Clooney-backed satellite project to monitor volatile Sudan
by Pete Spotts / December 29, 2010

In what may be the most ambitious project of its kind, the United Nations and human rights advocates in the US are turning to satellite images and the Web to monitor the border between northern and southern Sudan, as the south prepares for a referendum on Jan. 9 that could split the country in two. The concern: If the referendum in southern Sudan supports independence for the oil-rich, largely Christian region, the country once again could dissolve into a brutal civil war. By combining on-the-ground reports with a nearly daily review of commercial-satellite images, the project’s participants say they hope to head off potential large-scale human rights abuses, should a conflict break out. “We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes know that we’re watching,” said actor George Clooney, a co-founder of Not on Our Watch, a human rights group funding the effort, in a statement. “It’s a lot harder to commit mass atrocities in the glare of the media spotlight.”

National intelligence services in the United States and for other major countries are widely acknowledged to have access to more-detailed images than remote-sensing companies can provide. But those images tend to remain classified and out of the public spotlight. The new effort announced Wednesday – the Satellite Sentinel Project – will post its images on a publicly available website, in hopes of mobilizing public opinion in ways that pressure governments to respond to any abuses the effort detects, participants say. The notion of using commercial-satellite images to document destruction of villages, forced migrations, and even inequities in government support for housing across ethnic or religious divides is relatively new. Five years ago, the MacArthur Foundation gave a grant to the American Association for the Advancement of Science to develop ways to help human rights groups monitor conditions in hard-to-access countries and regions. Since then, the science organization has worked on several smaller-scale projects with groups such as Amnesty International (AI), notes Lars Bromley, who spearheaded the effort for the AAAS and now heads similar efforts at the UN’s Operational Satellite Applications Program.

In 2007, the AAAS worked with AI on a project known as Eyes on Darfur, monitoring 12 villages. Over the duration of the project, he says, nine remained untouched, while the other three were affected by violence but not as badly as villages elsewhere. “Whether that was due to our project or not we can’t say,” Mr. Bromley acknowledges. “But it was a positive experience.” Indeed, gauging the effectiveness of a project like this can be difficult, acknowledges David Yanagizawa-Drott, an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Dr.Yanagizawa-Drott will be evaluating the Satellite Sentinel program’s results under the aegis of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, which also is contributing satellite-analysis expertise to the effort. “To address the big question – whether or not the existence of Satellite Sentinel prevents a genocide – is going to be very hard to show,” he says. Still, there are other tests that can address the project’s effect on public awareness and perhaps on public policy, he adds. One key difference between Satellite Sentinel and past, smaller scale projects is its attempt to prepare in advance and work with nearly “real time” images. Many of the early efforts involved comparing images whose before and after views are separated by a span of several years. With the Satellite Sentinel Project, analysts will have access to fresh images every 24 to 36 hours.

Not On Our Watch is providing $750,000 to get the effort going. Web giant Google and website builder Trellon are providing the Web interface and mapping information. Bromley’s office at the UN and researchers with Harvard’s Humanitarian Initiative will be analyzing the images. Not On Our Watch and a second human rights group, the Enough Project, are serving as clearinghouses for on-the-ground information coming in from Sudan – information that will help in interpreting the images. And the two groups will spearhead efforts to bring information the project garners to public attention. “Deterrence is our objective,” says John Pendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project. “We want to contribute to the prevention of war between North and South Sudan. If war does ignite, we want to hold accountable those responsible, and hopefully deter human rights crimes that would be committed in the context of war.”

by Ariel Zirulnick / January 6, 2011

What is South Sudan’s referendum about?
Sunday’s referendum is a vote on whether to make the semiautonomous region of South Sudan fully independent from the rest of the country. After decades of war between the Arab-dominated government in the north and southern rebels, a 2005 peace deal between laid out a plan for powersharing between the north and the south and also a provision for a significant degree of southern autonomy, culminating in Sunday’s referendum on whether the South wants to officially secede. On Sunday, South Sudanese are expected to vote for their homeland to become the world’s newest country.

Why is there going to be a referendum? Why not stay unified?
Fundamentally, the desire to separate comes from deep religious and ethnic divides between the North and South of Africa’s biggest country. Northern Sudan is mostly Arab and Muslim, while South Sudan is predominantly non-Arab with a mix between Christian and animist faiths. The tensions boiled over into a brutal two-decade civil war that began in the 1980s and officially ended with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. There is still great enmity between North and South and distrust over how oil revenues from the oil-rich south are being split.

Who votes in the referendum?
Only South Sudanese who registered during the registration period can vote in the referendum. Most South Sudanese live in the south, but some remain in northern Sudan and many live in other countries as refugees. Registration took place in the following countries: Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the UK, and the US. South Sudanese living in those countries may also vote. In the US, there are polling places open from Jan. 9-15 in Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, Nashville, and Boston.

Is this likely to end peacefully?
Journalists, politicians, and international observers were making dire predictions for the outcome of the referendum for a long time, but opinions have been increasingly optimistic lately. It seems more likely now that the south will be allowed to secede if it votes in favor of independence (an outcome that is highly likely). However, a vote also slated for Jan. 9 in oil-rich the border region of Abyei on whether it would join North or South Sudan (if South Sudan votes for independence) has been postponed. The region seemed too unstable for such a vote to happen safely and peacefully. Another point of contention is oil. The vast majority of Sudan’s oil resources are located in South Sudan. The oil revenues are supposed to be split 50-50 between the north and the south, but southern Sudanese and transparency watchdog groups have long complained the figures are not transparent and that northern officials may be taking more than its fair share. Oil export has been a boon for northern Sudan, and it is unlikely the government will cede control of South Sudan’s oil resources easily.

How long will it take to know the results?
The referendum will begin on Jan. 9 and voting will remain open until Jan. 15. A preliminary tally at the county level will happen once the polls close on Jan. 15. Those tallies will be sent to the South Sudan Referendum Commission offices in the South Sudanese capital of Juba and the Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Final preliminary results from South Sudan, northern Sudan, and outside the country are estimated to be ready by Feb. 1. If the final results are not appealed, they are expected to be made official by Feb. 6.

How can we trust the results?
The South Sudan Referendum Commission will be tallying ballots. The SSRC is a body independent of both the South Sudanese or northern Sudanese governments.

Will Using ‘Live’ Satellite Imagery to Prevent War in the Sudan Actually Work?
by Patrick Meier / December 30, 2010

The Satellite Sentinel Project has hired private satellites to monitor troop movements around the oil-rich region of Abyei during the upcoming Sudanese referendum and prevent war. The images and analysis will be made public on the Project’s website. George Clooney, who catalyzed this joint initiative between Google, UNOSAT, the Enough Project, Trellon and my colleagues at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), calls this the anti-genocide paparazzi: “We want them to enjoy the level of celebrity attention that I usually get. If you know your actions are going to be covered, you tend to behave much differently than when you operate in a vacuum.”

The group hopes that they can deter war crimes by observing troop buildups and troop movements in advance. If successful, the project would accomplish an idea first proposed more than half-a-century ago  by US President Dwight Eisenhower during a US-Soviet Summit in Paris at the height of the Cold War. Eisenhower announced his plan to “submit to the United Nations a proposal for the creation of a United Nations aerial surveillance to detect preparations for attack.” Interestingly, Eisenhower had crafted this idea five years earlier as part of his Open Skies Proposal, which actually became a treaty in 2002: “The Treaty establishes a regime of unarmed aerial observation flights over the entire territory of its participants. The Treaty is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information about military forces and activities of concern to them. Open Skies is one of the most wide-ranging international efforts to date to promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.” If you want to find out more about Eisenhower’s efforts, please see my blog post on the subject here.

So there is some precedence for what Clooney is trying to pull off. But how is the Sentinel project likely to fare as a non-state effort? Looking at other non-state actors who have already operationalized Eisenhower’s ideas may provide some insights. Take Amnesty International’s “Eyes on Darfur” initiative, which “leverages the power of high- resolution satellite imagery to provide unim- peachable evidence of the atrocities being committed in Darfur–enabling action by private citizens, policy makers and international courts.”

According to Amnesty, the project “broke new ground in protecting human rights by allowing people around the world to literally ‘watch over’ and protect twelve intact, but highly vulnerable, villages using commercially available satellite imagery.” The imagery also enabled Amnesty to capture the movement of Janjaweed forces. Amnesty claims that their project has had a deterrence effect. Apparently, the villages monitored by the project have not been attacked while neighboring ones have. That said, at least two of the monitored villages were removed from the site after reported attacks.

Still Amnesty argues that there have been notable changes in decisions made by the Bashir government since “Eyes on Darfur” went live. They also note that the government of Chad cited their as one of the reasons they accepted UN peacekeepers along their border. In my blog post on Eisenhower’s UN surveillance speech I asked whether the UN would ever be allowed to monitor and detect preparations for attack using satellite imagery. I now have my answer given that UNOSAT is involved in the Sentinel Project which plans to “deter the resumption of war between North and South Sudan” by providing an “early warning system to deter mass atrocities by focusing world attention and generating rapid responses on human rights and human security concerns” (Sentinel). But will these efforts really create an effective deterrence-based “Global Panopticon”? French philosopher Michel Foucault has famously written on the role of surveillance as an instrument of power. “He cites the example of Jeremy Bentham’s ‘Panopticon,’ an architectural model for a prison enabling a single guard, located in a central tower, to watch all of the inmates in their cells.  The ‘major effect of the Panopticon,’ writes Foucault, is ‘to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.’”

According to Foucault, the Panopticon renders power both “visible and unverifiable”: Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is being spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so. But potential perpetrators of the violence in the Sudan do not actually see the  outline of the satellites flying overhead. They are not being directly harassed by high-powered “cameras” stuck into their faces by the anti-genocide paparazzi. So the power is not directly visible in the traditional sense. But who exactly is the inmate in or connected to Abyei in the first place? There are multiple groups in the area with different agendas that don’t necessarily tie back to the Sudanese government in Khartoum. The Arab Misseriya tribe has thus far remained north during this dry season to avert confrontation with the Ngok Dinka in the Southern part of Abyei. These nomadic tribes typically carry Kalashnikovs to guard their cattle. So distinguishing these nomads from armed groups prepared to raid and burn down villages is a challenge especially when dealing with satellite imagery. Using UAV’s may be more useful and cheaper. (Note that monitoring the location and movement of cattle could be insightful because cattle issues are political in the area).

If armed groups who intend to burn down villages are the intended inmates, do they even know or care about the Satellite Sentinel Project? The ICC has already struggled to connect the chain of command back to the Sudanese government. Besides, the expected turn-around time to develop the satellite imagery is between eight to twenty-four hours. Getting armed men on a truck and raiding a village or two doesn’t take more than a few hours. So the crimes may already have been committed by the time the pictures come in. And if more heavy military machinery like tanks are rolled in, well, one doesn’t need satellite imagery to detect those. As scholars of the panopticon have noted, the successful use of surveillance has to be coupled with the threat of punishment for deviant acts. So putting aside the issue of who the intended inmates are, the question for the Sentinel Project is whether threats of punishment are perceived by inmates as sufficiently real enough for the deterrence to work. In international relations theory, “deterrence is a strategy by which governments threaten an immense retaliation if attacked, such that aggressors are deterred if they do not wish to suffer great damage as a result of an aggressive action.”

This means that official state actors need to step up and publicly pledge to carry out the necessary punishment if the satellite imagery collected by Sentinel provides evidence of wrong-doing. The ICC should make it crystal clear to all inmates (whoever they are) that evidence from the satellite imagery will be used for prosecution (and that they should care). There also need to be armed guards in  “the tower” who are proximate enough to be deployed and have the political will to use force if necessary. Or will the anti-genocide paparazzi’s many eyes be sufficient to keep the peace? It’s worth remembering that the Hollywood paparazzi haven’t exactly turned movie stars into alter boys or girls. But then again, they’d probably get away with a whole lot more without the paparazzi.

US spy satellites have no doubt monitored conflict-prone areas in the past but this  hasn’t necessarily deterred major crimes against humanity as far as I know. Of course, the imagery collected has remained classified, which means the general public hasn’t been able to lobby their governments and the international community to act based on this information and shared awareness. The Sentinel Project’s open source approach changes this calculus. It may not deter the actual perpetrators, but the shared awareness created thanks to the open data will make it more difficult for those who can prevent the violence to look the other way. So the Satellite Sentinel Project may be more about keeping our own governments accountable to the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) than deterring actors in the Sudan from committing further crimes. How will we know if Clooney succeeds? I’m not quite sure. But I do know that the Sentinel Project is a step in the right direction. More evidence is always more compelling than less evidence. And more public evidence is even better. I have no doubt therefore that Eisenhower would back this Open Skies project.

Omar al-Bashir visits south Sudan ahead of independence vote
by Xan Rice / 4 January 2011

In his last visit to southern Sudan before Sunday’s independence referendum, President Omar al-Bashir promised voters that he would “congratulate and celebrate with you” should they choose secession. Amid intense security, Bashir was warmly welcomed today in the southern capital, Juba, by its president, Salva Kiir. The Khartoum leader donned a traditional blue robe over his suit as a mark of respect. His convoy left the airport, passing hundreds of people holding southern Sudan flags and waving placards featuring an outline of an open hand – the symbol that will signify separation on the ballot paper. The message was surprisingly polite – Bashir is despised by many here – but it was also clear: “Bye bye”. At Kiir’s presidential palace, Bashir made one final plea to southern voters to choose unity, but appeared resigned to an alternative outcome, which he pledged to respect. “Imposing unity by force doesn’t work,” he said. “We want unity between the north and the south but this doesn’t mean opposing the desire of the southern citizen.”

An overwhelming vote for secession is a near-certainty, splitting Africa’s largest country in two to create the world’s newest state. The referendum is the culmination of the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA), signed in 2005 between Bashir and John Garang, the late leader of the rebel Southern People’s Liberation Army, which ended 22 years of war. Given that conflict, along with earlier wars and decades of marginalisation by the Arab government in Khartoum, there was always little chance that the south would choose unity after the six-year interim period. During that time the region has governed itself, and any lingering doubts about choosing independence that may have existed have disappeared. “We are gone,” said Nhial Bol, editor of the Citizen newspaper, in Juba. “Once a dog is let out for a night in the market it will not return home.” But there have always been questions over whether Bashir would allow southern Sudan to depart peacefully, especially given that the south holds about three-quarters of the country’s oil reserves. Since the CPA his government has obstructed or delayed implementation of key parts of the agreement.

While for many months Juba residents have been counting down the days, hours and minutes to the vote with the help of a huge clock in the centre of the city’s main roundabout, excitement has been tempered with real fears that the referendum would be delayed, raising the threat of violence. But the poll is now destined to go-ahead as scheduled, with voting materials delivered to all the southern states. Justice Chan Reec Madut, deputy chairman of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, declared yesterday that the body was “100% prepared for the great day”, while the information minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said there was little chance of trouble. “If you’re in Ivory Coast, run away. If you work for WikiLeaks, run way. But if you are here, there is no need to run,” he told reporters.

Southerners’ confidence in the process has been boosted by Bashir’s recent statements when, for the first time, he started publicly acknowledging Sudan might split. He has even pledged to support the new country. In Juba today Bashir reiterated that vow, offering “anything you need” from Khartoum. “We will come and congratulate and celebrate with you … we will not hold a mourning tent,” he said. “We will be happy to achieve the real peace and final peace for all citizens in the north and the south.” While meeting ministers from the southern government, Bashir discussed the problems in Abyei, a border area whose separate referendum this Sunday was postponed owing to disagreements over voter eligibility. He also asked the ministers not to provide any support for rebel groups in the western Darfur region, which remains volatile. With Juba in a state of lockdown – southern officials were terrified that something might happen to Bashir, threatening the vote. But the president departed in the early afternoon for Khartoum, where he faces a tricky future. Already under pressure owing to his arrest warrant from international criminal court over alleged war crimes in Darfur, he is also blamed by many in the north for the imminent breakup of Sudan. His political foes aim to take advantage, with Bashir’s former mentor and ally, Hassan al-Turabi, saying yesterday that opposition groups were working on peaceful strategies “to overthrow the regime right after the results of the referendum are announced”.

Independence day
Registrars have recorded 3,930,816 southern Sudanese eligible to partake in the referendum, 51% of them women. Voting centres will also be open to southern Sudanese in the north of Sudan, and in eight other countries, including the UK, the US, Canada and Australia. Voting will take place over seven days, starting on Sunday, and will be observed by monitors from numerous states and regions, including the US, the EU and China. Official results are expected within 30 days of polls closing. For the verdict to be legitimate, 60% of registered voters must have cast their ballots. If not, the referendum will have to be rerun within 60 days of the results announcement. A separate ballot over the future of Abyei, an oil-producing region on the north border, was also supposed to have taken place this weekend, with residents choosing whether to join the north or the south. But the Khartoum government’s insistence that Arab nomads from the Misseriya tribe be allowed to vote has caused it to be postponed.




Begin forwarded message:

From: Apple Press Relations
Date: November 16, 2010 9:36:39 PM EST
Subject: Alert: Fraudulent Conflict-Free iPhone Hoax Originating from Apple Address


Contact: Caroline Hemmerskjold, Apple
Tel. (408) 676-7923

Nov. 16, 2010

Apple wishes to inform the public that the so-called “conflict-free” iPhone, promoted today outside the Apple Store at Fifth Avenue in New York City, featured on the non-Apple website, and noted in a spoofed media advisory to numerous New York City reporters, is fraudulent and fictitious, and entirely the imagination of the group of pranksters who created it.

To be perfectly clear, this product does not exist, and Apple has no connection to the group that promoted it. Furthermore, although Apple does have plans to certify its materials as conflict-free, this will by no means be any sort of solution to the situation of conflict in the Congo, nor in any way help bring an end to that conflict. Rather, the solution must be based in diplomacy.

In this regard, there is a law on the books – the “Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act,” Public Law 109-456, introduced by then-Senator Obama in 2005 – that demands, among other things, the appointment of a special envoy to the Great Lakes region. As of now, four years later, this has still not happened, and the Congolese continue to die by the tens of thousands.

There are various possible solutions to this problem, but it is up to you, not Apple, to accomplish them. Here are some things you can do:

Report the violation of Public Law 109-456 to the FBI. Visit to do so, or call 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324). Culpable parties involve not only the President and the White House, but the Secretary of State, who is in charge of enforcing that portion of this law that demands the withholding of aid to destabilizing nations.

You might consider performing a citizen’s arrest against the above parties. Any citizen can arrest someone committing a crime, if the crime is sufficiently grave. Millions of deaths in the Congo are, Apple believes, a very grave crime.

You might also consider performing a citizen’s arrest against shareholders and officers of the mining companies that have been implicated in pillaging the resources of the Congo and fueling the conflict in the Congo over the past 14 years. Why not start with John Paulson, the majority shareholder of AngloGold Ashanti, the mining company most responsible for financially supporting rebel groups and furthering the Congo conflict. His office is located at 1251 Avenue Of The Americas (at 50th Street), Floor 50.

We at Apple have acknowledged in the past that the conflict in the Congo, which has claimed many millions of lives, is fuelled in part by the provision of minerals that go into consumer electronic products, and not only Apple’s. However, so-called “conflict-free” certification is not a real solution, merely a very tiny part of a real solution. Regardless of whether Apple or other companies produce “conflict-free” products, the Congo conflict will not end until the U.S. government chooses to enforce its own laws.




“A petrodollar is a dollar earned by selling petroleum. Petrodollars flow into members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) at a steady rate, and flow out at an almost equally steady rate as these countries invest petrodollars overseas. In fact, often money makes a round trip, flowing from a country like the United States to an OPEC member which in turn reinvests the funds in the United States. Prices for oil sales are generally given in United States Dollars (USD). In 1973, economist Ibrahim Oweiss wanted to come up with a term to describe the large volumes of currency changing hands as a result of oil sales. He coined the portmanteau “petrodollar,” referring to “petroleum” and the United States Dollar. People also use the term “oil money” or “petrocurrency” to describe petrodollars, although “petrocurrency” is also sometimes confusingly used to refer to the currency used by an oil producing country.

At various points in history, OPEC members have literally made more petrodollars than they knew what to do with. Rising oil prices resulted in such a flood of currency that these countries were unable to invest it on internal development projects. As a result, many nations started engaging in a practice known as petrodollar recycling, in which they promptly reinvest the currency in banks in regions like Europe and North America. Changes in oil prices can lead to ebbs and flows in the movement of the petrodollar and in the investment funds available to OPEC members. Some of these nations rely heavily on income from oil sales and are placed at a disadvantage when prices are depressed. In regions such as Dubai, the profound impact of petroleum sales on regional economies can be seen firsthand in the form of extravagant and rapid development reflecting the increasing wealth of some members of the population.

While the bulk of oil sales are conducted in USD and prices are quoted in USD, some countries have opted to sell in other currencies. The dominance of the USD in global commerce is credited in part to the petrodollar, and some theorists have suggested that changing economic trends may result in petrodollar warfare, in which there will be a push to denominate oil sales in other currencies. If, for example, the world switched to the petroeuro, based on the currency of the European Union, the United States Dollar might weaken as a result.”

Investment Management industry, 2003 — Present (7 years )
“I created and ran a privately-held blackbox hedge fund based off of a proprietary, in-house FIX protocol implementation. We cribbed custom algorithms from bioinformatics, were the first to apply autocorrelation attacks to the market, and first to apply wavelets to price stochastics. As part of the management of this fund, we created our own international shipping arm to ease exploitation of petrodollar/petroeuro arbitrage. The chief chunks of our fund are global macro, managed futures and short bias, but you name it– options, swaps, rate agreements, bonds– we trade it in the course of a given week.”

Petrodollar warfare: Dollars, Euros and the upcoming Iranian oil bourse
by William R. Clark / August 05 2005

“This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous…Having said that, all options are on the table.” — President George W. Bush, February 2005

Contemporary warfare has traditionally involved underlying conflicts regarding economics and resources. Today these intertwined conflicts also involve international currencies, and thus increased complexity. Current geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran extend beyond the publicly stated concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear intentions, and likely include a proposed Iranian “petroeuro” system for oil trade. Similar to the Iraq war, military operations against Iran relate to the macroeconomics of ‘petrodollar recycling’ and the unpublicized but real challenge to U.S. dollar supremacy from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency.

It is now obvious the invasion of Iraq had less to do with any threat from Saddam’s long-gone WMD program and certainly less to do to do with fighting International terrorism than it has to do with gaining strategic control over Iraq’s hydrocarbon reserves and in doing so maintain the U.S. dollar as the monopoly currency for the critical international oil market. Throughout 2004 information provided by former administration insiders revealed the Bush/Cheney administration entered into office with the intention of toppling Saddam.[1][2] Candidly stated, ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ was a war designed to install a pro-U.S. government in Iraq, establish multiple U.S military bases before the onset of global Peak Oil, and to reconvert Iraq back to petrodollars while hoping to thwart further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency ( i.e. “petroeuro”).[3] However, subsequent geopolitical events have exposed neoconservative strategy as fundamentally flawed, with Iran moving towards a petroeuro system for international oil trades, while Russia evaluates this option with the European Union.

In 2003 the global community witnessed a combination of petrodollar warfare and oil depletion warfare. The majority of the world’s governments – especially the E.U., Russia and China – were not amused – and neither are the U.S. soldiers who are currently stationed inside a hostile Iraq. In 2002 I wrote an award-winning online essay that asserted Saddam Hussein sealed his fate when he announced on September 2000 that Iraq was no longer going to accept dollars for oil being sold under the UN’s Oil-for-Food program, and decided to switch to the euro as Iraq’s oil export currency.[4] Indeed, my original pre-war hypothesis was validated in a Financial Times article dated June 5, 2003, which confirmed Iraqi oil sales returning to the international markets were once again denominated in U.S. dollars – not euros.

