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December 15, 2006


this BAE scandal ought to bring down Blair's government - but then so too should the peerages scandal, the Gitmo scandal, the "black sites/rendition" scandal, the Downing Street Minutes scandal, the Kelly "suicide" scandal, and probably a few other scandals, that I don't know about, or ones I may have heard about but lost in the haze of scandal fatigue that plagues both sides of the North Atlantic. But wow, is "Lord" Goldsmith a tool or what. Are he and Abu Gonzales the same sign, or something?

I don't know, semiot, have you ever seen Goldsmith and Abu G in the same place at the same time? I'm not entirely sure they're not the same person.

The Parliamentary Labour Party apparently remains resolutely Leninist, despite the Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair cosmetic makeovers.

Having gained power, they cling to Blair, with the British press helpfully suggesting that Labour's majority is utterly dependent on Blair's alleged personal popularity in Middle England.

As a Yank, maybe I don't understand British parliamentary democracy, but I thought ministers, including prime ministers, served only so long as they had the confidence of a majority of the House of Commons. It really begs the question of just what atrocity Blair would have to commit to get Labour MPs to sack him. Ours is not the only political class that has defined deviancy down.

how's about west africa as our next "contra"? There's an up-and-coming oil area, unless China has that market cornered. Part of me would say Sudan/Darfur, but that is too far on my cynicism meter.

This link might help in appreciating what a messy business deal Al Yamama turned out.to be:


Just in case you think the American military industrial business community was asleep at the switch on this opportunity, or was aced out by those clever Brits, this link suggests quite the opposite:


Let’s see, Carlyle Group, an organization so fascinating it has got fan e-zines:


So let’s just see if anyone we know is over at that shop (per the above link):

Maybe you've heard of them: former Secretary of State Jim Baker, former Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci, and former White House budget director Dick Darman.

Then this (same link):

The firm also has about a dozen investors from Saudi Arabia, including, until recently, the bin Laden family. Yes, those bin Ladens.

Whoa! You’d think CG would want to fix THAT little problem. Where are those darn PR consultants when you need them? Ah, of course (same link)

The firm has since given the bin Ladens back their money, some $2 million,…

But as long as we’re already IN this passage, here’s the rest:

…but controversy lingers. Sept. 11 and its aftermath also created the appearance of further conflicts of interest--namely, that while his son is in the Oval Office directing the war effort and proposing the largest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan, Bush is working for a firm that, through various investments, has become the nation's 14th-largest defense contractor. "It destroys the office of the presidency no less, in my view, than having sex with an intern," says Larry Klayman, director of the watchdog group Judicial Watch.

And so the circle may remain unbroken, this goes a teensie bit deeper, into the genius of the Carlyle Group Business Plan.

… conspiracy theorists like to imagine that Bush, Baker, and Major are jetting around the world cutting deals and making money for companies owned by Carlyle, but after nearly two dozen interviews with CEOs of current and former Carlyle companies and people familiar with Carlyle's business, it seems clear that this really isn't happening.

What Bush & Co. actually do is far less pernicious but clearly valuable to Carlyle--they help raise money. Every year Rubenstein sets up scores of lunches and dinners around the world intended to woo new investors and gratify existing ones. As you might imagine, people like Bush, Baker, and Major are a huge draw. "If you call and say you're doing a dinner with Jim Baker or with George Bush, and could they please attend, chances are people are going to show up," explains a former employee, who, like all ex-Carlyle staffers I talked to, didn't want his name used. In the mid-'90s, for instance, Baker introduced Rubenstein to members of the royal family in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; since he left Parliament last year, Major has been opening doors to big money in Europe and Canada. The allure of a former President is particularly irresistible. At Carlyle's annual investor meetings, CEOs and money managers line up to have their pictures taken with Bush.

So, is it possible that the Iraq Study Group report wasn’t so much to get Junior some sage advice from in an assembly of bipartisan elder statespeople casting their old eyes afresh at this vexing little problem Junior “found” himself in (along with the rest of us), as it was sold to a mostly uncurious public … as it was a road map from a blue-chip Carlyle Group committee to get Junior back on stream with the Business Plan?

For what it may be worth to fans of your recent story on Saudi Prince Turki al Faisal (of which I am definitely one), the Prince’s VERY NEXT job following over two decades as S.A.’s chief of spies was as S.A.’s ambassador to the U.K. – there to close on and cut off any loose threads on the Al Yamama, Arabic for, well, of course – The Dove.


Air America Radio's Randi Rhodes has been discussing in depth over the last two days a theory of how the US involvement in Iraq is at this point (if not for the entire time) working for the Saudi Royal Family, to assist their desire to maintain their grip on power.

Specifically referenced on her site are two "Issue Briefs" from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

1) Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the War on Terrorism from Nov. 2002 with this summary:

* The recuperation of Iraq's oil industry could prove a major threat to the oil-dependent Saudi economy. Saudi per capita income has fallen from about $23,000 in the early 1980s to about $7,000 last year.
* Prince Abdallah has attempted to reform the Saudi economy and reduce expenditures on subsidies and perks, including the costly stipends paid to 7,000 royal princes.
* King Fahd's full (Sudairi) brothers, particularly Defense Minister Prince Sultan and Interior Minister Prince Na'if, have shored up their relations with Saudi religious conservatives and endowed Islamic foundations that fund the militants.

