)
Focusing on the Sunni revolutionary Islamist tidal wave, the foundation of knowledge is that there are three types and they are all bad, very bad. A lot of people are going to be misinforming you about this and getting others—never themselves, of course—killed.
Sometimes people ask me why I use the phrase “revolutionary” Sunni Islamism. The reason is to remind everyone that this is a revolutionary movement like those of the past that seek to use a variety of strategies and tactics–of which violence might be only one–to seize, hold, and use state power to transform societies.
Some ask why I use the word “Islamism” and the reason is because this is a specific, conscious set of organized political movements. However theology is related to this issue the problem is political, not theological. Anyone who watched over decades as I have how the radicals had to sell the idea that “jihad” today meant picking up guns, cutting off people’s heads, overthrowing governments, and assembling mobs of thousands screaming for death and destruction, would have no illusion that they had an easy time of it.
This didn’t happen because somebody just pointed to some verses in the Koran and everyone said: Oh, now I get it! We must seize control of the world and kill everyone else. They murdered or intimidated into silence Muslims who disagreed with them. Even today hundreds of millions of Muslims oppose revolutionary Islamism. And if you don’t play it smart to have those people as allies–some out of mutually cynical self-interest and some as true brothers who want to live in freedom just like you do–and help them save their lives and countries you will never achieve anything.
To understand al-Qaida, which of course goes under many names and regional local groups, is simple. It has one strategy: kill! Its only tactic is terrorism. It is like those nineteenth-century revolutionary movements that always failed and for which the Marxists had so much contempt.
These small groups were always persuaded that if the workers would only be roused to a general strike or that enough officials would be assassinated the revolution would come like a nuclear explosion. Now, these movements always failed but sometimes they laid the basis for others to succeed. Remember, the People’s Will helped launch the Russian revolutionary movement; an anarchist assassinated an American president; the Serbian state-sponsored terrorist cell set off World War One in 1914, and of course al-Qaida created September 11.
Al-Qaida and its various versions in Morocco, Gaza (the Palestinian Resistance Committees), Iraq, Somalia, Europe, Yemen, and a dozen other places is dangerous because it can stage terrorist attacks. In a place where no government exists—like Somalia—it might conceivably seize power. But al-Qaida is not the great threat of the twenty-first century. It is a problem for counter-terrorism and relatively lightweight counterinsurgency.
They may be the worst guys but they are not the West’s main global strategic problem. Everybody who isn’t basically a supporter of an al-Qaida group hates al-Qaida except for the Taliban which is really sort of a similar version. Why? Simple. Because al-Qaida wants to overthrow every regime (they do play a little footsy with Iran but even that’s limited). Oh, and they also loathe Shia Muslims which makes for even more enemies and fewer potential allies.
It is “stupid” to have no friends because that means everyone has a motive to get you and nobody has a reason to help you or give you safe haven. Doesn’t sound like brilliant strategy, right? But there’s more.
Al-Qaida, although the name means in Arabic “base,” ironically, has no political base. It sets up no real mass organizations; it doesn’t do social welfare work capable of rallying whole countries behind it. There is no way that hundreds of thousands or millions of people will rally to its cause. Imagine someone in 1917 saying in Moscow, “Forget about those moderate Bolsheviks. It’s the anarchists we have to fear.” In other words, they are in a distant third place.
But even al-Qaida can be used by the Brotherhood. Look at what happened: an al-Qaida group stormed into an Egyptian base, killed lots of soldiers, stole a couple of vehicles, and attacked the border with Israel.
True, the Egyptian regime (that is, the Brotherhood) attacked and killed some of the al-Qaida people. After all, these terrorists had murdered Egyptian soldiers. But what did the regime tell its people? That Israel was behind the attack. Israel had murdered Egyptians. And therefore there is more reason than ever to hate and wage war against Israel. This is how Middle Eastern politics works. And that’s one reason why the Brotherhood—as it incites to hatred and violence even as it kills the even more hateful and violent—will never be moderate.
Then there are the Salafists, a word coined only recently in part as a pretense to pretend that the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate. But this also does describe a distinct set of groups, for example the Palestinian groups Jaish al-Islam and Jaish al-Umma. Egypt is the place where the Salafists developed in a most sophisticated fashion. But it’s important to understand why that happened. Indeed, that point is central to comprehending what’s going on now.
