Birthpangs of the Day – 8/17/2010

Birthpangs of the Day

Russia Burns, Plays World Like Fiddle
Say what you will about the Russian leadership, but they know what they’re doing. A summer drought and heatwave has not only damaged Russia’s wheat harvest, but has caused wildfires that have choked Moscow in smoke. On August 6, the Russian government announced a ban on grain exports due to the above spurring fears of a shortage. Since "[c]ontracts from the Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA) contain a prohibition clause which permits contract cancellation if a government prohibits exports," this got the Russian companies out of their contracts. And because Russia is the world’s third largest exporter of grain–normally exporting over 18 million tons, as opposed to just three million tons this year–this naturally drove up prices. Bloomberg.com cited Commodore Research, which believes that Russia will take advantage of the "more robust" prices later on: "After a few months of a strict ban on wheat exports we believe it is possible that Russia could eventually return to the wheat export market and take advantage of robust prices, once the worst is over."

Too bad our own government seems bent on shutting down our own agricultural base, or we might be able to take advantage of the shortfall.

Russia has also taken the occasion of its losses to draw closer to China in joint-commiseration:

[Chinese President] Hu . . . expressed China’s appreciation of the Russian government and people after President Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had been quick to send their condolences and offered help, respectively.

China was also greatly concerned by Russia’s deadly wildfires and identified with Russia over its great loss of life and property, said the Chinese president, adding that China had offered assistance.

Of course, Russia’s biggest cash crop is not grain, but weapons, and they’ve announced their latest sale: "Russia has announced that it will start loading uranium fuel into the nuclear reactor of the Bushehr nuclear power station in Iran on August 21, a spokesman for Russia’s state atomic cooperation reportedly told Reuters Friday." I admittedly called this one wrong. While I thought it possible that the spat between Moscow and Tehran was just obfuscation, I thought it more likely that Russia had decided that its Persian ally wasn’t acting in Russia’s best interest and had decided to back off. Maybe I should just be pessimistic from now on.

What will Israel’s Reaction Be?
Russia has also reportedly decided to go forward with providing Azerbaijan with its S-300 Favorit air-defense system, possibly to further hem in Israel’s possible flight paths should the latter decide to make an attack run on Iran.

Not surprisingly, the news feeds are abuzz with the question of whether and when Israel will try to take out Iran’s nuclear capability. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton thinks that Israel has only a week’s window in which to strike "after which an attack on the Bushehr reactor could trigger harmful radiation, which Israel wants to avoid." The Jerusalem Post has published an initial report on an upcoming Atlantic article by Jeffrey Goldberg in which he estimates a 50% chance that Israel will decide to strike:

The officials interviewed by Goldberg also did not believe that a military strike on Iran from the US under Barack Obama was likely, even in the event that Teheran’s nuclear capabilities were at a very advanced state. Not even the hawkish former US president George W. Bush advocated a strike against Iran, so they found it difficult to believe that the dovish Obama would launch an attack. This would increase the likelihood that Israel would see itself as the only barrier between a nuclear Iran and the rest of the world, they said.

The author also added that Netanayhu had told him in the past that the fear is not only of a direct attack from Iran, but also from the power a nuclear Islamic republic would give Teheran’s proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas.

Of course, claiming a 50% chance is pretty much saying, "Heck if I know." Which is pretty much my stance; as I’ve admitted before, I expected Israel to make her move while President Bush was still in office. All anyone outside of Netanyahu’s cabinet and top generals can say for certain is that we really need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Cordoba House – Just Another Muslim Conquest
Is planting a mosque at Ground Zero a simple matter of freedom of religion and tolerance triumphing over bigotry and hatred? Or is it just the opposite, the triumph of one religion over a religiously pluralistic society? While President Obama has defended the mosque on the grounds of defending "[t]he principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government," the original name chosen for the mosque, Cordoba House, proves otherwise. As Michael Lame explains:

[F]or [Imam Feisal Abdul] Rauf, the name Cordoba “reminds us that Muslims created what was, in its era, the most enlightened, pluralistic and tolerant society on earth.” That is a big, bold, though commonplace assertion. . . .

Professor Fletcher weighs in on the question: “Early medieval Spain was multicultural in the sense of being culturally diverse, a land within which different cultures coexisted; but not in the sense of experiencing cultural integration. Toleration for Christians and Jews as ‘Peoples of the Book’ is enjoined by the Koran. But in practice it was limited – Christians under Islamic rule were forbidden to build new churches, to ring church bells, to hold public processions – and sometimes it broke down altogether. In 1066 there was a pogrom in Granada in which its Jewish community was slaughtered. Thousands of Christians were deported to slavery in Morocco in 1126. Thoroughly dismissive attitudes to Christians and Jews may be found in the Arabic literature of al-Andalus. It is a myth of the modern liberal imagination that medieval Islamic Spain was, in any sense that we should recognize today, a tolerant society.”

Islam has always established itself by tearing down the architecture of its conquests and building its mosques on the ruins. It’s bad enough when this happens when Dar al-Islam conquers another nation, but it’s far worse when we allow terrorists the honor of replacing a symbol of Western capitalism with a mosque while we still live free.

Shalom

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