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NEWNATIONS BULLETIN 1ST FEBRUARY 2012

 
The Global Misery of Banking Failures

The depths of economic misery which started with the banking failures, reflected in so many national reports below, will not quickly go away, but surely the main thing that those affected (nearly everyone) want to see, is that the lessons are learned – and that it won’t happen again…(see OVERVIEW)

Woe, Woe - and More Woe
 
February’s review of 24 nations in descending order of ‘concern’ includes updated reports on:

Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Turkey, Russia, Belarus, India, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Taiwan, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Romania, Bulgaria, North Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Bosnia.

A Race to the Bottom
There’s a race to the bottom between two neighbours, IRAQ and SYRIA where the first is reacting (badly), to nine years of occupation by a foreign power and the second, via the media friends of its revolution, seems to be inviting just that. We offer a thoughtful commentary on SYRIA, and after nine years covering IRAQ, a rather ‘resigned’ report on the near total and entirely predictable mess, in which it finds itself, now the US has gone. (We urged a federated state, given the barely reconcilable Sunni/Shia/Kurd protagonists, but nobody was listening). Iraqi politics are now overlaid with Saudi Arabian and Iranian proxy moves against each other.

Both upheavals need to be carefully followed. If IRAQ, as it easily might, breaks down into armed fighting groups; and SYRIA remains in just such a mess, it would bring this chaos into a contiguous landmass all the way from the Persian Gulf to the shores of the Mediterranean, indeed to the very borders of Israel, perhaps even for a proxy Saudi – Iranian showdown.

To further illustrate ‘the Syrian problem’, reflecting on well-meaning foreign intervention, our report on neighbouring LIBYA shows it is now in a state of near anarchy following it’s civil war. There is a weak, barely acknowledged leadership, confronted currently by all power being in the hands of well armed militias operating outside any rule of law or authority, other than their own.

PAKISTAN and AFGHANISTAN in neither case offer relief from this misery except that in the doom laden case of Pakistan, since Musharraf, so desperately in need of good leadership, a bright star has emerged. Imran Khan, former captain of the excellent national cricket team was elected last time and with his international celebrity and unremitting attacks on corruption – and it has to be said – the USA‘s military interventions in his country, he has a tidal wave of support building up amid hopes that he can attract elected followers and so provide an alternative to the present sorry bunch, both in government and opposition.

BANGLADESH is featured because of the significance of the suppression of a coup attempt by a group of (the banned) Hizbut-Tahrir affiliated Islamic officers – foiled by the army itself. Sixteen officers have been arrested. This nation (formerly East Pakistan), has much in common both in politics and it’s military, with Pakistan. It is exactly this kind of occurrence that keeps intelligence services up worrying late at night, when looking at the nuclear-armed Pakistan military situation.

EGYPT and MOROCCO report the two remaining ‘Arab Spring’ countries (with completely different outcomes). Egypt is more politically dramatic - and well reported by world media, but Morocco and its neighbour Algeria have to contend with the appearance of the AQIM (‘Al Qaida in the Islamic Mahgreb’) offshoot, in their southern border country.

IRAN is still front page more days than not, and like many others we are wondering if the Israelis are going to be quite so irresponsible as to unilaterally bomb their hated rivals, just before the US elections? We look at the sanctions moves against IRAN, also the internal quarrels between the supreme Iranian priests and the civil government.

TURKEY has long impressed us with its sturdy independence, but whilst we have gone along with their democratic claims, we are still outraged that there are now 72 journalists in jail and more than 50,000 (42%) of the prison population are on remand, having not yet been tried -bail is not a part of Turkish law – but nevertheless they are in jail. Democracies do not behave like that!

RUSSIA with its presidential election coming up, is seething, at least in the big cities, with concern about what is happening to their politics. So recently they were massively supporting Putin, but now they’re questioning that, particularly after the farcical, fraudulent elections in December which we describe, that kept United Russia in power.

BELARUS as our report shows, lives fully down to its reputation as Europe’s last (and quite awful) dictatorship.

INDIA: We tell of the latest developments in the long struggle to eradicate corruption: the bane of political life in India. Also a look at Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, and its elections. Finally, the problem of the Naxalites, India’s ‘Maoist’ guerrillas.

KAZAKHSTAN: Despite the dictator buying western newspaper advertising pages wholesale, rhapsodising about this central Asian paradise, the fact as we are reminded in this issue, is that it is just another police state with all the unsavoury trimmings. It’s work force see themselves as exploited and their protests were duly dealt with, as such tyrannies do deal with labour problems.

SAUDI ARABIA: The worsening relations with Iran will inevitably translate to the Shiite population on the Arab side of the Gulf, including Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Rumors of war will impede foreign investment in the Gulf, which means that regional governments will have to compensate the inevitable shortfall with state investment. Gulf rulers, fearing the spread of the ‘Arab Spring’ see the spending as part of their very security. State budgets were already inflated last year to preempt social turmoil; in fact the Saudi government allocated a record amount, some USD 214 billion, in welfare and job creation programs.
The Saudi monarchy is concerned that the security situation in the Eastern Province, where the majority of its Shiite population resides, could be compromised because of Iranian pressure.
 
TAJIKISTAN: President Ermomali Rahmon has never allowed a free election and consequently is still in power. There has been an agreement with Central Asian neighbours coached by Russia under the aegis of CIS Collective Security, to never allow any foreign nation (think USA), to have military bases in any of their territories, without the approval of all member states. This obviously relates to the winding down of the Afghan war and the fact that the US currently has leased bases (at least for the duration), in three of these central Asian states.

TAIWAN: The long awaited election showed no change, with President Ma of the KuoMinTang obtaining another four year term. We opine that Beijing was the big winner here.

UKRAINE: Endless quarrels with Russia over the quantities and price of their fuel exports to Ukraine. Russia is playing its strategic card of seeking to take ownership control of Ukrainian pipelines, carrying Russian fuel to Europe.

ROMANIA: Badly feeling the effects of the financial collapse in the USA and Europe and its consequences for small nations like them. The austerity measures the government has had to impose on them are very ill received. They were bailed out by the IMF and EU for 20 billion euros, which is the reason why.

BULGARIA: Also suffering from drastic austerity measures, they have just elected a new president. The OSCE gave cautious approval to the election, but registered a widespread complaint about votes being bought, on a big scale.

NORTH KOREA’s reports, after the significant events over the Christmas break are fully up to speed with the current situation, and the advent of the baby-faced Kim Jong-eun, the third generation of this ‘hereditary communist’ leadership.

VIETNAM: Hoping they will be lucky in 2012 they have an optimistic target for both inflation and economic growth. Many have done worse in the past year. We wish them what they wish for themselves.

PHILIPPINES: Cautiously good news. Our conclusion is that their president is living up to his promises in cleaning house, after many years of corrupt failures.

BOSNIA: The best news for a long time. Suddenly the Bosnian Serbs agreed to form a government with federal partners, the Bosniaks and the Croats – the nation has been a year ‘ungoverned’ because of the Serb posturing. The circumstances are interesting – ‘very Balkans’ - but the effects of having had no ministries for a year in a poor nation like this, means there is a lot of catching up to do. To perhaps spoil the story, Dodik, the Bosnian Serb leader is now threatening to pull out because of a central government enquiry into war crimes.


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