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Wars, Foreign Policy & Civil Liberties Taboo at First-Ever Presidential Twitter Town Hall

12:43 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A first-ever presidential Twitter town hall with President Barack Obama kept questions from Twitter users focused to jobs and the economy, avoiding the many questions on the wars, foreign policy and civil liberties issues that have primarily been created because of legislation and policies deemed necessary to prosecute a “war on terrorism.”

The questions touched on: mistakes made during the recession, being realistic on job creation, rising cost of higher education, issuing an executive order to raise the debt ceiling, the possible creation of a startup visa program for immigrant entrepreneurs, promoting alternative energy especially in oil states like Louisiana and Texas, protecting collective bargaining rights and stalling the onslaught from state legislatures around the country, helping homeowners who just can’t sell their homes, jobs, growing small business, tax breaks for honorably discharged veterans, changing the tax system to address the deficit, using the free market to help homeowners, privatizing education, tax cuts, space exploration, welfare programs and, very briefly, defense contracting and the war on drugs.

One can make the argument that this was to be on jobs and the economy and not civil liberties or the wars or foreign policy. But, job creation and the economy is dependent on the wars and the costly foreign policy, which the Obama Administration continues. Also, there are economic questions that can be asked, which touch on civil liberties issues in America.
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Obama’s Latest Speech on Afghanistan: Bridging the Say/Do Gap to Finally End the War

6:56 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Those who read President Barack Obama’s speech will likely be reading to find hints of when the conflict might finally come to an end. Support for a pullout from Afghanistan is at an all-time high, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. But, there is little reason to put much stock in the fact that ten thousand troops will be leaving Afghanistan this summer. Withdrawing a number of troops around July of 2011 was always part of a plan, a way of deftly managing public opinion.

When Obama went ahead and added thirty thousand troops, he knew, as shown in Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars he had two years with the public. He understood the perils of escalating a war, as retired Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry,  retired Gen. James L. Jones and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute all offered a level of dissent against Admiral Mike Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. And, Obama allegedly told Vice President Joe Biden in private to oppose a big troop buildup but could not stand up to military brass. In the end, though, he was able to set a withdrawal timetable of ending the war by 2014.

Like any speech on war by US presidents these days, it began by re-opening the wounds of 9/11, by forcing all Americans to recall the fear or pain they experienced that day. It transitioned into a history of how America had gotten to this point—why America invaded Afghanistan, how it got “sidetracked” in Iraq (sorry for  your luck Iraqis) and why America committed to a surge in Afghanistan about a year and a half ago. It proceeded to outline the plans and goals for the next stage of the mission and then concluded with pure, pathological American exceptionalist fallacies.

A key difference between this speech and the surge speech is during the speech there weren’t any US State Embassy cables or war logs from WikiLeaks to reference and call “bullshit” when something was said with an err of confidence that seemed preposterous. Fast forward to June 2011, with plenty of information on US diplomacy and US military operations in Afghanistan, there is ample reason to doubt the assertions President Obama makes in his speech.

When Obama announced the surge, he committed the US to refocusing on al Qaeda, reversing the Taliban’s momentum and training Afghan security forces to defend their own country. According to Obama, the US is meeting these goals or objectives and so the country will be able to “recover” the surge and be back around the level of troops that were in Afghanistan when President George W. Bush left office.

One week ago, Jonathan Owen for The Independent reported, “Not a single Afghan police or army unit is capable of maintaining law and order in the war-torn country without the support of coalition forces.” Owen cited a US Department of Defense report on Afghanistan from February showing “out of more than 400 army and police units in Afghanistan” none are capable of operation without assistance from coalition forces. And, Owen also highlighted the fact that twenty-five billion US dollars have been used to train and equip Afghan forces thus far and Lieutenant-General William B. Caldwell does not think the “training mission” can be complete until 2017.

A cable from December 2009 titled, “Karzai Looks Forward,” features this exchange on the Afghan army and police:

Turning his attention to the Afghan National Army (ANA), Karzai announced that the ANA leadership should lead simpler, more spartan lives. He criticized widespread reports of ANA generals driving expensive cars and NDS reports that only no officers had died in battles with insurgents, only ANA soldiers died (the latter account was disputed by Minister of Defense Wardak). Reflecting on ANA recruitment, Karzai asked why so few Afghans from the provinces of Zabul, Ghazni, Helmand, Herat, and Farah enlist in the ANA. He bemoaned the fact that only drug users join the Afghan National Police (ANP) in Khandahar and Helmand Provinces. Upon hearing the latter, Minister of Interior Affairs Atmar interjected that a partially completed personnel asset inventory conducted in Khandahar and Helmand turned up the surprisingly good news that only 20 percent of ANP personnel were drug users. [emphasis added]

These days, what percentage of Afghan police are drug users or addicts? How is that impacting operations? More importantly, do private contractors like DynCorp leaders still “pimp little boys to stoned Afghan cops”?

A June 2009 cable shows the DynCorp leaders pimping Afghani children to the police. At bacha bazis or “boy-play” parties eight to fifteen-year-old boys are “made to put on make-up, tie bells to their feet and slip into scanty women’s clothing.” The boys dance seductively to older men. Their “services” are auctioned and men will sometimes purchase them outright. And, the State Department understands that bacha bazis are a “widespread, culturally accepted form of male rape.”

Purchasing services from a child is illegal under Sharia law and the civil code in Afghanistan. The party mentioned in the cable led to the arrest of two Afghan National Police. Are “dancing boys” still a problem for law enforcement in the country?

What about this story from the cables on Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd saying the situation “scares the hell out of me”? Or the fact that he found France and Germany’s contribution to fighting the Taliban to be “organizing folk dancing festivals” and the comment from Australian Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Ric Smith that the mission was like a “wobbly three-legged stool”?

Obama’s speech singled out the Afghan national police, but what about the unconventional forces the United States has been using? A November 2009 cable indicates the Afghan government and local communities were using “unconventional security forces. These “local and private bodies” were proliferating because of the lack of “public confidence in the police.”

Interior Minister Hanif Atmar had a plan to use a “traditional militia concept.”

Locals who are loyal to the government and register their existing arms could serve as police auxiliaries, receiving food and even some pay from MOI in return for helping the police. Atmar’s longest-serving advisor, Habib Wayand, explained that the Minister prefers to encourage small groups linked to local shuras, rather than large militias that might bite back or prove loyal to commanders with their own agendas.

Exactly, how are these militias impacting operations now? And, also, a prime proposal from Atmar in February 2010 involved sending twelve to fifteen thousand police to train in Jordan at a facility constructed for training Iraqi police. There is little indication this proposal has been accepted by US forces tasked with training Afghanis to keep their country “secure.” Atmar also reported a “need to train 50,000 per year to meet expansion targets and offset attrition” but the maximum training capacity was around 30,000 trainees.

Less than 100 al Qaeda are in Afghanistan. It seems true that the goal of refocusing on al Qaeda has been achieved but why did US forces ever have to “refocus” on al Qaeda? Was there ever a point when they weren’t going after al Qaeda?

The Afghan War Logs released by WikiLeaks almost one year ago revealed the Pakistan spy service was meeting directly with Taliban for “secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.” To what extent do these operations persist?

The released war logs also showed the US military covered up “a reported surface-to-air missile strike by the Taliban that shot down a Chinook helicopter over Helmand in 2007 and killed seven soldiers, including a British military photographer.” There may be political leaders affiliated with the Taliban who are willing to talk, but how does the US intend to halt the fighters who are committed to fighting US forces?

The questions are not raised because this author supports the war effort and wishes to see it continue. Doubts are made evident because President Obama appears to be certain that it will all work out by 2014. It seems quite clear that this speech is part of a ploy to con Americans into believing the mission is ending and will end as the timetable being discussed suggests yet it appears it could take another half decade to train forces or further sort out a political solution. In the meantime, if the US is being consistent, wouldn’t forces have to remain to prevent a vacuum from forming?

Furthermore, the conclusion of Obama’s speech shows that what is at stake for America, as for any war, is its credibility and reputation. Obama, whose weapon of choice in governance is often compromise, lays out two choices, in the same way he laid out two choices when working to pass health reform. The are not necessarily the only two choices America has but they are two choices, which Obama averages to get a solution that will make possible a balancing act between the military and political establishment and the citizens of the United States.

He presents one of the choices as isolationism or retreat. This means no longer being an “anchor for global security,” letting despots and terrorists flood the earth and create anarchy. The other choice he presents is overextension, struggling to confront every evil that can be found in the world. (Absurdly, he does not hint at the reality that the US already tries to go after all evil or at least exploits this as a pretext for many, many operations.)

Upon establishing these poles, he plants a stake in at what he deems “the center.” The solution is not necessarily right or wrong but “pragmatic.” The answer is not to deploy large armies when targeted operations can be used. When innocents are being slaughtered, the US can rally international action (e.g. Libya). Somehow, the final stages of Afghanistan are part of this “centered course.”

