Friday, February 24, 2012

Middle East: Stupid is the Order of the Day

The stupid Attack Iran meme seems to have infected virtually all discourse on the Middle East.

Marc Lynch said something stupid…then Amnesty International said something stupid…and how about those stupid Islamic terrorist plots?

I have already written about Marc Lynch’s rather terminal and embarrassing misunderstanding of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in the matter of Syria, a major problem since he presents threatening Assad and his cohorts with prosecution by the ICC as the cornerstone for his vision of coercive diplomacy.

Largely because of the insistence of the United States, the ICC does not enjoy universal jurisdiction. It cannot pursue crimes against humanity regardless of where they occur; it can only act 1) in the case of “state parties” – nations that have both signed and ratified the Rome Statute, thereby binding themselves to submit to the jurisdiction of the ICC or 2) when the UN Security Council decides that the superseding demands of world peace and security dictate that a malefactor, whether or not he or she belongs to a “state party” should be turned over to the court.

As long as Syria—a signatory but not ratifier of the Rome Statute—is shielded in the Security Council by Russia and China, Lynch’s riposte to Syrian recalcitrance, the threat of ICC prosecution, appears ludicrous.

Of course, there is always the possibility that the West will refuse to accept defeat and simply try to change the rules under which non-state-party despots are exposed to ICC jeopardy.

Andrea Bianchi and Stephanie Barbour try to do their best to expand the ICC’s reach, despite a rather sobersided piece of reporting by AP that highlights the limits to ICC jurisdiction in the matter of Syria:

Experts said the list is likely to be more of a deterrent against further abuses than a direct threat to the Assad regime. Syria isn't a member of the ICC so its jurisdiction doesn't apply there, and Russia would likely block any moves in the U.N. Security Council to refer the country to the Hague-based tribunal.

But Andrea Bianchi, a professor of international law at Geneva's Graduate Institute, said anyone on the U.N. list might still be arrested and prosecuted if they traveled from Syria to a country that has signed up to the international court.

"Personally, if I were on that list I would worry," he said.

Human rights group Amnesty International urged that the list be kept secret to prevent suspects from being tipped off.

"If in the future there is to be any potential to issue sealed arrest warrants the list has to remain confidential," said Stephanie Barbour, coordinator of the group's campaign for international justice.

Personally, if I was of the opinion that the ICC was basically an arbitrary tool against dictators that the United States and its allies doesn’t like, I guess I’d worry, too.

And if I was a professor at some Geneva institute of higher education, or a coordinator at AI, I’d be rather ashamed that I wasn’t spending some time highlighting the fact that the United States has gone even further than Syria in removing itself from the ICC’s jurisdiction.

But that’s just me.

Here in Connect-the-Dots-Istan, we were also struck by the parallels between the stupid Muslim assassin in Washington story and the stupid Iranian terrorists in Thailand, Georgia, and India story.

Foreign Policy tells us about the long and winding path to arrest of the Moroccan who tried to assassinate President Obama with a bogus suicide vest thoughtfully provided by the FBI:

An would-be suicide bomber was arrested on Capitol Hill today after accepting what he thought was an explosive vest from undercover agents. Roll Call's Emma Dumain has the details:

“The arrest was the culmination of a lengthy and extensive operation,” the statement continued. “At no time was the public or Congressional community in any danger.”[...] 

Local reports by Fox News describe the individual in custody as “a man, in his 30s and of Moroccan descent” who has been a target of a lengthy FBI investigation. Fox News reported that the suspect believed the undercover FBI agents assisting him were al-Qaida operatives.

Roll Call notes that the story is similar to that of Rezwan Ferdaus, who was arrested last September in the midst of a plot to attack the Capitol with a remote-controlled aircraft. Ferdaus was also in communication with FBI agents posing as al Qaeda members. 

The case is also similar to that Farooque Ahmed, who thought he was going to blow up the DC Metro system in 2010, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who thought he was going to blow up a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland Oregon in 2010, David Williams, who thought he was going to blow up a Bronx synagogue in 2009, and the "Fort Dix Five," who thought they were going to attack a New Jersey military base in 2006. 

In each case, undercover FBI agents spent months communicating and providing fake resources to the suspects before springing the trap. …

The increasing frequency of these operations is bound to raise some questions about whether law enforcement agencies are pushing along the development of plots that the individuals involved might never have acted on without the longterm encouragement of their "al Qaeda contacts." 

Now, I don’t have any special insights into the concurrent anti-Israeli bomb plots with Iranian principals that were simultaneously busted in Georgia, India, and Thailand, but Arshin Adib-Moghaddam wrote in Counterpunch to offer a perspective on the conspiracies:

Let’s assume that sections of the military and security apparatus in Iran are responsible for the string of bombings in Georgia, Thailand and India. What would be the motive? The argument that Iran is retaliating for the murder of five civilian nuclear scientists in Iran is not plausible. If Iran wanted to target Israeli interests, it has other means at its disposal. It is hard to imagine that the Iranian government would send Iranian operatives to friendly countries, completely equipped with Iranian money and passports – making the case against them as obvious as possible.

If the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are as professional, highly trained and politically savvy as we have been told repeatedly by Israeli politicians themselves, if they have successfully trained and equipped the cadres of Hezbollah and other movements with paramilitary wings in the region, then why would they launch such a clumsy and self-defeating operation?

And why India, Georgia and Thailand, three countries that Iran has had cordial relations with during a period when Iran is facing increasing sanctions spearheaded by the United States? A few days ago, India agreed a rupee-based oil and gas deal with Iran and resisted US pressures to join the western boycott of the Iranian energy sector. As a net importer of 12% of Iranian oil, India’s total trade with Iran amounted to $13.67bn in 2010-2011. What would be the motive for damaging relations with one of Iran’s major trading partners and regional heavyweights?

For Iran it doesn’t make sense to risk alienating India by launching an assassination attempt in the capital of the country. Similarly, Iran has good economic and political relations with Georgia and Thailand. Why would the leadership in Tehran risk a major crisis with these countries during this sensitive period when IAEA inspectors are moving in and out of Iran to investigate the country’s nuclear programme?

Good, good questions. Especially when it was recently revealed that the Israeli intelligence agencies were mounting false flag operations, convincing Balochistan militants that their attacks against Iranian targets were being orchestrated by the CIA, not Mossad.

