Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 29, 2011

Joining Superman As A Pat Lang "Anti-American"

Pat Lang banned me from commenting at his SST blog. Such after earlier calling me a "plank-holder" of his blog, someone who traveled with his ship from its first voyage on.

He now says I am "anti-American". All I did was criticizing a foreign country's foreign policy. Pat himself regularly does the same with regards to not only U.S. foreign policies, but also especially Israeli foreign policies. Doesn't that make him "anti-American", like he accuses me to be, or even "anti-Semitic"? That's laughable.

The real reason for banning me, I believe, was me indirectly calling his harping for intervention in Libya dumb. He likely knew it was, but didn't want to admit it and damned me for telling him.

Now I seem to be in some powerful companionship. Superman wants to give back his U.S. passport. He dislikes its foreign policy, or maybe only being part of it. He endorses the UN General Assembly.


He also hasn't commented at SST for quite a while. Is he "anti-American"? Is he also banned?


Posted by b on April 29, 2011 at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)

April 28, 2011

More Change In The Middle East

Congratulation to Hamas and Fatah for their unity deal. Until the Egyptian revolution the Egyptian head of intelligence, Omar Suleiman, had monopolized and sabotaged the unity negotiations on orders from the United States.

With Suleiman and Mubarak gone, the deal was rather easy to make. Fatah and Hamas will create a unity government and will, in eight month, hold new parliament and presidential elections.

The U.S. and Israel will do their best to sabotage the deal. The first by withholding money (and thereby making itself more irrelevant) and the second likely by some kind of force. Currently the Israelis say that they will not negotiate with any government that includes Hamas. So what. They did not negotiate with a Palestinian government that did not included Hamas so the threat is actually in keeping the status quo.

The Egyptian revolution may not have brought much new yet for the Egyptian people, but the already visible foreign policy changes, topmost the exchange of ambassadors with Iran, are huge. The "western" media talked down how much the general anti-Israel feeling was part of Tahrir Square. Now it is coming into full view. There were demonstrations against the Israeli embassy in Cairo yesterday and the pipeline that carries cheap Egyptian gas to Israel was blown up for a second time. The guy who sold the gas to Israel for a much too low price is now in jail. My bet is that Israel will have to get used to live without that energy source.

Despite the Saudi-U.S. counter-revolution efforts, more changes will come to the Middle East.

Today a bomb blew up in a tourist restaurant in Marrakesh. After protests in February and March the Moroccan king has pledged some constitutional reforms and released some political prisoners. But the people are not yet convinced that real reforms will come. There were more protests, peaceful ones so far, over the last few days. Today's explosion is likely a provocation (I have no idea from which side though) to attempt a change of the current peaceful contest. Morocco may be the next domino to fall.

Posted by b on April 28, 2011 at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Hard Sanction Against Syria

The UN Security Council did not agree on sanctions against Syria, but some states are taking their own measures. Great Britain has now taken sanctions to a point never seen before. This will likely hurt Syria immensely:

Syrian Ambassador attendance at the Royal Wedding unacceptable

What a hars step. We can be sure now that Assad will now shudder, immediately hand his powers to the Salafi parts of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and travel to Canossa London to do penance.

Or maybe not. Maybe he, like me, thinks that this whole royal nonsense is just yellow press fodder for the dumb and not worth of further mentioning.

Posted by b on April 28, 2011 at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

April 27, 2011

Oil-Recession In Late Summer 2011?

A rule of thumb says that a doubling of oil prices over one year leads to a recession. Demand then sinks and prices come down again.

Oil futures for Brent crude were slightly above $124/barrel today. The weekly futures chart shows the current increase.

The price increase over the last six month seems slightly parabolic.

The monthly futures chart allows comparison with the last parabolic increase in 2007/2008.

It reached $150/bl during the summer of 2008, double the $75 of a year earlier. Then a lack of further demand led to a crash of the speculative futures price.

Using the rule of thumb $150-$160 this summer would be double the price of last summers oil and probably cause another recession. Given the parabolic trend in the chart such prices could indeed be reached during this summer.

Global demand during this summer will be higher than usual as Japan will have to burn a lot more oil to replace lacking electricity output from its nuclear plants. The civil war in and foreign war on Libya took only 3% of the world production off the market. But Libyen oil is about the best "light sweet" stuff one can get. One would expect that in this case the Saudis would act as a swing producer and increase their output. But they seem to do the opposite now and it is quite possible that even while drilling frantically they can no longer produce enough high quality spice to replace the lost Libyan output and to stabilize prices.

The U.S. ecomomy with 10+% unemployment has by far not regained its full potential. Another recession would have serious impact on it with strong poltical consequences. With the current congress another Keynsian rescue from a recession, priming the pump with government programs, seems impossible.

Posted by b on April 27, 2011 at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

April 26, 2011

The New Yorker Lost It

The New Yorker has a 9,000 something words article on Obama's foreign policy: The Consequentialist - How the Arab Spring remade Obama’s foreign policy.

The looooong piece is trying to characterize Obama, his foreign policies and the various foreign policy persons around him especially with regard to the Middle East. It is also trying to keep all persons involved in a somewhat positive light.

But while trying to describe and analyze his alleged evolution on foreign policy issues it is missing the biggest of his foreign policy initiatives and how he lost it.

Within 9,000+ words there is no mentioning, none at all, of Obama's demand to stop Israeli settlements in the West Bank and of Netanyahooe's and the lobby's successful sabotage of the issue.

How can one analyze the foreign policy of the U.S., especially in the Middle East, while leaving out Israel? How can one analyze Obama's foreign policy while leaving out the most embarrassing public rejection of U.S. leadership in the last decades?

It seems that the New Yorker is now just as clueless about foreign policy as the Obama administration is.

Posted by b on April 26, 2011 at 03:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

April 25, 2011

Some Thoughts On Syria

Since the ruler of Qatar made up with the ruler of Saudi Arabia, this happened shortly after Mubarak stepped down, Aljazeera, owned by Qatar, has morphed into a propaganda channel. Several of its reporters, including the bureau chief in Lebanon, have stepped down.

As Aljazeera now acts very much like the partisan 'western' media, there is no reliable media information coming out of the country. The online activists, led via the Facebook page of a salafi Muslim Brotherhood guy in Sweden, are mostly not in the country and have an interest in exaggerating the size of the demonstrations and force the regime is using.

The reports coming from the government are, of course, unreliable too. It says that many of the bloody incidence came through provocation, that is shooting, from unknown forces suspected to be sponsored by foreign entities. This is certainly a possibility but it is hard to judge how true these reports are.

After the first bigger protests calling for reform started, the regime arranged for a big pro-regime demonstration in Damascus. Independent sources said it was really quite big and that most demonstrators attended without orders or pressure to do so. But smaller non-violent anti-regime protests continued and led to concessions by the government on the most demanded points, especially the abolishment of the emergency law. This will have satisfied at least some of the protesters.

But then more violent protests in several cities continued, now demanding the fall of the regime. I seriously doubt that the majority of Syrians do support this demand. The plausible alternatives to the regime, which isn't nice, are worse. The most likely scenario is massive sectarian strife with salafi-Sunni attacks on minority Christians and Alawites.

Unlike in Egypt there is no sign that the army will abandon the ruling government. The intervention by fukUS in Libya has already created enough bad experience that such measures will not be considered with regards to Syria or anywhere else. There is no sign that a majority or even significant minority of Syrians has any interest in violent regime change.