The disenthralled approach obfuscates the past and recasts the future. US-assassination squads operating with “kill-and-capture lists,” the use of drones, intelligence agents awash in data they don’t know what to do with, and the killing of civilians going unreported, all revealed in the Afghanistan War Logs, can continue as tools so long as they are employed properly. Brutal night raids, which have led Afghanis in villages to fear US forces more than the Taliban, become legitimized. The brutality of war cast as “pragmatism” suggests what is unfolding is part of a measured approach and whether those who get bombed at weddings care about “pragmatism” versus “realism or “idealism,” that does not matter.

The most fraudulent part is the mythological portrayal of America that Obama presents:

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power — it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab World. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

The sophistry of these words dares one to ask whether engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition, invoking state secrets to prevent transparency, denying habeas corpus to detainees in prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist), holding detainees in detention indefinitely, asserting the right to target and kill US civilians bypass due process or employing military commissions—“kangaroo courts”—is what nations that adhere to the rule of law and respect the rights of people do.

The portrait of America presented and its underhandedness obscures how America has typically been at war with those in the country who engage in acts of self-determination, who dissent against power.

Search warrants, grand jury subpoenas, indictments, trials, spying, infiltration, entrapment, raids, and severe limits on demonstrations with bystanders, protesters and journalists all subject to arrest at demonstrations are all omitted. Obama cannot sell America as a model country for freedom if that paragraph contains hints at abuses of the state or Executive.

Thus, the next stage of the Afghanistan war, officially launched by this speech, is benign compared to the pathological rot in the military and political establishment, which conditions someone to be able to stand before a world and utter such misrepresentations.

Gareth Porter, investigative journalist, says this morning on Democracy Now!, “There is an effort here to create a narrative that as he put it, the war is receding, the tide of war is receding. When in fact, nothing of this sort is happening…Clearly, the Taliban are carrying out counterattacks this year and will do so again next year. That is not going to come to an end.” And, about 70,000 US military forces along with thousands of contractors would remain in the country after 2012.

Thanks to transparency, technology and the courage of whistleblowers, citizens in this country can begin to bridge the gap between what leaders say and do in such a way that has never been possible before in this country’s history. Information released by outlets like WikiLeaks can be used to confront speeches like this one head on and work to bridge the say/do gap. It’s relentlessly working to bridge this gap that will force leaders into a corner that will eventually lead to deception being exposed and the war coming to an end.

Pakistan Papers: US Drones Violate Sovereignty, Fuel Anti-American Sentiment

10:07 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

ImageA new batch of US State Embassy cables released specifically dealing with the US relationship with Pakistan draw attention to a number of Pakistani political issues, the military aid the US has been giving Pakistan, the deployment of US troops in Pakistan and the growing conflict between India and Pakistan, which the US appears to be gaming to advance its own foreign policy.

The release is the product of a partnership between the Dawn Media Group and WikiLeaks that began in the last week of April of this year. Around 4,000 cables are to be released over the next few weeks.

There are numerous ways to begin to examine the cables. This post covers the use of drone technology in Pakistan.

Kayani Asks US to Loan Pakistan Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs)

The cable getting attention is 08ISLAMABAD609 sent out by Anne W. Patterson on February 11, 2008. It details a meeting between Pakistan General Ashfaq Kayani, Chief of Army Staff, and US CENTCOM Commander and Admiral William J. Fallon on January 22. During the meeting, the two discuss expanding military assistance and training along with improving cooperation in Afghanistan.

Kayani asks Fallon to assist in providing “continuous Predator coverage of the conflict area.” Fallon is unable to offer the “assets to support his request” but offers Joint Tactical Aircraft Controller (JTAC) support for Pakistani aircraft. Kayani does not find this offer politically acceptable.

Fallon offers JTAC training for Pakistani troops. A brief discussion on the complexities of “building a night-capable, air-to-ground capability in the Pakistan army” ends with Kayani conceding such a “big project” could not be undertaken. But, during the meeting, Kayani does emphasize the need for tactical SIGINT capability for Pakistan’s military aircraft. Though not interested in Predator drones, he would like to procure Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and asks if the US could “grant or loan them to Pakistan.”

In December 2009, just as US President Barack Obama delivered a speech on sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, US officials also began to commit to more use of drones in Pakistan. The New York Times’s Scott Shane covered this development reporting officials were “talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time—a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas.”

(Note, the controversy was not that covert military operations were being considered in a country where war powers had not been authorized with congressional approval. The issue was that an area outside of areas where strikes had been much more acceptable was being considered. The Timesalso uses the CIA as a cover for military actions like drone strikes. See the headline for this quote, “CIA to Expand Use of Drones in Pakistan.” But this isn’t covert. The US is committing military personnel to the country. This is obvious in the cables.)

Zardari Welcomes “Acquisition of Modern Technology”

A cable on a congressional delegation led by US Senator Patrick Leahy (09ISLAMABAD1123) reveals President Asif Ali Zardari in May of 2009 requested the US use drone technology so his forces could take out the militants. He “welcome the acquisition of modern technology” believing having drones would make it more difficult for media or anyone else to criticize the actions the Army might take to protect Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Another cable (08ISLAMABAD3677) focuses on the reaction in Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of what was believed to be the first such attack in the settled areas of the Northwest Frontier Province, outside of the tribal areas. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani sharply condemned the strike within “Pakistan proper,” which US diplomat Anne Patterson describes as a “watershed event.”

The strikes were “intolerable” to Gilani. In Pakistani Parliament. Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan criticized the Pakistan government’s “inability to stop alleged U.S. incursion and asked that the matter be taken to the United Nations.”

PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal cited the Bannu attack as evidence that the GOP must have a secret agreement with the US. Other parliamentarians claimed that they have seen drones hovering over Swat, and warned that future attacks could spread to Peshawar and Islamabad.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman also made an impassioned speech during the Assembly session against alleged U.S. action in Bannu calling it “U.S. aggression and violation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity.” Rehman’s party will hold a secret meeting to discuss their future actions in response to the continued drone strikes, according to contacts within the party. The Bannu attack is particularly significant for Fazlur because he represents the Bannu district.

Interestingly, “vehemently secular” Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Deputy Parliamentary Leader Haider Rizvi claimed he would not be able to handle the growing popular and political pressure from these attacks and declared the Pakistan people “had not made their peace with drone attacks in the tribal areas and a shift into mainland Pakistan was even more inflammatory.”

“Friendly countries are being asked to help Pakistan in convincing the US to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty,” said Chairman of the Joint Committee Raza Rabbani. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was “concerned” about the US attacks but didn’t intervene because he found it to be a “bilateral issue.”

Pakistani Prime Minister: “We Will Hit Targets Ourselves”

Gilani denies there is a secret government agreement between the US and Pakistan, which may be mostly true. Right after the election of Obama, one of the released cables (08ISLAMABAD3586) shows Gilani pressed the US government to “share all credible, actionable threat information.” He declared, “We will hit the targets ourselves,”

…Gilani added that drone strikes not only violated Pakistani sovereignty, but also fed anti-U.S. sentiment, making harder his own public case that the struggle against extremists was “Pakistan’s war.” Instead, there was popular pressure on elected officials like himself to forcefully respond to alleged U.S. border incursions, which were “an embarrassment” for the GOP. The “trust gap” should be filled with joint actions, he argued, and, while he might be criticized for such bilateral cooperation, he believed he could effectively convince the public that those targeted were responsible for Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and the killing of innocents at schools.

Months later, in June 2009 cable09ISLAMABAD1438, Gilani again expressed his frustration while meeting with National Security Advisor James Jones:

[Gilani] thanked the U.S. for its assistance while stating he needed “a battalion of helicopters” to fight the extremists now, and in the future. He also made repeated pleas for drones to be “put in Pakistan’s hands” so that Pakistan would own the issue and drone attacks (including collateral damage) would not provoke anti-americanism. Zardari said the technology behind them was not cutting-edge and said he has raised the issue with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Inter Services Public Relations spokesman in Pakistan said right in the immediate aftermath of the cable release, “There has only been sharing of technical intelligence in some areas” and “no armed drone attack support has ever been asked for operations which have been conducted using own resources.”

“American Image” Reaching a New Low

Consistent with current US operations in Pakistan, a US drone strike destroyed a vehicle in Pakistan in the North Waziristan district on the Afghan border, an area believed to be occupied by Taliban. Local officials said “six suspected militants” were killed.

A Washington Pew Research Center survey conducted recently shows that 11 percent of Pakistanis view the US and President Obama favorably. The survey, taken a week prior to the killing of Osama bin Laden, is likely a bit higher than the country’s current approval rating especially since that and multiple drone strikes have taken place in Pakistan since the assassination.

Dawn Media Group concludes the “American image” is reaching new lows but that has never bothered Washington. The media organization notes US congressman would like a review of the US commitment to providing aid in the “war on terror” before more aid is given to the country, which has received at least $20 billion so far.

