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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 16 Nov 1998 to 17 Nov 1998
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Subject: DNI-NEWS Digest - 16 Nov 1998 to 17 Nov 1998
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There are 3 messages totalling 439 lines in this issue.
Topics of the day:
1. New Caspian oil interests fuel US war drive against Iraq
2. Israel is trying to identity genes carried only by Arabs
3. LONG: Made in Iran : Films About (Not for) Children
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 19:21:02 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad.abdolian@RSA.ERICSSON.SE>
Subject: New Caspian oil interests fuel US war drive against Iraq
Taken from the World Socialist Web Site of the International Committee
of the Fourth International at : http://www.wsws.org
New Caspian oil interests fuel US war drive against Iraq
By Barry Grey
16 November 1998
Iraq's decision to allow the resumption of UN weapons
inspections has temporarily forestalled a US attack. But the crisis
is by no means resolved. It will intensify in the coming days and
weeks, under conditions in which the Clinton administration has
openly linked its preparations for an air war to the goal of
destabilizing and removing the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Powerful geo-political interests are fueling the American war
drive. In many respects US policy in the Persian Gulf is driven
today by the same considerations that led it to invade Iraq nearly
eight years ago. As a "senior American official"--most likely
Secretary of State James Baker--told the New York Times within
days of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait in August of 1990: "We are
talking about oil. Got it? Oil, vital American interests."
The Bush administration exploited Iraq's move against its
southern neighbor to demonstrate US military supremacy and
strengthen its position in a region rich in oil and strategically
located at the crossroads of the Middle East, southeastern
Europe, northern Africa and Central Asia. The gulf war was
intended as a warning to American imperialism's major
international rivals, above all Germany and Japan, both of which
were heavily dependent on oil imports from the region. In the
midst of the war Bush hinted as much in a speech to the New
York Economic Club. In trade talks with Germany and Japan, he
said, "We will have some--I wouldn't say leverage on them--but
There have, however, been major changes since 1991, above all,
the breakup of the Soviet Union. This gigantic fact has altered
geo-political relations in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and
Central Asia, and, if anything, exacerbated American
dissatisfaction with the status quo in Iraq.
The transformation of former Soviet republics in the region into
independent states--politically unstable but endowed in some
cases with enormous deposits of oil and other mineral
wealth--has led to an increasingly intense involvement of the US
in Central Asia. The lure of enormous oil reserves in the Caspian
Sea has made Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan the
focus of fierce competition between the great powers of the world
for domination of this part of the globe.
This struggle recalls the protracted conflict between Britain and
Russia at the end of the nineteenth century for hegemony in the
Middle East and Central Asia that became known as the Great
Game. Germany made its own thrust into the region with its
decision to build the Berlin to Baghdad railroad. The resulting
tensions played a major role in the growth of European militarism
that erupted in World War I.
This time American imperialism is the major protagonist. Over
the past several years, the battle for dominance in the region has
come to center on one question: where to build a pipeline to
move oil from the Azeri capital of Baku to the West.
Within the next several months the Azerbaijan International
Operating Company (AIOC), a consortium of the State Oil
Company of Azerbaijan and international companies including
British Petroleum and four US firms, Amoco, Unocal, Exxon and
Pennzoil, will announce a decision on pipeline construction that
Washington considers to be of immense importance to the
strategic position of the United States in the twenty-first century.
French, Japanese, Russian and Chinese firms are also heavily
involved in projects for drilling and shipping oil from the Caspian.
The Clinton administration has given the highest priority to this
issue. Bill Richardson, who as American ambassador to the UN
was the point man for Washington in the last US confrontation
with Iraq in the winter of 1997-98, has been appointed Secretary
of Energy. He has been assigned the lead role in convincing
AIOC to build its pipeline along an east-west route preferred by
Washington wants the pipeline to pass from Azerbaijan through
Georgia to Turkey, emptying out at the Turkish Mediterranean
port of Ceyhan. Oil executives have inclined to a more direct,
shorter and cheaper route that would flow south through Iran to the
Persian Gulf. A third alternative would move the oil from Baku
northwest through Russia, ending at the Black Sea port of
A US State Department report from April of last year indicates
the importance which the Clinton administration attaches to the
geo-politics of Caspian oil:
"The Caspian region could become the most important new
player in world oil markets over the next decade. The US has
critical foreign policy issues at stake--the increase and
diversification of world energy supplies, the independence and
sovereignty of the NIS [Newly Independent States] and isolation of
A series of unusually frank articles in the New York Times, the
Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and other more
specialized organs of American bourgeois opinion and policy
have placed the battle over the pipeline decision within the
context of a struggle for world domination in the next century.
