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May 2007 Country Archive

PUBLISHERS OVERVIEW MAY '07

BAD NEWS – WORSE BEHAVIOUR
The world this month looks a rather dismal place with bad news from numerous centres vying with bad behaviour, not as expected from tyrannies and raw democracies – plenty of that, but from those who know better, but chose the path of dishonour nevertheless. In this last context two of those nations that think of themselves as paragons of democratic virtue, who teach their children and probably believe themselves that their systems are the envy of the world, have individually behaved in a disgraceful and hypocritical fashion.

STINKING FISH!
In Britain, informed citizens were dismayed by the action of their government in interfering in the judicial process, (believed before this to be separate to the executive arm), by halting an ongoing corruption investigation involving a fat arms contract to Saudi Arabia, on the catch-all excuse of security considerations. To have proceeded, the public were told, would have closed down future co-operation with the Saudi anti-terrorism security agencies. Given that 15 out of the 19 suicide bombers of 9/11 were Saudis (and as indicated by the recent wave of arrests in that country, there seem plenty more where they came from), were we then to understand that if any more such terrorists were on their way, that the Saudi security arm would refuse to tell the Brits because one of their more influential princes is embarrassed about publicity over bribes? 

Now this news is compounded by an astonishing Foreign Office attack on the OECD whose corruption rules for members were what, along with its own laws, the UK had breached. The OECD propose to continue the investigation that the Brits have shamelessly abandoned. For this, they are now being assaulted both as individuals and as an organization, by selected elements of the British media, initially briefed by the FCO. 

It is understandable in terms of ‘realism’ that this government concluded that commercial considerations outweighed ethical international agreements on corruption – obviously at stake are big money for shareholders and future employment for British workers. But there is a corollary to that. The honest if embarrassing decision for Britain to have taken, after closing down this investigation under the Saudi threat, would be to then offer to resign from the OECD, given the UK’s manifest inability to meet the standards of the international organization (or indeed its own standards). The OECD is also pointing to the fact that UK diplomatic ‘realism’ has not witnessed a single case of prosecuting corruption since putting anti-corruption law onto the statute book.

To attack the OECD in such circumstances, using career diplomats in such dishonourable conduct, and to collaborate to this end with the infamous UK ‘attack-dog’ press, is to tarnish them as individuals. As it now stands, the UK has no further moral authority to criticize corruption whenever it will next appear in any of the Ruritanias of this world. The signals for British exporters now are that bribery is OK, if (a) the contract is big enough; (b) the end user is Saudi Arabia, or perhaps other ‘allies’ in the war on terrorism. Competitor nations will take note and we can expect international corruption to flourish. 


TERRORISM A LA CARTE
The USA is the other malefactor of the month. In a little reported item from that nation, we are reminded that President George W Bush, doughty campaigner against terror wherever it appears, (as even his detractors would previously have acknowledged), has now been shown to be a hypocrite in this area as well. We have earlier noted his attitude to ‘freedom of speech’ which means freedom only for US and allied media, not freedom of speech for such as al Jazeera (described by Freedom House as the Arab CNN), and owned by a friendly Arab ruler. Al Jazeera and it’s journos have been on the receiving end of just too much lethal ‘friendly fire’ in Afghanistan and Iraq for this to be coincidental. [see our blog “Shafting al Jazeera”].

Many would agree that of all terrorist actions, blowing up a civilian aircraft in mid-air, thus murdering many innocent passengers is perhaps the most heinous. Quite rightly, where such terrorists are caught, western justice puts them behind bars and effectively throws away the key. President Bush after 9/11, made the point in this regard that both sponsoring terrorism, or ‘looking the other way’ were equivalent acts. On Thursday 19th April a Venezuelan national, an infamous international terrorist named Luis Posada Carriles, with a colourful history of serving the CIA, ‘walked’ from a New Mexico jail, where he had been held only on the minor charge of illegal entry into the USA. He had got that far after escaping from jail in his own country, where he was indicted and awaiting trial for a particularly horrible act of terrorism.