Shyema Sajjad for Dawn writes, “What’s the most stirring thing about the revelations WikiLeaks has brought to us today? Nothing? Or everything? For starters, quite a few people reading the cables right now must be gloating and inwardly thinking or outwardly bragging. ‘Hah! I knew it all along!’ Of course you did. Didn’t we all?”

Sajjad finds the key travesty revealed in the cables to be the fact that Pakistani leaders and the military have “more faith in the American government than they do in themselves.” He adds, “Talk of sovereignty today is a farce. Sovereignty is not sacred and whether it’s Kayani who pretends to uphold it or whether it is Gilani, fact remains that we are secretly (well, not so much anymore) selling it every single day.”

A United Nations report in June 2010 on “Extrajudicial Executions” suggested the drones targeting militants “violate straightforward legal rules.”

The refusal by States who conduct targeted killings to provide transparency about their policy violates the international framework that limits the unlawful use of legal force against individuals. A lack of disclosure gives States a virtual and impermissible licence to kill.

At the time of the release, 134 drone attacks had been conducted.

A study published in February 2010 by Peter Bergen and Katherin Tiedemann on behalf of the New America Foundation detailed US drone strikes in Pakistan from 2004-2010. The study found “114 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to the present have killed between 830 and 1,210 individuals, of whom around 550 to 850 were described as militants in reliable press accounts.” This means the “true civilian fatality rate since 2004” was 32 percent.

The study concluded “US drone strikes don’t seem to have had any great effect on the Taliban’s ability to mount operations in Pakistan or Afghanistan or to deter potential Western recruits, and they no longer have the element of surprise.” And, “their unpopularity with the Pakistani public and their value as a recruiting tool for extremist groups may have ultimately increased the appeal of the Taliban and al Qaeda, undermining the Pakistani state. This is more disturbing than almost anything that could happen in Afghanistan, given that Pakistan has dozens of nuclear weapons and about six times the population.

 

FBI Documents Show US Citizens Targeted for Interest in US Foreign Policy

9:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Antiwar and international solidarity activists, subjects of a federal grand jury investigation that alleges they may have provided “material support for terrorism,” uncovered documents on FBI guidelines and investigation practices left behind in an activist’s home that was raided in September of last year. The documents illuminate how the FBI has conducted surveillance of the activists being targeted in the investigation and further prove the grand jury is being used as a tool to go after political groups.

On September 24 of last year, the home of Lindon Gawboy and Mick Kelly, an activist who helped to organize a mass demonstration outside the Republican National Convention in 2008, was raided and subpoenaed. Gawboy was awoken by FBI pounding on her door. She came to the door and asked for a search warrant. The FBI ignored her request for a warrant and proceeded to use a battering ram, which took the door off its hinges and shattered a nearby fish tank.

The agents raiding Gawboy and Kelly’s home emptied file cabinets and desks and stacked files around the apartments. They set up and went through individual documents taking files away that were of interest to them. At some point during this process, an agent’s papers on the investigation became mixed in with Kelly’s files. And, presumably by chance, Gawboy found the revealed documents just weeks ago.

The documents show the investigation was “predicated on the activities of Meredith Aby and Jessica Rae Sundin in support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a U.S. State Department designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), to include their travel to FARC controlled territory.” Bruce Nestor, an attorney advising individuals that have been issued subpoenas in this investigation, explains “predicate” is a word that typically connotes “what’s necessary to begin an investigation into protected First Amendment activity.”

Current FBI guidelines, according to Nestor, actually do not require a predicate to begin a preliminary question. This means the FBI can send agents and law enforcement officers into public meetings undercover to gather publicly available information and store that information about activists in perpetuity.

Sundin, a founding member of the Twin Cities-based Anti-War Committee, says she traveled to Colombia to witness peace talks between the FARC and the Colombia government. She flew into Colombia on an airplane owned by the Colombia military. Sundin was interested in what it would take to end a decades-long conflict in a country that is the biggest recipient of US military aid in Latin America.

“What I find disturbing about the line of questions is its attempt to stir up a kind of 1950s Red Scare within the antiwar movement,” declares Sundin. In particular, the questions indicate the FBI was interested in information on the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

“It’s true some of us are socialists, but that’s not against the law. A lot of us have grievances with capitalism,” explains Sundin. “The government has no right to dictate to the antiwar movement who can and cannot be in our movement.”
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100 Revelations to Mark the 100th Day of Cablegate

11:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

*Special thanks to C-Cyte for recording my tweets and posting them online in a post for people to view if they do not normally use Twitter.

One hundred days ago, WikiLeaks began to release the US State Embassy cables. The release event, which continues, became known as Cablegate.

A future post will include a look at Cablegate and what its impact on journalism, international diplomacy, and human rights has been and what its role has been in world events like the uprisings and revolutions the world that are currently unfolding. For now, it is worth recounting what has actually been revealed because of the release.

One common denominator can be found in a majority of the cables: corruption. For all the talk of this country and that country being corrupt and that country being so corrupt it’s gone, the plain fact is that between all the countries of the world, perhaps as a result of American coercion and/or threat of force, the world is one corrupt planet.

Point blank, the fallacy that these cables revealed nothing new is utter bullshit. And anyone who says they have revealed nothing we didn’t already know deserves to hear you say or tweet that to their face.

WikiLeaks has managed to partner with 50 media outlets over the course of the past months. 5,287 of 251,287 cables have been released so far. This not only means there will likely be a 200th, 300th and 400th Day of Cablegate but also means there will be many more revelations to come in the next year.

The following are 100 revelations, which this author tweeted this morning consecutively to mark the 100th Day. The one hundred tweeted revelations are dedicated to alleged whistleblower and hero Bradley Manning, who is currently being abused and humiliated in a military brig in Quantico, Virginia. He has been denied a right to a speedy trial. He has been issued charges but yet the military and government has taken its time with his case. And so, he has been detained and imprisoned since June and, most recently, the military started to force him to sleep naked at night.

If Manning released the material (and he is charged by the military with releasing the cables), it he who has given us the privilege of reading about what the US government and foreign leaders have been up to for the past years. Manning, if he is the whistleblower, has helped usher in an era of openness and transparency that has shaken the world of diplomacy, international relations and journalism.

Here are the one hundred, which were tweeted this morning:

100. Murdered Ugandan gay rights activist was mocked by Uganda politicians at UN-backed debate http://bit.ly/fEiSh8 #cablegate

99. US’ secret list of Allied countries it thinks should contribute more to Afghan war http://bit.ly/fLqsHI #cablegate

98. Panama president wanted US to wiretap his political rivals http://bit.ly/hS2M23 #cablegate http://bit.ly/fLqsHI

97. New Zealand did about-face on troops to Iraq, feared missing out on lucrative Oil for Food contracts http://bit.ly/i4rZES #cablegate

96. Obama pushed Spain to implement law to crack down on illegal Internet downloads http://bit.ly/iflhWB #cablegate

95. US pressured Spain to investigate Islamic centers http://bit.ly/fgzLZz #cablegate

94. Libya bought infected blood then accused Bulgarian nurses of infecting AIDS patients http://bit.ly/fVbB7i #cablegate

93. US thinks Sweden will play critical role in cyber warfare in future http://bit.ly/f4vhFm #cablegate

92. Sec. of Defense Robert Gates thinks Russia is oligarchy run by security services http://bit.ly/fEyqaJ #cablegate

91. US lobbied Russia to amend draft law so it would not disadvantage Visa, Mastercard http://bit.ly/gAtUbf #cablegate

90. Russian Orthdox Church pervades all aspects of Russian society and politics http://bit.ly/ighsI7 #cablegate

89. Saudi Arabia asked US to halt lawsuit against state company being sued for oil price fixing http://reut.rs/f6cCxq #cablegate

88. Libya placed billions of dollars in US banks http://reut.rs/i3rR1Y #cablegate

87. Revelation on Ivory Coast election that divided the country and has created civil war http://bit.ly/g0aE3M #cablegate

86. Deposed president of Madagascar “recruited mercenaries’ http://bit.ly/hzpDNC #cablegate

85. Egypt military had a ‘Plan B’ in the event of regime change http://bit.ly/dU4iWc #cablegate

84. Chamber of Commerce head in Nicaragua used his position to undermine President Daniel Ortega http://bit.ly/gNSHoU #cablegate

83. Rice wanted US diplomats to gather intelligence on Israeli communications tech & Palestinian leaders http://reut.rs/fSV4R1 #cablegate

82. Japan launching first post-war foreign spy agency http://yhoo.it/fJHISP #cablegate

81. China used US debt to pressure US on Taiwan http://bit.ly/gorONi #cablegate

80. Uribe authorized clandestine ops against leftist FARC in Venezuela http://bit.ly/dSWI6L #cablegate

79. US, UK & France considered delaying Internat’l Criminal Court investigation into Bashir http://bit.ly/gIjJbJ #cablegate