Last month the Times ran a front-page article warning that the US
pipeline plan was on the brink of defeat. The article said:
"The Caspian region has emerged as the world's newest stage
for big power politics. It not only offers oil companies the prospect
of great wealth, but provides a stage for high-stakes competition
among world powers.... Much depends on the outcome, because
these pipelines will not simply carry oil but will also define new
corridors of trade and power. The nation or alliance that controls
pipeline routes could hold sway over the Caspian region for
decades to come."
The Times quoted Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas)
lamenting that US leverage had been weakened because Clinton
had "lost the power of moral persuasion" as a result of the
scandals surrounding his administration.
Since then the Clinton administration has intensified its lobbying
efforts, and the AIOC has put off announcing its decision on the
pipeline route. Indicative of Washington's high-level efforts, the
Times ran another major article on November 8, which spoke of
the pipeline decision in even more apocalyptic terms:
"At stake is far more than the fate of the complex Caspian region
itself. Rivalries being played out here will have a decisive impact
in shaping the post-Communist world, and in determining how
much influence the United States will have over its development."
The article quoted Richardson, who hinted broadly at the
determination of Washington to prevent the pipeline from running
through either Iran or Russia, so as to limit the political influence
of both in the region:
"This is about America's energy security, which depends on
diversifying our sources of oil and gas worldwide. It's also about
preventing strategic inroads by those who don't share our values.
We're trying to move these newly independent countries toward
the West. We would like to see them reliant on Western
commercial and political interests rather than going another way.
We've made a substantial political investment in the Caspian,
and it's very important to us that both the pipeline map and the
politics come out right."
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the discovery of huge oil
and gas reserves in the Caspian have led to a certain evolution in
US policy toward Iraq. As long as the issue of strategic concern
was only the Persian Gulf, the focus of American concern was to
Iraq's south. Washington concluded that a military occupation of
Iraq and possible fracturing of the country posed too great a risk
of destabilizing the region. It decided at the end of the gulf war to
leave Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard intact and allow him
to remain in power.
America's intensified interest in the lands to Iraq's north has
altered US military and economic priorities. For a thrust into the
Caspian, a more direct military and political presence in Iraq is
Iraq occupies a strategic position in the geography of the region
in general, and the geo-politics of the pipeline dispute in
particular. The nation that controlled the north of Iraq would be in a
position, for example, to protect a pipeline through southern
Turkey, or launch military strikes against a pipeline through Iran.
The US would like to turn northern Iraq into a new base for
American military operations. This is politically unfeasible as long
as the present Iraqi regime is in power. US policy over the past
seven years has made a normalization of relations with Saddam
Hussein impossible, for both domestic and international reasons.
He has become an increasingly intolerable obstacle to American
aims. He must be eliminated and replaced by a US client regime.
It is more than just a coincidence that Washington stepped up its
military preparations against Iraq at the very point that its efforts
to impose its choice of a pipeline route for Caspian oil seemed
headed for defeat. A large-scale strike against Iraq would send a
clear message to Russia, France, Iran and other rivals that the
US retains military supremacy and is prepared to use it. It would
demonstrate to each and all that American imperialism is the top
gun not only in the Persian Gulf, but in Central Asia as well.
On a wider international arena, conflicts between the US and its
imperialist rivals in Europe and Asia are intensifying over a host
of economic and political issues. Just in the last few days Clinton
has threatened trade war measures against Japan over steel and
the European Union over bananas. This provides an added
incentive for using Iraq as a convenient target to remind the world
of America's capacity for military destruction.
Readers: The WSWS invites your comments.
Please send e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 19:23:48 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad.abdolian@RSA.ERICSSON.SE>
Subject: Israel is trying to identity genes carried only by Arabs
I found this on SCI, but can not be sure if it is a true story or a hoax,
judge for yourself.
LONDON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Israel is trying to identity genes
carried only by Arabs that could be used to develop a biological weapon
that would harm Arabs while not affecting Jews, according to a report in
the Sunday Times.
The newspaper attributed its report to unidentified Israeli
military and Western intelligence sources. It said Israeli scientists are
working to create a genetically modified bacterium or virus that only
attacks people who carry certain genes.
The paper said the weapon is seen as Israel's response to the
threat of chemical and biological warfare from Iraq and could be spread by
air or through the water supply.
The program is based at the biological institute in Nes
Tziyona, which it described as the main research facility for Israel's
chemical and biological weapons.
According to the report, researchers have pinpointed ``a
characteristic in the genetic profile of certain Arab communities,
particularly the Iraqi people.''
The newspaper said the idea of such research has provoked
controversy in Israel because of parallels with the genetic experiments at
Auschwitz by Nazi scientist doctor Josef Mengele during World War II.
Israeli parliament member Dedi Zucker is quoted as saying,
``Morally, based on our history, and our tradition and our experience, such
a weapon is monstrous and should be denied.''
