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April 2008 Country Archive

PUBLISHERS OVERVIEW APRIL '08

HITTING THE BUFFERS?
We have persistently drawn attention to the lack of regulation of massive funds, which being outside of nation states with either the intent or capability of oversight, have managed to erect clever and profitable ways of sucking funds out of regulated economies. 
Under pressure of competition, or greed, or both, they have become more and more outré. The sub-prime mortgage market is the particular culprit at present – but there are others! The extent that it’s manipulations had evaded the regulated sphere and the shock waves that ensued, was demonstrated by the sudden collapse of the US giant Bear Stearns bank, following Northern Rock bank in the UK. 

A year ago at the G8 meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merckel called for greater oversight of the unregulated sphere, including private equity funds, and particularly hedge funds. This was thrown out by her colleagues, and we commented then that it was a mystery why they should have closed ranks against this sensible idea, as many now might agree. It remains a mystery, because it is not obvious why G8 governments, often through central banks the bankers of last resort, should so expose their taxpayers funds. Meanwhile, the massive profits, the point of the exercise, seem largely to circumvent national taxation systems, fetching up as numbered deposits in tropical islet paradises with PO Box banking systems. Will the G8 now applaud and support Mrs Merckel, or with ‘the writing on the wall’, will they remain so cavalier? 

We believe that it is more than a little absurd that the G7 + Russia which became the G8, is held to be a meeting of the worlds top industrial - thus economic powers, yet we do not see China there, nor India. We could not object to say Canada, who are a bedrock of democratic values, more certainly perhaps, than their giant neighbour to the south, whom it is relevant to note, look to Canada more than any other nation on earth for their oil and gas supplies. They have always been a voice for sanity - if only there were more Canadas! But the criterion for G8 membership is said to be economic strength and the purpose for having a G8 meeting at all is to seek to direct the commanding heights of the world’s economy. Sensible enough! But not to include the two nations who between them represent one third of all humanity, might have been understandable when that was all they were - vast conglomerations of people. Now however, they are both so much more. Their economic growth suggests that they are now the real dynamo of world growth. Will commonsense prevail? Will they be invited to make it G10 and allow for Brazil, South Africa and others to join later? Not until there is a change of the US presidency, would be our forecast. 

NATO : QUO VADIS? 
“The economic and military strength of the Atlantic community makes it the gravitational centre of world affairs. While only 13% of the worlds people are in NATO and / or EU nations, together they account for 63% of the world’s GDP, producing over $27 trillion worth of goods and services in 2005, and over 77% of global military spending, allocating over $780 billion to their militaries in 2005 alone”. That quotation from former NSA and current geopolitical thinker, Zbigniew Brzezinski, sets the scene for the upcoming NATO Council meeting in April.

When the US Secretary of Defence makes speeches, as he recently did, referring to “a two-speed NATO with some members being prepared ‘to fight for freedom’, and others not,” he is of course referring to the disappointing patchwork of response to the appeal for more European troops for Afghanistan. Many at the NATO meeting will feel as we do, that before glibly talking about ‘freedom’ like his boss does – a bad move for most Europeans - that there is a prior question to be asked. 
Why is there a different response amongst member states? 

There is too much to say in answer to summarise here, but it is safe to say that the purpose and more urgently, the objectives of the Afghanistan intervention, seriously need to be reviewed. Originally it was in pursuit of the al Qaeda terrorists who had bombed New York and Washington. The NATO allies did something then that has never happened before or since. Meeting in emergency session, they unanimously invoked the mutual defence clause of the treaty on behalf of their US member. Washington said thanks… but no thanks! 

The US did in fact use some of their allies’ special forces who surprise, surprise, were already “training” in the neighbourhood, but sought no conventional military assistance. It is true the forces they did insert initially, were on the whole specialists, assisting the Afghans already fighting for the Northern Alliance, who did most of the ‘heavy lifting’ infantry work in ground assaults. This combination of special forces, together with artillery and air support spotting by trained experts, calling in air strikes, quickly rolled up the Taleban government forces. It would however have been diplomatic (never the Bushies strong point), to have accepted hands-on NATO assistance sooner, rather have them feel like auxiliaries. Later, when US forces were obviously strained to re-supply IRAQ with personnel for ‘the surge,’ they thought to withdraw US troops from AFGHANISTAN and fill the gap with Canadian and European NATO troops. But the proposition then to NATO was that their militaries would primarily rebuild and restructure the war-torn nation, and that is what many of the allies signed up to do. The problem was that at just about the same time, the Taleban had plans of their own to resume the fighting in certain provinces, as a result of which a disproportionate load fell on the shoulders of the British, the Canadians and the Dutch, whose sectors were the ones hit. Other nations, busy ‘reconstructing,’ in areas not under attack did not feel inclined - largely because of their public opinion at home - to lay down pick and shovel, pick up the rifle and move on to the troubled regions. 