78. Karzai warned it would be near impossible to hold credible elections in Afghanistan http://bit.ly/e0PVwp #cablegate

77. A Baghdad zoo with booze-swilling bears and laser-enhanced fish http://bit.ly/ePGi3G #cablegate

76. Mubarak warned Cheney not to go to war in Iraq http://bit.ly/gwb4LI #cablegate

75. How Coca-Cola got embroiled in a feud between Gaddafi sons http://reut.rs/gsenWH #cablegate

74. Fighters in Eastern Libya willing to ‘die hard’ in Iraq War, fueled by Gaddafi-US link http://wlcentral.org/node/1369 #cablegate

73. Paraguayan president is a US agent http://bit.ly/fwz3It #cablegate h/t @MatrixWikiLeak

72. US concerned with Berlusconi-Putin tie http://reut.rs/id24oy #cablegate

71. Berlusconi entertains escorts at ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties http://bit.ly/hpHelx #cablegate

70. Russia a mafia state http://bit.ly/dJBhNP #cablegate

69. Impossible to prevent cartels from financing candidates in Mexico elections http://bit.ly/gAbjrl #cablegate

68. US cheered on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza http://bit.ly/dFwv1C #cablegate

67. Obama tried to persuade Saudi Arabia to sign Copenhagen accord http://bit.ly/ewaPHt #cablegate

66. Canadian officials were afraid Obama was too gung-ho on renewable energy http://bit.ly/dMQAr7 #cablegate

65. U.S. and China conspired to block reform on climate change at Copenhagen talks http://bit.ly/eu6l9o #cablegate

64. Dalai Lama thinks climate change should take priority over politics in Tibet http://bit.ly/fTuINF #cablegate

63. Late president of Gabon Omar Bongo embezzled funds, channeled $ to French political parties http://bit.ly/he008Y #cablegate

62. US played a role in a coup in Honduras that was illegal http://lat.ms/gnFJV5 #cablegate

61. US resentment toward unions uncovered in Mexico cable http://wlcentral.org/node/1351 #cablegate

60. Tunisia cables uncovered rampant corruption on Ben Ali or ‘The Family’ http://to.pbs.org/er6pSn #cablegate

59. US lied in cable about Michael Moore’s film ‘Sicko’ being banned in Cuba http://bit.ly/hSrdgZ #cablegate

58. Revelations on 9/11 gang that fled to London http://bit.ly/e50Om4 #cablegate

57. European feudalism in Azerbaijan no problem for US, oil makes risk of embarrassment worth it http://bit.ly/gQUscn #cablegate

56. UK secretly advised Libya on how to secure release of Lockerbie bomber http://bit.ly/iccGIa #cablegate

55. The Libyan frogman that couldn’t swim (truly, a cautionary tale) http://bit.ly/eHpFoK #cablegate

54. Bangladeshi death squad trained by UK officers http://bit.ly/gDlCUO #cablegate

53. Baby Doc Duvalier’s return to Haiti was a ‘concern’ for US http://bit.ly/eRj4hF

52. Saudi Arabia can’t pump enough oil to keep prices down, reserves 40% overstated http://bit.ly/e9774n #cablegate

51. US maneuvered to ensure Spanish High Court wouldn’t investigate Couso, Guantanamo & CIA flights http://bit.ly/igUQZ0 #cablegate

50. Gordon Brown was concerned about use of bases for US spy planes http://bit.ly/dSOdtQ #cablegate

49. BP had a blast similar to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in Azerbaijan http://bit.ly/fabXL8 #cablegate

48. Pfizer used “dirty tricks’ to force Nigeria gov’t to drop legal action against controversial drug trial http://bit.ly/hDWjeI #cablegate

47. US, Nato & Red Cross colluded, downplayed number of Afghani civilian deaths in Bala Baluk massacre http://bit.ly/fM1TD2 #cablegate

46. US threatened military action against China during secret “star wars” arms race http://bit.ly/fRIzOT #cablegate

45. Libya pressed oil firms to reimburse terror costs http://reut.rs/gOVobd #cablegate

44. US wanted derogatory information on Bahraini royals http://bit.ly/i0VWVD #cablegate

43. Coca Cola revealed corrupt Israeli tax collectors http://bit.ly/iiDEfu #cablegate

42. Egyptian torturers trained by the FBI http://bit.ly/fY8eHO #cablegate

41. David Letterman does more to dissuade Saudi youth from militancy than US propaganda http://bit.ly/dLzfqJ #cablegate

40. US suggested India send Bollywood stars to Afghanistan to help stabilize country http://bit.ly/gvq3bg #cablegate

39. McDonald’s tried to delay US legislation to aid lawsuit in El Salvador http://bit.ly/eNr0tQ #cablegate

38. Shell Oil in main ministries in Nigerian gov’t, knows everything http://bit.ly/fJlnpq #cablegate

37. Foreign contractors hired to train Afghan police paid for young “dancing boys” http://bit.ly/gu4b32 #cablegate

36. US, UK conspired to get around British cluster bomb ban http://bit.ly/hJb9sj #cablegate

35. US maneuvered to ensure Spanish High Court wouldn’t investigate Couso, Guantanamo & CIA flights http://bit.ly/igUQZ0 #cablegate

34. Millions in US military aid for fighting Pakistani insurgents diverted to gov’t coffers instead http://bit.ly/gZe2HB #cablegate

33. US diplomats ordered to spy on UN, obtain iris scans, fingerprints & DNA http://bit.ly/dE1mTt #cablegate

32. US pressured Germany to not pursue 13 CIA agents that abducted Khaled el-Masri http://bit.ly/i9qAmC #cablegate

31. Somali pirates blew cover off weapons deal between Kenya and Sudan http://bit.ly/i7LRsJ #cablegate

30. Iraq War provided few advantages for US oil but plenty advantage for Halliburton http://bit.ly/fbfxiB #cablegate

29. Chinese leaders ordered cyber attack on Google http://bit.ly/g1uBb0 #cablegate

28. Yemen President Saleh fights proxy war for US against Houthi rebels http://bit.ly/eD8Zvz #cablegate

27. Yemen covered up US drone strikes, claimed bombs against al Qaeda were own http://bit.ly/ifjG17 #cablegate

26. Blackwater flouted German arms export laws, transported aircraft to Afghanistan http://bit.ly/guBdwJ #cablegate

25. Omar Suleiman considered halting elections in Gaza to prevent Hamas victory http://bit.ly/gHrtCv #cablegate

24. US mole in NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s office uncovered http://bit.ly/gXNoVh #cablegate

23. Germany and US cover up Siemens shipment to Iran, 111 containers left at Dubai port http://bit.ly/ekzD8T #cablegate

22. Turkey’s role in CIA rendition flights to Guantanamo http://bit.ly/dL6oSO #cablegate

21. German communities fear loss of millions as US reduces troop presence http://bit.ly/ifHOZF #cablegate

20. President Kibaki of Kenya probably didn’t brazenly steal election http://bit.ly/gbyo9j #cablegate

19. Francis Mathaura described as being “shadow president’ of Kenya http://bit.ly/ea9mst #cablegate

18. US officials surprised at how easy it was to get Russia-Germany gas pipeline grant from Finland http://bit.ly/eDBZ8r #cablegate

17. Finland traded votes with Israel to get spot on UN Security Council http://bit.ly/hjlueQ #cablegate

16. GPS & detailed map feature made Nokia smartphones favorite for Iraqi rebels http://bit.ly/eQWsPf #cablegate

15. Sudan president Omar al-Bashir stashed $9 billion from Sudan in British banks http://bit.ly/hsYaCK #cablegate

14. Qatar adapts Al Jazeera coverage to suit foreign leaders http://bit.ly/hy96Sw #cablegate

13. Gaza wall, valued at $40 million USD, was to be completed December 2010 http://bit.ly/gL2hEu #cablegate

12. Egypt considered nuclear arms if Iran managed to acquire atomic weapons http://bit.ly/ifwKvq #cablegate

11. Uruguay linked to trafficking of arms to Venezuela to former guerrillas for possible coup http://bit.ly/dZlFco #cablegate

10. Danish gov’t played double game when pressured to investigate CIA rendition flights http://bit.ly/eomwJg #cablegate

9. US forced Denmark to have armed guards on airplanes http://bit.ly/dHGoMb #cablegate

8. Secret collusion between Swedish and US military and civilian intelligence http://bit.ly/dVFxX2 #cablegate

7. US Embassy in Costa Rica trained, funded security forces used at anti-FTA protests http://bit.ly/fGcN9Z #cablegate

6. Vertical Aviation disqualified from supporting Colombia forces in Afghanistan by State Dept http://bit.ly/hgIvj9 #cablegate

5. US suspected Brazil pres. Dilma Rousseff would “outlaw’ antiterrorism bill for “ideological’ reasons http://t.co/39bEb9E #cablegate

4. Peruvian Armed Forces still greatly influenced by drugs http://bit.ly/dLWHEo #cablegate

3. US pushed foreign govts to buy aircrafts from Boeing rather than European rival Airbus http://bit.ly/h6rmZi #cablegate

2. Israel’s plans for a big war in Middle East against Hamas or Hezbollah exposed http://bit.ly/eZN0Bu #cablegate

1. Monsanto fought off environmentalists/farmers in Argentina, got USG to represent interests http://bit.ly/hqKYrS #cablegate

If you would like to continue to mark the day, see Greg Mitchell’s blog on The Nation . He has been live blogging WikiLeaks and covering Cablegate revelations for the past 100 days. So, today, he marks his 100th day live blogging WikiLeaks (and writes about the day that Cablegate swung open).