I would also not hesitate to draw the conclusion that US and Israeli security services have a sizable roster of extremist dingdongs on tap, available to incite and detain as the needs of public safety and anti-Muslim/anti-Iran diplomacy require.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Marc Lynch Apparently Said Something Really Stupid…

Laura Rozen reported on a piece of Syria-related chinstroking by Marc Lynch at the Center for a New American Security titled Pressure Not War: A Pragmatic and Principled Policy Towards Syria.

The CNAS page promoting the study tells us:

Dr. Lynch recommends specific actions for policymakers grappling with the crisis, including:
•    Present Asad with an ultimatum: resign, or be referred to the International Criminal Court for War Crimes.

(plus a variety of other sanction/diplomacy squeeze tactics).

In the report, the ICC option is presented as follows:

The time has come to demand a clear choice from Syrian regime officials. They should be clearly warned that their names are about to be referred to the ICC on charges of war crimes. It should be made clear that failure to participate in the political transition process will lead to an institutionalized legal straightjacket that would make it impossible for them to return to the international community.This should be feasible, even without Security Council agreement. Top regime officials should be left with no doubt that the window is rapidly closing on their ability to defect from the regime and avoid international prosecution. To date, Syrian officials have not been referred to the ICC, in order to keep alive the prospect of a negotiated transition. Asad must have an exit strategy, by this thinking, or else he will fight to the death. However, Asad has shown no signs of being willing to take a political deal, and in any case, his crimes are now so extensive that he cannot have a place in the new Syrian political order. He should be forced to make a clear choice: He can step down and agree to a political transition now, and still have an opportunity for exile, or he can face international justice…

Unfortunately for Dr. Lynch, Syria signed but did not ratify the Rome Statute setting up the International Criminal Court.

Therefore, Syria is not a “state party” under the statute; it cannot make referrals to the court for crimes by other states, but the treaty is also not binding upon it, except in a rather vague way under international law: to abstain from “acts which would defeat the object and purpose” of the treaty.

In other words, it is in the same situation as Libya was; and a referral from the UN Security Council trumping the ordinary procedures and jurisdiction of the Rome Treaty on the basis of an overriding threat to world peace and security was needed in order to enable the ICC indictment of Gaddafi and two other Libyans that quickly followed.

We can, perhaps, forgive Dr. Lynch for his ignorance concerning the statutory functions of the ICC.

After all, the United States signed, then declined to ratify, then “unsigned” the Treaty of Rome setting up the International Criminal Court, so that busy US government officials can engage in their various escapades beyond ICC jurisdiction…unless the UNSC (on which the US itself holds a veto) decides to make a referral.

Absent a UNSC resolution on Syria (certainly not forthcoming for the time being as Russia and China are both pushing for negotiation between the opposition and Assad on a non-coercive basis), the ICC is not going to get the UNSC referral it needs to pursue the Syrian government and Assad.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that somebody comes up with a new legal justification for subjecting non-state party signatories like Syria to indictment by the ICC that doesn’t require a UNSC referral (and also doesn’t accidentally subject the United States--a non-ratifier and now also a non-signatory--to unwelcome legal jeopardy).

Is an ICC war crimes prosecution something that can be turned on or off like a tap in order to serve the diplomatic/strategic objectives of a certain coalition of states?

I think not, Dr. Lynch.

The ICC prosecutor is required to launch an investigation if he receives a referral from a “state party” or the UNSC.

But that’s not all.

The prosecutor must also open an investigation if the “Pre-Trial Chamber”, a panel of ICC poobahs, decides that a complaint by victims justifies a case.

Per Wikipedia, which I think can be leaned on as a reliable source on this subject:

The Office of the Prosecutor is responsible for conducting investigations and prosecutions. It is headed by the Chief Prosecutor, who is assisted by one or more Deputy Prosecutors. The Prosecutor may open an investigation under three circumstances:
•    when a situation is referred to him by a state party [i.e. a signatory to the Treaty of Rome setting up the ICC];
•    when a situation is referred to him by the United Nations Security Council, acting to address a threat to international peace and security; or
•    when the Pre-Trial Chamber authorises him to open an investigation on the basis of information received from other sources, such as individuals or non-governmental organisations.

When one considers that Navi Pillay, head of the UN Human Rights Commission, has declared that “it appears likely that war crimes have been committed” in Syria, it would be, to say the least, interesting if the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber and the Prosecutor decided that, based on the merits, an investigation was not called for:

The Fact-Finding Mission, the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, and I myself have all concluded that crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed in Syria. I have encouraged the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Under these circumstances, it would appear that an ICC investigation of Assad, if demanded by his victims inside Syria, is not an option; it’s an obligation.

Not something that Assad’s antagonists in the West and Arab world can instigate at their discretion…or squelch if negotiating Assad’s exit demands it.

Recalling Dr. Lynch's confidence that an ICC indictment can be ordered up like a pizza with a choice of prosecutorial toppings at the discretion of the great powers, I particularly enjoyed this declaration:

The Rome Statute provides that the Office of the Prosecutor shall act independently; as such, no member of the Office may seek or act on instructions from any external source, such as states, international organisations, non-governmental organisations or individuals.

Noble pronouncements aside, could it be that the ICC really is a compliant tool of Western interests?

Fortunately, a quick review of ICC indictments gives a clear picture of even-handed global justice:

Five guys from the DR Congo; five more from Uganda; one guy from the Central African Republic; six from Sudan, including Bashir; seven from Kenya; three from Libya, including Gaddafi; and one from Cote d’Ivoire.

To be fair, several of these luminaries were referred by successor governments of their own states.

Even so, if Assad is indicted, he will be the first defendant in the court’s history that didn't hail from the continent of Africa (if you, like I, wondered where Milosevic was tried, he was tried in an ad hoc court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia).

Friday, February 17, 2012

China Steps Up in Syria

The conventional picture of US policy in the Middle East is of a hellbound train rushing toward war with Iran, pulling burning coaches filled with European passengers howling praise of Western values out the windows at horrified bystanders.  Actually, I think it’s more like a monster truck exhibition.  Lots of sound, fury, testosterone, and bravado, but just spinning wheels, spewing mud, roaring in circles, and going nowhere.