My current assessment is therefor that the regime will now put up a bit of a fight and, if it can stomach to do that harshly enough, it will win this fight.

The same is likely in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Iraq, where demonstration now also get gunned down by government forces. The difference to Syria is of course that no 'western' country will demand sanctions or intervention against any of those 'allies'.

Posted by b on April 25, 2011 at 02:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

NYT Missing The Facts On Checkpoint Shooting

Reading the New York Times on a shooting of some Israeli settlers by a Palestinian policeman in the West Bank city of Nablus, which is under Palestinian Authority control, one can not find any good reason for the incident:

The shooting occurred outside Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus after three carloads of religious Israeli Jews visited the site to pray, without coordinating their plans through the Israeli Army. Twice-monthly trips to the tomb have been organized with army escorts for the past four years without incident.
The Palestinian governor of Nablus, Jibril al-Bakri, told Israel Radio that the shooting was a result of lack of coordination between the worshipers and the Israeli Army. He said that Palestinian police officers who were on a regular patrol shot a warning into the air before firing at the cars. He stressed that the shooting was a mistake.

So was this a 'mistake' and just a policman on patrol gone crazy?

Of course not. But the Zionist NYT author Ethan Bronner, who's son is in the Israeli army and who lives in stolen former Palestinian house in Jerusalem, will not let you know that. Here is how Haaretz reported the incident:

Israelis shot in West Bank tried to break through Palestinian roadblock, probe shows

Palestinian security forces opened fire early Sunday on three cars full of Israelis who entered the West Bank compound of Joseph's Tomb without permission and then tried to break through a local checkpoint, according to an initial investigation by the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinian Authority.
A senior Israel Defense Forces termed the incident "a serious mishap caused by both sides." The army is refraining from referring to the shooting as a terror attack, but has called it an unjustified attack against civilians.

Haaretz was not the only media reporting on the checkpoint. Here is the first Ynet News piece on the incident:

Initial details suggest that while driving back from prayers, around 6 am, they came across a flash checkpoint and then came under fire shot at them from a Palestinian jeep. The fire continued even after the vehicles began to escape. Two of the three Israeli cars sustained gunfire damage.
Initial IDF investigation suggests the group may have failed to coordinate their arrival at the Tomb with the necessity authorities and may have been shot by Palestinian security forces.
Since the end of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Joseph's Tomb has been under Palestinian control. The IDF allows organized groups to visit the premises at night, under heavy guard.

Three suspicious cars full of men breaking through a checkpoint from an area where they were not supposed to be at all is certainly a justifying reason for the policeman guarding the checkpoint to open fire. Israel soldiers certainly do such when they are suspicious about some Palestinian movement.

But the New York Times will not let you know that the checkpoint even existed, that the policeman was guarding it and that the Israelis tried to break through it. Bronner does not mention any of that at all.

The same NYT is now trying to get money from its online readers. What for? For reading fact free Zionist propaganda?

Posted by b on April 25, 2011 at 02:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

April 24, 2011

The Prison Off The Coast

Fighting goes on in Libya.

Meanwhile the Washington Post publishes an extensive report today about a torture prison on an island off the coast. Prisoners there are held, partly now for over ten years, without a trial.

Two years ago the head of the state announced the closing of the prison and promised the prisoners, which he called 'terrorists', to allow for a fair trial in front of a regular court.

But that announcement turns out to have been, like many others he made, just an empty promise. The prison continues to exist and the prisoners will be put in front of secretive military tribunals.

The ruler deplores this but claims that the parliament is responsible as it refused to support his policy.

Obama gave notice that he will secure 'humanitarian treatment' for the prisoners.


Posted by b on April 24, 2011 at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

April 22, 2011

Haqqani Gets Drones

The results of an inconsistent foreign policy are quite embarrassing.

April 21 2011, BBC: Mullen: Pakistan's ISI spy agency has 'militant links'

The US military's top officer, Adm Mike Mullen, has accused Pakistan's spy agency of having links with militants targeting troops in Afghanistan.

He said Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had a "long-standing relationship" with a militant group run by Afghan insurgent Jalaluddin Haqqani.

April 21 2011, Reuters: US to supply Pakistan with 85 mini-drones

The United States will provide Pakistan with 85 small "Raven" drone aircraft, a U.S. military official told Reuters, a key step to addressing Islamabad's calls for access to U.S. drone technology.

Update and further thoughts:

April 22, CNN: U.S. departs Pakistan base, source says

U.S. military personnel have left a southern base in Pakistan said to be a key hub for American drone operations in the country's northwestern tribal areas, a senior Pakistani intelligence official told CNN on Friday.

It seems that the "small drones" carrot did not work as planed.

The current relation mess started when the U.S. spy Raymond Davis killed two Pakistani men in Lahore without any good reason and was imprisoned in Pakistan. The U.S. then stopped all drone attacks on Pakistani grounds and after a while payed a big bribe to get Davis released.

While that was an embarrassment for both sides, the real mess was created when some idiots within the CIA decided to take revenge for Davis' capture and imprisonment. He was released on March 16 and the very next day the CIA launched a drone attack which killed more then 40 people who were at a normal tribal jirga, were neither 'Taliban' nor 'militants' and were on friendly footing with the Pakistani government.

That straw broke the back of the proverbial camel.

All the years Pakistan wanted real eye-to-eye relations with the U.S. but never could achieve such. The U.S. only wanted a client state which would do whatever it was told to do. Despite the fact that the success of the Afghanistan campaign depends on good relations with Pakistan, business deals with India proved to be more important to the U.S. than Pakistan's existential fears. (India occupies Kashmir, the source of the Indus river which is Pakistan's sole lifeline. India has several projects to divert that water for its own benefit.)

Pakistan has learned the lecture. Maybe. Ordering the CIA base which directs the drone strikes closed is a serious step. It is not decisive. Drone strikes will continue from the bases in Afghanistan. A really decisive step would be a cut off of the logistic line through Pakistan for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Pressure to do so comes from the street. Pakistan is not immune to public movements and the Egyptians did set an example. The Pakistani military knows this but I am not sure it will act decisively enough towards the U.S. to prevent a serious internal revolt.

After that? Who knows?

Posted by b on April 22, 2011 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

April 21, 2011

Fukushima Update - April 21

I am not sure yet if the following item was correctly translated as I do not find it anywhere else yet. But if it was, we seem to have a new additional meltdown which will likely lead to further high radiation releases:

Tokyo Electric admits fuel could be melting at Fukushima nuke plant

TOKYO, April 21, Kyodo

An official at Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, admitted Wednesday that fuel of the plant's No. 1 reactor could be melting.

Given its prior communication one can be sure that when Tepco says "could" they know it is actually happening. But let's wait for some confirmation.

The Japanese government has now declared the evacuation zone as off limits. As support for that decision it only now released data that shows how bad the radiation situation was or rather it does not really show anything:

Radiation levels of over 100 microsieverts per hour were measured at four locations 2 to 3 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from late last month, the science ministry said Thursday as it released such data for the first time.

Unfortunately this data released is misleading, "over 100 microsievert" does not say how much over. It is likely that the radiation near the plant was in the higher millisievert levels, several thousand times higher than 100 microsievert. Even over 30 kilometers away from the plant in the town of Iitate levels of 40 to 50 microsieverts per hour were reached (pdf). That data points to much higher levels near the plant.

The workers who were in such high radiation for days will likely have future health problems. There are also new reports of very bad working condition the workers have now to endure. But Tepco is doing its very best to motivate them:

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is considering cutting annual salaries of its employees by around 20 percent as part of its restructuring effort to make compensation payments over the emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex, company sources said Thursday.

