Monthly political analysis on nations in
economic or political transition
Malay Airline MH17 and Iran Air Flt 655
There now seems a high degree of certainty that the horrific destruction of
Malay Flight MH17 was, as at first believed (before the rushed out media
'judgements': “BRUTE PUTIN” etc) due to the irregulars: cossacks., mercenaries,
whatever, that are resisting the Ukrainian central government in Eastern
Ukraine. Undoubtedly armed by the Russians and keeping tensions at a high level,
they mistook the civil airliner flying far too high for unaided visual
recognition, for a Ukrainian government plane. Then, using their shiny new
Russian donated BUK anti-aircraft missiles, they shot it down, as they had only
the previous day claimed to have shot down two actual Ukrainian government military planes.
The outcome is utterly horrific and disgusting. Yet sadly it is not the first time this has happened, as the following measured account by Fred Kaplan, quoted from “Slate” magazine makes clear:
“Fury and frustration still mount over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and justly so. But before accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of war crimes or dismissing the entire episode as a tragic fluke, it’s worth looking back at another doomed passenger plane - Iran Air Flight 655 - shot down on July 3, 1988, not by some scruffy rebel on contested soil, but by a U.S. Navy captain in command of an Aegis-class cruiser called the Vincennes.........
Many months ago we recommended that the new Ukrainian government should from the outset announce that they would hold referenda in the eastern provinces bordering Russia, (particularly the oblasts of the Donbass: Lugansk and Donetsk where most fighting is taking place), to be held under the aegis of the neutral specialists OSCE/ODIHR. If the majority in each oblast favour leaving Ukraine, then the Ukrainian government should facilitate their departure. If the only way to keep these areas subject to Kiev is by continuing military force, then there will always be residual violence and these areas will be a continuing liability, a drain on the state! [...]
The middle-east is in flames!
From Libya through Israel, Syria and Iraq there is deadly warfare
Competing in the horrors of 2014 is the continuing story of Israel and Gaza, massively covered by world media, just temporarily replacing the destruction of Syria and Iraq in world visibility, with Palestine’s Gaza, controlled by Hamas –Israel’s most dedicated enemy.
It has to be plain wrong, evil even, to be shelling and bombing civilians, cooped- up in ramshackle housing, schools and hospitals in a constricted area. But why is Israel doing this?
Because Hamas and associated groups have developed the ability to obtain, store and despatch modern sophisticated rocket weapons, in sizeable quantities, to threaten a large part of the geographically small Israeli nation.
Not only do they have that ability, but they are using it mercilessly, storing and beyond despicable, despatching rocket salvos from launch sites ‘hidden’ amongst a burgeoning population’s schools, hospitals, mosques and homes, callously using the non-combatant civilian residents as human shields. Israel rose to the bait and hit them anyway. Easy to condemn, but Hamas have launched over 2000 rocket/mortar attacks during this latest outbreak of violence.
Those who condemn what Israel is doing, should explain to them and to us all, how they should otherwise shut down the systematic random attacks on their own people and their towns and cities, because they cannot do nothing!
Hamas does not apologise to the parents and people of Gaza (none of whom had signed up to be their human shields), for locating stockpiles of rockets, launchers, weaponry of all kinds, in amongst the softest of soft defences, the helpless living bodies of children, women and old men, innocent victims for the propaganda ‘gain’ of these destroyed lives bringing down condemnation on Israel. [...]
Criminality & High Finance
"The Best Way to rob a bank is to own one"
It is obvious to every thinking individual that the power of Wall St & the City
of London following the financial meltdown, has survived the myriad
commentaries, promises and threats of politicians and journalists, and that no
small part of that power rests on financial crime.
That crisis was 2007/2008 and on. This is now.
Can we say, does anyone believe that the problem has been fixed?
The stark evidence in the following top-level statement relating to the crime of Financial Fraud given in May 2010, is highly relevant to that question, armed with which, readers can answer for themselves.
The question remains:
What runs the western world, the Democratic Rule of Law, or the Rule of Money?
Did somebody laugh?
Try this on for size.
(Statement by James K Galbraith before the US Senate Sub-committee on Crime)
"I write to you from a disgraced profession. Economic theory, as widely taught since the 1980s, failed miserably to understand the forces behind the financial crisis. Concepts including “rational expectations,” “market discipline,” and the “efficient markets hypothesis” led economists to argue that speculation would stabilize prices, that sellers would act to protect their reputations, that caveat emptor could be relied on, and that widespread fraud therefore could not occur. Not all economists believed this – but most did.
Thus the study of financial fraud received little attention. Practically no research institutes exist; collaboration between economists and criminologists is rare; in the leading departments there are few specialists and very few students.
Economists have soft-pedaled the role of fraud in every crisis they examined, including the Savings & Loan debacle, the Russian transition, the Asian meltdown and the dot.com bubble. They continue to do so now." [...]