So why is the domestic public opinion of many NATO members in this cast of mind? Many people don’t see Afghanistan as anything like “defending freedom” at all. The news they receive from their media is that the Afghan government - that supposedly represents the freedom that they are defending - is venal beyond belief. That under US and NATO occupation the nation, year-on-year expands its production and exports of the world’s hardest drugs to poison western youth, and with the enormous money involved, enriches very many in the supply chain, not least Afghan government ministers and functionaries. 

People also remember that the purpose of entering Afghanistan, generally applauded at the time, was all about the pursuit and destruction of al Qaeda. Then when they and the Taleban were on the run and many including most of their leaders had escaped into the lawless tribal regions of the North West Frontier with Pakistan, that suddenly the US government, instead of the hot pursuit justifiable at the time, switched much of its forces and certainly its focus elsewhere, into an unrelated, unprovoked invasion of another country entirely, leaving the job of destroying al Qaeda remaining unfinished – on the back burner. 

Now there are not nearly enough troops available for a successful invasion of the mountain ranges of the tribal lands and so the NATO forces are effectively garrisoning those provinces under attack, but with no prospect of a conclusive victory or an end to the confrontation. In such circumstances it is no longer enough to talk of ‘freedom,’ particularly when too many of the people NATO is defending, in many cases, are just as outrageous, indistinguishable even, in their religious persecution of women, or in the excesses of their shariah law and courts, as are the Taleban. 

It is time to talk of outcomes in AFGHANISTAN. Many are calling for this reappraisal because it is obvious to most observers that simply, it’s broke and it needs fixing!

It is also time to redefine the purpose of NATO in a non-cold war world. Originally and very successfully, it was as the post-WWII wags had it, ” to keep America in, Russia out, and Germany down”. That era happily has passed. The breathing space did not last long before the world’s attention was diverted to the menace, not of a hostile nation state (which military alliances are designed to combat), but of religious terrorism, to which, as is evident, military might is mismatched and cannot successfully address – although what can has yet to be established.

But this NATO council will talk of irrelevancies, like which small Balkan or Caucasian nations may be admitted sooner, later or never. Not, what is the purpose of expanding NATO at all? When will these questions be on the agendas of member nations? Our answer is the same as we have suggested for the G8 (see above). Not until there is the change of US presidency. Then maybe, but the debate in member nations should be going on now. 

ISRAEL PALESTINE : VIOLENCE & REPRISALS
It is surprising that those who are disturbed by Israeli violence on Gaza (most of us) are so undemonstrative about Hamas’ daily violence, firing multiple rockets randomly into Israel. The question is a simple one. Israel is massively over-armed to respond to guerilla-type rocket attacks. Unsophisticated but lethal, thousands of them have been and are still being fired off, and they inevitably take their toll of civilian casualties. Israel is often excoriated for ‘disproportionate’ responses. So if that accurately describes what they do, what then would their critics say was ‘a proportionate response’? 

How about the ‘an eye for an eye’ approach, common to holy scripture of Judaism and Islam and indeed Christianity? So, if Hamas on any given day, lob say 15 untargeted rockets into Israel, should Israel to be proportionate, simply lob the same number indiscriminately back into Gaza city? 

Why don’t they do that? Probably because of a value called restraint. They do seek to target their response and certainly they have good days and bad days in getting the bad guys and / or hitting civilian bystanders. But that isn’t good enough, many would say. So we would ask what then IS the proportionate response? We invite any of our readers who have an answer to that specific question, to send it to our geopolemics blog (not a lecture on the origin of the conflict). The question is simply this: if your community was being rocketed daily like this, from a hostile neighbouring, although foreign community, what would you expect your government to do? 

SAUDI HEARS CHENEY
We report on the meeting of V-President Cheney with the Saudi Royals. They have agreed to pump more oil, and that must have been as important an objective as any on the Cheney agenda. We consider the resignation of Admiral Fallon and its geopolitical implications. 

