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Total number of comments: 21 (since 2013-11-28 16:32:42)


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  • Iran FM Zarif Schools GOP Senators on Int'l Law: This is a UNSC Resolution
  • President Obama's Biggest Mideast Policy Challenges, 2015
    • State Dept has rarely had problems averting their eyes from human rights failings when ruthless dictators were being useful to it (Saddam, anyone?). What's changed now?

  • Should Iran and the US accept a Good, but not perfect Nuclear Deal?
  • Obama's budding Cambodia Policy in Syria
    • Thomas- what is your basis for suggesting that the generally moderate Sunnis of Syria would prefer IS to the Syrian Government? Some may be conservative in a rural kind of way, but neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor JN has demonstrated the extremism of IS. No doubt IS would use it as propaganda, but there is little evidence that Syria's Sunnis are clamoring for an IS victory. While Iraq's Sunnis may have temporarily cooperated with IS to rid themselves of the al-Maliki control, this has only occured at the end of several years of ethnic cleansing by al-Makiki's shia militias. Such large scale ethnic cleansing has not taken place in Syria.

  • The Debacle of the Caliphates: Why al-Baghdadi's Grandiosity doesn't Matter
    • Juan, thanks for some more invaluable insights into why the current extremists think and act the way they do.
      Still, the sooner they declare their Caliphate, the sooner they can start splitting into factions and commence the process of deepening internal disagreement that will set them at one another's throats, rather than anyone else's.

  • The Second Iran-Iraq War and the American Switch
    • How long before we see Syrian Army-USA cooperation, in the form of a thrust towards Raqqah, to weaken the ISIS advance by attacking from behind???

  • Iran "Happy" Video Arrestees out on Bail but Pharrell Cover goes Viral
    • farhang & saf- despite his position, President Rouhani is not all powerful. This is a consequence of the manner in which power is distributed through the various civil, religious, judicial and military organs of government. Some of these are quite relaxed about such incidents, others see them as a direct threat, and none is in full control, so an agency that feels confronted by such an incident may act on its own, without consultation.
      In any case, the 'youthful and educated Iranian population' is, as far as I am aware, a mainly urban entity. Less well educated youth from rural areas are generally more conservative, and this is where some entities involved in government, such as the Basij, draw their support from (IIRC, these were the elements that were used to put down unrest in the wake of the 2009 elections).

      There will be more events like this, where some section of the authorities feels the need to make an example of the transgressors, but they will increasingly be seen for what they are- a rearguard action by the conservative elements. There are many more pressing issues facing the Iranian Government.

  • Iraq's Freedom Agenda shouldn't Include Child Marriage and Summary Divorce
    • How much, if any, of this draft legislation is posturing to attract conservative elements ahead of the elections?

  • Will Russell Crowe as Noah help Egypt Separate Religion and State?
    • Ah! if only the Monty Pythons had made a film about Noah and/or the Old Testament. It might have given conservative religious elements something more challenging to complain about, rather than this leaden Aronofski/Crowe effort.

  • Camel Bones and Jerusalem: Archeology Shows Bible written Late, Full of Errors
    • Good to see another piece of hard evidence getting some publicity. In fact, most of the conventional religion-based content of the Pentateuch has now either been undermined by archaeology, or is on very shaky ground. No evidence for tribes wandering in the desert, or indeed for the exile in Egypt. A number of the towns mentioned in connection with the exile/return saga would have been well known to those hearing the stories in the time they were written in the mid-1st millennium, but the excavation evidence indicates they weren't inhabited at the time in the second millennium when the events were supposed to have taken place.

      All societies seem to like to have a foundation myth- in this case, the evidence is very much that they wrote themselves a past. However, despite all the evidence, there seems to be a general reluctance to address the implications this evidence has for the religions practiced by the peoples of the Book.

  • Saudi Arabia forces Women to Cancel Driving Protest, Asserts Authoritarianism in Region
  • Are Chemical Weapons use in Syria really Obama's Red line? (Feaver)
    • Given the chaos inside Syria, the probability that chemical weapon record keeping by the Syrian bureaucracy has been less-than-perfect (hell, even the USA has occasionally mislaid nukes) and the capture of numerous military bases by rebels, it should be unsurprising if at least small quantities of sarin or its pre-cursors are in rebel hands by now.

