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July 2005 Country Archive



Immediately following the 60th anniversary in June of the foundation of the United Nations, July sees the tenth anniversary of the absolute nadir of the UN. During the Serbian invasion of Bosnia, the UN had guaranteed the safety of the threatened BOSNIAN city of Srebrenica, full of Bosniak refugees driven there by the invasion. Unbelievably this guarantee was never more than a bluff and to the utter shame of the powerful western governments with troops there, the defenders were forced to surrender on a guarantee of safe conduct. This in itself was a cynical deception, preparatory to the massacre of between 7000 / 8000 of the Bosniak menfolk by the surrounding Serb troops. It did nothing to enhance the military reputation of the European generals commanding the UN forces and the governments that sent them there. The Dutch army battalion, on whom all hope rested, charged with the defence of the city, offered no resistance to Serb forces, being unable to get clear instructions or reinforcements from the UN generals. They were finally told by their domestic politicians to offer no resistance, rather than to uphold the UN promise of protection. 

It was more than a political and military disgrace, it was a crime against humanity for which the Serb commander, General Mladic, a decade later still remains at liberty, unpunished. A video, aired recently on Serb TV showing the cold-blooded execution of six bound, youthful Moslem prisoners by a Serb militia unit, caused an overdue ripple of revulsion in SERBIA itself, hitherto in denial about their role in war atrocities. Those six victims were a tiny fraction of 1% of the 7,000 to 8,000 murdered, but like the prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib, a camera was present. As with the military police at Abu Ghraib, the perpetrators of the filmed events will now be prosecuted leaving the unfilmed crimes unpunished. General Mladic, together with the Bosnian Serb president, Radovan Karadic, also still at large, have already enjoyed 10 years more of life than the thousands of disarmed prisoners they slaughtered back in 1995.

The Scorpions, the Serbian militia unit in question like other similar units, tended to be weekend soldiers who drove out of Belgrade for a weekend's killing of Moslems after the regular soldiers had passed by. This was the 'mopping- up' which included rape, torture and the cruellest murder of whole families and villages. Their mindset was like that of weekend hunters shooting deer or rabbits. For these weekday clerks and plumbers and bus drivers and managers, it was simply manly fun! The infamous Tigers, another militia group licensed to kill, high on the blood they had spilled came back to celebrate after each weekend to their starting point, the swish Inter-Continental Hotel in Belgrade. Swathed in weapons and grenades, they commandeered the best hotel rooms and took over the restaurant, defying anyone to make them pay a bill, being outside any system of law except their own. Our July report on BOSNIA shows that even now there is no unified police force nor army, due to the continuing intransigence of the rump Serbian statelet, within Bosnia's borders. 

The US it is reported, will agree to Japan's UNSC candidature and now also Germany, as Chancellor Schroder was assured on his recent visit to the White House, but no word on INDIA or Brazil, the others of the quartet who joined forces to seek to become permanent members of the UN Security Council. INDIA seeks what it is within the US's gift, not to withhold the support already hinted at. It would seem a low price to pay to consolidate the improved relations between Washington and New Delhi. With the US alliance with Japan secure, INDIA after all should now be the Asian ally of choice to balance China's long term growth, in the event that this becomes menacing. China also seeks to join the G8 and if they are to be included, the corollary should be to also introduce INDIA to that august body and thus add substance to the potential for closer ties. 

Whilst the US fights its wars, it must watch with some apprehension, the emergence of China, and of INDIA, exploding economically onto the world stage, each with an agenda not under Washington's control. They also have to take careful note of relations between those two, and jointly with RUSSIA.  A meeting held recently in Vladivostock between the foreign ministers of China, INDIA and RUSSIA had much to do with restoring the primacy of the UN, not apparently the major objective of the Bush government . In this context Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's comments that these three countries might be able to 'democratise international relations,' is clearly aimed at US hegemony, although the term 'democratise' sits inappropriately on the lips of a Chinese communist premier. 

