January 2010 Country Archive
OVERVIEW JANUARY '10
The Nightmare that is Afghanistan
A few weeks after Obama made his dispositions on his foreign war, we review in
our 96th monthly report on Afghanistan, quite how dreadful the situation there
is. We really strongly recommend readers to read this objective report, which
exposes the truth about President Karzai, just how bad corruption actually is
and how he governs the country.
After eight years of US and Allied tutelage, the acknowledged corruption
monitors, Transparency International, finds them second to worst in the world,
in corruption terms, only just behind Somalia, a state which has no government!
They rank 138th out of 150 in our own World Audit Democracy rankings, which as
well as corruption, takes into account: human rights, political rights and
freedom of the media. Consider the implications of that!
This nation is still the worlds leading supplier of heroin and other opiates,
their only export. There is no penalty for trafficking, so long as you have the
right connections with the government!
A bill introduced ‘under the congressional radar’, providing $1.3 bn to
reintegrate surrendering Taliban, will almost certainly be used, as in the
recent past, to pay off Taliban leaders who give up hostilities. Objectively,
this is as likely to succeed as any other measure available to the allies, even
if in so doing Afghanistan is reduced to a ‘beggar country.’
Our recent Special Report on the
Afghan National Army on which so much depends, has we believe
punctured that myth, at least in any short-term time frame.
If as many expect, when the western troops finally pull out, then Karzai would
last at the top for about ten minutes. It might well be by that time, that a
military leader might be strong enough to be able to take over, but with the
explosive tribal mix that might also mean a different type of civil war.
Not a good year for the middle- east Peace Process
report looks at the Israel-Palestine peace process and concludes that President
Obama has so far changed little in the middle- east Dynamic – the peace process
is as dead as ever! Unsurprising then that the US has not weaned
from its alliance with
IRAN, although US ties with
Here then is a project for 2010, since the US government has been unable to make
any progress with peacemaking and the formation of a Palestinian state. It would
be to pressure Israel to resume the Golan Heights negotiations, which
Natanyahu’s predecessor as Israel’s PM had been conducting with Damascus
Until Netanyahu put his coalition together, Turkey had been hosting these
negotiations between Israel and Syria, which had been making progress. The key
issue is that Syria seeks the return of the Golan Heights, Syrian territory
which had been captured by Israel during the war in late 1967.
The Israeli Prime minister Netanyahu, once elected in 2009 immediately
suppressed these talks. He sees no reason to return captured territory – a
doctrine which if followed in Europe would have seen Russia refusing to give up
East Germany or any part of Central and Eastern Europe, militarily conquered by
them, or the USA refusing to allow Japan to ever again become independent after
Of course his approach is about Israel blocking any policy that creates a
Palestinan State out of the Israeli occupied territories- a status quo of more
than half a century. But Syria, unlike occupied Palestine is already a nation
state. It has the capacity to facilitate peacemaking in Palestine and to play a
positive role in the region. Justice demands that territorial war booty of so
long ago should be returned, and by all means be demilitarised if Israel is
concerned about that.
What to do about IRAN-A fresh Approach?
progressing steadily towards nuclear ownership which they calculate will make
them proof against invasion, (but who was going to invade them anyway?) They see
themselves competing with nuclear Israel as the regional power, who of course
also have the guarantee of US support. As signatories of the nuclear
IRAN has an unquestioned right to create a civil nuclear industry. They
accept oversight from the IAEA and will be obliged to continue to do so. If
however they bar the IAEA’s inspection rights then they are in breach of the
treaty. The conventional response is to put in place painful sanctions but the
only one realistically likely to work is to ban their oil and gas exports, and
that is unlikely to gain sufficient support to be effective. Japan obtains a
substantial part of its requirements and is contracted to take a large part of
Anyway deducting Iran’s oil from the world supply would enormously increase
world prices, it would be a self- inflicted blow to world economic recovery .