Afghanistan: Fighting on their own
This year 2014 is indeed a time
of big changes in Afghanistan. To start with, the western armies which have been
propping up its shaky government will be gone by the end of 2014, to be replaced
by a small training contingent which will gradually shrink to nil by the end of
2016. The Afghan security forces will have to contain the insurgency on their
own. Their main weakness is the near absence of an Afghan air force worth the
name, when Afghan army and police have been coached to fight under strong air
cover. The Afghan security forces are also weak in artillery, logistics and
coordination, all gaps that the NATO-led mission was filling to a large extent.
Our PAKISTAN report (in this issue) tells that the new BJP government in India
has signed an agreement with Russia and Afghanistan whereby India will pay for
the supply of some Russian military equipment to Afghanistan.
Will the Afghans be able to cope on their own? For now they are being helped by serious divisions within the armed opposition. The Taliban account for well over 80% of the armed opposition, but are divided internally. [...]
Pakistan: Back from the brink?
Nawaz Sharif’s successes
Most observers agree that Nawaz Sharif has managed to steer the Pakistani economy in the right direction. The ADB, which is usually more positive about the Pakistani economy than most other international organisations, estimates the current GDP rate of growth at 4.1%, higher than the previously forecasted 3.7%. While this is not breakneck speed growth in a country where the population grows at 1.5%/year, it is an improvement compared to 2013 and 2012. The Pakistani rupee is also appreciating, recovering ground lost in recent years, with a beneficial impact on the inflation rate. The main successes claimed by the Nawaz Sharif government for now are the ‘containment’ of the fiscal deficit to about 6% of GDP, after years of steady growth, and the stabilisation of the inflation rate at about 8%. Tax collection has improved somewhat and some subsidies have been cut. Foreign exchange reserves remain low, corresponding to about 33 days of imports, but at least this is an improvement on November, when reserves were down to 20 days of imports. But investments remain low and the country continues to import more than it exports. Pakistan’s products are not competitive and productivity is low, not least because of continuing power shortages.
In this relatively positive picture a negative element is represented by rising tension with Iran over Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. This relationship has long been strong, but now there are allegations that Pakistan has manufactured atomic bombs for the Saudis and is about to deliver them. Whether the allegations are true or not is not clear, but the Iranians are clearly upset and have cancelled their loan to Pakistan for building the Pakistani half of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, just days after the Pakistanis had agreed to speed up the project. The Pakistanis have long hesitated to implement the project, despite a widespread recognition that it might be necessary to relieve Pakistan’s thirst for energy. Perhaps Iran was hoping to use the pipeline as a bargaining chip with Washington and Islamabad, trying to attract more generous offers from either side. Now if it wants it, Islamabad will have to build its half at its own cost. The Iranians even threaten to demand compensation for Pakistan’s failure to build the pipeline if it will not be ready next year, but it is estimated that it might take 4 years to build it. Only the US and Saudi governments, who long opposed the pipeline, will be pleased by this development. [...]
UK Foreign Policy
William Hague’s successor as
Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, apparently in the Daily Mail/Telegraph
tradition, is a strange choice for Foreign Secretary, being a rampant
isolationist positively eager to leave the EU, as it appears from his early
interviews; (without the EU there is very little British Foreign policy, as
distinct from following the lead of Foggy Bottom).
Whether he got the post for that reason is too soon to say. He may turn out to be just a bit too keen to quit for David Cameron, who has made it clear that he will himself campaign to stay in, subject to the EU agreeing sufficient concessions that he can claim to be a victory. But ‘strange’ we say, because any Foreign Secretary can surely see that if the UK no longer sits, as of right at European top tables, then it inevitably will have far less influence in the world, particularly by hollowing out the much vaunted (in Britain) ‘Special Relationship’ with the US, if not there to represent their point of view within the European Union, as the US has made very clear publicly.
At that time as now, Syria was in a nasty civil war involving Saudi and Qatar who have no interest in democracy, but a great interest as the leading Sunnis in the neighbourhood, in doing down the irksome Shiite neighbours. Certainly this war quickly became the very ‘Islamic politics’ that the west did not at that time understand. It would be laughable to believe that medieval Saudi and Qatar, the leading Sunni neighbours of Shi’ite Syria, themselves with ‘divine right’ hereditary rulers, had the slightest interest in a modern western democracy for Syria.
Syria was represented as an authoritarian regime (they all are in this neighbourhood), ‘declaring war on its own people,’ terms still used, notwithstanding that the Syrian army is all that stands before the Islamists who have steadily and inexorably come to dominate the rebels in this war torn country, and also its neighbour Iraq. Since neither Hague nor Clinton are any longer responsible for their country’s foreign policy, now might be a good time to re-evaluate the Syria Iraq situation as a theatre of war, to seek to marshal and co-ordinate ALL available forces to stand up to ISIS before it takes Baghdad and more. [...]