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March 2010 Country Archive


Where is the smack of firm Government?

The G8 have met. Treasury and Government financial officers meet all the time. Yet no deal is in place, nor it seems, is even on the horizon. The UK is on the eve of an election, which will force the government to detail their plans and achievements. The banks would prefer to carry on as usual, but if there has to be a Taxpayer guarantee they would prefer an insurance fund for distressed banks, to which (they say) they would all contribute. The response to that of course, is that in the USA the super- insurance fund AIG set up for this same purpose, had to be rescued to the tune of untold billions –it was the single most expensive of the bale-outs.

The other mainstream argument from people other than bankers, is to separate out the functions of banking into Main Street Banking, holding current and savings accounts for non-financial businesses and ordinary individuals. These would be regulated to see their funds were not available for the banks shareholders and managers to bet, as now, on the high risk gambles of the financial investment world. Such banks, already established, could sell off their Financial Investment divisions, which then would not be licensed to take deposits, but could operate in all spheres of financial speculation and adventuring, funded by their shareholders and the market place, who would take both the reward and the risk. ‘Breaking up’ the banks is what this is called. Unsurprisingly, the banks don’t want it and it appears that some governments are not prepared to govern, in this respect. As it is now, the banks risk their depositors funds in making their bets. When they prosper, the reward goes in bonuses and dividends to their executives and shareholders, not to the owners of the capital, the deposit holders that fund them. This is the ludicrous equivalent of risk – but no reward!

Governments in all countries deal with and to some extent regulate all their many different industries. The financial industry has discovered or is assessing that it is more powerful than some governments. We will learn over the coming months which ones, but we suspect Germany will not be amongst them. The US is in the balance. So is France. The UK growls, barks, but so far appears to have no bite.

Tea, Sympathy - and Bile
It is extraordinary how much bile China can expend on the septuagenarian Dalai Lama to the extent that Beijing creates a minor diplomatic incident when, as in mid-February, a western leader receives him for tea and sympathy, (President Obama on February 18th). Leaders of democracies now receive him almost as a badge of honour.
It is not about offering financial or political aid for his cause, because that is not an international matter. He seeks cultural and religious autonomy within the Chinese empire, (not ’independence’, as Beijing systematically misinforms its vast public - and such outsiders as are more superficially informed). He and his government in exile know full well that independence is not obtainable - it’s not even on the table.

But if by the time the Dalai Lama – a reasonable man, meets his end, no acceptable settlement has come about, his frustrated people without his restraining influence may be tempted to go the violent route. The world has for several years borne the brunt of angry Moslems. Nobody wants to see a cause to unite angry Buddhists. The last time that happened was under a certain gentleman named Genghis Khan!

The exiled Tibetans seek cultural and religious autonomy for an elected Tibetan regional government, leaving to Beijing such matters as defence, diplomacy, and the areas of governance appropriate to a nation state. The fact that they are very clear about this does not stop the Chinese state-controlled media aggressively accusing the Dalai Lama of seeking to ‘break up the empire,’ and snarling at those who meet him. Why then are western leaders still glad to receive him, despite the fact that it obviously irritates Beijing? He is one of those three or four world-class individuals who is worthy of respect and admiration, irrespective of his country. He is also undoubtedly ‘father of his nation’ when so few anywhere can any longer aspire to such a title. The simple fact that our elected leaders are publicly prepared to receive him, illustrates what it is to live in a democracy. It speaks well of these leaders that they will not be bullied on such an issue by a demonstrably undemocratic state, whose protests and objections actually underline the differences between national systems.

China does not do well with their hard-nosed attitude. It is obvious that Tibetans are culturally different to the Chinese, a difference that would be celebrated by a more confident state, as indeed earlier Chinese rulers have done. There are also proven methods of giving local autonomy within the Chinese empire, like the brilliant ‘one nation, two systems ‘of Deng Xiao Ping, which brought Hong Kong and Macao back into the imperial fold, just as that is on offer right now, to Taiwan. It would be an appropriate solution for Tibet. Why should Taiwan be offered this level of autonomy and not Tibet? Could it just be that the Taiwanese might be voting on the issue, but the Peoples Liberation Army are already in occupation in Tibet?

