• Headlines now say US energy agency says most likely Covid came from lab leak in Wuhan

  • Sadness mixed with bitterness?

  • Iran on the threshold gets more benefits and fewer costs, but if it crosses the threshold (a device and guidance) they get less benefits and higher costs - Alterman
    Completely unconstrained by agreements, without any inspectors, without any insight, maybe puts them in a dangerous place, where they're more liable to be surprised in a bad way. Versus continuing in unsatisfactory agreements you're constantly trying to improve, but with continuing dialog, insights, and tools to use.

  • Over the past weeks there have been big protests in Iran, and dozens of people have died

  • Agriculture is the sector facing the most threat over the next 10 to 20 years and it will result in multi-continental famines (between the Ukraine war and the breakdown of fertilizer supply chains) -Zeihan

    When we globalized, everyone learned to specialize. It was all about the extra value added. And we didn't really worry about having to grow sufficient food for our own plates, so we got into better things. We moved into manufacturing and services. We moved into the city. Agriculture moved from the center of everyone's lives to the edge. It became reliable the more secure and safe globalization became. That's working in reverse now. Countries have to grow their own food (now dependent on and on land only useful with fertilizers), and that means the volume produced is going to go down.


  • Another example of how things go along (although philosophically opposed by many) until there's an actual contention, and then true colors are displayed.

  • Russia might leave the ISS, it's being reported

  • Chinese belt and road region

    #China #IR

  • This time there was no little vial presented to Congress, so who knows what to make of this claim.

    Analysts say this time Iran wants to get an ironclad deal that the US can't back out of, and uranium stockpiles are leverage.

    Israel's new PM went to France to try to get Macron's help, but Macron wants dialogue, he stated publicly, and a new deal with Iran.


  • Any direct transactions will trigger Western sanctions. This is being called a 'hack' so India's biggest cement maker can buy from Russia. 157k tonnes worth $25m (172m yuan). The sale was arranged from Dubai, reportedly. The mechanism isn't known.

    Coal is the main fuel to manufacture cement.

    13% of Russian reserves are already in yuan. Indian companies must be trading USD for yuan in a Chinese bank in China or HK. There are no sanctions if you don't use USD.

    Yuan to Ruble trade has increased 1000% since the invasion of Ukraine.

  • We need more capex spending, more pipelines built and more drilling, in order to transition properly to clean energy. The Fed can't change a supply problem (with hydrocarbons) no matter how it acts. It turns into much higher labor costs, energy costs, food.

    The US is begging SA to pump more while trying to remove the Iranian National Guard as terrorists, as well as the Houthi rebels.

    US is reducing restrictions on Venezuela (a 'known terrorist and funder of terrorism') at the same time as killing the Keystone Pipeline which would carry crude from the US's ally, partner and neighbor Canada to US refineries that can refine heavy crude.

    US politicians (Biden included, markedly) are vilifying Big Oil, threatening them (saying they would turn them off).

    Adding windfall taxes and things to energy is just saying we want prices a lot higher, Bass said, instead of getting behind them, as the highest energy producer in the world (way ahead of the second, Russia).

    In 7 years, the first nuclear energy will open in Wyoming.

    He thinks it's the golden age for private capitol investing in hydrocarbons for the next 10 or 15 years. Demand is inelastic and growing, and there's no alternative energy that could get there in time. There aren't enough minerals to put into the wind turbines and things.

  • Example: US has tariffs on China for steel and aluminum

    Chinese state actors were basically giving free electricity to aluminum smelters in China to undercut price in America, that took US's capicity utilization of US's aluminum smelters from high 80s to 70 in one year. And when you drop below 80% capacity utilization you end up losing money as an industry. China was acting in an uneconomic fashion to try to put the US's industry out of business so the US would have a further reliance on China's ability to produce aluminum (strategic values for military and industry).

    So Yellen saying "You could save 8 basis points of inflation if you took those tariffs off" is ignorant of national security. He mentioned that if wall street was making decisions we'd all be speaking Chinese immediately, because they make short term decisions for specific profits, and politicians are required to think long term and consider national security.

    Kyle Bass' take

  • Recently the US, which has never recognized Taiwan's independence (for the sake of its relationship with the CCP) deleted a sentence on the State Dept website that said the US "does not support Taiwan independence." It changed wording that had referenced Taiwan as being part of China.

    Is the US going to spend some more money on arms for Taiwan?

  • "The Israeli government on this front has not been putting in guardrails. They have been relentlessly realpolitik in making sure this tech gets to whomever they want it to get to to curry favor geopolitically, and not really considering the human rights consequences." - Ronan Farrow (talking about things his sources said)

    "[Israel is] the leader in this kind of tech [phone spyware]. And I think one think that has allowed this tech to flourish through several years of scandals about abusive misuse of it, is that policy makers said Well these are companies that are closely entwined with the Israeli government. The Israeli MoD oversees the purchases, the approve the countries to whom for instance NSO Group is selling. So it lent to the proceedings an air of legitimacy."