Oh - and there just was a 6.4 quake in Tokyo.

Additional resources:
All Things Nuclear - blog by the Union of Concerned Scientists
Atomic power review - blog
Arms Control Wonk - blog
Brave New Climate - pro nuclear blog
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
NISA Japan's Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Tepco press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV - Live stream
Status reports in German for the German Federal Government by the GfR


Posted by b on April 21, 2011 at 11:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

In Which Cordesman Goes Nuts

Anthony Cordesman factual analysis tends to be better than those of other experts. On Libya he rightly writes:

French, British, and US leaders do not seem to have fully coordinated, but it is clear that they sought and got international cover from the UN by claiming a no fly zone could protect civilians when their real objective was to use force as a catalyst to drive Qaddafi out of power. They seem to have assumed that a largely unknown, divided, and fractured group of rebels could win through sheer political momentum and could then be turned into a successful government. They clearly planned a limited air campaign that called for a politically safe set of strikes again against Qaddafi’s air defense and air force, and only limited follow-up in terms of ground strikes against his forces. And then, they waited for success…
Yesterday’s announcement that British and French military advisors are going to help is not going to alter that situation quickly. It will take months more – at a minimum – to properly train and equip them and it will take a radical shift in rebel leadership to give them meaningful unity and discipline.

In the interim an enduring war of attrition will turn a minor humanitarian crisis into a major one [..]

With those facts on the table, one might expect a call to end the war. Negotiate some some ceasefire, Gaddafi already accepted the African Union's proposal, and press the rebels who first rejected it to agree to it. End the war, start the politics.

But Cordesman instead goes nuts and calls for massive escalation, killing of more people and years of nation building:

France, Britain, the US and other participating members of the Coalition need to shift to the kind of bombing campaign that targets and hunts down Qaddafi’s military and security forces in their bases and as they move – as long before they engage rebel forces as possible. Qaddafi, his extended family, and his key supporters need to be targeted for their attacks on Libyan civilians, even if they are collocated in civilian areas. They need to be confronted with the choice between exile or death, and bombing needs to be intense enough so it is clear to them that they must make a choice as soon as possible.

This kind of operation cannot be “surgical’ – if “surgical” now means minimizing bloodshed regardless of whether the patient dies. Hard, and sometimes brutal, choices need to be made between limited civilian casualties and collateral damage during the decisive use of force and an open-ended war of attrition that will produce far higher cumulative civilian casualties and collateral damage. The Coalition will also need to avoid the trap of blundering into some kind of ceasefire, where Qaddafi’s forces and unity will give him the advantage. This will be a “peace” that simply becomes a war of attrition and terror campaign by other means.

At the same time, France, Britain, and the US now have a special obligation to both finish what they started in military terms, and deal with the aftermath. A post-conflict Libya will need extensive help in building a workable political system, in rebuilding the capability to govern, in both rebuilding the existing economy and correcting for decades of Qaddafi’s reckless and constantly shifting eccentricities. It will need coordinated humanitarian relief. Force alone will simply be another form of farce.

Does he really believe Gaddafi can be removed by more bombing? How many wars have been won from the air? Not one. He does not say so but Cordesman surly knows that. A massive escalation of the bombing campaign now would clearly lead to a massive ground war.

It would of course also be far beyond the UN resolution and illegal. The principles of the Law of Armed Conflict are that use of force must be reasonable, necessary, proportionate and discriminate. Bombing Tripoli to prevent killing in Misurata is neither.

To the Sarkozy/Cameron/Obama lunacy of supporting one hardly definable party in a civil war Cordesman adds the lunacy of calling for another total and illegal war in Libya.

Posted by b on April 21, 2011 at 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

April 20, 2011

Mission Creep On Steroids

"The committee rejects foreign troops on the ground but we encourage the bombardment of Gaddafi's army," Ahmed El-Hasi, a spokesman for the February 17 opposition coalition, said in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Libyan rebels welcome air strikes, no ground troops, Mar 21


Rasmussen: The UN mandate does not authorise the use of forces on the ground. We are there to protect civilians against attack. We are there to implement a no-fly zone; we have no intention of putting troops on the ground.
Rasmussen says no NATO ground troops for Libya, Mar 28


Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted that Britain will not send ground forces into Libya but conceded the limits set by the UN resolution were making the campaign more difficult.

"What we've said is there is no question of an invasion or an occupation, this is not about Britain putting boots on the ground, this is not what we are about here," he told Sky News television.
Cameron insists no ground forces for Libya, Apr 18


"I remain absolutely opposed to a deployment of troops on the ground," Juppe told reporters, saying it would not be allowed under a United Nations Security Council resolution permitting the intervention in Libya.
France opposes idea of sending troops to Libya, Apr 19


Italy, however, remains opposed to sending ground troops, Frattini said, following talks with the leader of the Libyan rebels' transitional government, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe also said Tuesday he is "totally hostile" to deploying ground troops.
UK to send military advisers to help Libya rebels, Apr 19


France and Italy are joining Britain in sending military officers to Libya to help advise rebels on technical, logistical and organisational issues.
A French foreign ministry spokesperson said a small number of liaison officers would be sent out to Benghazi along with a special envoy, while Italy said it was ready to send around 10 officers - "the same number of military staff as Britain".

Ignazio La Russa, Italy's defence minister, said that stronger intervention under the UN resolution, which does not permit ground troops, may be needed in Libya.

William Hague, Britain's foreign minister, announced on Tuesday that it would be sending a team to Libya to help rebels with "military organisational structures, communications and logistics, including how best to distribute humanitarian aid and deliver medical assistance".
France and Italy to send Libya advisers , Apr 20

Rest assured. No matter what they say. There are already special forces troops on the ground preparing for an invasion of Libya.

Posted by b on April 20, 2011 at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

April 19, 2011

Open Thread - April 19

John Pilger: Barack Obama worked for a company which is a known CIA front: video - seems to be true - there is longer version of the Pilger 2009 talk the first video is cut from: Obama and Empire

Fits to a news(!) piece McClatchy had today: Obama ran against Bush, but now governs like him

AP writer vs. State Department spokesperson on human rights abuse on Bradley Manning: video

More Black Men Now in Prison System Than Were Enslaved

Please add your views and news.

Posted by b on April 19, 2011 at 01:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (49)

April 18, 2011

Cohen: "High Point Of Diplomacy Is Waging War"

Standing with the majority of the world inhabitants and with once principals and laws despite strong diplomatic pressure to do otherwise is now called being "woobly"?

Roger Cohen thinks so:

Adenauer and de Gaulle must be turning in their graves. Here was Germany standing wobbly with Brazil, Russia, India and China — and against its closest allies, France and the United States — in the U.N. vote on Libyan military action. And here was France providing America’s most vigorous NATO support.

To me it looked more like the U.S. supporting Sarkozy's personal ambitions but what do I know.

I also thought that diplomacy in a crisis is the art to achieve ones nations interests without the costs and sorrow of war. That to me is "a high point of diplomacy". But according to Cohen a high point of diplomacy is waging a war of aggression, killing people, instead of helping to achieve a peaceful outcome:

We stand at a high point in French postwar diplomacy and a nadir in German. There were strong arguments on either side of a Libyan intervention, but with a massacre looming in Benghazi, Germany had to stand with its allies. Angela Merkel has proved herself more a maneuverer than a leader. Germany often conveys the sense that it now resents the agents of its postwar rehabilitation — the European Union and NATO.