In the 1970s, when President Anwar al-Sadat made the mistake of letting the Brotherhood return to public life in practice, he threw fear into them. Advocate violence in Egypt; come out too openly against the regime; even become too successful and back to the concentration camps you go!
So the Brotherhood leadership, elderly and many of whom had been tortured and seen their colleagues hung, played it cool. They had no illusions about underestimating the strength of the regime. Yes, they said, the day of revolution will come but meanwhile we are in a long-term stage of da’wa, organize and educate. Patience is essential. Don’t make the regime too mad. Yes, hooray for killing Israelis and Americans! But at home keep the murders to a few too boldly open secularists.
There were, of course, young men who were too impatient. “Our leaders are cowards. They have betrayed the true word of Islam! Let us organize for a more imminent revolution, maybe even take up arms right now and shoot down the evil regime’s officials.” And they even gunned down Sadat himself. There were many such groups—one, Islamic Jihad, joined up with al-Qaida—but they had different views, mixes of strategies, and leaders. Some were almost sects with charismatic shaykhs.
Now they have blossomed forth, eager for violence and instant revolution. Their al-Nour party—which only represents part of this complex mix of groups that may or may not cooperate—got about 20 percent of the parliamentary vote.
Is the Brotherhood their friend or enemy? Should they raid police stations and blow up pipelines or not? Should they set up morality patrols and beat up young men walking with women and also women who aren’t dressed as the Salafists wish? There are many different views.
Sometimes the Brotherhood uses the Salafists as a convenient excuse. If Islamic Jihad lobs rockets and mortars at Israel, well—wink, wink, nudge, nudge—that isn’t the fault of Hamas is it? At times, the Salafists can furnish the Brotherhood with the needed storm troops though I would not suggest for a moment that the Brotherhood owns the Salafists. They are definitely two different groupings, but their interests can blend and the “radical” Salafists provide the “moderate” Brotherhood with a convenient excuse when one is needed.
One thing is clear though: the Salafists’ goal is the precise, exact same as that of the Brotherhood. The only question is how fast to go, how radical to talk, and how much violence to use.
And another thing is also clear: neither in Egypt, nor in Tunisia, nor in Gaza (where the Brotherhood is called Hamas) will the Salafists overthrow the Brotherhood people. We can be less sure about Syria where the balance of forces is not yet so clear.
Finally, we come to the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is the Communist Party of Islamism. And you don’t have to take it from me; that was an idea expressed by the moderate, anti-Islamist brother of the Brotherhood’s founder.
The Brotherhood wants a Sharia state. It would like a caliphate (run by itself of course). It wants Israel wiped off the map and America kicked out of the Middle East. It wants women put into second-class citizenship and gays put into their graves. It wants Christians subordinated or thrown out. It wants all of these things.
And it will pursue these goals with patience and strategic cleverness. One step forward, one step back; tell the Western reporters and politicians what they want to hear. Pretend to be moderate in English while screaming death curses in Arabic.
These are the people who are coming to power. They hate their Shia counterparts generally and will kill them also at times. They will drag down their countries’ economies. Ironically, they will succeed in making Israel relatively stronger as they beat and burn and tear down; as they set back their countries economic advancement; as they kick half the population (the female) down the stairs.
They will lose. Just as the Communists did; just as the Nazis did; just as the Fascists and Japanese militarists did. But how many decades will it take? How many millions of people dead and injured? How much human potential and natural resources wasted?
And will Western policy make easier the ultimate triumph of moderation, moderation that includes millions of anti-Islamist Muslims and also includes lots of Middle Eastern Berbers, Kurds, Turks, Iranians, Druze, Christians and—yes—Israel. Or will the West make things harder, longer, and worse?
Of victory, I have no doubt. Of Western good sense, all too much uncertainty.
- A Layman’s Guide to Revolutionary Sunni Islamism, the World’s Greatest Threat (jewishpress.com)
- Al-Qaida websites vow ‘destruction’ of SEAL member outed by Fox News (dailykos.com)
- Al-Qaida: We’re returning to old Iraq strongholds (kansascity.com)
- Syria: Al-Qaida’s New Playground (pbs.org)
- Al-Qaida’s surge spells further turmoil for Iraq | Hayder al-Khoei (guardian.co.uk)
- Turkey: Turkish Opposition Says Government Ignoring Presence of al-Qaida (ionglobaltrends.com)
- Al-Qaida claims deadly summer attacks in west Iraq (dailystar.com.lb)
By Dudley Althaus
MEXICO CITY — After more than a dozen attempts, Mexico’s national petroleum monopoly has struck significant oil very near the U.S. boundary in the ultra-deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, President Felipe Calderon said Wednesday.
