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November 2010 Country Archive

PUBLISHERS OVERVIEW NOVEMBER '10

 

BLAME GOD

Faced with the collapse of the just days-old Israeli Palestinian negotiations due to Israel’s failure to meet the reasonable condition that further illegal development of the settlements in Palestine should be put on hold, a separate matter has arisen. Apologists primarily of the powerful US Israel lobby have deflected the story from that which is ‘bad’ for Israel, to a new one, whereby the ‘mischief-making’ Palestinians are toying with the idea that the UN might be persuaded to declare a Palestinian state without the negotiations the Israelis have for so long seemed so keen, to avoid. That of course is a totally different issue. It has been floated for a considerable time, (but as it hasn’t happened yet, we won’t discuss it here). Rather we consider how it is that Israel after it was recognised as a nation state did so through a UN resolution which quite rightly gave it national status, and also required that a Palestinian state should similarly come about in the territory of the former British mandate, not assigned to Israel. That hasn’t happened after sixty years and was the whole point of the apparently aborted negotiations.

The settlements issue came about because various Israeli religious and other organisations just took over land in Palestine and developed it for Israeli settlers, new immigrants and others. Now some half a million of them live there in a weird archipelago of protected enclaves, linked by Israeli military roads. Not a single state in the whole world endorsed this hi-jacking of land, and when asked on what authority it had been done, answer came there none, except only via Israeli patriarchs, that it was “God’s will” - as he apparently promised it to them some thousands of years ago. Unsurprisingly God has not been made available to confirm or deny this version of events. Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel on the other hand has been available and claims he continues to seek a resumption of said negotiations. He is not widely admired outside of his nation and some of its international supporters. He may or may not have intended the talks to collapse, but it was quite clear that his coalition government had no use for them. They refused to extend the moratorium on further development, that ended the infant negotiations so abruptly. More tellingly, the real-time TV pictures from the settlements themselves showed sheer jubilation at the news by the settlers, not so much perhaps at the resumption of the building developments which had been temporarily ‘on hold,’ but by the massive set-back to the very idea of negotiating the new Palestinian state in which a key part would have to be the status of the existing settlements –their settlements. There seemed to be a determination by responsible states led by the USA, that the open sore of this issue which has been such an effective recruiting sergeant for the cause of Islamic extremism, would finally be addressed. But the Israeli lobby, counting the days until Obama starts to campaign for re-election, assume that their powerful cohorts can blunt his purpose on this issue, raising once again, as so often in the past, the question: how does Israel come to determine the foreign policy of the USA?


The Arab “Street”
There are some who say that the history of Israel in relation to Palestine was not an issue in the upsurge of Islamic extremism over past years. The evidence contradicts this. Osama bin Laden who more than any other, breathed new life into the Islamic ‘cause,’ seldom failed to mention the injustice of the Palestinian situation in the early days when he was making regular pronouncements. Similarly the suicide testaments of various terrorists often referred to the injustices of Palestine. From a different direction, the evidence of news-gathering organisations and TV shots of the Arab street at critical moments, is also to the contrary – post 9/11 comes to mind. Then cheering Palestinian mobs were caught on camera rejoicing that the USA, sponsors of Israel – they’re indistinguishable to the street boys – had been severely damaged by this unexpected attack by Moslem partisans, ‘hitting back’ at formerly invulnerable America. Yet taken overall with the evidence, the west so absurdly cast as “the crusaders,” (thanks partly to George W Bush’s classic ‘mis-speak’ at the time of the Iraq invasion), have in real terms, identification with Israel excepted, a proud record of non-sectarian military intervention on behalf of oppressed Moslems, of which we do not hear enough.

After the break-up of Yugoslavia, in Bosnia Herzegovina a combination of heavily armed Serbs of the Orthodox faith and Roman Catholic Croats had a nasty regional war going on where the Moslem Bosniaks were also being targeted - and suffering disproportionately at the hands of the Serbs. In reality, the Serbs were visiting such terrible outrages on the Bosniaks that clearly amounted to war crimes, un-paralleled in Europe since the Nazis of WWII. It was the US-led military forces of NATO that stopped this disgrace, not of course because it was Christians on Moslems– that is really not a factor despite the Islamic propaganda, but because it was evil incarnate and had to be stopped.

