Mauritania’s Strategic Significance

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 Some clues which might explain why Mauritania under Aziz is a strategically important “security partner”:
  • Free media training by foreign “experts”; more powers for press authority; unprecedented churn in state media at all levels; funding problems for independent media.
  • New legislation to gag whistleblowers and bloggers approved by Aziz, to be ratified by a government severely weakened by the opposition election boycott.
  • Aziz, sanctioned by the African Union after leading the last coup, is now in charge of the African Union
  • A 10,000-strong UN “peacekeeping” force plus additional police is now planned for deployment in CAR – taking control of 6,000 African Union troops, and with 2,000 French troops “allowed” to support.
  • Calls from the political fringe in Libya, hastily and enthusiastically echoed by France, for border security, using troops from neighboring countries AND non-neighbor Mauritania.
  • Patrol vessels and helicopters from Spain‘s gendarmerie to be deployed in Mauritania for border security against smuggling and illegal immigration, after claiming the first Spanish military arrivals a few months ago were there for a “training exercise”
  • The USA, after years of maintaining a “hands-off” policy, is now engaged in joint patrols with Mauritania border security.
  • Reportedly rejected by Algeria, France is said to want to establish a military surveillance and monitoring base in Atar, Mauritania
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Putting Iran In Context

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Sensible letter to the Economist from Sir Richard Dalton, a former Ambassador to Iran:

SIR – Do you really think Iran could become a regional hegemon (“Can Iran be stopped?”, June 22nd)? In one respect or another, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia, Turkey and Egypt are all as strong or stronger. Iran cannot even dominate the Gulf. The six Arab countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), led by Saudi Arabia, tend to exaggerate Iranian influence, including in Bahrain and Yemen.

Only from southern Lebanon does Iran have the ability to project serious power. For sure, it has a strong influence in Iraq, some in Gaza, and a tightening alliance with Syria, but this merely allows Iran to maintain the position it has enjoyed for many years. This still doesn’t amount to “regional hegemony”.

You also did not mention that Iran has a policy of converting its 20% enriched uranium into oxide, ready for research-reactor fuel-making. This puts the material beyond use for bombs (short of a time-consuming, detectable and technically demanding process to turn it back into gas, which can be discounted in the medium term). That is why the United States and Israel seem relaxed about waiting for the autumn before a new round of negotiations.

The idea that everyone would bow down before Iran if it got nuclear-weapons capability is fanciful. Actions lead to reactions, and one of the reactions to deployed weapons (if there were no immediate war) would be sanctions in perpetuity and possibly an American nuclear umbrella over the West’s friends in the region. In such circumstances, what power would Iran acquire as a result of having nukes, other than deterrence?

Finally, it should be noted that Iran’s economy has been floundering, its armed forces out of date. It has minimal stocks of modern air and land weapons and has lost influence in Arab countries as a combined result of sanctions, the turmoil caused by repression after its disputed election in 2009, and the Arab spring. Since the shah’s day, the balance of power has tilted heavily against Iran, especially as the armies of the GCC have become far stronger. Some experts think the air force of the United Arab Emirates alone could take out the entire Iranian one.

Iran’s influence has fluctuated. It is rising in Iraq. Its help is desperately needed by Bashar Assad in Syria. But elsewhere, the “rise of Persia” is a myth.

Sir Richard Dalton

British ambassador to Iran, 2003-06

London

via Letters | The Economist.

Obama’s 23 May 2013 National Security Speech – Highlights

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Video: President Obama’s speech on counterterrorism at National Defense University in Washington, D.C. touched on drones, renewed efforts to close Guantanamo Bay, and was interrupted by CODEPINK’s Media Benjamin heckling loudly [1].

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=Yt1gpFJFZvQ]

Highlights from Washington Post’s full transcript.

Americans Ambivalent After Over a Decade at War

Americans are deeply ambivalent about war, but having fought for our independence, we know a price must be paid for freedom.We have now been at war for well over a decade. I won’t review the full history. What is clear is that we quickly drove al-Qaida out of Afghanistan, but then shifted our focus and began a new war in Iraq. And this carried significant consequences for our fight against al-Qaida, our standing in the world and, to this day, our interests in a vital region.

Use of Torture and Illegal Detention Compromises American Values

169351796Meanwhile, we strengthened our defenses. Most of these changes were sound. But some, like expanded surveillance, raised difficult questions about the balance that we strike between our interests in security and our values of privacy. And in some cases, I believe we compromised our basic values — by using torture to interrogate our enemies, and detaining individuals in a way that ran counter to the rule of law.

