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June 2004 Country Archive

PUBLISHERS OVERVIEW June '04


Twisting in the wind

There are two strands of current world events that are now interlinked but liable to have quite different outcomes:- the re-polarisation of a world which had thought that was all over with at the end of the cold war; and signs that when the quagmire of Iraq is behind them, that the US might return to one of its periods of isolationism with who knows what outcomes.

The government of George W Bush had at the time of its election, a worldview that could loosely be described this way. Since the USA was militarily so far ahead of any conceivable combination of other states, it possessed a degree of muscle that not only could, but SHOULD be used, in the furtherance of policies approximating to the credo of the New American Century, as revealed in the election year 2000. Further, that institutions such as the UN should be bypassed if they did not fall into line. Many would characterize this with one word : arrogance.

As the ideology of communism finally reached the dustbins of history, this coincided with the consolidation of an extreme Islamic ideology. Earlier, the US had found this very useful in resisting the soviets in Afghanistan where 'their boy,' Osama bin Laden, had provided not only dedicated recruits from across the Islamic world against the godless communists, but also money and weapons. 

One sad, indeed shocking outcome of these relatively new dynamics has been that the militant Islamists, in committing their outrage against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, earned themselves brownie points amongst disaffected Moslems generally - for all manner of reasons, worth studying, but not here.  This polarizing event was preceded by a series of misjudgements by the incoming Bush government, most significantly to seem to provide apparently slavish support for Israel's Likud government, no matter what, and at all times. This was despite the fact that America's and Israel's friends, following Sharon's deliberate provocation on the Temple Mount, had been dismayed to see the alarming role reversal of David and Goliath, characterized by Palestinian schoolboys throwing stones at Israeli tanks, and all that this implied for a new intifada. 

It didn't help when Geo.W. Bush after 9/11, ill-advisedly talked in terms of a 'crusade,' which might still have a noble meaning in the west, but in the Arab world where this was seized on, it is a potent rallying cry. It refers specifically to the two hundred year colonial occupancy of much of the middle-east by the forces of 'Christendom', finally after endless battles and sieges bloodily expelled by the Moslems, and now in their view, simply replaced by the west's Jewish proxies - with Iraq an out and out colonial adventure misrepresented as a noble intervention.  The net effect of this has also led to the polarisation of not just Arabs but Moslems worldwide, certainly on the street. The prevailing reaction has been of anger, of outrage. Quite where this political awareness will take us is yet to be seen, but as was witnessed in various regime changes in the 1960's, this could well be reflected in "young officers" movements in parts of the Arab world. Outside of the Moslem nations, the reaction of the democracies against the US is of disillusion, of disappointment, that the leader of the Free World under this Republican government, appeared to be an insensitive, inept bully. This is particularly sad as the 60th anniversary of the June 6th Normandy landings takes place, when America's essential role in the liberation of Europe should ensure, as it did at the 50th anniversary, an occasion for gratitude, affection and solidarity, but is instead soured by this colonial adventure. 

Isolationism to follow
The massive public reaction in the US that would follow another unsuccessful war, close in too many ways for comfort to Vietnam, is quite capable of returning America to a spell of isolationism. The uncomfortable lesson is that military superiority becomes meaningless, once away from the battlefield or where it can be used as political leverage. If an enemy, recognizing a perceived weakness of the western democratic system, insists on suicide tactics in order to add to the count of bodybags, no amount of Mach 3 fighter-bombers, or aircaft-carrier battle groups, or nuclear weapons, have any relevance, because they are simply unusable. 

Besides, a large part of the logic of foreign wars, as both the USA and UK know well, had been that if a ground war is inevitable, then better it be fought in some one else's land, rather than your own. But now in a war against terror, the whole essence of conflict is that the war is inevitably on your own soil.  Also that the enemy in this case doesn't have, as it were, any geographical location of his own to retaliate against - there is no enemy nation state!  Afghanistan for a short time provided that, but it is done and is now a responsibility. Iraq has shown that although like many another, it was a deeply unpleasant regime, it had nothing to do with the terrorism that lay behind 9/11, nor yet the terrorism that was to come. Except now, paradoxically in defeat, it has become a host and a recruitment magnet to those very forces. The 50 to 75 suicide bombers already expended were certainly not dying for the local Takriti political boss, Saddam. An estimated 1000 trained al Qaeda personnel have been infiltrated since the invasion, plus who knows how many youthful volunteers from all over the Moslem world, literally seeking - and finding death and 'glory'. 

