American Elephants

U.S. Coast Guard Icebreaker Healy Reaches Stranded Nome by The Elephant's Child

U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy has been opening a channel to Nome for a Russian oil Tanker Renda, for months, to carry fuel to the town of 3,500 to get them through the winter.  Nome, Alaska has been coping with the coldest winter since the 1970s, and is badly in need of fuel.

The ships have battled their way through 300 miles of ice since mid December.  The tanker got into position Saturday night, 2.100 feet from shore, and the ice broken up by its journey had to freeze over again so workers could create a roadway over which to lay hose to transfer the 1.3 million gallons of fuel. A storm in November prevented the town from getting a fuel delivery by barge. Without the fuel delivery, supplies of diesel fuel, gasoline and home heating oil were expected to run out in March or April, well before the next barge delivery in late May or June.

The tanker picked up diesel fuel in South Korea, then took on unleaded gasoline in Dutch Harbor Alaska. The fuel transfer is complicated by waiting for the ice to freeze again, and crews must begin the transfer in daylight — a state mandate. The tanker has a mile of special arctic hose, in 400 foot sections that weigh 800 pounds apiece. The transfer will take about 45 hours. The fuel transfer is complicated by waiting for the ice to freeze again, and crews must begin the transfer in daylight — a state mandate. Nome has only five hours of daylight this time of year.  Though it has to start in daylight, it can be completed after dark.

The Coast Guard’s 420-foot Healy is America’s only icebreaker at present, and its crew of 85 have been deployed for seven months.  The Healy is considered a “medium” icebreaker able to break through 4.5 feet of ice at a speed of 3 knots.  The 399 fo0t Polar Sea had a major engine casualty in 2010, and is now being decommissioned.  The Polar Star is undergoing a $60 million renovation cannibalizing  parts from the Polar Sea. These two are “heavy” icebreakers, built to break through 6 feet of ice at 3 knots.

A tiny unmanned aerial vehicle has been transmitting pictures of the approach of the Healy and the lifesaving tanker. You can see the pictures here. Tough duty in the Arctic. Just looking at the pictures makes me cold.

Does Anybody Know What We’re Doing In the Middle East? by The Elephant's Child

Every time I think I’m getting a grip on what is going on in the Middle East, I find that is not the case.  Reader Spartan noted that Debka File had said there were U.S troops in Israel in readiness for a military engagement with Iran, categorized as the biggest joint US-Israel war game ever held. I demurred as I have read that Debka File is not a reliable source. So, Spartan, mea culpa.

Iran had some more excitement in which a drive-by motorcyclist slapped a ‘sticky bomb’ on the car carrying one of Iran’s nuclear scientists. Motorcyclist escaped, car blew up, one less Iranian nuclear scientist, and Hillary Chamberlain Clinton rushed for the closest microphone to insist we had nothing whatsoever to do with THAT.  Americans just don’t do that sort of thing.

Iran’s foreign ministry boldly proclaimed that it has:

reliable documents and evidence that this terrorist act was planned, guided and supported by the CIA. The documents clearly show that this terrorist act was carried out with the direct involvement of CIA-linked agents.

Other complications: Obama had finally grasped that Nigeria’s labor strike against oil producers, the war against the Canadian pipeline and topping that off with an embargo on Iranian oil, would probably boost the price of gas over $5 a gallon and boost reelection chances to zero. So last Thursday the U.S. postponed any oil embargo for 6 months or so, though European governments were not quite so craven. They are expected to agree to a ban on imports of Iranian oil on Jan. 23.

A  joint U.S.– Israel military exercise that is to be the biggest ever between the two countries has been postponed, Israel Radio reported. Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman  Josh Hantman said in a phone interview that the exercise was still under discussion and declined to give further details.

The exercise was moved to the second half of 2012 for “a variety of factors” to promote “optimum participation by all units,” said Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. “We remain dedicated to his exercise and naturally want it to be as robust and as productive as it can be,” he said in an email.

U.S. sanctions imposed last year were to cut off oil dealings with Iran’s banking system, making it difficult for consumers to buy the country’s oil.  Iran responded by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, the route for about a fifth of globally traded oil, if sanctions are imposed.

Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon told Israel Radio that while Congress had shown itself determined to place tougher sanctions on Iran’s nuclear  program, the Obama administration “appears more hesitant out of fear that oil prices might rise.”

Russia is parking its warships in Syrian harbors, while they pursue bilateral trade, supply ammunition to the locals, and replacing the dollar with the rial and ruble in trade.

I guess if we can just be persuaded to wait until after the election, then Obama will be firm and deal promptly with these nasty little foreign policy glitches. It’s not exactly “appeasement,” it’s just, um, that “we take no options off the table,” according to press secretary Jay Carney. “But we are engaged in the kinds of diplomatic efforts that you would expect in a situation like this.” Carney is getting good at empty words that convey nothing, nothing at all.

The U.S.will not enforce a no-fly zone over Syria.  Israel says US-Israel exercise postponed for “Budget Reasons.”Army  General Martin Dempsey is making his first visit to Israel as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but “he is not delivering any specific message to the Israelis.”  A White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, declined to elaborate on Obama’s January 12 call with Netanyahu.

So there you go. All perfectly clear. ––

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