The tender, for which bids are due by June 10, switches the transaction back to dollars — the international currency of oil sales – despite the greenback’s recent fall in value. Saddam Hussein in 2000 insisted Iraq’s oil be sold for euros, a political move, but one that improved Iraq’s recent earnings thanks to the rise in the value of the euro against the dollar. [5]

The Bush administration implemented this currency transition despite the adverse impact on profits from Iraqi’s export oil sales.[6] (In mid-2003 the euro was valued approx. 13% higher than the dollar, and thus significantly impacted the ability of future oil proceeds to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure). Not surprisingly, this detail has never been mentioned in the five U.S. major media conglomerates who control 90% of information flow in the U.S., but confirmation of this vital fact provides insight into one of the crucial – yet overlooked – rationales for 2003 the Iraq war.

Concerning Iran, recent articles have revealed active Pentagon planning for operations against its suspected nuclear facilities. While the publicly stated reasons for any such overt action will be premised as a consequence of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, there are again unspoken macroeconomic drivers underlying the second stage of petrodollar warfare – Iran’s upcoming oil bourse. (The word bourse refers to a stock exchange for securities trading, and is derived from the French stock exchange in Paris, the Federation Internationale des Bourses de Valeurs.)

In essence, Iran is about to commit a far greater “offense” than Saddam Hussein’s conversion to the euro for Iraq’s oil exports in the fall of 2000. Beginning in March 2006, the Tehran government has plans to begin competing with New York’s NYMEX and London’s IPE with respect to international oil trades – using a euro-based international oil-trading mechanism.[7] The proposed Iranian oil bourse signifies that without some sort of US intervention, the euro is going to establish a firm foothold in the international oil trade. Given U.S. debt levels and the stated neoconservative project of U.S. global domination, Tehran’s objective constitutes an obvious encroachment on dollar supremacy in the crucial international oil market.

From the autumn of 2004 through August 2005, numerous leaks by concerned Pentagon employees have revealed that the neoconservatives in Washington are quietly – but actively – planning for a possible attack against Iran. In September 2004 Newsweek reported:

Deep in the Pentagon, admirals and generals are updating plans for possible U.S. military action in Syria and Iran. The Defense Department unit responsible for military planning for the two troublesome countries is “busier than ever,” an administration official says. Some Bush advisers characterize the work as merely an effort to revise routine plans the Pentagon maintains for all contingencies in light of the Iraq war. More skittish bureaucrats say the updates are accompanied by a revived campaign by administration conservatives and neocons for more hard-line U.S. policies toward the countries…’

…administration hawks are pinning their hopes on regime change in Tehran – by covert means, preferably, but by force of arms if necessary. Papers on the idea have circulated inside the administration, mostly labeled “draft” or “working draft” to evade congressional subpoena powers and the Freedom of Information Act. Informed sources say the memos echo the administration’s abortive Iraq strategy: oust the existing regime, swiftly install a pro-U.S. government in its place (extracting the new regime’s promise to renounce any nuclear ambitions) and get out. This daredevil scheme horrifies U.S. military leaders, and there’s no evidence that it has won any backers at the cabinet level. [8]

Indeed, there are good reasons for U.S. military commanders to be ‘horrified’ at the prospects of attacking Iran. In the December 2004 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows reported that numerous high-level war-gaming sessions had recently been completed by Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who has run war games at the National War College for the past two decades.[9] Col. Gardiner summarized the outcome of these war games with this statement, “After all this effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers: You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work.” Despite Col. Gardiner’s warnings, yet another story appeared in early 2005 that reiterated this administration’s intentions towards Iran. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh’s article in The New Yorker included interviews with various high-level U.S. intelligence sources. Hersh wrote:

In my interviews [with former high-level intelligence officials], I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran. Everyone is saying, ‘You can’t be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq,’ the former [CIA] intelligence official told me. But the [Bush administration officials] say, ‘We’ve got some lessons learned – not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency pissants.’ No loose ends, and that’s why the C.I.A. is out of there. [10]

The most recent, and by far the most troubling, was an article in The American Conservative by intelligence analyst Philip Giraldi. His article, “In Case of Emergency, Nuke Iran,” suggested the resurrection of active U.S. military planning against Iran – but with the shocking disclosure that in the event of another 9/11-type terrorist attack on U.S. soil, Vice President Dick Cheney’s office wants the Pentagon to be prepared to launch a potential tactical nuclear attack on Iran – even if the Iranian government was not involved with any such terrorist attack against the U.S.:

The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing – that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack – but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections. [11]

Why would the Vice President instruct the U.S. military to prepare plans for what could likely be an unprovoked nuclear attack against Iran? Setting aside the grave moral implications for a moment, it is remarkable to note that during the same week this “nuke Iran” article appeared, the Washington Post reported that the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of Iran’s nuclear program revealed that, “Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years.”[12] This article carefully noted this assessment was a “consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, [and in] contrast with forceful public statements by the White House.” The question remains, Why would the Vice President advocate a possible tactical nuclear attack against Iran in the event of another major terrorist attack against the U.S. – even if Tehran was innocent of involvement?

Perhaps one of the answers relates to the same obfuscated reasons why the U.S. launched an unprovoked invasion to topple the Iraq government – macroeconomics and the desperate desire to maintain U.S. economic supremacy. In essence, petrodollar hegemony is eroding, which will ultimately force the U.S. to significantly change its current tax, debt, trade, and energy policies, all of which are severely unbalanced. World oil production is reportedly “flat out,” and yet the neoconservatives are apparently willing to undertake huge strategic and tactical risks in the Persian Gulf. Why? Quite simply – their stated goal is U.S. global domination – at any cost.

To date, one of the more difficult technical obstacles concerning a euro-based oil transaction trading system is the lack of a euro-denominated oil pricing standard, or oil ‘marker’ as it is referred to in the industry. The three current oil markers are U.S. dollar denominated, which include the West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI), Norway Brent crude, and the UAE Dubai crude. However, since the summer of 2003 Iran has required payments in the euro currency for its European and Asian/ACU exports – although the oil pricing these trades was still denominated in the dollar.[13]

Therefore a potentially significant news story was reported in June 2004 announcing Iran’s intentions to create of an Iranian oil bourse. This announcement portended competition would arise between the Iranian oil bourse and London’s International Petroleum Exchange (IPE), as well as the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). [Both the IPE and NYMEX are owned by U.S. consortium, and operated by an Atlanta-based corporation, IntercontinentalExchange, Inc.]

The macroeconomic implications of a successful Iranian bourse are noteworthy. Considering that in mid-2003 Iran switched its oil payments from E.U. and ACU customers to the euro, and thus it is logical to assume the proposed Iranian bourse will usher in a fourth crude oil marker – denominated in the euro currency. This event would remove the main technical obstacle for a broad-based petroeuro system for international oil trades. From a purely economic and monetary perspective, a petroeuro system is a logical development given that the European Union imports more oil from OPEC producers than does the U.S., and the E.U. accounted for 45% of exports sold to the Middle East. (Following the May 2004 enlargement, this percentage likely increased).

Despite the complete absence of coverage from the five U.S. corporate media conglomerates, these foreign news stories suggest one of the Federal Reserve’s nightmares may begin to unfold in the spring of 2006, when it appears that international buyers will have a choice of buying a barrel of oil for $60 dollars on the NYMEX and IPE – or purchase a barrel of oil for €45 – €50 euros via the Iranian Bourse. This assumes the euro maintains its current 20-25% appreciated value relative to the dollar – and assumes that some sort of US “intervention” is not launched against Iran. The upcoming bourse will introduce petrodollar versus petroeuro currency hedging, and fundamentally new dynamics to the biggest market in the world – global oil and gas trades. In essence, the U.S. will no longer be able to effortlessly expand credit via U.S. Treasury bills, and the dollar’s demand/liquidity value will fall.

It is unclear at the time of writing if this project will be successful, or could it prompt overt or covert U.S. interventions – thereby signaling the second phase of petrodollar warfare in the Middle East. Regardless of the potential U.S. response to an Iranian petroeuro system, the emergence of an oil exchange market in the Middle East is not entirely surprising given the domestic peaking and decline of oil exports in the U.S. and U.K, in comparison to the remaining oil reserves in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. What we are witnessing is a battle for oil currency supremacy. If Iran’s oil bourse becomes a successful alternative for international oil trades, it would challenge the hegemony currently enjoyed by the financial centers in both London (IPE) and New York (NYMEX), a factor not overlooked in the following (UK) Guardian article:

Iran is to launch an oil trading market for Middle East and Opec producers that could threaten the supremacy of London’s International Petroleum Exchange.

…Some industry experts have warned the Iranians and other OPEC producers that western exchanges are controlled by big financial and oil corporations, which have a vested interest in market volatility. [emphasis added]

The IPE, bought in 2001 by a consortium that includes BP, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, was unwilling to discuss the Iranian move yesterday. “We would not have any comment to make on it at this stage,” said an IPE spokeswoman. [14]

During an important speech in April 2002, Mr. Javad Yarjani, an OPEC executive, described three pivotal events that would facilitate an OPEC transition to euros.[15] He stated this would be based on (1) if and when Norway’s Brent crude is re-dominated in euros, (2) if and when the U.K. adopts the euro, and (3) whether or not the euro gains parity valuation relative to the dollar, and the EU’s proposed expansion plans were successful. Notably, both of the later two criteria have transpired: the euro’s valuation has been above the dollar since late 2002, and the euro-based E.U. enlarged in May 2004 from 12 to 22 countries. Despite recent “no” votes by French and Dutch voters regarding a common E.U. Constitution, from a macroeconomic perspective, these domestic disagreements do no reduce the euro currency’s trajectory in the global financial markets – and from Russia and OPEC’s perspective – do not adversely impact momentum towards a petroeuro. In the meantime, the U.K. remains uncomfortably juxtaposed between the financial interests of the U.S. banking nexus (New York/Washington) and the E.U. financial centers (Paris/Frankfurt).

The most recent news reports indicate the oil bourse will start trading on March 20, 2006, coinciding with the Iranian New Year.[16] The implementation of the proposed Iranian oil Bourse – if successful in utilizing the euro as its oil transaction currency standard – essentially negates the previous two criteria as described by Mr. Yarjani regarding the solidification of a petroeuro system for international oil trades. It should also be noted that throughout 2003-2004 both Russia and China significantly increased their central bank holdings of the euro, which appears to be a coordinated move to facilitate the anticipated ascendance of the euro as a second World Reserve Currency. [17] [18] China’s announcement in July 2005 that is was re-valuing the yuan/RNB was not nearly as important as its decision to divorce itself form a U.S. dollar peg by moving towards a “basket of currencies” – likely to include the yen, euro, and dollar.[19] Additionally, the Chinese re-valuation immediately lowered their monthly imported “oil bill” by 2%, given that oil trades are still priced in dollars, but it is unclear how much longer this monopoly arrangement will last.

Furthermore, the geopolitical stakes for the Bush administration were raised dramatically on October 28, 2004, when Iran and China signed a huge oil and gas trade agreement (valued between $70 – $100 billion dollars.) [20] It should also be noted that China currently receives 13% of its oil imports from Iran. In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, the U.S.-administered Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) nullified previous oil lease contracts from 1997-2002 that France, Russia, China and other nations had established under the Saddam regime. The nullification of these contracts worth a reported $1.1 trillion created political tensions between the U.S and the European Union, Russia and China. The Chinese government may fear the same fate awaits their oil investments in Iran if the U.S. were able to attack and topple the Tehran government. Despite U.S. desires to enforce petrodollar hegemony, the geopolitical risks of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would surely create a serious crisis between Washington and Beijing.

It is increasingly clear that a confrontation and possible war with Iran may transpire during the second Bush term. Clearly, there are numerous tactical risks regarding neoconservative strategy towards Iran. First, unlike Iraq, Iran has a robust military capability. Secondly, a repeat of any “Shock and Awe” tactics is not advisable given that Iran has installed sophisticated anti-ship missiles on the Island of Abu Musa, and therefore controls the critical Strait of Hormuz – where all of the Persian Gulf bound oil tankers must pass.[22] The immediate question for Americans? Will the neoconservatives attempt to intervene covertly and/or overtly in Iran during 2005 or 2006 in a desperate effort to prevent the initiation of euro-denominated international crude oil sales? Commentators in India are quite correct in their assessment that a U.S. intervention in Iran is likely to prove disastrous for the United States, making matters much worse regarding international terrorism, not to the mention potential effects on the U.S. economy.

…If it [ U.S.] intervenes again, it is absolutely certain it will not be able to improve the situation…There is a better way, as the constructive engagement of Libya’s Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has shown…Iran is obviously a more complex case than Libya, because power resides in the clergy, and Iran has not been entirely transparent about its nuclear programme, but the sensible way is to take it gently, and nudge it to moderation. Regime change will only worsen global Islamist terror, and in any case, Saudi Arabia is a fitter case for democratic intervention, if at all. [21]

A successful Iranian bourse will solidify the petroeuro as an alternative oil transaction currency, and thereby end the petrodollar’s hegemonic status as the monopoly oil currency. Therefore, a graduated approach is needed to avoid precipitous U.S. economic dislocations. Multilateral compromise with the EU and OPEC regarding oil currency is certainly preferable to an ‘Operation Iranian Freedom,’ or perhaps another CIA-backed coup such as operation “Ajax” from 1953. Despite the impressive power of the U.S. military, and the ability of our intelligence agencies to facilitate ‘interventions,’ it would be perilous and possibly ruinous for the U.S. to intervene in Iran given the dire situation in Iraq. The Monterey Institute of International Studies warned of the possible consequences of a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities:

An attack on Iranian nuclear facilities…could have various adverse effects on U.S. interests in the Middle East and the world. Most important, in the absence of evidence of an Iranian illegal nuclear program, an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by the U.S. or Israel would be likely to strengthen Iran’s international stature and reduce the threat of international sanctions against Iran. [23]

It is not yet clear if a U.S. military expedition will occur in a desperate attempt to maintain petrodollar supremacy. Regardless of the recent National Intelligence Estimate that down-played Iran’s potential nuclear weapons program, it appears increasingly likely the Bush administration may use the specter of nuclear weapon proliferation as a pretext for an intervention, similar to the fears invoked in the previous WMD campaign regarding Iraq. If recent stories are correct regarding Cheney’s plan to possibly use a another 9/11 terrorist attack as the pretext or casus belli for a U.S. aerial attack against Iran, this would confirm the Bush administration is prepared to undertake a desperate military strategy to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, while simultaneously attempting to prevent the Iranian oil Bourse from initiating a euro-based system for oil trades.

However, as members of the U.N. Security Council; China, Russia and E.U. nations such as France and Germany would likely veto any U.S.-sponsored U.N. Security Resolution calling the use of force without solid proof of Iranian culpability in a major terrorist attack. A unilateral U.S. military strike on Iran would isolate the U.S. government in the eyes of the world community, and it is conceivable that such an overt action could provoke other industrialized nations to strategically abandon the dollar en masse. Indeed, such an event would create pressure for OPEC or Russia to move towards a petroeuro system in an effort to cripple the U.S. economy and its global military presence. I refer to this in my book as the “rogue nation hypothesis.”

While central bankers throughout the world community would be extremely reluctant to ‘dump the dollar,’ the reasons for any such drastic reaction are likely straightforward from their perspective – the global community is dependent on the oil and gas energy supplies found in the Persian Gulf. Hence, industrialized nations would likely move in tandem on the currency exchange markets in an effort to thwart the neoconservatives from pursuing their desperate strategy of dominating the world’s largest hydrocarbon energy supply. Any such efforts that resulted in a dollar currency crisis would be undertaken – not to cripple the U.S. dollar and economy as punishment towards the American people per se – but rather to thwart further unilateral warfare and its potentially destructive effects on the critical oil production and shipping infrastructure in the Persian Gulf. Barring a U.S. attack, it appears imminent that Iran’s euro-denominated oil bourse will open in March 2006. Logically, the most appropriate U.S. strategy is compromise with the E.U. and OPEC towards a dual-currency system for international oil trades.

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes…known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few…No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. — James Madison, Political Observations, 1795

[1]. Ron Suskind, The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’ Neill, Simon & Schuster publishers (2004)
[2]. Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, Free Press (2004)
[3]. William Clark, “Revisited – The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War with Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth,” January 2003 (updated January 2004)
[4]. Peter Philips, Censored 2004, The Top 25 Censored News Stories, Seven Stories Press, (2003) General website for Project Censored: Story #19: U.S. Dollar vs. the Euro: Another Reason for the Invasion of Iraq
[5]. Carol Hoyos and Kevin Morrison, “Iraq returns to the international oil market,” Financial Times, June 5, 2003
[6]. Faisal Islam, “Iraq nets handsome profit by dumping dollar for euro,” [UK] Guardian, February 16, 2003,12239,896344,00.html
[7]. “Oil bourse closer to reality,”, December 28, 2004. Also see: “Iran oil bourse wins authorization,” Tehran Times, July 26, 2005
[8]. “War-Gaming the Mullahs: The U.S. weighs the price of a pre-emptive strike,” Newsweek, September 27 issue, 2004.
[9]. James Fallows, ‘Will Iran be Next?,’ Atlantic Monthly, December 2004, pgs. 97 – 110
[10]. Seymour Hersh, “The Coming Wars,” The New Yorker, January 24th – 31st issue, 2005, pgs. 40-47 Posted online January 17, 2005. Online:
[11]. Philip Giraldi, “In Case of Emergency, Nuke Iran,” American Conservative, August 1, 2005
[12]. Dafina Linzer, “Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb U.S. Intelligence Review Contrasts With Administration Statements,” Washington Post, August 2, 2005; Page A01
[13]. C. Shivkumar, “Iran offers oil to Asian union on easier terms,” The Hindu Business Line (June 16, ` 2003). 2003061702380500.htm
[14]. Terry Macalister, “Iran takes on west’s control of oil trading,” The [UK] Guardian, June 16, 2004,3604,1239644,00.html
[15]. “The Choice of Currency for the Denomination of the Oil Bill,” Speech given by Javad Yarjani, Head of OPEC’s Petroleum Market Analysis Dept, on The International Role of the Euro (Invited by the Spanish Minister of Economic Affairs during Spain’s Presidency of the EU) (April 14, 2002, Oviedo, Spain)
[16]. “Iran’s oil bourse expects to start by early 2006,” Reuters, October 5, 2004
[17]. “Russia shifts to euro as foreign currency reserves soar,” AFP, June 9, 2003
[18]. “China to diversify foreign exchange reserves,” China Business Weekly, May 8, 2004
[19]. Richard S. Appel, “The Repercussions from the Yuan’s Revaluation,”, July 27, 2005
[20]. China, Iran sign biggest oil & gas deal,’ China Daily, October 31, 2004. Online:
[21]. “Terror & regime change: Any US invasion of Iran will have terrible consequences,” News Insight: Public Affairs Magazine, June 11, 2004
[22]. Analysis of Abu Musa Island,
[23]. Sammy Salama and Karen Ruster, “A Preemptive Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Facilities: Possible Consequences,” Monterry Institute of International Studies, August 12, 2004 (updated September 9, 2004)

Interview with Author Frank Touby / September 9, 2010

Worldpress: In your book “Burning Sands” you write about your experience fighting the oilfield fires in Kuwait that Saddam Hussein lit 19 years ago. You got a position as a trainee oilfield firefighter with Safety Boss Ltd., of Calgary, Alberta, to essentially better entrench yourself as a journalist. Some of the scenes you describe are quite intense. Can you tell us a bit about that experience?
Frank Touby: It was the most fascinating and virtuous adventure of my life. We worked 14-hour days with no days off, and yet we were eager to get out there again at the start of each day. When we quenched a fire on a wild well that had been burning for five or more months we pinched off a toxic smoke trail that had stretched for thousands of miles around the earth. As the tail end of that noxious smoke stream trailed into the sky there was such a sense of exhilaration that came with participating in a truly worthy effort. I especially gained an appreciation for the skills and intelligence of farm boys, who provide most of the labor in the oil patch. They can operate almost any piece of heavy equipment for the first time just by looking at it. They are smart, dependable and energetic. I’m a guy whose career resulted from formal education and had an inclination to disregard such people whose work gets them dirty and who speak in less-than-correct English. Never again. On the other hand, these guys were so strong, so competent in their rightwing universes, that many of them couldn’t imagine others being truly needy of aid that government properly must provide. Not entirely their fault.

WP: Can you elaborate on that last point? What do you mean by “so competent in their rightwing universes…”?
FT: Sure. They were brought up in that rugged frontier milieu of independence, strength, self-made personhood and self-reliance. You look after yourself, your buds and your family in that model and everyone else does the same. So there is no need for crooked politicians or carpet-bagging bureaucrats to come in and tell you what to do with your land, your property and yourself. The men I worked with at Safety Boss, the blowout company, were Canadians mainly from Alberta and Saskatchewan. But it was very much the same with many of them. Mike Miller, the owner of Safety Boss, was not like that at all. He is a more urbane, philosophical man and a great, considerate leader. His company set a world record that likely will never be duplicated: 126 wild wells “killed” in five months. It probably won’t ever happen again because nobody will again set so many wells ablaze. There’s no point to it since it’s now proven that the wild wells can be quenched in a relatively short period of time. But nobody knew that at the time Saddam had his troops and sappers spend over a year preparing 700-plus wells to be torched.

WP: What did it teach you about the effects of war over resources?
FT: I must admit to having a jaded view that didn’t come from my experiences in Kuwait, but from events that transpired ever since. In short, I think war is almost a requirement to keep certain resources scarce and their prices high. Monopoly also serves that purpose—as it does with diamonds and with oil refineries that produce gasoline. War also accommodates the needs of the cabal Dwight Eisenhower warned us against as he left the presidency in 1961: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” So far we have failed.

WP: How do you think the BP oil spill compares to the oil fires in Kuwait?
FT: Aside from being wild wells, they couldn’t be more dissimilar. While the desert in Kuwait was aflame with over 700 oil fires, BP managed to contaminate an area larger than that from a single well. Kuwait was heartless and malicious; BP, to the best of our knowledge, was heartless and incompetent. I fear the harm from BP will both overshadow the severity and outlast the harm from six months of wild wells in Kuwait.

WP: What do you think government’s role should be in getting developed countries off oil?
FT: There’s no excuse for our dependency on oil from any source. It’s solely caused by the control transnational corporations hold over governments. Alcohol (ethanol) is a better fuel than petroleum: higher octane, clean burning, endlessly renewable. It’s what the Model T Ford originally used before J. D. Rockefeller gave huge funds to the Women’s Christian Temperance League to get it outlawed, allegedly so his oil wells would be worth a fortune. (It’s detailed in David Blume’s book “Alcohol Can Be a Gas: Fueling an Ethanol Revolution for the 21st Century.”) Ethanol poses a threat to corporate monopolists because it can be produced by little guys, in contrast to the millions of dollars worth of refinery that it takes to produce gasoline. Ethanol doesn’t have to be made from corn grain, which is an atrocity since that’s a food crop. Almost any vegetable matter will work, including corn stalks that normally go to waste. Bulrushes, or cattails, are especially productive. Government’s role should be to encourage such oil replacements, but that won’t happen so long as corporatists control politicians and corporations are considered equal to real human beings in our laws.