The BAe Corruption case
The resolution in the courts of this discreditable affair, gives a clear methodology for the future for non-American arms manufacturers. Delay and resist the laws in your own country, make no plea on substantive issues, but plead guilty in a US court to something equivalent to errors in book-keeping (“those careless accountants”) having first negotiated a plea bargain to drop the heavyweight charges. Agree to a sum substantially less than the profit made in the illicit arms deals. Then hey, the fine can be regarded as just another cost in the overall deal to add to the bribe, and the shareholders are mollified. By so doing you remain on the tender list for future Pentagon contracts and the equivalent back in your own country. And the future? Well you now have a record for false book-keeping, so it would be no great surprise if it happens again. But accounts’ ‘help’ isn’t what it was - be reasonable...
You can also then watch from a comfortable distance and admire the chutzpah whilst the counter-party to the corruption, be it Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, South Africa or wherever, successfully shrugs off any suggestion that any of their politicians would illicitly trouser millions of dollars, for agreeing the deal and the sale price. In the Saudi affair, the British government told their citizens that they had been warned that there would be no further information from the Saudis on terrorists, if the case continued. That is a very curious threat when analysed! Meanwhile the Prince who made the purchasing decisions, interviewed on British TV, cheerfully told the millions of viewers that he had certainly taken all of what was his due, and of course, his king, brothers and colleagues, knew about it, a full-on “what’s the problem,” attitude. In South Africa, the accused never appeared in court, although his bag-carrier on the same charges got a fifteen year stretch, whilst the accused minister was elected to become the current president –and then as almost his first act, promptly released his ‘financial advisor.’ We wonder if either declared the substantial payment as income, or paid income tax on the ill-gotten proceeds?

Mr Putin’s Puzzle
Given the election of Viktor Yanukovych to the presidency of UKRAINE (as we report), it must be foxing Mr Putin how this could possibly have come about through of all things, a democratic election. Back in 2004, RUSSIA ‘fixed it’ for Yanukovich in it’s time-honoured, if discreditable way, only to see the citizens of UKRAINE repudiate the fraudulent vote and create what became known as the Orange Revolution. This non-violent uprising of the people was funded, it might be observed, by those oligarchs supporting the duo of recently defeated president Yushchenko, and defeated Prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. (Who else paid for the free newspapers and all those orange tents; and fed ‘the loaves and the fishes’ to those scores of thousands camping out in the streets of central Kiev back in 2004)?

This time the oligarchs behind the new, fairly elected President Yanukovych, came out in front. Those outsiders that fear that UKRAINE will now slip back into Moscow’s embrace can take comfort from recent history. Before Putin’s time, there was a referendum in UKRAINE which turned down rejoining RUSSIA, for a very simple reason. The political leadership of independent UKRAINE after 1991, whether pro-Russian or not, found themselves regarded as serious politicians, running a nation state on the world stage, travelling in style, meeting foreign statesmen, even making important decisions. Whereas, during the long Soviet period, the Ukrainian government were like tame parish councillors, rubber-stamping decisions already made in Moscow, where of course all the bribes went. They had then and they have now their own powerful and rich Ukrainian oligarchs, who know what legislation or government contracts they want - and don’t need any more Russian competition than they already get.

RUSSIA protests new ‘encirclement’
We report in this month’s RUSSIA their reaction to the newly announced US missile bases in ROMANIA and the Romanian reply. This is the ‘son of Missile Shield’ that was planned for the Czech Republic and Poland, ostensibly to counter any Iranian missile capable of reaching Europe, in the presumption they could get there and carry a nuclear cargo. Of course Russians who have globes to hand, can see that their territory is certainly threatened by a missile ship, as planned, stationed in Romanian waters in the Black Sea. It is, from their point of view as any map will confirm, a Cuba in reverse. It does seem otiose to do this in the name of a potential Iranian threat, to protect European members of NATO. Has there been any call from Europeans for protection against this ‘Iranian threat’? We don’t think so. Common sense says that Israel is the place to locate anti-Iranian missiles, if at any point the Iranians are able to go nuclear, which is not yet. These European locations lack credibility as a project to contain IRAN.

When George. W. Bush promoted his missile shield (Czech and Polish bases) it was NOT a NATO enterprise but a US geostrategic one, a significant difference. Despite the present talk of protecting ‘NATO allies’, we are sceptical that NATO has ever officially discussed this Romanian Black Sea naval base. Indeed the first that the ‘hosts’ Romania had heard of it was, as we report, on a visit by US Vice- President Joe Biden, as recently as October of 2009. At the risk of stating the obvious, although anti-ballistic missiles sound purely defensive, the whole point of a nuclear stand-off, as has existed between Washington and Moscow for half a century of global peace, is that neither side should be capable of checkmating the other. An effective anti-missile missile amounts exactly to that, and were the positions reversed, the US wouldn’t accept it for a moment (remember Cuba). Inevitably this could next lead to an arms race which could suit military –industrial complexes very well – after all, that’s what they do! The Romanian president says “Romania will not host a system against RUSSIA…” This is hardly reassuring. Will he be proposing to place Romanian Navy crews alongside the USN personnel, to ensure the ship-borne missiles are always pointing south and not north?

