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Ed Webb

Petro-aggression: How Russia's oil makes war more likely - 0 views

  • A Russian natural gas embargo is a trick that can probably only be pulled once (not unlike the 1973 oil embargo).  So in a sense, European dependence on Russian energy does not imply short-term vulnerability – except that European policymakers’ perceptions of vulnerability can become its own reality.
  • Russia’s resource curse.  Russia’s energy revenues (from both oil and gas) have ensconced Vladimir Putin as an autocrat and given him a free hand in foreign policy.  Russia is so heavily dependent on its energy revenues that it is a classic petrostate, making it more susceptible to corruption, autocracy and violent conflict.
  • Russia’s incursion into Crimea can be seen as a close cousin of petro-aggression.  A state is more likely to instigate international conflict when it has a combination of (a) oil income and (b) a leader with aggressive preferences.  A lot more likely: 250 percent more military conflict than a typical non-petrostate, on average.  Oil income means more military spending, increasing the state’s scope for potential conflicts.  Even more importantly, it distorts the domestic politics of the state, reducing the leader’s domestic political risk from military adventurism and aggressive foreign policy.
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  • Here lies the real risk of Europe’s energy situation: So long as it continues to buy Russian oil and gas, it is sending massive amounts of cash to a neighboring dictator.  By keeping the taps on, Putin consolidates his power as Russian dictator.
  • Diversifying away from fossil fuels would bring security benefits (in addition to some obvious environmental ones), in part by reducing the money sent to petrostates like Russia.
Ed Webb

Peace talks could benefit from implementing previous agreements - Al-Monitor: the Pulse... - 0 views

  • Ahmed Qurei does not make do with twiddling his thumbs while waiting for the American rabbit to appear, all the while praying that the hat holds up until the longed-for day arrives. He suggests using the time to rebuild trust between the parties. Such trust should inject optimism into the heart of the Palestinian public by letting people know that the end of the occupation is near.

    To do that, there is no need for any negotiations or even the formulation of new agreements. Kerry will be able to free himself to deal with the crisis in Ukraine, the negotiations with Iran and maybe even a concerted effort to end the bloodshed in Syria. All that is needed is to go to the archives and pull out two or three documents bearing the signatures of various Israeli prime ministers, including the present one, dust them off and implement them. Fulfilling the existing agreements could completely change the skeptical and even gloomy mood hanging over the diplomatic negotiations. The United States, which was an active partner in formulating these documents and which provided them with its imprimatur, cannot absolve itself from them.

  • Today, Areas A and B cover less than 40% of the West Bank.
  • Instead of pouring money into isolated settlements whose very existence under Israeli sovereignty contradicts the two-state solution, the government should pass an evacuation-compensation law, which will allow tens of thousands of those settlers to return to Israeli territory.
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  • A new survey conducted in late 2013 by the Macro Center for Political Economics in cooperation with the organization Blue and White Future discovered that 28.8% of the approximately 100,000 residents of isolated settlements east of the separation wall — or about 30,000 people — have expressed an interest in being evacuated in exchange for compensation, even before a diplomatic agreement is reached. The survey also found that the region whose residents show the greatest willingness (43.1%) to be evacuated before a diplomatic agreement is reached is the Jordan Valley and the northern shores of the Dead Sea, the very area that the Israeli right wants to annex.
Ed Webb

How Qatar got its fingers burned. A foreign policy that backfired - 0 views

  • "There was much to gain from making a highly visible stand against authoritarian misrule in North Africa, in Syria and in Yemen. Moreover, the opportunity cost of doing so was low at first as Qatari expressions of declaratory and material support for opposition movements elsewhere were unlikely to rebound domestically while they also played into Qatar's efforts to be taken seriously as a responsible participant on the regional and international stage."

    However, according to Ulrichsen, this strategy has started to unravel – partly because of Qatar's ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and partly because it is now viewed less as an impartial mediator and more as an activist and opportunist.

  • "In contrast with the gradual domestication of Brotherhood movements in Kuwait, in the UAE and to a lesser extent in Saudi Arabia where they developed local political groups, Qatar extended and diversified its ties with the regional branches of the movement outside Qatar while keeping a firm lid on any activities at home. 

    "While Qaradawi and others were given a platform on al-Jazeera, they and other Brotherhood exiles were accommodated in Doha on a tacit understanding that they would refrain from intervening in or commenting on social issues within Qatar itself, thereby establishing a clear distinction between the domestic and regional spheres of activity, and what activities were permissible and what were not."

  • "Above all, there's a danger that the lack of a coherent strategy in its foreign policy which is opportunistic, seizing opportunities as and when they arose, now makes Qatar susceptible to international and domestic sources of instability going against one of its main drivers of foreign policy – which was to maintain a network of security and stability."

    For these reasons, Ulrichsen expects Qatar to become more introspective under its new emir. 

Ed Webb

Syria 'smoking gun' report warrants a careful read - - 0 views

    This piece is not an attempt to defend Assad from the charge of war crimes carried out against his government. There has been much stronger and more credible evidence of this than the Qatar report going back years. Just as there is strong and credible evidence of torture, summary executions, and associated war crimes being carried out by various rebel factions (a fact completely ignored in today's report).

    But after the lies gobbled up the US people and Congress from anonymous sources from the first Gulf War (remember Hill & Knowlton's fabrication of Iraqi soldiers tossing Kuwaiti babies out of incubators) to the second (the fabricated intelligence of weapon's of mass destruction peddled by "Curveball" and the like) to the ongoing reassessment of the strength of the public evidence presented by the US about the certainty that the Assad government used sarin last year, this kind of report has to be treated with kid gloves.
Ed Webb

Twitter / JZarif: tragedy in syria is a trap ... - 0 views

    A very interesting tweet from Iran's foreign minister, newly active on Twitter.
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