WP: Do you have any ideas as to how people can break that corporate stronghold? Because you’re right; in the United States, for example, we’ve seen Congress’ attempt at an energy bill fail miserably. Certainly corporate influence had something to do with that.
FT: Yes. The situation in Canada is nearly the same as in the U.S. Corporations buy politicians and universities. The latter are the principal mechanisms of corruption since universities produce the civil service and also issue the various scientific dictates that are used to justify regulations favored by their corporate patrons. The effects of purchased politicians need no explanation. In Canada both the Liberal and Conservative parties are on the same corporatist pages, just as Republicans and Democrats are identically compromised in the States. Government ministries or departments, such as the regulators of pharmaceuticals and broadcasters, function as advocates for the corporations they’re nominally regulating. The solution is simple to state and perhaps impossible to remedy, short of a revolution either by law or by arms. It requires an end to corporate personhood: the ridiculous notion that a business corporation has human rights identical to those of real human beings. That was recently confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court (Citizens United vs. FEC), which ruled that corporations mustn’t be denied the human right of freedom of speech by limiting the money they can spend on election campaigns. The result will naturally be that corporations can own any elections they choose. Enabled by government “regulators,” junk-food giants wreck the health of billions of people with unhealthful restaurant fare; farm and chemical oligopolies harm our food supplies; drug giants waste our health resources by ignoring or concealing unprofitable health alternatives while inventing new “diseases” and investing their research dollars on marketing schemes to sell prescription cures for such contrivances as “acid reflux disease” (aka, “heartburn,” effectively countered with baking soda); oil companies write their own environmental rules. Practically everything government regulates is now compromised by multinational corporations for their profit purposes. An intermediate step to remediate the harm might be to change tax codes in the U.S. and Canada, since both nations have well-established different tax categories for corporations than for individuals. Prohibit businesses from deducting any expenses and require them to report all worldwide revenues. It would have marked impact on each economy to start with, since many businesses and charities exist because of corporations’ abilities to write off related expenses. It would eliminate “charitable” deeds that are done in corporate names, but really those are promotional expenses. Corporations and all businesses can’t be expected to operate in any way except in their own interests. Regulation by government is needed to avoid oligopolies and other cancerous growths that strangle free enterprise or harm consumers and workers.
Universities should be prohibited from accepting funds from individuals or corporations to ensure their independence from corruption. They should be entirely funded by government, which has a responsibility to provide education just as it has to provide the military, healthcare, currency, police, fire departments, roads, regulation of enterprise and so forth. In other words, using the phrase of Seattle-based radio commentator Thom Hartmann, it’s incumbent on government to ensure and maintain “The Commons” that comprise civilization.

Petrodollars, Petroeuros and the Iranian Oil Bourse
by Luigi Frascati / 2007

“This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous […]. Having said that, all the options are on the table” (President George W. Bush, February 2005)

Who would have ever imagined it?
Forget about the Prophet Mohammed, Islam, the Koran, President Ahmadinejad and his nuclear program, Islamofascism and all the umpah-pah. The Mullahs do not like American Dollars anymore. As reported by Reuters UK ([]) Iran announced that it has ordered its Central Bank to start using Euros for foreign transactions, and to transform the nation’s Dollar-denominated assets held abroad into the single European currency. “The government has ordered the Central Bank to replace the Dollar with the Euro to limit the problems of the executive organs in commercial transactions,” government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters.

Coming from OPEC’s fourth oil producer, this is a move that will undoubtedly have both deep economic reverberations and grave political consequences worldwide. It would certainly appear that rather than ‘wiping out Israel’ from the face of the planet, Iran is setting the tempo to wipe out American capitalism and influence everywhere. To understand the implications of such a move in financial affairs, one has to first revert to the importance of money in our economic systems and the effects that the ravages of inflation have over it.

Money is one of man’s most amazing inventions. Imagine the difficulty of our daily lives without those metal coins and coloured pieces of paper. To make any kind of transaction – from shopping for groceries to purchasing a real estate asset – you would have to find someone who had what you want and who wanted what you have, and then the two of you could barter. In a world with thousands of products, one would spend most of the time looking for trading partners and devoting very little time to actually earn an income. The alternative to avoid having to find trading partners would be for each and everyone of us to do a little bit of everything by ourselves.

But with money on the scene everything becomes more straightforward, simple and less time-consuming, and all of us can increase our productivity by and through specialization – that is doing what we do best, and then trade with our partners. As a direct and proximate consequence of our increased productivity, each of us can therefore become richer. It is easy to lose sight of the very basic economic point that we all owe a large part of our high living standards to the existence of money, its possession and the spending power that stems out of it. But there is a catch: money works best when its value is stable over time. And this is nowhere more true than in international trade.

Economically speaking, the power of the American Dollar and its influence in economic and financial affairs worldwide was born during the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference held at Bretton Wood, New Hampshire in July 1944. The Conference was attended by the delegates of all 45 allied nations directly and indirectly involved in the fight against the powers of the Axis – Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy, and their socio-economic doctrines. As a result of the Bretton Woods Conference, a system of exchange rate among different currencies was set up anchored on the American Dollar, which was made convertible to gold – the common denominator and measure of wealth worldwide. Thus, the American Dollar became de facto the reserve currency of the world, accepted and traded everywhere. This system remained in place until the early 1970’s and it allowed countries to accumulate reserves in American Dollars, as opposed to gold.

When in 1970-1971 an economically resurgent Western Europe began demanding payment for their US Dollars, as it became clear that the American Government did not have enough gold reserves to buy back all those Dollars, the US Treasury under the Nixon Administration rather than defaulting on its payment ‘de-anchored’ the Greenback – that is it severed the link between the Dollar and gold. To avoid an international collapse of the American currency in world markets, however, the US treasury had to substitute gold with another valuable commodity so as to entice foreign countries to keep their foreign reserves in Dollars and to continue accepting the American currency.

Thus in 1972-73 an iron-clad arrangement was made with Saudi Arabia to support the power of the House of Saud in exchange for accepting only U.S. Dollars for its oil. The rest of OPEC was to follow suit and also accept only American Dollars. Because the world had to buy oil from the Arab oil-producing countries, it now had the reason to hold Dollars as payment for oil. Because the world needed ever increasing quantities of oil at ever increasing oil prices, the world’s demand for Dollars could only increase. Even though Dollars could no longer be exchanged for gold, they were now exchangeable for oil. The Petrodollar was born.

In 2000, the first man who actually began demanding Euros for his oil was none other than Saddam Hussein of Iraq – and we all know what has happened to him. To be more specific, in fact, Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti (1937-2006), former President of Iraq, made two strategic mistakes, the second one of which would ultimately cost him his neck – literally. Firstly, on August 2, 1990 he invaded Kuwait, a country very friendly with both the United Kingdom and the United States, and holding approximately ten percent of the world’s oil reserves. Saddam, furthermore, became a real threat to Saudi Arabia as well. By invading Kuwait and threatening Saudi Arabia, Saddam breached the Carter Doctrine postulated by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, which states that “[…] an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” The Carter Doctrine was later on upheld by President George H.W. Bush in 1989 with National Security Directive 26, which declares that “Access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key friendly states in the area are vital to U.S. national security […].” The Gulf War ensued in January 1991.

The second mistake of Saddam was to start demanding payment for his oil in Euros. At first, his demand was met with ridicule, later with neglect, but as it became clearer that he meant business the need arose to make an example of anyone who demanded payment in currencies other than U.S. Dollars. The punishment came with the worsening of the geo-political situation after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and an increased perception and worry about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction – which he had used extensively against the Kurds and his own citizens. President Bush’s Shock-and-Awe intervention in Iraq followed, which ultimately brought about the demise of the Iraqi dictator.

Contemporary warfare has traditionally involved underlying conflicts regarding economics and resources. Today these intertwined conflicts also involve international currencies, and thus increased complexity. Current geopolitical tensions between the United States and Iran extend beyond the publicly stated concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear intentions, and likely include a proposed Iranian “petroeuro” system for oil trade – the Iranian Oil Bourse (‘Bourse’ is the French word for Stock Exchange). The proposed Iranian Oil Bourse signifies that without some sort of US intervention, the Euro is going to establish a firm foothold in the international oil trade.

This is so, because the Europeans would no longer have to buy and hold Dollars in order to secure their payment for oil, but would instead pay with their own currency. The adoption of the Euro for oil transactions would provide the European currency with a reserve status that would benefit the European at the expenses of the Americans. Given U.S. foreign debt levels and trade deficit, Tehran’s objective constitutes an obvious encroachment on the Dollar supremacy in the crucial international oil markets, and America can hardly afford that to happen. It is really a case of lethal economic terrorism and financial warfare, a matter of life and death.

And speaking of economic terrorism and financial warfare, it is very interesting and worth mentioning the link between oil and Euros on one side and Iran’s nuclear programme on the other side that Gholam Hossein Elham has made during the foresaid announcement. He has stated: “They (the Westerners) should put an end to their hostilities towards our nation and should also be aware that we are capable of achieving nuclear technology through very transparent and legal methods – something that they must respect. They must not waste their time with venting hostility against this nation, otherwise they will be harmed, more so than us.”

If Iran follows up with the intention to charge Euros for its oil, the upcoming Iranian Bourse will introduce Petroeuros currency hedging in direct competition with traditional Petrodollars. More than that, in political terms, it will pit America, Israel and Sunni Islam against Iran, Syria and Shiite Islam and will fundamentally create new dynamics and competition into the biggest markets in the world – those of global oil and gas trade. One of the Federal Reserve’s nightmares may well begin to unfold if it appears that international buyers will have a choice of buying a barrel of oil for USD 60 on the NYMEX and IPE – or purchase a barrel of oil for €45 – €50 through the Iranian Bourse. In essence, America would no longer be able to expand effortlessly its debt-financing with the issuance of US Treasury bills, and the international demand and liquidity of the American Dollar would fall. This is a very good reason to go to war.

Undersea Cable Cuts and the Iranian Oil Bourse

“Through the research that I have exhaustingly done over the past few days, this is the one that has struck me as the most likely reason for the damages that have occurred to submarine internet cables. The Iranian oil bourse is going to be a stock market for petroluem, petrochemicals and gas. What’s the big catch here? The exchange planned on being ran with currencies excluding the U.S. dollar. If you remember from earlier in the post, Iran stopped allowing purchases of their oil with the U.S. dollar in December of 2007. So, obviously, the U.S. is not going to be happy about this. The biggest piece of information linking this to the recent damages is the proposed location of the bourse: the island of Kish. This is the island that is right next to at least two of the cuts that have recently occurred…”

Iranian Oil Bourse Opens
by Steve Austin / 2008.02.06

The Iranian Oil Bourse establishing Euro-based pricing of oil is set to open on February 17th 2008 and could have devastating effects on the US dollar. Currently all three major oil markets (WTI, NYMEX, IPE) trade barrels of oil in US dollars. Consequently any country buying oil needs dollars to pay for it. This enables the US Federal Reserve to issue huge volumes of dollars to meet increasing demand for oil. In return oil producing nations invest dollar proceeds in US treasury bills, allowing for the current US budget deficit. But this balance may become unsettled after a fourth major oil market opens this month, trading in Euros: the Iranian Oil Bourse (IOB).

Unlike other bourses, the IOB relies on a peer-to-peer trading model, using the Internet. IOB has been in the works for several years and encountered many hurdles on the way, the last of which are severed underwater internet cables creating an Internet outage throughout the Middle East days before the IOB’s opening and prompting conspiracy theories. In recent years the US has outfitted some of its submarines with the capability to splice optical fiber underwater so these theories may not be far-fetched. Having the world’s second largest oil reserves of 136 gigabarrels, Iran will likely extend its influence on financial markets when the IOB opens. Although under-reported by the media, this historical shift and its consequences should be watched closely.

Iran’s bourse booms despite sanctions
by Robin Pomeroy / Sep 30, 2010

In the busy foyer of the Tehran Stock Exchange an old woman in a black chador clutches her shopping bag and gazes up hopefully at the electronic display showing the latest share prices. Like the other Iranians bustling past her, she is betting on a market that has soared to record highs despite ever-tightening international sanctions, lackluster oil prices and political uncertainty after last year’s disputed presidential election. While U.S. diplomats were busy upping Iran’s economic punishment over nuclear activities Washington fears are aimed at making a bomb, Iranian shares, which might have been expected to fall, have, instead, gone through the roof. Tehran’s Tepix index has risen 65 percent to all-time highs this year. Its latest record was set on Sept. 18, when it hit 18,658, up from 11,295 at the start of the year. By comparison, New York’s S&P 500 Index has made no major gains this year as the U.S. economy struggles to recover from the financial crisis.

Officials say privatisation, cheap valuations and moves to cut red tape and encourage private investors have lured Iranians away from the once-booming property market, the traditional home of the Iranian nest egg, which stagnated in late 2008. The world’s fifth-largest oil exporter hopes to raise $12.5 billion by privatising over 500 state firms during the 2010-11 year, and plans to sell all of its refineries and petrochemicals units, promising potential investors a solid pipeline of IPOs. Iranians are also increasingly reluctant to park their spare cash in the bank, where interest on instant access savings has fallen from about 12.5 percent three years ago to 6 percent now. Those rates seem healthy compared to Western economies, where central bank rates are near zero, but are no match for the rewards promised by a bourse which already boasts more than 330 listed firms and a market capitalisation above $70 billion.

Speaking in his office on the upper floors of the stock exchange, bourse chief Hassan Ghalibaf Asl summed up the logic: “The opportunities and good factors affecting the growth of the capital market and attracting investors are more important, and the weight of them is more, than bad factors.” Few dispute however, that the bad factors are there. From a lack of transparency to tightening sanctions, myriad challenges belie the Tehran Stock Exchange’s stellar performance. Firms related to the elite Revolutionary Guards and other state bodies have bought large stakes in privatised companies, further muddying the waters between public and private in a country where powerful quasi-official foundations pervade.

Last year, a consortium linked to the Revolutionary Guards took a controlling stake in the Telecommunications Company of Iran for $7.8 billion, raising concern that some firms being put up for sale are just being transferred within the public sector. Investments by these vast semi-official or politically connected organisations have caused the surges in stock prices that small investors have been happy to ride, Meir Javedanfar, an Iran expert at Middle East analysis firm Meepas, said. “Very few stock exchanges have record gains in a country where sanctions, economic isolation, unemployment and inflation are increasing,” he said. “All indicators point to this boom being a government-made bubble. It’s difficult to predict when it will burst.” Even in parliament, questions are being asked about the disconnect between soaring share prices and an economy facing not just sanctions but looming cuts to multi-billion-dollar state subsidies that currently guarantee cheap fuel to domestic industries and reduce the cost of goods for Iranian consumers. Many small investors are ordinary Iranians, who could end up suffering the most if boom turns to bust.

Sheltering from the blazing sun under the porticos of the bourse building, a man sits on a fold-out stool and sells economics text books laid at his feet on sheets of newspaper. Traders, the majority apparently amateurs, pass him on their way inside to swap rumours as they crowd around touchscreens, looking up data provided by the bourse on their chosen stocks. Iranians can place orders with professional brokers, without having to go in person to the bourse, but the building, with its atmosphere of anticipation, attracts scores of people, placing their cash alongside institutions like Iran’s pension funds. Apart from one turbaned cleric and a handful of women, most are middle aged men, and the mood is optimistic though smaller trades are driven largely by rumour, since rules requiring listed firms to disclose their performance and plans are lax.

With his boy-band haircut, jeans and T-shirt, 26-year-old Navid Sadri is not the typical day-trader on Tehran’s bourse, but he has been making his living on the market for eight years, long enough to know that a boom usually ends in a bust. “Eight months ago there was a very small crowd,” he says, pointing to the amateur traders hovering in the corridors above the bourse’s modest trading floor. “If every day there’s a bigger crowd it’s a sign that there will be a drop.” While domestic investment in the bourse booms, international sanctions and political uncertainty are hampering the flow of foreign funds and expertise that Iran needs to modernize. Foreign investment on the Tehran bourse accounts for just 0.5 percent of the shares, according to the bourse chief. “We don’t even look at the Iranian market. There is just too much political risk involved,” Robert McKinnon of ASAS Capital, an asset management company in Dubai, said in June, when bourse officials travelled to the city to drum up foreign interest.

In an effort to attract cash from abroad, Iran revoked a rule this year that had forced foreign investors to hold their initial capital in the Islamic Republic for three years. While foreign investors can now repatriate their capital whenever they want, U.S. rules ban any bank that does business with the United States from making transactions with Iran. That rule is enough to keep most major international banks at bay. So far, Tehran’s bourse has lured only a handful of smaller institutions willing to gamble on the world’s riskier markets. Fund management company Castlestone calls Iran stocks “a jaw-dropping opportunity” and plans to include them in a new high-growth emerging markets fund. Turquoise Partners, an investment firm with offices in Tehran and London, manages a $100 million fund on behalf of foreign investors wanting a piece of the Iranian action. “We’ve had a flood of money coming into the market in the last one and a half years,” Ali Mashayekhi, head of investment research at Turquoise, said.

Petrodollar or Petroeuro? A new source of global conflict
by Cóilín Nunan

No observer of the lead-up to the war in Iraq and its aftermath could have failed to notice that the level of cooperation between Europe and America was extremely low. France and Germany were very strong opponents of the US/UK invasion and even after the war was declared over, disagreements persisted over the lifting of sanctions and how Iraq should be run. So was this just a one-off tiff or was it a symptom of deeper flaws in the relationship? I believe that the war on Iraq illustrated for the first time that continental Europe, led by France and Germany, no longer wishes to follow the Americans politically, although what has been termed a ‘clash of civilisations’ [1] is probably better viewed as a ‘clash of economies’.

While disagreements over the US trade barriers on steel imports or the European restrictions on imports of American genetically modified crops have attracted widespread comment, the most intense economic rivalry of all has received far less media attention than it perhaps should: this is the rivalry between the dollar and the euro for the position of world reserve currency, a privileged status that has been held by the dollar ever since the Bretton Woods agreement nearly 60 years ago.

At present, approximately two thirds of world trade is conducted in dollars and two thirds of central banks’ currency reserves are held in the American currency which remains the sole currency used by international institutions such as the IMF. This confers on the US a major economic advantage: the ability to run a trade deficit year after year. It can do this because foreign countries need dollars to repay their debts to the IMF, to conduct international trade and to build up their currency reserves. The US provides the world with these dollars by buying goods and services produced by foreign countries, but since it does not have a corresponding need for foreign currency, it sells far fewer goods and services in return, i.e. the US always spends more than it earns, whereas the rest of the world always earns more than it spends. This US trade deficit has now reached extraordinary levels, with the US importing 50% more goods and services than it exports. So long as the dollar remains the dominant international currency the US can continue consuming more than it produces and, for example, build up its military strength while simultaneously affording tax cuts.

Getting a share of this economic free lunch has been one of the motivations, and perhaps the main motivation, behind setting up the euro [2]. Were the euro to become a reserve currency equal to, or perhaps even instead of, the dollar, countries would reduce their dollar holdings while building up their euro savings. Another way of putting this would be to say that Eurozone countries would be able to reduce their subsidy to American consumption and would find that other countries were now subsidising Eurozone consumption instead.

A move away from the dollar towards the euro could, on the other hand, have a disastrous effect on the US economy as the US would no longer be able to spend beyond its means. Worse still, the US would have to become a net currency importer as foreigners would probably seek to spend back in the US a large proportion of the estimated three trillion dollars which they currently own. In other words, the US would have to run a trade surplus, providing the rest of the world with more goods and services than it was receiving in return. A rapid and wholesale move to the euro might even lead to a dollar crash as everyone sought to get rid of some, or all, of their dollars at the same time. But that is an outcome that no-one, not even France or Germany, is seeking because of the huge effect it would have on the world economy. Europe would much prefer to see a gradual move to a euro-dollar world, or even a euro-dominated one.

It turns out that there is a small group of countries which is playing the arbiter in this global contest. These are the world’s oil exporters, in particular OPEC and Russia. Ever since the days when the US dominated world oil production, sales of oil and natural gas on international markets have been exclusively denominated in dollars. This was partly a natural state of affairs since, up until the early 1950s, the US accounted for half or more of the world’s annual oil production. The tendency to price in dollars was additionally reinforced by the Bretton Woods agreement which established the IMF and World Bank and adopted the dollar as the currency for international loans.

The vast majority of the world’s countries are oil importers and, since oil is such a crucial commodity, the need to pay for it in dollars encourages these countries keep the majority of their foreign currency reserves in dollars not only to be able to buy oil directly but also to protect the value of their own currencies from falling against the dollar. Because a sudden devaluation of a country’s currency against the dollar would lead to a jump in oil prices and a possible economic crisis, every country’s central bank needs dollar reserves so as to be able to buy its own currency on the foreign exchange markets when its value needs to be supported.

The fact that oil sales and loans from the IMF are dollar-denominated also encourages poorer countries to denominate their exports in dollars as this minimises the risk of losses through any fluctuations in the value of the dollar. The knock-on effect of this is that, since many of these exports are essential raw materials which richer countries need to import, their denomination in dollars reinforces the need for rich countries to keep their own currency reserves in dollars.

While the denomination of oil sales is not a subject which is frequently discussed in the media, its importance is certainly well understood by governments. For example, when in 1971 President Nixon took the US off the gold standard, OPEC did consider moving away from dollar oil pricing, as dollars no longer had the guaranteed value they once did. The US response was to do various secret deals with Saudi Arabia in the 1970s to ensure that the world’s most important oil exporter stuck with the dollar [3]. What the Saudis did, OPEC followed. More recently, in June 2003, the Prime Minister of Malaysia publicly encouraged his country’s oil and gas exporters to move from the dollar to the euro. The European and American reactions were polar opposites: the EU’s Energy Commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, welcomed the suggestion, saying that ‘in the future the euro is [going to be] taking a place in the international markets in general as the money of exchange’ and that this was ‘a matter of realism’ [4]. Her counterpart in the US, the director of the Energy Information Administration, Guy Caruso, said that he couldn’t see ‘any particular merit’ in the move and that over the long run ‘the dollar’s always won out’ [5]. Either way, Malaysia is only a relatively minor oil exporter, so what it does can only have a very limited effect. A switch by a major oil exporter would be of far greater significance.

The first country to actually make the switch was a very important oil exporter indeed: Iraq, in November 2000 [6,7]. Before the war in Iraq began, some observers, myself included, argued that this might well be a major reason for the US desire to invade and the strong Franco-German opposition to the invasion [8,9]. Corroborating evidence included the apparent influence which loyalty (or lack thereof) to the dollar seemed to have on the US attitude towards other OPEC members. Iran had been talking of selling its own oil for euros [6,10] and was subsequently included in George Bush’s ‘axis of evil’. Venezuela, another important oil exporter, had started bartering some of its oil, thus avoiding the use of the dollar, and was encouraging OPEC to do likewise [11] – and the US was widely suspected in having played a part in the attempted coup against the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.

Semi-official confirmation that petro-currency rivalry was at the heart of the split between France and Germany, on the one hand, and the US, on the other, was provided by Howard Fineman, the chief political correspondent for Newsweek, in an article he wrote in April 2003, in the aftermath of the war. The Europeans and Americans were then arguing over whether the UN’s oil-for-food programme in Iraq should remain in place or not. Using the term ‘clash of civilisations’ to describe the divide which was developing, Fineman explained that the disagreement had little to do with the French calls for the search for weapons of mass destruction to resume and for sanctions to remain in place until the search was complete. Instead, Fineman said, it was mainly about the dollar vs the euro. Citing White House officials and a presidential aide, he explained that the dispute between the two continents was really about ‘who gets to sell – and buy – Iraqi oil, and what form of currency will be used to denominate the value of the sales. That decision, in turn, will help decide who controls Iraq, which, in turn, will represent yet another skirmish in a growing global economic conflict. We want a secular, American-influenced pan-ethnic entity of some kind to control the massive oil fields (Iraq’s vast but only real source of wealth). We want that entity to be permitted to sell the oil to whomever it wants, denominated in dollars.’ Fineman concluded his article by confidently predicting that future Iraqi oil sales would be switched back to dollars [1].

Fineman’s White House sources would appear to have been reliable as that is precisely what has happened: when Iraqi oil exports resumed in June of last year, it was announced that payment would be in dollars only [12,13]. It was also decided that the billions of Iraqi euros which were being held in a euro account, controlled by the UN under the oil-for-food programme, were to be transferred into the Development Fund for Iraq, a dollar account controlled by the US [13,14,15].

Furthermore, Youssef Ibrahim, a former senior Middle East correspondent for the New York Times and energy editor on the Wall Street Journal, who is a member of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, has called Iraq’s switch to the euro ‘another reason’ for the war, saying that a general move by oil producers to the euro would be a ‘catastrophe’ for the US [16].