ANOTHER DESTRUCTIVE SEX ACT 
In March, the rest of the world outside of that 5% who are the population of the USA, have watched fascinated and appalled as US politicians, lawyers, investigative agencies and of course the media, once again embarked on the latest self-destructive (where world opinion is concerned), sex-scandal, apparently massively overblown. It comes down to a prominent elected politician, formerly a crusading public prosecutor, whilst he was away from home obtaining the services of a hooker via a call-girl agency. He had made his earlier reputation by taking on and defeating some of the world’s most prestigious law firms representing clients found guilty of multi-million dollar scams, of which Wall Street had rather too many at the time. It was the media who nominated him thus and built up this reputation of a crusader and it was they who latterly attempted to somehow equate his privately patronizing a hooker, as somehow as equivalent to the destruction of the multimillion dollar scams on which he built his reputation. The media suspiciously had a lot more information instantly available to them, than one would have thought possible before any court proceedings, they had indeed everything required for a classic ‘trial by media’. His discovery (we were told) was in the course of an investigation of the call girl agency. His, and apparently thousands of other telephone calls, were monitored by the FBI (and that news must have spoiled a lot of other people’s day), but his name alone emerged from the ruck. 

Of course it sounds very much like a set-up. The US media, despite the blood-lust of the chase, is smart enough and independent enough to pursue that line – but it seems at least not obvious that he has in fact broken any laws, so why one asks, the fuss? Don’t Americans, New Yorkers yet, know the ways of the world? Well of course they do, but they do get overly-excited when they discover public officials have strayed from their marriage vows, as though it was any of their business! What they hopefully expect from their screen idols and the numerous classifications of celebrities that they relish reading about - the rawer the better - they take against, when it’s an elected official, for reasons that maybe some future academic paper might explain. But it must be agonizing for all those sophisticated journo’s (necessarily inviting scorn), who are expected to look for and write up serious parallels between taking down a big time public crook, defended very adequately by top lawyers in a courtroom; with some quietly pursued, very private affair in a hotel bedroom - and expect worldly-wise adults to buy that proposition. 

There was talk that if he had not resigned that it would have led to impeachment. But if impeaching the state governor requires a two-thirds majority, using the “let he is who is without sin, throw the first stone” test on the state legislature, a situation that “Hustler Magazine” would have relished, such would be the deluge of forced resignations that New York State might have had to resort to emergency elections to get back to achieving a quorum.

It has been said that if this were a crime it was a victimless crime, but absent some arcane law, there was no crime. We are very aware that in many parts of the world, women are forced or tricked into prostitution and it is a prime reason for the evils of people smuggling, but this was an all-American girl seemingly well balanced and in charge of herself. So was there a victim? The hooker in question seems to be thriving and this will give an undoubted boost to her singing future. She can expect to appear perhaps on the David Letterman show, maybe even Oprah, but at any rate, her showbiz career is re-launched. Her impressive fee for intimate services will be dwarfed by the earnings she can expect, now she has unquestionably joined the ranks of the celebs. So if no crime and no victim, then just what is going on? Who in New York State, whose governor this was, experienced genuine outrage, or was even slightly upset - working men and women? business men? other politicians? 

Why should we, as a geopolitical commentator even take note of it? Simply because it is worrying when the most powerful nation in the world behaves in this immature and irrational way. We are mindful of how there was a major attempt to bring down President Bill Clinton, the then champion of the western world, through impeachment for a similar sexual peccadillo, of no real concern or significance to the nation, or the world. 

Yet that proposed tool of impeachment, well supported then (fortunately not quite enough) amongst members of Congress, has not been exercised or even suggested over the current disastrous administration, notorious for lying to both the nation and the world in matters of life and death for very many thousands of the world’s people. In terms of comparative values as between essentially private sexual standards, and international war crimes, it does not reflect well on US notions of true morality. 

The US should if they really feel so concerned about it, make prostitution in every aspect illegal for clients, for hookers, for the pimps. Not likely, unless they want to triple or quadruple the nation’s already large prison population. Currently laws seem directed at pimps which is understandable, but somehow the world’s oldest profession seems to have survived, simply we would suggest, because unless virtual slavery of the people smuggling kind is involved, it is just no big deal. A matter so obviously for personal morality or choice, is not, apart from dealing with any nuisance on the streets, a matter for public concern, particularly hypocritical media concern

One is reminded of the milestone trial of the English novel, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. The core argument for the defence (that prevailed, and changed the future of censorship and publishing), was that it was really not acceptable in a world run by adults, to judge the criterion of what was suitable for all, only by what was seen to be alright for pre-pubescent children. 