Again when the Serbs waged war on ‘their own’ province of Kosovo, it was the west, the so-called Christian powers who put their own young men in harms way to defend the ethnic Kosovans, a million of whom had fled to nearby Albania. The state of Kosovo could not have happened, were it not for NATO forces, who even bombed ‘Christian’ Serbia, as a part of driving the ‘anti-moslem’ Serbian forces out of Kosovo. The semi-mystical place of Kosovo in Serbian history was that this was the place where a pivotal battle was lost to the Ottomans, by a defending European army of Serbs, Hungarians and Albanians. Albanians over the five centuries of Ottoman rule did largely convert to Islam. That could be argued in the longer term to have been a sensible accommodation, but at the time of the Battle of the Field of the Blackbirds, they too were foursquare against the invader. The fact is that in the 20th century after half a century of anti-religious communism, until they went to war with each other, traditional religions were just cultural, a minor not a major part of the lives of both Serbs and Kosovars.

In Russia at about the same time, a brutal war put down the Chechens seeking independence, and it is true that Chechens are Moslems, but what they looked for was independence, a breaking up of the Federation, which Moscow was determined would not happen. Islam may have been emblematic to the Chechens, just as Roman Catholicism was to the Poles invaded in 1939 by the Orthodox Russians and the Protestant Germans, but that was not itself a cause of war.

It might be understandable for the ‘street boys’ in their ignorance, and experience based only on Israel-Palestine, to believe that the US or the west is ‘anti-islam,’ but Islamist religious intellectuals such as those supporting Osama bin Laden, know better. They however are driven by a weird, separate and unrealistic agenda of restoring the Caliphate, and recreating the boundaries and beliefs of a world that has long disappeared.


Afghan Heroin
The principal product of this narco-state is always going to grab headlines, since one of the reasons that ISAF went there, we were told – and stayed on, even after failing on the principal objective of crushing Al Qaida and capturing or killing Osama bin Laden, was to deal once and for all with the worlds largest heroin supplier.  This equally has failed to happen. Indeed the problem gets worse. An unusual source of information is the head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service whose views on this subject are highly informative. He tells us that last year, Afghanistan produced 7000 tonnes of Opium - equivalent to some 700 tonnes of Heroin, of which about 36 tonnes goes to Russia. It is about 35% of Afghan drugs exports because more than half the production is not exported at all, but left in storage. He says that this now accounts for some 13,000 to 15,000 tonnes of Opium which even if drugs production stopped completely, would still mean that the narco-state will be able to supply the international market for another twenty or thirty years.

When the first bright-eyed anti-drugs campaigners suggested that the problem could be dealt with by burning the crops in the fields, the US and other authorities responded to pressure and backed off, taking the view that to destroy the farmers’ crops would be to drive them into the arms of the Taliban, and incidentally leave them without the means to buy their next seasons seeds for new crops, so it didn’t happen.

But now we are told by this knowledgeable Russian specialist that the country has stocks of 13,000 to 15,000 tonnes of opium, already collected and paid for (how else could the farmers buy the seed for the coming year). Apart from foreign troops the country hosts a large number of spooks, western and others. The logistics of buying up, transporting and secure storing of this narcotics treasure-trove could hardly escape the notice of said spooks, so it raises the question that ISAF nation’s taxpayers are clearly entitled to ask – Why don’t the authorities raid and destroy such a tempting target, not in the fields, but harvested and paid for by big time criminals and conveniently collected together – ripe for destruction?

Is it protected by ‘President Karzai industries’? Are western anti-narco agencies on the take? We were glad to hear of a raid at the end of October which greatly annoyed Karzai.  It would be nice to think that there could be some good news or even answers, coming out of this troubled nation.