America’s willingness to use violence to defend its economic interests does not seem to have reduced the number of oil exporters considering switching to the euro as they recognise that their use of the dollar enables the US to build up its military strength. In addition to Malaysia, Indonesia has the switch under consideration [17] while Iran has been shifting its currency reserves into euros. Moreover, according to the Vice-President of the Iranian central bank, it has actually sold some of its oil to Europe for euros and is encouraging members of an Asian trade organisation, the Asian Clearing Union, to pay for Iranian oil in the European currency [18]. Along with Malaysia, it is also at the forefront of efforts to establish a new gold-backed currency, the Islamic Gold Dinar, to be used in international trade amongst Muslim countries instead of both the dollar and the euro [19]. In a further development, in June 2004, Iran announced that it had plans to establish an oil-trading market for Middle Eastern and OPEC producers which could threaten the dominance of London’s International Petroleum Exchange and New York’s Nymex [20]. Such a move could help remove some of the technical difficulties that exist with a switch away from dollar-denomination of oil sales.

It is therefore not surprising to find that, just as with Iraq, the European Union and the US are dealing with Iran in very different ways. While the EU has been holding trade negotiations with Iran [21] and involved in dialogue about its nuclear programme, the US has refused to get involved in direct talks with the Iranian government which it views as ‘evil’. The American Enterprise Institute, a highly influential American ‘think tank’, has in fact been actively calling for ‘regime change’ [22] and, although this policy has yet to be officially endorsed by the Bush administration, in July 2004 it was claimed in the British press that a senior official of the Bush administration had indicated that, if re-elected, Bush would intervene in the internal affairs of Iran in an attempt to overturn the Iranian government [23,24].

European enthusiasm for the ‘petroeuro’ also appears undampened by the US takeover of Iraq. Since the war, the European Union has been actively encouraging Russia, another opponent of the US invasion, to move to euro oil and gas sales. In October 2003, during a joint press conference with Germany’s Prime Minister Gerhard Schroeder, the Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that Russia was thinking about selling its oil for euros. A few days later, the European Commission President, Romano Prodi, said, after a summit between Russia and the European Union, that Russia was now drawn to having its imports and exports denominated in euros [25,26].

In December 2003, speculation about the future roles of the dollar and the euro increased when OPEC Secretary General Alvaro Silva, a former Venezuelan oil minister, said that the organisation was now considering trading in euros or in a basket of currencies other than the dollar, as the US currency was declining in value [27] . Although a few days later the Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi said that OPEC would not be discussing a switch to the euro at its next meeting (comments reinforced by the Qatari President of OPEC and the Algerian oil minister [28]), articles discussing a possible move continued to appear in the media [29,30] and the euro’s value against the dollar soared. Despite the speculation, no decision to move to the euro was taken at OPEC’s meeting in early February 2004 and thereafter the euro’s value fell back again.

In fact, close inspection of the dollar-euro exchange rate shows that since the euro’s introduction in January 1999, petro-currency rivalry appears to have played an important part in swinging the rate one way or the other. The markets, it seems, have noticed the importance of what is happening. On the other hand, the lack of an open discussion of the issues suggests that politicians and bankers are keen to move ahead with their plans with little or no explanation to the general public.

Should we not, however, be debating more openly what kind (or kinds) of international financial structure(s) we want to adopt, since the question has potentially huge implications for the stability of the world economy and for peace and stability in oil-exporting countries? A good starting point for such a debate would be the recognition that no country or countries should be allowed to dominate the system by controlling the issuance of the currency or currencies used. Similarly fundamental would be to prevent any country from running a persistent trade surplus or deficit so as to avoid the build up of unjust subsidies, unpayable debts and economic instability. At Bretton Woods, John Maynard Keynes, who understood how important these two conditions were, proposed a system which would have met them, but his proposal was rejected in favour of the dollar.[31] The dollar, though, is no longer a stable, reliable currency: the IMF has warned that the US trade deficit is so bad that its currency could collapse at any time.[32] Will we really have to wait for a full-blown dollar crisis before a public debate about creating a just and sustainable trading system can begin?

1. Howard Fineman, ‘In Round 2, it’s the dollar vs. euro’, April 23 2003, Newsweek,
2. Anon., ‘Will the euro rule the roost?’, January 1 1999, BBC News, u/225434.stm
3. David E. Spiro, The Hidden Hand of American Hegemony: Petrodollar Recycling and International Markets, Cornell University Press, 1999
4. Anon., ‘EU says oil could one day be priced in euros’, 16 June 2003, Reuters
5. Irene Kwek, ‘EIA Says Oil Price Switch To Euro From Dollar Unlikely’, 16 June 2003, Dow Jones Newswires
6. Recknagel, Charles, ‘Iraq: Baghdad Moves to Euro’, November 1 2000,Radio Free Europe,
7. Faisal Islam, ‘When will we buy oil in euros?’, February 23 2003, The Observer,,6903,900867,00.html
8. William Clark, ‘The Real Reasons for the Upcoming War With Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth’, January 2003,
9. Cóilín Nunan, ‘Oil, currency and the war on Iraq’, January 2003,
10. Anon., ‘Iran may switch to euro for crude sale payments’, Alexander Oil and Gas, September 5 2002,
11. Hazel Henderson, ‘Globocop v. Venezuela’s Chavez: Oil, Globalization and Competing Visions of Development’, April 2002, InterPress Service,
12. Carola Hoyos and Kevin Morrison, ‘Iraq returns to international oil market’, June 5 2003, Financial Times
13. Coalition Provisional Authority Regulation Number 2,
14. UN Security Council Resolution 1483,
15. Judy Aita, ‘U.N. Transfers Oil-for-Food Program to CPA, Iraqi Officials Nov 22’, November 2003, Washington File,
16. Catherine Belton, ‘Why not price oil in euros?’, October 10 2003, Moscow Times
17. Kazi Mahmood, ‘Economic Shift Could Hurt U.S.-British Interests In Asia’, March 30 2003,
18. C. Shivkumar, ‘Iran offers oil to Asian union on easier terms’, June 16 2003,
19. Anon, ‘Malaysia, Iran discuss the use of gold dinar’, July 3 2003, Asia Times,
20. Terry Macalister, ‘Iran takes on west’s control of oil trading’, June 16 2004, The Guardian,,3604,1239644,00.html
21. Hooman Peimani, ‘EU and Iran talk trade, not war’, June 7 2003, Asia Times,
22. Guy Dinmore, ‘US lobbyists tune in for regime change in Iran’, December 5 2003, Financial Times
23. Michael Binyon and Bronwen Maddox, ‘US sets sights on toppling Iran regime’, July 17 2004, The Times
24. Jennifer Johnston, ‘Regime change in Iran now in Bush’s sights’, July 18 2004, The Sunday Herald,
25. Lisa Jucca and Melissa Akin, ‘Europe Presses Russia on Euro’, October 20 2003, Moscow Times
26. Simon Nixon, ‘What’s that in euros?’, October 18 2003, The Spectator,§ion=current&issue=2003-10-18&id=3619
27. Anon., ‘OPEC may trade oil in euros to compensate for dollar decline’, December 9 2003, Associated Press,,00020008.htm
28. Anon., ‘Saudi Arabia: Dollars only please’, December 13 2003, Reuters, .saudi.reut/
29. Patrick Brethour, ‘OPEC mulls move to euro for pricing crude oil’, January 12 2004, Globe and Mail,
30. Anon., ‘To euro or not: should oil pricing ditch the dollar?’, February 9 2004, AFP
31. Michael Rowbottom, Goodbye America! Globalisation, Debt and the Dollar Empire, Jon Carpenter Publishing, 2000
32. Charlotte Denny and Larry Elliott, ‘IMF warns trade gap could bring down dollar’, September 19 2003, The Guardian,,3604,1045193,00.html

Iran busts ‘spy pigeons’ near nuclear site / Oct 20, 2008

“Security forces in Natanz have arrested two suspected “spy pigeons”
near Iran’s controversial uranium enrichment facility, the reformist
Etemad Melli newspaper reported on Monday. One of the pigeons was
caught near a rose water production plant in the city of Kashan in
Isfahan province, the report cited an unnamed informed source as
saying, adding that some metal rings and invisible strings were
attached to the bird. “Early this month, a black pigeon was caught
bearing a blue-coated metal ring, with invisible strings,” the source
was quoted as saying of the second pigeon. The source gave no further
description of the pigeons, neither their current status nor what
their fate will be. Natanz is home to Iran’s heavily-bunkered
underground uranium enrichment plant, which is not far from Kashan.
The activity is the focus of Iran’s five-year standoff with the West,
which that fears it aims to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran vehemently
denies the charge. Last year, Iran issued a formal protest over the
use of espionage by the United States to produce a key intelligence
report on the country’s controversial nuclear programme.”


BY Saleh Eskandari / July 10 / from Iranian newspaper Resalat /
translated by BBC

“A few weeks ago, 14 squirrels equipped with espionage systems of
foreign intelligence services were captured by [Iranian] intelligence
forces along the country’s borders. These trained squirrels, each of
which weighed just over 700 grams, were released on the borders of the
country for intelligence and espionage purposes. According to the
announcement made by Iranian intelligence officials, alert police
officials caught these squirrels before they could carry out any task.
Fixing GPS devices, bugging instruments and advanced cameras in the
bodies of trained animals like squirrels, mice, hamsters, etc, are
among modern methods of collecting intelligence. Given the fast speed
and the special physical features of these animals, they provide
special capabilities for spying operations. Once the animals return to
their place of origin, the intelligence gathered by them is then
offloaded. . . .”

BY Carol Highfill / November 1996

Lost or Stolen Birds
“Bands are one method of identifying a lost or stolen bird. No matter
how careful bird owners and breeders are, the unthinkable sometimes
happens and a bird flies away. It may be found by a conscientious
person who would like to return the bird to its owner. If the bird is
wearing a band, the task becomes much easier. Many bands are traceable
and a finder (with help from a pet store, veterinarian or breeder) may
be able to trace the bird and its owner. If a finder advertises that a
bird has been found, the true owner can prove his ownership of this
particular bird if he has the band number. If a bird has been stolen,
the thief will often remove the band to prevent discovery. However,
there are documented cases where birds have been recovered years later
due to identification of the leg band. Removal of the band by a thief,
decreases the value of the bird and some thieves take their chances.
Reputable breeders and pet stores will question the history of an
unbanded bird. Anyone buying a bird as a pet should also question any
bird which is not banded. The ability to remove a leg band is one of
this method’s drawbacks when compared to chipping or fingerprinting.”


“War of the Birds is the untold story of how carrier pigeons – members
of the elite MI-14 secret service division – are the forgotten heroes
of the Secret Service during the Second World War, playing a vital
role in securing the Allied Victory. Focusing on the efforts of five
forgotten Secret Service heroes of World War II – all of whom have
feathers – War of the Birds is a surprisingly suspenseful and dramatic
documentary about the war taking place in the air between Nazi and
Allied birds as they struggled to deliver crucial military
intelligence. Although today pigeons are seen as vermin, their role in
communicating information between the Allies in Britain and their
troops and agents in occupied Europe was paramount. In cases where
radio transmission and other forms of communication was not available
these brave birds, which have an in-built sense of direction over vast
distances and incredible flying power, saved the day. Drawing upon
emotive interviews and archival footage, we hear the miraculous tales
of pigeons like ‘White Vision’, which miraculously flew 60 miles over
heavy seas against 25mph winds to save 11 crew members from certain
death; ‘Mary of Exeter’ which flew for the Allied forces for five
years, getting wounded 22 times before finally being killed on duty;
and ‘Scotch Lass’ which returned to England from Holland with vital
microphotographs that saved hundreds of lives. Over fifty pigeons won
the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Congressional Medal of
Honour, after the Allies won the war. These brave birds survived enemy
bullets, Nazi attack falcons and flight exhaustion to defeat Hitler
and his forces and change the course of history. This documentary
serves to remind a new generation of the importance of pigeons in a
pre-digital and internet world.”

“One well known Kennoway pigeon fancier, Jim Hamilton, has raced the
birds for most of his life and even provided pigeons for the
government during the second world war. The exhibition tells the story
of one such pigeon named Winkie, who was based at RAF Leuchars during
the conflict. On February 23, 1942, the damaged Beaufort that Winkie
was travelling on ditched suddenly while returning from a strike off
the Norwegian coast. She broke free from her cage and flew back to
base 129 miles away, arriving wet and exhausted. After assessing
Winkie along with other circumstances, a sergeant was able to advise
where to search for the plane and the crew were soon rescued. As a
result, she was the first pigeon to be awarded the Dickin Medal, which
is the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.”

Decorated animal heroes
BY Hugo Potter / February 18 2007

· Paddy (1944) Carrier pigeon made the fastest recorded crossing of
the Channel to deliver messages from Normandy for D-Day.
· GI Joe (1946) Famous messenger pigeon which averted a bomb attack on
the Italian village of Colvi Vecchia, saving more than 1,000 lives.
· Judy (1946) English Pointer ship’s dog, alerted crew to approaching
aircraft. The only animal officially registered as a prisoner of war.
· Simon (1949) Ship’s cat served during the Chinese civil war.
Survived canon shell injuries to kill off a rat infestation on HMS
· Roselle (2002) Guide dog who led her blind owner and a woman blinded
by debris from the World Trade Center during the attacks of 9/11.
· Sam (2003) Dog serving with the Royal Candian Regiment in Bosnia.
Disarmed a gunman and guarded refugees against a hostile crowd.


Pigeon’s war medal up for auction / 26 October, 2004
“A bravery medal awarded to a pigeon for flying over enemy territory
carrying vital information during World War II is to be auctioned. The
bird, called Commando, was bred in Haywards Heath, Sussex, and carried
out 90 trips in German-occupied France. It brought back messages to
the UK in metal canisters strapped to its legs. Commando was given the
Dickin Medal for animal bravery in 1945 – one of only 54 to be given
out. It is to be auctioned at Spink in London on 4 November. Commando
was bred by pigeon fancier Sid Moon in a loft in the West Sussex town.
Mr Moon served with the Army Pigeon Service in World War I and made
his pigeons available to the war effort in 1939. Fewer than one in
eight of the birds sent on the missions returned home. They often fell
victim to German marksmen, birds of prey, bad weather or exhaustion.
But Commando survived the trips and was awarded the animal equivalent
of the Victoria Cross. The medal is being auctioned by Mr Moon’s
granddaughter Valerie Theobold and is expected to fetch between £5,000
and £7,000. She said: “The thing I remember is the noise of the
pigeons and probably also the smell of the pigeons. “But it is quite
interesting to think that all those pigeons carrying all those
messages through the war were coming from the loft.” Another of Mr
Moon’s relatives, John Theobold, said: “It was terribly hard for the
agents or for the people who were occupied trying to get message out
by radio because if they were caught they were shot. “So pigeons were
one way of getting information back that was crucial.””

‘War secrets’ pigeon trainer dies / 1 April, 2004
“Northamptonshire’s Dowager Viscountess Dilhorne, who trained pigeons
to carry World War II secret communications from the continent, has
died aged 93. During the war the then Mary Manningham-Buller trained
carrier pigeons in a small Oxfordshire village. The birds were used by
secret agents and resistance fighters, flying back to her with coded
messages on their legs. The funeral of the Viscountess, who died on 25
March, will be held on Friday at Deene Park, Corby. She was the widow
of the 1st Viscount Dilhorne, formerly Reginald Manningham-Buller, who
was Lord Chancellor from 1962-64. He became the Conservative MP for
Daventry, later South Northamptonshire, in 1943 and left the Commons
for the Lords on becoming a peer in 1962. For many years after the war
Mary Manningham-Buller did not discuss her secret work for the
government, even though she had discovered that some of the messages
carried by her pigeons had been of critical importance to the
military. Lady Dilhorne was born Mary Lilian Lindsay, one of eight
children of David Lindsay, Lord Balcarres. Her mother was Constance
Lilian, youngest daughter of the MP for Huntingdon Sir Henry Pelly.
The Viscountess is survived by a son and three daughters. One, Eliza
Manningham-Buller, has been director-general of the Security Service
since 2002.”


Scientists create remote-controlled pigeon / February 27, 2007
“Chinese scientists have succeeded in implanting electrodes in the
brain of a pigeon to control the bird’s flight remotely, state media
have reported. The Xinhua News Agency said scientists at the Robot
Engineering Technology Research Centre at Shandong University of
Science and Technology in eastern China used the micro-electrodes to
command the bird to fly right or left, and up or down. The implants
stimulated different areas of the pigeon’s brain according to
electronic signals sent by the scientists via computer, mirroring
natural signals generated by the brain, Xinhua quoted chief scientist
Su Xuecheng as saying. It was the first such successful experiment on
a pigeon in the world, said Mr Su, who conducted a similar successful
experiment on mice in 2005. The report did not specify what purpose
the pigeons may perform.”

CIA recruited cat to bug Russians
BY Charlotte Edwardes / 03 Nov 2001

“The CIA tried to uncover the Kremlin’s deepest secrets during the
1960s by turning cats into walking bugging devices, recently
declassified documents show. In one experiment during the Cold War a
cat, dubbed Acoustic Kitty, was wired up for use as an eavesdropping
platform. It was hoped that the animal – which was surgically altered
to accommodate transmitting and control devices – could listen to
secret conversations from window sills, park benches or dustbins.
Victor Marchetti, a former CIA officer, told The Telegraph that
Project Acoustic Kitty was a gruesome creation. He said: “They slit
the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as
an antenna. They made a monstrosity. They tested him and tested him.
They found he would walk off the job when he got hungry, so they put
another wire in to override that.” Mr Marchetti said that the first
live trial was an expensive disaster. The technology is thought to
have cost more than £10 million. He said: “They took it out to a park
and put him out of the van, and a taxi comes and runs him over. There
they were, sitting in the van with all those dials, and the cat was
dead.” The document, which was one of 40 to be declassified from the
CIA’s closely guarded Science and Technology Directorate – where
spying techniques are refined – is still partly censored. This implies
that the CIA was embarrassed about disclosing all the details of
Acoustic Kitty, which took five years to design. Dr Richelson, who is
the a senior fellow at the National Security Archive in Washington,
said of the document: “I’m not sure for how long after the operation
the cat would have survived even if it hadn’t been run over.” The memo
ends by congratulating the team who worked on the Acoustic Kitty
project for its hard work. It says: “The work done on this problem
over the years reflects great credit on the personnel who guided
it . . . whose energy and imagination could be models for scientific
pioneers.” By coincidence, in 1966, a British film called Spy With a
Cold Nose featured a dog wired up to eavesdrop on the Russians. It was
the same year as the Acoustic Kitty was tested.”

MI5’s secret plan to recruit gerbils as spycatchers
BY Michael Smith / 29 Jun 2001

MI5 considered using a team of highly-trained gerbils to detect spies
and terrorists flying into Britain during the 1970s, Sir Stephen
Lander, the service’s director-general, revealed yesterday. The plan
was based on the ability of gerbils to detect a rise in adrenalin from
changes in the scent of human sweat. Sir Stephen said the Israelis had
put the idea into practice, placing gerbil cages to the side of
security checks for travellers at Tel Aviv airport. A suitably placed
fan wafted the scent of the suspect’s sweat into the cage.

The gerbils were trained by Pavlovian response to press a lever if
they detected increased adrenalin, receiving food as a reward. The
system was never put into practice by MI5 because the Israelis were
forced to abandon it after they found that the gerbil could not tell
the difference between terrorists and passengers who were scared of
flying. Speaking at a conference at the Public Record Office in Kew,
Sir Stephen said MI5 archives contained a complete volume on the idea
– which was based on Canadian research for the Royal Canadian Mounted
Police – written in the 1970s.

Although Dame Stella Rimington made a practice of speaking publicly in
an attempt to change MI5, yesterday’s Missing Dimension conference was
only the second occasion that Sir Stephen has done so. The conference
marks a new PRO exhibition on espionage, Shaken Not Stirred, starting
today, which includes exhibits on a number of spies including Mata
Hari and a spy paid the equivalent of £6.5 million by King George I to
spy on the Stuarts. The Missing Dimension refers to the fact that most
histories are written before intelligence files have been released and
so omit a crucial element of what occurred and why. Sir Stephen
admitted that it would be a long time before MI5 would be able to
release details of its Cold War activities.

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]




“The Hashshashin (also Hashishin, Hashashiyyin or Assassins) were an
offshoot of the Ismā’īlī sect of Shia Muslims. After a quarrel about
the succession of leadership in the ruling Fatimide dynasty in Cairo
around the year 1090, the losing Nizāriyya faction were driven from
Egypt. They established a number of fortified settlements in present
day Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon under the charismatic leader Hasan i
Sabbah. Persecuted as infidels by the dominant sunni sect in the
Muslim world, they sent dedicated people to eliminate prominent Sunni
leaders whom they considered “impious usurpers.”[1] The sect was
decimated by the invading Mongols, their last stronghold being
flattened by Hülegü Khan in the year 1272.

Some scholars believe the term Hashshashin, a name given to them by
their enemies, was derived from the Arabic “haššāšīn” (حشّاشين,
“hashish user”), which they are alleged to have ingested prior to
their attacks, but this etymology is disputed. The sect referred to
themselves as al-da’wa al-jadīda (Arabic:الدعوة الجديدة), which means
the new doctrine, and were known within the organization as Fedayeen.

Most Muslim contemporaries were obviously suspicious of these “Holy
Killers”; in fact they were described using the term Batini. The term
was sometimes used pejoratively to refer to those, especially Ismaili,
who discerned an inner, esoteric level of meaning (batin) in the
Qur’an. This constant religious estrangement would eventually see them
go so far as allying with the Occidental Christians against Muslims on
a number of occasions.

The original place they started their elite group was in Iran (Persia)
and later traveled to other countries. Legends abound as to the
tactics used to induct members into what became both a religious and a
political organization. One such legend is that future assassins were
subjected to rites similar to those of other mystery cults, in which
the subject was made to believe that he was in imminent danger of
death. The twist was that they were drugged to simulate “dying”, to
later awaken in a garden flowing with wine and served a sumptuous
feast by virgins. The supplicant was then convinced he was in Heaven
and that the cult’s leader, Hassan-i-Sabah, was a representative of
the divinity and all his orders should be followed, even unto death.
This legend derives from Marco Polo, who visited Alamut after it fell
to the Mongols in the thirteenth century.

Other parts of the cult’s indoctrination claim that the future
assassins were brought to Alamut at a young age and, while they
matured, inhabited the aforementioned paradisaic gardens and were kept
drugged with hashish; as in the previous version, Hassan-i-Sabah
occupied this garden as a divine emissary. At a certain point (when
their initiation could be said to have begun), the drug was withdrawn
from them and they were removed from the gardens and flung into a
dungeon. There they were informed that if they wished to return to the
paradise they had so recently enjoyed, it would be at Sabbah’s
discretion. Therefore, they must follow his directions exactly up to
and including murder and self-sacrifice.

The group transformed the act of murder into a system directed largely
against Seljuk Muslim rulers who had been persecuting their sects.
They were meticulous in killing the targeted individual, seeking to do
so without any additional casualties and innocent loss of life,
although they were careful to cultivate their terrifying reputation by
slaying their victims in public, often in mosques. Typically, they
approached using a disguise. Their weapon of choice being a dagger or
a small blade, they rejected poison, bows and other weapons that
allowed the attacker to escape. For unarmed combat, the Hashshashin
practiced a fighting style called Janna which incorporates striking
techniques, grappling and low kicks. However, under no circumstances
did they commit suicide, preferring to be killed by the master

There are also, possibly apocryphal, stories that they used their well-
known deadliness for political goals without necessarily killing. For
example, a victim, usually high-placed, might one morning find a
Hashshashin dagger lying on their pillow upon awakening. This was a
plain hint to the targeted individual that he was safe nowhere, that
maybe even his inner group of servants had been infiltrated by the
cult, and that whatever course of action had brought him into conflict
with them would have to be stopped if he wanted to live.