Waging a totally unnecessary war of aggression because of an assumed massacre, which was very unlikely to take place, is crime. France attacking Libya while its interest are less migration from North Africa, free flow of energy resources and fewer radical Islamists is worse. It is a blunder of Napolean proportion.

(Daniel Larison's has a longer recommandable take of the Cohen piece.)

Posted by b on April 18, 2011 at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (35)

April 17, 2011

The Counter-revolution Is Not A Saudi One

The Leverett's have a new piece up on THE ARAB SPRING AND THE SAUDI COUNTER-REVOLUTION.

I disagree with it. The counter-revolution is not a sole Saudi project. While the Saudis princes are miffed about Obama and his, in their opinion, too early call for Mubarak to go, their mere existence depends too much on U.S. goodwill to act independently. The counter-revolution is a joint U.S.-Saudi project with a major U.S. motive of keeping the Middle East secure for Israel. Genuine democracy in any country there would endanger Israel's existence.

The Saudis were allowed to invade Bahrain and to suppress the Shia majority there without any critical word from Washington. As a thank you Obama got an Arab League vote that allowed him to attack Libya, practice regime change there by installing a bunch of dependable natives and to then steal its oil.

Both parties agree that Saleh in Yemen has to go as he has been incompetent to suppress the U.S. concern in Yemen, the alleged Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, and the Saudi concern, the Houthi tribes with their Zaidi Shia believe.

The Saudis are financing the gangs in Syria who try to take down the Syrian regime. Jordon and Israel seem to be involved in those efforts. If Assad falls (I do not think that he will) Hariri can be reinstalled in Lebanon as the Saudi tool he always was.

Egypt is still a military dictatorship. If some sort of meaningful elections will be allowed to happen there, then only if it is ensured that all possibly winning candidates are bought by either Riyadh, Washington or both. The U.S. already offered $150 million for that project.

A part of the Saudi-U.S. deal that is not yet fully visible is a new agreement about Afghanistan. Prince Bandar was recently in Pakistan and asked the Pakistani to keep a division of troops ready for the eventual use in Saudi Arabia. The Pakistanis agreed to that but had a price.

Then suddenly all the top people of Pakistan visited Kabul and astonishingly agreed with Karzai about the "reintegration" of Taliban. Pat Lang thinks that as part of some deal south Afghanistan will be handed to the Taliban when, in the next few month, the U.S. starts to reduce troops from there. This deal was certainly not made without U.S. involvement.

The revolutionary wave was stopped for now. Further revolts will get suppressed or, where convenient, channeled into directions the U.S. and Saudis can agree upon. This counter-revolution scheme may be successful for a while. I doubt though that it will be able to hold as a permanent solution.

Posted by b on April 17, 2011 at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

April 16, 2011

The Three Stooges Go To War

The glorious three imperialist stooges who are currently bombing Libya, Cameron, Obama and Sarkozy, produced an Orwellian op-ed on what they say is Libya’s Pathway to Peace. In it they widen the mission they stupidly imposed on themselves.

Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Qaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power. [...] It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government.

Of course Gaddafi has never "tried to massacre his own people." He indeed offered amnesty to those rebels who would put down their arms.

But the three stooges have decided that they will continue the war until Gaddafi is gone. They do not have a UN mandate for that which at least the French defense minister thinks is needed:

"Beyond resolution 1973, certainly it didn't mention the future of Gaddafi but I think that three major countries saying the same thing is important to the United Nations and perhaps one day the Security Council will adopt a resolution."

No, it will not. And pitchforks will not remove Gaddafi. Without an illegal invasions and a huge amount of ground troops the day Gaddafi is gone may be years away.

By setting a new condition for the war to end, the removal of Gaddafi whom the three who also threaten to put in front of a court, they have given Gaddafi more motivation to continue the fight. They have also given the rebels motivation to not agree to any ceasefire. They prolonged the war.

But a flight hour of the British Typhoon costs $150,000. A Britain already under austerity can not sustain a years long air campaign. Britain and France are also already running out of precision ammunition which they need for well target strikes. Both facts increases the pressure for a fast invasion.

Just delivering arms to the rebels and not enforcing the UN's arms embargo will not be enough. Some trainers on the ground will not be enough either. There are many, many Libyans Gaddafi can count on to fight for him.

Without a UN resolution the three stooges will have to come up with some excuses to send in ground forces. Today's "Gaddafi uses cluster ammunition" story, which would not even be illegal, may be a try for that. Notice how the reporter didn't observe but only assumes that the mortar rounds used were fired by Gaddafi troops. They might well have been fired by the rebels. And relying even partially on Human Rights Watch with regard to cluster ammunition is a sad joke.

But I do expect more such stories. Like "confirmed" rumors of Gaddafi using gas, a "weapon of mass destruction", on the rebels or some other stupid lie. The three set themselves up for a ground war. Now they will have to find a reason for it.

Posted by b on April 16, 2011 at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

April 15, 2011

Fukushima Update - April 15

The aftershock quake on April 7 did, unlike earlier reports, some damage to the nuclear plants. The Daiichi trouble reactors were without "feed and bleed" cooling for some 50 minutes after external electricity lines failed. Cooling returned and new efforts were made to provide emergency generators and to position these out of reach of possible further Tsunamis.

A bigger immediate problem occurred at the reactors in Higashidori owned by the Tohoku Electric Power Company (not TEPCO). All its external electricity lines failed. Two of the three emergency diesel generators at the plant were dissembled for inspection and the one and only remaining third emergency generator started but soon developed an oil leak. Fortunately one external power line could be restored before the generator failed completely and the reactors and spent fuel pools were saved.

That incident showed a deplorable disregard for security. How can two of three emergency generators be disassembled while large aftershock quakes are expected and warned about?

The status at the Daiichi plant is largely unchanged since last week. The no 1 to 3 reactor cores are at least partially melted and they plus the no 1 to 4 spent fuel pools need continuous cooling to prevent more damaging reactions. Measurement of the plants parameters and the reporting of these by TEPCO is still unreliable.

The current cooling does not happen in a closed loop. Water is fed into the reactor pressure vessels and the pools to just bleed of from there as steam and as leakage.

While TEPCO is saying little about what it is doing at Daiichi it seems that their plan is to continue this "feed and bleed" cooling for the several month the nuclear fuel will need to cool below boiling temperature.

I believe that this is not sustainable. So far more than 60,000 tons of water were fed into the complex, got highly radiated and flowed out uncontrolled through various leaks. The turbine buildings with needed equipment are flooded. Some highly radiated water did flow into the sea. The measures to stop leaking to the sea are unconvincing. Groundwater radiation at the site has increased tenfold which suggests other additional leaks.

Meanwhile the radiated water is preventing access to the equipment that would be needed to restore the regular closed cooling loops. To install new improvised cooling loops one would need access to areas with very high radiation.

Feeding, contaminating and leaking additional hundreds of tons of water per day over several month is not a viable plan. TEPCO urgently needs to come up with a different cooling strategy. I stand by my suggestion to push a slurry of sand/boron/lead into the reactors which eventually will dry and form a solid mass preventing further leakage. Cooling would then take place through convection just like in Chernobyl.

While this would certainly make future disassembling more difficult, it would also prevent further leakage and radiation releases.