No Large-Scale Attacks on the US Since 9/11

Today Osama bin Laden is dead, and so are most of his top lieutenants. There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States, and our homeland is more secure. Fewer of our troops are in harm’s way, and over the next 19 months they will continue to come home.

Our nation is still threatened by terrorists. But we recognize that the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11. With a decade of experience to draw from, this is the moment to ask ourselves hard questions about the nature of today’s threats and how we should confront them.

[O]ver the last decade, our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, helping to explode our deficits and constraining our ability to nation-build here at home. Our service members and their families have sacrificed far more on our behalf.

From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of nation and world that we leave to our children.

America is at a crossroads

We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us.

Neither I nor any president can promise the total defeat of terror. [We must] dismantle networks that pose a direct danger to us and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold.. From Yemen to Iraq, from Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with al-Qaida’s affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, the most active in plotting against our homeland.

Unrest in the Arab world has also allowed extremists to gain a foothold in countries like Libya and Syria. ..we continue to confront state- sponsored networks like Hezbollah that engage in acts of terror to achieve political goals. Other of these groups are simply collections of local militias or extremists interested in seizing territory. And while we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based. And that means we’ll face more localized threats like what we saw in Benghazi, or the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local operatives — perhaps in loose affiliation with regional networks — launch periodic attacks against Western diplomats, companies and other soft targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund their operations.

The Future of Terrorism: Home-Grown Threats, Soft Target Attacks Abroad

And finally, we face a real threat from radicalized individuals here in the United States.

Deranged or alienated individuals, often U.S. citizens or legal residents, can do enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent jihad.

So that’s the current threat. Lethal, yet less capable, al-Qaida affiliates, threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad, homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism.

[W]e have to recognize that these threats do not arise in a vacuum. Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by .. a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West and that violence against Western targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause. Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam. And this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims — who are the most frequent victims of terrorist attacks.

We need all elements of national power to win a battle of wills, a battle of ideas.

First, we must finish the work of defeating al-Qaida and its associated forces.

In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for that country’s security.

Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless global war on terror but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America. In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries.

In Yemen, we are supporting security forces that have reclaimed territory from AQAP.

In Somalia, we helped a coalition of African nations push al-Shabab out of its strongholds.

In Mali, we’re providing military aid to French-led intervention to push back al-Qaida in the Maghreb

Much of our best counterterrorism cooperation results in the gathering and sharing of intelligence, the arrest and prosecution of terrorists.

[O]ur operation in Pakistan against Osama bin Laden cannot be the norm.

Drone Strikes Are Legal, Preferable to Doing Nothing, Will Reduce by 2015

[Drone]  technology raises profound questions about who is targeted and why, about civilian casualties and the risk of creating new enemies, about the legality of such strikes under U.S. and international law, about accountability and morality. Simply put, these strikes have saved lives. ..America’s actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law and international law, the United States is at war with al-Qaida, the Taliban, and their associated forces. [Yet]  America’s legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance… by the end of 2014 we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we have made against core al-Qaida will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.

U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties…  for the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss.  [But to] do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties.. Remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes.

So doing nothing’s not an option.

[I]t is false to assert that putting boots on the ground is less likely to result in civilian deaths, or less likely to create enemies in the Muslim world.

Congress Is Briefed On Every Drone Strike But Oversight Must Increase

Not only did Congress authorize the use of force, it is briefed on every strike that America takes. [including the one on Anwar Awlaki]

For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen … without due process. Nor should any president deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.

But the high threshold that we’ve set for taking lethal action applies to all potential terrorist targets, regardless of whether or not they are American citizens. This threshold respects the inherent dignity of every human life.

Now, going forward, I’ve asked my administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of war zones that go beyond our reporting to Congress.

Foreign Aid – as Crucial as Force and Far Cheaper

[F]orce alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root.

This means patiently supporting transitions to democracy in places like Egypt and Tunisia and Libya, because the peaceful realization of individual aspirations will serve as a rebuke to violent extremism. We must strengthen the opposition in Syria, while isolating extremist elements, because the end of a tyrant must not give way to the tyranny of terrorism.

We are actively working to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians because it is right and because such a peace could help reshape attitudes in the region. And we must help countries modernize economies, upgrade education and encourage entrepreneurship because American leadership has always been elevated by our ability to connect with peoples’ hopes and not simply their fears.

For what we spent in a month in Iraq at the height of the war, we could be training security forces in Libya, maintaining peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors, feeding the hungry in Yemen, building schools in Pakistan and creating reservoirs of good will that marginalize extremists.

That has to be part of our strategy.

