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OCTOBER 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 middle ages. 

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.

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 nobody knows!

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 alternatives? 

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 political response.

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. IRAQ's 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 'punishment'. 

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)!

AFGHANISTAN's 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. 

In RUSSIA 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.

NORTH KOREA has been up and down the world's crisis lists sharing the odium particularly with IRAN, 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.

BELARUS, 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.

UZBEKISTAN 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.

MOLDOVA 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 satellite. 

PHILIPPINES 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.

SOUTH AFRICA, 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 unlisted UZBEKISTAN 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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