Monthly political analysis on nations in
economic or political transition



This July 1st issue we offer twenty country reports: five ‘Arab Awakening’ nations: Syria, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq; in Western Asia: Turkey, Iran; In South Asia: Pakistan, Afghanistan, India; FSU nations: Russia, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan; East Asia: North Korea; ASEAN nations: Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Bangladesh.




SYRIA and its agonies are exercising increasing concern in many places. It is fortunately well reported in its full misery by some intrepid reporters and cameramen. One understands from these reports, that this is not a matter of angels and demons. At root it has now openly become a sectarian religious war since the miscellaneous forces opposed to the regular Syrian army, sponsored particularly by Qatar - key players in this, include highly organised well-funded and equipped jihadis, who are held to be the most effective ‘special forces’ of the rebel host. We now hear that despite US entreaties, Qatar has supplied the rebels with shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles to use against the Syrian Air Force, but which as everyone can see, once in the hands of terrorists constitute a grave danger to the world’s civil aviation at any future place and time. At the same time, the stories of the use of Sarin gas are looking decidedly dodgy, as evidence comes via the UN, the Turkish border, and elsewhere, that the rebels had a quantity of this lethal gas, so why - and who used it?

(Once President Obama had said that evidence of the government forces there using chemical weapons would constitute ‘a red line’, then what an invitation for cunning and wealthy sponsors of the rebellion, to ‘make it happen.’ It is now all looking very much like those invisible ‘WMDs’ in IRAQ).

Scroll down to find ‘SYRIA cont’d’:

EGYPT right now is in a high state of tension. President Morsi is held to have failed by an enormous number of Egyptians who are calling for his resignation exactly one year since his election. There is deep dissatisfaction at the Moslem Brotherhood / Salafist line-up in government, for its prioritising religion and failing to deal with the practical problems of state.

The unorganised secular youthful citizens, who via Tahrir Square and elsewhere, forced down the Egyptian military rulers, were formerly and in the Egypt-wide elections leapfrogged by the organised religionists, have now reacted by launching a new movement called Tamarud (meaning ‘The Rebels’). They aim to force Morsi to resign over a series of grievances, from doing nothing about Egypt’s collapsing economy and for, as they see it, betraying The Tahrir Square revolution. If Tamarud can gain traction, that has to be in the nation’s parliament which means new elections. These modernisers may well find the way through the nation’s current problems, unburdened as they are with religious cant, based on the Moslem holy writings of 1400 years ago. But always the Army, used to being the power in the land are watching and waiting.

IRAN The big news is that a moderate politician Rowhani, whom we describe, has easily won the election to become president. Importantly, he has already made overtures to the leading Sunni nation, Saudi Arabia who as we report in that nation’s July update, have responded positively. So there is now at least a prospect, that the antagonism between the world’s leading Moslem nations might together row back, from the mounting escalation between Sunni and Shia, the largest sects of the Moslem faith (which is looking very dangerous in terms of the mixed populations in middle-eastern nations). It must always be remembered that in Iran the leading Ayatollah is the ultimate power. But the new President Rowhani was one of only eight Ayatollah-approved candidates, the only ‘moderate’ on the list, one to whom the Iranian voters overwhelmingly gave the victory in the first ballot. It now remains to be seen whether the western powers negotiating with Iran over nuclear issues, will be able to make progress.

SAUDI ARABIA’s report positively reflects the above tentative feelers from IRAN. Perhaps (grasping for optimism) this may yet become the most positive event, in reducing the very dangerous and escalating Sunni-Shia clashes throughout the region, partly due to the confrontation in the Syrian Civil war. But long before this time, these tensions have been stimulated by the Sunni Islamist fanatics in Iraq, since Al Qaida in Iraq actively pursued the destruction of those they consider heretics.

LIBYA: The caption to this month’s OVERVIEW ‘Awakening into Nightmare’ is very apposite to the situation in Libya (as well as obviously Syria, Egypt, et al).
We see an urgent need for an international gendarmerie to bring under control the numerous private militias, that are in danger of taking LIBYA over the edge into complete anarchy. As our report makes clear -, it would be a short journey. But with the mess in Syria, who amongst the western nations can be bothered with the worsening mess in Libya? Surely the United Nations could raise a suitable force to transition the battered nation into the democracy that might still be possible ?