[W]e cannot neglect the challenge of terrorism from within our borders…this threat is not new… technology and the Internet increase its frequency, and in some cases its lethality… the best way to prevent violent extremism inspired by violent jihadists is to work with the Muslim American community, which has consistently rejected terrorism, to identify signs of radicalization, and partner with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence.

And these partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a fundamental part of the American family. In fact, the success of American Muslims, and our determination to guard against any encroachments on their civil liberties, is the ultimate rebuke to those who say that we’re at war with Islam.

Investigating National Security Leaks Versus Press Freedom

You know, the Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between our security and our open society. I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. But a free press is also essential for our democracy. I’m troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.

Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. I have called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government overreach. I’ve raised these issues with the attorney general [and directed him] to report back to me by July 12th.

Ditching AUMF, Closing Guantanamo

I look forward to efforts to refine and ultimately repeal the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. It’s what our democracy demands.

The original premise for opening Gitmo, that detainees would not be able to challenge their detention, was found unconstitutional five years ago. In the meantime, Gitmo has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law. Our allies won’t cooperate with us if they think a terrorist will end up at Gitmo. During a time of budget cuts, we spend $150 million each year to imprison 166 people, almost a million dollars per prisoner. And the Department of Defense estimates that we must spend another 200 million (dollars) to keep Gitmo open at a time when we are cutting investments in education and research here at home and when the Pentagon is struggling is struggling with sequester and budget cuts… there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should have never been opened.

Today I once again call on Congress to lift the restrictions on detainee transfers from Gitmo. I have asked the Department of Defense to designate a site in the United States where we can hold military commissions.

I am appointing a new senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen so we can review them on a case-by-case basis.

To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries. Where appropriate, we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and our military justice system. And we will insist that judicial review be available for every detainee.

[One remaining issue will be] how to deal with those Gitmo detainees who we know have participated in dangerous plots or attacks but who cannot be prosecuted, for example because the evidence against them has been compromised or is inadmissible in a court of law. But once we commit to a process of closing Gitmo, I am confident that this legacy problem can be resolved, consistent with our commitment to the rule of law.

And I know the politics are hard. But history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future 10 years from now or 20 years from now when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country.

Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike. I’m willing to cut the young lady who interrupted me some slack because it’s worth being passionate about. Is this who we are? Is that something our founders foresaw? Is that the America we want to leave our children?

Transcript of Medea Benjamin’s interruption:

It’s not Congress. It’s you, sir. There are 102 people on a hunger strike in the Guantanamo Bay prison. These are desperate people. 86 have been cleared for release. You are Commander-in-Chief. You can close Guantanamo today. You can release those 86 prisoners today.

How about Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old American killed by drones. Is that the way we treat a 16-year-old American? Why was he killed? Can you tell us why Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed?

Can you tell the Muslim people their lives are as precious as our lives? Can you take the drones out of the hands of the CIA? Can you stop the signature strikes that are killing people on the basis of suspicious activities? Will you apologize to the thousands of Muslims that you have killed? Will you compensate the innocent family victims? That will make us safer here at home.

I love my country! I love the rule of law! The drones are making us less safe. And keeping people in indefinite detention in Guantanamo is making us less safe. Abide by the rule of law. You’re a Constitutional lawyer!

via Brad Friedman of BradBlog.com

Related Links

The Two Worst Rogue States in the United Nations

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My transcript of part of a public lecture “The Emerging World Order: its roots, our legacy” given by Noam Chomsky at Politeama Rossetti in Trieste, Italy on September 17, 2012.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCagM7fZFec]

The basic reason for the concern [over the possibility of Iran building nuclear weapons] has been expressed succinctly by General Lee Butler, the former head of the US Strategic Command, which is in charge of nuclear weapons and the strategic policies involved. He writes, “it is dangerous in the extreme, that in the cauldron of animosities, that we call “the Middle East”, one nation should arm itself with nuclear weapons, which may inspire other nations to do so.”
General Butler, however, was not referring to Iran. He was referring to Israel. That’s the country that ranks highest in polls of European public opinion, as the most dangerous country in the world, right above Iran. But not in the Arab world. In the Arab world, the public regards the United States as the second most dangerous country after Israel  and that goes back quite a while. Iran is generally disliked, but it ranks far lower as a threat – among populations, that is. Just not the dictatorships.

Western media and commentary keep almost entirely to the views of the dictators, so we constantly hear that the Arabs want ‘decisive US action against Iran, which is that’s true of the dictators, and you may recall that a while ago, WikiLeaks released the diplomatic documents quoting Arab dictators – Saudi Arabia and the Emirates – as calling for strong US action against Iran.

