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August 2010 Country Archive


The Nuclear Imbroglio

Readers of our July SOUTH AFRICA report will have seen the evidence of what is being called “Israel's Worst-Kept Secret,” apartheid-era documents researched from South African archives painting a fairly conclusive picture.

A well informed is standing by claims that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to South Africa during the apartheid regime, despite denials by Israel's then-defence minister, now-president Shimon Peres, that the accusation has "no basis in reality". Published in May, Sasha Polakow-Suransky's "The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa", presents first-hand evidence of the nuclear warhead offer from Peres to South Africa's defence minister P. W. Botha in 1975. Botha served as prime minister and was the first executive state president of South Africa from 1984 to 1989. Suranksy, the senior editor of “Foreign Affairs”, combed through more than 7,000 pages of formerly secret documents from the South African government archive after filing the South African equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), a promotion of access to information act. The Israeli government attempted to block release of the documents to Suransky but was unsuccessful. Given their denial later, the fact that they attempted to block publication, hardly strengthens their case.

The substance of Suransky's claim is drawn from the minutes of a top-secret meeting between Peres and Botha on March 31, 1975. Israel has never admitted to possessing nuclear weapons, although it is widely believed to have a substantial arsenal. The uncovered documents provide the earliest supporting evidence that the country has long been nuclear-armed.

The two countries' military technology collaboration is well documented over several decades - "almost until the eve of Mandela's inauguration", according to Suransky. He asserts that co-operation continued despite Israel's public statements denouncing the apartheid regime. In fact, comparisons between South Africa's apartheid government and current Israeli relations with its Palestinian inhabitants have been gaining momentum in recent years and will no doubt be exacerbated by the widely- criticised flotilla incident that occurred on May 31. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter's 2007 book, "Peace: Not Apartheid", sparked the debate comparing the states, and was met with vehement condemnation by the noisy pro-Israel supporters. Suranksy draws this comparison as well, noting similarities in resettlement initiatives, redefined citizenship policies, and the creation of slum conditions. Most relevant, though, is his comment on the future implications of the disproportionate population increase of Palestinians in Israel. Eventually, if growth continues at its current rate, Palestinians will become the majority group in Israel, and Jews the minority. As was the case in apartheid South Africa, the minority will rule the majority. Suransky characterises his comparison between the governments as "inexact", but asserts "there are similarities". "Israeli officials should take this as a warning," he says, "rather than a threat."

…and India, and Pakistan?
Another event involving nuclear armaments held by non-signatories of the Nuclear arms non-proliferation pact was our report in INDIA again in our last months issue, of a nuclear deal between India and Japan. It just drew attention to the fact that India and its northern neighbour PAKISTAN, both have nuclear weaponry and neither are signatories of the non-proliferation pact.

So let’s look at Iran. That nation has no nuclear weapons and is a signatory of the non-proliferation pact. Is it lethally quarrelsome like India and Pakistan undoubtedly have been with each other? No! It was involved in a horrific war with Saddam’s Iraq in which Saddam’s forces attacked the Iranians and used poison gas supplied by the west, but neither side had nuclear, so at least that horror was averted. But otherwise in terms of clandestine nuclear weapons a la Israel, until the loudmouth president Ahmedinejad started asserting his anti-Israeli line, there really has been ‘no case to answer’ for Iran’s previous leaders. But the suspicion is widespread that IRAN is now seeking to produce a nuclear capability themselves. They agree that they are, but maintain that it is civil nuclear power which they seek to generate, as do many nations, and which they are fully entitled to do, under the non-proliferation treaty. Naturally the IAEA are on their case and will undoubtedly do as it is charged, by monitoring the nuclear resource that IRAN is working on to ensure, as best they may, that it is not in breach of the treaty. Of course the intelligence agencies of several interested countries are also engaged, and it is principally Israeli intelligence who paint the bleakest picture. US intelligence after their coruscating errors over IRAQ’s nuclear weaponry, which the subsequent invasion showed to be non-existent, have been much more circumspect about IRAN. No doubt they are now fairly resistant to intelligence product that is less than copper-bottomed, particularly that which emanates as before, from Israeli sources.

The bottom line on this highly focused continuing international scrutiny surely is that IRAN is not going to be able to produce a nuclear armoury without anyone noticing.

The watchdogs are on the case, the trip wires are set.

It will be remembered that when AQ.Khan the Pakistani engineer and ‘father’ of the Pak nuclear bomb was proved, almost certainly with the collusion of the upper tiers of the Pakistani military, to have made commercial nuclear ‘know-how’ and equipment deals with North Korea and Libya, this was generally regarded internationally as the ultimate nuclear sin, as deliberate proliferation probably was and is. Yet for national political reasons AQ Khan was officially pardoned in PAKISTAN and has been kept incommunicado from western interrogation ever since, notwithstanding that he in return for money, spread the nuclear contagion.

