Why Energy Independence Matters

The Washington Times posted an article today about Iranian military exercises in the Straits of Hormuz. The Straits of Hormuz is significant because 35% of all seaborne traded oil, or almost 20% of oil traded worldwide flows through the Straits of Hormuz. This is something to watch as the situation in Iran becomes more volatile.

This is today’s Dry Bones cartoon:

The Washington Times reports:

Iran’s navy sent dozens of small boats into the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, dramatizing its ability to choke off the strategic Persian Gulf waterway — a move that could send global oil and U.S. gasoline prices soaring — and escalating the confrontation with the Trump administration for withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal.

U.S. officials said the naval exercise was Tehran’s way to show its capability to create a disruption in the waterway, through which some 30 percent of the world’s sea-transported oil passes daily. Officials at the Pentagon said they expected the exercise would last only a few hours, although it was unclear Thursday night whether it had ended.

“We are monitoring it closely, and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce,” said a statement by Navy Capt. Bill Urban, U.S. Central Command spokesman.

The development marked Iran’s latest escalation in response to Mr. Trump’s promise to begin reimposing harsh economic sanctions in the coming days that were suspended under the 2015 deal. One Pentagon source said the unexpected Iranian navy moves were meant to hammer home Tehran’s rejection of President Trump’s offer this week for direct, unconditional talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The article details the unrest in Iran:

It is an increasingly delicate moment for Mr. Rouhani, who faces protests in Iran over the nation’s struggling economy, weak growth and declining currency.

The Rouhani government has been rocked by a string of protests in cities across the country over the failing currency, mismanagement and investor fears of U.S. sanctions, the first wave of which is set to begin Tuesday. The Trump administration is pressuring Iran’s other trading partners in Europe and elsewhere to curb trade and investment ties as well.

A report by the official IRNA news agency said about 100 people took to the streets Thursday in the northern city of Sari and that demonstrations broke out in at least three other cities. The agency reported that none of the protests had official permission and all were broken up by police.

Iranian dissident groups abroad have detailed multiple demonstrations in recent days, with harsh police crackdowns in response. The Associated Press cited videos circulating on social media purporting to show dozens of demonstrators setting fire to police vehicles and shouting “death to the dictator.” The authenticity of the videos could not immediately be verified.

One way for a dictator to unite his people is to unite them against a common enemy. This may or may not work in Iran since many of the younger people in the country are more inclined toward western ideas than the ideas of the mullahs.

The article concludes:

“Any disruption of oil supplies in the Persian Gulf would be a major threat to the global economy and would hurt U.S. trading partners, thereby damaging the U.S. economy,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, who heads the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at the Council on Foreign Relations.

U.S. domestic oil and gas production and export increases in recent years “have not reduced the U.S. need to police the free flow of oil from the Middle East,” Ms. Myers Jaffe wrote in an analysis for the think tank this week. “An oil price rise due to the loss of supply in one part of the world is reflected in U.S. price levels as well all other locations across the globe.”

Rockford Weitz, who heads the Fletcher Maritime Studies Program at Tufts University, said that in the Strait of Hormuz, Iran “could damage commercial shipping with relatively cheap anti-ship missiles, fast patrol boats, submarines and mines.

“Even threats and modest disruption to commercial shipping could trigger economic damage in the form of higher marine insurance rates, crude oil supply concerns and unsettled stock markets,” Mr. Weitz wrote in an analysis published by Tufts last month.

We live in a fragile world–keep praying.

Money Won’t Make This Better

The Washington Free Beacon reported yesterday on the efforts of Secretary of State John Kerry to sweeten the Iran deal for Israel and Saudi Arabia. Frankly, there are some things you just can’t sweeten.

The article reports:

Kerry admits that, despite the deal, Iran will continue to back terrorist groups across the globe and promises to boost military support and funding to Israel and Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The letter comes in response to concerns among lawmakers, Israel, and other Gulf region allies that the nuclear accord will boost the Islamic Republic’s support for terrorism, while leaving traditional U.S. allies on the defense.

“Important questions have been raised concerning the need to increase security assistance to our allies and partners in the region and to enhance our efforts to counter Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region,” Kerry writes. “We share the concern expressed by many in Congress regarding Iran’s continued support for terrorist and proxy groups throughout the region, its propping up of the Assad regime in Syria, its efforts to undermine the stability of its regional neighbors, and the threat it poses to Israel.”

