2005 Country Archive
Entering the fifth year of the “War against Terror’ we are
reminded again that this is a war like no other. Terrorism probably has always
existed if this is defined as indiscriminate killing for political effect.
Conquerors used to do it after taking a city that had resisted them, the Mongols
for example, Christian crusaders had a bad name also. But never in civil society
can it have assumed the global proportions that it has today - Bali, Istanbul,
Moscow, Madrid, London, and Bali again - all recent and horrific civilian
targets. The fact is that we are in a period of history where nation states are
not fighting each other – that is perhaps the legacy of the end of the cold
war and of the United Nations. Insurrections there are a-plenty, but cross-
frontier state warfare is fortunately at a low ebb. So terror assumes a new and
important dimension, particularly now in the context of Islamic fundamentalism
as seen daily on the ground in IRAQ.
The insurrectionists are broadly similar in Sunni religious identity, bolstered
by foreign volunteers of a more radical Islamic hue. Now they are fighting not
only a terrorist war of the third world against the first, as represented by
western troops; but, as if this wasn't enough, they have seen fit to expand that
into a war of religion against their Shia fellow Moslems. With all the narrow
hatred of bigotry, they claim them to be to be deviants from the only true way
(their way). It is all very much like the European wars of religion of the
A poet once wrote:
“The inhabitants of the earth are of two sorts:
Those with brains, but no religion,
And those with religion, but no brains.”
Not the sentiments one expects from a great figure of Arab literature (Abu’l-‘Ala
al-Ma’arri), and all the more remarkable as it was written nearly 1000 years
ago, before even the First Crusade.
JIHAD ON TWO FRONTS
So it is with the Sunni and the Shia. The Christian west can only stand and gawp
at Moslem doctrinal differences dating back 12 centuries and more - as real
today to their proponents as they were then. But as between Catholic and
Protestant and Orthodox, all of whom in their time and place were quite as
unforgiving and cruel, and just as trivial, there is no room whatever for any
feelings of superiority over the younger religion. It is much of a muchness, and
is in the baggage of being a true believer.
So now it's official. Jihad on two fronts. Al Qaeda is fighting a holy war
against the Shia heretics, as well as a anti-colonial holy war against the US
presence in the middle east.
But for the west, addressing the question of how do we win this war against a
stealthy enemy outside of IRAQ,
whose effectiveness depends on surprise, the bleak answer comes back, that
The associate director on conflict research at Harvard has courageously
suggested that it might be time to talk to al Qaeda - courageously, because one
can imagine the character assassination that Fox TV and the tabloid press could
do on the author of such an idea, albeit rational and well argued, coming from
an academic named Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou. He points out that since
9/11, Osama bin Laden and his deputy between them have delivered 33 messages via
audio or videotape, setting out their war objectives, which he analyses as the
three that follow:- the US must end it’s military presence in the Middle East;
its uncritical political support and military aid of Israel’s occupation of
Palestinian territories; and its support of corrupt and coercive regimes in the
Arab and Moslem world.”
There at least is an agenda, to get away from the overly simplistic ideas of
'mad mullahs', and nihilists, 'who hate us because we are free', etc .
Nevertheless, whilst it is an idea whose time politically has not yet come, that
does not negate the question in terms of reviewing any and all of the
As has been observed, al Qaeda has now internationally franchised terror groups,
acting totally or semi-independently of any high command in the Pakistani
mountains. This means that with the dispersal of a 1.3 billion Moslems
throughout the world, local yet lethal terrorism against civil society, like
that of the train bombers of Madrid and London, has become a hydra-headed
monster. What is the military response to that going to be? If there isn't one;
if pre-emptive police work fails to pre-empt; if politicians are left with
sloganising, then it must, at some point, be legitimate to investigate a
THE FORKED TONGUE FACTOR
In the middle east SYRIA
is feeling the heat with accusations of sustaining and inserting terrorists
across their borders into IRAQ.
If there is evidence that there are training camps in SYRIA,
which is a big ‘if,’ then of course condign punishment is indicated. But
since at the same time, it is reported that the great majority of suicide
bombers in IRAQ
are of Saudi origin, where is outrage expressed against the Saudi keepers of
their lengthy borders with IRAQ? JORDAN like the other neighbors, has a
long desert frontier here, constantly penetrated by wandering Bedouin herdsmen.
It does seem incredible that the US (who despite trying for very many years,
have been unable to prevent the nightly flood of 'latino' economic refugees,
from Mexico up into Texas, California, etc), should be so unrealistic about the
insertion of disciplined individuals in ones and twos, across unmarked desert
boundaries. As Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might observe, it's a part of the
"stuff that happens".
We report on the continuing propaganda campaign against SYRIA
which we doubt is about the stated reasons. The Israeli interest is perhaps
paramount here. Regime change on the cheap (without an invasion) seems
indicated. Regrettably neither the White House, nor sadly the State Department,
and certainly not the Pentagon can be relied upon here, where the forked-tongue
factor is considered. There do seem to be signs that SYRIA
is being set up as a 'fall guy', almost to divert our attention from Saudi
Arabia who (assuming that they are trying), obviously must be having
difficulties in stopping their young fanatical volunteers for suicide bombing,
getting across their borders into IRAQ.
It is very likely that men are being smuggled across SYRIA's
frontier into IRAQ,
just as from across the frontiers of other neighbours. It was only a few months
ago that we were told that the Pentagon blamed the largest culprits in
facilitating this as the small IRAQI Kurdish cult of co-religionists of al Qaeda.