So here we have a cast of characters involved in nuclear scandals. North Korea who resigned from the non-proliferation treaty and have demonstrated that they have been able to build a nuclear device, (perhaps thanks to AQ Khan). There is Pakistan who are nuclear-armed and have been party to the spread of the nuclear virus. India also is nuclear armed and these two South Asian countries have been to war with each other five times in the last fifty years. The nuclear status is a fait accompli in all these cases.

It is Iran however without a nuclear weapon that is identified as the greatest threat – but to whom? Its neighbours in the Gulf are Sunni Moslems as distinct from Iranian Shi’ites, but much business is done and there is a lot of traffic in citizens coming and going between these nations. Saudi Arabia is the very ground on which the Prophet lived and taught, and is now characterised by the strict Wahhabi Sunni orthodoxy, the opposite pole in theological Islamic terms from the Iranians. But these nations have co-existed for a very long time. Saudi has the nuclear protection of Pakistan leaving aside the USA, and so Iran, even if they had the capability which they do not, are not going to bring down retribution on themselves by any nuclear attack on Saudi Arabia.

That leaves Israel - the military superpower in the middle-east, not solely because of its efficient armed services but simply because it is already a nuclear weapons state. But it was Israel, not AQ Khan who sought to sell nuclear know-how to the South Africans, (unless you choose to believe the unsupported denial). It is hardly credible that the CIA, MI6, etc did not know about this, since it was documented in the South African State archives – and it was and is their business to know about such matters.

At the time of the Shah, Israel and Iran were on good terms but this dwindled away when the mullahs came to power. They are not geographical neighbours but they clearly now are passionately, mutually antagonistic. Israel humiliated its Arab enemies in past wars and Iran, although not an Arab state and not Sunni, but the definitive Shia state, nevertheless took the humiliation as a slight on Islam.

But this does not imply that Iran with a responsibility to keep its seventy million citizens alive and its fragile economy running, would seek to bomb or rocket Israel with a nuclear weapon, knowing that Israel has an armoury of these weapons, let alone the US nuclear response to any such attack. It is open knowledge that Israeli hawks would like to do to Iran what their predecessors did to Iraq, by bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981 and thus cancelling out the Iraqi nuclear effort. Of course the Iranians with such foreknowledge have dispersed their nuclear-related plants around the country, to avoid that very outcome, which is not to say that the IAF would not chance its arm, if given the go-ahead. However since IRAN has belatedly agreed to new talks without conditions, there are still strong hopes for a peaceful settlement.

It is Israel’s paranoia that is driving this issue. Israel unfortunately for the world has a small preponderance of right-wing nationalists of the Likud type and some ‘religious’ even more unrealistically extreme. There are many, perhaps approaching half of Israeli citizens, who are opposed to Likud-type policies who have in the past been able to form governments, and hopefully will again. But whatever the twists and turns of Israeli politics, it is absolutely clear that there must be no more illegal wars on a false prospectus, like that in Iraq. No nation state has any such right when the United Nations exists, which alone could legitimise any war, in this case not of justifiable self-defence, pre-emptive or otherwise, but in truth, about the regional balance of power.

Our current AUGUST issue has relevant reports on SAUDI ARABIA, SYRIA, TURKEY, IRAN. We also in our blog: offer our Newnations Prescription on Iran.

North Korea: back from the brink
There can be no doubt that the imminent danger of war has passed since the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan a month ago. NORTH KOREA has adamantly refuted the charges of torpedoing the vessel with the loss of 46 naval personnel. Yet a more or less independent naval enquiry bolstered by foreign experts concluded that it was a North Korean torpedo that was responsible. Our NORTH KOREA report summarises the situation. Amongst other conclusions, it seems that the South Korean president Lee Myung-Buk is the loser since he cannot strike back militarily, indeed his options are extremely limited which leaves him looking inept, particularly given the pressure from the families and friends of the 46 dead sailors and South Korea’s media.

Libya : BP and al-Megrahi
Our LIBYA report this month looks again at our reports of 2009 when we analysed the reasons why the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing was returned apparently with terminal cancer, to his homeland. It is key to this understanding that until May 2009 his long awaited appeal was imminent but the application for his return to Libya on medical grounds was granted when he withdrew his appeal. We could not see then or now how the conclusion could be avoided that the hearing of that Appeal had a very good chance of his original trial being over-ruled by the Appeal Judges, resulting at least in his discharge, and potentially the award of compensation.