Additional resources:
All Things Nuclear - blog by the Union of Concerned Scientists
Atomic power review - blog
Arms Control Wonk - blog
Brave New Climate - pro nuclear blog
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
NISA Japan's Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Tepco press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV - Live stream
Status reports in German for the German Federal Government by the GfR

Posted by b on April 15, 2011 at 04:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (38)

April 14, 2011

Ikea Standards Of Living

A standard IKEA Billy bookcase (80cm wide, 202cm high, white) costs $59.99 in the United States. The same bookcase sells in Germany for €38.00, that's $52.82.

The IKEA bookcase factory in Danville, Virginia pays its workers $8 per hour and has rather horrible anti-union worker policies. The IKEA bookcase factory in Sweden pays $19 an hour which come with quite likable union controlled worker policies.

A spokesperson of the IKEA subsidiary Swedwood offers this explanation:

"That is related to the standard of living and general conditions in the different countries"

That statement is correct. With lower wages and higher prices the median U.S. standard of living is now below the western European one. One wonders if/when this will get acknowledged.

Posted by b on April 14, 2011 at 02:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

April 12, 2011

The Coming Invasion of Libya

It seems that a decision has been made to invade Libya. It possibly was the plan all along. The troops to do so are getting lined up as I write and, even more important, the propaganda case for "humanitarian intervention" is getting build.

The plan is to attack Gaddafi's troops in Misurata and thereby cut Libya and the main coastal road in half. Gaddafi will probably be allowed to keep the western part with the capitol Tripoli but he will have to give up all of the eastern parts including the important oil cities Brega and Ras Lanuf. Currently Gaddafi loyals hold these cities but with the supply route cut by an invasion force they would have to surrender soon.

The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan went on "surge" deployment at the end of March from Norfolk. It is likely to be accompanied by the usual cruiser, a submarine and a support ship. The ship carries a marine detachment of some 1900 troops. The British amphibious assault ship HMS Albion left Plymouth on April 7 heading to the Mediterranean along with the frigate HMS Sutherland, soldiers from 40 Commando Royal Marines and a supply ship. The British marines often work together with the Dutch marines. Since 1973 there is a UK/NL Landing Forces within NATO. So I wonder where the Hr.Ms. Johan de Witt and its marine battalion currently is. The French also have good assault capabilities and are likely to join in.

Together those troops make up more than a full mechanized brigade with all the support they could ever need. Having air superiority that is enough to handle any force Gaddafi could put up should he suddenly behave dumb and decide to fight them in the open.

Unlike Gaddafi the rebels rejected the ceasefire the African Union was negotiating. A British and a U.S. envoy were standing next to the rebel leaders when that announcement was made.

The propaganda case gets build around the city of Misurata, which is still partly held by rebels under assault from Gaddafi loyalists. Human Rights Watch, always on the right side, is whining:

Gaddafi loyalists have also targeted a medical clinic in the besieged town, with even women, children and the elderly being murdered.
HRW quoted Dr. Muhammad el-Fortia, who is employed at Misrata Hospital, who stated that 257 people have been killed and 949 wounded and hospitalized since February 19 in the city. The wounded included 22 women and eight children.

The numbers actually show the opposite of what HRW wants to imply in the first sentences. If only 3% of the wounded are women and children it is certain that there are no intentional attacks on civilians. Out of 1.400 killed in Israel's 2008 war on Gaza at least 300, 20%, were children. That is was indiscriminate killing and attacks on clinics result in. Gaddafi's forces seem to be far more disciplined and are obviously fighting mostly male rebels.

France and Britain claim that NATO is "not doing enough". Well, NATO is doing what the UNSC resolution allows and even a bit more than that. But these insults are just to build pressure on other NATO countries.

The European Union is pressing the United Nations to allow an EUFOR Libya military support mission for "humanitarian aid" to Misurata. So far the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affair rejected such a mission saying there is no need for it.

That is certainly right. Three days ago a Red Cross ship docked in Misurata with medical supplies and earlier a Turkish ship evacuated hundreds of wounded. This was done without military escorts and without problems.

But with some more NGO "reports" and alarming anonymous phone calls to Aljazeerah, Gaddafi's assault on rebels will be propagandized into being an all out war against the population. The UN will get pressed to allow intervention and the first few soldiers will be put on the ground to protect a "humanitarian mission".

Those soldiers will be shot at immediately, it will not matter by whom, and that will require a "rescue mission" which then comes from the amphibious assault ships and their marines battalions. Misurata will get occupied and the coastal road cut. With the help from the CIA and various special operation forces the rebels will then renew their attacks from the eastern city Benghazi towards Brega and Ras Lanuf. With Gaddafi loyals there cut off from resupply the rebels chances to take those cities will be easier than in their first failed attempts.

After that the next step can be taken. The institution of a "western" occupying force under a different label.

Posted by b on April 12, 2011 at 12:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (78)

April 11, 2011

Military Intelligence Is An Oxymoron

The Afghans unfolded what looked like blankets and kneeled. "They're praying. They are praying," said the Predator's camera operator, seated near the pilot.

By now, the Predator crew was sure that the men were Taliban. "This is definitely it, this is their force," the cameraman said. "Praying? I mean, seriously, that's what they do."
Anatomy of an Afghan war tragedy - LA Times

Posted by b on April 11, 2011 at 02:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

April 10, 2011

Hail The Icelanders

There was once a bank, Icesave, which was formally established in Iceland but did most of its business through websites in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. It promised savers to pay higher interests than other banks.

Then came the crash and bank broke down. The savers money was gone. The governments of Britain and the Netherlands were fast to promise their national Iceland saver a full return of their money. They expected the government of Iceland to pay that money back to them even before they bother to ask it. The UK used anti-terrorism rules to size the bank's assets.

The government of Iceland negotiated a deal with the other governments, essentially promising that Iceland's taxpayers would pay whatever they asked for, and pressed the parliament to agree to it. It did but the president of Iceland vetoed the law. It was put to a referendum and the people of Iceland rejected it.

A second round of negotiation happened but today the results were again voted down by the people:

Many Icelanders feel they should not have to pay for the mistakes of their banking elite, who made deals around the world during a decade of boom before the credit crunch struck.

Indeed. Many people elsewhere, likely high majorities, feel just the same. I hail the Icelanders for setting this example of sound thinking and peoples will. Let's hope that other people will learn from this.

Posted by b on April 10, 2011 at 09:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

April 09, 2011

Some Links And Open Thread

The Goldstone Chronicles - Roger Cohen, NYT

Six years ago I expected calls in the U.S. to Free Baluchistan. I was a bit early on that, but now Selig S. Harrison fulfilled my prediction even under the same title: Free Baluchistan.

Howard Dean endorses the Islamic-Marxist terror cult MEK

"Ashraf is part of a government-in-exile which is headed by Madame Maryam Rajavi. We should recognise the government-in-exile headed by Madame Rajavi," said Howard Dean, the former Democratic presidential candidate. "It is an outrage that the MEK remains on the terrorist list in the US. There is no legitimacy in this."

How much did they pay him?

One more reason not to travel to the U.S.: U.S. can conduct offsite searches of computers seized at borders, court rules - Computerworld

A long drought, a tornado and land erosion causing a sandstorm which then leads to a deadly 80 cars highway pile up. One probably would not expect such news from this country: Sandstorm kills eight in pile-up - Guardian

Posted by b on April 9, 2011 at 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (44)

The Extortion Of Iraq

The consigliere was send out to deliver first a threat

Gates: Iraq will face problems if U.S. troops withdraw

"They will not be able to do the kind of job in intelligence fusion. They won't be able to protect their own airspace. They will have problems with logistics and maintenance."

then an offer

Gates: Some US troops may stay if Iraq wants

and making clear that it can not be refused

Gates Presses Iraq to Decide on Extension of U.S. Presence

But the guy in charge of pizza joint says "No!"