Etymology of the word “assassin”
The name “assassin” is commonly believed to be a mutation of the
Arabic “haššāšīn” (حشّاشين); however, there are those who dispute this
etymology, arguing that it originates from Marco Polo’s account of his
visit to Alamut in 1273[2] It is suggested by some writers that
assassin simply means ‘followers of Al-Hassan’ (or Hassan-i-Sabbah,
the Sheikh of Alamut (see below)).

The word Hashish (of probable Arabic origin) refers to resin collected
from cannabis flowers. Important to remember, however, is that
narcotics such as cannabis are “Haram,” are strictly prohibited, by
most schools of Islam. Therefore, it is possible that the label or
attribution of Hashshashin to drug use was to portray them negatively.

Many scholars have argued, and demonstrated convincingly, that the
attribution of the epithet ‘hashish eaters’ or ‘hashish takers’ is a
misnomer derived from enemies of the Isma’ilis and was never used by
Muslim chroniclers or sources. It was therefore used in a pejorative
sense of ‘enemies’ or ‘disreputable people’. This sense of the term
survived into modern times with the common Egyptian usage of the term
Hashasheen in the 1930s to mean simply ‘noisy or riotous’. It is
unlikely that the austere Hasan-i Sabbah indulged personally in drug
taking. …There is no mention of that drug [hashish] in connection
with the Persian Assassins – especially in the library of Alamut (“the
secret archives”).
– Edward Burman, The
Assassins – Holy Killers of Islam

Although apparently known as early as the 8th century, the federation
of the Assassins is usually marked as 1090 when Hasan-i Sabbah
established his stronghold in the Daylam mountains south of the
Caspian Sea at Alamut. Hasan set the aim of the Assassins to destroy
the power of the Abbasid Caliphate by murdering its most powerful
members. Much of the current western lore surrounding the Assassins
roots from Marco Polo’s supposed visit to Alamut in 1273, which is
widely considered fictional (especially as the stronghold had
reportedly been destroyed by the Mongols in 1256).

Benjamin of Tudela who traveled one hundred years before Marco Polo
mentions the Al-Hashshashin and their leader as “the Old Man.” He
notes their principal city to be Qadmous. The group inspired peace
into proportion to their many numbers and territory. The members were
organized into rigid classes, based upon their initiation into the
secrets of the order. The devotees constituted a class that sought
martyrdom and followed orders with unquestioned devotion, orders which
included assassination. Because of the secretive nature of the order,
it has often been invoked in chaos theories.

Notable victims include, Nizam al-Mulk (1092; although some historical
sources contradict this claim), the Fatimad vizier al-Afdal (1122),
ibn al-Khashshab of Aleppo (1124), il-Bursuqi of Mosul (1126), Raymond
II of Tripoli (1152), Conrad of Montferrat (1192), and Prince Edward,
later Edward I of England was wounded by a poisoned assassin dagger in
1271. It is believed that Saladin, incensed by several almost
successful Hashshashin attempts on his life, besieged their chief
Syrian stronghold of Masyaf during his reconquest of Outremer in 1176
but quickly lifted the siege after parley, and thereafter attempted to
maintain good relations with the sect. The sect’s own extant accounts
tell of Rashid ad-Din Sinan, stealing into Saladin’s tent in the heart
of his camp, and leaving a poisoned cake and a note saying “You are in
our power” on Saladin’s chest as he slept. Another account tells of a
letter sent to Saladin’s maternal uncle, vowing death to the entire
royal line, perhaps no idle threat; whatever the truth of these
accounts (and likely it will remain a mystery) he clearly heeded their
warning, and desisted.

The Hashshashin were often motivated by outsiders. The murder of the
Patriarch of Jerusalem, for example, was instigated by the
Hospitallers. It is rumoured the assassination of Conrad of Montferrat
may have even been hired by Richard the Lionheart. In most cases they
were aimed at retaining the balance of the Hashshashin’s enemies.

The power of the Hashshashin was destroyed by the Mongol warlord
Hulagu Khan, but several Ismaili sects share something of a common
lineage. During the Mongol assault of Alamut on 1256 December 15, the
library of the sect was destroyed, along with much of their power
base, and thus much of the sect’s own records were lost; most accounts
of them stem from the highly reputable Arab historians of the period.
The Syrian branch of the Hashshashin was destroyed in 1273 by the
Mamluk Sultan Baybars. The Hashshashin, in 1275, captured and held
Alamut for a few months but their political power was lost and they
were eventually absorbed into other Isma’ilite groups. They continued
being used under the Mamluks, Ibn Battuta recording in the 14th
century their fixed rate of pay per murder.”

FROM The Book of Grass: An Anthology on Indian Hemp  /  BY Philip K. Hitti

The Assassin movement, called the “new propaganda” by its members, was
inaugurated by al-Hasan ibn-al-Sabbah (died in 1124), probably a
Persian from Tus, who claimed descent from the Himyarite kings of
South Arabia. The motives were evidently personal ambition and desire
for vengeance on the part of the heresiarch. As a young man in al-
Rayy, al-Hassan received instruction in the Batinite system, and after
spending a year and a half in Egypt returned to his native land as a
Fatimid missionary. Here in 1090 he gained possession of the strong
mountain fortress Alamut, north-west of Qazwin. Strategically situated
on an extension of the Alburz chain, 10200 feet above sea level, and
on the difficult by shortest road between the shores of the Caspian
and the Persian highlands, this “eagle’s nest,” as the name probably
means, gave ibn-al-Sabbah and his successors a central stronghold of
primary importance. Its possession was the first historical fact in
the life of the new order.

From Alamut the grand master with his disciples made surprise raids in
various directions which netted other fortresses. In pursuit of their
ends they made free and treacherous use of th dagger, reducing
assassination to an art. Their secret organization, based on Ismailite
antecedents, developed an agnosticism which aimed to emancipate the
initiate from the trammels of doctrine, enlightened him as to the
superfluity of prophets and encouraged him to believe nothing and dare
all. Below the grand master stood the grand priors, each in charge of
a particular district. After these came the ordinary propagandists.
The lowest degree of the order comprised the “fida’is”, who stood
ready to execute whatever orders the grand master issued. A graphic,
though late and secondhad, description of the method by which the
master of Alamut is said to have hypnotized his “self-sacrificing
ones” with the use of hashish has come down to us from Marco Polo, who
passed in that neighborhood in 1271 or 1272. After describing in
glowing terms the magnificent garden surrounding the elegant pavilions
and palaces built by the grand master at Alamut, Polo proceeds:

“Now no man was allowed to enter the Garden save those whom he
intended to be his ASHISHIN. There was a fortress at the entrance to
the Garden, strong enough to resist all the world, and there was no
other way to get in. He kept at his Court a number of the youths of
the country, from twelve to twenty years of age, such as had a taste
for soldiering… Then he would introduce them into his Garden, some
four, or six, or ten at a time, having first made them drink a certain
potion which cast them into a deep sleep, and then causing them to be
lifted and carried in. So when they awoke they found themselves in the

“When therefore they awoke, and found themselves in a place so
charming, they deemed that it was Paradise in very truth. And the
ladies and damsels dallied with them to their hearts’ content…

“So when the Old Man would have any prince slain, he would say to such
a youth: ‘Go thou and slay So and So; and when thou returnest my
Angels shall bear thee into Paradise. And shouldst thou die, natheless
even so will I send my Angels to carry thee back into Paradise.'”
(from ‘The Book of Ser Marco Polo, the Venetian’, translated by Henry
Yule, London, 1875.)

The Assassination in 1092 of the illustrious vizir of the Saljug
sultanate, Nizam-al-Mulk, by a fida’i disguised as a Sufi, was the
first of a series of mysterious murders which plunged the Muslim world
into terror. When in the same year the Saljug Sultan Malikshah
bestirred himself and sent a disciplinary force against the fortress,
its garrison made a night sortie and repelled the besieging army.
Other attempts by caliphs and sultans proved equally futile until
finally the Mongolian Hulagu, who destroyed the caliphate, seized the
fortress in 1256 together with its subsidary castles in Persia. Since
the Assassin books andrecords were destroyed, our information about
this strange and spectacular order is derived mainly from hostile

As early as the last years of the eleventh century the Assassins had
succeeded in setting firm foot in Syria and winning as convert the
Saljug prince of Aleppo, Ridwan ibn-Tutush (died in 1113). By 1140
they had captured the hill fortress of Masyad and many others in
northern Syria, including al-Kahf, al-Qadmus and al-‘Ullayqah. Even
Shayzar (modern Sayjar) on the Orontes was temporarily occupied by the
Assassins, whom Usamah calls Isma’ilites. One of their most famous
masters in Syria was Rachid-al-Din Sinan (died in 1192), who resided
at Masyad and bore the title shakkh al-jabal’, translated by the
Crusades’ chroniclers as “the old man of the mountain”. It was
Rashid’s henchmen who struck awe and terror into the hearts of the
Crusaders. After the capture of Masyad in 1260 by the Mongols, the
Mamluk Sultan Baybars in 1272 dealt the Syrian Assassins the final
blow. Since then the Assassins have been sparsely scattered through
northern Syria, Persia, ‘Uman, Zanzibar, and especially India, where
they number about 150000 and go by the name of Thojas or Mowlas. They
all acknowledge as titular head the Aga Khan of Bombay, who claims
descent through the last grand master of Alamut from Isma’il, the
seventh imam, receives over a tenth of the revenues of his followers,
even in Syria, and spends most of his time as a sportsman between
Paris and London.

Secrets of the Assassins  /  BY Peter Lamborn Wilson

After the death of the Prophet Mohammad, the new Islamic community was
ruled in succession by four of his close Companions, chosen by the
people and called the Rightfully-guided Caliphs. The last of these was
Ali ibn Abu Talib; the Prophet’s son-in-law.

Ali had his own ardent followers among the faithful, who came to be
called Shi’a or “adherents”. They believed that Ali should have
succeeded Mohammad by right, and that after him his sons (the
Prophet’s grandsons) Hasan and Husayn should have ruled; and after
them, their sons, and so on in quasi-monarchial succession.

In fact except for Ali none of them ever ruled all Islamdom. Instead
they became a line of pretenders, and in effect heads of a branch of
Islam called Shiism. In opposition to the orthodox (Sunni) Caliphs in
Baghdad these descendants of the Prophet came to be known as the

To the Shiites an Imam is far more, far higher in rank than a Caliph.
Ali ruled by right because of his spiritual greatness, which the
Prophet recognized by appointing him his successor (in fact Ali is
also revered by the sufis as “founder” and prototype of the Moslem
saint). Shiites differ from orthodox or Sunni Moslems in believing
that this spiritual pre-eminence was transferred to Ali’s descendants
through Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter.

The sixth Shiite Imam, Jafar al-Sadiq, had two sons. The elder,
Ismail, was chosen as successor. But he died before his father. Jafar
then declared his own younger son Musa the new successor instead.

But Ismail had already given birth to a son – Mohammad ibn Ismail –
and proclaimed him the next Imam. Ismail’s followers split with Jafar
over this question and followed Ismail’s son instead of Musa. Thus
they came to be known as Ismailis.

Musa’s descendants ruled “orthodox” Shiism. A few generations later,
the Twelfth Imam of this line vanished without trace from the material
world. He still lives on the spiritual plane, whence he will return at
the end of this cycle of time. He is the “Hidden Imam”, the Mahdi
foretold by the Prophet. “Twelver” Shiism is the religion of Iran

The Ismaili Imams languished in concealment, heads of an underground
movement which attracted the extreme mystics and revolutionaries of
Shiism. Eventually they emerged as a powerful force at the head of an
army, conquered Egypt and established the Fatimid dynasty, the so-
called anti-Caliphate of Cairo.

The early Fatimids ruled in an enlightened manner, and Cairo became
the most cultured and open city of Islam. They never succeeded in
converting the rest of the Islamic world however; in fact, even most
Egyptians failed to embrace Ismailism. The highly evolved mysticism of
the sect was at once its special attraction and its major limitation.

In 1074 a brilliant young Persian convert arrived in Cairo to be
inducted into the higher initiatic (and political) ranks of Ismailism.
But Hasan-i Sabbah soon found himself embroiled in a struggle for
power. The Caliph Mustansir had appointed his eldest son Nizar as
successor. But a younger son, al-Mustali, was intriguing to supplant
him. When Mustansir died, Nizar – the rightful heir – was imprisoned
and murdered.

Hasan-i Sabbah had intrigued for Nizar, and now was forced to flee
Egypt. He eventually turned up in Persia again, head of a
revolutionary Nizari movement. By some clever ruse he acquired command
of the impregnable mountain fortress of Alamut (“Eagle’s Nest”) near
Qazvin in Northwest Iran.

Hasan-i Sabbah’s daring vision, ruthless and romantic, has become a
legend in the Islamic world. With his followers he set out to recreate
in miniature the glories of Cairo in this barren multichrome forsaken
rock landscape.

In order to protect Alamut and its tiny but intense civilization Hasan-
i Sabbah relied on assassination. Any ruler or politician or religious
leader who threatened the Nizaris went in danger of a fanatic’s
dagger. In fact Hasan’s first major publicity coup was the murder of
the Prime Minister of Persia, perhaps the most powerful man of the era
(and according to legend, a childhood friend of Sabbah’s).

Once their fearful reputation was secure, the mere threat of being on
the eso-terrorist hit-list was enough to deter most people from acting
against the hated heretics. One theologian was first threatened with a
knife (left by his pillow as he slept), then bribed with gold. When
his disciples asked him why he had ceased to fulminate against Alamut
from his pulpit he answered that Ismaili arguments were “both pointed
and weighty”.

Since the great library of Alamut was eventually burned, little is
known of Hasan-i Sabbah’s actual teachings. Apparently he formed an
initiatic hierarchy of seven circles based on that in Cairo, with
assassins at the bottom and learned mystics at the top.

Ismaili mysticism is based on the concept of ta’wil, or “spiritual
hermeneutics”. Ta’wil actually means “to take something back to its
source or deepest significance”. The Shiites had always practised this
exegesis on the Koran itself, reading certain verses as veiled or
symbolic allusions to Ali and the Imams. The Ismailis extended ta’wil
much more radically. The whole structure of Islam appeared to them as
a shell; to get at its kernel of meaning the shell must be penetrated
by ta’wil, and in fact broken open completely.

The structure of Islam, even more than most religions, is based on a
dichotomy between exoteric and esoteric. On the one hand there is
Divine Law (shariah), on the other hand the Spiritual Path (tariqah).
Usually the Path is seen as the esoteric kernel and the Law as the
exoteric shell. But to Ismailism the two together present a totality
which in its turn becomes a symbol to be penetrated by ta’wil. Behind
Law and Path is ultimate Reality (haqiqah), God Himself in theological
terms – Absolute Being in metaphysical terms.

This Reality is not something outside human scope; in fact if it
exists at all then it must manifest itself completely on the level of
consciousness. Thus it must appear as a man, the Perfect Man – the
Imam. Knowledge of the Imam is direct perception of Reality itself.
For Shiites the Family of Ali is the same as perfected consciousness.

Once the Imam is realized, the levels of Law and Path fall away
naturally like split husks. Knowledge of inner meaning frees one from
adherence to outer form: the ultimate victory of the esoteric over the

The “abrogation of the Law” however was considered open heresy in
Islam. For their own protection Shiites had always been allowed to
practise taqqiya, “permissable dissimulation” or Concealment, and
pretend to be orthodox to escape death or punishment. Ismailis could
pretend to be Shiite or Sunni, whichever was most advantageous.

For the Nizaris, to practise Concealment was to practise the Law; in
other words, pretending to be orthodox meant obeying the Islamic Law.
Hasan-i Sabbah imposed Concealment on all but the highest ranks at
Alamut, because in the absence of the Imam the veil of illusion must
naturally conceal the esoteric truth of perfect freedom.

In fact, who was the Imam? As far as history was concerned, Nizar and
his son died imprisoned and intestate. Hasan-i Sabbah was therefore a
legitimist supp-orting a non-existent pret-ender! He never claimed to
be the Imam himself, nor did his successor as “old Man of the
Mountain,” nor did his successor. And yet they all preached “in the
name of Nizar”. Presumably the answer to this mystery was revealed in
the seventh circle of initiation.

Now the third Old Man of the Mountain had a son named Hasan, a youth
who was learned, generous, eloquent and loveable. Moreover he was a
mystic, an enthusiast for the deepest teachings of Ismailism and
sufism. Even during his father’s lifetime some Alamutis began to
whisper that young Hasan was the true Imam; the father heard of these
rumors and denied them. I am not the Imam, he said, so how could my
son be the Imam?

In 1162 the father died and Hasan (call him Hasan II to distinguish
him from Hasan-i Sabbah) became ruler of Alamut. Two years later, on
the seventeenth of Ramazan (August 8) in 1164, he proclaimed the
Qiyamat, or Great Resurrection. In the middle of the month of Fasting,
Alamut broke its fast forever and proclaimed perpetual holiday.

The resurrection of the dead in their bodies at the “end of time” is
one of the most difficult doctrines of Islam (and Christianity as
well). Taken literally it is absurd. Taken symbolically however it
encapsulates the experience of the mystic. He “dies before death” when
he comes to realize the separative and alienated aspects of the self,
the ego-as-programmed-illusion. He is “reborn” in consciousness but he
is reborn in the body, as an individual, the “soul-at-peace”.

When Hasan II proclaimed the Great Resurrection which marks the end of
Time, he lifted the veil of concealment and abrogated the religious
Law. He offered communal as well as individual participation in the
mystic’s great adventure, perfect freedom.

He acted on behalf of the Imam, and did not claim to be the Imam
himself. (In fact he took the title of Caliph or “representative”.)
But if the family of Ali is the same as perfect consciousness, then
perfect consciousness is the same as the family of Ali. The realized
mystic “becomes” a descendant of Ali (like the Persian Salman whom Ali
adopted by covering him with his cloak, and who is much revered by
sufis, Shiites and Ismailis alike).

In Reality, in haqiqah, Hasan II was the Imam because in the Ismaili
phrase, he had realised the “Imam-of-his-own-being.” The Qiyamat was
thus an invitation to each of his followers to do the same, or at
least to participate in the pleasures of paradise on earth.

The legend of the paradisal garden at Alamut where the houris,
cupbearers, wine and hashish of paradise were enjoyed by the Assassins
in the flesh, may stem from a folk memory of the Qiyamat. Or it may
even be literally true. For the realized consciousness this world is
no other than paradise, and its bliss and pleasures are all permitted.
The Koran describes paradise as a garden. How logical then for wealthy
Alamut to become outwardly the reflection of the spiritual state of
the Qiyamat.

In 1166 Hasan II was murdered after only four years of rule. His
enemies were perhaps in league with conservative elements at Alamut
who resented the Qiyamat, the dissolving of the old secret hierarchy
(and thus their own power as hierarchs) and who feared to live thus
openly as heretics. Hasan II’s son however succeeded him and
established the Qiyamat firmly as Nizari doctrine.

If the Qiyamat were accepted in its full implications however it would
probably have brought about the dissolution and end of Nizari
Ismailism as a separate sect. Hasan II as Qa’im or “Lord of the
Resurrection” had released the Alamutis from all struggle and all
sense of legitimist urgency. Pure esotericism, after all, cannot be
bound by any form.

Hasan II’s son, therefore, compromised. Apparently he decided to
“reveal” that his father was in fact and in blood a direct descendant
of Nizar. The story runs that after Hasan-i Sabbah had established
Alamut, a mysterious emissary delivered to him the infant grandson of
Imam Nizar. The child was raised secretly at Alamut. He grew up, had a
son, died. The son had a son. This baby was born on the same day as
the son of the Old Man of the Mountain, the outward ruler. The infants
were surreptitiously exchanged in their cradles. Not even the Old Man
knew of the ruse. Another version has the hidden Imam committing
adultery with the Old Man’s wife, and producing as love-child the
infant Hasan II.

The Ismailis accepted these claims. Even after the fall of Alamut to
the Mongol hordes the line survived and the present leader of the
sect, the Aga Khan, is known as the forty-ninth in descent from Ali
(and pretender to the throne of Egypt!). The emphasis on Alid
legitimacy has preserved the sect as a sect. Whether it is literally
true or not, however, matters little to an understanding of the

With the proclamation of the Resurrection, the teachings of Ismailism
were forever expanded beyond the borders imposed on them by any
historical event. The Qiyamat remains as a state of consciousness
which anyone can adhere to or enter, a garden without walls, a sect
without a church, a lost moment of Islamic history that refuses to be
forgotten, standing outside time, a reproach or challenge to all
legalism and moralism, to all the cruelty of the exoteric. An
invitation to paradise.

[Reprinted with from Peter Lamborn Wilson’s Scandal: Essays in Islamic
Heresy, published by Autonomedia, PO Box 568, Williamsburg Station,
Brooklyn, NY, USA.]

(2) Old Man of the Mountains

“Hasan-i Sabbah was a revolutionary of genius who devised and put into
practice the ‘new’ preaching or da’wa of the Nizari Isma’ilis, which
was to replace the ‘old’ da’wa of the Fatimid Isma’ilis at Cairo… It
is likely that he was born around 1060 in Qom, one-hundred-and-fifty
kilometers south of modern Tehran.”

“He had a fine mind, an excellent knowledge of theology, and evidently
possessed the phenomenal strength of will necessary to pursue his
ideal for so many years… We can imagine him converting the people of
Daylam just as he had himself been converted, by patiently digging
away at a potential proselyte’s religious doubts until they were
strong enough to admit the possibility of an alternative.”

“Hasan-i Sabbah had managed through careful theological argument and
relentless logic applied to the Shi’a doctrines, to create a powerful
sectarian sense of community based on the traditional secrecy and
conspiratorial nature of Isma’ilism.”

“The Alborz Mountains, which rise to a maximum height of over six-
thousand meters in the volcanic Mount Damavand, constitute a natural
barrier between the Caspian and the vast gently tilting plateau which
constitutes Central Iran. Although not distant as the crow field from
Tehran, this mountainous area has always been and still is remote. It
was presumably for this reason that many shi-ite sects and fleeing
Isma’ilis and other Moslem heretics had… for many centuries taken
refuge in the mountain kingdom of ancient Daylam.”

Within a high mountain valley stands “the castle of Alamut, the
fortress retreat of Hasan-i Sabbah, which became almost legendary
after the supposed 1273 visit of Marco Polo and his description of the
‘Old Man of the mountains’ and the ‘Ashishin’…”
– Edward
Burman, The Assassins – Holy Killers of Islam

“The Old Man kept at his court such boys of twelve years old as seemed
to him destined to become courageous men. When the Old Man sent them
into the garden in groups of four, ten or twenty, he gave them hashish
to drink. They slept for three days, then they were carried sleeping
into the garden where he had them awakened.”

“When these young men woke, and found themselves in the garden with
all these marvelous things, they truly believed themselves to be in
paradise. And these damsels were always with them in songs and great
entertainments; they; received everything they asked for, so that they
would never have left that garden of their own will.”

“And when the Old Man wished to kill someone, he would take him and
say: ‘Go and do this thing. I do this because I want to make you
return to paradise’. And the assassins go and perform the deed

– Marco Polo – on his visit to Alamut in 1273

“That Hasan-i Sabbah and other early Assassin Masters had gardens
seems likely since the garden is such an important part of Persian
noble life and of mysticism. The water channels and meticulous care to
ensure regular water supplies at Assassin castles echo the care which
Persian and Arab villages and country houses today give to the
presence of running water. So the legend of the garden in which
Assassins were taken probably has its origins in fact.”

“Many scholars have argued, and demonstrated convincingly, that the
attribution of the epithet ‘hashish eaters’ or ‘hashish takers’ is a
misnomer derived from enemies the Isma’ilis and was never used by
Moslem chroniclers or sources. It was therefore used in a pejorative
sense of ‘enemies’ or ‘disreputable people’. This sense of the term
survived into modern times with the common Egyptian usage of the term
Hashasheen in the 1930s to mean simply ‘noisy or riotous’. It is
unlikely that the austere Hasan-i Sabbah indulged personally in drug

“There is no mention of that drug [hashish] in connection with the
Persian Assassins – especially in the library of Alamut (’the secret

“Once established in a secure and permanent base, Hasan sent da’is
[missionaries] out from Alamut in all directions, At the same time he
pursued a policy of territorial expansion, taking castles either by
means of propaganda or by force, and building others… Life at Alamut,
and we may suppose in the other fortresses at this time, was
characterized by extreme asceticism and severity.”