The commentary about that was interesting. It was almost euphoric: “Isn’t this wonderful? The Arabs support US policy against Iran!” which is true of the Arab dictators. At the very same time, Western-run polls were coming out, showing that it’s quite the opposite, that though again, they don’t like Iran, they’re not regarded as a threat. The United States is regarded as a threat. In fact opposition to US policy was so strong, that a majority – and in some countries like Egypt, a substantial majority, thought that the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons. They don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons, but if the United States and Israel have them and are there, that’s what’s needed.

That was almost never mentioned. And that reaction is pretty striking. It illustrates the contempt for democracy among Western elite opinion: it doesn’t matter what the population thinks, that’s derided as the “Arab street” – who cares what they think? What matters is what the dictators think. That’s a commentary about us, not about the Arab world.

Noam Chomsky

Unlike Iran, Israel refuses to allow [IAEA] inspections, refuses to join the non-proliferation treaty (NPT). It has hundreds of nuclear weapons and advanced delivery systems, and it also has a long record of violence and repression (it has annexed and settled conquered territories illegally in violation of [UN] Security Council orders and court decisions), and many acts of aggression: it has invaded Lebanon five times with no credible pretext, and much more.

Meanwhile, severe threats of attack continue, from the United States and particularly Israel. Daily, there are strong threats of attack, and there’s reaction from US Government. The Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, reacted to the threats from Israel by saying, ‘we don’t want them to attack Iran, but they’re a sovereign country, they can do what they like’. If Iran was making comparable threats about Israel – and it isn’t – the reaction would be quite different.

You may remember there is a document called the United Nations Charter. The key provision in the UN Charter is a ban against the threat or use of force in international affairs. But now there are two rogue states, the United States and Israel, that pay no attention to this, and are constantly issuing severe threats. And the European Union goes along, politely. The threats are not just words: there is an ongoing war – or at least what we would regard as an ongoing war, if it was directed against us – and there are regular assassinations of scientists and terrorist acts, there’s a very severe economic war.

The US threats, which are unilateral, have cut Iran out of the international financial system. The European countries don’t disobey the United States so they’ve gone along. Five high-level former NATO commanders have recently released what they call a ‘new grand strategy’, which identified various acts of war that justify a violent response. One of them is ‘weapons of finance’ – that justifies a military reaction, when it’s directed against us. But cutting Iran out of the global financial markets, is different.

The US Government is very proudly announcing that it’s undertaking extensive cyber-warfare against Iran. The Pentagon has identified cyber-warfare as a serious military attack, which justifies our military response. But that’s the difference between what we do to them and they do to us. Israel has an enormous lethal armoury, not just nuclear. Only recently, in the last few months, Israel has received advanced submarines provided by Germany. These are capable of carrying Israel’s nuclear tipped missiles, and they’re sure to be deployed in the Persian Gulf, or nearby. They may already be there. Certainly, if Israel proceeds with its plan to bomb Iran,  the US has a vast array of nuclear weapons surrounding the region, from the Indian Ocean, all the way to the West. In the Persian Gulf itself, the US has enough fire-power to destroy the world many times over.

Full lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BK0XIm0DXE

#Iran’s South American Connections

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Useful summary from Just the Facts following Ahmadinejad’s visit to Latin America last week helps to provide some of the detail for this post. His trip to attend the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil and solidify relationships in the region was a chance to assess how Iranian foreign policy is evolving in response to the changing political scene in Latin America. During his visit, Ahmadinejad made stops in Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela.

In his 2011 Worldwide Threat Assessment (PDF), Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper noted that Iran continues to reach out to Latin America as a way to diminish its international isolation and bypass international sanctions. So far, Iranian relations with Latin America have only developed significantly with leftists governments that oppose U.S. leadership in the world, particularly Venezuela, Bolivia, and other ALBA members, as well as with Brazil.

Touching reunion – Ahmadinejad with Chavez in Caracas

The U.S. State Department reacted to the recent trip with characteristic rhetoric, saying Ahmadinejad was “looking for friends in wrong places.”

Bolivia

  • The relationship between Bolivia and Iran has been increasingly friendly over the past few years. In 2007, trade and energy agreements were signed between the two countries and then extended in 2010. Bolivian President Evo Morales was also publicly reported praising Iranian investment by FARS news agency in 2007 and stated that his country “relies very much on Iran’s aids.”
  • On this trip, Ahmadinejad was keen to highlight the similarities between the two countries. According to Ahmadinejad, both Iran and Bolivia have a colonial past and will progress by “work[ing] together against greedy governments, and states that want to stop others from developing, and from exercising freedom.” President Morales responded: “There is a permanent aggression against you, your government and the Iranian people, but I want to tell you that you are not alone because we are with you in your fight against imperialism.”
  • An agreement was reached between Ahmadinejad and Bolivian President Evo Morales for the Iranian military to train ten counter-narcotics intelligence officers as per a new Memorandum of Understanding (PDF) between the two countries.
  • The trip has also renewed multiple economic and agricultural agreements between the countries, including the construction of a cement factory and housing projects, among others, according to the Argentina Independent.
  • The head of Iran’s Red Crescent Society, Abolhasan Faqih, said that Iran’s Red Crescent Society recently inaugurated a new medical center in Bolivia.

