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SEPTEMBER 2005 Country Archive

PUBLISHERS OVERVIEW SEPTEMBER '05

THE SLAMDUNK WAR

We know now don't we, why nations have foreign services. It is to have a centre of excellence in all matters relating to other nations. It is to make sure the executive doesn't fall flat on its face when making foreign policy decisions, and to save it from itself. 
The US State Department is staffed with exemplary professionals, including leading arabists, some of whom have devoted years living in the not always salubrious nations of the middle-east. We have no doubt that the appropriate section of the State Department must have concluded, as we and many observers did before it happened, that the invasion of IRAQ would be a dreadful mistake. The reasons were self-evident, even perhaps if they had actually had WMDs, despite the UN weapons inspectors' accurate reports to the contrary. History will surely record this as an irresponsible adventure. It is not credible that such an opinion was not forcefully put to the administration, albeit to be overruled, just as it was in turn paralleled by the British foreign service. This breakdown in government was at the political level, where the neo-cons required intelligence and advice to be presented in a certain way from government departments. For that information to be acceptable, it needed to fit the preconceptions of the newly empowered politicians. Can there be any doubt that the tipping point on internal Washington battles with State would have been the slamdunk certainties of IRAQ having WMDs? 

That it would end in tears seemed obvious and the advice must have been to that end. How awful that so many lives have been lost - and how they died! The civilian corpses delivered to the Baghdad morgue in July alone, exceeded 1100 (pre-invasion the average was less than 200). "The Independent" newspaper reports that these dead had been executed for the most part, eviscerated - yes, eviscerated, stabbed, bludgeoned, tortured to death and many will never be identified. Estimates of civilian dead range widely from a maximum 100,000 to a minimum 23,654 (and counting), plus these attendant horrors. Two and a half years into the occupation, it seems as though the level of human tragedy must already rival that of the whole period of the Saddam era. 

Now that the draft constitution, the first-born product of the IRAQ democracy project is in the public domain, continuing misery is entirely predictable. There will be a federal government in Baghdad which should control the army and the police. But in real terms the Shia militias in the south and the Kurd militias in the north will comprise the effective power on the ground. Those two regions and their actual powerbrokers will decide what goes down in the North and the South, which together contain all of IRAQ's oil and will also control whatever the central government turns out to be. 

CONSTITUTION TIME IN IRAQ 
The long awaited draft to go to the parliament is now in the public domain and although there still might be some movement towards the Sunni of central Iraq, it is unlikely. They will now oppose the whole process and the insurrection will ratchet up. The draft, it must be said, recognizes the realities of IRAQ which is an artificial construct - three distinct groups with just Iraqi nationality in common, which in practice amounts to rather a little, certainly a smaller consideration than their ethnicity to the Kurds, or their separate religion to the Shi-ites in the south. This outcome, which the Sunni alone did not want, negates the future possibility of a concentration of power at the centre, a la Saddam, which the Shi-ites and Kurds were determined was not going to happen. 

Historically, IRAQ was created by the British, re-drawing the map after the break-up of the Ottoman empire at the end of WW1, with the need to reward the British clients, the Hashemite clan from elsewhere in the Arabian peninsula, for their revolt against Turkey. Hashemite princes were put into power over Transjordan, where they continue to thrive to this day and IRAQ, created by welding together three former Turkish provinces, which the Turks had administered separately for centuries. This creation was given to a Hashemite monarch who was later overthrown to be followed by a military dictator and the Baath party, through which the young Saddam Hussein acquired power. Power for centuries before had derived from Istanbul, and for only the past eighty years had it been established in Baghdad.
The Iraqi Kurds have been restrained, politically mature and single minded throughout. They have achieved what they want, a de facto Kurdish homeland. Inevitably it is going to create strains and probably future border incidents with neighbouring TURKEY. It was always Ankara's nightmare scenario, a magnet on the frontier to their own large and unhappy Kurdish population. SYRIA and IRAN with their own Kurds, will also be apprehensive. 