The Nation has put together this slide show to also mark the day.

And, if that’s not enough, there’s WL Central, where you can get more of the latest news and updates on Cablegate, protests/uprisings, and more.

Follow me on Twitter @kgosztola to stay up to date on Cablegate revelations and WikiLeaks.

US Businesses in Libya Made Certain They Could Operate in the Rogue State

8:06 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The only people more terrified of the foreign mercenaries or anti-aircraft missiles or the fighter jets deployed to shell protesters than Libyans are the businessmen working for oil and gas companies in Libya. In fact, this whole democracy thing is a nightmare for companies in Libya that fought just over two years ago to ensure the market in Libya would not be restricted by an amendment that aimed to prevent companies from doing business with rogue states designated as state sponsors of terrorism.

Financial Times reports escalating violence in Libya has kept oil prices at two and a half year highs. Many of the oil ports and refineries are now shut down. International oil companies are evacuating their staff from the “world’s 12th largest oil exporter.”

All the violence, protest and political tension in Libya and the wider Middle East and North Africa seems to have led the US-Libya Business Association to make a cold calculated decision to disappear from the Internet for the time being until calm returns to Libya. RAW STORY reported on February 21 that the website of the US-Libya Business Association (USLBA) went down.

The group, which incorporated in 2005, describes itself as “the only US trade association” focused on the US and Libya.

Most recently, US-Libya Business Association Honorary Chairman Ambassador David Mack and Executive Director Charles Dittrich participated in a Middle East Institute-sponsored discussion in Washington, DC, titled, “US-Libya Relations: Surviving the WikiLeaks Controversy?” The two, who visited Libya for five days and met Libyan government officials in mid-December were scheduled to discuss their “impressions regarding the political and economic climate in Libya and the implications for both overall US-Libyan relations and the prospects for American business interests.”

A cache of the USLBA website reveals the companies affiliated with the association. Founding members include Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Hess Corporation, Marathon Oil Corporation, and Occidental Petroleum. General members include Dow Chemical, Fluor, Halliburton, Midrex Technologies, Motorola, Raytheon, Shell, United Gulf Construction, Valmont, and White & Case LLP.

Cables released by WikiLeaks on Libya so far do not explicitly name the USLBA. The cables do specifically deal with some of the member companies. They reveal that one of the chief objectives of diplomats in Libya over the past years have been to improve and ensure that the energy sector is able to have maximum commercial opportunities. This led the USLBA, the National Foreign Trade Council, the National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce to urge Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to “pursue waiver authority for Section 1083 for countries that have been removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism” on February 28, 2008.

Section 1083 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (also known as the “Lautenberg Amendment”) made it easier for “plaintiffs in terrorism-related lawsuits to seize foreign government-owned assets to satisfy US court judgments.” It caused concern among US firms, especially those in the oil & gas sector, because the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) informed American oil companies that this was “their problem” to be solved.

Big Oil Companies Face Possibility of Seized Assets

Libya, which had terror claims lawsuits pending, worried this could impact business. The NOC wanted to cut business altogether to avoid any problems.

A little over two weeks before the USLBA and other organizations launched their pursuit of a waiver in February, a cable was filed explicitly dealing with Section 1083 on behalf of US businesses that were to be impacted. The author of 08TRIPOLI113 explicitly addresses the risks to oil & energy companies as a result of Section 1083:

OIL PRODUCING & OIL SERVICES COMPANIES AT GREATEST RISK

-2. (SBU) U.S. companies participating in joint venture partnerships with Libyan national oil companies assess themselves as being at greatest risk under section 1083 of the National Defense Authorization Act. This list includes Occidental, ConocoPhillips, Marathon and Amerada Hess. These companies are involved in jointly developing Libyan oilfields and in extracting and lifting crude oil. The three U.S. partners in the Oasis Group (Marathon, ConocoPhillips and Amerada Hess, who are partnered with Libyan state firm Waha) pay $2 million/month to the GOL in operating fees, and $100 million/month in taxes and royalties. Company reps assess that these payments — as well as jointly-held facilities and equipment — would be exposed to court-ordered attachment and seizure under section 1083. U.S. oil service companies, such as Halliburton, may also be exposed, according to local company reps, and most service companies have frozen further expansion until the risks are clarified. Company reps have expressed concern to us that their GOL partner companies would view any U.S. court-ordered attachments of payments or equipment as a breach of contract, potentially leading to termination of their work in Libya.

3.(SBU) U.S. companies engaged exclusively in the exploration (as distinct from production), such as Chevron and ExxonMobil, assess themselves to be subject to less risk for the moment, since they make no regular payments to the GOL that would be subject to attachment (the signing bonuses agreed in connection with winning their Exploration and Production Sharing (EPSA) agreements have already been paid to the GOL, and day-to-day exploration work is contracted out to largely non-GOL entities). Nevertheless, company reps say that they are concerned about the longer-term impact of this legislation on their future plans in Libya.

Shukri Ghanem, Libya’s NOC Chairman, reacts swiftly to the recent legislation and instructs “all international partner companies to cease conducting transactions in U.S. dollars.” Through contacts with US oil companies, US officials find out that NOC would like to “reduce its exposure to U.S. courts, since dollar transactions are routed through the U.S. financial system.” Furthermore, the cable shows that US companies believe the legislation could “find” the companies “in breach of their contractual obligations if US courts disrupt their montly payment of operational fees to the NOC.”

Leader and Guide of the Revolution Threatens Retaliation

08TRIPOLI214 , a cable filed on March 12, 2008, features Leader Gaddafi giving oil companies a “browbeating” for the fact that the passage of Section 1083 is coinciding with litigation over a settlement to compensate victims of the UTA Flight 772 bombing.

U.S. OIL COMPANIES TREATED TO BROWBEATING 2.(C) ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva was summoned to Sirte for a half-hour “browbeating” by Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi during his visit to Libya on/about February 24. Country manager Page Maxson told P/E Chief that the entire conversation focused on al-Qadhafi’s “personal ire” about the so-called “Lautenberg Amendment” (section 1083 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008) and the USD 6 billion award against Libya in the UTA bombing case, and al-Qadhafi’s view that Libya had not been sufficiently compensated for its decision to give up WMD and renounce terrorism. Al-Qadhafi passed a copy of his recent letter to the President on the subject (ref B) to Mulva. Telling Mulva that he and his fellow U.S. oil company CEOs needed to engage members of the U.S. Congress and the Administration on the matter, al-Qadhafi threatened to dramatically reduce Libya’s oil production and/or expel out U.S. oil and gas companies. Al-Qadhafi claimed Libya would rather “keep its oil in the ground” and wait for a more favorable overseas investment climate than continue high levels of production in an environment in which sizeable portions of its oil-related assets could be seized.

3.(C) In a related development, Exxon-Mobil Country Manager Phil Goss told P/E Chief that Shukri Ghanem, Chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation, had chastised him during a meeting on February 25 for nearly an hour on the “dire political signal” represented by the Lautenberg Amendment and the UTA judgment. Ghanem told Goss that U.S. oil and gas companies should “tell Washington” that Libya was serious in its threat to “significantly curtail” its oil production as a means to “penalize the U.S.” for Lautenberg and UTA. According to Goss, Ghanem — a U.S.-educated former Prime Minister — was emotional in insisting that Libya “would not tolerate” Lautenberg and UTA without taking some retaliatory measures. Privately, Goss questioned whether the GOL could really afford to significantly curb oil output at a time when it is making massive investments in infrastructure as part of the run-up to the 40th anniversary of the military coup that brought al-Qadhafi to power on September 1, 2009. Stressing the erratic nature of decisionmaking in the GOL, Goss was careful not to rule out the possibility that Libya could choose “to do something stupid”.

Days later, a discussion to focus on three major outstanding claims cases in US venues: Pan Am 103, LaBelle, and UTA is urged. Plans to settle and use the high-profile case to “find a mechanism to mitigate the effects of Section 1083″ are made by Libya and US officials. This indicates that the US was likely seeking to use the power of Section 1083 to force a pay out from the Libya government before finding a loophole for US-Libya business relations to return to normal.