Consider the implications: If he had been found wrongfully convicted it would imply at least that others who were guilty, had got away with the crime and that the law agencies had failed to find the guilty parties - with no reason to suppose in those circumstances that LIBYA was behind the outrage. LIBYA had already paid 1.7 billion dollars to families of the victims, in compensation. What would then be the status of that large amount of money? Would Libya demand it back? Would al-Megrahi be compensated for wrongful imprisonment?

It was believed by some professional observers of the scene that the evidence on which al Megrahi was convicted was flawed, and that the Appeal judges would inevitably overturn the original verdict. For all the embarrassment now being sustained by ministers possibly involved, it would be as nothing compared with the kind of flak they would receive if the above appeals scenario had come about. The US Congressional enquiry may not have been asking the right questions, but politically for them as politicians, the temptation of tying in BP was too powerful for them to resist.

“Greater Russia”
The slav ‘near abroad’ is quietly all coming together again

In July it was announced that "Russia joins Belarus and Kazakhstan in a trade pact"

We have been reporting RUSSIA from before the break-up of the USSR in 1991 and we observed back then that Russia's foreign service in Yeltsin’s time, had as their number one policy objective, to form out of the ruins of the USSR, a slav Greater Russia (discarding all the problematical Moslem states). To join up the slav states plus KAZAKHSTAN (as a non-problematic Moslem state with a decent proportion of Russians and of course their immense mineral wealth). This trade deal with Belarus and Kazakhstan sees them well on their way, following the electoral success of their man, Yanukovich in Ukraine, followed by rapidly negotiated treaties. Now this trade pact with Belarus and Kazakhstan takes Moscow on towards the consolidation of their original objective.

They don’t NEED either military or political union these days. If all important decisions on trade and economics are shared by the insiders of their tight group of likeminded former Soviet apparatchiks, then they have everything they need. Also Russia will surely politically make its presence felt when there are leadership succession issues in these states.
We have long suspected that the ‘surprise’ leadership succession in TURKMENISTAN was so smooth as to be orchestrated from abroad, most probably Moscow, and the fact that the new man, Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov leaves his country regularly to visit other countries, when his predecessor his Uncle (possibly father), would never go abroad for fear of coups, indicates that the new man is quite secure.

Russia and Ukraine
Since pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovich was elected Ukrainian president, journalists, local and foreign non-governmental organizations, and independent television channels have come under pressure from the security services. The broadcasting license was withdrawn from the 5 Kanal television station. Valery Khoroshkovsky, a media magnate and head of Ukraine’s security services, or SBU, is poised to take over the frequencies, a move that will increase even further the growing powers of the security services over the dissemination of news. Mr. Yanukovich himself has proposed reintroducing official guidelines for journalists. Meanwhile, relations between UKRAINE and the Russian leadership have greatly improved. President Medvedev agreed last April to supply Ukraine with cheaper gas in return for Russia keeping its Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea until 2042. Ukraine and Russia later signed an agreement restoring the right of Russia’s counter-intelligence services to operate on the base of the Black Sea Fleet, giving them an official foothold in Ukraine. Russia’s policy toward Ukraine is about re-establishing its hegemony in the region so as to become stronger vis-à-vis the West. The Kremlin has resented Ukraine’s independence ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and they are proving successful in their steps to return to that earlier existence. We are of course witnessing democracy ‘going south’.

Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan
Russia has also been attempting to spread its influence elsewhere. The presidents of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan launched on July 5th the annual summit of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurasecEC) in Astana, the Kazakh capital. The summit led to one concrete achievement - a trade pact between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the same three countries that with Ukraine agreed to dissolve the USSR in December 1991.

KYRGYZSTAN is still reeling from June’s ethnic civil war that led to a mass exodus of Uzbeks to Uzbekistan. Roza Otunbayeva, Kyrgyzstan's president, has agreed to an independent, international inquiry into the explosion of violence between ethnic Uzbeks and ethnic Kyrgyz that claimed up to 2,000 lives and led to hundreds of thousands fleeing into the Uzbek areas of the Ferghana Valley.  

Kimmo Kiljunen, OSCE Special Representative, will announce the details of the inquiry, which he will chair in the capital, Bishkek. He said he hoped to get the support of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, by the time of the announcement of the inquiry. Until now, the Kyrgyz government has resisted an international inquiry. It could confirm that local police, who are mostly ethnically Kyrgyz, sided with rioters against ethnic Uzbeks during the violence, which began on June 9 in the southern city of Osh. The Kyrgyz government has also agreed to allow a 52-member OSCE police force to advise and monitor local police in Osh and Jalalabad, where the worst of the violence took place. This was after overcoming resistance to the move from within its national police force and interior ministry.  