The Shia in the south, confident in their numerical majority and having re-grouped since the early days of combating the coalition forces, are already moving as far as they can towards the Iranian co-religionist model with full co-operation from across the border. They will invoke theocratic authority and already have in place their equivalent of the Iranian Ayatollah's unaccountable enforcers, the Revolutionary Guard. The best known of these Shi-ite militias is that of the ambitious Moqtar al Sadr, a hereditary young populist mullah, whose eminent grandfather and father were both assassinated by Saddam. Al Sadr himself, with scant concern about democracy has been systematically strong-arming officials and moving his followers into positions of power, including the police forces, in the south. His people, uniformed police no less, are believed to have murdered a western journalist who recently reported as much. Were it not for the sheer volume of more immediate daily horrors - the bombers and Sunni armed resistance, al Sadr would probably have been marked out and dealt with as a (Shi-ite) terrorist himself. As it is, his soaring, self-promoting ambitions seem clear and he seems likely to emerge a winner in the brave new post-American IRAQ

The major oil fields are concentrated in the north and the south, so the Sunni in the centre will be agonizing about what proportion of revenues will stay in the regions, and not at the disposition of central government, within which their leaders will have some role. Apart from finance, there is much more to emerge - the genuine independence of the courts and the control of central armed forces and police, before any final predictions can be made. The main question to be asked in the event that the daily terror and other attacks can eventually cease: will the hornets nest turn into a political nightmare, or the regional exemplar of a functioning democracy that President Bush promised? But don't hold your breath! 

THE NEW REALITY OF EUROPE
The fall-out from the French referendum on Europe has created wide repercussions all around the continent. The French government was replaced in the upheaval and prominent politicians now have their eyes firmly fixed on the French Presidential elections of 2007. Holland too rejected the constitution for reasons widely believed like France, to relate less to the content of the lengthy document than to the perception of their having too many immigrants, specifically Moslems, than their nation could any more accept. In France perhaps that took the form of not agreeing that other countries should export their unemployment problems to France when new jobs are already in short supply. Holland, a by-word for providing shelter and refuge to foreign fugitives was still in a state of national shock when one such individual, an Islamic militant bloodily murdered a famous Dutch film maker. He had made a TV program about the wretched lives of some Islamic women, the killer brutally shot him off his bicycle, and then cut his throat on the street where he fell. 

ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
Now the whole question of expansion is in doubt, those European nations on the outside of the club all perceive an urgent need for inclusion within the EU, since the French and Dutch referenda might mean that the 'entry' door may not remain open. 
In the context, 'chickens are coming home to roost' in the Balkans. As our Updates on SERBIA, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA and CROATIA all tell, they are now galvanizing their approach. The problem they have is of course the lack of closure from horrific events that took place during the inter-ethnic wars that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia. Along with the inevitable denial by local politicians, the reality of war crimes is firmly established and closure will only come via the tribunal at the Hague. The EU is more than an economic grouping and has quite clear democratic criteria - the Copenhagen accords - that new members must match if they hope to join this democratic club. Because of the intense nationalism engendered during those Balkan conflicts, some senior generals, even more than their political leaders, are still regarded as heroes, to the extent that in CROATIA, residual loyalty to their wartime military chief General Ante Gotavina, who had brilliant military successes against the Serbs, has blinded many citizens to other, unacceptable criminal actions against Serb civilians. He is indicted to the Hague, yet avoids capture. Support for his cause is such that Croatian polls reflect a willingness to stay out of the EU if the price of entry is to repudiate and surrender Gotavina to international justice.

BULGARIA and ROMANIA are both further along the road to EU entry but they are not there yet and as we tell this month, the political agendas of both are likely to remain dominated by this issue. 

BEWARE OF BEARING GIFTS TO GREEK CYPRIOTS.
TURKEY
, as we report, is another outsider nation seeking EU entry which after a major effort in changing the shape of modern TURKEY and acceptance of the essential first step, the agreement to start negotiations, (albeit likely to last maybe fifteen years) has suddenly been challenged in France by Dominique de Villepin who seeks to be in the presidential race to succeed Chirac. The French prime minister says that it is inappropriate for Turkey to seek entry to the EU when it does not recognise the government of one of its members, Cyprus. No question that in the wake of the referendums in France and Holland, the question of further growth has to be revisited, particularly in the context of the free movement of labour. TURKEY with its seventy millions-and-rising population, the bulk of whom are of little education, peasants by stock and inclination, and Moslem to boot, is going to be a hard candidate to accept in the wake of the Europe-wide reaction to Islamic fundamentalism. But to avoid saying those things and pick on the excuse of Cyprus, ignores the dishonourable role played by the Greek Cypriot government in gaining membership in the EU; its leaders having assured the Commission at the earlier date (when it was necessary for them to recommend whether or not Cyprus's candidature could be accepted), that they would not campaign against the UN backed plan for a permanent settlement in Cyprus, painstakingly negotiated by UN representatives over many years and submitted island-wide to both communities. 