Despite the fairly decent politicians now in charge at Washington, before them and probably long after them, the US military-industrial lobby, of which Eisenhower warned us, has for as long as we can remember, sought the means to girdle the earth with an offensive capability. This move, thinly based on an Iranian threat, looks to us to be entirely in that category.

IRAQ: divided Shi’ites
Prime minister al-Maliki remains in trouble for the upcoming elections, as does the whole electoral process. The US has repeatedly said that successful elections in IRAQ are a precondition for their troops withdrawal, so this must be causing widespread anxiety not only in Baghdad, but also in the State Department and the Pentagon. Violence has yet again re-emerged in Baghdad, the temporary respite from which had helped al- Maliki. From the US’s point of view, even if the elections are considered acceptable by their standards, there is a real possibility that the two other mainstream Shi’ite groups now in alliance, the Sadrists and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council might defeat al-Maliki. Washington knows it can do business with al-Maliki, prickly though he is. Al Sadr is a third generation charismatic, religious populist, whose large militia was at one time fighting against the US presence. He is, as near as anybody can be destined in a religio-political state, to eventually get to the top. He is also fairly described as ‘uncontrollable.’ As a Shi’ite cleric, he has close ties to IRAN, where he was at one time wont to disappear for months at a time. Our current March report explains the most recent problems which put the election outcome in doubt.

PHILLIPPINES – the electoral farce
Here is a long established, largely Christian nation, with a population of 93 million. It is sometimes called “the worlds baby factory” – which, because there is no work at home, exports ‘3 R’s educated’ people to fill the ranks of the first world’s low-paid domestic, hospital, labouring, marine and other manual work. It ranks 84th (out of 150) in the World Audit Democracy tables, 111th for corruption and 61st for Press freedom; it is probably the world’s most lethal place for journalists. This wretched, exploited society is coming up to an election, and has just spent approx $100 million on 80,000 automated scanning machines, (exhibiting a 10% margin of error) but why, when everybody knows the results will be ‘doctored’, certainly at regional level – maybe nationally too? Reading our PHILIPPINES report this month is an education in how such a corrupt society can for so long, masquerade as a democracy.

North Korea’s leader whinges
A rare event in Pyongyang. Kim Jong-il is quoted as complaining about his work overload. He quotes his father Kim il Sung, as warning him not to get involved in economic projects, to just concentrate on the military and leave economics to party functionaries. Maybe this revelation explains why NORTH KOREA’s economy is such a disaster?

Appropriately, we caption our March update a la Clinton :“It’s the Economy, Stupid!”

Libya’s unique attractions
Although we always faithfully report LIBYA, we don’t often feature it in this Overview except when something really significant occurs. This month’s report “Shooting itself in the Foot,” in its title, suggests accurately that something particularly foolish has happened. LIBYA seeks to produce three million barrels a day of its desirable ‘light crude.’ It also seeks to modernise its economy, for instance opening its banking sector to foreign capital –all very laudable and we describe plans and some successes in some detail. However LIBYA also has a ‘royal family’: the Qadhafis, father and sons. It is true that the Qadafi boys are not yet in the same league as Saddam Hussein’s fine lads, but it’s easy to see their potential. The full rich details are in the LIBYA report. Papa Qadafi has on Libyan radio declared a jihad against Switzerland (that is correct, Switzerland), as following some violent behaviour in a hotel there, the local police were called and detained a Libyan who is one of Qadafi’s sons. QED!