Iraq & Afghan Security Contractors
As in IRAQ so AFGHANISTAN, a very large number of armed men working for Security contractors are effectively members of parallel private armies, not subject to the rule of law whilst being considerably better paid than either the army or the police. In AFGHANISTAN some 26,000 such private security personnel exist and a Senate committee has been investigating them, reporting amongst other things that reliance on private security contractors has empowered a new breed of warlords - powerbrokers outside of Afghan government control, some of whom have known links to the Taliban. The Senate committee concluded that the US, by funding warlords with private troops are undermining the declared aim of creating a stable Afghanistan. An argument in IRAQ and no doubt in AFGHANISTAN is that without these security personnel, there would have had to be an equivalent number of troops brought in to do that job, and we know how much chance there would be of that happening.

The BBC pointed out that the Congressional inquiry turned up the information that trucking contractors (that inevitably means US taxpayers) paid millions of dollars a year to local warlords for convoy protection. Meanwhile four years after the US government commenced criminal prosecutions against former Blackwater employees accused of various lethal crimes in IRAQ, prosecutors - surprise, surprise, are failing to secure verdicts against them. Perhaps the most notorious and sickening case was where 17 inoffensive Iraqi civilians were killed in central Baghdad, during an orgy of shooting by out-of-control Blackwater employees in September 2007. The charges in the US against them were reduced to manslaughter and weapons charges but even these failed in the US courts. The charges were dismissed. At the time of the 17 civilians being killed, the IRAQI government and public were understandably incensed – all the reporting of the incident at the time explained why, see our archives - and public opinion wanted the men tried in IRAQ before an Iraqi jury. But the US government persuaded the Iraqi authorities that justice would be done – and seen to be done, with the charges made and trials being held in the US. At the time a not-so cynical view was that the US legal authorities would ensure that the trials would be so constructed as to fail by containing insuperable legal obstacles of the government’s own making – and thus the “Herald Tribune” (Oct 22nd) has reported these events. How will the relatives of the seventeen slaughtered civilians, how will any Iraqis feel now about US justice?


China’s Frown
At a time when China makes the headlines very regularly the news was still surprising and welcome that the Nobel committee should have awarded its 2010 Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo currently on an eleven year jail sentence in China for ‘inciting subversion’. That is tough for many of the worlds citizens to comprehend – what can that mean - but few of those will live in China. Notwithstanding China’s angry reaction against Norway on account of the Nobel Committee being located there - it seems that they cut back on Norwegian salmon imports, and then ran out of ideas. China’s foreign service must have passed back the information that Norway is a very rich, quite small and independent country, and even if China cuts off supplies of Rare Earth, its currently favoured universal sanction, Norway is unlikely to tremble as a result. It does however raise the question as to how China, this giant economic power, a serious player in the world in so many areas, would like to be perceived by other nations - * Feared? Admired? Trusted? Distrusted? Certainly its minorities have cause to fear. What about its senior citizens? In mid-October the “Guardian” reported a letter by 24 senior retirees from the worlds of media, academia and politics, quoting with full-hearted approval the words of Prime Minister Hu Jintao endorsing freedom of speech and democratic progress.

They quote the constitution of China (Article 35) of 1982 saying that: “Citizens…(should) enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and demonstration.” Essentially these old gentlemen are saying, that it’s time to get on with it!

In international affairs it has become obvious in recent times that China is wanting to be the regional master of its part of the globe (claiming the South China sea as its personal lake). But when

that includes Japan, let alone South Korea, then any concept of regional kow-towing is far from obvious and quite unlikely.

We report TAIWAN each month and even there with a very pro-Beijing government, there is still some mainland military blustering about them taking arms supplies from the US.

[See the highly recommended current issue which very compactly traces the essentials in the post-war story of Taiwan and mainland China].

* All things considered, we believe that what China SHOULD seek above all, is to be respected. That would embrace their military might, their giant economic progress, their unparalleled history and culture. But there is a massive difference between respect and fear! In many ways the world admires what they have achieved, but does not like them. They are too mean where they could be generous. There was a time when China’s top administrators to win such roles had to succeed in achieving a high degree of literary excellence. Obviously that did not substitute for knowledge of the world, of economics and politics, but it made for a fearless, civilised, well-rounded polity, which is what this so-successful nation still lacks and yet is readily within their grasp.


