Monday, December 29, 2008

Stupid Israelis, Putin's Dreams Dashing

Isn't it ironic, that right now Iraq seems to be one of the more stable countries in the Middle East... Cynically, Israel has chosen this time in the waning days of President Bush to attack Gaza. Daod Kuttab reports in the Washington Post that it also has reenergized Hamas as a legitimate political force, when its influence had been waning in Gaza, steadily declining in the past two years. Nobody was even buying the bobble-head dolls... Of course, Israel is trying to woo over the right wing in time for the next elections, so they don't appear soft on Palestinian determination.

" For different reasons, Hamas and Israel both gave up on the cease-fire, preferring instead to climb over corpses to reach their political goals. One side wants to resuscitate its public support by appearing to be a heroic resister, while the other, on the eve of elections, wants to show toughness to a public unhappy with the nuisance of the Qassam rockets.

The disproportionate and heavy-handed Israeli attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas. The movement has renewed its standing in the Arab world, secured international favor further afield and succeeded in scuttling indirect Israeli-Syrian talks and direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. It has also greatly embarrassed Israel's strongest Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan. "

So, either the situation will escalate, with Israeli troops going in and trying to figure out who is a Hamas member and who is a regular citizen, or it will die down. The tunnels that were used to smuggle components in to make the rockets sent over into Israel have been destroyed. Perhaps relations can be repaired and talks again going forward for a peace process, or maybe it will all devolve back into tribal hostilities and we won't have to worry about how many crooks are harbored in Pakistan; it will be just one big, lifeless crater glowing at night to rival the Northern Lights...

Vladimer Putin has been trying to revivify the glory that was Mother Russia, primarily by using the nation's two largest companies to buy up as much private gas and oil concerns as they could. When the prices of oil were rising it was a feasible idea, but now that they have fallen and a global recession has occurred, the largest oil company, Gazprom, is seeking a government bailout. Which is weird, because the government is running the company. Its stock prices have fallen 76% this year, and haven't stabilized yet. As reported in the New York Times: "During the boom times, Gazprom and the other Russian state energy company, Rosneft, became vehicles for carrying out creeping renationalization.

As oil prices rose, so did their stocks. But rather than investing sufficiently in drilling and exploration, Russia’s president at the time, Vladimir V. Putin, used them to pursue his agenda of regaining public control over the oil fields, and much of private industry beyond.

As a result, by the time the downturn came, they entered the credit crisis deeply in debt and with a backlog of capital investment needs. (Under Mr. Putin, now the prime minister, Gazprom and Rosneft are so tightly controlled by the Kremlin that the companies are not run by mere government appointees, but directly by government ministers who sit on their boards."

Russia is also threatening to shut off oil to the Ukraine by Thursday. And this last year it has been trying to contract with as many energy concerns in Africa and South America, competing with the Us and China. Another cause of global warming may be the heightened threats and rhetoric we are directing at each other...

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