2) Global Oil Supply Security and Al-Qaeda's Abortive Attack on Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia from March 2006 with this summary:

* Had the February 22 attack on Saudi Arabia's largest oil complex at Abqaiq been successful, oil prices would have likely broken all records and might have caused a worldwide economic crisis.
* The two car bombers who attempted to breech the Abqaiq security perimeter were senior al-Qaeda members, giving credence to the Saudi government's claim that it has largely succeeded in breaking the back of the organization, and that only a handful of veteran activists are functioning in compartmentalized cells.
* Moreover, since 2003 the authorities in the Eastern Province have been enjoying the increasing cooperation of the local population, which is largely composed of Shi'a employed by Aramco or benefiting from the oil industry.
* Riyadh is expected to have $220 billion in financial reserves and a budgetary surplus of over $30 billion in 2006. The kingdom's per capita income, which declined from $21,000 in the early 1980s to about $6,000 by the end of the 1990s, increased to $13,000 in 2005.
* Properly managed, Saudi Arabia's economy is likely to continue to prosper and help the House of Saud overcome the frequently forecast collapse of its regime. However, developments in nearby countries, especially the escalation of the Iran nuclear crisis and the possible civil war between Iraq's Shi'a majority and its powerful Sunni minority, could have serious ramifications on the Saudi regime's stability.

My apologies for the long post; I have cited sources as much as possible. I am seeking comments from anyone who may shed light on these issues, as I am far from a Middle East expert. If true, I would think it helpful to prevent the newly-elected Democratic majority from becoming corrupted by the military-industrial complex, or other domestic or foreign sources of money and influence whether the Saudi's, or the segment of the Israeli government represented by AIPAC. Wow, what a pipe dream, eh?

Regarding Mark Thatcher. There is a fascinating character in John LeCarre's most recent spy novel, "The Mission Song" clearly based on Mark Thatcher. In fact much of the plot borrows from the Guinea ops. Related to the Bush Family, the President of Guinea's dollar accounts were in Riggs Bank in DC, and his agent was Bush I's Brother. After the FBI investigated this in the wake of the failed Thatcher Coup efforts, Riggs Bank folded, and was taken over by another. Something else needing some serious investigative work.

Cool, didn't know that Sara.

And agree about Riggs. It's also where Pinochet kept his money, of course. BCCI for the new milennium, I think.

Intellectually Curious

I think Saudi stability is still fairly tenuous (which is one of the reasons they don't have the luxury to do nothing if the US just withdraws). First, they consistenly oversell their ability to pump oil. By pumping at above-optimal levels in the last 5 years, they have probably decreased the long-term productivity of the wells. And there is still a lot of tension within the Saudi family (as the spat between Turki and Bandar makes clear).

Also, the income in Saudi Arabia has gone up--just as it has in Iran (and, for that matter, in Venezuela). I think it quite possible that the two countries will get involved in a game of chicken, to see who can forgo that income longer--or who can stress its wells longer.

vcolvin said:

how's about west africa as our next "contra"? There's an up-and-coming oil area, unless China has that market cornered. Part of me would say Sudan/Darfur, but that is too far on my cynicism meter.

Africa is in play, and perhaps not just marginally. In addition to the Gulf of Guinea matters, which are getting louder and louder, is the fact that OPEC (meeting in Abuja just ended this week) is these days trying to shore up its market power, which has declined to about thirty percent of sales, by adding membership from among current producers. It is looking for much of this new membership in Africa. The rapidly growing producer Angola is to become a full member in January, and Sudan, which has applied for membership, might join as soon as March. (That cynicism meter checks out ok here.)

There is a lot of tension in OPEC right now, much of a kind that is considered classic for cartels of heterogenous membership. Nigeria apparently feels that it can exert power over the other members, since it has been campaigning simultaneously for higher prices (restricted group output) and a larger share of output for itself. The Saudis as usual prefer, at least in public, a low-but-not-too-low, or perhaps that's high-but-not-too-high price, so that we consumers are squeezed a bit perhaps, but not bankrupted. They also exerted some discipline against Nigeria's exceeding of its quota in the last couple of years. In this environment, the control of potential Gulf of Guinea fields is plainly of great and independent interest to the African coutnries in the region, to Saudi Arabia, the US, UK, ...

Oh yeah, at the same OPEC meeting it was decided to reduce daily output by 500,000 barrels, starting in February. Since world (satisfied) demand by OPEC's own figures is estimated at around 80-85mb/d, that's around a .6 percent tightening of supply. The price yesterday rose, just on the announced future increase, from 61.37 to 62.50, and in the event the OPEC producers seem to think that at the new level of production (I guess factoring in what they expect the other 70 percent of the producers to do) they can keep the price between there and around seventy-ish.

So if we have our problems on account of oil these days, so too, it seems, do the Saudis, not that I give a shit frankly. What bugs me about the whole thing (I better track down Syriana over the holidays) is the certainty that if we in this country had not for most of the last thirty years had national leadership and influence dominated by people who think "the vision thing" is some kind of joke—and who nevertheless insist on elbowing, running over, and no doubt sometimes quite literally destroying those who challenge them—we would not be in this geo-political and economic mess today.

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