Political events in Western Asia:
We walk readers through the current situation in 
IRAN, PAKISTAN & AFGHANISTAN

IF YOU HAVEN’T GOT IT – FORGET IT!
Iranian elections have become labyrinthine in seeking to persuade their citizens that they have electoral power. Perhaps they buy that in the deep countryside, but in the cities? We think not. They do in fact make a selection but it is carefully packaged, not unlike the former Soviet Union where you could vote for the candidate of your choice, so long as his name was on the ballot paper. Of course only approved members of the communist party could ever get on the soviet lists. But party membership was an easy thing to determine - they either were or they were not… paid their dues…card carrying, etc. The IRAN vetting committee applies a test they call “Islamic Authority,” not their own - that is their supposed qualification - but the question they publicly ask is whether each individual candidate for the Majlis has, or is deficient in this ‘Islamic Authority’ (in Mrs Thatcher’s Britain the question similarly was, “is he one of us?” It amounts to the same thing). 

So this bunch of mostly elderly imams, decide subjectively whether a candidate may even become a candidate, and so be exposed on a ballot paper to the actual electors. It can be no surprise that the imams turned down more than half of the potential candidates, many from the Tehran area where the reformers are strong. All those without Islamic authority of course came from the reforming parties. The mostly conservative candidates, many of whom are also clerics, are by definition consequently fully paid up Islamic Authoritative figures. Consequently a lot of citizens in IRAN don’t bother to turn up and vote. It makes the prediction of the election outcome safe for the Islamic authorities and hardly requires people to turn out, but nobody is fooled by this clumsy exclusion. Our IRAN report for April gives details of what actually happened. 

PAKISTAN’S VERSION OF DEMOCRACY 
Mr 10% aka Asif al Zadari, the new hereditary leader of “The Peoples” Pakistan Party (PPP) has now had all of those nasty criminal corruption charges (involving billions of misappropriated dollars) magicked away by the court, so in theory, he could now stand in a by-election and become prime-minister. He may not be able to travel outside of a low orbit from Pakistan, because there are international warrants out for him, but he must be feeling decidedly chipper. It is suggested in our NORTH KOREA Update this issue, that his late wife Benazir might after all have had something to answer for at the celestial gates. It increasingly appears to be the case that it was on her watch as PM of Pakistan that the infamous deal was done, whereby Pyongyang’s rocket know-how was swapped for the nuclear technology of Dr AQ Khan. 

This dismissal of criminal charges came about because Zadari’s late wife fixed it with President Musharraf as a part of a deal, whereby she and the PPP would work together politically with him, which obviously due to her death never happened. Since neither one cared for the other, they both had to bite this bitter pill, but it did look like the best course for Pakistan at that time. With her death however, her rival, another previous prime-minister Nawaz Sharif, re-entered the scene and came in second in parliamentary seats in the recent election. Mr 10% Zadari has now agreed a coalition, (not as Mrs Bhutto had done with Musharraf’s party the Muslim League-Q that came third, but with Musharraf’s most rabid enemy, the party of Nawaz Sharif, the Muslim League-N). Not actually in the parliament because he is barred for his criminal record, (but in Pakistan that hardly matters, as neither is Zadari for the same reason), Nawaz Sharif campaigned and is obsessive about removing Musharraf (who deposed him eight years ago), and seems to assume that the PPP will join him in taking his revenge, by impeaching Musharraf. 

Although they together, plus smaller allies have a majority in the parliament, they still fall well short of the two thirds vote needed for an impeachment, for which they would need the support of other minority parties. The presidents own party PML-Q has around 24% of the vote. There can be no question that there will now be much back-stairs bargaining, both for and against the president, and it might even be that Mr 10% may, if no 66% is available, opt for the president as a friend, rather than an enemy, or anyway might otherwise be seduced (no one would anticipate the alliance between the PPP and Nawaz’s PML- N running smoothly for long). The PPP as the largest party have appointed a parliamentarian ex-speaker of the house, Yousaf Raza Gillani as the next Prime minister. Meanwhile President Musharraf is playing an impeccably straight bat, slightly above the parliamentary fray, hailing “the start of a new era of real democracy” as the new parliament containing so many of his enemies, makes its deals. 

