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August 2004 Country Archive

PUBLISHERS OVERVIEW AUGUST '04

Bristling with WMDs

Forget for a moment IRAQ, which didn't threaten anybody since the Kuwait Gulf War; or IRAN, which might if seriously enough provoked, but that is not yet. Consider if you will, the story of a major western power and its dealings with arguably the most serious current threat to world peace. This is about a totalitarian leader, the inheritor of the focus of awe and fear of his all-powerful father, his personality characterized by mental instability the result of receiving for all of his lifetime the unquestioning obedience of his countrymen. To sustain his position, he has clung to the priority policy of relying on military power, even denying food to the poor children of his derelict nation, in order to deploy advanced weapons technology - he's bristling with WMDs. This is about a man who apparently in terms of nuclear hardware, strategic missiles and bloody-mindedness, (note the aforementioned mental instability), is capable even now of unleashing a nuclear war, with consequences impossible to foresee for his neighbours, and beyond.

Our update on NORTH KOREA explains the urgency and complexity of the issues, but also the finesse and sensitivity of the approach of the diplomats of the five nations, led by the US, lately converted to the necessity of finding a diplomatic solution to this potential rogue state (this being an election year) - and the not unsubtle responses from Pyongyang that they have received and are de-coding in return.

Our reports illustrate distinctly separate approaches to empire by different arms of the same imperial power. Compare with the bull-in-a-china-shop approach to IRAQ where the State Department diplomats were seen off and sidelined by the war party of their nation, the neocons. They, who have charge of the armed services, found ample justification hearing what they wanted to hear from their own pocket intelligence units and from suspect influential refugees, about hidden WMDs, integral links with al-Qaeda, and the lack of the local Arabs stomach for a fight. Perhaps the worst intelligence failure of all was that the victorious coalition troops were to have been greeted as though it was the joyous liberation of Paris in 1944, with rose petals, love and laughter.

Under a badly informed president of singularly slender intellectual grasp, the 2003 invasion has, at a cost, resulted in what gains in 'balance sheet' terms? The removal of an unpleasant local political boss who posed no threat to the USA, had a poorly equipped third world army, no airforce, missiles, or navy, but who significantly sat on one of the worlds largest reserves of oil, which as any Arab anywhere, and many others, will tell you, was what it was all about. Invaded and occupied IRAQ however, has created a potent recruiting ground for assassins and other species of terrorists, seeking and sowing death for their obscure cause anywhere in the world. The future looks deeply troubled.

It seems inconceivable that the highly professional US diplomatic service could not have informed the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, that embarrassing though it might be, President Chirac and the French diplomatic service had got Iraq just about right, both in their analysis and prescription, which is now obviously the case. Or, translated into Bush's shock-jock supporters terms, the cheese-eating surrender monkeys certainly know their onions!

Regrettably, the absence of WMD's in IRAQ has not led to the sort of apologies which have lightened up the political landscapes in South Africa, East Germany, and in religious terms albeit a few centuries late, the Vatican apology for Brother Torquemada and the torturers of the Inquisition. Mr Blair has not, as far as we know, told President Chirac, "Hey Jacques, you were one hundred per cent right about Iraq," nor has President Bush advised his Texan friends that the French had it just about on the nail where Baghdad was concerned, and maybe to pour that spilt wine back into the bottle.

BIG OIL RULES OK - BUT THE PRICES!
LIBYA this month presents in some detail, a shock 'big picture' item of massive significance to BIG OIL and therefore to the current price and long term economies of RUSSIA, Saudi Arabia, and the prospects for IRAQ. The former pariah, Muammar Ghadaffi, who came in from the cold, demonstrating his reformed character by paying compensation to relatives of victims of his terrorism, and thus enabling the US to reopen a diplomatic post, is at the centre of a crisis of immense proportions. He stands accused of sponsoring a recent failed attempt on the life of the Saudi Crown Prince. If true this can hardly be brushed under the carpet as a little local difficulty - or is that to be its pragmatic destination? US oil majors have been queuing up to get back into investing in Libyan production. As a result, LIBYA'S massive oil reserves, high quality crude conveniently near western markets, appeared to be just about to come back on stream at a time when the world, if not the other major oil producing nations, would welcome it. If it's not true, who then could have cooked up such a story, which is attested to independently by two high level prisoners held in different parts of the world? The accusations are now months old and the world is still waiting to see if Libya has to go back to the doghouse and the oil remain below the sand….

BIG OIL is also now a nation, not just that collection of super-modern tribal outposts in a mid-east desert, but Mother RUSSIA herself. Oil and gas so dominate the economy there and are likely to do so into the foreseeable future, that as Mikhail Khordokovsky is finding out to his cost, oil and politics don't mix. In Russia, oil IS politics and thus is only for the real professionals, the power brokers of the Kremlin. We analyse the latest situation as the drama continues to unfold.

News from AFGHANISTAN provides little comfort as it all seems to be heading south fast, with the warlords, the usual power holders, running the nation outside of Kabul, earning vast fortunes from controlling the drugs trade from which they consolidate their power, buying up soldiers at wages more than the government can pay. It is a nation on the edge of failure which seems easily capable of slipping back into the warlord anarchy that once before produced the Taleban, when those fanatics acquired control in the years before 9/11. G.W.Bush's pressing need to claim another 'success', another 'mission accomplished' via the first Afghan democratic elections ever, has created an uphill task for their man, Karzai. With no time to marshal popular support he is having to jump through hoops to seek to keep ahead, by whatever means. We describe the serious rivals who have now emerged for the presidency, no less than four other big fish, each with a power base, as well as a shoal of minnows. As to the democratic nature of the October elections…we will report.

The PHILIPPINES withdrawal of their army platoon from the morass of IRAQ in the face of a threatened beheading of a Filipino truckdriver is carefully explained here. We say that weighing her options, Mrs Arroyo the newly elected president, had little or no choice - and how interesting it is that Manila no longer unquestioningly obeys the US Embassy.

It has been claimed in BOSNIA that despite the courageous sacking by Paddy Ashdown of 60 Republika Sbrska government officials (aka the war-criminals support team), that the renegade Karadzic still at liberty after all these years, is being protected by God and the Angels. The High Representative is not high enough to fire them of course, but perhaps he could lobby the Orthodox patriarch to pray the Almighty to pick a better class of friend. CROATIA on the other hand has diplomatically arranged the surrender of several lower level war crimes suspects and no coincidence, has been accepted by the EU as a candidate nation.

TURKEY is looking ever more convincing as an EU candidate and is winning friends and influencing people. Good news for Kurdish fingernails and other sensitive parts, that the Copenhagen Criteria are a key factor in the acceptance of new EU candidates. British support is probably due to a calculation that EU membership in present conditions, and with suitable restrictions on the movement of workers, will put back the knotty problem of further political integration of a Europe containing seventy million Turks, for a long, long time.

Meanwhile the Eurozone is to be enlarged by the advent of the three Balts, LATVIA, ESTONIA and LITHUANIA who will join the existing twelve, meaning that nearly two thirds of the EU membership will now be sharing the euro currency .

All of this plus news and analysis from a further twenty seven nations in transition.

Clive Lindley - Publisher 

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