The Turkish population on their side of the island were persuaded by dint of much international hard work and diplomacy, including that of Ankara, to support the UN plan, against the powerful opposition of Turkey's military elite and the long term leader in Turkish Cyprus, Rauf Denktash. The Greek Cypriot leaders with admission to the EU assured and substantial economic concessions granted, then campaigned against, rallied their people, and voted it down. The EU commissioner Gunther Verheugen complained loudly that he, not to mention the United Nations, had been 'taken for a ride.' 

It is reasonable to believe that Prime Minister de Villepin, formerly foreign minister with all the resources of the Quai d'Orsay at his disposal, very well knows this sequence of events, but without shame still chose to play a populist card and blame TURKEY for the recognition problem. In the other big European player, Germany, with its 2.375 million population of Turkish extraction, the conservative candidate in the upcoming election Angela Merkel, has openly come out against Turkish EU membership, suggesting some form of association instead. It might swing the vote her way as Chancellor Schroeder is on record as supporting Turkey's entry. Nevertheless, the accession talks between the EU Commission and TURKEY are due to commence on October 3d as scheduled, despite the national politicking about them.

AFTER PADDY, THE DELUGE?
BOSNIA- HERZEGOVINA (BiH)
, with three distinct populations, basically all slav but separated by religion and therefore history, is the least cohesive and ungovernable of the post war FYR states, but for three years now has had the advantage of the presence of an outstanding International High Representative in Paddy Ashdown, equipped with vice-regal powers. A man of unquestioned liberal credentials and intellectual grasp, the widely admired leader for ten years of the British Liberal Democrats, and in an earlier life a regular officer in his country's special forces, he is slated to stand down later this year at the end of his term. Our BOSNIA report this month explains the obstacles to BiH moving on into the early stages of EU acceptance which is foundering, not only on war crimes indictees still being on the loose, but also on the intransigence of Rebublika Serbska (RS), the Serb entity whose politicians have blocked their units in a BiH unitary army taking oaths of loyalty to the BiH state (instead of the RS). Also to the obvious and long overdue integration of the police in the three entities into one unified police force. It was intended that Paddy Ashdown, a patient listener who goes to great lengths to understand a problem but then is unambiguously decisive, would be the last High Representative ten years on from Dayton. But inevitably, another HR will need to be appointed for another, probably unspecified period. The blockage can be seen to lie with the Bosnian Serbs who have raised intransigence to the level of a full time occupation. They still seek to attach the RS to Serbia proper, which neither needs them nor can take them, which posits the question of the future of the RS entity, since it seems by its actions to be rejecting the Dayton accords of ten years ago. Whoever follows Paddy Ashdown in getting to grips with this will find him an exceedingly hard act to follow. 

IRAN
President Bush in August went so far as to talk about the military option for IRAN but armchair generals in the US need to know that the fallout of an Israeli or US air strike would exceed even that of IRAQ. Iranians have military options as well. They invented suicide bombing as a weapon in their ground war against Saddam's tanks. They have the capacity to scuttle ships to block the straits of Hormuz, a choke point for much of the middle-east's oil and gas exports - and what would that do for the price of oil, leave aside their cutting back their own 4 million oil barrels per day? The Shi-ite south of neighbouring IRAQ, whose co-religionists are infinitely closer to them than any loyalty to IRAQI nationality, would be invoked to rise up against the coalition military there. The prospect would be one of chaos …and big casualties. The new government in Tehran is seen to be behaving in the traditional manner by ministers moving their relations and clan members into ministry appointments. The new cabinet has a distinctive hardline character, some of whom have a background in the revolutionary guard, a kind of non-accountable SS, in European terms, responsive only to the mullahs. One happy note is the decision of the courageous journalist Akbar Ganji, to abandon his hunger strike in prison hospital. He is too good a man for Iran to lose. He has been in jail for more than five out of a six year sentence. His crime? He wrote articles investigating the murders of Iranian dissidents in the late 1990's, where the evidence directly implicated top-ranking government officials. Rather than act against the murderers, or discover the truth, the state prosecutor convened a revolutionary court which threw Ganji into jail where he was starved and tortured. 