Russia after Luzhkov
Our Report this month looks at some of the implications of the departure of the long-time Mayor of Moscow. This post after the presidency, is in the West probably the best known elective office in Russia and although we would hardly endorse the probity of Russia’s electoral system, it has to be noted that he convincingly won his elections. He understood what the inhabitants of this so-grey capital city wanted from its government. It is only fair as he leaves the job, to record that Moscow is in many respects no longer a ‘grey’ city but an attractive capital. We look at some of the expected changes, and pick-up on what appears to be a new initiative of Putin to use Russia’s municipal assets to fund new finance. We anticipate, perhaps wrongly, that Sergei Sobanin, a loyal Putinite will succeed to the mayor’s office.

Meanwhile Russia will attend the next Nato meeting which seems like a good idea. They will be discussing the US anti-missile missile which WDC claims is only directed towards the ‘threat’ of Iranian or North Korean nuclear missiles, but the Russians –and many others find that hard to swallow.  Why not sell the system once perfected, (which means technically ‘maybe-never),’ to Russia. If the US alone owns it, this would clearly distort the nuclear balance of power between the two big players? Now that would be bold diplomacy, but it would be really intelligent!


Pakistan: The army goes on the attack
The generals have finally come out of ‘political retirement’ and delivered a strong signal that they are no longer going to tolerate Zardari’s mismanagement. They asked in October that the government be downsized and several ministers sacked. Zardari and the government refused to comply. It is even alleged that the army hinted that Zardari should leave the presidency in the not too distant future. Apart from the top leadership of the army, among the senior ranks contempt for the Zardari and Gilani government is quite open now. However the problem for the army is that no other civilian politician is ready yet to replace Zardari: Nawaz Sharif, the obvious candidate but not a happy choice to replace Zardari or Gilani, prefers to wait until the economic storm is over, presumably aware that he would not fare much better in office. The army itself has no appetite for taking power at this point in time. What a shame they don’t shoe-in Musharraf who has the character and vision necessary to avoid Pakistan hitting the buffers.

The army has its own problems, as junior and middle rank officers are increasingly vocal in their criticism of the senior leadership's tolerance of American raids in the FATA. The Americans are becoming increasingly effective in their targeting in North Waziristan and are hitting not just Al Qaida types, but also the Haqqani network, which of all Taliban factions is the closest to the Pakistani ISI. More in this November issue of PAKISTAN. Meanwhile the economic situation, as we tell, gets heavier and heavier!


Iran: Sanctions tug-of-war continues
Teheran and Washington are busy as usual trying to either undermine on the one hand, or to tighten, the net of sanctions around Iran. The Americans are trying to pressure the Turks into respecting the sanctions regime, but in these ‘post –flotilla’ days, Ankara is not very keen to listen to Washington. Turkey voted against the sanctions at the time of their approval by the Security Council and says it does not feel bound by them; indeed Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan went on record saying that he plans to triple trade with Iran in the near future. They are after all next door neighbours, with a history of some two thousand years of proximity with their own ideas about western Asian relationships .

The Americans believe that the Iranians are trying to circumvent the tightening net by setting up banks abroad under other flags, or joint ventures, in places like Bahrain, Azerbaijan etc.

Diplomatically, however, Teheran’s situation cannot be said to look desperate. Significant have also been the strengthening of ties to Latin American countries such as Venezuela and Brazil, as well as the selection of Iran for the Presidency of OPEC, the first time since 1979.

Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad is coming under conservative pressure. Supreme Leader Khamenei’s unrelenting support for Ahmadinejad appears to have perhaps weakened his position. He was recently in Qom, seemingly trying to shore up his standing with the clergy, increasingly upset with the President for his efforts to promote Iranian nationalism at the expense of Islam, as a source of legitimisation.