Brazil

  • Under President Lula da Silva, the relationship between Iran and Brazil became cordial, as Time reports, with Ahmadinejad visiting the country in 2009 and Lula returning the visit in 2010, to facilitate nuclear talks without US or EU powers, according to the BBC.
  • This relationship has changed with President Dilma Rousseff’s election in Brazil, as she has distanced her country from Iran as CNN noted earlier this year. Rousseff has cited Iran’s poor human rights record as a reason for her distance, which runs contrary to her priorities for her own country.
  • President Ahmadinejad was in Brazil for two days to take part in the Rio+20 Summit, though he also hoped to use the opportunity to reinvigorate ties with the Brazilian government. However, after a series of snubs by the Brazilian government, the success of the trip has been deemed a failure back at home in Iran. According to the Daily Telegraph, many Iranians are angry with the way in which President Ahmadinejad was treated and one Iranian MP criticized him “for failing to abandon the trip when he saw that he, and by extension, Iran, was being treated disrespectfully.”
  • The Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Ahmadinejad’s time in Brazil was instead spent in meetings with Brazilian elites, a meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and another with the former Brazilian President Lula da Silva, as well as addressing the Rio+20 Summit.

Venezuela

  • Venezuela has probably had the closest ties with Iran of any country in the region in recent years. Since 1999, President Hugo Chavez has visited Tehran 13 times.
  • This relationship seems stable; Ahmadinejad’s visit occurred one week after President Chavez confirmed that Venezuela was building unmanned drones with Iran’s help, as Reuters recently reported. Venezuelan-Iranian relations have most recently been demonstrated through reports that Iran has unrestricted access to a Venezuelan port, where Venezuelan workers are denied access. This has been reported in El Nuevo HeraldDie Welt and the Miami Herald, all citing confidential sources that allege the goal is to ultimately build a missile base, although at the moment it remains under a veil of secrecy.
  • Although the meeting does not appear to have produced any new agreements, in his opening remarks at the presidential palace in Venezuela, Ahmadinejad offered to “always stand by the Venezuelan nation and their brave president Hugo Chavez”. In addition, the two presidents focused their meeting on reviewing current agreements including their “mutual investment of about $5 billion in factories to make cement, satellites, food, tractors and bicycles.”

Cuba

  • The relationship between Venezuela and Cuba is such that Iran seeming benefits by association. The Associated Press reported that Venezuela’s state-owned oil company will join efforts to look for oil in deep waters off Cuba’s coast:
    • State-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, is next in line to drill after Malaysia’s Petronas completes its work, according to Rafael Ramirez, Venezuela’s oil minister and president of the company. He said Venezuela has budgeted an estimated $40 million for the project. Spanish oil company Repsol said last month that it would stop searching for oil off Cuba after hitting a dry well drilled at a cost of more than $100 million. “Repsol unfortunately didn’t have success in its well,” Ramirez said, “but that same platform is being used among all the companies that are participating there.”
  • ING bank has recently been forced to pay $619m as part of the deferred prosecution agreements reached with the Justice Department and the New York County District Attorney’s Office, for conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA), and for violating New York state laws by illegally moving billions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of sanctioned Cuban and Iranian entities.

Ecuador

  • Another country with close ties to Venezuela, and the smallest member of OPEC, Ecuador said on 23 May that it planned to buy about $400m in oil from Iran, despite US pressing for tighter sanctions.
  • Although not on Ahmadinejad’s itinerary – he visited in January, Ecuador received a visit from his deputy for international affairs, Vice-President Ali Saeedlou, at the end of May, reportedly to deliver a presidential invitation to the Non-Aligned Movement’s August summit in Tehran. Agence France Press says Saeedlou told reporters, after meeting with President Rafael Correa, that the two has also talked about increasing trade and technology exchanges.
  • In addition to the usual grandstanding we see whenever IAEA talks are in progress, Iran was perhaps attempting to exploit the relationship difficulties between Ecuador and the US following a diplomatic spat last year, in which ambassadors from both countries were expelled:  Saeedlou arrived on the same day the new US Ambassador resumed his post in Quito.