The UNHCR estimates that up to 75,000 refugees in southern Kyrgyzstan are still homeless or in need of shelter. Uprooted by the violence, these people are either too afraid to return home or are living near to their houses, which have been destroyed. Aid workers are still very concerned about the situation in Kyrgyzstan, especially because many refugees have lost documents like birth and marriage certificates and passports. This means they have no documentation to prove ownership of their land and are also at risk of detention by the authorities, who have set up check points on the roads.

With continuing reports about people being detained, many ethnic Uzbeks are reluctant to make unnecessary journeys. Sometimes the men have returned home to claim rights to their property, leaving women and children behind in the tented camps or with relatives. Human Rights Watch has said that the Kyrgyz and Uzbek governments should open border crossings between the countries, to allow any ethnic Uzbeks who wish to seek asylum in Uzbekistan to leave southern Kyrgyzstan. Persuaded back to Kyrgyzstan after the violence in order to take part in June’s constitutional referendum, many Uzbeks now again feel unsafe in the region, because of the many reports of intimidation, arrests and beatings by law enforcement officials.  

It would seem that the Uzbek government’s handling of the mid-June refugee crisis, in which roughly 100,000 ethnic Uzbeks from Kyrgyzstan fled to UZBEKISTAN has given President Karimov’s administration a significant boost. Foreign observers in Tashkent have praised the Uzbek government’s response to the humanitarian crisis and its restrained political stance which has kept the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan from spreading. A functioning chain of command, involving national and local government officials, helped coordinate the handling of the refugee surge and foreign visitors were surprised at the quality of service for refugees at the border.

From the start of the crisis, the Uzbek government seemed aware that violence could spin out of control and spread across the border. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on June 12 saying the violence against ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan was perpetrated by those seeking to provoke confrontation. It did not stem from ancient ethnic hatreds, the statement stressed.  

In neighbouring TURKMENISTAN happiness, rather than fear, stalks the land. According to the Gallup World Poll, Turkmenistan joined the world's top twenty happiest countries, leaving behind the CIS countries, as well as Germany, France and Japan. Turkmenistan has taken the 18th place, next to Great Britain, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates.  

Researchers of the Gallup surveyed thousands of respondents in 155 countries, between 2005 and 2009. They asked subjects to reflect on their overall satisfaction with their lives, and asked questions about how each subject had felt the previous day. Other than this, respondents were asked to rate if they felt well-rested, respected, free of pain and intellectually engaged. According to Forbes, 52 percent of respondents surveyed in Turkmenistan admitted that they were totally happy, and only 1% of respondents said that they suffered. It would be interesting to know the principle of choosing the ‘representative sample’ and whether it was vetted by the Turkmen authorities first.

’Greater Russia’ – of the near abroad, is quietly all coming together again. We shall return to this theme as further evidence emerges.

Kosovo “Free At Last “
Legitimised by International Court of Justice

Kosovo had originally been incorporated into Serbia in 1913 following the near-final collapse of the Ottoman Empire’s European dominions. Nobody asked the Kosovars of course. It was bundled up after WW1 with other ill-fitting components into the ill-starred kingdom of Yugoslavia which collapsed under German occupation in WWII, to be succeeded by the Communist state of Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito. Kosovo’s breakaway has been the final stage in the dissolution of that Yugoslavia that began at the end of the Cold War when Slovenia, then Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and eventually Montenegro became independent states, leaving Serbia alone. The first breakaway from federal (for which read Serbian) control was SLOVENIA bordering on Italy and Austria. There was minimal fighting and then the Federal army withdrew, marshalling its resources for the next two breakaways In the cases of CROATIA and BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA, independence led to bitter warfare, fuelled by religious and ethnic divisions, which in the case of Bosnia Herzegovina are still not fully resolved, because the Serb minority in Bosnia set up their own so-called republic. This months SERBIA report gives more detail.

The majority of Kosovo’s population is ethnically Albanian, nominally Moslem but a significant minority is Serbian. One of Serbia’s most historic, culturally defining sites, Kosovo Polje (Kosovo Field), the site of a famous military defeat of the Serbs by the Ottoman Turks nearly 700 years ago, is located inside Kosovo. The Serbs like the Brits (Dunkirk) are inclined to venerate their defeats.

International law specialists noted that, although the ICJ decided Kosovo’s declaration was legal, the court had actually avoided ruling that Kosovo’s (legal) declaration of independence also meant Kosovo, as a state, was a legitimate internationally recognised nation. This is easily explained as lawyer talk and that key recognition pragmatically, will be a matter for who recognise Kosovo as a state. 69 nations so far have done so, but Serbia, the one that matters, vows that it never will.