New Freedom to Establish Position in a Lucrative Market

By August, the two countries managed to come to an agreement over Section 1083 and the outstanding claims cases in US courts. The reaction to the agreement was favorable. 08TRIPOLI666 summarizes:

Reaction among ordinary Libyans and well-informed contacts to news that the U.S. and Libya finalized a comprehensive claims settlement agreement has been enthusiastic. Coverage in state-owned media has been positive but limited, in part to minimize questions about the parameters of the compensation package and potential criticism from old guard elements. Some informed contacts have characterized the agreement as a “grand opening” in U.S.-Libyan bilateral relations, as compared to the “soft opening” between the re-establishment of diplomatic ties in 2004 and the signing of the claims agreement in 2008. There are high expectations in some quarters that the U.S. will seek to capitalize on the new tenor of the relationship to press Muammar al-Qadhafi to open further political space – particularly with respect to respect for human rights, freedom of the press and an expanded role for civil society – in what remains a tightly-controlled society.

Additionally, the diplomat who authored this cable comments, “There is also the belief that expanded political and economic engagement with the U.S. and the West, which is expected to accelerate with the lifting of the Lautenberg Amendment and potential asset seizure, will help solidify internal Libyan reforms undertaken in recent years. Many Libyans hope that expanded engagement with the U.S. will include U.S. advocacy for political reform and greater respect for human rights. A key challenge for al-Qadhafi will be to temper expectations that fully normalized relations with the U.S. will prompt an immediate shift in the nature of the regime and its reluctance to move quickly on political reform.”

Sec. of State Rice Travels to Libya to Seal the Deal

On September 5, 2008, Secretary of State Rice traveled to Libya. One of her key objectives was to help come up with a solution to this Lautenberg Amendment kerfuffle. A “scenesetter” was prepared for Rice so she could be prepared to help mediate this conflict over US company operations in Libya. It reads:

10. (C) Libya’s economy is almost entirely dependent on oil and gas. Libya has the largest proven oil reserves (43.6 billion barrels) and the third largest proven natural gas reserves (1.5 billion cubic meters) on the African continent. Libya currently produces about 1.7 million barrels/day of oil; only Angola and Nigeria produce more in Africa. Oil and gas infrastructure suffered during the sanctions period. The lifting of sanctions has opened the way for new exploration and improved production. New technology and refined management techniques introduced by international oil companies (IOC’s) are a key part of Libya’s plan to increase oil production to 3.0 million barrels/day by 2013. Most of Libya’s oil and natural gas are exported to Europe – Italy, Germany, Spain and France are key customers. Major U.S. energy companies active in Libya include Amerada Hess, ConocoPhillips, Marathon, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Occidental. Joint ventures involving U.S. companies currently account for about 510,000 barrels/day of Libya’s 1.7 million barrels/day production. A large number of small to mid-sized U.S. oil and gas services companies are also working in Libya.

11. (C) After years of isolation under sanctions and limited spending by the GOL, Libya is currently in the midst of an economic boom, partly driven by a desire to complete large-scale infrastructure projects as tangible symbols of the regime’s achievements in advance of the 40th anniversary of al-Qadhafi’s revolution on September 1, 2009. High oil prices have helped fuel the outlays. Western companies, eager to establish a position in what is expected to be a lucrative market, are arriving in sizeable numbers. A temporary pause prompted by adoption of the Lautenberg Amendment in January 2008 and concern about asset seizure is coming to an end on news of the comprehensive claims agreement. XXXXXXXXXXXX Despite great promise, Libya remains a challenging business and investment environment. Contradictory regulations, inefficient government bureaucracy, limited human capacity and rampant corruption (in 2007, Transparency International ranked Libya 133rd out of 180 countries in terms of being most corrupt) are significant challenges that could hamper greater investment.

The Washington Consensus think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, notes Libya was designated a state sponsor of terrorism in the early 1970s after “Gaddafi established terrorist training camps on Libyan soil, provided terrorist groups with arms, and offered safe haven to terrorists” from groups like the Irish Republican Army, Spain’s ETA, Italy’s Red Brigades, and Palestinian groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in 1988, the bombing of a French passenger jet over Niger in 1989, and the Libya-sponsored bombing of a Berlin disco that killed two US soldiers all helped keep Libya on the list. The Libya government was also believed to be in pursuit of WMDs.

In the late 1990s, the Gaddafi regime began to take steps that led the US to alter the designation. It began to offer to surrender its WMD programs and cut ties to terror groups. It finally agreed to compensate victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing and also sent a letter to the UN Security Council taking responsibility for the attack.

Most importantly, the past ten years have seen the world close in on peak oil (if that point has not been passed already). Libya, in the past few years, has begun to privatize and open up its resources to development and exploitation by foreign companies. US companies that are a part of USLBA have greatly benefited from measures, which US diplomats have been keen to advocate for in meetings with Libyan government officials.

The last thing USLBA companies want right now is to see revolutionary change that leads Libya to no longer be opened for business .

Photo from the NY Daily News

“Iran Loves WikiLeaks”: An NYT Op-Ed’s Wild Claim

10:01 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Former assistant secretary of defense from 1993 to 1994 and the United States ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War, Chas Freeman, has published an op-ed in the Sunday, December 5th edition of the New York Times. The piece attempts to make an argument that WikiLeaks is a danger to America because Iran will be helped as a result of information that was revealed. While that may be an arguable possibility, the premise of the editorial – that “Iran loves Wikileaks” – is an outlandish premise ensures the op-ed is merely a sloppy attempt by a member of the Washington establishment to further smear WikiLeaks.

First off, Freeman might have been able to write an editorial that could provide insight on the impact of the hundreds of diplomatic cables that have been released so far as a result of WikiLeaks. Freeman, however, chose to not make that the thrust of his op-ed; instead, he went with “Julian Assange, has much in common with the anarchists of the early 20th century: he aims to disrupt the established order by impairing its alliances and violating its proprieties.”

A respectable op-ed could have been published given the fact that Freeman has a history of diplomatic experience in Middle Eastern, African, East Asian and European countries especially with Saudi Arabia. He serves as director of the American Iranian Council, which would lead one to assume he is knowledgeable on issues surrounding Iran and would at least be able to discuss the Washington Consensus on Iran openly. And, as president of the Middle East Policy Council, he published Professor John Mearsheimer and Professor Stephen Walt’s working paper, “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.” His open sympathy toward views on the influence of Israel over U.S. foreign policy made it impossible for him to survive the nomination process for chair of the National Intelligence Council in 2009.

But, Freeman opted to publish a fallacious editorial that displays utter contempt for WikiLeaks. One can surmise that this is probably a result of Freeman’s experience as a diplomat and a personal volley at WikiLeaks because  of a belief that this will hurt diplomacy in the Middle East. Why couldn’t he have just written that in an editorial?

The editorial operates on a Washington Establishment assumption: that prior to the release of cables it was not already known to Arab leaders what neighboring countries were thinking. If, as Freeman suggests, the U.S. is “deeply unpopular among Arabs” there might have already been an inability to get straightforward answers. The Bush Administration years probably had the effect of making Middle Eastern countries approach all talks or negotiations with caution. Even with the election of President Obama, they probably still have been overly cautious, preferring to say things they think U.S. diplomats want to hear instead of saying what they think.

There is little indication that Iran will gain prestige as a result of WikiLeaks. Iran hasn’t seen a concerted effort by Arab countries to unite in the country’s defense. And that’s probably because, as Freeman surely knows, Iran is more isolated than ever.

Finally, Press TV in Iran has not run any stories indicating the leadership of Iran is pleased with the leak. Secretary General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights Mohammad Javad Larijani said the documents were released to “save the face of the United States,” and Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast suggested the release was a “highly dubious scheme,” one that had taken place through cooperating with intelligence services of Western governments. Like all governments in the world, they have been leery of what might be revealed.

This editorial, therefore, appears to be a chance to remind Americans that healthy and effective diplomacy cannot take place if operations like WikiLeaks are allowed to enjoy legitimacy or freely release classified documents to people all over the world. That notion is part of a myth larger than the idea that “Iran loves WikiLeaks.”

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said the descriptions of possible harm from WikiLeaks to U.S. foreign policy were “significantly overwrought,” but don’t expect that to get in the way of former diplomats appearing on the pages of pro-Washington Establishment publications like the New York Times.

*Photo by Graphic Tribe. (http://rixstep.com/1/1/1/20101027,01.shtml) [GPL (www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Brazil Cables: US Upset Brazil Puts Interests of Activists Ahead of Counterterrorism

11:41 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Former President Lula of Brazil by Marlon Dutra

Cables from Brazil released by WikiLeaks reveal the United States has been pushing Brazil to take the threat of terrorism more seriously and institutionalize counterterrorism into their legal system. They reveal the U.S. has attempted to have Guantanamo detainees resettled in Brazil but has had no success and that sometimes law enforcement. And, they demonstrate that Brazil may be hesitant to charge suspects with crimes that amount to terrorism because it might become a playground for fighting the “war on terror.”

A cable sent on May 24, 2005, reads, the Government of Brazil (GOB) “still contends that it cannot accept Guantanamo migrants because it is illegal to designate someone not on Brazilian soil a refugee.” When a US diplomat tries to convince Brazil to take Cuban refugees at Guantanamo, Brazilian officials maintains that due to Brazilian legislation no migrants could be accepted from Guantanamo.