Who rules Pakistan?
This was once easy to answer. Officially, this is a parliamentary democracy with an elected president who has wide executive powers. The cognoscenti would perhaps laugh at the question and reply, “Why the army of course, and the ISI. Nothing that matters, happens without their say-so.” For this and other reasons the quality of the elected leaders has been worse than any people deserved. In 2000, the military provoked beyond reason, actually took over, with the then Chief of Staff assuming the presidency. Viewed objectively, General Musharraf did rather well in ruling this unmanageable nation, but as they will probably come to regret, he was eventually by one means and another, outed by the constitutionalists, specifically the Chief Justice Chaudry, which allowed elected politicians back into power, accompanied ever since by an avalanche of chaos. So now the president Zardari, who had returned from exile, earlier having been found guilty of corruption involving billions, had found himself unexpectedly precipitated into presidential office, when his popular political wife Benazhir Bhutto, the anticipated incumbent, was in 2004 assassinated by the Islamic crazies, whilst out on campaign. Suddenly his whole status has been challenged by a Supreme Court decision to revoke the earlier waiving of his guilty verdict, (Chaudry again), in the matter of big-scale corruption. So what happens now, given in more detail in our report, is that his political enemies, specifically the sinister Nawaz Sharif, are waiting to make their play for power.

To return to the question in this caption, the answer many are beginning to believe, is that the apparently untouchable Chief Justice Chaudry, is stepping up to the plate. He is described by disgruntled former allies as having ‘a growing political attitude’. Our important mid-month report of 17th February is very informative about the power structures in PAKISTAN, as well as assessing the prospects for a continuing peace between these South Asian neighbours [GO TO “Prospects for Peace : India and Pakistan”].

Afghanistan: ISI nets the Taliban Number Two
The capture of Mullah Baradar by PAKISTAN’s ISI means that he will be being interrogated by the CIA, or at least with their list of questions, but in this instance he may avoid the simulated drowning and keep his fingernails (or he may not). This will depend on whether he is to be kept to negotiate with, on behalf of the Taliban High Command to seek to establish a peace in AFGHANISTAN, or alternatively to be ‘debriefed’ as the keeper of knowledge that he undoubtedly must be. We look at this situation as well as the outfall from the London conference at the end of January, which earmarked $500 million for what in medieval Europe used to be called ‘Danegeld,’ to pay the Taliban not to fight.

Iran in trouble with the IAEA
The advent of a new leader of the international atomic watchdog, Yukia Amano (the former leader, the unflappable Mohammed Al Baradei, stepped down in November), coincides with new evidence of IRAN’s nuclear developments. The new boss has produced a report which is positive about IRAN being involved in the development of nuclear weapons. That has been welcomed by the US as a wake-up call - for RUSSIA in particular, who in fact have duly shown signs of being concerned. Foreign Minister Lavrov has stated that Moscow is very alarmed about IRAN’s lack of co-operation with the IAEA. The fact is that following the invasion of IRAQ, US or Israeli intelligence are heard, but not necessarily believed by other nations. But on the whole, the IAEA as a UN agency, which steadfastly refused to toe the Bush/ Blair line over IRAQ, is listened to and considered more trustworthy. It was and is always what IAEA had to say, that represented the red line for many UN members. IRAN had majored on its story that it was only seeking, as was its right, to open its own civilian nuclear reactors. That it had no military program. Indeed only a few days ago, one up from President Ahmadinejad, IRAN’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni, said that his nation would not entertain the use of nuclear weapons, as they were clearly immoral and against the teachings of the prophet. How IRAN will respond to the leaked IAEA report is not yet known, but it does raise the temperature.

Saudi Arabia: its regional Options
We have looked closely in our last few issues at Saudi’s problems with Yemen and this threat of causing instability in the Kingdom. This continues, but looks to be going off the boil. In this issue we explore the Kingdom’s situation, vis a vis neighbours IRAN and IRAQ. The relationship with IRAN, is on the one hand, between the two big political players of the Gulf. On the other hand, they each represent one of the poles of the Islamic faith, each considering the other to be heretical.

It is of course more immediately a problem for Saudi Arabia, if IRAN was able to get to the stage of actually possessing a nuclear bomb. Although even without the USA, who must certainly be involved, Sunni Pakistan already with nuclear weapons, has an understanding about this with Riyadh, a key financial supporter. Rather like Catholics and Protestants in the European middle ages, each belief system spurred on by priests, is capable of great cruelty and irrationality, in terms of extinguishing ‘evil’: ie the other belief. There are those capable of destroying the world on such matters of faith, but the people who actually govern nations are well aware of the need to compromise to some extent. For example IRAN has a minority Sunni population, just as Saudi Arabia has a large part of its main oil province (and workers) populated by Shiites.

The USA now has 30,000 military personnel in Saudi, their navy is on patrol in the Persian Gulf. Much more is planned. It is, as we observe, something of a regional throwback to when the problem potential enemy was Saddam’s IRAQ. We also examine Saudi’s relationship with today’s IRAQ, specifically the oil industry there, which has such potential for growth - and what that might mean to the kingdom.

