Hillary: It’s Not Over till it’s Over!

Ok, is anyone other than me convinced that the Democratic race is looking more and more like a complicated rollercoaster ride?

First it was Hillary and we were all going Woman Power! Wahoo! What a revolution.
And then it was Obama and we were all going Black and Minority Power! Wahoo! What a revolution.

Everybody was talking about what a revolution it would be if either candidate won. And one thing is for sure. Each candidate has their own unique identity, and each promises a blowing up of the traditionally stereotypical image of the American president; at least in terms of symbolism and outward attitude.

The democratic race has itself absorbed most of the limelight from the presidential primaries. Indeed, to such an extent that John McCain has been quietly consolidating his power base all along. The world’s attention will only turn to him in a big way when the Democratic candidacy is finalized.

Clinton is tough competition. And definitely has my admiration and respect. Her comeback win in Pennsylvania might not have been a comprehensive drubbing of Obama but still managed to show the world that she is far from being knocked out of the race. Indeed; in my eyes she has shown far more balls in this race than any of her male counterparts.

But that could be because she’s the only candidate who can afford to be openly aggressive and outspoken and prone to exaggeration. As the race progresses, democrats are increasingly looking for candidate who is not a George Bush prototype. And that’s why I think Obama’s pacifist attitude has worked for him so well so far. There seems to be somewhat of a battle of wills going on between the two, with Hillary’s sharp and biting comments being countered with Obama’s calm and peaceful retorts. But it will remain to be seen if one or both of the candidates will get so obsessed with winning the race that in the end they would simply go hammer and tongs at each other and kill or be killed; ruining the Democrats’ hope of having one of their own bums on the biggest seat of the White House in the process. Many express fears that Hillary Clinton is quite capable of doing just that.

But it doesn’t look likely that the situation will deteriorate to such an extent during the course of the next 9 contests. Indiana and North Carolina, the next two races are forecast to go to Clinton and Obama respectively so there is definitely more firework and nail-biting moments to come. Most experts agree that the race will go on even after the next 9 primaries and the final balance will hang the discretion of the 800 un-elected super delegates.

Talk about climatic. But in the meanwhile I am taking no bets on this blog; or anywhere else for that matter.


Iraq, Iran, the USA and Muqtada Al-Sadr

Recently, the relative peace reigning in Iraq was shattered in a spate of violence incited by clashes between the ruling Iraqi government/coalition forces and the militants of the powerful Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr. When I say relative I mean it in a strictly literal sense, because Iraq as we all know, has not been a peaceful place for a long time.

Events have culminated in the latest statement of the cleric who threatened ‘open war’ if the coalition forces did not take the ‘peaceful route’ and stop the violence. He also said that the Iraqi government should stop its current route of action or risk being seen in a similar light to Iraq’s previous regime of Saddam Hussein. Already hundreds of people have been killed in the Baghdad area of Sadr City (yeah, both the cleric and the city he controls bear the same name; I wonder what the story there is…) because of heavy gun fighting between militants and troops and a number of unfortunate bombings which have claimed hundreds.

This follows a recent subsiding of violence in the region where the cleric himself called for peace and commanded his troops to refrain from any sort of attack. Also, US claims that the troop surge had an impact on calming the country down could have some truth in it as well; indeed, this is the main reason behind the success of John McCain’s presidential candidacy so far. Well we’ll see how that goes pretty soon I suppose. Getting back to the point, all this brings us to the question; why did this latest spate of violence start in the first place?

The reason is simple; the Iraqi government wants all the Mehdi Army’s weapons. Why? Because they obviously feel threatened by the presence of a large armed force in such close proximity to their main base of operation which is perfectly natural I suppose. But does the Mehdi Army really have the capacity to overthrow the existing government? Based on my casual observation I would have to say I am not certain.

But consider US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s surprise visit to Baghdad on the 20th of April; in statements made during that visit her comments urged Iraq’s neighbors to ‘show more support for the existing government of Nouri Maliki’ that the conflict within its borders was an ‘internal issue’ but never addresses Muqtada Al-Sadr’s comments directly.

They are a direct indication that prevailing powers would really like it if the Mehdi Army were peacefully removed from the Iraqi picture. Ms. Rice also said that she is witnessing a ‘coalescing of Iraqi politics’ and that ‘Sunnis, Shias and Kurds are working together better than they ever did before’. So it would appear that the Mehdi Army could be the final barrier in the obstacle course towards reaching a idyllically peaceful Iraq.

But why provoke the militants when they were already on a peaceful footing? Are the Iraqi forces taking preventive measures before Muqtada Al-Sadr manages to consolidate his power base in Sadr City and truly pose a threat to the existing government? It would be a tough ask on his part, chiefly because Iraqi forces are backed by the powerful western coalition headed by the US military, so wouldn’t he need some external backing similar in power?

Of course he would.