Officials at Porton Down, Britain's biological defense facility,
told the paper such weapons were theoretically possible.
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 19:31:06 +0100
From: Farhad Abdolian <farhad.abdolian@RSA.ERICSSON.SE>
Subject: LONG: Made in Iran : Films About (Not for) Children
Hi, this is an old article, but I found it very interesting, I hope you
like it too! /Farhad A.
Arts and Leisure Desk; Section 2A
Made in Iran : Films About (Not for) Children
By GODFREY CHESHIRE
The New York Times
Page 13, Column 1
c. 1998 New York Times Company
HALFWAY through ''The Mirror,'' a 1997 film by the Iranian director Jafar
Panahi, the audience finds itself at a startling juncture. We have been
following a little girl named Mina as she makes her way across Teheran . A
grade-schooler whose mother didn't arrive to pick her up after school, Mina
has elected to find her own way home, beginning a journey that -- however
slight the premise may sound -- is fascinating to follow, alternately
hilarious, suspenseful and rich in offhand documentary details. Then,
during a scene on a bus, she says she's had it. She's fed up with filming.
Mina Mohammad-Khani, the little girl playing Mina the fictional little
girl, is staging a work stoppage. She's sick of making the movie, she
declares, and rather than shoot another scene, she's going home. As we
watch through what seems to be the lens of a documentary camera observing
the shooting of ''The Mirror,'' Panahi and his crew look on, flummoxed, as
the young actress spurns their pleas to continue, then dashes off into
This scene, the pivotal moment in a film that invites us to see cinema as
an Alice in Wonderland looking glass, could alone serve as a crash course
in recent Iranian movies, since it contains several of the form's
hallmarks: it takes filmmaking itself as one of its subjects; it
purposefully, wittily blurs the line between fiction and documentary; it
features captivatingly natural performances by nonactors; it's as much
allegorical as conventionally dramatic, and, above all, it centers on a child.
Iranian films, which are known for a distinctive combination of simplicity
and sophistication, narrative directness and poetic allusiveness, don't all
concern children on idiosyncratic quests. But the motif is so prevalent
that it has become something of a trademark, and it informs several coming
movies that are part of a rising tide of Iranian films in American art houses.
Three will go into national release this winter. ''The Mirror'' opens on
Nov. 25 as part of an Iranian film festival at Lincoln Center. Majid
Majidi's ''Children of Heaven,'' Iran 's candidate for next spring's Oscar
for best foreign-language film, opens on Jan. 22. And Samira Makhmalbaf's
film ''The Apple,'' a critical and popular favorite at the recent New York
Film Festival, begins a commercial run in February.
In addition, children figure in two festivals of Iranian cinema running
concurrently through the end of November in New York. The series at Lincoln
Center's Walter Reade Theater includes Mohammad-Ali Talebi's films ''The
Boots'' (1992) and ''Bag of Rice'' (1997). At the Brooklyn Museum of Art,
Amir Naderi's ''Water, Wind, Dust'' (1989) and Arsalan Saasani's ''Bamboo
Fence'' (1976) will be shown.
As the abdication of little Mina in ''The Mirror'' cleverly suggests,
Iranian children have at least one reason to flee filmmakers: they are
being pursued with relentless regularity -- and considerable success.
Although Iran's tradition of films involving children dates back three
decades, in the last three years the genre has gained increased prominence
in the international art film market.
Mr. Panahi's first feature, ''The White Balloon,'' a drolly observant
comedy about a little girl trying to buy goldfish for her New Year's
celebration, was the breakthrough. After winning the coveted Camera d'Or
(for best first film) at the 1995 Cannes International Film Festival, it
was selected for the New York Film Festival; in 1996, as an October Films
release, it became the first Iranian movie to approach $1 million in United
States earnings, and the first to win the New York Film Critics Circle's
award for best foreign-language film.
(CONTINUATION FROM PART 1)
On the heels of that success have come more laurels, expanded commercial
prospects and critical awareness for Iranian movies. Consider the splash
the forthcoming Miramax release ''Children of Heaven'' made at the 1997
Montreal World Film Festival: it won not only the Grand Prix of the
Americas for best film, but also an international critics' citation, the
Ecumenical Jury prize and the audience award.
In a sense, the Iranians have simply found a canny way of tapping into a
recently neglected tradition that includes classics like ''The 400 Blows''
by Francois Truffaut, ''Forbidden Games'' by Rene Clement, ''Lord of the
Flies'' by Peter Brook, ''Los Olvidados'' by Luis Bunuel and ''Au Revoir
les Enfants'' by Louis Malle.
