The Plaid Avenger

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Turkey is Steamed and Ready; but this ain’t no Thanksgiving for US

Steamed and ready to invade Iraq…..Damn! I hate reporting from an active war zone! I always end up spilling a martini or two in the foxhole, and it’s so much harder to get my groove on with gunfire ringing out in the background.  Plus, I just don’t feel as sexy in a plaid flak jacket…but I digress as usual.  So where the hell am I? Well, I heard that you folks were flabbergasted by some strange events in the US Congress which may result in Turkish forces invading Iraq? Huh? Does that sound as confusing to you as it does to me? Indeed! So I came here to the Turkish/Iraqi border to witness the events as they unfold…and to fill you in on all the fuss and furor….

Bush warns Congress not to recognise Armenian ‘genocide’

Turkey protests approval of bill in US House

Turkey warns US of repercussions to genocide vote

Tension rises on Turkey-Iraq border

PM Erdoğan says Turkey doesn’t need permission to move on Northern Iraq

U.S. Officials Urge Restraint From Turkey

Some pissed off protesting Turks…hmmm…maybe I should try to soothe her…So what the hell is Turkey so pissed about? And what is this potential genocide business? And why is the White House really really really concerned about it? And how could a simple committee vote in the US on a 100 year old slaughter lead to Turkish troops invading Iraq in the next 100 hours?  Damn! That’s a lot of questions, which demand a lot of answers my plaid friends! But despite the appearance of complication, these issues are all actually fairly easy to relate to each other…and easy for us to figure out what’s going on.  The only damn confusing part of this whole story is why this snowball of shit has started rolling down the hill in the first place…..but first, to the facts of things we can follow… 

For this excursion, we have to get Sherman to set the ‘way-back’ machine for over 90 years ago, in what is now the sovereign state of Turkey. Back then it was a center of the crumbling Ottoman See the shrinking Ottoman state…..Empire, an old-school imperial power that at its height controlled most of the Arabian peninsula, North Africa, and even southeast Europe.  But by the time World War One gets started, this empire is a disaster! Internally corrupt, stagnate, weak, and technologically backwards, the Ottomans as a ruling line were already on their deathbed…in fact, a group of secularist named ‘the Young Turks’ (what a sweet ass nickname!) had already taken over the government in an attempt to reform and strengthen the failing state.

But it was too little too late. Turkey entered WW1 on the side of the Central Powers, and decided to hasten the process of their own demise by starting a land war with Russia in the Caucuses Dec 15, 1915 New York Times article…there is no dispute about the slaughter.region of western Turkey. Unfortunately for the Young Turks, their team sucked, and the Russian war was a disaster.  Why is all this shit important for today’s stories? Because there were about 2 million ethnic Armenian folks hanging out in western Turkey at the time, and some of them were agitating for a separate state for themselves (everyone knew the Ottomans were crumbling). And the Young Turks accused those Armenians of assisting the Russians during the war in order to secure their own independence….which severely pissed off the Turks! Subsequently, the Young Turks organized a horrific campaign of disaster against those Armenians as retribution for their acts of aiding and abetting the Ruskies. 

Now let’s stop the boat for a minute and answer a few questions. Were some Armenians agitating Catatrophic death tollfor independence? Yep, as were a shitload of other ethnic groups under the Ottoman umbrella. Did some of those Armenians assist the Russians? Surely some of them did, but how many is anybody’s guess. Did the Young Turks burn, loot, pillage, torture, maim, deport, and outright kill about 1-1.5 million Armenians in 1915-17? Absolutely; no one is disputing that fact, not even the current Turkish government. So why are these events suddenly in the news, with a variety of huge repercussions for global events? Ah…that will take some more explaining…

As referenced in the above stories, a US House of Representatives committee just voted on a bill to recognize this Ottoman event as a genocide. Genocide: the deliberate and systematic destruction of an ethnic, religious or national group. Damn, that’s a word that pisses people off every time its uttered. And this time its Turkey‘s turn to be pissed about it.  And my friends they are fucking hot and bothered beyond belief!

As soon as the White House caught wind of this bill, President Bush issued a very heavy handed Former friends…will it last?warning to the folks on the committee.  Heavy. Like, “hey don’t do this shit, please, this is more grief than we want to deal with right now!”  But the bill passed anyway after much debate—this is just a committee bill by the way; it still has to go to the entire House floor for a vote, maybe as early as this week.  Bill or law, the shit hit the fan anyway. Turkey called back its US ambassador, there have been protests outside the US embassy in Turkey, as well as protests in DC, and the Turkish leadership has hinted at various retaliatory measures that are being considered.