The specific crime was that in 1976 he was responsible for the blowing up in-flight of a Cuban airliner carrying 73 passengers, killing all of them, including 24 members of the Cuban youth fencing team, and several foreign medical students. Until 9/11 this had been the worst attack on any civilian airliner in the western hemisphere. For the past twenty-two months, Venezuela had requested Washington for his extradition to stand trial, supported by 2000 pages of evidence, but to no avail. The US government it is true, dislikes Venezuela quite as much as that feeling is reciprocated. It also seems to regard the hapless airline passengers going to or from communist Cuba as untermenschen, ‘fair game’ perhaps, but that prejudice should surely pale into insignificance besides the right to justice of the murdered victims and the worldwide fight against terrorism. 

In the absence of any plausible explanation for a country normally hypersensitive to terrorist activity, could it be that they might be afraid of a trial from which it could emerge that the CIA might have been implicated in this terrible crime? That kind of speculation becomes inevitable after such a delinquent failure of government. This event now indicates that terrorism against “them” (Venezuelans, Cubans, maybe Iranians, Syrians ?), is to be regarded as different to that against “us”, when seen through the prism of American criminal justice. 
[Give your views on the above at our geopolemics blog]

PULPED ORANGE 
Events in UKRAINE and MOLDOVA as we describe, tell what a paper tiger the west must now appear to their hapless westwards-looking citizens. To these narratives add KYRGYSTAN as well, which can now be seen not to be the democracy that was hoped for. The high hopes excited by the “Orange Revolution” and its offshoots have been squelched by events. The sought-for NATO membership for UKRAINE has fallen foul of the strained exigencies of US relations with RUSSIA, in addition to the opposition within the country itself. 

The EU fixated on its own constitutional navel, could offer no hopes for UKRAINE being accepted into membership – the one act of inclusiveness capable of inspiring the hopes and dreams that could have trumped Moscow’s satraps, now running the show. Of course this large nation was still at a distance of several years from qualifying for the EU, by the essential economic and democratic criteria, nor yet has it anything like the stability that existing members have right to expect from new entrants to their club. But now the lifeline has been denied, resuscitation can be expected to continue to decline. 

PREMATURE CO-HABITATION
In this context we turn to the two newest EU entrants ROMANIA and BULGARIA
Our reports on both indicate that, as with Cyprus, whose EU membership was followed by a devastating act of bad faith by the Cypriot Greek leadership (now seriously repercussing as we report in GREECE and TURKEY). They were granted membership too early and too easily. The EU has no clear current machinery for expulsion of errant members, the need for which if only as a last resort, is becoming manifest, as our reports indicate. Both ROMANIA and BULGARIA were admitted due to earlier promises made, which should not have been made. There has been an inadequate time for ‘courtship,’ for each party familiarizing themselves with what is expected of them in this new relationship and making the vital if painful adjustments. 

It was clear to observers both then and now, that even more than most other former communist countries in Europe, they are both still run by the same power elites that once ran the local variant of the KGB (and so much more). They effortlessly made the transition to the outward forms of western societies, whilst surrendering nothing of their age-old grip on all the nodal points of corruption and decision making in their countries. These reports make depressing reading. The behaviour described, at the minimum requires financial sanctions from the EU. Hopefully the European parliament will forcibly demonstrate their disapproval. 
(if you wish to comment on these reports they are on our geopolemics blog)

LETTING GO – IS SO VERY HARD TO DO!
Two former imperial powers are behaving badly regarding ‘letting go’ of their former domains. SERBIA having sought to dominate Yugoslavia, treating the other five republics as subsidiaries of itself, cannot face up to the natural consequences of its racist treatment of the Albanian minority in Kosovo, under the long leadership of Milosevic. Those actions left the Serbs hated, to the extent that a separation in such circumstances of what is clearly mutual loathing, would actually be a good solution for both. How could Kosovo return to being a province of a nation whose army and police forces had for so long oppressed them - who were not previously treated as citizens by Belgrade – they alone didn’t even get to vote on their own future (except grotesquely for the Serb minority in the province), in Belgrade’s recent ‘all-Serbia’ referendum on the future of Kosovo? 

An analogous situation to the continuing Serbian historic claims to the province might be the parallel of Germany, who had centuries earlier conquered and occupied what were called East Prussia and Silesia in Poland until 1945, when they were evicted through war. If they now claimed that these territories in Poland should be restored to them, then such an absurd claim would get a dusty answer. 