What is very interesting is that China, usually an apostle of non-interference, believes it has something to contribute to the Syrian situation, probably for two reasons: 1) it needs to road-test some new approaches to managing and accommodating dissent in anticipation of the day when Arab-Spring type upheavals become an important factor in China and 2) the current situation is so screwed up the Chinese feel they can make a genuine contribution.

Though Russia has the lead role as defender of the Syrian regime, China has been following the situation closely.  One of the appendixes to the infamously suppressed Arab League report on Syria listed representatives of foreign media who had been allowed into the country; a large number of them were Chinese, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them, as Xinhua is known to do, were wearing intel hats in addition to their journalist roles.  

Interestingly, the Angry Arab news service noted an interview Al Jazeera Arabic did with China’s Foreign Ministry desk officer for Syria and remarked: “ His Arabic is as good as the best Arabic speakers.  It is incredible.  I never ever met an American diplomat with this fluency.  I mean that.  And his pronunciation is so excellent that it carries no trace of a Chinese accent.” 

Maybe the Chinese—highly dependent on Saudi and Iranian oil, with a government apparatus largely insulated from global and Israeli pressure, and providing generous human and financial resources to a foreign service designed to help China navigate through a dangerous neighborhood without the crutch of a dominating military presence—knows the Middle East better than we do?

For the sake of American peace of mind, maybe we’d better stick to the image of the PRC team as amoral, callous, resource-grubbing apparatchiks who know the address of every Chinese restaurant in the Middle East but little else.

Anyway, Syria represents an interesting case in the dynamics of great power diplomacy and rivalry in the Middle East.  My take on the situation is that the United States is willing to let the GCC chew up Syria as a consolation prize for not going all out on regime change against Iran.  China, I feel, has a diametrically opposite mindset: it thinks it has placated Saudi Arabia adequately on Iran (mainly by hosing Iran on energy pricing and not stepping up in a major way to crack the sanctions blockade that is beggaring the Iran’s economy and its citizens), so they feel they have the right to be treated as grown-ups with ideas worth listening to on Syria.

Since the West believes it has a monopoly on moral and political wisdom, that’s probably not going to happen.  But it’s interesting that the Chinese are trying.

According to the authoritarian playbook preferred by China, Syria’s President Assad is doing the right things: driving a wedge between the “loyal opposition” to his rule and hard-core rebels and revolutionaries through the use of targeted amnesties and concessions; forcefully isolating and suppressing violent political dissenters; incrementally escalating the use of military force to regain control of militia-held strongholds like Homs; and offering a way out with a new constitution.

Perhaps he has done the right things, but not in the right way; or perhaps not enough.  As the harsh crackdown approaching its first-year anniversary, the Assad regime has profoundly alienated a significant portion of its population.  Reconciliation and stability is going to take more than a new constitution, delivered with a pat on the head and an apology from the government.

A necessary and dangerous process of accommodation and power sharing will be needed.

China perhaps has grasped this point even more clearly than Russia, or the Assad regime itself.  As Syria and Western/Arab policy on Syria lurch from crisis to crisis, China may watch for opportunities to advance its strategy.

This weekend, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun will visit Damascus to try to create some space for a “third path” political strategy, one that eschews both regime change and perpetuation of the status quo for a process of evolutionary reform keyed on the new constitution.

The draft Syrian constitution is a multi-faceted political document.  It accommodates a multi-party system, addressing a key grievance of many moderate Syrians, but still offers the Ba’ath Party various advantages.  It outlaws “religion-based parties,” in order to wrong-foot  Assad’s mortal enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood, but stipulates that the president must be a Muslim, in order to appease conservative Muslims. 

Assad has announced a referendum on the new constitution will be held on February 26.
It would be very interesting to see how the constitutional referendum played out, and what level of support the government could still command after a heavy-handed one year crackdown.

But it is unlikely that Assad’s enemies inside the country, in the West, the Gulf Coordinating Council (GCC), and Turkey will allow the Syrian government to use the referendum to buttress its legitimacy and demonstrate a capacity to guide the nation out of its political impasse.

As is inevitably the case, any effort by the Syrian regime to gain political-reform traction was met with determined “it’s too late/atrocity of the day” propaganda pushback designed to pre-empt any impetus toward reconciliation.

Even as the referendum was announced, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland (the wife of neo-con Robert Kagan and previously a national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney) stated that Assad’s departure was the only viable option; a WINEP pundit dismissed the referendum as “window dressing”; CNN reported “the vast majority of accounts from within the country say that al-Assad's forces are slaughtering civilians en masse”; and Western media uncritically passed on the opposition’s idiotic accusation that the Syrian air force had bombed the government’s  own diesel pipeline (which somebody, presumably of the aggressively violent opposition whose existence the West stubbornly refuses to acknowledge, apparently blew up).

Assad’s announcement of the pushed up date for the referendum (it was originally expected to happen in March) was probably a response to the latest escalation in regime-change activity, the “Friends of Syria” conference to be convened in Tunisia on February 24.

Assad’s foreign antagonists, deprived by a Russian/Chinese veto of the opportunity to further delegitimize the Assad regime through the UN Security Council, will use the Tunisian conference to formalize a case for humanitarian intervention in Syria—a moral imperative that justifies, even demands disregard for conflicting demands of treaties and international institutions when necessary--under the “responsibility to protect” or R2P doctrine similar to the one used for Libya.

In a parting gift to the anti-Assad forces,UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay raised the specter of a International Criminal Court indictment against Assad, of the sort which complicated the situation in Sudan, closed the door on a negotiated exit for Gaddafi, and would make any sort of negotiation with Assad virtually impossible.

The Fact-Finding Mission, the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, and I myself have all concluded that crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed in Syria. I have encouraged the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. All Member States must ensure that these crimes do not go unpunished. 

Pillay also issued a demand for humanitarian access that could form the cornerstone of West/GCC justifications for Syrian intervention:

International and independent monitoring bodies, including my Office and the independent Commission of Inquiry must also be allowed into Syria. And humanitarian actors must be guaranteed immediate, unhindered access. [emphasis in original]

There will be no “no-fly zone” for Syria; Assad has assiduously and, one would imagine, intentionally, avoided the use of air transport and air support in his security operations, thereby denying a pretext for the West and GCC to come in with a “no-fly zone,” which in Libya quickly morphed into a “no drive zone” and then into an “attack any government target of tactical or strategic value zone”.