“This is a great discovery,” Calderon said in announcing the find by Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, beneath more than 8,300 feet of water and miles of earth, the first successful well in a system that he said ultimately may hold as much as 10 billion barrels of oil.
“It will further strengthen our petroleum reserves and will permit Mexico to maintain and increase petroleum production in the medium and long term.”
Pemex has been scrambling in recent years to replace the sharp production declines in the Cantarell offshore field at the foot of the Gulf. Earlier deep water attempts have either produced dry wells or natural gas that’s uneconomical to exploit at current prices.
Pemex estimates that its Gulf reserves may hold as much as 27 billion barrels of petroleum.
The new discovery lies in the so-called Perdido belt of the Gulf, just 24 miles from the U.S. boundary and about 110 miles offshore of Mexico’s northeastern coast. Calderon said Wednesday the initial estimate of a deposit in the Perdido area on Mexico’s side of the Gulf was between 250 and 400 million barrels.
A partnership headed by Shell Oil, Chevron and British Petroleum has been producing about 100,000 barrels a day from three fields in U.S. territory about 30 miles north of the new Pemex discovery. The companies began producing from their Perdido wells in March 2010, after three years of exploration and development of the field.
“People thought Pemex would find oil in Perdido if they could just successfully drill a well,” said Houston analyst George Baker, who closely tracks Mexico’s energy industries. Now, Baker said, Pemex will have to find the means to actually bring to market the barrels of oil in the find.
“The whole science of how you produce from deep water has little to do with the science of discovering a well,” Baker said. “It’s much more difficult.”
The discovery is likely to fuel the impending debate over further opening Pemex and Mexico’s petroleum resources to private investment. Proponents have argued that Pemex needs private investment from companies to fully develop Mexico’s petroleum potential.
Not only is private investment needed to find deep water oil, but also to develop any petroleum finds and bring them to market, they say.
Getting at the deep water oil will indeed prove difficult for Pemex. But for now the find gives Calderon bragging rights for reversing what had been a rapid decline in Mexico’s petroleum reserves as Canterell plays out and other fields had struggled to keep up.
“We received a company that had not been able to successfully explore in deep waters,” Calderon said of Pemex at the start of his six year term. “Today we leave a company that is doing so with great success.”
“We knew it was indispensable to go after this wealth,” Calderon said.
Calderon and Pemex officials said the new find would not be in production for at least another five years.
Baker said available deep water pipeline technology may enable Pemex to export its oil through the Perdido production platform jointly owned by Shell or other multinationals.
But he suggested Pemex does not yet have the technical capability to make those connections. For now the well will have to be plugged, Baker said, a procedure whose risk the Deep Water Horizon disaster made all too clear.
Calderon said the new deep water find proves that “there is no frontier so distant or so deep that we can’t cross. There is no challenge, no matter how complicated, that we can’t overcome.”
- Pemex’s El Perdido oil deposits may hold 10 billion barrels (fuelfix.com)
- Mexico turns to Texas for relief during natural gas crisis (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Natural gas from Mexico beckons Texas companies (mysanantonio.com)
- Mexico May Finally Get a Modern Oil Industry (businessweek.com)
When working in the most extreme offshore environments, crews have to be able to rely on the absolute integrity and performance of their vessels. Ulstein Group has joined forces with GC Rieber Shipping to offer the market a new standard in operational security and performance – a ship that refuses to accept failure, thanks to the pioneering ‘operation+’ philosophy.
GC Rieber Shipping, the Norway-based harsh environment shipping specialist, has charged ULSTEIN with developing a high-capacity subsea vessel based on its SX121 design. This NOK 800 million ship, ordered in June 2012, alongside an option for a sister vessel, has been commissioned in response to strong market desire for offshore construction support vessels (CSVs) for deep and harsh environments.
Reliability in the extreme
Alongside state-of-the-art features, equipment and performance figures, the vessel will give GC Rieber Shipping maximum operational availability – a vital characteristic for both the company and those chartering the ship. Downtime will be minimised thanks to the ‘operation+’ feature, an evolution of GC Rieber Shipping’s own ‘fail-to-safe’ design approach.