“Political assassination was not unknown in Islam before Hasan-i
Sabbah. Earlier sects had used murder as a political technique, and
there is evidence that Mohammed himself disposed of his enemies by
suggesting that they did not deserve to live – and hoping that
faithful followers would take the hint. There had even been an
extremist Shi’ite group known as the ’stranglers’ after their
preferred method of assassination.”

The word assassin “definitely entered the literary vocabulary when it
was used by Dante.” In The Divine Comedy: Hell, Book XIX, “Dante
describes himself as ‘like a friar who is confessing the wicked
assassin’: ‘Io stava come il frate che confessa; Lo perfido assassin…’
“Here the strongest possible noun is required since the criminal being
confessed is being buried alive head down, thus denoting a sin of
particular horror. The connection of assassin with wickedness
reinforces the clarity and precision with which Dante used the word,
and it was in this sense that ‘assassin’ then passed into other
European languages.”
– Edward Burman,
The Assassins – Holy Killers of Islam


AKDN’s Ethical Framework

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) brings together a number of
agencies, institutions, and programmes that have been built up over
the past forty years by the Aga Khan, and in some instances by his
predecessor, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III.

Their combined mandate is to improve living conditions and
opportunities, and to help relieve society of the burdens of
ignorance, disease, and deprivation. AKDN agencies conduct their
programmes without regard to the faith, origin or gender of the people
they serve. Their primary focus of activity includes some of the
poorest peoples of Asia and Africa. The impulses that underpin the
Network are the Muslim ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in
society and the duty, guided by the ethics of the Islam, to contribute
to improving the quality of all human life. The pivotal notion in the
ethical ideal of Islam is human dignity, and thus, the duty to respect
and support God’s greatest creation, Man himself.

At the heart of Islam’s social vision is the ethic of care of the weak
and restraint in their sway by the rich and powerful. The pious are
the socially conscious who recognise in their wealth, whether personal
talent or material resources, an element of trust for the indigent and
deprived. But while those at the margin of existence have a moral
right to society’s compassion, the Muslim ethic discourages a culture
of dependency since it undermines a person’s dignity, the preservation
of which is emphatically urged in the Quran. From the time of the
Prophet, therefore, the emphasis in the charitable impulse has been to
help the needy to help themselves.

The key to the dignified life that Islam espouses is an enlightened
mind symbolised in the Quran’s metaphor of creation, including one’s
self, as an object of rational quest. “My Lord! Increase me in
knowledge,” is a cherished prayer that the Quran urges upon all
believers, men and women alike. Like education, good health is also a
precious asset for a life of dignity since the body is the repository
of the divine spark. This spark of divinity, which bestows
individuality and true nobility on the human soul, also bonds
individuals in a common humanity. Humankind, says the Quran, has been
created from a single soul, as male and female, communities and
nations, so that people may know one another. It invites people of all
faiths, men and women, to strive for goodness.

History of the Ismaili Community in the 20th Century

Under the leadership of Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, the
first half of the twentieth century was a period of significant
development for the Ismaili community. Numerous institutions for
social and economic development were established on the Indian sub-
continent and in East Africa. Ismailis have marked the Jubilees of
their Imams with public celebrations, which are symbolic affirmations
of the ties that link the Ismaili Imam and his followers. Although the
Jubilees have no real religious significance, they serve to reaffirm
the Imamat’s world-wide commitment to the improvement of the quality
of human life, especially in the developing countries.

The Jubilees of Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, are well
remembered. During his 72 years of Imamat (1885-1957), the community
celebrated his Golden (1937), Diamond (1946) and Platinum (1954)
Jubilees. To show their appreciation and affection, the Ismailis
weighed their Imam in gold, diamonds and, symbolically, in platinum,
respectively, the proceeds of which were used to further develop major
social welfare and development institutions in Asia and Africa.

On the subcontinent of India and Pakistan, social development
institutions were established, in the words of the late Aga Khan, “for
the relief of humanity”. They included institutions such as the
Diamond Jubilee Trust and the Platinum Jubilee Investments Limited
which in turn assisted the growth of various types of cooperative
societies. Diamond Jubilee Schools for girls were established
throughout the remote Northern Areas of what is now Pakistan. In
addition, scholarship programmes, established at the time of the
Golden Jubilee to give assistance to needy students, were
progressively expanded. In East Africa, major social welfare and
economic development institutions were established. Those involved in
social welfare included the accelerated development of schools and
community centres, and a modern, fully-equipped hospital in Nairobi.
Among the economic development institutions established in East Africa
were companies such as the Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust (now
Diamond Trust of Kenya) and the Jubilee Insurance Company, which are
quoted on the Nairobi Stock Exchange and have become major players in
national development.

Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah also introduced organisational forms that gave
Ismaili communities the means to structure and regulate their own
affairs. These were built on the Muslim tradition of a communitarian
ethic on the one hand, and responsible individual conscience with
freedom to negotiate one’s own moral commitment and destiny on the
other. In 1905 he ordained the first Ismaili Constitution for the
social governance of the community in East Africa. The new
administration for the Community’s affairs was organised into a
hierarchy of councils at the local, national, and regional levels. The
constitution also set out rules in such matters as marriage, divorce
and inheritance, guidelines for mutual cooperation and support among
Ismailis, and their interface with other communities. Similar
constitutions were promulgated in the Indian subcontinent, and all
were periodically revised to address emerging needs and circumstances
in diverse settings.

Following the Second World War, far-reaching social, economic and
political changes profoundly affected a number of areas where Ismailis
resided. In 1947, British rule in the Indian subcontinent was replaced
by the two sovereign, independent nations, of India and Pakistan,
resulting in the migration of at least a million people and
significant loss of life and property. In the Middle East, the Suez
crisis of 1956 as well as the preceding crisis in Iran, demonstrated
the sharp upsurge of nationalism, which was as assertive of the
region’s social and economic aspirations as of its political
independence. Africa was also set on its course to decolonisation,
swept by what Mr. Harold MacMillan, the then British Prime Minister,
aptly termed the “wind of change”. By the early 1960s, most of East
and Central Africa, where the majority of the Ismaili population on
the continent resided (including Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda, Malagasy,
Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire), had attained their political independence.

This was the world in which the present Aga Khan acceded to the Imamat
in 1957. The period following his accession can be characterised as
one of rapid political and economic change. Planning of programmes and
institutions became increasingly difficult due to the rapid changes in
newly-emerging nations. Upon becoming Imam, the present Aga Khan’s
immediate concern was the preparation of his followers, wherever they
lived, for the changes that lay ahead. This rapidly evolving situation
called for bold initiatives and new programmes to reflect developing
national aspirations.

In Africa, Asia and the Middle East, a major objective of the
Community’s social welfare and economic programmes, until the mid-
fifties, had been to create a broad base of businessmen,
agriculturists, and professionals. The educational facilities of the
Community tended to emphasise secondary-level education. With the
coming of independence, each nation’s economic aspirations took on new
dimensions, focusing on industrialisation and modernisation of
agriculture. The Community’s educational priorities had to be
reassessed in the context of new national goals, and new institutions
had to be created to respond to the growing complexity of the
development process.

In 1972, under the regime of the then President Idi Amin, Ismailis and
other Asians were expelled, despite being citizens of the country and
having lived there for generations. The Aga Khan had to take urgent
steps to facilitate the resettlement of Ismailis displaced from
Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and also from Burma. Owing to his personal
efforts most found homes, not only in Asia, but also in Europe and
North America. Most of the basic resettlement problems were overcome
remarkably rapidly. This was due to the adaptability of the Ismailis
themselves and in particular to their educational background and their
linguistic abilities, as well as the efforts of the host countries and
the moral and material support from Ismaili community programmes.

Spiritual allegiance to the Imam and adherence to the Shia Imami
Ismaili tariqah (persuasion) of Islam according to the guidance of the
Imam of the time, have engendered in the Ismaili community an ethos of
self-reliance, unity, and a common identity. The present Aga Khan
continued the practice of his predecessor and extended constitutions
to Ismaili communities in the US, Canada, several European countries,
the Gulf, Syria and Iran following a process of consultation within
each constituency. In 1986, he promulgated a Constitution that, for
the first time, brought the social governance of the world-wide
Ismaili community into a single structure with built-in flexibility to
account for diverse circumstances of different regions. Served by
volunteers appointed by and accountable to the Imam, the Constitution
functions as an enabler to harness the best in individual creativity
in an ethos of group responsibility to promote the common well-being.

Like its predecessors, the present constitution is founded on each
Ismaili’s spiritual allegiance to the Imam of the time, which is
separate from the secular allegiance that all Ismailis owe as citizens
to their national entities. The guidance of the present Imam and his
predecessor emphasised the Ismaili’s allegiance to his or her country
as a fundamental obligation. These obligations discharged not by
passive affirmation but through responsible engagement and active
commitment to uphold national integrity and contribute to peaceful

In view of the importance that Islam places on maintaining a balance
between the spiritual well-being of the individual and the quality of
his life, the Imam’s guidance deals with both aspects of the life of
his followers. The Aga Khan has encouraged Ismaili Muslims, settled in
the industrialised world, to contribute towards the progress of
communities in the developing world through various development
programmes. In recent years, Ismaili Muslims, who have come to the US,
Canada and Europe, mostly as refugees from Asia and Africa, have
readily settled into the social, educational and economic fabric of
urban and rural centres across the two continents. As in the
developing world, the Ismaili Muslim Community’s settlement in the
industrial world has involved the establishment of community
institutions characterised by an ethos of self-reliance, an emphasis
on education, and a pervasive spirit of philanthropy.

From July 1982 to July 1983, to celebrate the present Aga Khan’s
Silver Jubilee, marking the 25th anniversary of his accession to the
Imamat, many new social and economic development projects were
launched, although there were no weighing ceremonies. These range from
the establishment of the US$ 300 million international Aga Khan
University with its Faculty of Health Sciences and teaching hospital
based in Karachi, the expansion of schools for girls and medical
centres in the Hunza region, one of the remote parts of Northern
Pakistan bordering on China and Afghanistan, to the establishment of
the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Gujarat, India, and the
extension of existing urban hospitals and primary health care centres
in Tanzania and Kenya.

These initiatives form part of an international network of
institutions involved in fields that range from education, health and
rural development, to architecture and the promotion of private sector
enterprise and together make up the Aga Khan Development Network.

It is this commitment to man’s dignity and relief of humanity that
inspires the Ismaili Imamat’s philanthropic institutions. Giving of
one’s competence, sharing one’s time, material or intellectual
wherewithal with those among whom one lives, for the relief of
hardship, pain or ignorance is a deeply ingrained tradition which
shapes the social conscience of the Ismaili Muslim community.

[From the Preface of Farhad Daftary, The Ismailis: Their history and
doctrines (Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp.xv-xvi. See also A
Short History of the Ismailis: Traditions of a Muslim Community,
(Edinburgh University Press, 1998) by the same author.]

“The Ismailis have had a long and eventful history. In mediaeval
times, they twice established states of their own and played important
parts for relatively long periods on the historical stage of the
Muslim world. During the second century of their history, the Ismailis
founded the first Shia caliphate under the Fatimid caliph-imams. They
also made important contributions to Islamic thought and culture
during the Fatimid period. Later, after a schism that split Ismailism
into two major Nizari and Mustalian branches, the Nizari leaders
succeeded in founding a cohesive state, with numerous mountain
strongholds and scattered territories stretching from eastern Persia
to Syria. The Nizari state collapsed only under the onslaught of all-
conquering Mongols. Thereafter, the Ismailis never regained any
political prominence and survived in many lands as a minor Shia Muslim
sect. By the second half of the eighteenth century, however, the
spiritual leaders or imams of the Nizari majority came out of their
obscurity and actively participated in certain political events in
Persia and, then, in British India; later they acquired international
prominence under their hereditary title of Agha Khan (Aga Khan).”

Because of political developments in Iran in the late 1830s and early
1840s the 46th Imam, Aga Hasan Ali Shah, emigrated to the Indian
subcontinent. He was the first Imam to bear the title of Aga Khan,
which had been previously bestowed on him by the Persian Emperor, Fath
Ali Shah. He settled in Bombay in 1848 where he established his
headquarters, a development that had an uplifting effect on the
community in India and on the religious and communal life of the whole
Ismaili world. It helped the community in India gain a greater sense
of confidence and identity as Shia Ismaili Muslims, and laid the
foundations for its social progress. It also marked the beginning of
an era of more regular contacts between the Imam and his widely
dispersed followers. Deputations came to Bombay to receive the Imam’s
guidance from as far afield as Kashgar in China, Bokhara in Central
Asia, all parts of Iran, and the Middle East. In the second half of
the 19th and early 20th centuries, Ismailis from the Indian sub-
continent migrated to East Africa in significant numbers.

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]


Turner: Global Warming Will Cause Mass Cannibalism, Insurgents Are Patriots
BY Brent Baker  /  April 2, 2008

Interviewed Tuesday for Charlie Rose’s PBS show, CNN founder Ted
Turner argued that inaction on global warming “will be catastrophic”
and those who don’t die “will be cannibals.” He also applied moral
equivalence in describing Iraqi insurgents as “patriots” who simply
“don’t like us because we’ve invaded their country” and so “if the
Iraqis were in Washington, D.C., we’d be doing the same thing.” On not
taking drastic action to correct global warming:

“Not doing it will be catastrophic. We’ll be eight degrees hotter
in ten, not ten but 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops
will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will
be cannibals.”

Turner ridiculed the need for a big U.S. military, insisting “China
just wants to sell us shoes. They’re not building landing craft to
attack the United States,” and “even with our $500 billion military
budget, we can’t win in Iraq. We’re being beaten by insurgents who
don’t even have any tanks.” After Rose pointed out the Iraqi
insurgents “have a lot of roadside bombs that kill a lot of Americans”
and wondered “where do you think they come from?”, Turner answered:

“I think that they’re patriots and that they don’t like us because
we’ve invaded their country and occupied it. I think if the Iraqis
were in Washington, D.C., we’d be doing the same thing: we’d be
bombing them too. Nobody wants to be invaded.”

A couple of excerpts from Turner on the Tuesday, April 1 Charlie Rose
on PBS:

On what will happen if global warming is not addressed immediately:

TED TURNER: Not doing it will be catastrophic. We’ll be eight
degrees hotter in ten, not ten but 30 or 40 years and basically none
of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest
of us will be cannibals. Civilization will have broken down. The few
people left will be living in a failed state — like Somalia or Sudan
— and living conditions will be intolerable. The droughts will be so
bad there’ll be no more corn grown. Not doing it is suicide. Just like
dropping bombs on each other, nuclear weapons is suicide. We’ve got to
stop doing the suicidal two things, which are hanging on to our
nuclear weapons and after that we’ve got to stabilize the population.
When I was born-

CHARLIE ROSE: So what’s wrong with the population?

TURNER: We’re too many people. That’s why we have global warming.
We have global warming because too many people are using too much
stuff. If there were less people, they’d be using less stuff.

On what he told the UN in a speech Tuesday:

TED TURNER: I also said war doesn’t make any sense anymore. And we
need to cut the military budgets back.

ROSE: How much do you want to cut the military budgets back?

TURNER: Right now the U.S. is spending $500 billion a year on the
military which is more than all 190 countries in the world put
together. The two countries that the military-industrial complex and
some of the politicians would like to demonize and make enemies are
Russia and China. China just wants to sell us shoes. They’re not
building landing craft to attack the United States. And Russia wants
to be our friends, too.

ROSE: Well, wait a minute. No, no, no.

TURNER: Well I know that because I spent time with the Chinese and

ROSE: You’re telling me the Chinese military budget is not
increasing? Is that what you’re saying?

TURNER: It might increase, but you know how big it is compared to
ours? It’s one 20th what ours is and so is the Russian military
budget. Those are not credible expenditures. However, even with our
$500 billion military budget, we can’t win in Iraq. We’re being beaten
by insurgents who don’t even have any tanks, they don’t have a
headquarters, they don’t have a Pentagon. We don’t even know if they
have any Generals.

ROSE: They have a lot of roadside bombs that kill a lot of

TURNER: Well, that’s right. That’s exactly right.

ROSE: And where do you think they come from?

TURNER: I think that they’re patriots and that they don’t like us
because we’ve invaded their country and occupied it. I think if the
Iraqis were in Washington, D.C., we’d be doing the same thing: we’d be
bombing them too. Nobody wants to be invaded.

ROSE: Nobody likes an occupying force, or to be occupied.

TURNER: That’s right. It’s gotten to be — it’s passe. You know,
it’s time to move on. I mean, all we have to do is look at Vietnam. In
Vietnam, we killed three million Vietnamese. They never attacked us,
we attacked them. It was another one of these preemptive wars like the
war in Iraq. And we lost 50,000. They lost three million. That’s like
60 for one. But at the end of 18 years we left and the Vietnamese were

I’m just so glad, because I think about it a lot, that the
Vietnamese, the North Vietnamese, didn’t give us an ultimatum that we
couldn’t leave Vietnam until we signed a decoration of surrender, you
know, so they could get that on tape just like the Japanese
surrendered on the Missouri.

ROSE: We made them sign a declaration of surrender.

TURNER: Yeah, but we surrendered and then we could go home. We
couldn’t go home. What if the Iraqis, the insurgents say that: we’re
not going to let you leave until you sign a surrender document, we
just want the mighty United States. I mean, that’s how ridiculous the
whole situation is.

ROSE: But where does this, where did this idea come from?

TURNER: I think a lot. I spend a lot of time thinking. And I hope
that’s not a sin. And let me tell you another one, another story:
We’re not the only superpower that’s being beaten by a third world
country that doesn’t have a single airplane. The Russians got beat,

ROSE: In Afghanistan.

TURNER: That’s exactly right.

ROSE: With whose help?

TURNER: Well, we were helping Osma bin Laden, we were backing him
that time.

ROSE: The Mujahidin.

TURNER: Right.


The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) is a non-profit organization with
a mission to strengthen global security by reducing the risk of use
and preventing the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons,
and to work to build the trust, transparency and security which are
preconditions to the ultimate fulfillment of the Non-Proliferation
Treaty’s goals and ambitions.

Since governments have most of the resources and authority in
addressing the threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons,
it is not just what NTI can do directly to reduce threats that matters
— it’s also what NTI can persuade others to do.

That is why NTI’s focus is on leverage – combining its influential
voice with direct action projects to catalyze greater, more effective
action by governments and international organizations.

NTI’s Leadership
NTI is a place of common ground where people with different
ideological views are working together to close the gap between the
global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and the
global response.

Co-chaired by philanthropist Ted Turner and former U.S. Senator Sam
Nunn, NTI is governed by an expert and influential Board of Directors
with members from the United States, Japan, India, Pakistan, China,
Jordan, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom. Board members include:

* Charles B. Curtis, President & Chief Operating Officer;
* Dr. Alexei Arbatov, Head, Center for International Security at
Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian
Academy of Sciences
* U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico);
* Susan Eisenhower, President of The Eisenhower Group;
* Ambassador Rolf Ekeus, Chairman of the Board, Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute;
* General Eugene Habiger USAF (Ret.), former Commander in Chief of
the U.S. Strategic Command;
* HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan;
* Pierre Lellouche, Member of the French National Assembly;
* U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-Indiana);
* Dr. Jessica T. Mathews, President of the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace;
* Judge Hisashi Owada, International Court of Justice;
* Dr. William Perry, former U.S. Secretary of Defense;
* Dr. Nafis Sadik, Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General;
* Professor Amartya Sen, Lamont University Professor and Professor
of Economics and Philosophy, Harvard University;
* Rt. Hon. Shirley Williams, House of Lords, UK;
* Professor Fujia Yang, Academician of the Chinese Academy of

Advisors to the Board of Directors include leading figures in science,
business and international security. Advisors to the Board include:

* Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.;
* Dr. David A. Hamburg, President Emeritus of Carnegie Corporation
of New York;
* Siegfried S. Hecker, Director Emeritus of the Los Alamos
National Laboratory;
* Frederick Iseman, Chairman and Managing Partner of Caxton-Iseman
Capital Inc.;
* George F. Russell Jr., Co-Chairman of the EastWest Institute and
founder of the Frank Russell Company.

NTI’s staff includes experts in international affairs, nonproliferation, security and military issues, public health, medicine and communications, who have operational experience in their areas of specialty.

NTI’s Work
NTI is an operational organization — actively engaged in developing
and implementing projects that bring new strategies, new partnerships
and effective action to reduce the dangers from nuclear, biological
and chemical weapons.

NTI is working in several focused areas to develop new frameworks and
approaches for addressing the most urgent global threats from nuclear,
biological and chemical weapons in order to prevent terrorsts from
getting a nuclear bomb and to strengthen global health and security:

* Securing, reducing and eliminating the use of Highly Enriched
* Removing and securing nuclear materials around the globe;
* Preventing the spread of technology to make nuclear weapons
* Strengthening security for nuclear materials through the World
Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS);
* Promoting the safe and secure practice of the biomedical
sciences to help prevent bioterrorism;
* Creating Regional Disease Surveillance Networks to detect and
respond to infectious diseases.

NTI’s work addresses high-risk situations and leverages greater action for threat reduction.

Below are examples of NTI’s work:

Project Vinca
More than two and a half bombs’ worth of highly enriched uranium (HEU)
stored in a civilian research reactor with inadequate security in
Vinca, Serbia, were vulnerable to theft by terrorists, so NTI worked
closely with the U.S. Department of State, the IAEA, Russia and Serbia
to facilitate transfer of over 100 pounds of weapons-usable nuclear
material in the form of fresh reactor fuel to more secure storage in
Russia for elimination through blend down. NTI’s contribution of $5
million supports the repackaging and removal of hundreds of kilograms
of highly radioactive spent reactor fuel for ultimate transport and
disposition in Russia.

The results:
A contract was signed in September 2006 for the removal and transport
of the spent fuel. NTI has also contributed to the design and
construction of a new storage facility for low-level radioactive
waste, a significant amount of which was already poorly stored on-site
at Vinca, and additional waste which will also be generated by the
spent fuel repackaging process. The U.S. Department of State said
NTI’s partnership was “key to the project’s success.”

The total cost of these two projects is anticipated to be around $30
million. In addition to NTI’s catalytic contribution of $5 million,
the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Hungary,
and the IAEA’s own budget have now pledged over $12 million in support
of securely removing this dangerous material from the heart of Europe.

The U.S. government pledged to take action to secure vulnerable
materials at 24 other similar reactors throughout the world. In June
2004, U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced a Global
Threat Reduction Initiative to secure, remove or dispose of a broad
range of vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials around the
world, and dedicated more than $450 million to this effort.

The New York Times ran an editorial calling the Vinca operation a
“prototype for future cooperative efforts” and urging the government
to allow increased flexibility in spending U.S. government funds in
this arena.

Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Alexander Rumyantsev pledged
increased cooperation with the United States and the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to remove weapons usable material from
Soviet-era reactors.

Strengthening IAEA Programs to Secure Vulnerable Nuclear Material
NTI contributed to and leveraged additional support for the IAEA’s
Nuclear Security Fund, which finances the Agency’s critical and under-
funded work to help member states strengthen the physical security of
nuclear materials around the world.

The results:
The IAEA hired several trained nuclear security experts — effectively
doubling the capacity of the IAEA’s physical security program and
expanding the IAEA’s ability to

1) review security for nuclear materials at facilities around the
world; 2) identify needed security upgrades; and 3) organize
contributions from donor states to support upgrade implementation.

The IAEA has visited over a dozen member states to provide advice and
review the progress in implementing physical protection systems,
including missions in 2003 to Bulgaria, Iran, Ukraine, and Turkey. The
IAEA has also conducted physical protection workshops and training
programs involving dozens of other states.