To get around this obstacle, if the French have their way, humanitarian intervention would involve creating a “humanitarian corridor” to deliver food and medical supplies to Homs, thereby driving a stake through the heart of the Syrian regime’s claim to legitimacy and national sovereignty and energizing the opposition…at least that portion of the opposition whose strategy relies on foreign intervention to collapse the Assad regime.

In the western media, only the Syrian National Council, or SNC, exists as the voice of Syrian opposition.  The real situation is considerably more complicated and opposition to Assad is by no means typified by the SNC.

In fact it is a remarkable testament to the bankruptcy of the West/GCC’s Syria policy that the horse they have chosen to back is, to a large extent, a corrupt congeries of exiles with virtually no presence inside Syria and dominated by the Sunni Islamist militants of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that has languished in exile for almost three decades.

At the end of January, 2012, Foreign Policy’s Justin Vela wrote:

A wide range of activists and diplomats are voicing concerns with the SNC, criticizing its lack of cohesion and effectiveness. While the majority of them have not given up on the council, they paint a picture of an organization out of touch with the protesters on the ground and dominated by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. 

"No one from the SNC has influence inside Syria. Most members of the SNC are jumping on a train that started from the street," says Ammar Qurabi, a Syrian human rights activist…

The most divisive issue surrounding the SNC, however, clearly remains the prominent role played by the Muslim Brotherhood. "The Muslim Brotherhood is the only party in town," says the Ankara-based Western diplomat. 

The Brothers have been exiled from Syria for 30 years after losing a bitter armed conflict with the regime in the 1980s, and some activists distrust its outlook on democracy and the future composition of a post-Assad government…

It appears that the Brotherhood’s insistence on overthrowing the Assad government is informed by its awareness that, whatever feelings Assad has about accommodating the aspirations of democratically-inspired dissidents, they do not extend to the MB. 

The Brotherhood’s best hope for a major, indeed dominant political role inside Syria requires regime collapse and the exploitation of the MB’s superior discipline and organization in the ensuing chaos to establish itself as the voice of conservative, orthodox Sunni Islam (the dominant confession in Syria) as their associates did so successfully (and to the chagrin of many secularly-inclined liberals) in Egypt.
Despite its lack of a Syrian presence and its apparently sectarian character, the SNC has been recognized as “the legitimate interlocutor of the Syrian people” by 16 governments, including the United States, several EU countries, and several Arab states. 

Reading between the lines, however, most countries are anxiously trying to reconcile their desire to see Assad fall with a queasy awareness that the SNC is perhaps a sectarian, Islamist train wreck ready to happen.  The only authority to give the SNC full recognition is similarly named (and equally shaky) Libyan National Council.  The rest of the 16 nations have offered vigorous lip service to the SNC in an effort to buttress its prestige, but have as yet declined to recognize it as the legitimate voice of the Syrian people.

It seems the main function of the SNC is to vocally implore—and thereby justify—foreign intervention in Syria.

Though unheard in the West, there are other opposition groups that don’t share the Muslim Brotherhood’s maximalist rejection of negotiation with the Assad regime.

The main in-country dissident organization, the National Coordination Committee, accepts a platform of negotiations with Assad.

In fact, the head of the SNC, Burhan Ghalioun, attempted to achieve a unified opposition with a significant presence both  inside and outside Syria by allying with the NCC.

Justin Vela describes the outcome of Ghalioun’s attempt to abandon the no-negotiation/ foreign-intervention franchise in favor of a broad-based movement:

One particularly damaging stumble occurred when SNC Chairman Burhan Ghalioun signed a draft agreement with the National Coordination Committee, a Syrian opposition group largely based inside the country, in an attempt to unite the two groups. The agreement rejected foreign military intervention and called for dialogue with the regime, conditions that infuriated many Syrian activists. In the face of widespread opposition, Ghalioun backed away from the agreement.

The PRC has, for the most part, let Russia take a leadership role in making the anti-regime-change case for Syria.

However, on February 4, China’s Global Times posted an op-ed, “Third Path” for Syria, which laid out a vision for a resolution of the Syrian crisis that called for compromise—and an active role for China:

History shows regime changes in restive regions mean endless turmoil and uncertainty. Therefore the Syrian opposition does not need to be that ambitious. Threats against al-Assad will persist as they always have. Compromises on critical issues in exchange for a "soft landing" of his country seem to be a good deal for him.

Interestingly, the article—which may not represent a formal policy of the Chinese government but undoubtedly represents at the very least the informed view of a faction within it—hinted at a decoupling from Russia’s approach, seemingly characterizing Russia, but not China, as a die-hard supporter of Assad.
 [A]l-Assad is backed by the Russians. If a war between Western and Russian "agents" occurs in Syria, as is speculated to happen by some in the European media, it would be an arduous and prolonged battle… China is obviously seeking to assume an active role. The busiest mediators on the world stage are not necessarily stronger than China.

Russia can be an ally in advocating a "third path."

The Global Times op-ed can be regarded as a warning to Russia, which, through its vigorous and vocal defense of the Assad regime, has become identified as its uncritical and committed ally.

More importantly, it presented China not only as an impartial mediator, a role that Russia had sacrificed; it stated that China’s willingness, in contrast with its usual abhorrence of “interference in the affairs of sovereign states” to “assume an active role,” and even have Russia follow its lead.

Statements of Wen Jiabao also fed into this narrative:

"On the issue of Syria, what is most urgent and pressing now is to prevent war and chaos so that the Syrian people will be free from even greater suffering," Wen told a press conference after a China-EU summit in Beijing on Tuesday.

"To achieve this goal, China supports all efforts in consistence with the U.N. charter and principles, and we are ready to strengthen communication with all parties in Syria and the international community and continue to play a constructive role," Wen said, adding that China would "absolutely not protect any party, including the Syrian government," Chinese media reported.

Contrary to the wishful thinking of Western observers, Wen is not signaling that he is ready to throw Assad under the bus.  Rather, the PRC is trying to save Assad—or, more accurately, promote a peaceful, incremental resolution to the Syrian crisis that leaves the current power structure reformed but to a significant degree intact—by positioning itself as an honest broker in the dispute.