RUSSIA of course isn’t going to let go of Chechnya, legally if unwillingly a part of their federation, but uses many resources to blunt and frustrate the legally independent nations of MOLDOVA and GEORGIA. Moscow openly sponsors breakaway territories in both, as well as applying many hurtful economic and energy sanctions on these their former colonies, whenever opportunity occurs. The post-imperialist scene is further complicated by the fact that during its existence, the Soviet Union directed the movement of citizens within its fifteen constituent republics to anywhere else that suited the purposes of the commissars. Consequently, on the unexpected break-up of the USSR, many were stranded in what has sometimes become ethnically unfriendly territory. ESTONIA with 30% of its population in this category, reports just such a situation. Currently tension has to do with a prominent WWII memorial in its capital which Estonians resent, because the victorious Red army pushing through on its way to Berlin did not liberate them at all, quite the contrary. Soviet rule was quite as awful as the Nazis that preceded them, and all these years later the Estonians felt it was time to relocate the memorial to a less prominent Russian military cemetery. Of course Russians living there and back in the motherland, see the death of heroes from their “great patriotic war” impugned. A sensitive matter to be sure, but in Moscow, banner-waving, clenched-fisted young ‘nationalists,’ have been having a field-day stirring up hatreds of what as a further irritant, is now a NATO member, no longer to be forced into compliance with their giant neighbour.

NEW & UNNECESSARY TENSIONS
This is sadly all of a piece with the new tensions between RUSSIA and the USA provoked by the Bush administration’s tearing-up a previously agreed convention not to return to the arms race, via the development of anti-missile missiles. The plan to emplace such weapons in POLAND, theoretically to interdict incoming from IRAN, with radar guidance from the CZECH REPUBLIC, has gone down like a lead balloon in Moscow. President Putin roundly accused the US of restarting the cold war, and it is hard to say how he is wrong about seeing it that way. 

THE QUALITY OF LEADERSHIP
RUSSIA’s news of course was dominated by the death of their first elected president , Boris Yeltsin, with numerous commentators taking up too many column-inches stating the obvious, about his very Russian addiction to strong drink. We review his contribution to ending the cold war and taking RUSSIA into a whole new epoch. It is our view that like his predecessor Gorbachev, and his successor Putin, history will judge that all of them were the right men – the right leaders for the circumstances in which they arrived in power. All of them can be and are, heavily criticised for their shortcomings, but they each brought with them the essentials that their nation needed in the very different circumstances in which they served. 

Putin, with many successes behind him still has his greatest test ahead. He said after his 2004 re-election that he would judge himself and his term of office by the extent to which he would have taken the Russian people out of poverty. We shall surely be examining that, but for a Russian leader, it is a highly defensible, even admirable criterion for such a self-assessment. There are plenty of charges against him in terms of repression: all of those unsolved murders of government critics and investigative journalists; the shutting down of independence in the mass media; the use of Rambo-like balaclava’d commando squads masquerading as ‘tax police,’ to terrify the office workers of his commercial and political targets; the squeezing out of independent NGO’s, and regrettably much more. Perhaps it is on this that history will judge him. But if in 2008, he vacates one of the most powerful offices in the world as constitutionally required, without any trickery of retaining his current power by other means, then he will have rowed back to quite a large extent against what is a major criticism against him, that of undermining democracy. 

That drama is still to come. But we now can remember Boris Yeltsin as perhaps the only man in the Russian / Soviet leadership, up to doing what he did. To wit, disband the USSR and almost bloodlessly face-down and destroy the mighty Communist Party of the Soviet Union. It was ‘touch and go’! He was helped at a crucial time by the late, great if unlikely military hero, Alexander Lebed, a mere lieutenant-colonel at the time, and of course others risked all and rallied to him. Momentous or what? Talk about giants and pygmies - what world leaders of recent times can measure up to such a performance? Future generations might think he was entitled to take a couple of drinks after that lot! 
RIP Boris, we are all in your debt! 