And this is the point where most would bring Iran into the picture.

Muqtada Al-Sadr is undoubtedly the single most powerful non-US backed leader outside Al-Qaeda to rise up in Iraq. And let us not forget that the US has long since been accusing Iran, which is a Shia Islamic nation of supporting Shia militants in order to destabilize US interests in Iraq. In addition, the cleric has shown his capabilities in efficient decision making and good governance through his actions and is widely regarded as the un-official leader of the majority Shia community in Iraq. So which way does the cookie crumble?

Will Iran, proclaimed to be the ‘most powerful country in the world’ by President Ahamadinejad at a recently held military showcase rally, continue to allow the presence of the US at their doorstep? Is it really possible as the skeptics believe that a nation as powerful in their home region and as aware of threats to that power as Iran would have sat back and just watched as their ‘enemies’ (namely the anti-nuclear-enrichment West) tried to seize and consolidate power in one of the richest oil producing countries that just happened to be Iran’s neighbor, and not do anything about it?

Iran could have launched their own campaign to seize economic control in Iraq, and the source of their funding could have been Muqtada Al-Sadr. Or Al-Sadr could have started off launching his own campaign and later have garnered the support of Iraq’s rich neighbor. Or maybe such an arrangement has not even occurred yet and never will, which does not speak of big chance for the Mehdi Army’s success, but that is an unlikely scenario.

What remains certain is that Iraqi security forces could be provoking a hornet’s nest that could unleash a fresh hurricane of bloody violence throughout the troubled regime and might even lead to larger, more ominous things. With the US and Iran seemingly headed for loggerheads, this battle for power in the middle of Iraq could greatly magnify in significance.

The Future of the Global Oil Industry

Black Gold or Black Blood?

Gushing out of the wounded bowels of Mother Earth, it rushes out to the light. The Black Blood feeds human hearts and turns them dark with the colors of greed, power and ambition. It pours out of deep sores in the fabric of the earth drilled throughout the deserts of the Middle East, the open plains of Texas, the seas of Europe and the war-torn reaches of Africa.

For a century or so, Oil has undoubtedly been the most sought after commodity among the human race. Whether if to power our motor cars, our homes or simply to carry our small businesses forward.

The already exploding demand for oil is set to double over the next fifty years, with the major consumers being fast-growing 3rd world economies. Oil already heavily relies on transport to get it from the countries which produce it in excess to the countries that do not produce oil or have a demand level that far exceeds their production levels.

As demand doubles and reserves deplete (at current levels of consumption if no new reserves are discovered oil will run out by the next hundred and twenty years) and if no alternate sources of energy are discovered, the world is going to be plunged into some bleak times indeed.

Speculation exists that controlling powers continuously undermine efforts at creating alternative energy sources because oil is still a way of making a huge amount of money for a considerable amount of already very rich and powerful people. That they continuously push production and consumption and try to make the best of the global demand for oil to fill their own pockets, heedless to the massive amounts of suffering caused to everyday human beings as a result.

But to venture into such a thought train is to venture into the macabre world of power and conspiracy, where paranoia can take over at one wrong turn and all theories built up over careful analysis can collapse in the blink of an eye. This is not to deny that such a world exists, indeed the inner workings of international power play is beyond the grasp of many, and the understanding of the common man is usually only based on the communications of the mass media which is more often than not controlled by another powerful entity. This in turn leads to more questions. And more in turn.

Instead, let us stick to what we know. Stick to the facts as they say. It is a fact that oil is a major source of power, it is a fact that any country that holds oil can dictate terms to a given extent over a country that does not, it is a fact that growing demand for oil is only going to turn the balance of this power in the favor of the already powerful, then it should follow as oil resources deplete and the power of oil is increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer countries that conflict will arise between those who hold that power and those who aspire to it, or those who are even oppressed by it.

Oil supply will reduce, that is a fact. Most of the remaining oil will be in the nationalized economies of the Middle East and to a lesser extent Russia. This will cause the western Big Four (Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell) to witness a sharp drop in their available reserves and consequently the countries they belong to will also find their grip on world economic control fading.

Will we see repeat telecasts of the Iraq war? Will we see more superpowers protecting small tyrannical governments in return for having exclusive access to oil purchases (China with Sudan)? All out global conflict seems inevitable if oil remains strong on the list of essential commodities. So unless these countries consider war essential to expand their empires, developing cleaner energy sources seems the logical option. Indeed, It would seem that ‘clean energy’ can avoid far more deadly things that Global Warming.

Countries as a whole seem to possess a collective mentality when looked at from a psychological perspective. And the solution seems as simple as a change in direction. Instead of the all-consuming self possessing greed that we seem to have for the most coveted natural resource in the world, it would seem a far better option to simply consider our situation in a purely objective manner and simply look at ways where we can successfully survive without depending on exploiting the gushing black blood of poor Mother Earth.