Wider international opinion is divided. The U.S. and most of the EU supported it, with the notable exception of Spain, which has battled its own separatist groups. Russia and China, which are also confronted with secessionist movements in places such as Chechnya and Tibet, opposed Kosovo's independence too. Unsurprisingly, Kosovo’s small Serbian minority is fiercely opposed to an independent Kosovo.

Although in theory the floodgates for ‘Declarations of Independence’ are now open, and we will surely be returning to this topic, the most relevant consideration is the Serbian enclave in Bosnia- Herzegovina, Republika Srbska, physically next door to Kosovo and itself threatening to declare independence. Now that would ‘upset a few applecarts’.

Afghanistan: the times, they are a-changing
There is a definite feel in the air, that times are changing. Every action President Karzai takes seems to be aimed at bolstering his position after the western forces withdraw. Whatever we think of him in general terms, one has to give him credit for some smart moves in reshuffling his ministerial appointments. He has to contend with keeping some sort of balance between his own supporters –mostly Pashtun like himself, with the Tajiks, who dominate the officer corps of his army, and were key players in the Northern Alliance that threw out the Taliban. His skilful re-arrangements are discussed in this month’s AFGHANISTAN and although the Hazara and Uzbek elements in his hierarchy are not yet rewarded, he has shown sufficient political ‘nous that we should expect that their interests will be recognised in due course. The sentiments for withdrawal are very powerful now, given that western public opinion seems no longer to believe that the war is winnable, or that propping up this government is worth the present sacrifice in blood and treasure. So already some NATO members are preparing their withdrawal based on the calendar rather than any political or military event. They have another problem with their troops remaining in country. It was once a viable theory that AFGHANISTAN, the central home of Al Qaeda had to be neutralised against future use as the base of international terrorism. Yet whilst that was once widely accepted, it has become clear over the years of the Afghan struggle that terrorism has been franchised out by means of revolutionary preachers and the internet. It means that acts of terror now have no geographical centre, no gorgon’s head that can be struck off the terrorist body, but must be opposed country by country via intelligence and security police work, with little if any current relevance to the Central Asian state of AFGHANISTAN.  

The US is excluded from this assessment of imminent withdrawal although the calendar is looming with them also, and the UK is somewhere in between. The US military clearly does not wish to withdraw as they did so ignominiously from Vietnam, 35 years ago. Then they were militarily defeated. Now in AFGHANISTAN that is not the case, but they are not winning either. Not only that, but the US government has an immense investment in prestige and must seek an honorable exit, not easy to do with such as their Afghan allies.

It is also realistic to now accept that the massive efforts to stamp out the drugs trade, given that AFGHANISTAN is the worlds leading exporter of opiates, has failed. Sadly the other objective of the allied presence, to help to create a democratic state there has to be acknowledged as a failure.

Just how rotten is the state of PAKISTAN?
Reading our monthly PAKISTAN report goes a long way towards answering that question. If one were to accept a challenge to design a structurally non-functional state, albeit having enjoyed more than a half century of existence, than a quick description of this nation would probably suffice.

The President is a convicted criminal whose bad behaviour was at least temporarily overlooked because he was married to an admired leading woman politician. She, by national acclaim, was about to have been elected, when she was assassinated whilst out electioneering. In the wake of that horror her ‘nogoodnik’ husband got the job. Since then his political opponents led by another powerful politician have engaged the lawcourts who unsurprisingly have upheld their earlier decisions, temporarily shelved, to unseat him. But he is still there in post. Democracy is a frail bloom in this country, but it does exist.

There is an elected parliament and the leader of the opposition is himself a man with a record of embezzlement whilst holding the office of prime minister. Undeterred, he seeks to get back into office and if the president falls, that is a likely outcome. Unfortunately he is apparently seeking to take PAKISTAN into an extreme islamic mode by amending the constitution to replace the existing criminal law with Shariah law, and all the excesses of amputations, stonings, et al. Economically the state has become a pensioner of the IMF with liberal subventions from the USA. The reason for that is that PAKISTAN has an almost unmanageable chunk of mountainous territory adjoining AFGHANISTAN where effectively self-governing tribes hold sway from where they can launch terrorist attacks, mostly it seems, on Pakistani citizens

Leaving aside the civil picture, the nation is nuclear-armed and has an effective military, which is in many ways more powerful than the elected government. Regrettably the nation has a half-century old quarrel with their also nuclear-armed neighbour INDIA, which flares up from time to time.  

The most promising period in their recent history was when an honest and effective ruler, General Musharraf, the Head of the Armed Services took control, and for several years stability seemed to be the general outcome. However the politicians who are led by great traditional landowners thus excluded from power, managed with help from the courts to so order affairs that they took back control, balanced only by the legal system and the political-leaning Chief justice The current situation is described in this month’s PAKISTAN.  