Differences in the Russian and Chinese approaches can be seen in the choice of interlocutors among the non-SNC opposition.

Russia, with deeper ties to the current regime, appears to be placing its hopes for political resolution of the crisis on the “patriotic opposition”, a collection of eleven small parties closely associated with the Ba’ath Party and allowed to function even under the restrictive Section 8 of the current Syrian constitution.

 In an article written in January 2012, a Russian journalist described a certain amount of political ferment he observed during a recent trip to Syria:

At present there are three main trends in the Syrian patriotic opposition – democratic, liberal and left, which is mainly a communist one. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party is the most influential party among the democratic forces. … the party’s program is more conservative in comparison with the Baath’s program. Nevertheless there are no differences of principle between the two parties. ..

The liberal trend of the opposition is represented by the recently registered secular democratic social movement led by Nabil Feysal… He is an outright opponent of the Islamic fundamentalism, supporter of the liberal democracy. His goal is to turn Syria into “Middle Eastern Denmark”.

The National Committee for the Unity of Syrian Communists is the most influential component of the left (communist) trend of the opposition within the country…headed by Qadri Jamil, a prominent Syrian economist and the professor at the Damascus University. He is the only representative of the opposition who entered the committee on the design of the new constitution…

It is not difficult to characterize these political parties (including one that defines itself as “more conservative than the Ba’ath” and having “no differences of principle” with the ruling party) as part of the regime’s strategy to hopelessly muddy the opposition waters and retain the upper hand in a multi-party environment.

Nevertheless, Qadri Jamil, the Syrian Communist, is the focus of friendly interest from Russia.

Jamil led a delegation to Moscow in October 2011. The Russian media carefully noted his rejection of foreign intervention, and obligingly publicized his opposition bona fides:

“Any interference in Syria’s domestic life will be interpreted as occupation”, the head of the delegation representing the Syrian opposition, Qadri Jamil, told journalists in Moscow.
“We are ready to do everything to stop violence and sit down for talks”, -Jamil said, adding that dialogue is the only possible way to settle the crisis.

Mr. Jamil stressed the importance of a new constitution for Syria, as well as reforms required to meet the needs of Syrians.

The opposition also demands the release of all political prisoners, including those detained during the recent riots. 

Although Qadri Jamil is apparently the Syrian regime and Russia’s great hope for a peaceful transition to a multi-party future, he apparently enjoys no standing in the Syrian dissident and activist community.

China, on the other hand, appears to be turning to the considerably more credible (but equally opposed to foreign military intervention) National Coordination Committee as its preferred interlocutor with the forces of change transforming Syria.

In February, as the SNC-promoted and West/GCC backed UN resolution furor was nearing its height, China made the interesting decision to receive Haitham Manna, “vice chief coordinator and spokesperson abroad”of the NCC in Beijing, give him a meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun, and publicize the meeting with an official news release.

Furthermore, on February 10 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted spokesperson Liu Weimin’s response to two questions concerning Haitham Manna’s visit on its website, all indications that the NCC is, at least for China, in play.

Liu’s responses also promoted China’s position that it can interact with all Syrian opposition forces, including the SNC:

China has been in touch with major Syrian opposition groups over a stretch of time. During Chinese Special Envoy on the Middle East Issue Ambassador Wu Sike's visit to Syria last October, he met with leaders from the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change and other Syrian opposition groups. China has also made contact and maintained interactions with the National Council of Syria.

Reading between the lines, one can make the following deductions about the PRC’s calculations on Syria:

First, there is no clear consensus within the global community, in the Arab world, or even among the opposition for collapsing the Assad regime.

It looks like the US and Turkey are increasingly keen on Assad accepting a Yemen solution (obligingly floated by Tunisia)—for Assad to drift off into exile so the West can declare victory and turn its attention to other, easier matters while the locals slug it out for pre-eminence under the watchful eye of the Syrian army.

However, Assad, still enjoying a significant measure of support from Russia, China, and Iran, doesn’t seem willing to go anywhere.

There is a window of opportunity for the PRC to promote its desired outcome: reform of the Assad regime and its survival as a reasonably stable ally for China in the Middle East.

Second, the West, if not the GCC, is having second thoughts about its stated enthusiasm for acting as the SNC’s paymaster, arms supplier, and political and diplomatic ally.

The unpleasant experience in Egypt implies that catapulting the intransigent Muslim Brotherhood into a position of political advantage is not necessarily the formula for creating a stable, pro-Western, Israel-friendly democracy in Syria.

More worryingly, al-Qaeda’s enthusiastic attempt to piggyback on the spiraling unrest in Syria—and the car bombings in Aleppo which, if not the work of Zawahiri’s minions, can probably be traced back to al-Qaeda’s Gulf-funded Sunni Islamist fans in western Iraq—are a warning that backing the feckless SNC in an agenda of regime collapse is not going to be the carefree, Iran-bashing romp so many interventionists are advertising.

Third, if the US and Turkey are sufficiently squeamish about the possibility of negative outcomes in Syria, they may not facilitate the flood of arms, money, and advisors the Gulf states would probably be ready to unleash in order to implode the regime.

Fourth, there is a possibility that, as the crisis drags on, more activists and dissidents will decide they will not want to be part of the Muslim Brotherhood and its creature, the SNC.  The SNC might split, leaving the MB in a marginalized rump organization while the secularists, liberals, and moderates i.e. those more likely to be willing to negotiate a political resolution with Assad migrate to the NCC (the possibility hinted at by Burhan Ghalioun’s abortive alliance between the SNC and the NCC).

The one observation that can be made about strategies relying on four contingencies is that they rarely work out.

For the West, the political benefits of posturing against Assad may well outweigh any qualms about the adverse consequences of further empowering the SNC and militarizing the conflict.

Nevertheless, even if China’s offers to mediate come to naught, the costs to China are minimal.  If Assad’s regime collapses, so be it; China has its foot in the door of the New Syria through the NCC.

In any case, events inside Syria might soon escape the ability of anybody to control them—not Assad, not China or Russia, not the SNC, and not the GCC, NATO, or the West.