The Obama administration, Kerry claims, is under “no illusion that this behavior will change following implementation of the JCPOA,” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

If the behavior of Iran will not change following the implementation of the JCPOA, then why are we agreeing to the JCPOA? Wouldn’t it be better to refuse to lift any sanctions or give Iran any money until the leaders of Iran change their behavior (and maybe stop shouting “Death to Israel” and “Death to America“)? I admit that I am only a lowly blogger, but that seems rather obvious to me. Why are we going to give Iran access to millions of dollars to buy more and better weapons to kill American soldiers?

The article reports:

One senior Congressional aide who received the letter said that it is a clear attempt by the administration to placate regional fears about the deal.

“Let’s not be fooled about what the letter represents. This desperate move to placate Israel and our Gulf partners is a tacit acknowledgment that Iran will expand its international terror regime thanks to the nuclear agreement,” the source said. “If this is such a good deal, why does the administration feel compelled to immediately offer arms packages as compensation to our regional allies?”

“No amount of conventional weapons can neutralize the threat posed by the mullahs acquiring nuclear weapons,” the source said. “This type of appeasement is a slap in the face to our closets allies and a wink-wink to the dictators in Tehran.”

Obviously there are people in our government who understand the dangers of this agreement. Unfortunately, there are also many people in our government who choose not to listen to them. I believe this agreement will be able to get through the games being played in the Senate and will go into force. I also believe that the day that happens will be a truly sad day for America. We have turned our backs on our friends and chosen to fund our enemies. That is not wisdom.

Losing Friends In The Middle East

Yesterday The Wall Street Journal posted an article about shifting alliances in the Middle East. The article pointed out that Israel and Saudi Arabia have both had strained relationships with America under President Obama.

The article comments on both of these relationships:

Each relationship would become special in its own way: one based on the need to protect access to Saudi oil and stability in the Persian Gulf; the other driven by support for a Jewish state in the wake of the Nazi genocide and what would increasingly be seen as shared values and interests with the region’s only democracy. Over the years there were significant tensions in both relationships, but more predictability and consistency were demonstrated than change.

Shifts in the Middle East have produced unprecedented stresses in both relationships. The Arab Spring, particularly the fall of Hosni Mubarak and perceptions that the Obama administration had facilitated his ouster, alienated the stability-driven Saudis. Growing tensions between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration on settlements and the peace process strained U.S.-Israeli ties.

There are still read questions about the role President Obama played in the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and the support of the Muslim Brotherhood government that replaced him. When the government of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was ousted, Washington voiced its displeasure.

The article concludes:

The administration’s view that Iran may hold the key to stability on the nuclear issue, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen has opened a divide with traditional allies who see things quite differently. As the administration looks more and more toward Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia will look beyond Barack Obama–biding their time, furthering their own agendas, and hoping that the next president, regardless of party, will see Tehran in a different light.

Unfortunately it will take some time to repair the damage done both internationally and nationally by President Obama and his policies. Hopefully the next President will be up to the task and will bring change instead of more of the same.

While We Are Preparing To Sign A Nuclear Arms Treaty…

Yahoo News is reporting today that Iran has seized the Maersk Tigris cargo ship in the Persian Gulf near the Strait of Hormuz. Yesterday the U.K. Telegraph carried the story.

The Telegraph reports:

The vessel had apparently declined to change course and steer towards the Iranian coast. Warning shots were then fired across the bridge and the ship was boarded by personnel from the naval wing of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and steered towards the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

The container ship was travelling from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to the port of Jebel Ali in Dubai. It was flying the flag of the Marshall Islands and chartered by Rickmers Ship Management, a company based in Hamburg. The vessel is owned by Maersk, the Danish shipping and trading conglomerate.

…Fars, the semi-official Iranian news agency, described the ship as a “trade vessel” which had been “seized by the Iranian navy” at the request of the country’s Ports and Maritime Authority.

Fars added: “The ship was seized after a relevant court order was issued for its confiscation.” No further explanation for Iran’s actions was offered.

The idea of simply seizing the ship and the innocent people aboard the ship does not seem like the appropriate response to the court action.

Meanwhile, Yahoo News reports:

Iran’s foreign minister told a New York City audience on Wednesday that Tehran respects freedom of navigation in the Gulf, a day after Iranian patrol boats seized a Danish container ship in one of the world’s busiest oil shipping lanes.

“The Persian Gulf is our lifeline … We will respect international navigation,” Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said during a discussion hosted by New York University’s Center on International Cooperation and the think tank New America. “For us, freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf is a must.”

This doesn’t sound like freedom of navigation.

Yahoo News reports:

Maersk said in a statement that it was in communication with the Danish Foreign Ministry and trying to ascertain why the Maersk Tigris had been diverted.

Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization said a court had ordered the ship seized after ruling against Maersk Line in a case about debts brought by Pars Talaie, an Iranian company.

Zarif told the audience on Wednesday that Maersk was required to pay damages on the basis of a court order. He said the legal proceedings had been going on for some 14 years.

“Simply, our naval forces implemented the decision of the court,” Zarif said in New York, characterizing Maersk’s actions as “peculiar.”

Tasnim, an Iranian news agency, quoted a Pars Talaie lawyer as saying the debt involved a cargo that Pars Talaie had hired Maersk to take from the Iranian port of Abadan to Dubai more than a decade ago but which never arrived.

This is another example of what happens when America has a weak President. There were American warships in the area, but Iran had no reason to fear them. This is also an example of the lawlessness of Iran.

This Isn’t The Time To Rewrite History

The news coming out of Iraq is horrible. People are being killed because they belong to the wrong Muslim sect or because they tried to preserve the country. It is awful. But in the awfulness, let’s not forget how we got here.

Wikipedia (not a site I love, but occasionally useful) posts some of the items in the resolution that led us to war:

Then we need to look at the Senators who voted for the war. That list can be found at Senate.gov:

Grouped By Vote Position

YEAs —77
Allard (R-CO)
Allen (R-VA)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Bennett (R-UT)
Biden (D-DE)
Bond (R-MO)
Breaux (D-LA)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burns (R-MT)
Campbell (R-CO)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Carnahan (D-MO)
Carper (D-DE)
Cleland (D-GA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
Daschle (D-SD)
DeWine (R-OH)
Dodd (D-CT)
Domenici (R-NM)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Edwards (D-NC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Fitzgerald (R-IL)
Frist (R-TN)
Gramm (R-TX)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Helms (R-NC)
Hollings (D-SC)
Hutchinson (R-AR)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kohl (D-WI)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lott (R-MS)
Lugar (R-IN)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Miller (D-GA)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Nickles (R-OK)
Reid (D-NV)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Santorum (R-PA)
Schumer (D-NY)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-NH)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stevens (R-AK)
Thomas (R-WY)
Thompson (R-TN)
Thurmond (R-SC)
Torricelli (D-NJ)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)
NAYs —23
Akaka (D-HI)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Byrd (D-WV)
Chafee (R-RI)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corzine (D-NJ)
Dayton (D-MN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Graham (D-FL)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Wellstone (D-MN)
Wyden (D-OR)

Have we forgotten the flouting of the U.N. No-Fly Zone by Saddam Hussein? It would have been nice if we had a viable, unbiased United Nations with the forces and power to handle the situation without using almost all American troops, but that was not the case. It was possible for Iraq to become a viable democracy aligned with western interests. That possibility was ended when no status of forces was reached, when the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki began persecuting minorities, and when President Obama withdrew all American troops. An America willing to be strong, to put pressure on the Prime Minister, and to leave a peacekeeping force would have made a difference. Unfortunately, when America refuses to be strong and lead, bad things happen.

 

Why We Need The Keystone Pipeline

The Financial Times reported yesterday that American increased the amount of oil it imported from the Middle East last year.

The article reports that by the end of November the U. S. had already imported 450m barrels of crude oil from Saudi Arabia, more than we imported in 2009, 2010, or 2011. This is the first time since 2003 that Saudi Arabia has accounted for more than 15 percent of America’s oil imports. The Gulf region accounted for more than 25 percent–a nine-year high. This is happening at the same time that demand for crude oil has declined slightly since 2004 due to increased efficiency, an economic slowdown, and the increased use of natural gas.

This is foolish on the part of America. Because of our dependence on Middle-Eastern oil, we are forced to make political and foreign policy decisions that are not in our best interest. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, there is currently a clash of civilizations between western freedom and Islamic nations and radicals that do not support freedom. We are supporting these radicals with our oil purchases. If you look at the changes in the United Nations over the past thirty years, you will find that the new empowerment of Islamic groups was financed by Americans buying oil. The anti-Semitism that has ruled the United Nations in recent years is funded by Americans buying Middle East oil. Saudi Arabia, who is an awkward ally at best, is one of the major financial backers of terrorism and extreme Islam around the world, and we keep giving them oil money.

It is time for America to declare its energy independence. That does not mean wind and solar–so far they do not work. We live in a carbon-based world economy. We might as well acknowledge this and get on with life. The Keystone Pipeline would be a positive step in that direction.

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Fired For Being Good At His Job

This story is based on two sources–one at Breitbart.com on Monday and one at The Weekly Standard on Tuesday. Both sources report that General James Mattis, the current commander of U.S. Central Command, is being moved out of his job before that would normally happen. What was his crime?