They were talking in terms of "building on convergences". Oil is one of those, with INDIA and China being amongst the world's largest consumers, and just as is the case with the US, security of oil and gas supplies is at the top of their foreign policy concerns. RUSSIA of course is now one of the world's largest producers and INDIA which has already invested $1 billion in Russia's Sakhalin island, is calling a meeting of Asia's principal oil producers and suppliers, in which RUSSIA must be a key player. Such an event must cause concern in Washington, simply because they are excluded by geography and because energy security for the US so much outranks everything else, including combating terrorism and the spread of democracy. Our report on RUSSIA this month examines in detail its massive energy company, already the worlds largest gas corporation, GAZPROM, controlled 'de facto' by the Kremlin. But it remains unreformed as one of the world's most opaque major corporations, where corrupt officers have run it as a vehicle for self-enrichment with extraordinary, even grotesque decisions coming to light over time. But whoever currently gets the profits, GAZPROM is a key element in the future of the Russian economy to which it is critical. One can imagine Putin's reaction at G8 to the story of African poverty. Sympathy certainly, but more than 90% of Russians are seriously poor and always have been. His mission in life as president, he has said, is to take his people out of poverty and it is the likes of GAZPROM that have to make that possible. 

TURKEY, as we report, amongst its reforms intended to fit it for membership of the EU, now in doubt, has a new legal code which punishes officials found guilty of inflicting torture, with imprisonment between three and twelve years. Although this was prompted by the EU as a necessary reform, it is entirely consistent with State department policy and there can be little doubt that Condaleezza Rice approves. So TURKEY is not one of those countries, like UZBEKISTAN or SYRIA, EGYPT, JORDAN or MOROCCO, to whom the CIA can subcontract the torture-interrogation of suspects in the process known as 'Rendition.' So State here is on the side of the angels and the CIA sadly is with the dark forces. 

Similarly State and the Pentagon have more than an interdepartmental rivalry on the implementation of President Bush's well rehearsed Freedom program. At the NATO conference in June, a move supported by State that NATO should promote an international enquiry into the slaughter of upwards of 500 Uzbek citizens in Andijon, was defeated by Donald Rumsfeld (together with support from the Russian representative who blamed Afghanistan), on the grounds of UZBEKISTAN hosting a US airfield from which special Forces were inserted into Afghanistan to aid the Northern Alliance in 2003, before the US had airbases in Afghanistan itself. Essential then, but hardly now, given airbases in KYRGYZSTAN and TAJIKISTAN as well as AFGHANISTAN proper. So carry on with the slaughter Mr Karimov, and thanks for the non-accountable torture - remember, the world sees this as saying you qualify as a friend of America. 

One cheering event which reversed the trend and which indicates that Condi is seeking to assert the State Department interest in a way that Colin Powell seemed unable to do, was in the unanimous re-appointment of Mohammed ElBarradei as Chief Executive of the International Atomic Energy Agency. ElBarradei is loathed by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld because during the run-up to the invasion of IRAQ, he not only insisted that there was no evidence of a nuclear build-up by Saddam Hussein, but also inconveniently proposed to keep on searching, after the neocons had decided to have their war. He was of course right and they were wrong for which he was not forgiven. His reappointment in such circumstances came as a surprise and an indication that Cheney is no longer dominating Foreign policy, although his long association with Israel's Sharon, one aspect of which is the pursuit of SYRIA in the interests of Israel, seems to be rock solid as we report separately. 

Another example of mixed messages came in a speech from Rumsfeld ruminating publicly about why China should devote so much of its resources to a build up of its military capabilities, as though these were approaching a critical point. It is a similar question as to why any nation should now seek to acquire nuclear arms to join the nine nations that so far have them, when as the argument goes, if they are non- aggressive nations, they have the American military umbrella to protect them. This is in stark contrast to the impatience of the Pentagon with the European nations for not having larger military budgets. Bigger and better European military capability is of course seen in the context of their providing auxiliary forces to those of the US for pacification duties under US command, following Washington's present and future wars. Clarification might be in order here. Does the Pentagon want Europe to devote such resources to a military build-up that could rival that of the US, as some Europeans would like, or to stop short at say prison-camp guard level? 