FLAT EARTH ECONOMICS?
Look out world for a rapidly growing trend which we report in this month's update on GREECE. It is reported that an idea whose time has come in RUSSIA, ESTONIA, POLAND, LATVIA, SLOVAKIA, LITHUANIA, may see GREECE as the next to adopt a flat tax system, first proposed in modern times by Steve Forbes when he was seeking presidential office. RUSSIA with a 13% flat rate was the first to introduce it, resulting in higher tax revenues, as evasion was cut and economic growth improved.
UKRAINE reports several measures new president Yushchenko is taking to combat corruption …like firing 30,000 traffic policemen for extorting bribes. Traffic is reported to be moving smoothly. The former iron-curtain countries have seen nothing like this! 

STATE 
There have been growing and encouraging signs, that Condaleezza Rice's State Department has wrested control of at least some strategic US Foreign policy, away from Vice-president Cheney's office and back to Foggy Bottom, where it belongs. Encouraging differences in approach that we report in the NORTH KOREA six-nation negotiations, appear to look towards a negotiated settlement, if that is achievable, rather than the previous White House version of the 'Genghis Khan approach':- 'submit and we may just spare you'. The fact that Donald Rumsfeld, healthy subventions in hand, omitted to visit UZBEKISTAN whilst rushing to reverse their neighbours' demands to quit the bases in KYRGYSTAN and TAJIKISTAN, reflect the spat in NATO when State wanted to make UZBEKISTAN answerable for the massacre in Andijon, whilst the Pentagon were all for letting that sleeping dog lie. The difference between Pentagon 'pragmatism' where locating strategic bases is concerned, compared with the White House democracy campaign whose custodian is Condi, is likely to surface all over again, next, as we explain in AZERBAIJAN, where upcoming elections seem set fair to be the normal farce, at a time and a place where the Pentagon is urgently looking for a hosting deal for some species of military base. 

A TYRANNY THAT CONDI FORGOT (number 6)
Congratulations and thanks to Condi for detaching the US from the frightful UZBEKISTAN which we twice in this series had asked her to do. Notwithstanding this encouraging work, we believe that we must continue to give our monthly reminder to Condi of yet another Tyranny that she forgot, in her nominations of outposts of such, at her Congressional confirmation. We move to Africa, where sadly there are a lot of potential nominations, yet this one we feel sure for sheer scale, is a worthy candidate. SUDAN is a quarter the size of the USA, one of the largest countries in Africa by size and has a substantial population at 40 million. Our Maps & Facts link will tell more but what is so significant about SUDAN is that it is a military dictatorship long in alliance with fundamentalist clerics. One of them al Mahdi, is a descendant of the (Gordon of Khartoum) Mahdi, who was the 19th century hell-raising equivalent of Osama bin Laden. As a nation it is just the sort of model that al Qaeda would settle for, indeed they were hosted there before the US put pressure on Khartoum to move them out. This nation has few admirers, mostly to be found amongst the aforesaid military and mullahs. They have had more of the world news than they would have wished. In concert with the Sudanese military, the infamous Janjawid armed militia murdering and raping, forced some 200,000 Darfur region refugees across the borders into eastern Chad, but most other neighbouring states are also hosting Sudanese refugees. The law there already is Sharia law; the slave trade still exists although officially frowned on; child soldiers are prevalent, female circumcision is de rigeur; and here is a critical 'outposts of tyranny' fact - it exports oil at the rate of some 275,000 bbd. 

All of these and many more. 
40 nations in transition, all with updated reports for September 
 

Clive Lindley - Publisher 

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