A poster (“who recently left Syria and has been working with opposition activists”) declared on the Syria Comment website of University of Oklahoma professor Josh Landis:

The Real Opposition in Syria is Not the Syrian National Council or Free Syrian Army
The real opposition is maturing and growing in influence inside and on the ground away from the influence of Qatar, Turkey, Saudi, France or the US. It is a matter of time before the regime gives way. Soon the SNC will be simply remembered as something like one of the many Iraqi opportunistic opposition groups that mushroomed just before the war on Iraq…New more realistic, mature, civic and political powers are taking shape on the ground and will be emerging as powerful players soon. Even if the regime survives this round, there will be new rounds between an exhausted regime and new re-envigorated opposition groups. Forget the SNC and the FSA [Free Syrian Army] if you want to talk about the future.

In other words, maybe the real opposition in Syria is someone we’ve never heard of.  And maybe that’s a good thing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Subversion, American Style, the NED, and Egypt

The staff of US democracy promotion NGOs, including the son of Transportation Secretary Lahood, are currently experiencing legal travails in Egypt.  

The Egyptian junta is well aware that democratic agitation abetted by the National Endowment for Democracy, the IRI, and the NDI is often employed to install new regimes when local strongmen running quasi-democracies (featuring elections with a whiff of rigging or irregularities or ones that simply yield results that Uncle Sam thinks ain’t what they oughta be) aren’t up to snuff.

The US is not afraid to put its thumb on the scale to make sure democracy gains its preordained victory.

Maybe people in the US aren’t well aware.  So here’s an excerpt of a piece I wrote in 2007—when the US was promoting a color-revolution challenge to Musharraf through our chosen champion, Benazir Bhutto.

The original piece with links can be found here.

Subversion, American Style

This report torn from the AP newswire today (November 11, 2007) much says it all as far as the U.S. sponsored “Rose Revolution” in (ex-Soviet) Georgia is concerned:

Georgians looking to the TV for information on the country's worst political crisis in years are out of the luck these days. They'll find soap operas and comedies but no independent news programs.

Four days after being put into place following clashes between police and demonstrators, President Mikhail Saakashvili's ban on news broadcasts has deprived most Georgians of their primary source of news about the unrest.

The decision to pull the plug has also deprived the opposition of a platform before presidential elections and raised questions about Saakashvili's commitment to democracy.

Saakashvili — a pro-Western leader whose own rise to power was fueled by independent media — ordered a 15-day state of emergency to defuse a standoff with the opposition. Government troops had used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse thousands of protesters.
Though Saakashvili has been praised as one of the few post-Soviet leaders to champion democracy and freedom of speech, many Georgians say the media under Saakashvili are less free than under his predecessor, Eduard Sheverdnadze.

Great power exploitation of progressive political movements a.k.a. subversion is an interesting—and awkward—question.

Indeed, the most successful practitioner of communist subversion wasn’t the Soviet Union; it was Imperial Germany, which plunked Lenin on a sealed train to St. Petersburg with the intention of destabilizing Tsarist Russia and forcing its withdrawal from World War I, with spectacular results.

On the other hand, the Soviet-controlled Comintern, purportedly the gold standard of international subversion, was unable to do much more than foment transitory instability at enormous cost to its organization and adherents until the Red Army was added to its toolkit after the Second World War and Stalin switched to a strategy of conquest instead of subversion.

The great power that has been able to roll up a significant number of wins, particularly in the Great Game with Russia in the postwar era, has been the United States.

The effort operates like the Comintern wishes it had done—if it had a potent combination of attractive ideology, unattractive opponents, charismatic adherents, brains, money, and the freedom to operate freely and openly in its target countries with the explicit support of the World’s Only Hyperpower (TM).

The uneasy democracy coalition of patriots, opportunists, and fellow travelers works through an alphabet soup of “Gongos” ((government funded NGOs) and “Quangos” (quasi-non-government NGOs) dating from the Reagan era as described by journalist Sreeram Chaulia:

The watershed that brought INGOs to the forefront of global democracy promotion was the Reagan administration’s decision to create the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in 1983 to roll back Soviet influence. With a stated raison d’etre of “strengthening democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts”, NED was conceived as a quasi-governmental foundation that funnelled US government funding through INGOs like the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), and Freedom House.

These INGOs in turn ‘targeted’ authoritarian states through a plethora of programmatic activities.

NED’s first President, Allen Weinstein, admitted openly that "a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”32 The organisation was a deus ex machina in the face of scandalous Congressional investigations into the CIA’s “soft side” operations to destabilise and topple unfriendly regimes that embarrassed the government in the late 1970s. “An NGO helps to maintain a certain credibility abroad that an official US government agency might not have.”33

97 percent of NED’s funding comes from the US State Department (through USAID and before 1999, the USIA), the rest being allocations made by right-wing donors like the Bradley Foundation, the Whitehead Foundation and the Olin Foundation.34

Since its conception, and despite the bipartisan structure, “neoconservatives have held tight control over NED’s agenda and institutional structure.”35 Senior George W. Bush administration figures who are signatories to the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which wears aggressive US foreign interventions on its sleeve, have officiated in NED.

Notwithstanding its claims to “independence” and “nongovernmental status”36, the US State Department and other executive agencies regularly appoint NED’s programme personnel. As one ‘Project Democracy’ (codename for NED in the Iran-Contra scandal) advocate put it, “These ‘private’ agencies are really just fronts for the departments they serve; the agency may prepare a report or a research project that it then gives to the private firm to attach its letterhead to, as if it were really a private activity or initiative.”37

A survey of NED’s partner INGOs reveals a similar pattern of public priorities forwarded by private agents. Freedom House, a neocon hub which succoured the Colour Revolutions, has a history of being headed and staffed by ex-CIA high-level planners and personnel.38 NDI is dominated by ‘liberal hawks’ or right-wing Democrats who find their way to prime foreign policy slots when their party is in power. IRI comprises a herd of far-right Republican politicians and representatives of major financial, oil, and defence corporations.39 IFES top brass belong to conservative Republican ranks, the CIA or military intelligence.40 IREX, the training school for Colour Revolution elite protagonists, is peopled by political warfare, public diplomacy and propaganda specialists from the news media, US Foreign Service and the US military.