Retaliatory measures? What retaliatory measures? What the hell could Turkey do to the US? Oh, you would be surprised my friends! It is well understood by the White House and by the US military that without Turkish help and support there would be no supply lines fueling US forces in Iraq. On top of that, Turkey is a NATO member, which means it is also the refueling and re-supplying launching pad for US forces in Afghanistan, which is a NATO campaign. Long story short, if Turkey gets pissed enough at the US, it can totally screw-up all current military operations in the Middle East. And I mean totally screw-up.

Due to its strategic location, it is the only participating country that truly wields the power to utterly alter the US game plan in both of those conflicts. You dig what I’m saying? If Poland decides to pull Turkish troops: used in NATO, Afghanistan, Iraq….at least for now…out of Iraq; the US loses troop support. If Great Britain decides to pull out; then the US loses troop and material support. If Australia decides to pull out; the US loses the trained bomb-sniffing dingo unit. But if Turkey pulls out? Ouch! All major supply lines have to be re-routed. Most military and supply flights lift off out of US airbases in Turkey, so all those would be gone. And it would be a tremendous blow to morale to lose the only participating Muslim country in what is otherwise a big ‘Christian’/‘West’ campaign in the Middle East.  Are you starting to see why President Bush and Condoleezza Rice are really upset about this shit?

But Turkey can do even more to frustrate the US right now…and they are getting ready to actually Turks prepare to party with PKK…right here on the border man! I can see them!do it! As referenced in the stories above, Turkey is about to launch a force of Turkish troops into northern Iraq for reasons that have nothing to do with the current US war. The Turks are talking about sending in forces to try and nab a bunch of radical Kurdish terrorist named the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) who are operating out of Iraq, and who recently blew up some shit and killed 30 people in Turkey.

Now I don’t want to get into the particulars of that mess in this forum today, but I do want you to understand this: before that genocide vote last week, the US probably could have talked the Turks out of doing this—but now all bets are off! The Turks are so pissed that they currently don’t give a shit what the US wants…and thus are probably going to go forward with their invasion, I’m guessing this week!  Ha! And watch for this: the Turks will probably invade on the same day that the Armenian genocide bill goes up for the vote on the House floor! Talk about rubbing salt in the wound!

So the US administration is flustered, flabbergasted, and frustrated by this congressional gesture to label the Armenian massacre as a genocide. Almost as much as the Turks are. The US does not want Turkey invading northern Iraq…the last thing anybody wants is yet another entity blowing up shit in this basket-case Iraq catastrophe. What’s worse, the US is deathly afraid of losing Turkish support for conducting war.  And what’s even worse than that is the possibility of ‘the West’ losing Turkey as a strategic ally altogether. Damn! That would totally suck for the ‘West’ Why?

As alluded to already, Turkey has been a staunch US ally in NATO ever since the organization was formed in 1949. They have played a major part in every NATO operation, and have supporting virtually every US endeavor within NATO and even most US policies outside of the NATO sphere. Turkey is the most ‘westward’ leaning Muslim state…doing most of its business with the ‘West’ and even petitioning for entry into the EU. Most importantly, Turkey is the best example of a fully secular, fully democratic, AND fully Muslim state in the world.  Hell, it’s the ONLY one of its kind anywhere near the Middle East.  Turley is the state that the ‘West’ would like all the other Middle Eastern states to emulate and copy.  So if ‘the West’ loses Turkey…..hell, I don’t know…it don’t look good…the US, ‘the West’, and democracy won’t have too many friends in the neighborhood anymore. You see what I’m saying?

To finish this rant, why would this Armenian genocide deal have come up at this particular time anyway? That does appear to be the $25,000 dollar question. I have no real idea why it is happening right this second in the US. The current government of Turkey is historically ‘unrelated’ to the Young Turks that committed the heinous acts of 1915-17. To my knowledge, there is no requests for punishment of anybody (they are all dead) or for any type of reparations or fees to survivors (they are all dead too).  But I can tell you this little piece of insider’s info: its not the first country to go through this Armenian debate.  22 countries have officially recognized the incident as genocide, and 40 of the 50 states in the US have as well. 

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan:

Of particular note, I want to mention just a few of these: Austria, Cyprus, and most importantly France. France even passed a law making it a crime to openly deny the event as a genocide. Why would I point this out? Only to make the not-so-obvious connection that these European states (especially France) are extremely opposed to allowing Turkey into the EU.  Starting to get the picture here?  For the Frenchies, its an overt ploy to de-rail the Turkish/EU negotiations.

But for the US and the Middle East, how pissed off Turkey gets over this issue may very well have severe repercussions for the events of this week…of this year….and the long-term future of the region, and the world.