An “action cable” details a requested to resettle detainees at Guantanamo, specifically Uighurs. Marcelo Bohlke at Brazil’s Ministry of External Relations United Nations Division responds to the request with a demand for an explanation on why “Uighurs are not eligible for refugee status or resettlement” since they could not be resettled to Brazil unless designated as refugees.

A representative from UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR Luis Varese, explains the reason for Brazil’s position:

…refugee status in Brazil is usually granted after the refugee has been recognized by the host country (in this case, the U.S.). According to Varese, the GOB and CONARE believe that the migrants at Guantanamo Bay do not fit into this category because the USG has not “formally recognized” them as refugees. If they were formally recognized, CONARE believes, the USG would allow them to resettle in the U.S. so resettlement would not be an issue. Varese told PolOff that the “formal recognition” issue caused the GOB to reject the USG’s proposal in 2003…

The cable demonstrates that Brazil has a respect for the principles of the National Commission on Refugees (CONARE) and will not abandon them no matter how much pressure the US applies.

Pressure on increasing counterterrorism measures, especially implementing legal means for targeting terrorists, is met with great pushback. As one cable reveals, in November of 2007, the Presidency’s Institutional Security Cabinet (GSI), which had been working for years on counterterrorism, began to downplay the importance of passing such legislation. In the face of criticism from people like the Brazilian bar association president Cezar Britto, who characterized the legislation as a “thinly veiled move to criminalize the actions of social movements and those fighting for equality,” Brazilian political leaders abandoned the initiative. President Lula’s chief of staff “quashed the proposed legislation” that many believed could be used against activists and advocacy groups and political leaders determined it was “impossible to reach consensus within the government on how to define terrorism.”

Andre Luis Soloszyn, a Brazilian War College analyst on strategic intelligence and author of numerous articles on counterterrorism topics, tells a US diplomat, “leftist militants who had been the object of military dictatorship-era laws designed to repress politically-motivated violence, [were afraid Brazil] was going to put forth a bill that would criminalize the actions of groups it sympathizes with, such as the Landless Movement (MST), for “there is no a way to write an anti-terrorism legislation that excludes the actions of the MST”"

The fears of Brazilian activists are the same as the fears of many American activists, who still believe measures designed to fight terrorism can be (and are being) used to criminalize protest and activism. Environmental, antiwar and international solidarity activists have been hit with lawsuits that use U.S. anti-terrorism laws to suppress dissent (for example, the case of the RNC 8).

The cable shows the U.S. was (and likely still is) dead set on having Brazil pass measures like the U.S. PATRIOT Act and its expansions, which have irked organizations committed to defending American civil liberties, and that the U.S. firmly believed (and likely still believes) those legal measures are necessary in order to fight terrorism.

But, Brazil does not believe legal measures will ever deter terrorism. As an advisor, presumably with some connection to the Israeli Embassy, argues, “The success of any potential terrorist attack against the Israeli Embassy in Brasilia is not going to be determined by whether there is a law on the books outlawing terrorism.”

Moreover, the cable shows officials explaining that terrorism is not perceived as a daily threat. One official says, “Terrorism perpetrated by Islamic extremists is too remote for Brazilians to worry about.” Sure, Brazil could enlist its media to propagandize the public into thinking terrorists are hate Brazil for its freedom and manufacture consent for giving up rights through “counterterrorism legislation” but it appears that Brazil is confident it can combat terrorism without altering its laws.

The Brazil cables show the US is working closely, giving trainings to police and other law enforcement organizations who can use the training to secure what is called the Tri-Border Region, an area with a lot of illegal movement of arms, money, drugs, etc. They show law enforcement is using a “if you see something, say something” strategy as “moderate, second generation Arabs, many of whom were successful businessmen in Brazil, to keep a close eye on fellow Arabs who may be influenced by Arab extremists and/or terrorist groups.”

Finally, and perhaps most interesting, is the fact that the way U.S. has crafted itself as the top policeman on the terrorism beat may have countries like Brazil doing all it can to police itself but not arrest people under charges of terrorism. One might suppose the fear would be if Brazil was found to have an uptick in terrorism the U.S. might set its sights on Brazil as a country worthy of military or security intervention.

A cable reveals, “The Federal Police will often arrest individuals with links to terrorism, but will charge them on a variety of non-terrorism related crimes to avoid calling attention of the media and the higher levels of the government. Over the past year the Federal Police has arrested various individuals engaged in suspected terrorism financing activity but have based their arrests on narcotics and customs charges.”

This clearly shows suspects were framed for crimes they probably didn’t commit, but is it possible the U.S. is monitoring Brazil so closely that law enforcement is designating certain crimes other crimes to diminish the U.S. campaign to convince Brazilians to support greater counterterrorism efforts?

Throughout the Brazilian cables, there is a deep contempt for Brazil’s handling of terrorism (one might even say their commitment to civil liberties and the rule of law). US diplomats express disdain for how hard it is in Brazil for crimes to be classified as acts of terrorism. One official is even accused of “playing games” or attempting to “define terrorism out of Brazil,” which almost sounds like the diplomat is upset they are not using America’s definitions and descriptions of what constitutes “terrorism.”

Unlike certain Middle East or African countries, it appears Brazil wishes to keep its country safe autonomously and with little direction from the U.S. The election of former Marxist guerrilla Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first woman president, has likely renewed the U.S. struggle to convince Brazil it should alter its legal system and make it easier to wage a “war on terror.”

There is evidence individuals engaged in terror financing are present in Brazil, but Brazil does not want to stigmatize its large Muslim community (which has been a side effect of the U.S. “war on terrorism”). So, the US will continue to characterize Brazil as a country with little interest in terrorism issues, one where legislation against counterterrorism is impossible because of “leftists,” and it will seek to isolate the country until it can bully Brazil into waging a fight against terrorism in the way it wants Brazil to wage a fight against terrorism.

WikiLeaks Cables: CIA Ordered US Diplomats to Spy

2:58 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The CIA, which acts as the primary agency for collection of human intelligence (Humint), is implicated in the latest cables released by WikiLeaks, which reveal US diplomats took orders from the agency on what data to collect when spying on foreign officials at the UN and in countries around the world.

The Guardian has taken the lead on this story and is reporting, based on two cables they have cited, that not only were US diplomats asked to gather intelligence on Ban Ki-Moon and other senior UN staff, security council members and other foreign diplomats, but the directive to engage in spying, a possible violation of international, came from the CIA.

What is being referred to as “an intelligence shopping list” by The Guardian was drawn up annually by the manager of Humint, which was a post created by the Bush Administration in 2005 to help coordinate intelligence after 9/11. The manager set out “priorities,” which were sent out to the State Department on an annual basis. Intelligence analysts at the State Department provided input on what “priorities” should be listed.

Specifically, the cables indicate: “US diplomats at the embassy in Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, were ordered to obtain dates, times and telephone numbers of calls received and placed by foreign diplomats from China, Iran and the Latin American socialist states of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. The US is concerned about an increasing Islamist terrorist presence in Paraguay, and the influence of China.”

Diplomats are urged to provide if possible: “office and organizational titles; names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cell phones, pagers and faxes; compendia of contact information, such as telephone directories (in compact disc or electronic format if available) and e-mail listings; internet and intranet “handles”, internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information.”

A particular cable reveals the embassy in Paraguay was targeted because Washington believed Paraguay was harboring Iranian agents and Islamist terrorists. It specifically requested “information on the presence, intentions, plans and activities of terrorist groups, facilitators, and support networks – including, but not limited to, Hizballah, Hamas, al-Gama’at al-Islamiya, al-Qa’ida, jihadist media organizations, Iranian state agents or surrogates – in Paraguay, in particular in the Tri-Border Area (TBA).”

The intelligence gathering called for was intended to presumably help develop policy and actions around current issues facing the U.S. government, which are listed: UN Security Council Reform, Iraq, the Middle East Peace Process, Human Rights and War Crimes. UN Humanitarian and Complex Emergency Response, Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorist Threat to UN Operations, Burm and other issues.

Each issue in the cable has with it specific requests for information. For example: on Darfur/Sudan, views of UN member states on contributing troops and air transportation equipment to the UN mission in Sudan; on Afghanistan/Pakistan, plans and intentions of key UN leaders and member states on force protection in Afghanistan; on Somalia, UN views on deploying a maritime force to monitor piracy off of the coast; on Iran, plans and intentions of UN Secretary General and staff to address development, testing and proliferation of nuclear weapons in Iran.

In the case of North Korea, not only are the views of UN Security Council members requested but US diplomats are also urged to collect “biographic and biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats.” That means fingerprints, palm prints, or DNA, etc.

Given the work the US was engaged in to prevent Spain from prosecuting US officials for torture or war crimes, it is interesting that Humint called for “Plans and perceptions of member states toward establishment of new measures to prevent genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other systematic human rights abuses” and “plans and intentions of member states or UN Special Rapporteurs to press for resolutions or investigations into US counterterrorism strategies and treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo,” to be collected.