    It is a tool of soft power, helping states get this cyber-offensive spying capability. NYT etc reported recently US helped Djibouti (a military ally) purchase Pegasus. That software was used against Djibouti's PM and civilian officials.

    Farrow said that sometimes a government will go to Israel to buy it, and won't be approved, but the Israeli officials will say Hey go to these guys (outside of the official system) and they can give you this capability. Also that there are lots of other countries ready to step in to sell this capability if Israel were not to do so.

    Hari on Amanpour pointed out that who Israel sells (is allowed to sell) the software to shows global relations. (They weren't allowed to sell to Ukraine because Ukraine is fighting Russia.)

    The industry is supposed to be worth about $16b annually.

  • Cameroon signed a new agreement with Russia for Military cooperation

    They have ongoing military agreements.
  • Iran could teach Russia how to evade sanctions and 'money launder', according to an opinion piece in the WSJ (Dubowitz and Zweig)

    Of Tehran could serve as Russia's broker, taking a cut of the "illicit" trade it facilitates on Russia's behalf.

    Iran has a 'money laundering' architecture, a system they could make available to others.

    US/West kicked Iran of Swift, reduced their oil sales from 2.5b barrels to a few hundred thousand. So Iran has dealt with harsher sanctions than Russia (which still sells gas to Europe and has some institutions on Swift reportedly).

  • Many commentators and experts when talking about Ukraine are saying it's a war crime or it's an unjust war, but leaving it at that.

    They're not saying anymore against Russia's actions. They are all putting it in context of the situation the West has created. Then they add again their line about it not being a just war, or about it being a war crime.

    They liken the war, being a pre-emptive war, to the US invasion of Iraq, which they also say is a war crime.
  • Lots of talk among commentators about promises made by the West in order to have the Soviet Union disbanded

    ... in like 1990 (but over several years, and under several US presidents making having talks). The idea was that in the talks, there was nothing in writing, but it was made clear to Moscow that if the SU allowed the reunification of Germany that NATO would not be expanded. That NATO troops would not be able to enter into the eastern part of Germany (only to West Germany).

    It wasn't a treaty, but it was (people are saying) the agreement that was made.

  • Some draw a parallel between Russia's current invasion and the 2003 US invasion of Iraq

    US government entered after saying Iran had weapons of mass destruction, and held up that little prop vial on TV.

    Ideas of Ali Abunimah talking to BreakThrough News:

    "After 9/11, there was this atmosphere of jingoism, of war fever, of vengefulness, that was directed at other countries and very quickly towards Afghanistan and also toward Iraq. We know how that played out. But also it was internally directed because if you were Muslim, Sikhs, people of color generally lived in terror in this country at that time. ... There was pervasive fear not just of vigilante attacks but of government, monitoring and deportations. ... If you said, "Why did this happen? How did this happen? What led to this point? What are the policies of the US that could have created the conditions for this to happen, you were accused of justifying it. You were accused of justifying it, you were treated as an enemy. You were treated as a traitor. Nothing would be allowed to interfere with the headlong rush into war.

    "The 9/11 attacks happened in September. By late October the US was invading Afghanistan. Then ... in 2003 they started the march to the war in Iraq based on lies. One of the lies was that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. There was absolutely no evidence of that but it was a story they put out. polls ... the majority of Americans believed [that] ... in addition to the question of weapons of mass destruction."

    "I would ask a lot of people who naively supported the invasion of Afghanistan back then, 'If you knew what you know now back then, would you support it again?' Same with Iraq. Forget about people who say this is immoral, this is illegal, this is a war crime."

    "People would say, 'But we were attacked.'"

    "That's a fact we can't change. Is the response to escalate more war or is it to seek a different approach?"

    "I get the same responses today. When you say, 'How did we get here?' you're accused of justifying what Putin did. You're taking the side of Russia. "

    "One of the grievances Putin has is the expansion of NATO."

  • Some in US gov saying we're past the point of no return for the prospect of rebuilding relations with Russia under Putin

    It's been said that Germans will never again make themselves dependent on R energy, and that they now see it as a mistake. And that the Brits will never be the conduit for Oligarch wealth they have been for the past 20 years.

  • Nightmare scenario is that the conflict expands to other parts of Ukraine, or there's an air or sea accident, and Russia is then fighting an EU country - Ian Bremmer

  • If Putin kills lots of Ukrainians (which it's expected he would have to do to take Kiev) this will increase opposition within Russia, since they two countries have such strong ties, lots of relations - Ian Bremmer's thought

    Questions about possible future Russian demotivation

    Ian Bremmer is from Eurasia Group

  • US was trying to make Ukraine into "a de facto member of NATO,"according to John Mearsheimer

    "They [the Russians] aren't interested in negotiating anymore. They're interested in altering the status quo."