The Iraq conflict has produced there as well as in Israel, the phenomenon now called the PMD, the person of mass destruction, against whom, as the Assassins of the crusade period demonstrated, there is no other defence than to make them concessions, or to hunt down every last one of their bases, to eliminate their leaders, their members and their organization. There the parallel with the Assassins ends, because they occupied known strongholds and were but a small deviant branch of Islam with all of the Moslem world, and more ranged against them. Today's assassins are drawn from across the breadth of the Moslem world where the position is that the US is seen as the aggressor. 

Despite the surveillance and precision targeting technology which cowed the soviets, the top terrorist leadership after Afghanistan has just disappeared. The guilty men behind 9/11 are still seemingly at large. Meanwhile, although united in the project of fighting terrorism, the American people have been forced to witness the way their nation is now perceived in the world, due to the relentless media coverage of what is actually happening in their name. Moreover, to look through that prism themselves, following the invasion of this wretched third world nation and the turning on its head of what they had thought was meant by democracy and the American way. 

IRAQ has turned out not to be a short military campaign and a joyful liberation but a series of disasters large and small, none greater than to the good name and reputation of the United States. This is our last issue before the 'handover of power,' and we will continue to analyse what is perhaps the last colonial adventure, the gruesome remains of which are already twisting in the wind. IRAQ is about to be handed over to the indigenous of the country, but the situation now seems to have more in common with the Lebanon which after a military invasion by Israel who then withdrew, suffered seventeen years of civil war between irreconcilable religious and other factions. We recommend our Special SH'IA Report to better understand this pivotal religious group in the future of Iraq.

Warlords and weapons
The other parallel, since Iraq is awash with weapons and organized military factions, is with the warlords of AFGHANISTAN. We look there at the post-Taleban situation and conclude that the victorious warlords of the erstwhile northern alliance are not going to walk away, disbanding their troops and surrendering their weapons, whether the US and NATO remain or not. They control the lucrative drugs trade which funds the private armies which guarantee their power. This was indeed also a function of the Taleban, but when in government they had in this at least, bowed to world pressure and almost eliminated opium production in 1991. But since they share in the obloquy of 9/11, they, or their more moderate elements will not be allowed to resume in government, other than in a modified form perhaps, as a junior coalition partner. 

IRAN is awkwardly positioned, only just on the sidelines. They do have a dog, indeed two in this fight; the outcome for their co-religionists the majority Shi'a; also a considerable interest in the Kurds and their hopes for independence in the north which could not but affect the Iranian Kurds. TURKEY, even more so. Heavyweight diplomacy has been needed to keep the Turks from intervening in the Kurdish north, as they still might, given certain outcomes in Iraq. The Kurds are the best disciplined and most cohesive element in post-invasion Iraq. With 60,000 well armed, trained and highly motivated Kurdish troops in northern Iraq, the Turks are naturally nervous about the effect of any large degree of autonomy there upon their own large and discontented Kurdish population just across the border.

SYRIA is at once perceived as a villain and some sort of supporter. That neighbour with its minorities, Alawite, Ismaeli and Druse, combining to control the 70 % of the Syrian population that are Sunni, cannot do other than oppose any kind of theocratic government on their borders, as distinct from Iran from which it has until now been insulated by the presence of Iraq. This, the remaining Ba'ath nation is feeling the cold wind of being a next door neighbour to both Iraq and Israel and being under threat now from the USA as well as Israel.  LIBYA is amazing onlookers, behaving like a reformed 'trustie'.  The prospects for US conglomerates are huge.  "Why can't they all be like Libya," one almost hears through a crack in the Oval Office door?

Elections
There is a world outside of the middle-east and we bring you reports of it. INDIA has brilliantly conducted its wholly electronic elections with 675 million qualified, (but many of which are illiterate), voters. Jeb Bush in Florida might usefully ask for India's assistance before November. It confirms that democracy is alive and well, at least in this part of the sub-continent. The surprise result, a solid move back to secularism and away from religion in Indian politics, is here analysed. The PHILIPPINES had a less happy time of it and the election outfall is closely considered here, as with the situation in TAIWAN

Nulear proliferation
NORTH KOREA is at it's normal pitch of obscurity but our report draws attention to the
enormously important developments in the question of whether North Korea sold uranium to Libya - and if so to who else? Nuclear proliferation surely puts in the shade whatever remains or was ever there in the first place, of the Bush / Blair accusations against Saddam's Iraq, in terms of homeland security? 

Once there were communists
We report on all fifteen successor states to the Soviet Union as well as those who were their satellites, members of the Warsaw pact and Comecon. Also five republics of the former Yugoslavia. How different it all looks with eight of that total now tucked up in the European Union, and more to come.  RUSSIA 's entanglement in Chechnya is again considered. The plot thickens - bloodily, regrettably an overarching factor in this months newnations reports.

Clive Lindley - Publisher 

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