Turkey’s Critical Conspiracies
TURKEY is undeniably a highly important country, particularly in today’s world, since it physically is the bridge between Europe and Eurasia of the Islamic nations, that lie beyond – to as far east as China, and south to INDIA and Indonesia. It is the world’s good fortune that it has a forward-looking ‘soft’ Islamic government, is a sturdy ally of the USA and member of NATO, whilst in no way a satellite. It is it’s tragedy that there is a small but powerful ruling class, looking back to the nation’s early 20th C. hero and moderniser, Kemal Attaturk, who had the power and inspiration to secularise his nation and then left a charge on the nation’s military to protect the secular constitution. The extremists amongst these ‘pashas’ reject any form of Islam, elected or not, and are clearly uncomfortable with the idea of democracy, but apart from military authoritarianism, have nothing to put in its place. The democratically elected AK party were first put in power to replace the nation’s existing conventional political parties steeped in corruption, which reputation the AK has avoided, whilst acquiring a record for moderation.

This month’s TURKEY reports on the top level arrests amongst the military, from all branches of the armed forces, for organising a far-reaching plot, and some of its ugly details, codenamed ‘sledgehammer.’ The object it is alleged, was to create turmoil, which included provoking conflict to the point of creating violent incidents between the airforces of Turkey and neighbouring NATO partner Greece, bombing of mosques and more. Calculated to create a situation where the military could topple and take over government - as they have done four times since 1960 – our report explains in much more detail what happened and is still happening.

SYRIA –the story with Israel
SYRIA has received the formal announcement of an ambassador from the USA, a post vacant since February 2005. Robert Ford the new ambassador, is an experienced middle-east hand. It is of course, an important step towards the normalisation of relations with the US, a necessary one in terms of finding solutions to the longstanding Israel –Palestine problem, which several previous US administrations have failed to move forward.

It seems the US seeks to have Israel reopen the negotiations over the Golan Heights with SYRIA via Turkey, which the incoming prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu unilaterally shut down. There is also a development in the stand-off between getting Israel and the Palestine Authority to meet, and progress the objective of the UN resolution that founded Israel, to also found an Arab state. This program running some sixty years late, may have found a new dynamic according to this abbreviated story :-

“Recent meetings between the Obama administration and the Palestinian Authority revealed the White House is on board a Palestinian threat to unilaterally ask the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state, outside of negotiations with Israel, a senior PA negotiator told World Net Daily….

The negotiator further claimed the entire European Union leadership has backed ‘the plot’. "The U.S. prefers a negotiated settlement but indicated they would back the resolution if talks don't progress," the PA negotiator said.”

Likely or not in its present form, the very fact that this story exists should have the effect of encouraging Israel to get a grip (on itself), and at least get down to serious talks.

Troubled Slovakia
Former minor Soviet satellite, now EU member in the heart of Europe. One might believe that they had ‘arrived’. Our report tells a very different story as we look at SLOVAKIA before their June election. It is a tale of greed and corruption amongst the ruling parties. The effective leader of the leftist FICO is popular but he needs, and is likely to continue to need coalition partners, and there’s the problem, as our article explains, since they are led by rogues. There are continuing problems generally in Central Europe, but particularly in SLOVAKIA of racist incidents, specifically anti-Roma and anti-Jewish. Liberal leaders say it’s “a matter of work together or bloody conflict”. Unfortunately, particularly in times of economic hardship the thugs get listened to and it ends up as bloody conflict. Europe is receiving a warning!

The Balkans & the wealth of El Dorado
Unlikely as it may seem, given their long history of relative poverty, ALBANIA and Kosovo could become the El Dorado of the Balkans, thanks to large mineral reserves worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Kosovo has the largest coal deposits in Europe as well as gold, silver, arsenic, thallium, bismuth, iron, lead, zinc and other metals. In ALBANIA there are large deposits of chrome ore, bauxite, copper, nickel, quartz, magnesium and cobalt. In the last two years huge explorations have been taking place in Northern Albania. The Albanian government has been building roads to where minerals are found. The value of already discovered minerals in Albania and Kosovo exceeds 100 billion dollars as raw material, more than anyone could ever have imagined. The consequences of successful exploitation would be dramatic: powerful economic growth in Albania, Kosovo and the entire Balkans. If this had been known a few years ago, the Serbs might have been even more tenacious in defending Kosovo as their territory.