It can be seen that sanctions that only affect certain bystander countries
and not others, are unsustainable. Other sanctions might be uncomfortable for
Iran, but not painful enough to be effective.
Israel’s alternative proposal to bomb
IRAN’s capacity to
make nuclear weapons, however would guarantee a new middle eastern war, which
would conceivably close the Persian Gulf, with enormous impacts on exports of
Saudi, Kuwaiti and Iraqi oil exports, let alone those of Iran.
Neither Iran nor anybody else, would believe that Israel had done such a thing
without the US sanctioning it, and so would regard US targets as ‘fair game’ and
much more available. Also since Israel itself has the status of a covert nuclear
power (authorised only by its allies), there can hardly be a moral nuclear
argument that distinguishes between them and Iran. An IAF ‘surgical strike’
aimed at Iran’s nuclear capacity, which logically will by now be well dispersed
around that large country, is highly unlikely to do more than delay a useable
nuclear weapon, but with at that time much more angry reason to seek to use it.
A military invasion of Iran is unfeasible. Quite apart from there being a total
lack of international support for it, any study of the
war shows the astonishing degree of self-sacrifice that Tehran would demand of
its Shi-ite citizen-soldiers. Also the Gulf would be closed to shipping at
Hormuz by the Republican Guard with incalculable losses to the oil exports of
Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait and the shortage of supply would drive world
prices up again, to some dizzy and inflationary level.
It can be seen that one avenue after another is blocked off by political or
military unfeasibility. So what remains?
We are coming to the view that the emphasis should move towards “No First Use,”
a doctrine to which ALL the nuclear armed nations should subscribe, (and watch
them wriggle, confronted with that proposition).
Consider, who would IRAN threaten with a newly acquired weapon -
Israel? Not unless they were committing national suicide. Israel has a large
nuclear force and the best airforce in the region, capable, were it to be
employed, of the effective destruction of Iran’s economy, whose one or two basic
weapons not yet available, but eventually possibly there for attacking Israel,
would be completely outclassed.
The Sunni nations that surround them?
Pakistan: has the nuclear arms and airforce to destroy Iran in a nuclear war.
Saudi Arabia: There is little doubt that Sunni Pakistan would threaten nuclear
reprisals, if Sunni Saudi Arabia, financial patrons of Pakistan were threatened
by Shia Iran.
This is what we would propose: Iran is entitled to continue with its civil
nuclear program, subject to continuing supervision and positive reports by the
If Iran expels the IAEA or otherwise inhibits their supervision, then that
should trigger a warning that expulsion of IAEA can only mean and would be
interpreted by the UN, as a conversion to a military program. This should be
followed by the US offering Saudi Arabia a nuclear umbrella. Israel would also
be offered a nuclear umbrella – an automatic strike against any first use by
Iran or anyone else.
So if Iran is really determined to have its own nuclear weapon in defiance of
the non-proliferation treaty, of which it is a signatory, on top of
international sanctions against them, there should be a warning that any first
use by them would be suicidal and bring down on them a nuclear response.
The Copenhagen report – No plan B “
We had our say on this
which debate continues at our
We also now refer readers to our January report on the realities in BANGLADESH
where many of the events forecast and feared in global warming are actually
The UN Drugs Tsar, head of that office on drugs and crime told a British
newspaper that drugs profits were “the only liquid investment capital” available
to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. The sum involved was $352
billion of drugs profits, absorbed into the economic system as a result. The
story was about bank liquidity, not the incredible amounts of money generated by
illegal drugs, but we want to focus on this rare peep into the sheer scale of
illicit drugs .
These sort of stats are usually not available, but it does raise the question
that since illegal drugs can make untaxed profits of $352 billion for organised
crime, isn’t it time that the whole question of legalising them came front and
centre for public debate? Mind altering drugs are, it seems, a portion of the
human experience and although to some addicts it is a way of life, to many
others it seems to be more a rite of passage. Either way, the criminals are way
ahead of the game. When one considers the reality of drugs - that are not going
to go away, is it beyond the wit of man (the good guys) to decriminalise the
whole business and regulate it, indeed take state revenues from it, rather than
the sorry set-up we have at this time?