Sadr calls for an end to 'US occupation'

Al Jazeera correspondent Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said that this time Sadr had not only warned US troops but also the contractors.

What will the mafia Don do next?

Posted by b on April 9, 2011 at 11:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

April 08, 2011

Fukushima Update April 8

First the good news. Yesterdays 7.4 quake appears to have not created any serious damage at any other nuclear plant though some had to go to emergency power supply because of loss of external power. It is unknown if additional damage occurred at the Daiichi plant.

The Japanese regulator NISA admitted to the possibility that the molten core of reactor no 2 leaked from the reactor pressure vessel into the primary containment. Due to some earlier damage that containment has leaks to the environment.

Speaking to the NYT U.S. sources have several even more alarming suspicions of further damage at the other reactors:

[S]ome of the radiation readings at Reactors Nos. 1 and 3 over the last week were nearly as high as or higher than the 3,300 rems per hour that the commission said it was trying to explain, so it would appear that the speculation would apply to them as well. At No. 2, extremely radioactive material continues to ooze out of the reactor pressure vessel, and the leak is likely to widen with time, a western nuclear executive asserted.
Flashes of extremely intense radioactivity have become a serious problem, he said. Tokyo Electric’s difficulties in providing accurate information on radiation are not a result of software problems, as some Japanese officials have suggested, but stem from damage to measurement instruments caused by radiation, the executive said.

Broken pieces of fuel rods have been found outside of Reactor No. 2, and are now being covered with bulldozers, he said. The pieces may be from rods in the spent-fuel pools that were flung out by hydrogen explosions.

The above includes several alarming points I have not seen reported so far:

  • 3,300 REM/hour are 33 Sievert/hour. Anything above 10 Sievert means immediate death for those exposed to it. It is the first time I see such a high estimate.
  • Nuclear fuel being exposed in the surrounding of the plant is also new.
  • While we have feared that some continued spontaneous fission might occur in pockets of the molten cores the "flashes of extremely intense radioactivity" appear to confirm such reactions.
  • It seems that the Japanese have limited all their equipment to just measure up to 1 Sievert. Several readings they had were reported as "above 1,000 milliSievert" which in reality can be anything higher. The German nuclear emergency team has instruments that can measure up to 200,000 Gray (~Sievert) per hour plus the robots needed to use them. Why ain't these things in Japan?

The information from Japan is still scarce. The regulator NISA has as of now no updates for yesterday or today. The industry site JAIF has some newer information but that is only rudimentary. The reactor owner TEPCO does not put out more information either. All this seems to be inconsistent with the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident which requires analyzable data to be made available. The Japanese government is blaming foreign news media of exaggerating the issue and wants it embassies to correct them. It may be that some media are exaggerating. But the best way to fight misinformation is to provide timely and complete information. That has not been done so far.

Nitrogen has been pumped into the primary containment vessel (PCV, drywell) to prevent a possible hydrogen explosion there. By that Tepco finally admitted the obvious. That somehow hydrogen is escaping from a leaky reactor pressure vessel into the PVC.

The level of highly radioactive water in a pipe trench has increased by five centimeter and is now less then one meter from overflow. This after an obvious leak to the ocean was stopped. It is likely that there more leaks to sea though.

I find it difficult to believe that a closed water cooling cycle can be reestablished for the three reactors. But continuing the current "feed and bleed" procedure will increase the release of highly radioactive water to the environment. Other means of "cooling" like simply covering the cores with sand/boron/lead, will have to be introduced.

Toshiba and its subsidiary Westinghouse Electric are planing to dismantle the ruined reactors. They envision big bags of greenbacks flowing towards them. Forgetaboutit. These reactors will likely get entombed, not dismantled.

Additional resources:
All Things Nuclear - blog by the Union of Concerned Scientists
Atomic power review - blog
Arms Control Wonk - blog
Brave New Climate - pro nuclear blog
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Digital Globe Sat Pictures
NISA Japan's Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Tepco press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV - Live stream
Status reports in German for the German Federal Government by the GfR


Posted by b on April 8, 2011 at 04:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (58)

April 07, 2011

Prolonging The Surge In Afghanistan

The surge in Afghanistan is coming to an end without any decisive results. The military and its allies will, as usual, fight any reduction of any military effort and will try to keep the troop numbers up. An active campaign in Afghanistan means more money and faster promotions.

That is why I am very suspicious about the timing and content of this WSJ piece about new Al Qaeda bogeyman "training camps" in eastern Afghanistan:

"The raid gave us insight that al Qaeda was trying to reestablish a base in Afghanistan and conduct some training of operatives, suicide attackers," the senior U.S. military officer said. "They found a safe haven in Afghanistan."

Well, senior U.S. military officer, what have you been doing the last ten years in Afghanistan? If 150,000 soldiers haven't done their basic task in Afghanistan, denying Al Qaida a safe haven there, maybe we should try something different?

But it is not the purpose of the article to question the ever expending and useless military strategy. The purpose of the scaremongering comes with the last graph:

"We do not have an intelligence problem. We have a capacity problem. We generally know the places they are, how they are operating," said the senior U.S. military official, speaking of al Qaeda. The problem "is our ability to get there and do something."

All together now: "We need more troops in Afghanistan."

As for the quality of the intelligence: If that is really no problem, then the only explanation for these raids on ex-Taliban and members of the High Peace Council is a purposeful sabotaging effort to any talks with the Taliban:

International and Afghan security forces are setting back the embryonic peace process by raiding the homes of former Taliban officials instrumental in promoting talks with insurgents, according to diplomats and leaders of the former hardline regime.

At a time when the US has called for a "diplomatic surge" to solve the conflict, the most recent target of the greatly expanded night raids programme, which employs electronic eavesdropping and special forces units on a major scale, was Mullah Zaeef, former Taliban ambassador to Islamabad and a proponent of peace talks. He is regarded as sufficiently important by the international community that last year an international travel ban on him was lifted, enabling him to travel to London.

Just over three weeks ago a mixed force of foreign troops and agents from Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security attempted to enter his house late at night. Zaeef was not present, but there was an armed standoff between the raiding party and his guards, who also work for the directorate.

We know that General Petraeus does not really want any talks with the Taliban until he has squeezed them enough to make talks unnecessary. Of course all the squeezing done so far has obviously not worked. But his only recipe is doing more of the same and again more of the same.

Time for Petraeus to go and indeed Obama considers to sideline him by making him the next CIA chief. They civil spies will likely hate that move. They do want to be under military control and will do their very best to take him down as fast as possible. Something that should have been done years ago.

Posted by b on April 7, 2011 at 01:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Rebel Legitimacy And Other Points on Libya

What is providing legitimacy to a rebel movement like the one in Libya? The Wall Street Journal explains:

The opposition in eastern Libya took further steps toward establishing its legitimacy Wednesday, meeting with a U.S. envoy and loading its first shipment of oil for export since the uprising began.

So legitimacy is the easy part. At least when one speaks English and has some cheap oil to give away. The Brits want Blackwater/Xe or some other mercenary outlet to train the rebels which I understand means to do "training on the job", i.e. to fight their fight. I am sure that will also add to the rebels legitimacy. As Britain is broke, the Saudis are supposed to cough up the money for that. Getting support from Saudi money also adds to legitimacy?