The fragility of Dayton
In other parts of the Balkans the news is less cheering, indeed potentially alarming. Serbo-Croat relations have been frostier than usual for several months, especially following Zagreb’s vital support for the ethnic Albanian regime in Kosovo during the debate at the International Court of Justice. Outgoing Croatian president Stjepan Mesic in January, threatened to intervene militarily in Bosnia, if Republika Srpska, the Serb republic in Bosnia, attempts to secede and establish itself as an independent state. He was responding to repeated separatist noises by Republika Srpska’s nationalistic Prime Minister, Milorad Dodik, who perpetually flaunts his hostility to the state of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Mesic warned that if Dodik announces a referendum on secession – as the first step toward the Republika Srpska’s unification with SERBIA, to form a ‘Great Serbia’ – he would send in the Croatian Army to cut in half the Bosnian Serb entity, which ‘would then have to disappear’.

Mesic’s warning highlights the possibility that if Republika Srpska secedes and the Bosnian Croats follow suit, it would leave behind an embittered Muslim rump-state, that ‘would find itself in hostile surroundings, and would be able sustain itself only with the help of a fundamentalist regime.’ CROATIA’s new president Ivo Josipovic, has been more conciliatory. He has distanced himself from Mesic’s threat to intervene militarily in Bosnia, saying that ’sending the Croatian Army to a neighbouring country for me is not an option’ and ‘problems must always be solved through negotiations and with the agreement of all interested parties’. All of this shows again how fragile is the Dayton Agreement, that brought peace to the area.

In ROMANIA and SLOVAKIA we can see how relatively small nations become enmeshed in the wider geopolitical competition between big powers. Romania's top defence council approved a plan by Washington on February 4 to deploy interceptor missiles on its territory as part of a missile shield to protect Europe (as we report more fully in RUSSIA). In past years, the Romanian parliament has solidly backed participation in U.S. and NATO-led military ventures, including Romanian troop deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike some other EU states, popular support for U.S. military policy is very high in Romania.

In SLOVAKIA however, there has long been opposition to U.S. missile shield plans for Europe. Obama's revamped plan, unveiled last September, includes land-and sea-based missile systems ’in and around’ the Gulf, to defend against what it says is a growing Iranian missile threat. His administration argues that the plan addresses those threats more effectively than the Bush plan, although it has of course drawn anger from Tehran, which accuses Washington of stirring up anti-Iranian sentiment.

We report on the continuing efforts by TURKEY and ARMENIA to normalise their relations, and the difficulties and setbacks involved. The process impacts on many sensitive and complex issues such as the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and international recognition of the Armenian genocide. It is this last issue which particularly involves the U.S.

If the U.S. Congress adopts the Armenian Genocide Recognition Act, which comes up every April, Turkey would feel justified in abandoning the protocols on normalising relations with Armenia. An unprecedented opportunity for rapprochement would be missed. The implications are huge. For Turkey, adopting the protocols affirms its ‘no conflict with neighbours’ policy and would boost its flagging EU candidacy. Opening the border for normal travel and trade would end Armenia’s isolation and would benefit both countries. A breakdown would tarnish America’s prestige and could disrupt U.S. -Turkish relations at a time when the U.S. needs Turkey to help stabilize Iraq, support NATO in Afghanistan, and having a border with IRAN, back diplomatic efforts to rein in their nuclear programme.

Central Asia
The ‘Stans’ of Central Asia, rich in resources and strategically located, are constantly courted by countries around the globe. Right now UZBEKISTAN, an agrarian nation with oil, gas, gold and uranium reserves, is logistically important for U.S. operations in Afghanistan. After earlier evicting U.S. troops from an air base there, Uzbekistan has resumed talks on reopening the base, now the Afghan war takes centre stage in President Obama's foreign policy. U.S. Central Command chief General David Petraeus, has made frequent visits to Tashkent, and Uzbekistan has agreed to supplies passing through its territory, en route to Afghanistan, with which it shares a long border. Mindful of the commercial benefits of good relations with Uzbekistan, the European Union last year lifted sanctions on that state, citing progress by the brutal regime on human rights (which has not been widely observed by others). Meanwhile, neighbouring TURKMENISTAN, rich in gas resources, is currently wooed by the United Arab Emirates; also by the Czech presidency of the EU, on the Turkmen pumping their gas to Europe through a pipeline that avoids Russia. But the growing importance of a Turkmenistan- Uzbekistan axis is also discussed.

Clive Lindley

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