IRAN is either bluffing or telling the truth regarding its nuclear intentions, or perhaps it is still making up its mind. This ancient nation is a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation pact. It insists that it is only seeking to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, as under that pact it is fully entitled to do.  

That has not been shown to be untrue.

Iran is one of the world’s oldest and proudest nations. In addition it has the world’s largest concentration of Shi’ite Moslems and for this reason is feared by it’s Sunni neighbours, like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, where Shi’ite citizens are secondary to the majority Sunni.  

To make matters more complicated Iran is a theocracy where belief must conform to what is the official religious line. If there is any contradiction, established facts are outweighed by religious teachings from the senior approved priests. So belief trumps rationality – very dangerous for everyone else - when such a government owns nuclear weapons and could make irrational decisions to use them.

From Iran’s perspective they are surrounded by enemies because of these religious differences, and they have no formal national allies of any substance. They have identified Israel as their enemy because it is militarily the regional superpower, and they see it as an American client state and the enemy of the Moslems of all persuasions. In the time of the Shah, Iran set out to be the regional superpower but were undone, partly by the upheavals of overthrowing their tyrant, and then by nationalising the western oil companies who ran their oil industry. Thus, they made enemies of the western nations as well, particularly their intelligence agencies that had tried unsuccessfully to overthrow them. Then came the terrible war against their neighbour Iraq which both countries fought for years, to an eventual, mutually exhausted standstill.

All of these are elements in the current situation. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein at the hands of the US has seen neighbouring Iraq’s majority Shi’ite population come out on top in the new political power game. The Sunni who are a large minority in Iraq have been unable to prevail against the Iraqi Shi’ites and inevitably are facing a subsidiary role, so the government of Iraq and its leaders are in some respects subordinate, and certainly individually well connected to neighbouring Iran, (this months IRAN tells of sanction-busting by Iraq’s regional government, unchecked by Baghdad).  

This is the incendiary mix within which IRAN is seeking to become a nuclear state – harmless and legitimate if it is a peaceful nuclear power; absolutely unacceptable if it seeks a nuclear weapon.

Israel and their hawkish friends in the US, not necessarily in government, would like to bomb Iran’s nuclear installations without further evidence being necessary. Iran has not yet demonstrated by its actions either that it is, or is not seeking a military nuclear capacity (at this stage of development either is a possibility), so the violent military pre-emption that Israel and its publicity cohorts want, could certainly not be justified. It would clearly be illegal, just as the invasion of Iraq was illegal. After all, since in 2003, the world was ‘conned’ by the US and British governments using their intelligence ‘experts’ to misinform about Iraq’s WMD capabilities, there is consequently little trust about speculative intelligence reports that fall short of convincing evidence, in what, after all, is not a dissimilar situation.

It should be remembered that in 2002/3 the IAEA did not and would not report that Iraq had a nuclear capability, despite all kinds of pressure by the Bush government, and as a consequence, the UN would not legitimise the illegal IRAQ invasion which from then on had the status of an illicit military adventure. Therefore the IAEA which after all is charged by the UN with the purpose of monitoring Iran, should be trustworthy on this distinction between the military and peaceful use of nuclear energy, and in reporting back to the UN’s member states.

The parallel with 2003 is that Israel is ready to bomb Iran’s supposed nuclear development sites, purely as a pre-emptive measure. The US is clearly anxious that this should not happen – the implications are horrendous, as IRAN would certainly strike back, not just at Israel, which is well defended, but at the US and its many interests in the region. Iraq’s Shi’ites would be enraged and their politicians would be hard put to it to restrain them. The waters of the Persian Gulf would become a war-zone with oil exports worldwide under threat. Saudi Arabia would go onto a war footing and at the end of the day, reflective people would conclude this was all down to the Israelis who themselves ignore UN resolutions, also have nuclear weapons which the US pretends not to see, and abuse their special relationship with the US in defying much of the rest of the world.

We believe the world demands that there must be no more illegal wars at the behest of any nation state or politician, as the awful experience of IRAQ must surely have demonstrated. The tripwire requiring military or other intrusive action in IRAN should first depend on the monitoring by the IAEA, and then - worst case, the UN should be asked to take the necessary action, through whatever countries would be prepared to collaborate in dealing with this militarily, or otherwise.  

[This section is posted on our geoplemics blog in newnations : Prescriptions for Iran.]