BELARUS bears the disgraceful distinction of being Europe’s only dictatorship. (which is why we feature it)! Having borders with democratic Poland and less than democratic Ukraine - which still has hopes of being accepted into the European Union - Belarus has fundamentally not changed over the 22 years since Soviet days. The former communist satrap was reborn as a western-style politician, but lost the plot and made the former ‘White Russia’ into a one-man show, displaying a wide democratic deficit, prisons filling up with a miscellany of opponents and his power guaranteed by the KGB who in Belarus, never even bothered to change their name. It has been selected by China – no great surprise there-to build an economy-boosting manufacturing hub for Europe, which we describe.

BANGLADESH is extremely poor and from top to bottom corrupt! It has an large and ugly Islamic fundamentalist grouping that recently emerged and the nation recently hit world headlines in a disaster, when an already condemned, jerry-built factory collapsed, killing and maiming a large number of mainly women garment workers, shocking the world. Amongst all the corruption and misery there is a bright star, in the form of the Economics Professor Mohammed Yunus, who in his country developed and then proved the concept of micro-lending (borrowing without requiring security), which has transformed possibilities for many millions of poor villagers, many of them women. As Professor Yunus has demonstrated, by their ability to borrow at fair interest, they can raise themselves from absolute poverty. His Grameen Bank success saw him not only become a Nobel Laureate, but a model to be copied in other poor communities around the world. The bank which we describe more closely in this issue, has shockingly been seized by the infamously corrupt government (who no doubt have been salivating at the thought of a successful, profitable bank, within their grasp), which they plan to break up into 19 parts, then probably spread the bounty around their families and allies. It is of course a disgrace, and international protest is building, with which we entirely concur. Meanwhile the US government has suspended Bangladesh’s trade privileges until a satisfactory outcome emerges over the condemned factory buildings, which continue to be used that have caused such terrible death and devastation in the largest and cheapest of the third-world garments businesses.

INDIA, quite justifiably, is building international pressure for sanctions against neighbouring Pakistan, for financing terror and circulating counterfeit Indian currency. The evidence about actions of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence is emanating from the US’s Congressional sub-Committee on Counter Terrorism and Intelligence. We give further details of this and Pakistan’s tolerance of certain Islamic terror groups directed particularly against India.

PAKISTAN: Newly elected, the Sharif government has presented its first budget –we give details of their sysiphean task of turning around a ruined economy.

AFGHANISTAN: Our 136th monthly report (the whole story all archived), is now looking at the closing stages of what future historians may judge to have been in terms of blood and treasure, an obviously expensive but unnecessary enterprise. This report obviously involves US-Taliban negotiations, currently aborted, our view being that President Karzai is now more under siege than ever before. We explain why.

RUSSIA: The Russians have good cause to fear further activities within their federated Moslem republics, where foreign and home-grown jihadis are more and more defining the political agenda. Perhaps over-reacting, the authorities are now targeting Moslems, who without any evidence are suspected of terrorism. This probable over-reaction has much to do we believe, with their perceived need to counteract potential terrorist attacks at next year’s Winter Olympic games in Sochi. Notwithstanding, there is a real recognition that armed conflict in the Russian Federation’s North Caucasus republics, is now a permanent feature and certainly these republics are a target of choice for Islamists moving north, from the closing stages of confrontation in Afghanistan.

TURKEY: Erdogan is facing the toughest time of his presidency which earlier has been marked by his political ‘nous’ that seems strangely to have deserted him. With his hopes for the presidency, certainly at the least, now challenged, it has to be said that his long string of successes in power, and certainly as seen by the outside world, is unravelling. This is probably due to an uncharacteristic attack of hubris, in failing to remember always that he is an elected official and this conflict is in respect of a relatively minor civil issue (in the great scheme of things), regarding the show city of Istanbul. It is surprising that his government is behaving like this, in the face of widespread civilian protest about a re-development scheme he obviously favours, when all common sense in a democratic leader should have seen him agree to refer the matter to a committee, or a public enquiry, or to the city government of Istanbul, where surely such redevelopment matters belong? His many years at the top seem this time to have affected his better judgement, in a matter which is winning him no friends, inevitably undoing the credit earned from some of the considerable successes he has achieved over the years.

IRAQ: Here is our 122nd monthly report where the pluses and minuses of the Maliki government amount to a regular improvement of the economy, due largely to steadily rising oil production; but accompanied by regional and local political near-crises. There is little doubt that the escalating conflict in neighbouring Syria and the increasing Sunni - Shia stand-offs within Iraq, are associated both with Iraqi Shi’ite volunteers going to fight for Assad, and Sunni fighters going to join their co-religionists with the Syrian rebels. Maliki has to tread carefully, since his administration depends on holding these antagonisms at bay within Iraq, as it could all too easily spread across his frontiers. As month follows month, as we report, he seems to be holding it together, as well as juggling his coalition politics at home.