The most signal successes of U.S.-supported democratic movements were scored in the nations of the ex-Soviet Union and Soviet bloc: the Orange (Ukraine), Rose (Georgia), and Tulip (Kyrgyzstan) Revolutions.

In each case, a half-hearted commitment to democracy by the local government led to a disputed election, allegations of fraud fueled by U.S.-funded NGOs, pollsters, and media, then mass protests and the installation of a pro-U.S. regime.

The United States made no secret of its participation—while defending its actions as imbued solely with the altruistic democratic spirit.

In the case of Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. embassy openly pitched in:

[A] handful of opposition newspapers that have been rolling off a truck-sized printing press marked "United States Government Department of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor," housed at a former laundry on a remote stretch of road in the capital, Bishkek.

The press has operated since November 2003 under a program of the New York-based rights and democracy group Freedom House. The project has received more than $1 million in U.S. government funding.

At least three of the printing press' 60-odd clients, project director Mike Stone said, were opposition papers that fueled growing public anger at Akayev amid the campaign for the late-winter parliamentary elections — a vote whose flaws fueled the opposition push for his ouster.
Those publications embroiled the printing press in a dispute with Akayev's government, which responded with a power cutoff, police surveillance, the confiscation of a truckload of papers and suggestions of censorship from board members close to the president.

The press, meanwhile, received generators rushed over by the U.S. Embassy after the electricity was cut off, allowing it to print 182,000 copies of an opposition paper ahead of the first round of voting Feb. 27.

The democratic movements in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan were to a certain extent genuine and received external assistance from genuinely philanthropic entities, but also there is no question that they were egged on by the United States, directly, and through our NGOs.

The sometimes heavy U.S. hand is more easily seen in places where democratic movements falter because the local strong man is doing a pretty good job.

Our ineffectual harrumphing on behalf of democracy in Belarus is described by retired Indian career diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar in the virtual pages of Asia Times Online:

The Guardian commented in the run-up to the Belarusian election: "Europe and the US are pouring in money. According to the New York Times, cash is being smuggled from the National Endowment for Democracy, Britain's Westminster Foundation, and the German Foreign Ministry directly to Khopits, a network of young anti-Lukashenko activists."

But as Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center in Washington, explained to the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, "Despite all the flaws in the Belarusian political system, it's clear that the criticism of Minsk isn't based on its domestic policies, but on the fact that Lukashenko isn't oriented toward cooperation with the West and the US - not even as a formality. He's more focused on an alliance with Russia.

How things going since those revolutions?

Well, not so good. Apparently, in many cases they brought opportunistic U.S. clients to power who exacerbated public dissatisfaction.

I came across this charming post about Kyrgyzstan datelined November 2006 on the blog of a world traveler:

When I travel for long periods of time (I’m almost at five months now), some places and even countries fade from my memory quickly. When I left Bishkek in September, and then again in early October, it was a peaceful place. But today I got an email from Nargiza, the girl who posed as my translator at the Uzbek embassy:

hi Megan, i stady in university, nou im not working, today is not good because revolition. do you have pictures?

Now, I never said she was the best translator, but she got the job done. Notice how she casually mentions revolution? The Kyrgyz “Tulip Revolution” was only a few years ago and it seems that the current government isn’t cutting it.

Bhadrakumar notes dyspeptically that the anniversary of the glorious Tulip Revolution is known by many as “Looter’s Day” for the street justice that the protesters meted out to the goods and furnishings of the presidential palace.

At, Justin Romaindo asserted in 2006 with blowtorch rhetoric that after the democratic hubbub died down in Ukraine, the result has the same mixture of corruption and repression but with a democratic tinge replacing the previous Soviet hue:

In any case, the so-called Orange Revolution has faded to a pale pinkish hue, with the color almost completely washed out of it. Ukraine is still corrupt, poor, and owned lock, stock, and barrel by a nomenklatura of unusual avariciousness. All that has changed is the likelihood of NATO membership, and that's all the U.S. government ever cared about anyway.

According to Wikipedia, it looks like Ukraine’s democracy is certainly not in a good way:

In late March and early April 2007, the Ukrainian political system dealt with another constitutional crisis. President Viktor Yushchenko dissolved the Ukrainian parliament and ordered an early election to be held May 27, 2007. Crowds of about 70,000 gathered on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square of Kiev, and supported the dismissal of parliament, with 20,000 supporting Yanukovych's plan to keep the parliament together.[14] On April 3, 2007, President Yushchenko signed the bill into existence. Two hours later on Kiev's Maidan, it was announced to the crowds that Parliament no longer existed.

The Verkhovna Rada immediately called an emergency session and voted against Yuschenko's decree (255 votes in favor; opposition didn't participate). A group of members of the parliament took the case to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, challenging the validity of the president's decree, but the court closed the case without opinion. A political struggle ensued between the parliamentary coalition and the opposition. Later, a compromise between Yushchenko and Yanukovych was reached to hold early parliamentary elections.[15] The elections were held on September 30, 2007 and the coalition of the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc and Our Ukraine–People's Self-Defense Bloc gained the majority of votes.

The legal status of the previous parliament is unclear. Formally, the parliament has been dismissed, because more than a third of its members have resigned, and their parties cleared the reserve deputies lists. According to the constitution, this rendered the parliament inoperative. On the other hand, the Constitution states that the existing parliament is valid until the new parliament is sworn in.

How ‘bout that.

Add to that the Georgia situation described above, U.S. record in successful democracy promotion (as opposed to successful subversion of hostile regimes) is pretty dismal.

In other words, the Bush administration has been happy to stir the democracy pot to discommode the Russians, but unwilling or unable to fix the stew after it curdled.

U.S.-promoted democratization is perhaps a poison best given to our enemies rather than an elixir suitable for our friends.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Suicide in DuPont/China Industrial Espionage Case

E-mails of my previous post on the DuPont industrial espionage case were kicked back, apparently because I referenced a randy site and/or used three xs to substitute for the names of the people named in the indictment.

At the time I wrote:

As an amusing sideline, one of the top Google hits for [my piece at Asia Times] was on [a site promoting strip clubs in Allentown], a site which, as you might expect, promotes strip clubs in Allentown, PA, previous home base for the Bethlehem Iron & Steel behemoth and now a piece of post-industrial fodder for Billy Joel ballads and the sex service industry.