“ The Theft of Decency “
The main purpose of our existence as Newnations is to promote democracy, largely by telling the continuing story of those countries that don’t yet have it, which includes both those that are trying but fall short, as well as those at the other extreme which are fairly disgusting, the plaything of an individual, a clique, a family or a class. The PHILIPPINES are a good example of a ‘pretend democracy’ which in election after election promises change, but has failed to deliver.

There has now been an election. In place there are a reforming president and V-P of whom great things are expected, largely because the rule of the previous president an American-educated woman member of a ‘big’ powerholding family, failed to address the burning issues of systemic corruption, casual murder, police brutality, electoral fraud, a gagged press and worse. She too started out promising widespread reform and we have been reporting disappointedly on her time in office for some years past. Our issue this month takes the fitting caption of this paragraph as the starting point in addressing the Philippines in its new, hopefully progressive manifestation.

Taiwan: The deal is done!
China watchers will know what is the deal referred to above. The much talked about Economic Framework Cooperation Agreement (ECFA) between Taiwan and China is now a fait accompli. The agreement was signed June 29 during the fifth round of cross-straits negotiations held in Chongqing, China between Taiwan’s semi-official Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS).

Only following signing were the contents of the ECFA revealed and Taiwan’s KMT-dominated legislature will only be able to accept or reject the agreement in toto. The government has ruled out any opportunity to review individual clauses.

The status of the accord has already come into question as in law, it is an agreement signed between two private organizations. Critics have pointed out that this may cause some problems if the agreement is lodged with the World Trade Organization (WTO) (which Taiwan has said it would do) and could be used by China to further erode Taiwan’s status by claiming it to be a domestic agreement rather than an FTA, but this has been brushed aside by supporters as a mere technicality. The agreement does provide for establishment of a cross-straits economic commission to be responsible for follow-up negotiations and overall supervision of the agreement and this may go some way towards mitigating concern over this aspect. A fuller account is in our TAIWAN report of this month.

The Wheels of Justice grind exceeding slow….
Between 1975 and 1979, the small, almost unknown South East Asian country of Cambodia underwent an extended nightmare, the like of which few nations have ever known. It was their misfortune that political extremists called Khmer Rouge, who had swallowed the whole testament of Maoist communism, took power and sought to change the world, starting with their own nation. This included the destruction of the middle class by any means to hand, not just the professionals: the lawyers, accountants, politicians, business people, journalists, intellectuals, but basically most of the people who lived in the towns, since this was to be an agrarian economy for those people who worked with their hands. An estimated 1.3 million people died, approximately one third of the population. It was a period comparable to the worst of the red revolution in Ukraine, or to France in the worst phase of its 18th century revolution, comparable except in the scale of revolutionary murder, and that ‘enemies of the state’ included babes in arms, indeed children of all ages in the towns that the system’s bloodhounds could find.  

In Pnomh Penh the capital, there was a converted school known as S21 where people including small children were sent not be confined for onwards transmission, but to be murdered with many tortured to death. In their communist way they kept meticulous records including photographs of the inmates. No-one who saw such pictures could ever forget them.  

S21 the death camp is now a museum which testifies to the depths to which the human race can sink. Apart from recognising how low human behaviour can go, the other moral we draw from this story is to beware the awful danger of fanatics seized by an absurd political theory, just an idea, prepared to kill and kill as a means to achieve it.  

The former commandant of S21, Duch by name has just been sentenced to 35 years by a UN tribunal which with time already served will mean he serves a further 19 years. He is an old man and is unlikely to ever be free. The infamous Pol Pot, the inspiration of Khmer Rouge died peacefully in 1998. Duch was a functionary as a camp commandant. Four leaders of the Khmer Rouge are still awaiting trial nearly thirty years after they lost power.

Turkey still smarting after Israeli attack
After the Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid ship in May, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “nothing would ever be the same again.” Weeks later, his ominous prediction appears to be coming true. The entire region, as well as the United States, is now anxious to see how Israel will respond to a statement by Turkey’s foreign minister that the country would sever ties unless Israel issues a formal apology. Turkey, angry over the deaths of eight Turks and one Turkish-American, has reacted strongly to the flotilla incident. Since recalling its ambassador from Jerusalem, Ankara has banned Israeli military planes from its airspace, halted military exercises between the two countries and ended a 20-year agreement to supply Israel with water. The current state of Turkish-Israeli relations is now a far cry from the mid-1990s when Turkey’s military turned to Israel for help in improving its forces, leading to more than $1 billion in known deals.