The new coalition government appears to be moving towards negotiating with tribal leaders in the NW Frontier province, and other tribal areas, to seek to stop the spate of militant mass murders – 17 suicide bombs with 274 dead in the first 10 weeks of this year, in Pakistan’s crowded cities. There is nothing on offer, as far as can be seen, that was not similarly available when Musharraf earlier and unsuccessfully tried negotiations, apart from pulling back on the current levels of military pressure upon them, to persuade them to stop sending militant suicidalists to murder fellow Moslems, in the cities on the plain. 

A key part of this new policy seems to be to distance themselves from America – they criticize Musharraf as being seen to be America’s lackey. Interestingly, Nawaz Sharif, one of the political leaders, is suggesting that Pakistan should no longer accept US subventions as this appears to the US to justify its interference, and that certainly has been the image, damaging to Musharraf, conveyed by the US media. They certainly always mention the billions of dollars of military aid, in appearing to regard Pakistan (and to criticise them), as a US satellite, not performing properly, and giving good value. That was always going to cause a reaction amongst Pakistani voters and was perhaps inevitable since the government of George W Bush after 9/11 told Islamabad that “You are either for us or against us” and got the answer they hoped for.


AFGHANISTAN 
President Karzai achieved a success, in his terms, when the UN Special Representative was named as Kai Eide, a low profile diplomat. The success being that it was not the distinctly non-low profile Paddy Ashdown, originally nominated, who withdrew when it became obvious that Karzai, under pressure from his cabal, had changed his mind. There is low morale around the UN mission to AFGHANISTAN with 30% of top positions unfilled and high turnover rates, which clearly renders them less effective in dealing with government and able to monitor developments. Obviously all is not well either with the NATO presence here, with member states divided between those fully engaged militarily, and those who came to reconstruct. We discuss this matter at greater length above in NATO : QUO VADIS. This month’s update additionally looks at Afghan business. Taken all around, this nation and its story is looking pretty grim from whatever angle you examine it. We urge a reappraisal on international involvement here.

BOSNIA’S SPECIAL PLACE IN THE BALKANS 
In the wake of Kosovo’s UDI we look at Bosnia Herzegovina’s unique position in all of this. Although the fulcrum of debate is SERBIA - KOSOVO, on which of course we report, we draw attention to the alarming perils of neglecting next-door BOSNIA, and we quote a comprehensive review of the situation there by the same Paddy Ashdown, formerly the UN’s very effective High Representative there. 

KAZAKSTAN - KYRGYZSTAN 
We alert our readers to the possibilities now emerging that the initial discussion between presidents, which looked like PR, might conceivably harden into a union, unless derailed along the way. They devised a Supreme Council, a supra-national body of the two countries and this will meet with the two presidents again, in April. Kazakstan is one of the largest and the wealthiest nations in Central Asia and Kyrgyzstan, one of the smallest and poorest. 

Experience suggests that a full union would have many hurdles to surmount. We think of other attempts by sovereign states to effectively merge: Egypt –Syria; Egypt- Libya; more recently Russia-Belarus; and it doesn’t look promising. But KAZAKSTAN is ambitious, very ambitious to be recognized at the regional power in Central Asia. Its competitors in economic terms would be UZBEKISTAN and China, whose westernmost province of Sinkiang dominates the Silk-Road approaches to the markets of China proper. But although Turkic originally, the ethnicity has been largely subsumed by the long term – a century or more - Chinese policy of systematically moving ethnic Han Chinese into western provinces, (as in Tibet now), so that one day they numerically become the majority. That means Sinkiang is unlikely to achieve the true ‘leadership’ of Turkic central Asia, that UZBEKISTAN and KAZAKSTAN are vying for. This is a fascinating story that will run and run. We will continue to report and analyse.

IRAQ : FIVE YEARS ON 
The world is appraised of imminent ‘victory’ in IRAQ by the speech of President ‘mission accomplished’ Bush, marking the fifth anniversary of the conflict; (and 4000 US soldiers dead), supported by the middle-eastern tour of Vice- President Dick Cheney. Although victory has never been defined, that is a detail the fork-tongued George W. Bush has little problem with, just as Cheney can talk confidently of this success whilst mortar-bombs are going off and violent deaths are rising once again, after a period of remission. [A book recommendation: “IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY –INSIDE BAGHDAD’S GREEN ZONE” by Rajiv Chandrasekeran.] This administration is of course blown right out of the water, in terms of having no credibility any more. 
This current Update to our IRAQ report looks at how the oil ministry showing initiative, is trying to make progress whilst the legislators are bogged down on the new oil law. It is instructive. 