Hmmmm…Strange…..How bizarre is it that big, global-shaping events hinge on the use—or failure to use—a single word to describe a century-old catastrophe.

The State Can Take It or Leave It: Nationalization v. Privatization

Putin holds cards on Russian oil…but he's not aloneWhat is happening my plaid party people?  The Avenger decided to stay on here in Russia for another day to work off my wicked Putin-induced vodka martini hangover…and to investigate the nationalization of Russian oil; a process that has also been going down in Kazakhstan, in Bolivia, and in Venezuela too.  And man, the US and other western countries get pissed about nationalization—they only want to hear about privatization!  What’s that? You don’t recognize these terms? Well, you’ve got to know about this shit to understand the world my affable and affluent amigos! Start learning the ins and outs of economic control with these stories:

How Russia is Nationalized: The Oil Sector

Zimbabwe Votes to Take Control of Foreign-Owned Mines

Exxon pursues arbitration against Venezuela over seizure of oil assets

Chavez threatens to nationalize Venezuelan private schools

Bolivian President Seizes Gas Industry

…and the opposite side of the coin:

Japan begins privatization of its mammoth postal system

Activists Oppose Egyptian Healthcare Privatization

Iran to Privatize Airline, Banks

India’s Privatization Plan Is On Track

So what’s the deal with these two terms? They are polar opposites my friends, and folks around the planet have passionate views about the good or evil effects that nationalization or privatization can produce. People get downright hot and bothered about these terms!  And in some circumstances, initiating these actions has caused political dissent, diplomatic friction, or outright violent hostilities between peoples, companies, and even countries! Damn! Why so much heat? First…what are they?

Nationalization is a process whereby a government takes control of an economic activity that was owned by and/or run by private individuals/companies hands. It could be transportation, corn, water, uranium, or even bananas…but usually it happens to high-dollar commodities.  For example: Exxon acquires rights thru a government contract to pump shit tons of oil out of selected oil fields in Venezuela.  Exxon Hugo takin' over the bubblin' crude…and Exxon is pissed!goes there and sets up shop, building infrastructure like the oil wells and pipelines, and starts pumping and exporting oil. But then Hugo Chavez gets elected President of Venezuela and decides that Exxon is making too much money on that oil, and since the oil is actually in his country, he decides to take it back. All of it. So Hugo would nationalize the field, along with all the infrastructure that’s now on it, and send Exxon packing. Can you dig that?

But it never really works that simply.  Even in this Venezuela/Exxon example (which actually happened) Hugo didn’t simply just kick Exxon out and take their shit; he offered to buy back their shares and their investments at a fair market value.  Sometimes the parties have to go to court to negotiate these settlements (see Exxon story above). Nationalization of an industry often involves the government simply re-writing all prior contracts with the companies in such a way that the state owns more than 50% of the action.  But make no bones about it: if the companies refuse to co-operate or sell back their shares, then the state will just take the shit from them!

And OMG nationalization so completely pisses off ‘the West’…especially the US!  Why? Well, where do you think all the big multinational corporations are from? That’s right! Most of those companies doing business abroad (and that get their shit nationalized) are from the US/Europe. So those countries feel obliged to stick up for the rich dudes who lost their shit. Sometimes they fell so obliged that they might invade the country, or even assassinate the leader who oversaw the nationalization. Or in the case of Chavez…threaten to.  Sound crazy? Yeah, it is.

So why would a state do this nationalization gig? Sometimes its done to protect a critical industry in times of war or emergency (some countries have nationalized steel during wartimes); sometimes its done because the industry is a matter of national security (Israel runs its airline industry); sometimes its done to an industry that is floundering and about to crash on its own (perhaps the US/health care issue).  But more often than not, a state will reclaim rights on an industry that it feels it’s getting ripped off in.  Stick with the oil example: when Exxon or Shell or anybody else is pumping oil out of Venezuela or Nigeria, the corporation is making the lion’s share of the profits. The Avenger will just make up some numbers to help you get the point:

Let’s say a barrel of crude sells for $50 on the international market; Exxon may pay $5 toWhat's a few billion barrels between friends? Venezuela for every barrel pumped out, thus leaving $45 for their own pockets.  But people in Venezuela may say: “WTF?” “It’s oil from out country….but we only get 1/10 of the sale?  That is a shitty deal!” And if enough folks in the government think that way, then they may make moves to nationalize the oil industry and rework the system to get more of the cash. Does that make sense? Venezuela did it. Russia did it. Bolivia did it.  Kazakhstan is thinking about it. 