As our AFGHANISTAN
reports make clear, that country has no other export. It’s illicit nature allows
enormous amounts of ‘black’ money to suborn the government of the state.
Neighbouring states, Kyrgyzstan and Takjikistan are both drugs transit states,
have their governments and judiciaries distorted by the black money that follows
the passage of the drugs, to wider markets. That also applies to Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan and Iran. Similar stories can be seen in South and Central America;
and SE Asia.
Criminalising drugs clearly doesn’t work.
To the stellar profits quoted as the benefit for organised crime, add the cost
of police work, coastguard, airport security, etc; in seeking to prevent the
illicit trade. How many centuries experience will it take, before some
courageous government breaks ranks, and insists on comprehensively reviewing the
illegal narcotics trade with a view to decriminalisation? But then, given this
report we quote, would the world’s banks for their own reasons, be in favour of
maintaining the status quo?
Who’s for ‘Gulfo’
Our SAUDI ARABIA
report tells of the move to set up an alternative to the $US sponsored by Saudi,
Bahrein, Qatar, and Kuwait. The name is indirectly a tribute to the EU ‘s
central bank with its currency, the Euro, which is quite admired. The Gulf with
its hydrocarbon wealth is not happy with the $US whose ups and downs often are
the results of events not at all associated with the Gulf states. There are
those players who recognise that economic harmonisation is essential to a joint
currency. The Euro was set up by a stable political association of mature
states, whilst the Gulf has always to contend with the Shia-Sunni dangers of
conflict; with Iran’s possibly becoming a nuclear ‘rogue;’ with the presence of
Al Qaida in Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere in the region, dedicated to the
overthrow of existing regimes, none of which is conducive to interstate
The UK Iraq Enquiry
It amuses. It fascinates, but as an enquiry committed to discovering the truth
behind the IRAQ
invasion it is failing to impress. After only a few days, the absence of cross
examination to what appear to be well rehearsed, established positions and
careful statements by the senior diplomats and officials in and around the big
decisions, is becoming a source of discontent by those who are sceptical of the
British Establishment’s ability to examine itself.
Back from the Brink - Again
meanwhile has fended off its collision course with its Kurdistan component. The
national elections originally mooted for January will now take place in March.
The sticking point for the Kurds was the status of the city of Kirkuk with, let
it be said, it’s enormous adjacent oilfields. In timely fashion, the USA has
stepped in, and their preparedness to broker a deal with Baghdad has been
accepted by both sides. It will be fascinating to see how Washington will deploy
the wisdom of Solomon, or something like that, to get a fair deal in this vexed
The December oilfield competition in
IRAQ has again
gone against US oil companies of whom it is said that they are not winning,
because they don’t at all like the terms on offer. That is their commercial
judgement…. But, they are not winning!
Thinking back to when we and many others, assumed that Richard. S. Cheney’s REAL
interest in the Iraq invasion was to get the US oil companies well established
on top of Iraq’s vast oil reserves, so big as to be comparable with next-door
Saudi Arabia. Well, it certainly hasn’t worked out that way. The most successful
oil companies have been oriental – Malaysia’s Petronas, Chinese and Japanese
companies, and recently Russian.
One of the most daring examples of chutzpah in international circles is the
campaign which Kazakhstan fought and won to become the chair of the prestigious
OSCE, as of January 2010. The appointment has of course been attacked by
international liberals and media and criticised by the diplomatic corps of
several member nations, to which Astana’s response was to commission at great
expense, lobbyists and Washington PR operatives to write testimonials. These can
do little better in real terms than to observe that they “are going in the right
direction”. Even that is in doubt.