There is no doubting the strength of Turkish feeling over the deaths (see TURKEY). It was an unnecessary breakdown in relations between former good neighbours. Perhaps the arrogance with which Israel’s ministers determined to lethally punish these unarmed Turkish demonstrators, has to do with the assured US military umbrella that stretches over this small country. It will not come as a surprise that the Israeli military investigation into the affair found that the killings were justified, even though they more closely resembled executions. Surely Israel’s highly regarded secret service must have known that the demonstrators were unarmed? It will be recalled that amongst the demonstrators the ship was carrying, was an Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset, Haneen Zoabi. She was even branded as a traitor amidst stiff heckling in the Knesset, when she warned that “Israel was playing with fire” and facing a third intifada, if it continues to push its 1.2 million Arab citizens “into a corner.” The fact is that Israel is not succeeding in these escalating confrontations which has much to do with the quality of the politicians whom Israelis elect to power. Currently a poor lot, as analysis of these events make clear.

Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia
After the setback of Kosovo, better news for Serbia is that its application to join the EU is making progress, although it is unlikely to join the EU until at least 2015. Serbia's co-operation with the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague has been rewarded in recent months.

In December last year the EU unfroze an interim trade deal, which had been blocked for 18 months. Citizens of Serbia and two other former Yugoslav republics - Macedonia and Montenegro - now enjoy visa-free travel through the Schengen area, which includes most of the EU. Serbia also signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU in April 2008, but only in June did EU foreign ministers agreed to put it into effect.  

Reconciliation moves between Serbia and Croatia continue. Serbian President Boris Tadic has hailed a visit by his Croatian counterpart, Ivo Josipovic, to Belgrade. After their talks, Mr Tadic said Serbia wished for the best possible relations with its neighbour and former enemy. Mr Josipovic said both countries shared the goal of peace and stability and were finding ways to address the past. Both leaders stressed co-operation and dialogue and pledged to find solutions to outstanding issues such as the return of refugees. They also voiced support for an out-of-court settlement of the genocide charges relating to the war that both governments had previously filed against each other at the International Court of Justice. Their common goal is to join the EU which Brussels says will only be achieved through better regional cooperation.
Improving Croatian-Serbian relations is crucial for the stability of the Balkans and is an example to neighbouring Bosnia, where segregation between the different ethnic groups still runs deep since its own war of independence in the 1990s.

Croatia is billed to be first of eight countries lining up to join the EU in perhaps 2011. The EU is urging Croatia to reform its judiciary, root out corruption, make more progress on minority rights and to continue co-operating with the war crimes tribunal. Organised crime remains a major concern.  

Bosnia’s accession to the EU is a slower affair and is not expected until 2015 at the earliest. It signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU in June 2008. The EU was satisfied with progress in four key areas - police reform, co-operation with the international war crimes tribunal, public broadcasting and public administration reform. But the European Commission has not yet recommended visa-free travel to the EU because, like Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina does not yet fulfil the border security conditions. Bosnia's ethnic quarrels remain a worry, along with corruption and organised crime. The Commission says Bosnia is still plagued by an "unstable political climate" and ethnic divisions.

Kazakh’s presidential family
Fear of the future may drive autocrats in more questionable directions. KAZAKHSTAN’s parliament, of whom all elected members belong to the Presidents party, has voted its president "Leader of the nation," granting him lifelong immunity from any prosecution, just weeks before it is due to host a major international conference on democracy and human rights, as the chair since January of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The bill grants Nursultan Nazarbayev the title for life, and protects him, his family, and their property, from civil or criminal prosecution. It has also fuelled speculation that Mr Nazarbayev, who turns 70 this year, may be preparing to step down when his present term ends in 2012. Mr Nazarbayev has yet to anoint a successor, although speculation has focused on Dariga Nazarbayeva, the eldest and most political of his three daughters, and Timur Askarovich Kulibayev, husband of his middle daughter Dinara. All of them seem to be immune to prosecution by belonging to the presidential family.

Azerbaijan, Armenia
There is no doubt that the biggest geopolitical problems of ARMENIA are the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and normalization of Armenian–Azeri and Armenian-Turkish relations. They are indispensable for Armenia’s security and sustainable development, opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian said in mid-July. He is a former Armenian president and head of state. In a warning seemingly addressed to the Armenian authorities, Armenia’s first president said that the status quo in the conflict carries the growing risk of renewed war with AZERBAIJAN. He also accused them of underestimating Russia’s role in the region and moving dangerously close to the West. “Without settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Turkish-Armenian relations Armenia has no prospect of security, economic development and an improved demographic situation, regardless of who will be in power,” Ter-Petrosian declared in a speech in mid-July. He warned that “blindly seeking to preserve the status quo” only increases the likelihood of another Armenian-Azerbaijani war. “This situation can not last endlessly,” he said. “In case of the failure of diplomacy or the dragging out of the settlement process, it could get out of control, leading to new bloodshed.” The authorities say they have been doing their best to make peace with both Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Clive Lindley

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