Oh, by the way, did you see President Evo Morales of Bolivia on the Daily Show with John Stewart last Evo sez: week? Totally hilarious! And Evo referenced why he decided to nationalize his countries oil and natural gas: “On the issue of nationalization of oil and gas,” Morales said, “in 2005, before I came president, the Bolivian state received only 300 million dollars from its oil and gas exports. And now since they’ve been nationalized, the Bolivian state receives more than two billion dollars. Therefore, we followed through on what we promised.”

Are you starting to realize why this is happening at this particular juncture in history, particularly in the energy sectors?  If you answered: ‘because the price of oil is freakin’ high, and expected to get even higher’ than you win the prize! Oil producing states see the future sales going nowhere but up, and want to have a bigger slice of the pie for themselves.  Oil is one of those special commodities that kind of defies free market capitalism–in that lots of states control their industry as opposed to letting private individuals run the show. See map below for a few countries of note… And while die-hard capitalist countries claim that governments cannot run industries as well as private corporations, those states that are controlling their oil do seem to be making a holy shit load of cash right now…despite the fact that the private industry isn’t in charge.  And speaking of private….

nationalized countries of note…

Privatization is precisely the opposite of nationalization: it’s when a state sells off an industry or I'm not even sure what the hell this means…but I like it!!!business that it controls to a private entity, most often a company/corporation.  Look to the above story from Japan for your best example of that right now: Japan sold its postal system to a private company. Wow!  The whole damn post office! Why would countries sell an asset like the post office or the telecom industry? Because most free-market capitalist societies believe that private individuals and businesses simply run things better. That’s the bottom line.

The theory goes like this: because private entities are motivated to maximize profits, they will do a better job making an industry like a post office more efficient, or they will work harder to find more oil, and are more flexible to invent new technologies and try new approaches which make the business run the best. Remember: one of the golden rules of capitalism is that competition will weed out the least efficient, and the better mousetrap will win every time. Folks of this opinion believe that governments are clunky, inefficient—and because they don’t have to compete with anybody—are uncompetitive! No shit? Lack of competition makes you become uncompetitive? Yeah, I can dig that!

Places like India and China have just figured this stuff out in the last couple of decades, and are Ha! I wonder why India wanted to privatize the train system? …And who would be dumb enough to buy it???privatizing like mad right now. India has recently privatized its transportation system, its telecommunications system, and anything else it can get its hands on to sell! China too has increasingly let out the reigns on its prior control of everything economic (during its botched attempt at communism) and that place is a venerable wild west of capitalism! Even Iran is in the privatization game…and they usually despise all ideas that are western in origin. There must be something to it!

And its not like the governments simply privatize the industry and then just walk away poorer for the experience. Capitalist theory would suggest that not only does the state make money on the initial sale of the industry, but in the long run will make way more in profits by simply taking a cut of the profits and/or taxing the service/product. Since private business will do it better, there will be more oil or more uranium or more corn or more stamped letters to tax…therefore the state makes more money! And without having to actually spend money running the damn show! You dig?

Does it sound like I’m picking sides on this nationalize/privatize debate? Don’t be fooled. The Plaid Avenger is here to tell you this: this is complicated shit, and there is no wrong or right side here.  It really goes on a case by case basis in my book. Does private industry typically do shit better than government-run shit? Absolutely! Are some countries getting totally reamed by some private corporations? Absolutely! Are some states unfairly grabbing shit from corporations whose time and investments made the industry profitable in the first place? Absolutely! Are some multinational corporations total scumbags who use their money and power to corrupt and control industries within a state? Ab-so-fucking-lutely!

So pay attention to which states are selling, and which states are buying, their industries.  And also pay attention to which industries are up for grabs.  You will hear a lot in the US about the possible nationalization of health care; in India about the privatization of telecoms; in Russia about the Godzilla Hotties? What will the Japanese think of next?nationalization of the oil industry; and in Japan the privatization of the post…and now you know what that shit means, but more importantly, why it is happening…

I just hope I can still get my damn collectable Godzilla stamps in Toyko…even if it is from a private vendor… 

Presiding President Postures for Potential Prime Minister Position: "Pootie Poot" Putin’s

Welcome back to the GUN show! Look at those guns dude!Greetings World Watchers! Couldn’t help but fly into Moscow from Venezuela last night to meet up with the world’s toughest head of state to confirm some interesting news about his plausible and entirely possible persistence in playing on the world political stage.  And who has the balls to kick Vladimir Putin off of a stage of any sort? Dudes! Even if Duane ‘The Rock’ Johnson were to throw down against Vlad, I have to say I would still bet heavy on the Ruskie!

