Iranian energy, Lebanese rocks

The Iranian energy sector may currently be the target of aggressive and renewed U.S. sanctions, but that's not stopping it from offering assistance to the energy sectors and consumption needs for other countries -- especially those in the Arab world.

Iran is now looking to expand energy ties with Lebanon, in addition to longer standing negotiations it has been conducting with the Persian Gulf countries of Bahrain and Oman. This time of year, it seems, the talk is all about cash, pipelines, and energy.

When it comes to Lebanon, the country "continues to suffer from power shortages that can reach 15 hours a day," reports Bloomberg news. That's a problem Iran wants to have a role in solving. "Iranian officials said they were looking into helping with the rehabilitation of Lebanon's two refineries, which currently are only used for storage."

An Iran-Lebanon pipeline could potentially be in the works, theoretically passing through Iraq, Syria, and possibly even Turkey, according to the same report. Iran has even offered the Lebanese government (note: not Hezbollah, but the whole government) "unlimited" economic and military support, following the United States' suspension of $100 million of military aid to the country a few months prior.

In no small part due to sanctions that specifically target its gasoline refining capacities, Iran has enacted rationing within its own borders and invested heavily in updating its refining capabilities -- reportedly not only attaining self sufficiency, but also exporting gasoline for the first time last month.

This, among other achievements, has prompted Juan Cole to ceremoniously label Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as "Mahmoud the Great." Though, admittedly, there is a lot to debate on that subject.

These talks also come on the brink of a historic visit to Lebanon by Ahmadinejad -- his first as president, and a visit that the Israelis have been frantically trying to prevent (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does not appear to be too pleased, either). Ahmadinejad is planning on visiting southern Lebanon, the stronghold of Hezbollah, including villages hit particularly hard during the 2006 Israeli invasion. To further get into the spirit, Ahmadinejad may actually be throwing a rock at Israel while at the border.

This might be the closest direct contact that Iran and Israel, I mean the Zionist Regime, may approach in a long time. Talk about one-sided negotiations.



Chinese pro-democracy activists against Nobel for Liu Xiaobo

Fourteen Chinese dissidents and the Chinese Communist Party have finally agreed on something: Liu Xiaobo should not get the Nobel Peace Prize. While Chinese authorities have found his pro-democracy work worthy of 11 years of prison time and have made it clear to Norway that his victory would not be in its best interests, a group of overseas Chinese dissidents found Liu to be "unsuitable" for the award because they believed he has not adopted a strong enough line against the ruling Communist Party:

In a letter, the signatories accused Mr. Liu...of maligning fellow activists, abandoning persecuted members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement and going soft on China's leaders.

"His open praise in the last 20 years for the Chinese Communist Party, which has never stopped trampling on human rights, has been extremely misleading and influential," they wrote.

Chinese dissidents against Chinese dissidents? The New York Times accurately notes that the letter is symptomatic of the Chinese dissident community throughout the world, a "fractured group beset by squabbling and competing claims of anti-authoritarian righteousness." Well, it wouldn't be the first time exiled dissidents haven't gotten along.