Might the US doctrine of military protection for non- aggressors extend to guarantee IRAN and NORTH KOREA, neither of whom have actually been externally aggressive, except that IRAN defended itself against the US supported IRAQI invasion during 1980-1988, and NORTH KOREA was certainly very aggressive half a century ago? The simple answer 'Yes' could possibly solve the dilemma for an IRAN concerned now about an Israeli attack, nuclear or otherwise, or even at some stage the Saudis, if they have the weapon. NORTH KOREA obviously fears none other than the US itself in a regime-change intervention. If the projection of force is not, qua UZBEKISTAN, LIBYA or AZERBAIJAN about promoting or defending democracy and human rights, or as in IRAQ enforcing democracy, then as a means to stop the greater threat of nuclear proliferation, why not give such a guarantee? 

There can be no doubt, after a then unknowing world witnessed the horrific deaths of a quarter of a million Japanese, mostly elderly, female or children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that in these well informed times, nuclear war should be utterly anathematised. The whole weight of every nation in the world should fall on any rogue nation that uses that awful weapon. What better use of force in the world than to guarantee national frontiers, including undesirable regimes, from external aggression by other nation states? Where this all goes wrong is that the aggressor in the new era of the Bush Doctrine, the National Security Strategy declaring the right, now or in the future to resort to force to eliminate any perceived challenge to US global hegemony, would most likely be the USA itself. On NORTH KOREA whose overarching fear this is, we offer a comprehensive review of the current situation there. 

IRAN has seen the perfection of its theocracy and the demise of the reforming quasi-secular wing of its national politics, now virtually obliterated with the election as president of Mahmud Ahmadinejad. The populist mayor of Teheran, a devout right winger, placed into contention by the hopelessly corrupt electoral system, easily defeated an old-time unloved machine politician, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who at the crunch was regarded as the only, if frail hope of the progressives. The electoral process institutions, proved to be totally submissive to the edicts of priest-politicians, designed to emplace their chosen man, enforced by the non-accountable religious police, the Revolutionary Guard. The religious right that outrageously used its power to ensure that only candidates acceptable to them could even run, then made some shrewd decisions to keep the radical wing divided, as a result of which there is now a straight line Islamic government from top to bottom. From the Supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khameini, through the powerful politicised priests of the Guardian Council, to the majority conservative parliament now led by Ahmadinejad. They have all the power but now have to deal with all the problems. Not the least explosive of these is the lack of work for the nation's restless, fast growing youth sector, and an oil and gas industry constantly getting it wrong in its strategy and tactics. The situation of IRAN in its relations with the western world now looks to be significantly worse unless the new man unexpectedly turns out to be pragmatic. In IRAN, political pragmatism comes a poor third to religious interpretations of how to run the key oil and gas industry - and indeed everything else. It also lags behind endemic corruption, so do not expect sanity to triumph in the confrontation with the west on the nuclear issues, or indeed on much else. Sad to say, but as of right now, we can see no light at the end of this tunnel. We will continue to search for glimmers of light!

Well Israel obviously and they seem to be driving US policy, as well as the US media, not for the first time during the long-lived Cheney - Sharon nexus. Had it been any other of IRAQ's neighbours, the recent significant decisions arrived at in Damascus would have earned some level of appreciation and encouragement, with perhaps more favourable treatment from Washington. Our SYRIA report details several actions taken by Bashir Assad, which have barely been reported in the west, which includes the firing of the country's two top spooks - maybe related to the car bombs in Lebanon which have put such pressure on Assad? Of course world opinion is aware that foreign Islamic fanatics have been entering IRAQ through SYRIA, as they have through Kuwait, TURKEY, Jordan and unsurprisingly oil-state Saudi Arabia., a primary recruitment ground for Islamist jihadists, but double standards prevail.