And sorry for the corny blog title, but I am returning from a day at the Kremlin with some disturbing news… Apparently, back in 2002, George W Bush gave Vladimir Putin the nickname “Pootie Poot”. No, I’m not joking. Check this out: Bush’s love of Pootie-Poot Putin; Analysis: Bush and Putin on nickname terms

How did I miss that shit? Bush seriously referred to the most badass of world leaders as “Pootie Bushie Bush & Pootie Poot all smiles 5 years ago….Poot” Putin. Dubya is just begging to have a thermobaric bomb dropped on Crawford, Texas!!! But these stories above are from an already passed era—those cutesy nicknames were coined by Bush (and tolerated by Putin) at a time when these two world leaders were tight.  But those times have passed. It was a whopping five years ago when they were yucking it up together, but the US-Russian relationship has cooled significantly since then, and is possibly bordering on total animosity in today’s world. 

I think if George Dubya were to call Vlad ‘Pootie-Poot’ in today’s political climate, he might well get his jugular ripped out by the icy hand of the Siberian shit-kicker…. A nickname that I think may be more appropriate for the Russian leader.  Of course, I have also given the KGB veteran a more print-friendly nickname too: Vlad “The Man” Putin. Why do I call him “The Man”? I’ll give you a quick list:
Shit, is that James Bond? Nope, just the President of Russia.

1) He’s a former KGB agent. The KGB was the Secret Service in Russia. Sort of like a cross between America‘s CIA and Dr No’s SPECTRE. The KGB didn’t just assassinate political opponents, they did it with flair. One time they killed a Bulgarian dissident/journalist with a poison umbrella gun.  Damn! I remember when the Penguin pulled that shit on Batman!  You can’t make this shit up folks… what a bunch of pranksters! They are also widely believed to be behind the poisoning of the current Ukrainian president, as well as a former KGB spy that dropped dead in the UK last year.  Anyway, the fact that Putin was a power player in the KGB means it is very possible, if not likely, that Putin has killed people with his bare hands. Bare hands/Bear hands! HA! Unintended pun. Putin is a BEAR of a man! The KGB was officially disbanded by Yeltsin, but somehow, lots of former members have found their way into powerful positions within the Russian government.  No joke.  Although I’m sure that’s probably just a coincidence… hmmmm….

Putin kicking the shit out of a kid who called him 'Pootie Poot'.  Damn! The guy is ruthless!2) Putin is a judo black belt. This is all part of the KGB training. Vlad is a serious ass kicker. If the UN was a professional wrestling organization, Putin would be Hulk Hogan. In fact, if the UN ever did turn into a wrestling organization the only imaginable scenario is Putin standing atop the main podium yelling, “I challenge anyone to dethrone me! I am king of the world” and every other world leader cowering in fear. Not even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is crazy enough to challenge Putin’s badassity.

'Glamour SHots' money well spent by 'The Man'3) Putin has training with small munitions. I think the pictures speak for themselves.
4) All of this aside, Putin is a damn handsome man. You should see the foxy Ruskiettes that hang out at the Kremlin Grotto. All I can say is WOW. He drives the Russian ladies (and gay men the world over) wild with lascivious lust.

Anyway, the real reason I came to Russia was to talk politics. Vlad is serving his second term as Russian President, which ends in March 2008. According to the Russian constitution, a President cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. That means, come March 2008, Putin will no longer be President of Russia. There was some concern in the international community that Putin would not honor the Constitution and would try to remain President for another term. Vlad, however, has been adamant for years that he will abide the law and step down when his term ends.

Vlad is highly popular in Russia and has presided over a period of Russian resurgence. (By most conservative estimates, he has approval ratings of 80% and up.) Many Russians would be happy to change the Constitution to allow for another term for “The Man”. However, the USA and EU would both likely flip shit about “dictator”-this and “autocrat”-that. To the West, this would be a move away from democracy (even though there is little doubt that Putin would win a “free and fair” election)–and you know how much the West likes democracy! So, it seems like Putin has come up with Vlad-tastic solution to this dilemma. Check this out:

Putin Says He Will Run for Parliament

Putin’s Plan to Stay in Power

The nonstop thrill ride of Russian politics 

Basically, a couple of weeks ago, Putin fired the old Prime Minister and replaced him with a no-name nobody named Viktor Zubkov. Literally. No one had ever heard of the dude. The only thing Zubkov has going for him is complete loyalty to Vlad. It would be like George Bush nominating his personal lawyer, Harriet Myers, to the Supreme Court just because she was loyal to him… Oops… I guess that did happen. But I digress…

Anyway, in Russian politics, the position of Prime Minister has been a spring board to the Presidency. By appointing Zubkov to be Prime Minister, Putin has made Zubkov the de facto favorite to be the next President. Why would Vlad appoint a no-name to be President? Does he want to pull strings from behind the curtain?