TIBET AND SOUTH ASIA
Our updated reports on both INDIA and BANGLADESH conclude that their positions on Tibet add nothing to their lustre. INDIA, a neighbour of Tibet in particular, and a great power in almost any terms, also a democracy in a part of the world where that is unusual. INDIA could afford to place a higher priority on principle and use some gentle leverage to seek to persuade its other neighbour China, to ease up on its troubled Himalayan vassal.

Given the courage of the group of Chinese intellectuals who have petitioned Beijing to change course on Tibet, the lack of courage and submerging of principle by INDIA and to lesser extent BANGLADESH, is in stark contrast. [In fact INDIA, late in the day, has cancelled a ministerial meeting and given other diplomatic indications of disapproval].

There are dark rumours (no more than that), that Chinese forces have already massacred a protesting Tibetan crowd, refusing to disperse in a remote eastern town - Tienanmen Square style. We have to hope that this is not so. Also some specialists believe that there will be no more, or minimal violence from the Chinese side in Lhasa, and other centers of disaffection, until after the Games. Then it is feared Beijing will completely shut down on tourism - they already have done so with journalists - and impose a security blanket on their activities, whilst they conduct a serious purge. 

It would seem that since the Dalai Lama has so frequently repeated that he is seeking no more than genuine internal autonomy (Tibet is already described as an autonomous region), not independence, which he acknowledges to be a non-starter, that there are sufficient good reasons, even from China’s point of view, to at least negotiate with him. A part of the problem complicating the process is that many of the active Tibetan protesters are from surrounding Chinese provinces where they are an ethnic fringe, close to the borders with Tibet, cut off, they feel, by arbitrary political lines on the map. They seek reunification with their homeland and one can see that this is altogether a bridge too far for Beijing, perhaps stalling any inclinations they might otherwise have to progress. 

TAIWAN’S ELECTION LOST AND WON! 
We give a run-down of the important elections, which saw the Kuomintang candidate Ma Ying-jeou win a decisive victory. For the first time in eight years Taiwan’s presidency, cabinet and legislative body are all from the same party. This is of course an immensely successful country, even in terms of high-powered South-east Asian neighbours, like Hong Kong and Singapore. Furthermore, they are a genuine democracy, a system which after many years of military government followed by single party rule, they evolved themselves – it was never imposed on them. Our updated report gives the background and the implications of this victory over an opponent who was regarded as a similarly capable leader, had the roles been reversed. 

‘SHANGRI –LA’ HAS HAD ITS ELECTIONS
Shangri La, aka the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, has taken the leap into democracy, moving from an absolute monarchy into a parliamentary system. Was this the result of civil strife, angry students or intractable royals, in the style of next door Nepal? Not at all. It was the young King that insisted on it and all credit to him. The result of the national assembly vote was that of the 47 seats, 44 were won by the charmingly and most appropriately named, Bhutan Harmony Party. Congratulations to the world’s newest parliamentary democracy, all the more commendable as it is a close neighbour of Tibet.
Indeed, since Tibet is now not a good idea for tourism- and may not be for quite a while (see ‘Tibet and South Asia’ above), we can recommend Bhutan as a perfectly good look-alike alternative. See for yourself on www.tours.com.bt 

TURKMENISTAN’S AUDIT OF ENERGY RESERVES 
The new-ish government has agreed to hold this audit since it is a major player in energy terms but nobody including themselves, apparently know just how big their reserves are. Since many prospective deals depend on this – we describe some of them - and this Central Asian’s place in the world, which is also a potential cockpit for energy rivalry between Russia and the USA. But China is in there as well and others, including Turkey, even India, if reserves are established as being sufficient. 

CORRUPTION AGONIES IN SOUTH AFRICA
We report the latest developments in the massive corruption case overhanging Jacob Zuma, suspended from the Vice-presidency of his nation and then triumphantly elected President of the ANC, hitherto a shoe-in to becoming the next South African President. Right now his lawyers are in court seeking grounds to have evidence put aside and to avoid a trial taking place. Newcomers to the story will find it in our archives of monthly reports. 

Jacob Zuma is an archetypal African BIG MAN politician. He is also popular with many rank and file supporters and asserts that he is being hounded as a political plot by his enemies, to deny him the presidency. However the wheels of justice are grinding and the watching world waits to see whether he will avoid standing trial on technical grounds, in which case the message will be that African Big Men remain untouchable, even in SOUTH AFRICA, the most advanced democracy on the continent.

Clive Lindley
Publisher


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