NORTH KOREA FAILS TO SURPRISE
Our very full report for NORTH KOREA watchers leads with analysis of the fact that Pyongyang did NOT shut down its nuclear reactor in April as agreed, but points out that the USA was also late in facilitating its initial side of the deal, the return of NORTH KOREA’s frozen millions –$25million that is - held in bank accounts blocked by the US Treasury. Not too much excitement then over missed deadlines. 

We report that this nation held its unique annual parliament in the normal one day and passed its annual budget, distinguished by the fact that it contains no numbers. Oh, and they did fire the prime minister and appoint a new one. Quite a lot to crowd into the one day! There is more – much more. In the US the hawks are busy condemning the deal that Condaleezza’s people went out and brought home, which puts the peacemakers out on a limb. For our part, we are neither optimistic nor pessimistic. This is not called the hermit republic for nothing, Pyongyang’s arcane ways are beyond normal comprehension. Its friends (if it has any friends), rather obviously do not know either. The fact is that it exists and it is possessed of formidable instruments of power projection. Better for it to be inside the tent p…ing out, as they say, rather than the alternative. 

SAUDIS LOOKING SERIOUS
We are pleased at our timing for including SAUDI ARABIA in our monthly analyses. This is our first report and we take an overview of where this important nation stands on the most sensitive issues of middle-eastern war and peace. Already we note that the Kingdom and its wily king are showing a new significance. We report under this country heading the important Arab summit deliberations in Riyadh, and the simple Arab initiative for peace, which was its primary product. This is the second showing of an earlier Saudi initiative which was good then and is good now. It was largely ignored by a pre-IRAQ invasion USA, at that time with other neocon plans for the middle-east. It now requires the attention which it deserves.

King Abdullah has distanced himself from the US invasion of IRAQ on the grounds of it’s illegitimacy, which of course is the universal view of the Arab states. From here he can genuinely exert leadership, as we describe. This is a time when the world is alarmingly light on the leadership front. With George. W Bush discredited (but with a dangerous ‘tail,’ in the resentful person of his vice- president), one still is apprehensive about US foreign policy. Tony Blair is shortly to leave the stage, probably bewildered about where it all went wrong for him. We have previously suggested it was when he agreed with GWB to ignore the massive international advice to allow the UN arms inspectors more time (to discover that there were in fact no WMDs in IRAQ). Blair’s successor will need time to ‘play himself in.’ Israel is currently not impressive, in fact there is a leadership crisis. There is to be a new president in France, but as long as the US reaction to French initiatives is to be a knee-jerk negative- and that will last as long at least as this administration - not much can be expected from that quarter. Germany’s chancellor looks consistent and encouraging, but Germany is just not a significant player in the hornets nest of the middle-east. Russia’s leadership is unilaterally about Russian interests. Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country which is not a pensioner of the USA, yet has a clean sheet internationally. It is a key Washington ally in fact, but in no way a satellite. All of this underlines the importance of its role in Arab leadership, and perhaps King Abdullah can deliver in terms of a settlement of the Palestine- Israel conflict. Let us hope!
(The Arab Initiative for Peace can be found at our blog site if you wish to comment).

THIS SORRY STATE
IRAQ grinds on. Meaningless statistics about comparable sectarian murders per month are trotted out, although it seems clear that the Shi’ite and Sunni militias are now keeping their heads down on the streets in the face of the souped-up fire power of the military, which they would calculate cannot be sustained indefinitely. Much of the current horror is due to the local al Qaeda-type suicide bombings, against which there seems no solution (people determined on their own death to make some point, cannot be stopped by any known means of deterrence). Those that remember the war-weariness of Vietnam can now see that the mood in the USA has similarly changed, given that there is no identifiable enemy to be defeated, the term ‘victory’ defies interpretation, and citizens can no longer believe what their own government tells them. 

THE CAPACITY FOR CHANGE
SYRIA is potentially a loose ball with the capacity to change the game in the formulaic middle-eastern line-up. Clearly there are deals to be done with Syria, already outlined in our review of the Arab peace plan (SAUDI ARABIA), which would give them no further compelling reason for an alliance with IRAN. There have latterly been war rumours, vis a vis Israel, which look like a rather crude attempt by hawks in Tel Aviv and Washington to raise the temperature. But the idea that SYRIA would attack Israel lacks credibility given that the IAF dominates the whole region. SYRIA is hardly going to beat its head against that wall when it is doing quite well politically. Israel also, with a massive leadership crisis after the damaging experience in the Lebanon, is not likely to chance its arm in any new military adventures, unless the logic for that is overwhelming, which hardly describes the here and now. The isolationism which the White House sought for IRAQ (in a fine example of yesterday’s policies), has as we describe, been riven by fact-finding visits to SYRIA from both a leading Republican lawmaker, and no less than the third ranking elected official in line to the US presidency, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic US House Speaker. 