The cable also shows that, “Current technical specifications, physical layout, and planned upgrades to telecommunications infrastructure and information systems, networks, and technologies used by top officials and their support staffs.” The purpose of such information would likely ensure the US would have capabilities to spy on countries after they made adjustments to their telecommunications infrastructure and systems.

It was revealed earlier in the week that diplomats had been spying but who was giving the order was unknown. Then, U.S. Envoy to the U.N. contended, “Our diplomats are doing what diplomats do around the world every day, which is build relationships, negotiate, advance our interests, and work to find common solutions to complex problems.”

How collecting biometrics or very specific and often private biographical information is unclear. One idea is that the information could be used to blackmail individuals into taking certain actions or not taking action on things like investigating war crimes or signing a cluster bomb ban or halting rendition flights or choosing to not help the U.S. clean up its human rights mess and take a Guantanamo detainee.

Spokesman for the U.N, Farhan Haq, has pointed out that a “1946 treaty on ‘privileges and immunities’ of the U.N. states that its offices “shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action.”

All of this is not all that new although it does bring into focus a double standard. In May of 2003, the State Department expelled 14 Cuban diplomats who were accused of “inappropriate activities,” which included spying. The move appeared to be political since there was no specific espionage event. The charge was enough. The accused were not to be conducting diplomacy in the United States any longer.

On the other hand, that same year, when it was revealed that US diplomats were spying on countries in the UN Security Council, it was nothing to member countries. Ambassadors said, “It is life,” and, “It comes with the profession, with the job.” It wasn’t a surprise. So, the reaction was similar to the reaction unfolding now.

But, just because ambassadors are desensitized to the practice or don’t think it’s worth challenging because superpowers won’t stop spying doesn’t mean the practice of spying is acceptable. And, if the US is going to cite the practice as reason to expel diplomats (even when it can’t be proven spying took place), the United Nations leadership should be willing to expel US diplomats who violate world leaders and spy.

Wikileaks Cables: US Arms to Georgia Keep Tensions Between Russia, Georgia High

10:48 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

President Obama and President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev | Photo by poniblog

Cables from the U.S. embassies in Moscow, Russia and Tbilisi, Georgia reveal ever since a five-day war in Georgia, which erupted between Georgians and Russian-backed separatists in August 2008, the U.S. has been carefully assessing the implications of further arming Georgia. This assessment has required the U.S. to pay extra lip service to the idea that it is not arming Georgia for future provocations against Russia. And, the U.S. has had to show restrain and only make transfers Georgia can claim will be used for defense or to help the U.S. fight in Afghanistan and other parts of Eurasia as part of the “war on terror.”

[*For revelations on the August war, see The Guardian's story using details from WikiLeaks cables sent out during the conflict.]

The geopolitical maneuverings are revealed in a June 18, 2009 cable from Moscow titled, “Implications of Rearming Georgia for U.S.-Russian ‘Reset.” The cable summary explains, “A decision to move towards a more robust military relationship with Georgia will imperil our efforts to re-start relations with Russia, if it is not carefully calibrated and deployed. While Medvedev understands the strategic and personal benefits of crafting a productive partnership with the U.S., this impulse is trumped by the GOR’s ‘absolute’ priority placed on expanding Russian influence in the Eurasian neighborhood, preventing NATO enlargement, and demonstrating Russia’s great power status.”

The cable contends “Georgia’s territorial integrity” could be cost if a “lethal military supply relationship with Tbilisi” continues. The cable proposes a strategy of proving to Abkhaz and South Ossetians that autonomy with Tbilisi is better than submission to Russia.” It suggests Georgia work to establish itself as a “democratically vibrant and economically successful model for the region” instead of relying on military arms to gain advantage over Russia. And, further indicating how central Iran is to U.S. foreign policy, it adds that rearming Georgia openly could “lessen Russian restraint on weapons transfers to Iran.”

The flipside of the geopolitical strategy unfolds in another cable from Tbilisi, sent out the day after the previously mentioned cable from Moscow. It indicates the importance of properly adjusting and defining policy toward Georgia and Russia in the region is a result of a U.S.-Georgia Charter Commission on June 22 that will require a discussion over the future of “military cooperation” with Georgia. The cable titled, “The Importance of Continued Military Engagement with Georgia,” provides suggestions for why Georgia should be provided “a modest, transparent defensive capability” by the U.S.

Contending that Russia’s claims that the U.S. is rearming Georgia are based on propaganda, the cable surmises that Russian objections to arming Georgia would contradict U.S. policy in the region and give “Russian disinformation an undeserved voice in U.S. policy formation.” The cable urges the U.S. to not validate Russia’s objections to arming Georgia because it could be seen as a reward for Russia’s aggression in Georgia, “as well as its violation of international law and commitments, encourage a similar stance in Ukraine; and deal a body blow to [U.S.] credibility in Georgia, other Eurasian states, the [U.S.’] western partners – and ultimately Russia itself.”

It justifies two deliveries of “lethal military equipment” by noting they were purchased before the five-day August war and one in particular was for “coalition operations in Afghanistan.” It reveals that the U.S. has agreed to deploy a Georgian battalion for two years in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan, RC-South.

The cable illustrates Georgia’s desire to “rebuild its native defensive capacity, which is currently insufficient to control its own airspace or hinder an invasion from any of its neighbors.” It says Georgia “needs sufficient anti-armor and air defense capability to stall a ground advance” and the “Georgian operational thinking is that if they can defend Tbilisi from occupation for 72 hours, then international pressure will force” any advance “to pause.”

The rationalization for ultimately going ahead with arming Georgia is as follows:

“…The development of this capacity is not solely equipment-based, but it will require the acquisition of new lethal defensive systems. If Georgia does not procure the equipment from the U.S., it will almost surely seek to procure it elsewhere, as it has done in the past. U.S. involvement would help ensure the transparency of the procurement process itself, as well as increase our control over the amount, type and location of the equipment…”

But, more important to the decision is the fact that ultimately Russia has no credibility when opposing a rearming of Georgia:

“…While Russia, as well as the de facto regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, may argue otherwise, it is Russia and its proxy regimes that have dramatically increased the militarization of Georgia over the past year. Russia has introduced at least 3,700 troops into sovereign Georgian territory, as well as heavy military equipment, such as tanks, artillery and anti-aircraft systems, into the area immediately adjacent to the administrative boundaries — in direct violation of the commitments President Medvedev made in the cease-fire agreement. It is Georgia that has lost 14 police officers since the war; kidnappings, cattle thefts, and detentions continue along the boundary, mostly on the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides. Russian helicopters make regular flights along the boundaries, sometimes crossing them, and Russian forces move large numbers of troops and heavy equipment along the boundaries at will…”

The cable from Tbilisi ends with the suggestion that Georgia make “public and/or written commitments about the exclusively defensive nature of its new military programs” and suggests inviting Russia to sign a “non-use of force agreement.” In contrast, the cable from Moscow concludes the U.S. cannot say “yes” to a “significant military relationship with Tbilisi” because Russia will increase tensions in the region and engage in “more active opposition to critical U.S. strategic interests.”

To further contextualize the two cables, on November 20th of this year President Obama met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and pledged to contiue U.S. support for Georgia’s bid to join NATO (which Russia opposes). Saakashvili said President Obama explicitly indicated support for Georgia’s “territorial integrity” and the White House press service said, “The two leaders discussed the Georgian government’s efforts to implement political, economic, and defense reforms and our shared interest in securing democracy, stability, and prosperity in Georgia,” which, because of the cables.”

“Defense reforms,” of course, is a euphemism for arming the country to defend its “territorial integrity,” which means being able to function as a democratic and economic model for other countries in Eurasia. (The cables allow people to understand the meaning of all this diplomatic jargon, which normally just flies over most Americans’ heads because they don’t know what the jargon is referencing. Now, one can know what Obama means by “territorial integrity”; it’s very comparable to the idea of a country having a “right to exist.”)

Overall, what this shows is that both ends are on some level being played against the middle. The U.S. knows its arming of Georgia will bring escalated tensions with Russia, but it can use the support from the country in prosecuting the “war on terror.” The U.S. knows respecting Russia’s wishes to not have the U.S. meddling in the region could be a win for Georgia in the long-term, but the U.S. does not want to be seen as letting Russian interests discredit the validity of U.S. interests in the region. So, the U.S. attempts to argue Russia is using propaganda when it suggests the US is arming Georgia, and the US attempts to convince countries that the military cooperation is purely aimed at helping Georgia defend itself and not wage war against its neighbors.

All this assumes Russia will allow Georgia to defend itself and not see an increase in defenses as a threat. If this were Iran, Israel would be allowed to legitimately argue that escalating defense spending was seen as preparing the country for war. After upping defenses, the country would be able to mount attacks and protect itself from repercussions. So, one can see why the U.S. might be suspected of turning Georgia into a country that will just create more trouble in the region; plus, clearly, U.S. is prepared to use Georgia as a proxy to advance its interests and that makes Russia leery of U.S. involvement.