The Weekly Standard reports:

…Pentagon insiders say that he rubbed civilian officials the wrong way — not because he went all “mad dog,” which is his public image, and the view at the White House, but rather because he pushed the civilians so hard on considering the second- and third-order consequences of military action against Iran. Some of those questions apparently were uncomfortable. Like, what do you do with Iran once the nuclear issue is resolved and it remains a foe? What do you do if Iran then develops conventional capabilities that could make it hazardous for U.S. Navy ships to operate in the Persian Gulf? He kept saying, “And then what?”

Inquiry along these lines apparently was not welcomed — at least in the CENTCOM view. The White House view, apparently, is that Mattis was too hawkish, which is not something I believe, having seen him in the field over the years. I’d call him a tough-minded realist, someone who’d rather have tea with you than shoot you, but is happy to end the conversation either way.

This is not a White House that embraces the idea of secondary consequences of their actions. If the White House had looked at secondary consequences, it is possible that the Arab Spring might not have turned into the Arab Winter.

The article at Breitbart reports:

Mattis also expressed concern over the consequences of certain aspects of the U.S. approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It seems this line of reasoning didn’t sit well with National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.

The Obama Administration does not seem to take kindly to people who ask probing questions.

The article at the Weekly Standard concludes:

We should all be worried. The combination of President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense—to be his hatchet man to slash the defense budget without regard to geopolitical realities—and the early retirement of a general renowned for his powerful blend of strategic sense and candor, bodes ill for the security of the United States. With a yes man as secretary of defense and a signal to the uniformed military that the frank and forceful presentation of the military’s view throughout the strategy-making and implementation process is not welcome runs counter to the principles of sound civil-military relations.   

Of course, a president has every right to choose the generals he wants, but it is also the case that he usually gets the generals he deserves. By pushing Mattis overboard, the administration is sending a message that it doesn’t want smart, independently minded generals who speak candidly to their civilian leaders. The message that generals and admirals may receive that they should go along to get along, which is a bad message for the health of U.S. civil-military relations.

By removing Mattis, the President has taken a wise voice out of defense discussions. Because we currently live in a very dangerous world, that is not a good thing.

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Remember The Drone Taken Control Of By Iran ?

Hal Lindsey is a Biblical Scholar who focuses on current events and how they fit into Biblical prophecy. He hosts a show on Trinity Broadcasting Network that is also available on his website. Every week he sends out an email with a brief summary of what he will be talking about on his show.

This week there was an interesting quote:

I’ll also report on the unmanned drone that the Israeli Air Force shot down over Israel last week. Coincidentally, that Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), was essentially a copy of the RQ-170. Remember the RQ-170? That’s the super-advanced, and highly secret, United States UAV that Iran was mysteriously able to commandeer and capture after it flew into Iranian airspace last December.

At the time, the administration’s spinmeisters assured us that the RQ-170 was much too advanced to be of any use to Iran. In fact, one analyst said that losing the RQ-170 to Iran was a bit like “dropping a Ferrari into an oxcart culture.”

Well, apparently the bumpkins didn’t try to hitch an ox to it! Taking a cue from their friends the Russians and Chinese (who paid dearly to get a look at the technology), they reverse-engineered it and now they (or their proxy, Hezbollah) are flying it over Israel to get a closer look.

This apparent miscalculation by some of our defense and intelligence communities’ experts makes me a little nervous about some of their other evaluations. For instance, last week The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) released a report that estimates that Iran will produce enough weapons-grade uranium to arm a nuclear weapon in the next “two to four months.” That’s 120 days!

But the report drew a “clear distinction” between Tehran’s ability to actually produce a viable warhead and its ability to make the fissile core of a warhead by producing 55 pounds of weapons-grade uranium from its large lesser-enriched stockpiles.

Isn’t that sort of like assuming that if one drops “a Ferrari into an oxcart culture,” the bumpkins will try to hitch an ox to it? The Iranians proved the administration’s experts wrong on that assumption, didn’t they! So why should we think they will not surprise us again with how quickly they can produce a working nuclear missile?

On the other hand, that may be why the United States, NATO, and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council just completed the largest naval exercise ever conducted in the Persian Gulf. They were demonstrating our mine-sweeping prowess and how quickly we can take command of the Strait of Hormuz if Iran decides to try and close it.

I will admit to being a news junkie, and nowhere did I see it reported that the drone shot down over Israel was a copy of the RQ-170 brought down and captured by Iran. This is disturbing. I guess when you are not capable of advancing your own technology, you simply steal from the people who have spent the money and done the work.

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