The Libyan head of security Moussa Koussa who fled to London is said to be an MI6 double agent. That might well be the reason why restrictions on his bank accounts were immediately removed. Expect more propaganda talk about such false defections.

When I wrote How The War On Libya Will Continue, predicting their defeat, the rebels controlled the oil hubs Ras Lanuf and Brega. They soon lost both and their attempts to recapture them failed.

Attempts by the rebels to send resupplies to Misurata in the west also failed. Their ships were stopped by a Turkish patrol boat. The UN resolutions says "no additional weapons" and Turkey is serious in enforcing that part.

Gaddafi forces are still "cleaning up" in Misurata. In a few days that will be done and he will start new offense efforts in the east. But his forces must now "hug the enemy" to discourage further air attacks. Thereby it is unlikely that he will try a frontal assault on Ajdabia and later Benghazi. Instead Gaddafi will likely have some forces infiltrate into those cities, from the sea, the south and the east, and then roll the rebels up from their back.

Some NATO buffoon said that Gaddafi forces are "hiding behind civilians". That is a sure sign that more attacks on those civilians are now likely to happen. It is always the same sorry excuse. Hitler had to bomb London because Winston Churchill was "hiding behind civilians" there. Then again NATO is also bombing the rebels. Maybe they make up their mind.

The situation is now in a temporary stalemate and when the scale slides further towards Gaddafi forces, as it will, the attackers are in a bind. Protect civilians or bomb the heck out of them because they happen to be on the wrong side of the front? With the UNSC resolution and the attack Britain, France and the U.S. put themselves into an idiotic position. This was foreseeable. One might want ask what is their plan B but that would be wrong question. What was their plan A in the first place?

Posted by b on April 7, 2011 at 08:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (33)

April 05, 2011

Messing Up Ivory Coast

On the recent massacres of 800 or so civilians in Ivory Coast, and the "western" humanitarian intervention support for the culprit which will have huge regional consequences, I'll defer to Craig Murray. He certainly knows more about the issue than I do.

This is a tragedy for Africa, because it devalues democracy. Ouattara, with a strong personal push from Sarkozy, secured international recognition for his election victory. In truth it was an extremely dubious election, with no freedom for Ouattara supporters in the South or for Gbagbo supporters in the North in a poisonous contest. It would have been better for everyone if Gbagbo had accepted that he lost and left quietly. But the truth is that both sides’ claims of victory are fallacious. This was nothing like a free and fair election. Somehow the UN and the international community finds itself in the position of imposing by force, fighting alongside the perpetrators of massacre, the “democratically elected” victor. This denigrates democracy.

I hope b real, who keeps a very needed eye on Africa, will let us know his impression.

To me this seems to be, after Libya, the second act of a new US, France and their UN puppets alliance. What will be the next one? My bet is another attempt on Iran. The rhetoric from both sides point to that. Rising oil priced may hinder that though.

Posted by b on April 5, 2011 at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (37)

April 04, 2011

U.S. ME Revolts Response All About Iran?

The NYT propagandist David Sanger wrote a weekend piece about The Larger Game in the Middle East: Iran:

The Obama team holds no illusions about Colonel Qaddafi’s long-term importance. Libya is a sideshow. Containing Iran’s power remains their central goal in the Middle East. Every decision — from Libya to Yemen to Bahrain to Syria — is being examined under the prism of how it will affect what was, until mid-January, the dominating calculus in the Obama administration’s regional strategy: how to slow Iran’s nuclear progress, and speed the arrival of opportunities for a successful uprising there.

The second part of the graph is easy to understand. It is always about Israel and thereby its perceived archenemy Iran.

But if that is so why take on Gaddafi at all? The Iranians do not like him very much. They supported intervention against him:

The Iranian Foreign Ministry official expressed worries about the ongoing violence in Libya and called on the international community to move to put an end on the use of force against the civilian protesters.

So if it is all about fighting Iran, why start a war on Libya?

The Sanger piece mentions a possible demonstration effect of weapon capabilities. But showing off U.S. capabilities in warfare will not impress Iran. Those are well known and, besides that, Iran's defense relies on asymmetric warfare where those capabilities have little use.

This leaves me with two possible interpretations.

First: There is a different demonstration effect in the Libya operation. The instrumentalization of the "responsibility to protect" (R2P) to intervene in a civil war situation. Inciting some violent demonstrations on the ground and published videos of the repressing government response would usually not be enough to allow a UN intervention. But a UN intervention under the R2P dogma was exactly what was achieved under those circumstances against Libya. Libya might thereby set a reference case for an eventual R2P "intervention" war on Iran.

Fitting to this are signs that the U.S. is no longer pushing about Iran's civil nuclear program and is instead using "human rights" as a new international pressure point against it. Clinton recently released another statement on human rights in Iran. She pressed the UN Human Rights Council to name a special rapporteur for human rights in Iran which it eventually did. (No such rapporteur seems to exists for any of the much more brutal U.S. sponsored kingdoms in the Persian Gulf). Could this be part of a U.S. initiated international media campaign to emphasizes alleged human rights violation in Iran to later push for an "R2P" UNSC resolution, citing the Libya model, to intervene in Iran?

The second interpretation is that the war on Libya is just a diversion for the international media. The real war is taking place in the Shia majority parts in west Persian Gulf, especially in Bahrain where the Saudis are helping to brutally suppress an uprising which, if it would win, could lead to a more Iran friendly government there. Writing in Asia Times Pepe Escobar points to such a deal.

Of course both these points could be part of Sanger's "Larger Game in the Middle East". Then again, there could be no plan at all and that "larger game" could be all just empty propaganda.

Posted by b on April 4, 2011 at 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

April 03, 2011

Fukushima No 1 Data Interpretation

My longtime political readers may excuse that this will be a quite technical post. I'll get back to Iran etc tomorrow.

Someone in Denmark diligently collected the raw pressures and temperature readings of the Fukushima reactors which were published by various sources.

Being concerned about the state of reactor 1 I pushed the number 1 readings into an graph.

Reading that graph I come up with some interpretations that may well be of general interest.

  • I find it likely that there was some direct release from the reactor vessel of no 1 to the atmosphere.
  • I also believe that reactor 1 had a complete core meltdown.
  • Additionally there is a pressure anomaly which escapes my grasp but needs some urgent attention.


What concerns me most is the red line creeping up after diverging from the blue line. More on that below.

For orientation let's look at the schematics of the MK I type reactor 1 building.

The parts we need for reading the graph are the reactor vessel or core (RP, blue and red in the data) which contains the nuclear fuel. We also need the bulb steel and concrete shell called the dry well (D/W, green in the data) which is the primary containment structure. Connected to the dry well is the wet well (S/C, only in the raw data), a steel torus which usually holds 4 million gallons of water and acts as a suppression and condensation chamber. Steam can be relieved from the reactor vessel into the dry well. Several lines move steam from the dry well below the water of the wet well where it supposedly condensates.

The above graph does not show the spotty data from the first days of the event.

To recap: After the earthquake/tsumai incident on March 11 the few still available pressure readings showed some 0.85 Megapascal in the reactor vessel as well as in the dry well (1.0 Megapascal = 10 bar ~ 145 psi; regular air pressure is 0.1 MPa).

The steam pressure in the dry well relieved itself likely by slightly lifting the metal dry well lid bolted onto the top and gas crept into the secondary containment which is essentially the outer building structure. Mixed with the oxygen in the secondary containment hydrogen, which had developed in the uncooled core, exploded on March 12 and destroyed the top level of the secondary containment of the number 1 reactor building.