I realized that the good people in Allentown had picked up on the piece because I had substituted [three x’s] for the names of people named in the indictment.  It is one of the melancholy privileges of the Internet and social media to be able to look at the personal Christmas pictures of somebody facing decades in jail on a charge of industrial espionage, and imagine his honor, his reputation, and his future evaporating before one’s eyes.  So, I decided, let somebody else strip away his last veneer of privacy.  Maybe my pity was misplaced; we’ll see.  

Today I read via Reuters:

In another development, Timothy Spitler, a former DuPont employee who consulted for ---, took his own life last week, say multiple people familiar with the situation. Spitler supplied material information to prosecutors in the investigation, these people say. A lawyer for Spitler did not respond to inquiries on Wednesday.

Spitler, by the way, wasn’t named in the indictment I referenced, presumably because he was cooperating.

The case, and the handling of defendants and cooperating/uncooperative witnesses, is in the hands of US Attorney Melinda Haag.

In early February she filed a motion with the court to block the release on bail of one of the principals in the case, who has been incarcerated for several months.

In attacking the credibility of the detainee--and undermine his protestations of not constituting a flight risk-- Haag (or, more likely the office functionary who wrote the brief for her signature) adopted a tone of breezy contempt, typified by this passage:

The FBI located in a search of the ---’ residence a telephone list on which the names and telephone numbers of these and other PRC officials and business leaders appear. It would be one thing to fabricate or exaggerate official contacts in a letter to try to get a job (more on that later), but it seems altogether unlikely that one would fabricate a corresponding telephone list to keep around the house. What would be the purpose of that? To impress yourself while sitting alone in the home office and spinning through the Rolodex? Obviously not.

The brief concludes, "Respectfully submitted, Melinda Haag".  Yes.  Respectfully.

I suspect that the first response of the prosecutor's office to Spitler's suicide will be to step up the pressure on witnesses in order to justify its previous tactics, and also assert the enormity of the transgressions that have resulted in Spitler's suicide.

People make disastrously wrong choices in their lives and I don't like to see the worst case scenario play out.  It reminds me the line Ross Macdonald gave to Lew Archer, when Archer was asked if he had a secret passion for justice.  No, he replied, I have a secret passion for mercy.  But justice is what keeps happening to people.

Friday, February 10, 2012

About that US Criminal Indictment Alleging Industrial Espionage by China

I have an article up today on Asia Times about an indictment of US and Chinese companies for industrial espionage and theft of DuPont’s trade secrets for the manufacture of titanium dioxide.

This will quite probably turn into a big deal in US-Chinese relations, because it’s a big deal for DuPont and DuPont is a big deal in American industry and politics.  

Titanium dioxide delivers hundreds of millions of dollars each year to DuPont’s bottom line, in large part because of DuPont’s unique know-how in operating a particularly filthy and dangerous piece of chemistry and also, allegedly, because the fact that the technology is very closely held offers opportunities to set up a pricing cartel with the few other Western manufacturers who have mastered the process.

I expect the Chinese will claim that their advances in titanium dioxide technology reflect their own indigenous achievements and any DuPont documentation that came over the transom was peripheral to their own accomplishments.  Maybe so, but maybe US courts, politicians, and public opinion will draw the opposite conclusion, especially in an election year during which Chinese job-poaching perfidy will be at the top of the political agenda.

As an amusing sideline, one of the top Google hits for the piece was on, a site which, as you might expect, promotes strip clubs in Allentown, PA, previous home base for the Bethlehem Iron & Steel behemoth and now a piece of post-industrial fodder for Billy Joel ballads and the sex service industry.

I realized that the good people in Allentown had picked up on the piece because I had substituted “XXX” for the names of people named in the indictment.  It is one of the melancholy privileges of the Internet and social media to be able to look at the personal Christmas pictures of somebody facing decades in jail on a charge of industrial espionage, and imagine his honor, his reputation, and his future evaporating before one’s eyes.  So, I decided, let somebody else strip away his last veneer of privacy.  Maybe my pity was misplaced; we’ll see.  

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

Jinzhou Titanium Industry Company, in Liaoning Province in Northeast China, is the proud operator of two 15,000 tpy chloride process titanium dioxide lines.

In 2010, it held a seminar for the trade to advertise its achievements:

For more than two decades' persistent and dauntless struggle, Jinzhou Titanium Industry Co, Ltd, has overcome multiple technique difficulties, making the whole process operate smoothly. The company continuously optimized the process and the key equipment, obtaining high level achievement which was never reached before. With excellent application properties, the CR serial titanium dioxide products developed by the company are continuously replacing some imported products in Chinese market ... [1]

Those achievements are now under a cloud. Jinzhou Titanium Industry Co, before it was spun off in 2010, was a subsidiary of Pangang Group, the Chinese corporation named in the criminal indictment for conniving at the theft of DuPont's trade secrets. The indictment lists three contracts involving the misappropriation of DuPont technology: a 1998 $5 million transaction with Chengde Iron & Steel Corporation, a second-tier mill in northern China whose transaction appears to have vanished into the mists of time; a $6 million deal in 2005 involving the 30,000 tons of capacity at Jinzhou; and a $17.8 million contract in 2009 for a 100,000 tpy titanium dioxide project in Chongqing for Pangang Group.

According to the indictment, about $13 million monies under the 2009 contract had been paid out. Pangang Titanium's website showed a picture of the June 8, 2010 groundbreaking and stated:

The technologies are from Jinzhou TiO2 [the chemical symbol for titanium dioxide] Pigment plant, Pangang has the certain share in this plant ... It's planned to commission the plant in the end of 2012. [2]

While embroiled in the civil suit, the principal of USAPTI labored to demonstrate that the services he provided to China had been generated without DuPont knowhow.

However, the indictment paints a picture of a relationship over 13 years between USAPTI and a retired DuPont engineer; proprietary documents - including a 407-page Basic Data document for DuPont's titanium dioxide plant in Kuan Yin, Taiwan - with various DuPont stamps and confidentiality instructions getting passed around; and the retired engineer providing photographs and technical assistance to USAPTI to scale the Kuan Yin documentation up to the capacity envisioned for the Pangang plant.