Actually, it turns out that Putin wants to pull strings from IN FRONT of the curtain. Putin announced that he will be running for Parliament. As the leader of his party (United Russia), which is the most popular party in Russia, he will almost certainly be elected to Parliament and then selected as Prime Minister. But, isn’t Prime Minister a suckier job than President? Maybe…maybe not. If the President of Russia is politically weak–which looks like it will be the case (does anyone even remember that guys name? Rubadub-Zub? Zuberanski? Shit, who cares..) then the Prime Minister could start to increase his power. This would especially be the case if the President wanted the Prime Minister to be powerful. The current situation is that the President makes decisions and the Prime Minister rubber stamps them. Very easily, next year it could be the exact opposite. Vlad “The Prime Minister Man” Putin could be the decision maker and President Rubadub-Zub could be the rubber stamper. Ha! There I go again!

So, this brings me to the FINAL REASON Vlad is “The Man”:

pootie-with-toy-missile.jpg5) The man is more powerful than his position. Imagine if Bushie Bush ran for congress in 2008 and became Speaker of the House–and from that position, he was able to control the US government. You can’t imagine that. It’s too freakin’ crazy! In America, the President is powerful–and I mean the position of President, not just whichever child-of-privilege who gets to sit in the White House. The institutional power is not as established in Moscow. In Russia, Vlad is powerful. The man himself has the power.  It just so happens he is currently President. He would still be powerful as Prime Minister, or as Advisor, or even as Commissioner of the Russian Judo Federation (RJF). And that is why Vlad is “The Man”.

And, damn, he mixes one mean vodka martini…but perhaps I’m disclosing too much….

Permanent Possessors of Power: the Fabulous 5!

Forget the Fantastic 4, you want to know about the Fabulous 5! Greetings from the New   York City my plaid friends! From the United Nations Headquarters to be exact.  And there are big things are going on in the Big Apple, not the UN Headquarters…and a great place to party with ladies from across the globe!least of which is the Avenger knocking back a dozen big-ass Manhattans—my mixed drink of choice here in the big city. Hey, the town’s so nice they named it twice, so I have to drink twice as much when I party here! But I digress as usual….While this weekend’s meeting will cover many tipples and topics, I just wanted to give you a quick rant about the UN’s most powerful component: the UN Permanent Security Council. Check out these stories related to this group’s recent activity:

Security Council reps discuss Iranian sanctions

Security Council Reform Resolution Fuels German Hope for Seat

Signs of shift in Iran stand-off

U.N. to revisit Security Council growth

U.N. Security Council has imposed an arms embargo on Sudan

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the main organ of the UN charged with What? Get the hell out of there Superman! You ain't one of the 5!maintaining peace and security among countries. While lots of other committees do lots of other shit, all that shit only amounts to recommendations that are made to countries of the world.  However, the Security Council has the power to make decisions which member governments must carry out under the UN Charter—a charter which all members states have agreed to. Starting to get the picture here? If the Security Council passes a resolution, it must be enforced…by force if necessary!

In example: if a country on the Security Council proposes a resolution to bomb Burma, and that resolution passes, then the UN has to act on it, and Burma will be bombed.  That is an extreme scenario, but you get the point.  In 1950, it was just such a UN resolution that led to the invasion of South Korea by (US-led) UN forces to counter the hostile North Korean takeover that we now call the Korean War.

But let’s look at the mechanics of how this shit actually works.  The Security Council is made up of 15 member states, consisting of five permanent seats and ten temporary Flags of the 5: and they are PERMANENT baby!seats. Ah! Now we finally see the ‘permanent’ part of this group, and the reason for this blog.  The permanent five are the US, the UK, China, Russia, and France.  The ten temporary seats are held for two-year terms with member states voted in by the UN General Assembly, and broken down roughly on a regional basis (i.e. like 2 from Africa, 2 from Latin America, 2 from Middle East, etc.). So those 10 temporary seats are rotating, usually about half of them rotate out every year.

But the big 5! That is where all the action really is! Why? Because the Permanent Security Council members have this one all important distinction: veto power! Any one of the 5 permanent members can stop any resolution dead in its tracks. Russia or France or China can kill anything the US or Great Britain puts forward, and the US can crush anything the Russians or Chinese want to pass.  It’s just that simple. And that’s what creates all the drama!

Why so much drama? Because for the UN to actually send troops or aid to any part of the world requires a resolution from the council.  See, the entire Security Council votes on all issues, with each country getting one vote.  For any resolution to pass, it must have at least 9 ‘yes’ votes, and zero ‘veto’ votes from any of the permanent 5.  And the big permanent 5 don’t always see eye to eye on what the UN should be doing, because they all have different allies and strategic partners and motivations to consider.  So to keep our example going, the US would actually love to pass a resolution to send in troops to Burma to straighten that shit government out, but everyone knows the Chinese would veto it in a hot-shit second because the Chinese are big buddies of the Burmese regime.