‘Operation+’ allows the vessel to continue to operate even if it has experienced a significant failure. Bjørn Valberg, GC Rieber Shipping’s Technical Director, explains more:
“Fail-to-safe means that even if a ship encounters a failure it is rendered in a safe condition. Our objective with this ship is to take that philosophy a step further,” Valberg comments.
“In the case of this vessel a single failure – such as a failure of a generator set, a single thruster or even an entire switchboard section (operating two generators and two thrusters) – will not threaten the redundant continuation of operations, giving charterers real peace of mind.”
Valberg illustrates this with a real-life scenario involving subsea flex pipe laying – an operation the new vessel is optimised for – where, if a single failure was encountered, a ‘standard’ ship would be forced to terminate operations as redundancy would be jeopardised.
“And of course,” he states, “if you are in deep waters with a substantial length of product, such as flex pipe, hanging from the ship, abandoning that operation is, well… it’s quite obvious how difficult, time-consuming and expensive that is.
“This new vessel, thanks to ‘operation+’ is protected against that scenario – it could continue with its assignment. That’s a hugely important characteristic of that vessel, helping the charterer meet the demanding expectations of the market.”
Configured for success
ULSTEIN’s design and solutions team has been working to turn this concept into reality and deliver the Holy Grail of minimal operational downtime and maximum efficiency and reliability.
Geir Sivertstøl, principal engineer electrical systems at ULSTEIN, says the vessel, equipped with three main thrusters and three side thrusters (for stationkeeping during pipe laying), is fully optimised for carrying out assignments without interruption.
He notes: ”The switchboard system, propellers and diesel motors can be configured in groups of two, three or four. In case of an AUTR operation (i.e. the occurrence of a single major failure), the vessel will only lose one third of its installed power package and propulsion, and will be able to complete the operation with two thirds of its capacity.”
“This,” he stresses, “in combination with the highest standards for dynamic positioning, DYNPOS-AUTRO, will ensure that charterers can look forward to operational standards that are custom made to tackle the world’s harshest – and potentially most resource rich – environments.”
Equipped, flexible, compelling
GC Rieber Shipping’s version of the SX121 (yard number 300 at Ulstein Verft) has been equipped to meet the most diverse requirements, in the most demanding of conditions.
The 130-metre long, 25-metre wide vessel can accommodate a crew of 130 and cut through deep waters with a top speed of 14.5 knots, while meeting all the latest environmental standards. She is equipped with a powerful 250 ton AHC (active heave compensated) offshore crane, perfect for lifting and lowering heavy equipment to and from subsea environments.
A large cargo deck creates the optimal environment for a variety of operations, ensuring that the vessel is well placed to meet the hugely diverse demands of the offshore construction market. It also offers the ability to carry two ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) – one that will be launched from the starboard side and the other through a moon pool.
In addition, the ship has been designed with SURF (subsea umbilical riser and flowline) capabilities and is prepared for the installation of a below-deck basket/ carousel with a 2500 ton capacity, as well as a 250 ton VLS (vertical lay system) for deployment through the moon pool.
It is, as Valberg stresses, a compellingly comprehensive package: “One of the main reasons for choosing the SX121 design from ULSTEIN was its inherent flexibility, which allows several types of operations and enables us to operate in a wider range of market segments. The fact that we can utilise the 250 ton crane to the maximum of its capability both in offshore and subsea lifts on this vessel was another deciding factor.”
GC Rieber Shipping’s vessel is, according to Tore Ulstein, deputy CEO in Ulstein Group, the ‘perfect project’ for ULSTEIN to show its renowned design and shipbuilding pedigree. Tore Ulstein notes that the business is well accustomed to developing and producing vessels that have the capability to minimise operational downtime, maximising customers’ profits.
He commented: “Our organisation has broad expertise in developing advanced high-capacity offshore vessels together with customers, so this project suits us perfectly.”
The SX121 is scheduled for delivery in the first quarter of 2014, boosting GC Rieber Shipping’s fleet (which was fully booked at the conclusion of 2011) of 18 advanced special purpose vessels, 12 of which are owned by the company.
CEO in GC Rieber Shipping, Irene W. Basili, has imparted that the new addition to the company will “strengthen our position in the high-end subsea segment” and that she is looking forward to receiving “a top-class vessel from ULSTEIN” – a sentiment that potential charterers will no doubt agree with.