The most apt comparisons, though, are to Vittorio De Sica's ''Shoeshine''
and ''The Bicycle Thief.'' Iranian films are often likened to the
masterpieces of Italian neo-realism, and for good reason: not only do they
frequently depict characters pitted against poverty, war and social
inequity, not only do they make an esthetic virtue of their limited
technical and financial means, but they also exude an attitude of moral
concern, of clear-eyed, unsentimental compassion, that is rare in other
Focusing on children is a natural way of stressing the delicacy of human
interactions. In ''Children of Heaven,'' for example, the premise has a
simplicity typical of many Iranian films: a poor boy loses his sister's
shoes on the way back from having them repaired and so has to share his own
sneakers with her in order to avoid their father's wrath. The ruses the
siblings devise to trade off the one pair of shoes (they attend school at
different times) are part of the film's appeal, but what seems to impress
and delight viewers most is the gentle, affectionate way their relationship
is described: the eddying waves of annoyance, understanding and sly
complicity that unite brother and sister in their own intimate world.
Unquestionably, this attention to children is partly owed to the
restrictions placed on filmmakers in Iran , where women must always be
veiled on screen and most adult intimacies cannot be depicted. Yet the
special association of Iranian cinema and children, which reflects a
cultural disposition as much as artistic circumstances, did not begin with
1979's Iranian revolution.
Prior to the 70's, Iranian cinema was dominated by genre movies that were
mainly imitations of Western action films and comedies. The beginnings of
an ''artistic'' cinema coincided with the Shah's efforts at liberalization,
which included initiatives aimed at improving the lot of children.
In 1970, Abbas Kiarostami, an artist who had illustrated children's books
and directed children in television commercials, was asked to start a
filmmaking division for the state-sponsored Institute for the Intellectual
Development of Children and Young Adults. Now Iran 's most celebrated
director internationally, Mr. Kiarostami began by making films that, as he
put it, were ''about, not for, children.'' His first feature, ''The
Traveler,'' about the desperate lengths to which a boy goes in order to see
a soccer match, had an air of near-tragic asperity and social criticism
common to Iranian films before the revolution.
Following a period of quiescence after 1979, Iran 's cinema began to revive
largely because of a program instituted by the new Islamic Republic and its
Minister of Culture, Mohammad Khatami, who is now the President of Iran .
By the late 1980's, international film festivals were taking note of the
Iranian cinema's resurgence, including three defining successes.
Amir Naderi's film ''The Runner'' (1985) concerned a poor boy forced to
live by his wits, although the premise seemed mostly a pretext for a
breathless, sophisticated stylistic display comparable to the exuberant
camera balletics of Martin Scorsese. In contrast, Bahram Beyzaie's ''Bashu,
the Little Stranger'' (1986), which told of a farm wife's attempt to rescue
a war orphan from his trauma, recalled Truffaut's ''Wild Child'' in its
meditation on language and nurturing; it was also enough of an anti-war
statement that it was banned until the end of the Iran -Iraq war, in 1989.
Most influential of all, however, was Mr. Kiarostami's ''Where Is the
Friend's House?'' (1987), a tale of a rural boy who ventures to a nearby
village to return a schoolmate's notebook. The film had an exacting,
singularly expressive way with its rustic settings and found actors. Above
all it had an almost minimalist narrative that seemed to have much in
common with the obliquely suggestive lyrics of medieval and modern Persian
poets, including a muted undertone of cultural criticism.
Where some observers expect a rudimentary political symbolism in the
artworks of any authoritarian state, the rich allusiveness of many recent
Iranian films has just as much to do with a deep-rooted literary tradition
in which symbol, metaphor and suggestion remain as natural as they are
potent. ''The Apple,'' for example, has a resonance that is as
extraordinary as its origins.
THE film began when the director Samira Makhmalbaf, then 17, saw a
television news item about 12-year-old twin girls who had just been
discovered by social workers after being imprisoned by their impoverished
parents since birth. With the help of her father, the noted filmmaker
Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Samira persuaded the girls and their parents to play
themselves in an allegorical docudrama that she directed, her father
scripted and her small crew filmed in 11 days. The result is a rough jewel
of a film that analyzes patriarchy in an imaginative and critical way yet
is also uniquely sympathetic to everyone trapped by its ancient, enduring
In Iran itself, perhaps inevitably, such films have provoked a backlash
among critics who think that international success has bred a glut of
second-rate imitations aimed primarily at foreign festivals and art
cinemas. ( Iran also does a healthy export business in films for children.)
And yet, the trend continues and has even produced a new phenomenon: films
about children, by children.
A few months before Samira Makhmalbaf made ''The Apple,'' her sister Hanna
made her directorial debut. Photographed by their brother, Masem, the film
short, ''The Day My Aunt Was Ill,'' was selected to play the prestigious
Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. Hanna, Iran 's newest auteur, was 8
when she made it.
End of DNI-NEWS Digest - 16 Nov 1998 to 17 Nov 1998