Special Report

A Negotiator Without Preconditions

So how does the experience of Sarah Palin stack up against the experience of Joe Biden? Just ask British Petroleum.

By 9.3.08

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Would you trust Sarah Palin to negotiate with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions?

Well, why not?

Palin came into the governor's office and found a mess on her desk. The oil deal struck by defeated Republican governor Frank Murkowski wasn't working. Through creative accounting by big oil and ambiguous reporting standards, the Murkowski plan just wasn't giving the State of Alaska the pay-off that was expected. So the former mayor of Wasilla (population 9,000, as the MSM always points out) demanded that the agreement be renegotiated and the terms be nailed down. They laughed when she sat down to negotiate, but in the end she had a new deal that delivered 50 percent of the oil revenues to the Alaska Permanent Fund, and enabled Palin to send a check for $1,200 to every qualified Alaskan citizen.

Now one of the major companies involved was BP, a.k.a. British Petroleum, before that, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. It was Anglo-Iranian, at that time a British parastatal (70 percent owned by the British government and the Bank of England) that started the Middle East conflict in 1953. Anglo-Iranian was using creative accounting and payments to dummy corporations to pretend to the Iranian government that there was virtually no profit. They demanded that the Iranian government uphold the original contract made decades before. Prime Minister Mohammed Mossedegh threatened to nationalize Anglo-Iranian. The British responded with a naval blockade of Iranian ports.

The Americans stepped in to help. U.S. Ambassador George McGehee, an experienced former petroleum engineer, and Gen. Vernon Walters, the linguistic wizard, huddled with Mossedegh in sessions in Washington and New York. They got him to agree to accept a 50-50 split, a reasonable proposal by the then international standard, similar to the contract that U.S.-owned Aramco had renegotiated with Saudi Arabia. But the British refused. Instead they plotted a coup against the Iranian government, and then prevailed upon on the incoming Eisenhower administration to implement it with the assistance of British agents on the ground. Iranian production was taken over by an international coalition that agreed to the 50-50 split. There was plenty enough blame to go around on all sides, but one of the first acts of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 was to toss out all foreign oil companies and confiscate their assets.

Today BP, the former Anglo-Iranian, is the third largest global energy corporation. It now claims to be privatized, and it is estimated that 70 percent of the shares are owned by British investors. At one time the Kuwait Investment Office held over 21 percent of the shares. It tried, and failed, to merge the two companies, but was blocked by a British government inquiry. Under Prime Minister Thatcher, the company went private and on a spending spree. BP bought up Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio), Standard Oil of Indiana (Amoco) and Atlantic Richfield (Arco). BP became a major player in the U.S. petroleum industry, including Prudhoe Bay and the Alaska Pipeline. And despite its advertising campaign trying to suggest that BP means "Beyond Petroleum," the company has one of the worst environmental records in the United States with its refineries blowing up and its pipelines bursting, the result -- as testimony showed -- of parsimonious budgets for maintenance. It is a formidable corporation.

So enter the PTA community organizer from Wasilla. Without preconditions she took on a company that has a market cap of $205 billion and annual revenues of $291 billion in worldwide operations. Its budget is larger than that those of most sovereign countries, yet she won on her terms. If she can outsmart BP, the company that started the Middle East conflict, she can easily outsmart Ahmadinejad, if need be.

Then to follow up that act, she got the Alaskan Legislature to approve development of the TransCanada gas pipeline, a $40 billion deal that will go 1,715 miles from the treatment plant at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to the Alberta hub in Canada, from which it will be transferred to the United States. This project had been sitting around for 30 years on hold because the big energy companies didn't think it would be profitable, and their corrupt cronies in the legislature obediently kept it on the shelf. Crusading against corruption and negotiating across the aisle, Palin not only got it passed in record time, but opened up the bidding when the U.S. companies were reluctant to jump in. So she went ahead and awarded the contract to low-bidder TransCanada Alaska, a firm that has already built 36,000 miles of pipelines in North America. As a final fillip, the Governor signed the bill at the Alaska AFL-CIO biennial convention. While Barack Obama's solution to the energy problem is to urge us to check the air in our tires, Palin's solution is to start building a $40 billion gas pipeline, without Federal government assistance.

SO HOW DOES the experience of Sarah Palin stack up against the experience of Joe Biden? There are some people who confuse seniority in the Senate with experience. In the Senate you get to be Chairman of something or other if you sit around long enough until all those with higher seniority pass out of the picture. Merit has nothing to do with it. That's how Biden got to be chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Most people don't realize that the SFRC is one of the dustier corners of the Senate, largely populated with snoozing Rhodes Scholars, UN-firsters, and people who intuitively know how to pronounce the name of Kyrgyzstan and how to use it in a sentence. Occasionally someone gets on the committee who is more interested in American relations with other countries, rather than their foreign relations with us, and that wakes up the committee. Usually, ambitious politicians go elsewhere. The committee's main business is to pass the Foreign Relations act, which authorizes money for the State Department and its overseas operations. Occasionally, a treaty wanders by. Sometimes the SFRC doesn't have the clout to get its bills to the Senate Floor, so it gets ignored while all of its functions are packaged into the appropriations bills, without new authorization.

No Senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has authority under the U.S. Constitution to conduct foreign relations or to negotiate treaties. That's why Biden has no experience in foreign relations, and Palin does. He just talks about foreign policy, and talks...and talks. Biden's long tenure on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is not necessarily a red badge of courage. He thinks he has experience, but most of his experience is wrong. We can look at a few examples of the results of his experience, and ask What Would Sara Palin Do?

If Sarah Palin were campaigning for President, she probably would not have made the centerpiece of that campaign a cockamamie plan to divide Iraq into three autonomous regions.

Sarah Palin probably would not have told General Petraeus that he was "dead flat wrong" on the surge.

Sarah Palin probably would not have voted against the first Gulf War.

Sarah Palin probably would not have opposed the United States designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.

Sarah Palin probably would not have told top Israeli officials, as reported in the Israeli press, that Israel would just have to learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran.

Sarah Palin probably would not have assumed that the answer to failed diplomatic negotiations with Iran was more diplomatic negotiations with Iran.

The word "probably" must be used because we can only speculate on the basis of her barracuda-like instincts.

But there is one thing of which we can be sure: If Sarah Palin had been in the Senate in 1973, she would not have been one of the five Senators opposing the Alaska Pipeline Bill.

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