Colin Powell at the Council: Need another example? Just think back to the lead-up to the current US invasion of Iraq. That is a US invasion, not a UN invasion, precisely because of the dynamics of the Permanent Security Council.  The US was working damn hard to get the Council to pass a resolution to invade Iraq, but the Frenchies outright vetoed it, so the Ruskies didn’t even have to (which would have been likely). Thus, french fries became ‘freedom fries’, but you know that story already…

To keep it even more real, consider the current Iranian situation as referenced in the Sarkozy: stories above. The US and the UK have for some time wanted to pass some resolutions to beat down the Iranians, but haven’t really bothered because the Frenchies and Russians would veto it. Now with Nick Sarkozy and the Frenchies coming over to Team USA, the sides are starting to get stacked in their favor….BUT the Russians are big buddies with the Iranians and will still likely veto any resolution that calls for military action against Iran. Can you dig it?

Just as a side note: China typically votes against any resolution which involves military action against any country.  They are big fans of sovereignty, and as such think that only some whack-ass extreme behavior by a state would warrant the use of UN force. What wusses. Actually, they are hesitant to violate any other countries sovereignty mostly because they don’t want anyone to invade theirs. They just don’t want to piss anyone off.

And you should know that a country can actually decide not to vote at all—which happens quite a bit with the Chinese.  They might not like a resolution, but if Chinaeveryone else wants it, they will just not vote, thereby saving face. To keep our Iranian example: if the Russians eventually agree to some use of force against Iran, China will not want to stand in the way of a resolution that everyone wants, so they will abstain from the vote….so they won’t piss off the US, UK and France, and at the same time can tell the Iranians “Hey, don’t be pissed at us! We didn’t vote for it! Send your terrorist to their countries, not ours!”   See how this shit works?

To finish, you just got to know your Permanent Security Council 5, and how their behavior in large part determines the actions of the entire UN. Many folks want to expand the Permanent Security Council membership and change some of the rules to better represent the world and end the predictable stalemates. Check the stories above for activity on that front…and know this: Germany will likely join soon, as they already are invited to virtually every high-level talk that the Council holds. You will often see news stories reference meetings like this: The Permanent 5 + Germany.

Hmmm….Germany….isn’t it about time for Octoberfest celebrations to begin?


Mohamed ElBaradei: Call him ‘Cool Hand Nuke’

Whew! Finally thawing out from my weekend Arctic adventures, and what better The Cool One himself: Mohamed El is in the house!place to do it than a coffee house here in ViennaAustria. Hell, these people invented the coffee house! Mmmmm….soaking up the warmth of a good cup of joe spiked with Zirbenz…my favorite Alpine liqueur.  Ahhh…inhaling the heady smoke of a dark bean roast whilst having my shoulders massaged by a sweet little fraulein…oops, where was I? Oh yes! Vienna! What brings the Avenger here, you ask? Well, I had to come down to chill at IAEA headquarters and party with my favorite Austrian Egyptian, Mohamed ElBaradei, who once again finds himself in hot water. Ha! How fitting! Hot water in a coffee house…oh my, sometimes I am too damn good! To the facts:

France ups ante in war of words with Iran over nuke issue

France seeks new set of sanctions on Iran

Europeans Tone Down War Rhetoric in Iran Nuclear Stand-Off

Western talk of Iran war premature “hype”: IAEA head

ElBaradei at center of standoff over Iran’s nuclear program

The man at work in Vienna…So before we get to this Elbaradei cat and why he’s so damn important, let’s browse over the headlines.  In a nutshell, Iran has been developing its nuclear program at a rapid pace. Iran has claimed from the get go that their program is all about nuclear energy production, and no more.  In their defense, Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): a treaty which prohibits the spread of nuke weapons, encourages disarmament of states with nuke weapons, and allows for the development of nuke energy.  So far, Iran has been a lawful abider of this treaty, having broken none of its rules.  Sorry! I know a lot of folks don’t want to hear that.  I’m not defending them…it’s just the way it is.