CONFRONTATION IN TURKEY 
Upheaval here, in the form of massive demonstrations over the issue of the next president, who is to be elected by the parliament - thus the majority party and its allies. The crunch comes because the government is a soft-islamic one. It has not during its years of power ‘crossed the line’ in this constitutionally secular state, in terms of enacting blatant Islamic policies. But suspicions abound as we explain. Both the prime-minister and the candidate for the presidency (from his party), until now the admired foreign minister, both normally to be seen dressed in impeccably western suits, have wives who wear the traditional moslem women’s headscarf, and the secular establishment do not like that at all! 

Kemal Ataturk after WWI took a backwards-looking Turkey, via one giant bound into modern times, by a series of measures including proscription of Moslem headgear (the fez was the main target). The military who nurtured him, now regard themselves as the guardians, not only of the secular constitution, but of such cultural observances. The protests are a sign of the fear that losing the balance of a secular president alongside an Islamic prime-minister, as hitherto, is a dangerous tilt in the distribution of power within this large republic. Indeed it is only in latter years that there could ever have been a non-secular party in government. But in all justice, seen objectively, their use of power has been far more effective for TURKEY than the rather inferior secular political coalitions that preceded them. TURKEY’s friends will hope for calm and a good outcome to this ‘family’ matter. 

MORE CORRUPTION BLUES
From AFGHANISTAN we report that even for the development aid aimed at the areas affected by the insurgency, UK and US defence officials estimate that up to half of it is being stolen along the way. As to the Afghan police - they are considered a particular black spot of corruption. (Don’t even think about the politicians….or the warlords)! The forecasts, we report, based on planting surveys, indicate that the opium poppy harvest will reach new peaks in 2007. What constitutes ungovernability in a country? How to define a failed state? This must come close. Our suggestions for dealing with the poppy crop are available for your comments on our geopolemics blog site

TURKMENISTAN 
This Central Asian state (sometimes described as: ‘if not the end of the world - then only a short bus ride away’), along with BELARUS and UZBEKISTAN, shares the unenviable distinction of recently being named by Freedom House as having just about the world’s worst human rights and democracy records. But since this was, as those others remain, a one-man tyranny until the head man recently died, we should at least pause in our judgement to see what the new man will do. 

His name (and we will say it just the once) is Gurbagulay Berdimuhammedov. 
Well, GB made his second overseas journey to Moscow – no surprise there, but his first foreign trip was to ……SAUDI ARABIA, where apart from meeting the King, he performed the Hajj. The symbolism as we point out, cannot have been lost on any Turkman who had grown used to a leader who had formed a religious cult of himself, indeed set himself up in all practical terms as a demi-god. The Islamic element in all of this provides some balance to that bizarre situation, but like all of the FSU Moslem countries, religion had a thin time in TURKMENISTAN under more than half a century of godless communism, not eager to share the ideological spotlight of Marxism/Leninim with any Abrahamic religions. Islam in politics, as with FSU Central Asia generally, has had short shrift here and that is likely to continue. 