Most of these extensive borders are in remote desert and just as the US with all of its high-tech monitoring and extensive patrols, finds it impossible after very many years of trying, to stop thousands of Latinos penetrating their border from Mexico, so IRAQ, which as a secular state has no common ground with the Islamists, has not been able to block the orchestrated insertion of eager volunteers for the jihad. Significantly SYRIA has just re-opened its Embassy in Baghdad, and on that occasion the IRAQI former prime minister Allawi appointed by the US authorities, said in terms that SYRIA's government is not to blame in this matter. This is completely at odds with Condaleezza Rice accusing SYRIA of supporting the Iraqi insurrection. It is also bizarre that the US says it is quite certain that there are still Syrian agents in Lebanon, which is very likely, but is there not a substantial Israeli agent presence, even possibly Americans there as well? Happily the Lebanon is showing its independence and it is as well that SYRIA withdrew as they did, as the US by now would have extended hostilities into SYRIA if they had not. But in fairness, (does anyone in WDC use such a term), SYRIA which certainly had outstayed its welcome there, had been invited in with the blessing of the US and did stop the 17 year long civil war that had crippled Lebanon when no one else could do so. The neocons were quite prepared to strike SYRIA. The respected UK defence publisher Jane's, have made exactly that assertion, in detail, as we report; but failing that, the Israeli interest in seeing their neighbour in long term destabilisation, remains the US policy of choice.

Things are not looking good for democracy in this remote Central Asian republic, recently the cause of excitement due to the high-speed overthrow of its local tyrant.
As we noted at the time the worry was that the leaders who so quickly brought the situation 'under control,' were themselves former high-level aides of the outgoing Askar Akiyev who had been due to stand down this September. The temporary president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who may well be confirmed at the election, had prior to the uprising already been interviewed by the Kremlin and found acceptable to them, which with hindsight causes speculation about the spontaneity of the uprising. Apart from an obviously cosy relationship with Moscow, two recent events cause concern about future directions. 

Almost unremarked in the west, now reported in our July Update was an announcement that Russia, responding to a request from KYRGYZSTAN, would under the Russian led CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) program be 'establishing a presence for fighting terrorism' in the south of the country, where the uprising first commenced. This means a Russian military presence in the compact Ferghana valley, a heavily populated area where not only KYRGYZSTAN, but also TAJIKISTAN and most significantly UZBEKISTAN, share-out the territory defined by intertwining Soviet-era borders. This is also the location of Andijon where the rapidly crushed Uzbek uprising took place, so Russia is now to be in the driving seat of future developments here in any of those three countries! The second news story was that KYRGYZSTAN has returned 29 Uzbeks who crossed the border in the wake of the failed Andijon uprising, begging for political asylum. Without benefit of a court hearing to assess eligibility for asylum, these wretched Uzbeks have been arbitrarily handed back to the tender mercies of central Asia's most infamous torturer, Islam Karimov. 

LIBYA is one of the least savoury states on earth, our sister site rates it at 149 (out of 150) judged by the criteria of human and political rights, press freedom and public corruption in their world democracy league table. It earned its infamy the hard way over many years when its long-term leader, Colonel Ghadaffi, associated his country with every kind of violent revolutionary movement in the world. It was said that there were at times, isolated in the vast Libyan desert, training camps for several quite unrelated revolutionary and terror groups that wouldn't be given space anywhere else on the planet. The outrageous Lockerbie bomb incident when a Libyan agent planted a bomb on a civil transatlantic airliner that blew up over Lockerbie in Scotland, killing everybody on board, took more than ten years before LIBYA surrendered the indicted agents to justice. LIBYA also destroyed with rockets two French civil airliners flying south over their desert, killing everyone aboard. These were just the big slayings. Closure of a kind was brought about by LIBYA agreeing to pay compensation and being an oil state - they had the necessary kind of money. Here lies the real story. The US and its western allies are certainly interested in promoting democracy, but this comes behind combating terrorism and well behind the security of oil supply. Ghadaffi has no time for Islamists nor they for him - they get short shrift in his country, but he does have oil and gas in a big way, his oil terminals are in the western Mediterannean, closer to the Atlantic oil routes to the US than other oil provinces except west Africa. So the policy was agreed that LIBYA should allowed in from the cold and once more become an oil supplier to the west. However, as our report (and archives) on LIBYA illustrate, it still remains a horror story, the latest episode featuring imprisoned nurses from Bulgaria under sentence of death. Without question, oil or no oil, it is by any objective standards, other than those obscured by oil, a leading outpost of tyranny. 

More on the above and much besides are brought to you in our July Updates on 40 nations in transition. 

Publisher - Clive Lindley

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