NTI’s grant of $1.15 million was immediately matched by a pledge from
U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and has helped leverage more
than $26 million in additional support from over two-dozen nations.

WHO-NTI Global Emergency Outbreak Response Fund
Since improved disease detection, surveillance and response are
critical to addressing biological threats, NTI committed $500,000 to
establish the WHO-NTI Global Emergency Outbreak Response Fund to
strengthen the World Health Organization’s ability to respond to an
infectious disease outbreak, whether the outbreak is naturally
occurring or intentionally caused. With this fund, WHO is now able to
send teams of epidemiologists to investigate and respond to reports of
disease outbreaks within 24 hours.

The results:
The WHO-NTI Fund has supported rapid response to several threats to
global public health and security, including the SARS outbreaks in
China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada and the
Philippines; Ebola in the Republic of Congo; and avian influenza in
Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. The fund has
increased attention to the importance of rapid response and has
leveraged millions of dollars in contributions from nations and other
organizations to replenish it.

Mission Approach and Funding Philosophy

NTI advocates threat reduction solutions, raises public awareness and
undertakes direct action projects that demonstrate innovative ways to
reduce threats.

The majority of NTI’s awards support operational activities that NTI
has a strong hand in developing. While there is no formal award-making
cycle, NTI will consider unsolicited projects that:

address significant high-risk situations; generate additional funding and leverage action for threat reduction; or otherwise promote the core objectives of NTI.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative was established in January 2001 as a
private foundation. On July 1, 2003, NTI changed its status from a
private operating foundation to a public charity, enabling it to
accept contributions from organizations and individuals. All of NTI’s
activities are conducted with full transparency with governments.


Turner Enterprises, Inc. (TEI), a private company, manages the
business interests, land holdings and investments of Ted Turner,
including the oversight of two million acres in 12 states and in
Argentina, and more than 45,000 bison head.

TEI also works closely with Turner’s philanthropic and charitable
interests, including the founding and ongoing operations of the United
Nations Foundation, Nuclear Threat Initiative, Turner Foundation,
Captain Planet Foundation, and the Turner Endangered Species Fund.
Turner Enterprises is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, also home to
the Ted’s Montana Grill restaurant chain.


Foundation Makes New Commitment to Leverage Another $1 Billion

NEW YORK, 11 October (UNFIP) — United Nations Secretary-General Kofi
Annan announced last night that the United Nations Foundation has
delivered $1 billion of new and additional resources to the United
Nations and UN causes.  The milestone was marked at the annual United
Nations Association-USA dinner — the same occasion at which, nine
years ago, Ted Turner made his unprecedented pledge to donate $1
billion to United Nations causes and to raise additional funds through
partnership efforts.  The Foundation also announced tonight that it
intends to use the remaining $400 million of Turner’s gift to leverage
another $1 billion in support of United Nations causes over the coming

The Foundation (and its sister organization, the Better World Fund)
has donated over $600 million from founder Ted Turner and over $400
million from individuals, corporations, Governments, and non-
governmental organizations to programs that address key global
challenges in four areas:  children’s health, environment, women and
population, peace, security and human rights. The United Nations Fund
for International Partnerships (UNFIP) facilitates the Foundation’s
work within the United Nations system.

In prepared remarks, the Secretary-General said:  “Ted’s gift was a
tremendous financial boost for our organization.  More than that, it
has helped the UN to change — to become a partnership organization,
something that has been a top priority of mine.  … But, Ted’s act was
perhaps most important for the message it sent to his fellow
Americans, his fellow businessmen and women, and to the world.  Here
was an iconic businessman standing up for the United Nations, and
saying to the world that the UN and its work were worthy of support.”

Turner, Chairman of the UN Foundation’s Board of Directors, said:  “As
we are seeing all across the globe, the UN works — for the world’s
poor, for peace, for progress and for human rights and justice.
That’s why I’ve always believed in the UN.  That’s why I’ve always
supported the UN.  And that’s why I set up the UN Foundation.”

“In fact,” Turner added, “One of the great legacies of Kofi Annan’s
tenure at the UN has been his embrace of the private sector and civil
society – his efforts to transform the United Nations into a
partnership organization.  Kofi Annan recognizes that interdependence
is the driving force of our time.  He knows that in an interconnected
global economy, we all have a stake — moral and material — in peace
and security.  Together with the Secretary-General, the Foundation’s
leadership, and our diverse and international board, this organization
has worked tirelessly to campaign for solutions to the world’s
greatest challenges.  It is one of the best investments I’ve ever

Timothy E. Wirth, President of the United Nations Foundation, said:
“Nearly 10 years ago, no one knew what this experiment in global
philanthropy could do or how involved Ted would be.  In fact, he has
donated generously not only of his money, but his time.  Few realize
that Ted also announced that he would lead comprehensive efforts to
get others involved in the UN’s work — and the results show that he
has succeeded here as well.  With his support and his commitment to
the UN, we’ve been able to put together partnerships that include some
of the world’s largest companies and leading charities including the
American Red Cross, Coca-Cola, Expedia, Global Fund, Nike, Rotary
International and Vodafone.  Without him, none of this would have been
possible and we’re looking forward to working with him and the UN to
deliver the next billion to UN causes.”

The United Nations Foundation was created in 1998 with entrepreneur
and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support UN
causes and activities.  The United Nations Foundation builds and
implements public-private partnerships to address the world’s most
pressing problems, and also works to broaden support for the UN
through advocacy and public outreach.  The United Nations Foundation
is a public charity.  For a complete listing of the Foundation grants
and programs or to learn more about the United Nations Foundation,

The United Nations Office for Partnerships promotes new United Nations
partnerships and alliances worldwide.  It offers a “one-stop” service
for partnership opportunities with the United Nations family.  It
encompasses UNFIP, the office established by Secretary-General Kofi
Annan in March 1998, as an autonomous trust fund set up to serve as
the interface between the United Nations system and the United Nations
Foundation.  For more information of the work of UNFIP, visit

For more information contact Camilla Schippa, Chief of Office, UNFIP
at schippa [at] un [dot] org, tel. 212 963 3441; or Katherine Miller,
Communications Director, United Nations Foundation at
kmiller [at] unfoundation [dot] org, tel. 202 778 1622.

From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]


AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a clip of Sergio Vieira de Mello. It was
September 2002. I was outside the United Nations in New York during
the flag-raising ceremony celebrating East Timor’s independence from
Indonesia, and I asked him about his views on the chance of a US
invasion of Iraq.

SERGIO VIEIRA DE MELLO: In any conflict, we are concerned that
civilian populations should be spared, that every effort must be made
in any war, in any internal conflict, never to target civilians. And
should a war erupt in Iraq, I believe the Iraqi people don’t deserve
more suffering. They have suffered enough.

AMY GOODMAN: Of course, he would then die in Iraq as a result of the
truck bombing.

SAMANTHA POWER: Yeah. And One of the untold stories and the
devastating parts of this book and the last four years of reporting
the book is to realize he was actually alive for three-and-a-half
hours under the rubble.

And here’s something, that despite predicating the war on a link
between Saddam Hussein and terrorism, a link between Saddam Hussein
and al-Qaeda and 9/11, as Bush did, there was no preparedness done to
respond to terrorist attacks in Iraq. In other words, if you’re going
to predicate the war on a link with terrorism, you would think that
operationally you would prepare your troops to deal with al-Qaeda
attacks on civilian targets. No preparation whatsoever.

So, as Sergio, this person who’s given his life to trying to enhance
dignity, you know, and trying to mend broken places, effectively died
under the rubble like a refugee, the troops–heroic individual acts by
individual Americans who just ran to the scene and tried to improvise,
but ultimately, when it can to lifting the rubble from over him, a
lady’s handbag was used, literally one of those basket handbags that
had been plucked out of one of the offices. There were no stretchers,
so they had to use curtains from the Canal Hotel windows and a curtain
rope as a kind of amateur pulley system. So, the most powerful
military in the history of mankind is reduced to a woman’s handbag, a
curtain rope and a curtain to try to save the most valuable civil
servant that the UN has ever offered.


Samantha Power
phone: 617-495-3140
email : samantha_power [at] ksg [dot] harvard [dot] edu

Samantha Power is the Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global
Leadership and Public Policy, based at the Carr Center for Human
Rights Policy, where she was the founding executive director
[1998-2002]. She is the recent author of Chasing the Flame: Sergio
Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World (Penguin Press, 2008),
a biography of the UN envoy killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in
2003. Her book “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide
(New Republic Books) was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for general
nonfiction, the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for general
nonfiction, and the Council on Foreign Relations’ Arthur Ross Prize
for the best book in U.S. foreign policy. Power’s New Yorker article
on the horrors in Darfur, Sudan, won the 2005 National Magazine Award
for best reporting. In 2007, Power became a foreign policy columnist
at Time magazine. From 1993 to 1996 she covered the wars in the former
Yugoslavia as a reporter for the U.S. News and World Report, the
Boston Globe, and The New Republic. She remains a working journalist,
reporting from such places as Burundi, East Timor, Kosovo, Rwanda,
Sudan, and Zimbabwe, and contributing to the Atlantic Monthly, The New
Yorker and The New York Review of Books. Power is the editor, with
Graham Allison, of Realizing Human Rights: Moving from Inspiration to
Impact. A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, she
moved to the United States from Ireland at the age of nine. She spent
2005 to 2006 working in the office of Senator Barack Obama.



SAMANTHA POWER: But I’ve never thought about going into government,
never thought about getting into politics. And when I met Obama in
2005 just actually at a meeting to talk about how to fix American
foreign policy, he read A Problem from Hell and just wanted to discuss
what the components of a tough, smart and humane foreign policy that
would be not just a critique of Bush, but an alternative, would be,
and we were supposed to meet for an hour, and an hour gave ways to a
second hour and a third hour and a fourth. As we entered our fourth
hour, I heard myself saying, “Why don’t I quit my job at Harvard and
come and intern in your office?” And so, I’ve been blown away by him
from start to finish. I don’t have any aspiration to go into
government, but I do–I would like to do anything I can going forward
to help Obama. So if that means going into government, I suppose
that’s what it’s going to require, but believe me, he–it’s not obvious
to me that that would be something he would want. But, you know, I
think if we’re all talking about how we need to share the sacrifice
and respond to the call to service, it would be a little hypocritical
to continue to sound off in my column and write books and so forth.
And I think you sort of have to put your money where your mouth is at
some point. So–

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s a yes?

SAMANTHA POWER: It’s a yes to a question that’s never been asked to
me, never would be asked, I suppose.


Obama’s Inner Circle  /  February 21, 2008

Gregory Craig: The lawyer who played a leading role in the defense
team for President Clinton’s impeachment is a newcomer to foreign
policy. At the end of the Clinton administration, he served as the
director of policy planning at the State Department.

Richard Danzig: A Yale-trained lawyer, Rhodes scholar, and secretary
of the Navy for President Clinton, Mr. Danzig serves as one of Senator
Obama’s chief advisers on military affairs.

Scott Gration: A retired Air Force major general and fluent Swahili
speaker, General Gration met Senator Obama on a trip to Africa and the
two have been in close touch ever since. General Gration flew missions
as a command pilot in Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he served as
commander of Task Force West.

Anthony Lake: President Clinton’s first national security adviser is
the most senior man on the Obama campaign’s foreign policy team. Mr.
Lake has been criticized by Samantha Power for his inaction on
preventing genocide in Rwanda and slow reaction to the Serb-led
massacres in Bosnia during his first term. Mr. Lake is the highest
ranking Clinton administration official working for Senator Obama.

Denis McDonough: A former legislative aide to Senator Daschle, Mr.
McDonough is the Obama campaign’s “point guard” on foreign policy, as
some campaign staffers call him.

Samantha Power: A journalist and a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy
School, Ms. Power is the author of “A Problem From Hell,” a book that
examines the problem of genocide from the perspective of international
law. She became Senator Obama’s first foreign affairs tutor and worked
on his staff in 2005.

Ben Rhodes: A 30-year-old wunderkind, Mr. Rhodes was one of the lead
staff writers for the Iraq Study Group recommendations issued at the
end of 2006 that encouraged engagement with Syria and Iran to end the
war in Iraq. He is also a coauthor of Lee Hamilton’s and Thomas Kean’s
memoir of the commission to investigate September 11. Mr. Rhodes
serves as the chief speechwriter on foreign policy.

Susan Rice: A senior staffer on President Clinton’s national security
council who served as assistant secretary of State for African
affairs, Ms. Rice has been an outspoken foe of the Sudanese regime for
the last ten years. At the end of the Clinton administration she gave
a press conference in southern Sudan and accused the Sudanese regime
of allowing a new slave trade. In 2004, she first endorsed Howard
Dean, but ended up as a senior adviser for Senator Kerry’s campaign.

Daniel Shapiro: A senior adviser on Middle East affairs, Mr. Shapiro
is a long time Democratic operative who worked for four years for
Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida. In that capacity, he
played a role in sponsoring some hawkish legislation such as the Syria
Accountability Act and working to list Hezbollah’s satellite
television station, al-Manar, as a foreign terrorist organization.
Also, Mr. Shapiro also worked briefly for President Clinton’s national
security council.


Obama’s Brain Trust Taking Shape
BY Eli Lake  /  February 21, 2008

WASHINGTON — When it comes to foreign affairs, Senator Obama’s inner
circle of advisers includes a Swahili-speaking Air Force general he
met on a trip to Africa; a 30-year-old speechwriter who helped draft
the final report from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, and President
Clinton’s first national security adviser, who in 2005 converted to
Judaism under the tutelage of the Navy’s chief Jewish chaplain.

Those advisers in order are Scott Gration, Ben Rhodes, and Anthony
Lake. They are part of a nine-person team, in contact every day, often
by e-mail. The team develops policy positions, clears language for use
in comments to the press, and prepares the Democratic candidate who
has won all the primaries since Super Tuesday for a dangerous world
and a global war.

Who advises Mr. Obama and whom the candidate would appoint to key
foreign policy posts if elected president has raged as the topic of
intense speculation on the Internet and through often anonymous e-
mails warning Jewish voters that Mr. Obama’s team may be neutral or
indeed hostile to Israel.

In a series of interviews with the campaign’s foreign policy advisers
and supporters, as well as critics, the national security team that
emerges around Mr. Obama is one that is in the mainstream of the
Democratic Party. The senator’s advisers favor a withdrawal from Iraq
and see it as a distraction from the wider war on Al Qaeda; they have
developed a detailed policy on how to exit the country. The campaign
favors high-level diplomatic engagement with Syria and Iran, but in
the context of changing the behavior of these regimes. And the foreign
policy team, like the candidate, does not support pressuring Israel
into negotiations with Hamas.

The nine-member team funnels input to Denis McDonough, an Obama
campaign staff member who briefs the candidate. A broader group of 250
advisers are divided into groups dealing with the Middle East, Latin
America, Africa, South Asia, East Asia, Russia-Europe, defense,
veterans, counterterrorism, democracy and development, and
multilateral institutions. On average each of these groups has 20
people. The Obama campaign has declined to release the names of all
the participants, saying that some of them are volunteering their time
while serving in jobs at government agencies and nonprofits that don’t
want to be publicly associated with a partisan political campaign.

One reason why some of the pro-Israel community have been comfortable
with Mr. Obama’s stance is the presence of Daniel Shapiro, a former
deputy chief of staff to Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida.
Mr. Shapiro, who leads the Middle East group, spearheaded efforts in
Congress to designate al Manar, the satellite television channel for
Hezbollah, as a foreign terrorist organization. He sends his children
to the Jewish Primary Day School in Washington, D.C.

The lead American negotiator during the Oslo peace process, Ambassador
Dennis Ross, who has provided advice to Mr. Obama’s campaign but does
not consider himself to be an adviser, said he saw no difference on
Israel policy between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama.

Mr. Obama has not pledged to move the American embassy in Israel to
Jerusalem as soon as he takes office, a promise made by every major
candidate for president since Ronald Reagan in 1980, and a promise
broken by every president since the Reagan administration. And the
campaign’s wider circle includes two people, a former national
security adviser to President Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and a
former President Clinton aide, Robert Malley, who have come under
wider scrutiny. The campaign says the candidate has not spoken in the
past four months with Mr. Brzezinski, who led a delegation in the
Middle East that met with President Assad of Syria. As for Mr. Malley,
the campaign says he is not a formal adviser, but has provided advice.

Another adviser who has come under scrutiny in recent weeks is
Samantha Power, a professor at Harvard University and an expert in
genocide and international law. Ms. Power was one of Mr. Obama’s first
foreign policy tutors when he came to the Senate in 2005, where she
began volunteering in his office after a meeting at a Washington
steakhouse. The campaign has called her a foreign policy adviser,
though not an adviser specifically on the Middle East.

Commentary Magazine, the National Review, and the American Thinker
have run critical blog posts about Ms. Power for series of comments
she has made regarding Israel.

For example, on May 30, 2007, Ms. Power was quoted in an interview
posted on the Kennedy School Web site as saying, “Another longstanding
foreign policy flaw is the degree to which special interests dictate
the way in which the ‘national interest’ as a whole is defined and
pursued. Look at the degree to which Halliburton and several of the
private security and contracting firms invested in the 2004 political
campaigns and received very lucrative contracts in the aftermath of
the U.S. takeover of Iraq. Also, America’s important historic
relationship with Israel has often led foreign policy decision-makers
to defer reflexively to Israeli security assessments, and to replicate
Israeli tactics, which, as the war in Lebanon last summer
demonstrated, can turn out to be counter-productive.”

In an interview yesterday, Ms. Power said, “This quote is taken out of
context. I was talking about the way Halliburton skewed U.S. decision-
making on the ground in Iraq. I have never suggested and do not
believe that the U.S. went to war in Iraq owing to Israeli pressure or

Ms. Power also said that she did not believe it was possible to send
American forces to Israel and the Palestinian territories without the
consent of both parties.

As for the strategic understanding of the American-Israeli
relationship, one of the campaign’s most senior advisers, Anthony
Lake, said he saw the two countries as sharing a common enemy. “You
can analytically make distinctions among them. Both Hezbollah and
Hamas are more focused on Israel than the United States. They all have
different agendas, but they all use terrorism and they all look at the
United States as their enemies too,” he said.

The approach of the Obama campaign hews closely to the recommendations
of the Baker-Hamilton report, co-authored by Ben Rhodes, Mr. Obama’s
30-year old foreign-policy speechwriter. The Baker-Hamilton report
called for engaging the Iranians and Syrians and winding down American
combat operations in Iraq, though it also endorsed a temporary surge
to enhance security. President Bush and Senator McCain both rejected
the main recommendations of the report, which they saw as a way to
manage defeat.

Mr. Lake said that he saw advantages to entering discussions with
Syria in part to break its “unnatural alliance” with Iran. “The Bush
administration’s doctrine of refusing to talk or insisting the other
side has to make all the concessions before they start talking with
you, is naïve,” he said.

The prospect that President Obama would seek discussions with Iran
worries some observers. A former Israeli ambassador to America, Daniel
Ayalon, said in a telephone interview, “What worries me, I have looked
into his position papers and all of that. He describes the ayatollah
regime as a Hitler-like regime. I think he is very right to see it as
a Hitler-like regime. If he sees it this way, why would he negotiate
with a Hitler type regime?”

Mr. Lake said in response, “I would argue what is important here are
results, for the sake of our security and Israel’s security. You don’t
achieve them by posturing. I have utter confidence — and I have been
in many negotiations — in Barack Obama’s ability to be a very, very
tough negotiator.”

A supporter of Mr. Obama’s, the editor in chief of the New Republic,
Martin Peretz, yesterday chalked up concerns about the senator’s
foreign policy with concerns about the Democratic Party. “The
weaknesses of the Obama foreign policy advisory team are a result of a
contagion in the Democratic party itself,” he said. “It is not just a
failure of understanding about Israel’s predicament, but a failure of
understanding about the career of freedom in the world.”

On just the question of Mr. Obama’s support for Israel, however, the
president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Howard
Friedman, minimized any differences between the candidates. “All of
the leading candidates, Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain, and
Governor Huckabee, have demonstrated their support for a strong U.S.-
Israel relationship,” Mr. Friedman said.

The rabbi of a synagogue across the street from the Obama family
residence in Hyde Park, Chicago, Arnold Jacob Wolf, said that the
senator was in fact too hawkish on Israel. “In my opinion he has been
too strong. I belong to the Peace Now group and he doesn’t. He is
defensive of Israel in ways I wouldn’t be, mostly the occupation,” the
rabbi, who says he has known Mr. Obama for 10 years, said.



Meet Obama’s ‘Tenacious,’ ‘Take Charge’ Dr. Rice
BY Russell Berman  /  January 28, 2008

WASHINGTON — “Our Dr. Rice” is the friendly moniker Democrats in the
foreign policy community often bestow on Susan Rice.

The reference to the Secretary Rice now running the State Department
is usually made in jest, but the comparison could carry significantly
more weight if Senator Obama, who on Saturday won the South Carolina
primary and today is poised to win the endorsement of Senator Kennedy,
becomes America’s next president.

As a senior foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama, Susan Rice, 43, has
taken a leading role in helping to shape the freshman Illinois
senator’s vision for the world, building on a bond forged in part by
their shared — and outspoken — opposition to the war in Iraq.

An assistant secretary of state under President Clinton, Ms. Rice also
served as a senior adviser on the Kerry-Edwards campaign in 2004, and
she is likely to be on the short list for a top position in an Obama
administration, perhaps in the same role Condoleezza Rice served
during President Bush’s first term: national security adviser.

The Rices are not related, but as two prominent African American women
in a field long dominated by white men, the comparison is as natural
as it is superficial.

“We thought our Dr. Rice was a lot more sensible than their Dr. Rice,”
quipped James Rubin, a former State department spokesman who worked
with Susan Rice on the Kerry campaign but who is now an informal
adviser to Senator Clinton. Susan Rice said she has seen Secretary
Rice occasionally over the years but does not know her well. They
share a link to Stanford University — Susan Rice studied there as an
undergraduate in the 1980s while Condoleezza Rice taught as a
professor. Like Mr. Obama, Ms. Rice has long been a fierce critic of
the Bush administration’s foreign policy, and she does not look to
Secretary Rice as a role model.

“I don’t select role models on the basis of race and gender,” she said
in a telephone interview. She praised the two previous secretaries of
state, Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell, but she said the jury was
still out on Secretary Rice’s tenure.

Susan Rice grew up in Washington, D.C., the daughter of an economist
who served as a governor of the Federal Reserve, Emmett Rice, and an
education policy scholar, Lois Rice. She won a Rhodes scholarship and
later earned a doctorate in international relations from Oxford
University after graduating from Stanford in 1986. Ms. Rice joined the
Clinton White House in 1993 and rose quickly. Within two years she was
a senior director for African affairs on the National Security
Council. In 1997, President Clinton appointed her assistant secretary
of state for Africa, overseeing more than 40 countries and 5,000
foreign service officials.

She first met Mr. Obama when he was a Senate candidate in 2004, and
she became a resource and adviser for him the following year when he
took a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee. The two discussed a
range of issues, from Iraq to nuclear non-proliferation to

“I was attracted to him in the very beginning as someone who was
extraordinarily intelligent, thoughtful, and had a remarkably broad
and deep grasp of the key foreign policy challenges of the day,” she
said. Ms. Rice said she was drawn to him in part because of his early
and vocal opposition to the Iraq war. She had also spoken out on the
war before the American invasion, and she said she respected Mr. Obama
for making “the same unpopular choice I had made,” despite what she
described as a “huge amount of pressure in Washington to go along with
or support the war.”

Since the end of the Clinton administration, Ms. Rice has written
often about a range of issues, and particularly the genocide in
Darfur. She has pushed a much more aggressive American position on
Sudan, including the possible use of military force in 2005 and 2006.
She has backed off that position to some extent, saying efforts should
now be focused on beefing up and deploying a joint United Nations-
African Union peacekeeping force, which the Sudanese government has
resisted. “I think the challenge is somewhat different today, and the
prescription at the moment is somewhat different,” she said.