      From the rebels' point of view, the best use of these materials would be to increase the level of USA involvement in the conflict.

      A separate issue is the possibility that outside interests might 'seed' some chemical weapons within Syria, so that they can be 'located', and used to pressure the USA into deeper involvement in the region. Would the USA trust eg, Israel not to do this? No wonder Obama is cautious.

  • Jesus and Muhammad and the Question of the State
    • Professor Cole
      Christianity and Islam make different claims regarding their sacred texts- the old and new Testaments are accepted as the writings of human beings (and thus open to interpretation), whereas the Quran is claimed to be the actual dictated words of God, and thus (in principle at least) not open to disputation. To what extent has this been a factor in their capacity to adapt to changes in society?

  • Donald Trump versus the Aberdeen Wind Farm: Fiddling while Rome Burns
    • He's worried about the beauty?? Is this a first for the Donald? golf courses aren't exactly natural and beautiful either- they're highly artificial, cost a bundle to maintain, and don't generate a kilowatt.

  • Syrian Rebels capture UN Troops, face Raqqah bombings, are pledged UK Armored Trucks
    • Any number of US-supported dictatorships around the world attest to the fact that 'killing his own people' has generally been a second-order concern for the US Government.

  • As Rebels close in on Damascus, Obama warns he'll Intervene if Chemicals are Used
    • If I were the USA I'd be more worried about chemical weapons falling into the hands of extreme Islamist elements like the Nusra Front. Given that the rebels have already liberated items like surface-to-air missiles from military stores, the chances of them getting their hands on chemical weapons would appear fairly good.

  • Demonizing Muslims and the New McCarthyism (Bacevich)
    • Having the same god doesn't mean that you have all the same prophets. The 'People of the Book' all have the same Old Testament/Pentateuch God that gets the story from the Creation to Abraham. After that, things diverged as the Hebrews,'wrote themselves a past', writing the Arabs out of any claim to Israel through the story of Isaac and Ishmael.
      Later, the early Christians cast Jesus in the role of a Messiah so as to claim continuity with Old Testament prophecy, even though the Jews themselves never recognised Jesus as such.
      Men make gods in their own image- even Mormons and tele-evangelists.

  • The Age of Mass Killing Comes to Syria & France Pushes Gov't in Exile
    • any comments on Robert Fisk's report on Daraya in the Independent? Essentially saying it was a prisoner swap gone horribly wrong, ie not a straightforward massacre, as most the media are portraying it.

  • Top Ten Reasons Fracking won't Last Long
    • Juan- like you, I'd be happy to see greater adoption of solar, but we have to be realistic, and your characterisation of the situation in Australia is questionable. The three-quarters of a million homes is reliable, and an installed capacity of 1.7 GW is ok, but you can't equate that installed solar capacity (measured in Watts) to the output (measured in Watt-hours) of two nuclear plants- they're apples and oranges. Setting aside issues of maintenance downtime, solar in Australia operates at about the equivalent of 5.6 hours full production per 24 hour day, so it's only producing full output for about a quarter of the day, whereas the nuclear plant will be producing rated output for the full 24 hours (the sources only refer to installed capacity, not to production).

      And while there are many places in Australia that can be called 'sun-drenched'(including Ballina, NSW, the 'Melanoma capital of the world'), you can't generalise. There are many parts of southern Australia that would welcome a bit more sun-drenching. For example,Hobart, the southern-most state capital is about the same distance from the Equator as Boston.

  • Washington's Dangerous Blockade of Iran (Cole at Tomdispatch)
    • Brian- have a look at wikipedia- link to
      Most Iran's primary energy is from gas, then oil, then hydro (2%). In other words, a lot of gas/oil is used to provide stationary energy.

      The economics of the energy sector is complicated by large-scale subsidies, ie the government loses potential revenue when it provides domestic subsidies to oil and gas consumption. If these products could be exported, they would earn the Iranian Government money, ie there is massive revenue foregone.

  • China offered Qaddafi Armaments in midst of war
    • It's all very well to claim to be sceptical about anthropogenic greenhouse warming, but those who do make such claims need to provide an alternative thesis - backed up with data - to explain the unprecedented rate of increase in global temperature in recent decades. I'm not aware that Alexander Cockburn has done this.

      Otherwise they can't expect to be taken seriously.

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