However, the US and ‘the West’ don’t like and don’t trust Iran, so they believe the Iranians are really after development of nuclear weapons. In their defense, they could be right. That Iranian regime is far from anything you would call stable and sensible.  But given the US/the West’s involvement in all the countries surrounding Iran (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan), I can see why they might crave the security blanket that a nuke bomb might provide them.  This is just plaid conjecture of course, but I can understand why they might want one. Can’t you? Hell, if I lived anywhere near the Middle East, I’d want as much ammunition as I could get.  Shit, I’d park a scud missile in my garage….but I digress as usual…

So Iran wants a nuke program, ‘the West’ does not want that to happen, and the issue has been heating up here lately…as if the Middle East needed more heat? The US and the EU have been Sarkozy: bringing the heat by calling for strict sanctions against the country in order to force them to give up the nuke stuff.  And this week’s heat has been coming from quite the unexpected source: the French! Ever since Nick Sarkozy took over as President of France (see: Sarkozy the Shit-Kicker), those guys have seemingly grown some escargot balls of steel overnight. The Frenchies have been insistent that all steps will be taken to ensure that Iran will never have a nuke program…including the possibility of war!

What a bizarre turn of events for the French: they are never the instigators of war….they usually just surrender when the war breaks out. Damn! You know you must be pissing people off if the French want to fight you! Shit! Hitler couldn’t even pull that one off! I just can’t help but think that the US is finding all this terribly amusing: the Frenchies are being more bad-ass than the Bush-ies! How sweet would that be though: the US sending in ‘the boys in berets’ as its first assault wave? Ha! Yep, this situation continues to get hotter and hotter as the weeks pass….but there is a splash of cold water to all of this rhetoric…and that cool water’s name is Mohamed ElBaradei. I refer to him as ‘Cool Hand Nuke’, and he is the real point of today’s blog. 

You’ve got to know this dude, because his opinion, and his voice, will be seriously affecting how shit gets played out on our planet in the coming years. Big time.  So who is he? Mohamed IAEA logoElBaradei is an Egyptian diplomat and Director General of the IAEA….aka the International Atomic Energy Agency, a sub-organization of the UN. And an important one at that.  The IAEA’s basic mission is to promote the peaceful use of nuke technology for energy purposes while simultaneously limiting nuke technology for weapons purposes. They are often referred to as “the UN’s Nuclear Watchdog”. These are the guys who do inspections on facilities the world over to ensure that the IAEA and the NPT’s aims are being met. 

As the head of the IAEA, ElBaradei has the daunting task of compiling all the investigative clues and deciding if a country is breaching the NPT by trying to create nuke weapons. And this is a shitty job. Why? Look at the headlines again from above. Because there is so much political drama between countries, ElBaradei and his crew are constantly harassed from all sides when they make any decision or recommendation. No matter what the IAEA decides, its sure to piss someone off. 

Colin sez:

Want an example? Sure, here’s one you’ll remember: In the lead up to the current US/Iraq War, the US hounded the shit out of the IAEA to declare that Iraq had weapons. The IAEA went into Iraq to inspect, which pissed off the Iraqis. The IAEA couldn’t find enough evidence to support the claim of a nuke program, and ElBaradei made those facts public, which pissed the shit out of the US.  As the story has unfolded after the US invasion, it turns out that ElBaradei was right, which pissed the US even more.  In fact, the US was so pissed that it tried to block ElBaradei from being appointed to his third term in office.  It was hilarious! The US tried to get their buddy Australia to put up a candidate to defeat Mohamed, but he is just to popular and even the Aussies wouldn’t do it! Ha! It’s just like high school man!

Laugh it up! Tomorrow there may be a war!Long story short: know your ElBaradei.  He is a level-headed dude who has been striving for peaceful resolution to world nuke issues for over a decade. He is routinely berated by the US and ‘the West’ who think he is too soft on Middle Eastern countries that they want to invade. He looks for facts, not speculation. He is a quiet, reserved man who doesn’t go to award dinners, doesn’t jet-set, doesn’t hang out with world leaders, and doesn’t play politics.  He is a calm in the storm that is international politics: the mere fact that he pissed off nearly everyone is a good indicator that he is doing something right! As referenced in the story above, he put the smack-down on France for their hot-headed words concerning a strike against Iran by basically saying: France, chill out with ‘the hype.’ Quote: “I ask everyone to hold their horses until we do the process,” Ha! Hold your horses Frenchies!

Don’t mess with Mohamed my friends! This dude won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 (jointly with the IAEA), and he donated his winnings to set up orphanages in Egypt. He is the bomb! Oops…no pun intended.  For all of this, and more, I call him Cool Hand Nuke.  Hell, this dude may end up preventing a damn war or two, so be sure you know who he is, and what he is up to. His opinions Sweet! Plaid ski bunny on the slopes!can make or break a nuke program, a country, or a war effort. Seriously. If ElBaradei decides that Iran is breaching the rules, than one word from him can easily incite an invasion from the West.

As for me…its about time to hit the slopes.  Where are my plaid ski pants?….

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Issue 2: Battle For Burma

Well, the battle for the heart and soul of this country is on, but no one outside Burma seems to be able to do a damn thing about it! Why not?

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