North Korea: Dancing in the streets!
October’s main event in NORTH KOREA occurred on October 10th: the 65th birthday of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). For many people 65 is retirement age, but for the WPK it may herald a new lease of life. As NewNations reported last month, since a rare conference on September 28 the Party now has – for the first time in years – a full Central Committee (CC) and Politburo. The next step is to see whether these bodies are reported as actually meeting regularly; they had failed to do so at all since Kim Jong-il took power in 1994 on the death of his father Kim Il-sung.

For its anniversary the Party threw a party, with dancing in the streets of Pyongyang.

That was carefully costumed and choreographed, as was what preceded it: North Korea’s largest ever military parade. In a bold and evidently last-minute decision, the “reptile press” – as the official Korean News Agency (KCNA) sometimes calls them – was invited to watch the fun. More in this month’s NORTH KOREA


Syria– Saudi relationship questioned?
In Newnations’ last update for Syria, we suggested that Syria might have started to soften its ties to Iran and Shiite forces in Lebanon in exchange for better relations with Saudi Arabia. While recognizing that Syro-Saudi relations were improving in 2009, as the Kingdom tried to weaken the Damascus-Tehran (and Hezbollah) alliance, much of the Western media and even big names in the political risk business have proposed that the new Saudi-Syrian entente has already started to weaken, increasing the risks of chaos in Lebanon. We are not sure that they are right, one always has to discount the anti-Syria input of the Israeli lobby. Syria, meanwhile has been cleared, by the UN special prosecutor and the Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri, for the murder of (his father) prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. We develop this theme.


Iraq: Maliki’s campaign continues
Maliki’s efforts to be reappointed Prime-minister of IRAQ continued in October and he now seems increasingly close to success. He appears to have obtained Iran’s support for his staying in power. Thanks to the Iranians, the Sadrists have agreed to support Maliki in exchange for substantial concessions. The Syrians and the Lebanese Hizbollah also contributed to shape a deal between Maliki and As-Sadr. Maliki’s remaining problem is hostility among the Arab neighbours of Iraq for any coalition which excludes Iraqiya, the coalition led by Allawi. Maliki has embarked on a diplomatic tour de force to gain regional support, asking Arab governments to put pressure on the leadership of Iraqiya in favour of forming a coalition with Maliki.

Is al Qaida outbidding the US? The issue of the participation of Sunni Arab participation into the government receives an additional sense of urgency due to a wave of defections from the Sons of Iraq militias, estimated at a few thousand fighters. It is believed that a number may even have been recruited back into Al-Qaida, which reportedly is offering financially attractive deals to regain some support!


The art of the possible
President Benigno Aquino III of the PHILIPPINES appears determined to be a president for all the people but while he may enjoy massive support among the population at large, will it be sufficient for him to make a difference during his term of office – assuming he is able to complete his term?

It should not be forgotten that during the presidency of his mother, Corazon Aquino (1986–1992) there were no less than seven coup attempts made against her.

Corruption and violence have become so deeply rooted in Filipino society that the sheer inertia of a political system based on self-interest is working against him, and will take considerable effort to turn around. Then there are the hurdles being placed in his way by powerful vested interests. These range from the conservative Catholic hierarchy to politicians and powerful families intent on maintaining the status quo and their privileged positions.

Much more on the new presidency in this issue of the Philippines


Libya’s image needs to be ‘refreshed’
American investors are still lukewarm over Libya. Italy, France, Spain, the UK and other European countries continue to bid for important Libyan projects beyond the oil sector with the understanding, or at least the hope, that the potential returns outweigh the risks. However, apart from some American oil companies, which continue to operate in Libya, American companies have not reciprocated their European counterparts’ enthusiasm to invest in Libya. Certainly, in the United States, Libya’s image still needs to be ‘refreshed’. Memories of Pan Am 103, Lockerbie, and the related political activity by senators lobbying for the victims’ families, continue to present Libya as a country ‘of terrorists’

Interestingly, Libya will present a greater risk in the near future as the succession issue becomes more pressing. There is no Constitution in Libya and while the succession plans may be contained within the Qadhafi family, the situation is less than clear. Our LIBYA report examines these issues