On March 13 the pressure in the reactor vessel was back at 0.480 MPa trending down. Pressures in the dry well and the wet well were at 0.600 MPa, above the reactor vessel pressure, but also trending down.

Interpretation: The pressure in the reactor vessel being lower than in the dry well can, in my view, only be explained by a willful direct venting from the reactor vessel into the atmosphere. If that has indeed happened such venting would explain some of the so far unexplained high radiation spikes (pdf) around the plant.

There is not much reasonable data between March 14 and 18 where the graph start.

Since March 18 we have two pressure readings from the reactor vessel (RP(A) [blue] and RP(B) [red]) with A being at this point at a relaxed 0.295 MPa and B being slightly below at 0.252 MPa. The dry well (D/W [green]) is at 0.180 MPa. Compared with the pressures a few days before this date these are reasonable low values.

But since the 18th we also have two temperature readings and those are quite too high. The feedwater nozzle, which in the upper part of the reactor is used to push water into the pressure vessel, has a temperature (FNT [orange, dotted]) of about 400 degree Celsius (~750 degree Fahrenheit). The bottom head temperature in the reactor vessel (BHT [brown, dotted]) is in the same range. These temperature values were higher than the normal operation temperature (285 degree Celsius) and needed to be brought down.

Some water was fed into the reactor vessel through a fire extinguish line, but this was not enough to achieve a change. More cooling was needed. The high temperature state continued until March 22nd.

On the 22nd/23rd the graph shows a sudden jump in the pressure values and a significant downtrend in the temperature levels. The Japanese regulator timeline report says:

The amount of injected water to the Reactor [1] Core was increased by utilizing the Feedwater Line in addition to the Fire Extinguish Line. (2m3/h→18m3/h).(02:33 March 23rd) Later, it was switched to the Feedwater Line only (around 11m3/h). (09:00 March 23rd)

The switching on of the additional feed as well as the following slight reduction with the fire line off can be seen in graph. Both reactor vessel pressure measurements went up to the 0.45-0.5 MPa range while the dry well pressure went up to the 0.35 MPa range and both temperature measurements dropped from the 400 degree Celsius level into the 200 degree Celsius range.

There is one very interesting point here. While the feedwater nozzle temperature and the bottom head temperature so far had essentially the same high reading they start to divert on March 23/24. The feedwater nozzle reading stays about 70 Celsius degrees above the bottom head temperature.

Interpretation: Before the additional water feed the reactor vessel did not hold any water but only very hot steam. The temperature at the bottom was the same as near the top. After more water was pushed into it the reactor the vessel bottom slowly filled up with fluid water (at 0.5 MPa the boiling point of water is some 150 degree Celsius). The temperatures between bottom and top started to divert. But as the reactor vessel, over several days, was only filled with steam and without any water covering the fuel rods at least partly it is likely that the fuel rod meltdown at number 1 was 100%, well beyond the 70% the reactor operator TEPCO estimated and announced on March 15.

On midday of the 26th the graph shows a new phenomenon. While up to then the pressure differences between RP(A) and RP(B), both in the reactor vessel, where neglectable they suddenly start to diverge. RP(A) (blue), in lockstep with the lower dry well pressure D/W (green), stays constant and is, after March 30, now coming down. But since the 26th pressure at measuring point RP(B) (red) is increasing and is now above 0.65 MPA entering possible dangerous territory. The bit of thermodynamics I learned says that pressure differences in a vessel should quickly equalize.

Interestingly a short while after this pressure divergence the temperature of the feedwater nozzle also further diverges from the temperature at the bottom head. While the difference between both was some 50 degree Celsius it quite suddenly increases to some 180 degree Celsius.

Interpretation: I do not yet have any interpretation for this phenomenon. How can there (except in a short millisecond explosion) be two different pressure readings within one vessel? How are those "pressure zones" related to the temperature zones and additional divergence of these as we can see in the graph? Please let me know.

The reactor vessel of number 1 has been "tortured" over the last three weeks. It is forty years old and over these years has been constantly radiated. It has lots of pipes welded to it. A level 9 earthquake shake went through it. It experienced extreme pressure and temperatures over several days. The seawater injections over the last weeks filled it up with an aggressive brine. Its core has melted. The vessel has been taken a beating over its design level in nearly all dimensions. If the increasing red line reading of RP(B) is correct the vessel may rupture from overpressure and release a lot of additional nasty stuff first into the drywell and then into the environment. This could make more parts of the land inhabitable.

Let us hope that the folks working on the issue have the understanding of and freedom to act on these issues.

(The exercise above was partly to also show that the fawning the NYT gave today to "simulations" and Secretary Chu as criticized here is unwarranted. Using the available date anybody with some reasonably broad background can come to the same, if not better founded conclusions.)

Some of the above factual statements may be wrong. Some of my conclusions from them may very well be wrong. If so, the comments are open to let me know.

Posted by b on April 3, 2011 at 04:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (54)

The "Sophisticated Art" Of Reading Press Releases

The New York Times does some public wanking about the capability of "western" laboratories to analyze the nuclear accident in Japan:

Thanks to the unfamiliar but sophisticated art of atomic forensics, experts around the world have been able to document the situation vividly. Over decades, they have become very good at illuminating the hidden workings of nuclear power plants from afar, turning scraps of information into detailed analysis.
Indeed, the detailed assessments of the Japanese reactors that Energy Secretary Steven Chu gave on Friday — when he told reporters that about 70 percent of the core of one reactor had been damaged, and that another reactor had undergone a 33 percent meltdown — came from forensic modeling.

Chu did not get that information from forensic knowledge. That sentence might be simply a fact checking error. But given the tone of the whole piece I'd rather call it a blatant propaganda lie: "Look how good we are!"

On March 15 the Kyoto News Agency reported:

An estimated 70 percent of the nuclear fuel rods have been damaged at the troubled No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant and 33 percent at the No. 2 reactor, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday.

The reactors' cores are believed to have partially melted with their cooling functions lost after Friday's magnitude 9.0 earthquake rocked Fukushima Prefecture and other areas in northeastern and eastern Japan.

There may be reasons to applaud the nuclear laboratories around the word or Secretary Chu for analyzing the incident in Japan. But Chu's simple repetition of a 18 days old official statement from the reactor owner TEPCO is not one of them. Nor is any of the other sensationalized statements about meltdown analysis in that article. Reading through the official reports from Japan and the resources below plus some basic understanding of reactor technology and science allowed anyone to come to the same conclusions.

All Things Nuclear - blog by the Union of Concerned Scientists
Atomic power review - blog
Arms Control Wonk - blog
Brave New Climate - pro nuclear blog
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Digital Globe Sat Pictures, Cryptome high res
AREVA powerpoint presentation on the incident (has some errors)
IAEA Updates
NISA Japan's Nuclear Regulator
Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (regular updates)
Japanese government press releases in English
Tepco press releases in English
Kyodo News Agency
Asahi Shimbun leading Japanese newspaper in English
NHK World TV - Live stream
Status reports in German for the German Federal Government by the GRS

Posted by b on April 3, 2011 at 02:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

April 02, 2011

Spot The Contradiction

Is the inherent contradiction in the paragraph of a WaPo piece intended or is just a display of the stupidity of the author?

Eight years after the American invasion put Iraq on a path to a more modern, democratic society, people here are increasingly resorting to the ancient process of tribal negotiations — called fasels, and conducted by tribal leaders or sheiks — to demand compensation for alleged injustices.

Posted by b on April 2, 2011 at 04:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)