POWER & POLITICS IN PAKISTAN
Change is in the air in PAKISTAN, even if much of it is inspired by hopeful civilian politicians seeking a comeback. The fact is that elections are due at the year–end and in the run-up, all kinds of weaving and ducking is going on by the politicians, and indeed by the president-general himself. Our May report describes this, but it is clear that the outcome cannot yet be forecast. Whatever extra-judicial steps Musharraf has taken – as he clearly has, it must also be remembered that the Islamic insurgency, plus tribal rebellion, although short of the full-out war in AFGHANISTAN has been more extreme here than in any country nominally at peace. Musharraf himself has been the subject of at least three major attempts on his life and more al Qaeda members have been arrested here, than in all of the rest of the world put together. Voters may also remember that past civilian political leaders in this country have been narrowly clan-based and each in their turn have run political regimes, sickening in their degree of corruption. Non-Pakistanis, looking on from a different perspective, can see how Musharraf has rowed back from the former useless confrontation with INDIA, that served the interests of neither country, indeed which mired them down in military overspending and the constant dangers of war. He has exhibited some of the strengths and the vision of the ‘father of the Turks,’ Kemal Ataturk. Like him, a top general, Kemal assumed power at a particularly difficult time for his nation and effectively put Islamic politics back into its box, thus laying the foundations of a modern state. Musharraf spent seven of his formative years in TURKEY where his father served in Pakistan’s diplomatic mission, and is well aware of the parallels. It is not obvious to outside observers that Pakistan’s interests would in any way be served, by his being replaced by one of the available tried and (dis)trusted, political hacks waiting in the wings who made deals to stay out of jail. But how the voters will see it, remains an open question. 

IRAN AND THE MYSTERIES OF POWER
There is a parallel relating to power here with the other nuclear pariah NORTH KOREA. There, as all our reports indicate, on the NORTH KOREAN side despite knowing what they can sign up for, no-one quite knows which of such commitments (as they appear to be), will ultimately be respected by the shadowy leadership in Pyongyang. In IRAN, leadership is clearly diffused, but the elected president who does most of the talking, is only at the third rank of power, behind the Board of Guardians, themselves below the Supreme Ayatollah. A major problem for the rest of the world is that this president, Ahmedinejad, does so MUCH talking that it is not always clear whether his combative attitudes always represent those of his political seniors. Much Iran-watching therefore, breaks down into disentangling the separate narratives of the different players in Teheran. 

The upcoming May conference called by IRAQ at Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh resort on the Red Sea, will include an Iranian delegation as well as that of SYRIA and various Arab neighbours, and notably Condaleezza. Whilst it is about what can be done to aid IRAQ (who are hoping for more debt cancellation), the corridors are likely to be busy - and let us hope productive places - given the presence of such luminaries and their aides. 

The west has been well fixated on the Shia -Sunni story, obviously prompted by the shifting sectarian sands of neighbouring IRAQ. But it was not hugely remarked that with IRAN the Saudis, quintessentially Sunni – keepers indeed of the holy places - have been making quite successful inroads into improving their relationships, thus de-escalating tensions as we report in that country. What is now fascinating is how will IRAN respond if the Arab peace initiative unveiled at Riyadh starts to blossom? If Israel and the 22 Arab states after negotiations can accept a binding peace, then what is any longer the casus belli available to Ahmedinajad for so noisily seeking to obliterate the state of Israel? There will be those in Israel who will not want to hand back the occupied territories as the price required for peace, with some supporters in the US. If Ahmedinajad believes his political future is on the line –the issue has given him so much political capital in radical Islam - may we expect a ‘black alliance’ to emerge involving him and them, to spoil the deal? We shall be looking out. 

INDIA AND SANCTIONS
We have previously observed that in the important struggle to get IRAN to repudiate a military nuclear program, sanctions have got to be infinitely more desirable than acts of war. A major problem is that the USA long ago in its lengthy quarrel with IRAN, had implemented all of the more obvious sanctions which they and those bound to them, could devise. A new raft of sanctions is going up but now the US is also looking to other countries to stop doing oil and gas business with IRAN, which, since that is basically all of their economy, would pressure them most of all. The question arises as we describe, about the gas pipeline planned from IRAN through PAKISTAN, to INDIA. A third party spokesman from PAKISTAN, says that INDIA has assured them that it remains committed to the IPI pipeline, despite American pressure. It is surely a difficult equation to make. Nobody (we hope) wants war. Everybody wants an orderly nuclear world, but now ALL nations, including both the USA and INDIA put energy security at the top of their foreign policy agendas, higher in fact even than following UNSC sanctions, since otherwise their future growth would be stultified. Meanwhile, India’s own ‘nuclear relations’ with the USA still rumble on as an issue, as we describe. 