As one of several former Clinton administration officials who have
decamped to Mr. Obama, Ms. Rice joins a former national security
adviser to President Clinton, Anthony Lake, in the Illinois senator’s
inner circle of foreign policy advisers. She characterized the move as
a relatively easy decision, given the similarity in their policy views
and the fact that she had gotten to know him well while she had had
little contact with the Clintons in recent years.

“Supporting Senator Obama was a clear choice for me,” she said, “but
it was never a choice against Senator Clinton or President Clinton,
whom I have long respected.”

Still, she has not held back in criticizing Mrs. Clinton during the
campaign, and a few of her former colleagues privately seethed at
comments she made minimizing the New York senator’s role in foreign
policy as first lady.

In the interview, Ms. Rice said Mr. Obama had offered a more
substantive foreign policy platform than Mrs. Clinton, who she said
had “revealed relatively little” about her approach to foreign policy
and national security during the campaign. Citing Mrs. Clinton’s
article in the journal Foreign Affairs, she said Mr. Obama’s vision
was more forward-looking and, in a message that has emerged as a
dominant theme in the campaign, that Mrs. Clinton’s goal of
“restoring” American power was rooted in the past.

“If you read that article, it’s hard to discern a vision of a new
American leadership beyond just getting out from under the Bush
years,” Ms. Rice said. Associates describe Ms. Rice as hard charging
but disciplined, a manager who brings a laser-like focus and blunt-
spoken clarity to tasks large and small.

“She’s a tenacious battler for the policies and principles she
believes in,” a member of the Obama foreign policy team who worked
with Ms. Rice in the Clinton administration, John Prendergast, said.
“She really will not quit.”

Those who have worked with Ms. Rice said her style could occasionally
ruffle feathers, but a member of Mr. Obama’s foreign policy inner
circle, Major General Scott Gration, said that while she was a “take-
charge person,” she was well-liked. “She accomplishes a task while
building a team,” General Gration said, adding that she often runs Mr.
Obama’s foreign policy meetings along with Mr. Lake and Denis
McDonough, a former top aide to Senator Daschle. “She’s a great
administrator,” he said. The Obama campaign has at times made use of
her as a surrogate spokeswoman; the day of the Iowa caucuses, she
appeared on Fox News Channel to speak about the campaign in general,
not about specific foreign policy issues.

Ms. Rice, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, is married to an ABC
News producer, Ian Cameron, with whom she has two young children.”My
leadership style is one that aims to be inclusive and to mobilize and
encourage people to give their best,” she said. “I plead guilty as
charged to wanting to move and get things done and occasionally being

As for her role under a possible President Obama, she demurs, saying
she is focused on getting the senator elected. “I am not focused on
what I do thereafter,” she said.


Alec Ross serves as Executive Vice President for External Affairs and
is a co-founder of One Economy Corporation. Under his leadership, One
Economy has established groundbreaking programs and corporate
partnerships with top-of-market private sector, governmental and
nonprofit organizations across sectors including the
telecommunications, financial services and education fields to help
achieve One Economy’s mission.

He also stewards One Economy’s public policy initiatives, which
include federal and local leadership in lawmaking and regulatory
issues regarding technology and telecommunications in low-income
communities. These efforts culminated in Bring IT Home, a national
campaign that has helped change housing policies in 42 states and
brought broadband to hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans.

Alec is a nationally respected social entrepreneur who speaks
regularly on topics including economic development, technology,
philanthropy and public policy.

Prior to the founding of One Economy in July of 2000, Alec served as
Special Assistant to the President of The Enterprise Foundation. In
this capacity, he led special projects and the development of
strategies related to new business development, fundraising,
technology, and program development.

A 1994 graduate of Northwestern University, Alec taught for two years
in inner city Baltimore through Teach For America and was featured in
a 3 part series in the Baltimore Sun.

He sits on the board of several organizations including The Green
School, 1000 Friends of Maryland, One Global Economy and the Aspen
Institute’s MicroMentor Project.


Lawrence Lessig is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and
founder of the school’s Center for Internet and Society. Prior to
joining the Stanford faculty, he was the Berkman Professor of Law at
Harvard Law School, and a Professor at the University of Chicago. He
clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.



“But as I look under the hood of Obama’s policy shop and see what
Obama policy guru Karen Korbluh, former Clinton NEC official Dan
Tarullo, and former Treasury Department chief-of-staff Michael Froman
have been orchestrating, I’m very impressed.

Also part of the semi-close ring of Obama econ advisers are labor
economist Jared Bernstein and Wolfowitz-critic and former World Bank
Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz.”


Obama’s Economic Brain Trust Breaks With `Status Quo’
By Rich Miller and Matthew Benjamin  /  May 10 2007

Senator Barack Obama portrays himself as a new kind of leader who
transcends conventional politics. Judging by the economists he has
enlisted in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination,
he may just be.

Obama’s economic brain trust — a blend of up-and-coming academics and
former officials in President Bill Clinton’s administration —
displays a fondness for backing innovative solutions to the nation’s
problems. Among them: offering ailing U.S. automakers aid in return
for increased investment in hybrid cars and rewarding doctors for the
improvements they make in patients’ health.

“They bring to the campaign some fresh thought on approaches that are
non-status quo,” says Alan Blinder, a Princeton University economist
and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Obama, 45, is a freshman Illinois senator who, thus far, has been
known more for soaring oratory than policy specifics. His surging
candidacy, which has made him the chief rival to the Democratic
frontrunner, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, and the decision of
many states to move up their 2008 primaries and caucuses, put pressure
on Obama to begin filling in the blanks.

Three academics — Austan Goolsbee, 37, a University of Chicago
professor and columnist for The New York Times, Jeffrey Liebman, 39, a
pension and poverty expert at Harvard University, in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, and David Cutler, 41, a Harvard health economist —
form the core of Obama’s economic team.

`Top-Notch Economists’

“They’re all top-notch economists,” said Greg Mankiw, a Harvard
professor and former chief White House economist for President George
W. Bush. “Their views are left of the political center, as one would
expect, but only slightly.”

A trio of seasoned Washington hands bolsters the academics: Karen
Kornbluh, policy director in Obama’s Senate office; Daniel Tarullo, a
professor at Georgetown University in Washington, and a former senior
economic adviser in the Clinton administration; and Michael Froman,
the chief of staff for former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin who now
works with his old boss at Citigroup Inc.

Obama’s economic cadre, like the candidate himself, is still evolving.
The candidate is shopping for a big-name macro economist to join the
group, perhaps one with the cachet of former Bush economist Glenn
Hubbard, who recently joined the team of Republican candidate Mitt

Most national polls show Clinton in the lead for the Democratic
presidential nomination, with Obama coming in second. In last month’s
Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll, Clinton was favored by 33 percent of
primary voters and Obama was the choice of 23 percent.

Detroit Speech

Obama made his most detailed economic proposal to date on May 7, in a
speech in Detroit. He proposed a novel remedy for helping automakers
while also curbing America’s energy consumption. Under the plan, the
federal government would help the industry pay for some retiree health
benefits if automakers invest in more fuel-efficient vehicles. The
partnership idea, which Mankiw criticized as an unjustified bailout,
would cost an estimated $7 billion over 10 years.

Kornbluh, 44, who joined Obama’s Senate staff in 2002 after working
for the Clinton administration and the New America Foundation in
Washington, helped fashion the trade-off proposal.

Goolsbee said the health-care-for-hybrids plan is the sort of thinking
that Obama is encouraging. Obama, he said, “wants to get beyond the
normal debate between A and B, to try to dream up things that are
different and better.”

GM Reaction

That may not always work. Greg Martin, a spokesman for Detroit-based
General Motors Corp., the world’s largest automaker, reacted coolly to
the plan, saying GM preferred a national solution to the problem of
soaring medical costs.

What’s more, there’s no guarantee that Obama will sign on to every
idea his economists advance because a candidate’s political aides
often dilute economists’ suggestions for fear of stirring controversy.
“As the campaign gears up, there will be a tension between the right
policy response to a problem and the politically expeditious one,”
said Steven Clemons, senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

Obama could also find himself hemmed in by labor unions, which are
pressing the party to abandon the free-trade policies espoused by the
Clinton administration. Goolsbee, the campaign’s top economic adviser,
described himself as a free-trader. He does see a role for government
in cushioning the impact on those workers who lose out from

Trade Policy

The tough task of helping to develop a trade policy that avoids overt
protectionism may fall to Tarullo, a 54-year-old trade expert. Tarullo
“escapes easy labeling,” said former Clinton chief of staff John
Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, a self-
described progressive advocacy group in Washington. “That makes him
especially valuable in finding new solutions to a new set of thorny

At the top of the Obama team’s to-do list: drafting a plan to extend
medical coverage to all Americans by the end of 2012 while making the
system more efficient. One of Obama’s rivals for the Democratic
nomination, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, has proposed a
detailed universal health plan and has challenged his rivals to follow

Cutler, whom Obama has put in charge of developing such a blueprint,
has tried to go beyond the long-running debate between advocates of a
government-run “single-payer” system and proponents of a market-
driven approach based on health savings accounts for consumers.

Pay for Performance

Under a pay-for-performance system devised by Cutler, doctors would be
reimbursed not for the services they provide but for the improvements
they make to patients’ health. Patients would be encouraged to take
better care of themselves through preventive care and comparison
shopping for medical cost savings.

“It can help us get past the ideological battles,” said Mark
McClellan, who served as Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator
and commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under Bush.

The plan isn’t without problems. Henry Aaron, a health-care expert at
the Brookings Institution in Washington, questioned how widely it
could be turned into practice, given the difficulties involved in
measuring the worth of many procedures.

Costly Software

It’s also costly. Cutler has suggested the government spend anywhere
from $115 billion to $156 billion on information- technology equipment
and software for the medical industry.

Liebman, an expert on Social Security, isn’t easily pigeon- holed
either. He has supported partial privatization of the government-run
retirement system, an idea that’s anathema to many Democrats and bears
a similarity to a proposal for personal investment accounts that Bush
promoted, then dropped in 2005.

“Liebman has been to open to private accounts and most people in town
would say he’s a moderate supporter of them,” said Michael Tanner, a
Social Security expert at the Cato Institute in Washington, a research
organization in Washington that advocates free markets and often backs

In a 2005 policy paper Liebman, along with Andrew Samwick of Dartmouth
College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Maya MacGuineas, a former aide
to Senator John McCain, advocated a mix of benefit cuts, tax increases
and mandatory personal accounts to shore up the system, which will
begin paying more in benefits than it takes in through taxes by 2017
under current actuarial estimates.

Obama has called Social Security’s problems “real but manageable”
and has pledged to preserve what he’s called the “essential
character” of the pension program.

The veteran Washington hands on Obama’s team also get high marks for
their willingness to embrace new ideas. As chief operating officer of
New York-based Citigroup’s alternative investments business, the 44-
year-old Froman pushed micro- lending and securitization to finance
vaccine programs and promote job creation in poor countries.

Froman is “very creative in the way he thinks about such issues as
globalization, trade and economic development,” said Rubin, the
chairman of Citigroup’s Executive Committee, who isn’t involved in
Obama’s campaign.


GOP’s Powell Is Now Advising Obama
BY ELI LAKE  /  June 11, 2007

WASHINGTON — Colin Powell, who only a decade ago was being discussed
as a possible Republican presidential nominee and who more recently
served as President Bush’s first secretary of state, is advising a
Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Obama of Illinois.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” yesterday, Mr. Powell said it was
“too soon” to say whether he would endorse the Republican nominee for
president, and he added that he is reserving judgment for now.

“I’ve been around this town a long time, and I know everybody who is
running for office,” Mr. Powell said. “And I make myself available to
talk about foreign policy matters and military matters with whoever
wishes to chat with me.”

Those words appear to represent an extraordinary shift for a man who
made the highest-profile case for the war in Iraq, a war the
Democratic Party leadership contends was waged on the basis of
politicized intelligence.

Mr. Powell, for his part, has said this interpretation of the pre-war
intelligence debate is incorrect. Yesterday, he defended his 2003
presentation of the American case for war, saying he spent five days
checking every fact at CIA headquarters before he gave it. The
presentation was based on the same intelligence estimate that was made
available to Congress, he said, and he noted that many Democrats who
served in Congress at the time later said they did not read the
classified estimate.

One lawmaker who has not had to make such a statement is Mr. Obama,
who in 2002 and 2003 was a state senator in Springfield, Ill., and
opposed the war. “Before the war in Iraq started, Obama had the
courage to stand up to the politics and propaganda and spoke out
against the war, even before the invasion of Iraq,” a spokeswoman for
Mr. Obama’s campaign, Jen Psaki, said. “Any time you have the
opportunity to seek advice on foreign policy from the former secretary
of state, it is a welcome meeting.”

Mr. Obama said in October 2002 that he was “not opposed to all wars,”
just “dumb” and “rash” ones. “What I am opposed to is the cynical
attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair weekend
warriors in this administration who shove their own ideological
agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and
in hardships borne,” he said at a rally hosted by Act Now to Stop War
and End Racism.

Since his election to the Senate in 2004, Mr. Obama has adopted a more
moderate stance. While many in his party, including Senator Clinton,
have criticized the faulty intelligence leading up to the war, Mr.
Obama has co-authored legislation to help secure loose chemical and
biological weapons and keep them out of the hands of terrorists.

In October 2005, Mr. Obama accompanied Senator Lugar, a Republican of
Indiana who was then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, on a fact-finding mission to the former Soviet bloc. In a
speech at the Council on Foreign Relations after the trip, Mr. Obama
said: “The demand for these weapons has never been greater. … Right
now rogue states and despotic regimes are looking to begin or
accelerate their own nuclear programs.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Obama has since expressed opposition to the surge of
American troops in Iraq and has endorsed plans to withdraw from the
country by 2008, a position shared by more than 60% of Americans,
according to a New York Times poll in May.

Mr. Powell may not share that position, but he did express pessimism
on “Meet the Press” yesterday about the prospects for the surge. He
believes that American forces in Iraq are facing a “civil war,” he
said, and he noted that the White House has not called the conflict in
Iraq a civil war. “The current strategy to deal with it, the military
surge, our part of the surge under General Petraeus — the only thing
it can do is put a heavier lid on this boiling pot of civil war stew,”
he said.

For close Powell watchers, this sort of statement may not be
surprising. As secretary of state during the 2004 election season, he
hinted to the editorial board of the New York Times that had he known
no weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, he would not
have supported the war.

More recently, Mr. Powell kept mum after his former chief of staff,
Lawrence Wilkerson, said the Bush administration was being run like a
“cabal.” In 2005, Mr. Wilkerson helped sink the White House’s
nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations; Mr.
Powell did not sign a letter of former Republican secretaries of state
endorsing the Bolton nomination.

Mr. Powell’s positions on a number of national security issues appear
to be more in sync with those of Democrats. On “Meet the Press,” for
example, Mr. Powell said he would close the military prison at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which holds suspected terrorists. “I would
simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal
legal system,” he said.

A former spokesman for the Republican National Committee, Clifford
May, said he thinks it is fine for Mr. Powell to offer his advice to
all presidential candidates. “If Colin Powell is advising candidates
from both parties on foreign policy, that is commendable,” Mr. May,
the president of the bipartisan Foundation for the Defense of
Democracies, said. “Foreign policy and national security ought to be
beyond partisanship. They have not been in recent years, and that is
deeply regrettable.”


Behind Obama and Clinton
BY Stephen Zunes | February 4, 2008

Voters on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party are rightly
disappointed by the similarity of the foreign policy positions of the
two remaining Democratic Party presidential candidates, Senator
Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama. However, there are still
some real discernable differences to be taken into account. Indeed,
given the power the United States has in the world, even minimal
differences in policies can have a major difference in the lives of
millions of people.

As a result, the kind of people the next president appoints to top
positions in national defense, intelligence, and foreign affairs is
critical. Such officials usually emerge from among a presidential
candidate’s team of foreign policy advisors. So, analyzing who these
two finalists for the Democratic presidential nomination have brought
in to advise them on international affairs can be an important
barometer for determining what kind for foreign policies they would
pursue as president. For instance, in the case of the Bush
administration, officials like Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and
Richard Perle played a major role in the fateful decision to invade
Iraq by convincing the president that Saddam Hussein was an imminent
threat and that American forces would be treated as liberators.

The leading Republican candidates have surrounded themselves with
people likely to encourage the next president to follow down a
similarly disastrous path. But what about Senators Barack Obama and
Hillary Clinton? Who have they picked to help them deal with Iraq war
and the other immensely difficult foreign policy decisions that
they’ll be likely to face as president?

Contrasting Teams

Senator Clinton’s foreign policy advisors tend to be veterans of
President Bill Clinton’s administration, most notably former secretary
of state Madeleine Albright and former National Security Adviser Sandy
Berger. Her most influential advisor – and her likely choice for
Secretary of State – is Richard Holbrooke. Holbrooke served in a
number of key roles in her husband’s administration, including U.S.
ambassador to the UN and member of the cabinet, special emissary to
the Balkans, assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian
affairs, and U.S. ambassador to Germany. He also served as President
Jimmy Carter’s assistant secretary of state for East Asia in propping
up Marcos in the Philippines, supporting Suharto’s repression in East
Timor, and backing the generals behind the Kwangju massacre in South

Senator Barack Obama’s foreign policy advisers, who on average tend to
be younger than those of the former first lady, include mainstream
strategic analysts who have worked with previous Democratic
administrations, such as former national security advisors Zbigniew
Brzezinski and Anthony Lake, former assistant secretary of state Susan
Rice, and former navy secretary Richard Danzig. They have also
included some of the more enlightened and creative members of the
Democratic Party establishment, such as Joseph Cirincione and Lawrence
Korb of the Center for American Progress, and former counterterrorism
czar Richard Clarke. His team also includes the noted human rights
scholar and international law advocate Samantha Power – author of a
recent New Yorker article on U.S. manipulation of the UN in post-
invasion Iraq – and other liberal academics. Some of his advisors,
however, have particularly poor records on human rights and
international law, such as retired General Merrill McPeak, a backer of
Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, and Dennis Ross, a supporter of
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

Contrasting Issues

While some of Obama’s key advisors, like Larry Korb, have expressed
concern at the enormous waste from excess military spending, Clinton’s
advisors have been strong supporters of increased resources for the

While Obama advisors Susan Rice and Samantha Power have stressed the
importance of U.S. multilateral engagement, Albright allies herself
with the jingoism of the Bush administration, taking the attitude that
“If we have to use force, it is because we are America! We are the
indispensable nation. We stand tall, and we see further into the

While Susan Rice has emphasized how globalization has led to uneven
development that has contributed to destabilization and extremism and
has stressed the importance of bottom-up anti-poverty programs, Berger
and Albright have been outspoken supporters of globalization on the
current top-down neo-liberal lines.

Obama advisors like Joseph Cirincione have emphasized a policy toward
Iraq based on containment and engagement and have downplayed the
supposed threat from Iran. Clinton advisor Holbrooke, meanwhile,
insists that “the Iranians are an enormous threat to the United
States,” the country is “the most pressing problem nation,” and
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is like Hitler.

Iraq as Key Indicator

Perhaps the most important difference between the two foreign policy
teams concerns Iraq. Given the similarities in the proposed Iraq
policies of Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, Obama’s
supporters have emphasized that their candidate had the better
judgment in opposing the invasion beforehand. Indeed, in the critical
months prior to the launch of the war in 2003, Obama openly challenged
the Bush administration’s exaggerated claims of an Iraqi threat and
presciently warned that a war would lead to an increase in Islamic
extremism, terrorism, and regional instability, as well as a decline
in America’s standing in the world.

Senator Clinton, meanwhile, was repeating as fact the administration’s
false claims of an imminent Iraqi threat. She voted to authorize
President Bush to invade that oil-rich country at the time and
circumstances of his own choosing and confidently predicted success.
Despite this record and Clinton’s refusal to apologize for her war
authorization vote, however, her supporters argue that it no longer
relevant and voters need to focus on the present and future.

Indeed, whatever choices the next president makes with regard to Iraq
are going to be problematic, and there are no clear answers at this
point. Yet one’s position regarding the invasion of Iraq at that time
says a lot about how a future president would address such questions
as the use of force, international law, relations with allies, and the
use of intelligence information.

As a result, it may be significant that Senator Clinton’s foreign
policy advisors, many of whom are veterans of her husband’s
administration, were virtually all strong supporters of President
George W. Bush’s call for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. By contrast, almost
every one of Senator Obama’s foreign policy team was opposed to a U.S.

Pre-War Positions

During the lead-up to the war, Obama’s advisors were suspicious of the
Bush administration’s claims that Iraq somehow threatened U.S.
national security to the extent that it required a U.S. invasion and
occupation of that country. For example, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national
security advisor in the Carter administration, argued that public
support for war “should not be generated by fear-mongering or

By contrast, Clinton’s top advisor and her likely pick for secretary
of state, Richard Holbrooke, insisted that Iraq remained “a clear and
present danger at all times.”

Brzezinski warned that the international community would view the
invasion of a country that was no threat to the United States as an
illegitimate an act of aggression. Noting that it would also threaten
America’s leadership, Brzezinski said that “without a respected and
legitimate law-enforcer, global security could be in serious
jeopardy.” Holbrooke, rejecting the broad international legal
consensus against offensive wars, insisted that it was perfectly
legitimate for the United States to invade Iraq and that the European
governments and anti-war demonstrators who objected “undoubtedly
encouraged” Saddam Hussein.

Another key Obama advisor, Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie
Endowment, argued that the goal of containing the potential threat
from Iraq had been achieved, noting that “Saddam Hussein is
effectively incarcerated and under watch by a force that could respond
immediately and devastatingly to any aggression. Inside Iraq, the
inspection teams preclude any significant advance in WMD capabilities.
The status quo is safe for the American people.”

By contrast, Clinton advisor Sandy Berger, who served as her husband’s
national security advisor, insisted that “even a contained Saddam” was
“harmful to stability and to positive change in the region,” and
therefore the United States had to engage in “regime change” in order
to “fight terror, avert regional conflict, promote peace, and protect
the security of our friends and allies.”

Meanwhile, other future Obama advisors, such as Larry Korb, raised
concerns about the human and material costs of invading and occupying
a heavily populated country in the Middle East and the risks of chaos
and a lengthy counter-insurgency war.

And other top advisors to Senator Clinton – such as her husband’s
former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – confidently predicted
that American military power could easily suppress any opposition to a
U.S. takeover of Iraq. Such confidence in the ability of the United
States to impose its will through force is reflected to this day in
the strong support for President Bush’s troop surge among such Clinton
advisors (and original invasion advocates) as Jack Keane, Kenneth
Pollack, and Michael O’Hanlon. Perhaps that was one reason that,
during the recent State of the Union address, when Bush proclaimed
that the Iraqi surge was working, Clinton stood and cheered while
Obama remained seated and silent.

These differences in the key circles of foreign policy specialists
surrounding these two candidates are consistent with their
diametrically opposed views in the lead-up to the war.

National Security

Not every one of Clinton’s foreign policy advisors is a hawk. Her team
also includes some centrist opponents of the war, including retired
General Wesley Clark and former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

On balance, it appears likely that a Hillary Clinton administration,
like Bush’s, would be more likely to embrace exaggerated and alarmist
reports regarding potential national security threats, to ignore
international law and the advice of allies, and to launch offensive
wars. By contrast, a Barack Obama administration would be more prone
to examine the actual evidence of potential threats before reacting,
to work more closely with America’s allies to maintain peace and
security, to respect the country’s international legal obligations,
and to use military force only as a last resort.

Progressive Democrats do have reason to be disappointed with Obama’s
foreign policy agenda. At the same time, as The Nation magazine noted,
members of Obama’s foreign policy team are “more likely to stress
‘soft power’ issues like human rights, global development and the
dangers of failed states.” As a result, “Obama may be more open to
challenging old Washington assumptions and crafting new approaches.”

And new approaches are definitely needed.