Saudi Arabia - US Arms Deal
In October, the Pentagon advised Congress that it intends to sell the kingdom more than $Sixty billion of weapons over the next 15-20 years. Congress has a month to debate the package, which is expected to pass, given the already tacit Israeli approval for the deal. Indeed, as has been discussed in NewNations, there have been more than casual rumours of an Israeli-Saudi understanding to allow Israeli fighter jets to fly over Saudi territory, if it were to launch an attack against Iranian nuclear facilities. The Saudi deal is being sold to the American public and Washington as necessary for Middle East regional and US national security, where the threat is posed by Iranian expansion. The arms deal is especially important, however, for the United States. It allows US military contractors to generate sales, requiring Saudi Arabia to hire hundreds of American technical experts, trainers, and mechanics to maintain the new equipment and train Saudis to use it. However, Saudi Arabia, suggest military analysts, already has more military equipment than it knows how to use. There are more aircraft than pilots in the Kingdom; indeed, the Saudi Air Force uses foreign pilots, mostly from Pakistan, to operate its advanced equipment; Pakistani navy officers run much of its naval fleet. All this and more in SAUDI ARABIA.


The Caucasus
In the volatile South Caucasus, AZERBAIJAN has announced plans for yet another huge increase in defence spending, which has already skyrocketed over the past decade. Reports from Baku suggest a ninety percent rise from this year’s spending level. President Ilham Aliyev reminded us why last June. “A goal was set forth several years ago for Azerbaijan’s military expenses to be above all of Armenia’s spending,” he said. “This goal has already been fulfilled. Over the past decade, AZERBAIJAN has boosted defence spending at least tenfold as part of a military build-up financed from the country’s soaring oil and gas revenues. It hopes this will eventually force the Armenians to make serious concessions in the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Aliyev regularly threatens to win back Karabakh and the liberated districts surrounding it by force. In ARMENIA the government has downplayed the widening gap between the defence budgets of the two countries. “We counter this with the quality and combat-readiness of our armed forces,” the Armenian Defence Minister told journalists last week. ARMENIA can also exploit its military alliance with RUSSIA, which enables it to acquire cheaply Russian-made weapons. A new agreement signed in August commits Moscow to supplying Yerevan with “modern and compatible weaponry and special military hardware.”

AZERBAIJAN is facing the same economic issues as ARMENIA, according to a member of the standing committee for economic issues in the Armenian parliament, *Ara Nranyan. He added that AZERBAIJAN has diversification problems, in view of the excessive development of the oil industry. Uneven territorial development causes serious issues in remote districts. He doubted whether the double increase in the Azeri military budget meant an intention to unleash a war. “To AZERBAIJAN”, he declared, “the consequences of a war would come at a higher price than the military operation in South Ossetia (in Georgia). RUSSIA would always intervene upon the Armenian side. The Aliyev family prefers income from the oil industry over a questionable war”.

*We think that Mr Ara Nranyan knows of that which he speaks.

In 2008, GEORGIA, under the leadership of Mikhail Saakashvili, foolishly invaded South Ossetia. GEORGIA today after several wars is a much poorer country than RUSSIA, when it was once the richest republic of the USSR. Abkhazia, as well as South Ossetia wanted to break away. The refugee problem resulting from these conflicts has impoverished GEORGIA and has made Saakashvili an unpopular figure. The Head of the Georgian Labour Party Shalva Natelashvili has urged the European Union and the United States to apply sanctions to President Saakashvili. The so-called national leader, Natelashvili says, launched a military adventure in 2008 that proved ruinous to GEORGIA. He turned the country into a colony of the West, deprived businessmen and farmers of access to the Russian market, and cut off ways to talks with Moscow.

Natelashvili adds that the EU and the US should impose diplomatic and property sanctions against Saakashvili and his entourage.