PHILIPPINES IN ELECTION MODE
Although not herself up for re-election, given the intensity of this election any one could be forgiven for thinking otherwise and that President Gloria Arroyo was fighting for her political future –she is not! An election of this kind tends to attract world attention which is not in the best interests of the entrenched power elite here. They, relishing their backwater status, have thrived individually as their country has withered compared to its south-east asian neighbours. The economic term ‘tiger,’ first saw light in relation to such neighbouring economies as Singapore and Taiwan, and spread out from there. By comparison, taking such criteria as economic growth, exports, employment opportunities, corruption, inwards investment, the republic of the Philippines is more of a mangy elderly tabby. 

It is a scandalous fact that political murder here is commonplace –it is held to be the second most dangerous place on earth after IRAQ for journalists and it has proved lethal for labour organizers ; it is also the most corrupt state in all of South east Asia, (in contrast to a western mind-set of all those crafty non-christian orientals)! It is unable to find employment for millions of its citizens who then have to spend most of their adult lives in foreign countries away from their families, often ‘slaving’ as domestics in Arab countries, filling the world’s leading hospitals with nurses, and providing greatly loved cooks and nannies to middle-class families throughout the developed world, now including China. Its seamen are to be found on low paid flags-of-convenience ships all over the world, as they are in lower paid, high-risk construction jobs anywhere. The remittances these overseas workers send home are the key to the Philippines remaining solvent.

Lucky world perhaps, to have such a source of good and cheap labour, but what kind of a polity after centuries of existence both pre- and post-colonial, is so dismal as to fail its citizens in quite so many ways? Its ancient (Spanish) colonial power elite, is incrementally swollen only by new money, money being the alternative route, apart from the army, to power. It is also the only Christian country in Asia (and this for five centuries), certainly resisting birth-control - ensuring plenty of future new recruits for the overseas labour market, and no doubt still dishing out solace, in that rewards for the humble and oppressed are only to be found in heaven. It takes a major election to see these issues aired, not that anyone believes that this election will change anything, other than to shift the seats of power between the same players, in a kind of game of political musical chairs. 

IS LIBYA REVISITING ITS ATTITUDES TO TERROR? 
We look at LIBYA in the context of terrorism in North Africa and the Mahgreb, and consider a theory that perhaps with US reverses in IRAQ, the colonel may be revisiting his positioning vis-a-vis other Arab states, relative to the USA.
The imprisoned Bulgarian nurses still languish there under sentence of death. John Negroponte the visiting American deputy Secretary of State, was declined an audience with Muammar Qadaffi. He was to have handed over a letter from President Bush saying that full diplomatic and political relations between Libya and the USA could only be resumed once the Bulgarian medics are released (It will be remembered that a blood price of $10 million dollars EACH, has been asked for in respect of each Libyan child that died in the AIDS epidemic at the root of this matter). The colonel went on TV and said that “freedom for the Bulgarian medics was a nonsense.” 
(you can comment on this if you wish at our geopolemics blog).

GOOD NEWS FROM BANGLADESH
Saving the best until last, since our last report it is now clear that BOTH the leaders of the so-corrupt government and opposition parties are not just permanently out of politics, but indeed exiled from the country. Both of them are former prime ministers, one the widow of one former leader, the other another’s daughter. Whilst hating each other (as premier and leader of the opposition - they refused even to speak to each other), they have taken corruption and nepotism to new depths, even for the subcontinent. Of course there is now a vying for position between their former aides and lieutenants, many of whom do not have clean hands, but they will have observed that such cynical plundering of the states resources, eventually forces the kind of intervention that has taken place here. 

There is also a better chance that new fresh politicians will get a foothold if there are to be honest elections, notably Professor Yunis Khan’s new party. He, the current Nobel Laureate, is probably what the country needs. We wish him well, as we do the long downtrodden people of this disaster of a nation. 

In addition to the 27 countries cited and linked above, the following all have freshly updated reports: ALBANIA, ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN, BOSNIA, CROATIA, HUNGARY, KAZAKSTAN, LATVIA, LITHUANIA, MACEDONIA, MONTENEGRO, SLOVAKIA, SLOVENIA, SOUTH AFRICA, TAIWAN, TAJIKISTAN. 

Abbreviated versions of all of these are available for your comments on our geopolemics blog (for which you are pre-registered - just log-in). 


CLIVE LINDLEY - Publisher

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