    He said the genesis of this conflict was 2008, the decision to try to make Ukraine part of NATO. The crisis breakout was Feb 22, 2014 end of what he calls the 'unipolar moment'). It was then put on the backburner, and then all of a sudden it broke out again.

    The obvious solution is perhaps politically impossible, M said. Because America unwilling to make any concessions on NATO. ... Turning Ukraine into an effective buffer, a neutral state, between Russia and NATO, which is what Ukraine was since independence in 1991 until 2014.

    Before the problem, the problem has to be solved of the lack of agreement between the pro-Russian Donbas and the Ukrainian government in Kiev.

    He said the Russians don't want to negotiate with the UK or Germany or NATO, because they all just do what the Americans ask them to do. So Russia only wants to talk to the US president.

    He (speaking a few days before the actual invasion) said Putin probably had no intention of invading, because that would mean 'owning' Ukraine, being an unwanted occupying force, which in the modern world just comes with so much trouble of all sorts. He said Putin must surely understand that. Also that the West would go to great lengths to cripple the Russian economy. Also, without invading, Putin was 'winning.' He had everyone's attention and everyone was trying to talk to him, and that it was now understood in the West that Ukraine was not going to be possible to bring into NATO.

    He thinks eventually US and Russia become allies against China, and that China is a bigger threat to Russia than the US is. He didn't, however, see an offramp for the Ukraine crisis (speaking before the invasion).

    He said Trump, who wanted to be closer with Putin and pivot to Asia, didn't get his way, but then started to arm Ukraine, 'much tot he chagrin of Russia.'

    He noted the contemporary superhigh anti-Putin, anti-Russian sentiment in the US (both parties, and popularly). He didn't know why, except some guesses like remnant associations to do with the Cold War, Putin's always standing up to the US, that Putin heads an authoritarian state and his stance on homosexuality and other social issues. The invention of the Democrat's story that Hillary lost the election because the Russians manipulated the system and caused Trump to win the vote.

    He said NATO needs the Russian threat to exist. He said that as to the question of getting European nations to spend 2% on military, "Don't hold your breath." They're basically free-riders. Why spend that if the US is going to take care of you anyway? However, if the US pivots to Asia and 'leaves' Europe, and if Europe perceives Russia as a threat, then EU States would spend more on military. If they have to provide for their own defense. He drew a parallel to Japan, which free rode off the US until China grew to a size where it became a real threat. Japan now faces what they perceive to be an existential threat, and has started to talk more like a 'realist.'

    Talking about nuclear weapons, he said that although they have been a force for peace, a deterrent, they weren't much of a factor in Putin's then-possible invasion of Ukraine because the US (Biden) already said if Russia invaded US wouldn't do anything, and even if Americans IN Ukraine were threatened he wouldn't, so they're not really a deterrent in that case. He said what would keep Putin from invading was the costs (invasion, occupation) and the benefits of keeping on without invading (Russia doing well).


  • Reportedly, Iraq PM subject of attempted assassination

    By drone attack / 'cowardly rocket'. In the Green Zone.

    No one claimed responsibility, but militants are one of the main suspects.

  • Lavrov on US adventures over the past 20 years

    "We have seen it in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. ... Nothing good came out of the four military campaigns I mentioned. ... There has been a surge in terrorism, an unprecedented growth in drug trafficking. Illegal immigrants have been flooding Europe since NATO bombed the Libyan state to dust. ..."

  • Venezuela: opposing parties to meet

    ... Maduro and Guaido will meet in Mexico, they say, to try to resolve things.

    Guiado's power has waned over the past years, and his popularity has sunk, and international governments are starting to turn away from their recognition of him as leader. It didn't happen that they were able to get Maduro out of power. The US and some other countries want 'free and fair elections' in Venezuela, which would give a winner validity in international eyes.

    Maybe Guiado wants to meet just to ensure his party's survival, some have commented.

    All parties are unpopular with the people in Venezuela.

  • US bombing in Iraq again

    ... without asking Congress, the Whitehouse bombed some targets (Kitab Hezbollah and Kitab Saeed Ashahada) on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border.

    The act may fall under jurisdiction that requires authorization under War Powers, but the White House didn't seek that from Congress.

    The DoD said they targeted Iran-backed militias who had used UAVs against US personnel and facilities in Iraq.

    Iraq's military condemned the act, saying it was a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty and national security.

    The popular mobilization forces are part of Iraq's security structure, so the US did bomb an ally, analysts say, although the US said those groups had attacked US targets first.

    Kitab Saeed Ashahada announced an open war again US targets in Iraq as a response.

    Biden's second use of military force.