OSCE was set up as and is expected to be, one of the international guardians of
democracy in world terms. Kazakhstan is a very large, thinly populated Central
Asian country, formerly Soviet and its only president after 19 years as an
independent republic, was himself, previously in charge as the First Secretary
of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. “L’etat cest moi,” as Louis XIV is said to
What are the democratic credentials this nation has to show to lead this world
body? Quite the reverse to ‘democratic’, is the reality. Apart from the
presidency enjoying absolute power, since it controls all the government
machinery, there has never been a convincing election for the top post, nor is
there likely to be. As to competition for the top job, one optimistic candidate
who had declared, was discovered soon afterwards in his home, shot through the
heart once and twice though the brain. This agile feat of destruction the
investigating Kazakh police detectives found to be suicide, so there was never
any murder to be investigated – and understandably, there is now a shortage of
It seems clear that the president wanted Kazakstan (effectively himself), to
have the prestige of being taken as a serious player amongst the nations. His
case was greatly strengthened by the fact that his nation has massive reserves
of oil and gas, and lies athwart the pipeline routes between the Caspian and
China, and is expected to be a part of the NABUCCO scheme to pipe gas into the
That explains the big boys going along with this and since President Nazarbayev
has only ever experienced ‘command politics’, he appears not to have realised
that this could all turn out to be a big mistake. The world attention he seeks,
could turn out to be that of contempt. Moreover OSCE itself more seriously, is
being devalued and degraded by this appointment.
The president’s party, the successor to the communist party controls every seat
in the national parliament. The OSCE’s own election monitoring observers refused
to endorse the results of the last Kazakh election. There is no freedom of the
press or the media, and no political opposition. It ranks 125th out of 150
nations, in the current World Audit Democracy ‘league tables,’ a score resulting
from surveys of political rights and human rights, freedom of speech and the
presence of public corruption.
Turkey’s Problems with the EU
This relates to Cyprus where new problems have surfaced. It may be remembered
that the EU ‘took a view’ and accepted Greek Cyprus into EU membership, leaving
Turkish Cyprus out in the cold. Thus they discarded the leverage that they
previously had when the Greeks voted against the UN plan for reunification of
the island whilst the Turks dutifully supported it (against the wishes of their
traditional leaders), thus rewarding the fissiparious Greeks! It should be
pointed out that there are two different stories about the Greek and Turkish
militaries, being involved in the politics of this small island - with it’s two
populations and long history of injustice, one ethnicity on another, and the
present situation certainly does not do justice to the Turks.
Turkey Azerbaijan & Armenia
We continue our scrutiny of the complex and changing relationships between
Turkey and Azerbaijan have close historic and cultural links, helped by the
mutual intelligibility of their languages and are both ‘soft’ Moslem states.
Neither country enjoys good relations with Armenia, nor probably has for a
thousand years. However, Turkey is now seeking to normalise relations with
Armenia, much to the concern of Azerbaijan.
History haunts all three states. The Armenians go back nearly a century to 1915,
when at least a million and a half of them died at the hands of the Turks.
Around the time of the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 the Armenians with
Russian help grabbed back Nagorno-Karabakh, their enclave in Azerbaijan, and the
Lachin corridor, an Azeri swathe of land between it and Armenia . One and a half
million Azeris were made homeless. Azerbaijan and Turkey imposed a trade embargo
on Armenia. It is still in force, until the Armenians vacate the disputed lands
in question and allow the return of the dispossessed.
Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers on October 10 signed a set of agreements
under which Ankara and Yerevan would set up normal diplomatic relations and
reopen their land border. The deal, if ratified by the parliaments of the two
neighbours, would effectively end decades of hostility. But it complicates
Turkey’s relations with Azerbaijan and there are wider implications involving
the USA and the EU, as our update explains.
Elections: Ukraine Romania, Albania
Elections – forthcoming and recent – continue to dominate the news in parts of
Eastern Europe. UKRAINE
is in the thick of a vital presidential campaign that could decide the fate of
the nation. The first round of the elections is on January 17. The incumbent,
President Viktor Yanukovich, is unlikely to win. For Ukraine, times have been
very grim. It has felt the full force of the global economic crisis. The two
main contenders are the Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovich,
the leader of the pro-Russian Party of the Regions, who has the backing of
has been holding elections to the presidency. They have been bitterly contested.