Kurds have accessible frontiers with TURKEY,
IRAN and SYRIA,
all of which have Kurdish minority populations. What seems doubtful in all this
is that Bashir Assad, the deeply troubled president of SYRIA,
is lying when he says that he is doing his utmost to prevent the passage of
terrorists. He has nothing to gain by giving such a gift as some proof of
complicity, to his Israeli and US enemies for them to further ratchet up his
What seems so dangerous is that there is another monstrous neocon miscalculation
coming up. A destabilised, decapitated SYRIA,
the last remaining secular Arab state, could so easily lead to the Sunni
oppositionists, the Arab Brotherhood, coming to power to produce another
religion-based disaster of a country, and with the powerful minorities there,
replicating a Lebanese civil war situation (which lasted for 17 years)!
KEEPING PAKISTAN IN 'THE GAME'
elections came and went as we describe here, with no major Taleban disruptions.
This is partly because some elements of the Taleban are reconciled to taking
part in the democratic process, surely a massive plus for the concept of
imposing democracy, even if slightly tempered by the fact that the candidates
that actually get to stand are very often the same mullahs, war lords or their
lieutenants, that have always held power in this country. Pakistan too, like SYRIA,
is being charged with doing too little - in this case to suppress the Taleban.
Indeed it is believed by many, that Pakistan's ISI has a great deal to do with
the level of activity that is still allowed to the Taleban in terms of
recruitment, etc; which is perhaps determined by what is perceived as Pakistan's
interests in AFGHANISTAN,
at any point of time, (as opposed to say, those of INDIA, IRAN etc).
In other words the Taleban keeps Pakistan in the Afghan game. The problem is
that President Musharraf is America's man, and if he were ousted, as some US
rightists advocate, the dangers of this, the only Moslem nuclear weapons-state
falling under the control of religious extremists, military or otherwise, is too
horrible to contemplate.
RULING THE FORMER SOVIET EMPIRE
speculation is growing about the future of Vladimir Putin who is now well into
his second and final term, according to the constitution. We consider some of
the possibilities. Neighboring UKRAINE
has been going through some governmental hoops as the new president struggles to
combat the corruption that permeates through this nation just emerging from
totalitarian darkness, where political power was synonymous with getting rich.
That view was present in every one of the countries that were once a part of the
Soviet empire, (as it has been probably in all nations in time gone by), and
still rears its head, even in those that have become sufficiently respectable as
to be admitted to the EU, as readers of our reports on 29 of the former and
existing communist nations, can see.
has been up and down the world's crisis lists sharing the odium particularly
since both seem to seek to join the nuclear- weapons states. Newspaper and
broadcast reports have been highly confusing, but we offer an analysis which
gives a cogent passage through the seeming contradictions.
Europe's last dictatorship has devised yet another method of dealing with its
adversaries which we describe. First you evict them from their premises and then
you refuse to register them because, lo - they have no address! It just happened
to the Reformed Evangelical Church, which is not a happy-clappy recent import
there, but has been in that country for more than four centuries. It is now
banned! Another tyrannical twist - the veteran leader of the opposition party,
the Social Democrats, serving a 3 year term for organising a demonstration, has
now been accused of organising another one (from behind prison bars), after a
dozen people gathered outside the jail to express support for him.
has been having its Stalinesque show trial following the state murder of
hundreds of protesters at Andijan. Conscious no doubt that the dictator here has
a record of boiling his opponents alive, the accused have been tearfully
maintaining that they had not been tortured into confessing at all, but were
really, truly so guilty. Anything you say, Mr Karimov! KYRGYZSTAN
so recently the cause of a new hope of democracy in former Soviet Central Asia
is looking distinctly 'flakey' in such terms, when the recently appointed
prosecutor-general has been fired. He says it is because of his diligent efforts
to uncover instances of official corruption. You, the reader, can judge from our
report. A political ally of the president has been appointed in his place - so
that's alright then.
looking for a solution to its breakaway statelet of Transdnestr, has made great
progress with the involvement of UKRAINIAN
President Yushchenko, which we report. But Moscow has an undisclosed reason for
perpetuating this gangster regime, Europe's biggest illegal arms dealer, which
has led it into now punishing it's former MOLDOVA
DEMOCRACY IN TROUBLE
has been considered a democracy, even if long at a immature stage. Since dumping
its former dictator Marcos, progress has been made, problems tackled and
sometimes eliminated, with great hopes being vested in the current presidential
incumbent. But appearances deceive. Our comprehensive report tells why.
the 'hope' of that continent, is never far from the democratic edge. We report
that apart from the ongoing political crisis over the sacking of the previous
Deputy President for corruption, whose supporters are not accepting this; echoes
of neighboring Zimbabwe are being heard in the first seizure of a white-owned
farm and also in the new Deputy President 's ominous comment about speeding up
the transfer of land to black farmers, that 'we may need the skills of Zimbabwe
to help us'!
With so many tyrannies of 'our own' amongst the forty nations we review here, we
will pass this month on reminding Condaleeza Rice of 'Outposts of Tyranny'
she forgot, when listing six at her congressional hearings as Secretary of
State. Instead we gently query whether Cuba really belongs on that list of six?
If the list were twenty strong then we wouldn't argue, but really compared with
or SUDAN, and others which we have described here over the months, it
seems to represent a lesser evil.
All of these and many more.
Clive Lindley - Publisher
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