The Balkans & Turkey
The repercussions of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in BOSNIA continue. Six former Bosnian Serb military leaders convicted of crimes related to the massacre of thousands of Muslims could face more charges or longer sentences, after the prosecution filed an appeal. All the men were convicted in June at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. The tribunal has now stated that the prosecution is appealing some of the findings. It requests that Vinko Pandurevic, a Bosnian Serb army commander, should be retried for crimes against humanity in the killing of 3,000 Bosnian Muslims and should have his 13-year prison sentence increased, the prosecution said. Vujadin Popovic, Ljubisa Beara and Drago Nicolic, three former Serbian army chiefs of security, should be retried on genocide charges, while Radivoje Miletic, a former deputy chief of staff, should be retried for opportunistic killings, the prosecution added. Milan Gvero, who was assistant commander for morale, legal and religious affairs, should be retried for crimes against humanity and have his five-year prison sentence increased substantially, the prosecution said.

The Srebrenica massacre is part of the indictment against the Bosnian Serb army leader Ratko Mladic, who is still sought for genocide.

In SERBIA President Boris Tadic has said the ousting of Slobodan Milosevic ten years ago marked the establishment of democracy. Marking the 10th anniversary at a conference in Belgrade, he said SERBIA was now closer to joining the European Union. Both the EU and US sent congratulations, Brussels welcoming Serbia's democratic reforms and economic progress. The EU would continue to support SERBIA on its EU path, in both the political and economic sense, the office of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton said. US Ambassador Mary Warlick said SERBIA was "on the road towards integration into European and Western institutions in order to take the place it deserves among other democratic and progressive nations of the world. We see the day when SERBIA will be a force of stability in the Balkans and the leader of regional co-operation." Let’s hope!

However, an EU official said October 11 that Serbia's failure to prevent an anti-gay riot could hurt its bid to join the European Union although the U.S. Embassy praised police for doing all they could to protect the gay pride march from far-right activists.

Serbian police fought running battles with thousands of unruly citizens who tried to disrupt the march in Belgrade by hurling Molotov cocktails and stun grenades. More than 150 people were hurt and nearly 250 were arrested, police said. SERBIA shares with its Russian idol a really pronounced homophobic tendency, displayed whenever ‘gay anything’ is in the offing. The concept of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is about a century off in the Serbian (or Russian) armed services.

CROATIA is also negotiating to enter the European Union (EU), possibly in 2012. On 5 October, it marked five years since it started EU membership negotiations. CROATIA has also intensified its fight against corruption in recent months, one of the main conditions for joining the EU. A deputy prime minister, one minister, the head of the customs service, and several high-ranking public sector officials, are on trial for corruption, in cases that have been applauded by EU officials. If all goes well, accession talks could finish around the middle of 2011.

Meanwhile, in BULGARIA, the National Assembly have rejected a clearly premature draft resolution for a referendum on Turkey's European Union membership. The right-wing nationalist political party, Ataka, who are staunchly opposed to TURKEY joining the EU, had posed the question "Do you agree that the Republic of TURKEY should join the EU as a Member-State?" But since the debate about Turkey's membership was not discussed, Ataka's MPs walked out in protest. The leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) Sergei Stanishev sensibly said that BULGARIA should deliver its verdict only after negotiations between the EU and TURKEY have ended, and TURKEY has upheld all conditions and prerequisites for joining the Union.

Our report on TURKEY reveals that after many rebuffs the Turks are getting really fed up with Europe. In 2004, 73%, according to opinion polls, wanted TURKEY to join the EU; now only 38% do. Some 75% feel themselves to be Western. The bulk of the French and Germans apparently do not want Turkish membership. As in BULGARIA, European far-right parties want a referendum on Turkey in the EU, the leader of Austria's populist Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache has said. Strache, who had invited right-wing parties from Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Slovakia and Sweden to a two-day meeting in the Austrian capital, told a news conference that the parties believed TURKEY had no place in Europe and ordinary citizens should be given a say in the matter.

The far-right happily does not speak for Europe, but it certainly reflects the current ‘immigratation indigestion’ which several EU states are experiencing, particularly from Europe’s South East (where Turkey’s European toehold is to be found), and with immigrants from Islamic cultures, which appear slow, even resistant to integration.