In the first round in November the incumbent, Trajan Basescu, had 32.43% of the
vote, while Social Democrat Mircea Geoana had 31.16% and Liberal Crin Antonescu
was third with 20.02%. In the second round, Basescu won by the slenderest of
margins, 50.33% to Geoana’s 49.67%. Earlier, exit polls had predicted victory
for his Social Democrat rival, Mircea Geoana. He alleged the second round of the
presidential elections on December 6 was rigged and contested the result. The
constitutional court ruled on December 14th that Basescu had won the most votes
in the run-off, despite opposition claims that it was rigged. The election
authorities re-examined 138,000 voided ballots and decided the result of the
election was unchanged. Geoana has reluctantly conceded defeat and asserted the
court had ignored extremely clear evidence of fraud.
A welcome measure of political stability has therefore returned to Romania.
The economy is expected to have shrunk by eight percent in 2009 but a huge
international aid package currently blocked may now be delivered once a new
government is formed.
In contrast, the result of the summer elections in
not been accepted by the opposition Socialist Party. It has demanded either a
recount of the vote or that another election is held. Socialist Party leader,
Edi Rama, has accused Prime Minister Sali Berisha of the Democratic Party, of
rigging the parliamentary elections. Berisha's Democrats now hold 70 seats in
the 140-seat parliament, and the Socialists 66. The Democrats rule with support
from four Socialist Movement seats.
The Socialists have refused to enter parliament unless a number of ballot boxes,
ruled irregular by election authorities, are opened. The Socialists claim the
votes inside would give them victory overall. Berisha has so far refused to
comply with their demands.
The Toxic Uzbekistan
Our update on
UZBEKISTAN highlights yet again the toxic brew of Central Asian
power politics. The autocratic government’s crack down on human rights activists
before last December’s parliamentary election was reported by Human Rights Watch
who criticized the West for staying silent.
this year mended ties with the West that had been almost severed in May 2005,
after its harsh suppression of a riot in Andizhan where hundreds died, according
to witnesses. The West and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) have recently praised Uzbekistan for progress on human rights!
However, Human Rights Watch said in a statement late on December 10 that the
Uzbek government was attacking and harassing rights campaigners and that the
praise was “wholly undeserved." The European Union is clearly willing to
sideline human rights issues when its wider economic and strategic interests are
involved. It has been trying to improve ties with Central Asian states to help
secure future energy supplies and diversify away from Russian gas and oil. Also
Uzbekistan borders Afghanistan, and allows the transit of non-military supplies
for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The EU and the US are far from being the only players in the Central Asia power
game. Our update on
KAZAKHSTAN shows the Chinese are very well aware of Kazakhstan’s
vast potential, especially in the energy sector. Beijing has stepped up its
presence in ex-Soviet Central Asia by handing out billions of dollars in loans,
snapping up energy assets and building an oil pipeline from Kazakhstan.
President Hu Jintao has just visited
on December 12-14 to open a historic gas pipeline. It travels from Turkmenistan
via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to China across an 11,000km distance.
In the Balkans, we learn of encouraging developments in relations between
Croatian parliament has ratified a deal with Slovenia for international
arbitration to resolve a border row between the two countries that blocked
Zagreb's bid to join the European Union previously. The agreement involves
Slovenia acquiring access to the Adriatic and removes the last big obstacle to
But Kosovo’s declaration of independence from
SERBIA is the
subject of the first ever case of territorial secession brought before the
International Court of Justice. Thirty countries will present their various
arguments. The issue appears straightforward: Did Kosovo's declaration of
independence comply with international law? We will of course be reporting on
Up-to-Date January Reports on all of the above, plus many more
For January 2010 Country Reports -
For abbreviated country reports and blog -