Central Asia
UZBEKISTAN and TURKMENISTAN, long rivals in Central Asia, appear to be friends again. After meeting with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Ashgabat on October 20, Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov praised ‘the strategic partnership’ between the two Central Asian states. “TURKMENISTAN and UZBEKISTAN have similar positions or views on many urgent problems of global development and world politics. It is a constructive basis for cooperation in the international arena," the Turkmen leader was quoted as saying after the talks. Karimov seemed equally enthusiastic about the state of bilateral relations, declaring that the Turkmen and Uzbek people are the heirs of an ancient and glorious history.

Karimov’s visit to TURKMENISTAN occurred just days before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was due to arrive in Ashgabat. This prompted experts to believe the Karimov-Berdymukhamedov discussions focused on energy issues, namely Turkmen natural gas exports.

Tashkent is Ashgabat’s supply/transit partner in the TURKMENISTAN-UZBEKISTAN-KAZAKHSTAN-CHINA gas pipeline which began operations last December. Medvedev, meanwhile, is expected to seek Berdymukhamedov’s help supplying the South Stream pipeline across the Black Sea. It is assumed the Central Asians discussed their strategy regarding the pricing of their exports to RUSSIA, so as to reach a common position and give themselves more bargaining power. Karimov is also interested in diversifying Uzbekistan’s gas export routes and increasing the transit of Turkmen gas through its territory, to both CHINA and RUSSIA.

UZBEKISTAN and TURKMENISTAN also oppose plans by KYRGYZSTAN and TAJIKISTAN to develop hydropower generating capacity (an obvious natural energy source for these poor countries). As downstream countries, UZBEKISTAN and TURKMENISTAN worry that the construction of dams in KYRGYZSTAN and TAJIKISTAN could restrict Central Asian water supplies. The deterioration of security conditions in the region is another shared concern. In recent months, Islamic militants have become increasingly assertive in northern areas of Afghanistan, operating not far from the Uzbek and Turkmen frontiers.

In KAZAKHSTAN, "President Nazarbayev intends to run for President again in 2012 *," says Yermukhamet Yertysbayev, a presidential adviser. Mr Yertysbayev said that Mr Nazarbayev had set his sights on leading the transformation of the nation by 2020. But don’t hold your breath. He is a septuagenarian already (* the rest of the world hardly realised that he needed ‘to run’).

"It is very important to the President to make sure that his innovation programme until 2020 is completed, and that is why this stage, 2010-2020, is the most important one. He doesn't see any competitors who can achieve this." (We don’t see anyone brave enough or foolhardy enough to stand against him, see numerous archived reports).


Ukraine
UKRAINE is another putative EU member for the (longer term) future. The first European Union – UKRAINE summit takes place on November 22nd. The European Commission has reaffirmed its commitment to negotiation of an Association Agreement with UKRAINE. "We are fully committed to the negotiations on the Association Agreement," Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Stefan Fle, declared. He said that UKRAINE is already travelling in the direction of economic integration with the EU and the country has enormous economic potential. However, a number of obstacles have led to a loss of confidence among the business community, and a loss of investment in UKRAINE. Fle listed a series of concerns, including the taxation system, agricultural exports, customs procedures, lack of respect for court decisions, slow progress in the fight against corruption, and a lack of transparency in the area of privatisation in UKRAINE. The European Commission is therefore encouraging UKRAINE to pursue dialogue with business partners and authorities on difficult issues and to make a step forward on economic transparency. All good stuff but again, don’t hold your breath.


India: President Obama’s Forthcoming Visit
Obama is scheduled to make an official visit to India in the first week of November. There is speculation about whether Obama’s visit will mark substantial progress to the India-US relationship when compared to his predecessor George Bush’s visit. Even though Obama is unlikely to embark on a deal as large as the nuclear deal signed in 2005, there will be agreements on security and economic cooperation, a commitment to fighting terrorism and perhaps an arms sale as part of an ongoing defense relationship. Interestingly, leaders of both countries will have to address the state of affairs within Pakistan and its uncertain future.



Clive Lindley
Publisher



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