NORTH KOREA: We offer a knowledgeable assessment of the situation which see-saws between neighbourly gestures and blind enmity, only weeks ago threatening to nuke the South. The realities are that the new South Korean government has a little more patience (before being ground-down like its predecessors), so the cancellation over matters of protocol for the meeting that should have happened –but didn’t, is no more than par for the course. As ever this is a good read and offering a broad spectrum of background.

VIETNAM: One of only five nations still professing communism, its transition in survival terms requires actions that Marxism can’t resolve. Our issue this time explains how this top-down society tries to find solutions to a general disillusion on the part of citizens, at the lack of progress in the country, now that Vietnam belongs to a wider group in ASEAN, where several other members are making the steady progress that seems to elude Vietnam.

PHILIPPINES: mid-term elections in May gave the reforming President Aquino a decisive win, at least at the national level. But meanwhile poverty remains a major stigma on national politics. Economic growth is regarded as robust, but nevertheless the type of growth being experienced is still not reflected in poverty reduction. Aquino appears to be doing all the right things his predecessors shrank from, but poverty is proving a very hard nut to crack.

KYRGYZSTAN, no doubt under pressure from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, says the US airbase leased from the Kyrgyz is going to have to close. This is not unexpected. China and Russia do not want US bases in Central Asia, this was a big part of their decision to set up the SCO in the first place. The US has been allowed to remain only during the Afghan war, as it is logistically important to supply the US and allied forces in neighbouring Afghanistan. It is however to be vacated and the pressure will continue during the winding-up period. It may be remembered that before 9/11 the US military were intent on girdling the earth with their bases, and Central Asia where the big powers are China and Russia were deeply unhappy at this development and determined to see it gone from their ‘backyard’.

Meanwhile, not so much because of the SCO but more probably simple greed, is causing the Canadian mining company that successfully operates the country’s only gold mine to be seriously harassed and clearly the Kyrgyz government want them gone. Now ‘the heavy lifting’ is done, we can be sure they will be replaced either by locals, not unconnected to government figures, or a Russian mining company, or a combination of both.

UZBEKISTAN: For some years we have reported on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who are the militants in this part of Central Asia. They became established in the early years of the country becoming independent with the collapse of the Soviet Union, partly as a reaction against the gangster-like methods of the new President who happened to be the former First Secretary of the Uzbek Communist party. He, now long in power, came down hard on the initially moderate Islamism, which was seeking to become established in the vacuum left by the former Moscow-led regime. The IMU retreated to neighbouring Afghanistan to ally with the Taliban, and are now making their presence felt after suffering reverses from the US invasion. They have asked the Taliban to allow them a permanent base in post-war Afghanistan.

GEORGIA: The highly individualistic former president Mikhail Saakashvili, was defeated in the Georgian elections by another strong character, this one a billionaire, now Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. Tensions continue to run high. Moscow who cordially hated Saakashvili in a continuing saga, seemed to be somewhat mollified by his loss of office, but now it seems the old aggravation is still alive. Meanwhile the new government with access to their predecessors’ secrets are attacking their out-of-office rivals with allegations of torture, which they claim to have uncovered (which would surprise no-one).

TAIWAN: With the orderly change of the leadership of mainland China the cross-straits relationship is back in focus. We found it significant that the new Chinese leadership meeting with President Obama in Washington proposed that Beijing and Washington ‘should jointly manage security in the Pacific Ocean’. This seems to be confirming the suspicions of many, including the Taiwanese, of China’s intention to dominate the Asia-Pacific region. It must cause concern to the Kuomintang government of Taiwan who have long been courting Beijing, presumably looking for some form of reunion, but who are also close to the US, to whom they look to for their ultimate security against any attempt at a forced reunion on Beijing’s terms.

SYRIA cont’d
There are three broad groupings of rebel fighters: the free Syrian army (FSA), many of them deserters from the Syrian army in sympathy with co-religionist Sunni rebels. They are commanded by a Brigadier general who also defected from the Syrian regular army. They are the favoured recipient of imported arms, training and other aid from out of country western actors. Then there are a number of free-wheeling rebel groups, not under FSA orders, Sunni but not primarily fighting a religious war so much as to overthrow the Syrian government of Bashir al Assad.(to see how this works, see our Libya Report).

Then there are the Jihadi groups with their own sources of finance and supplies in which the state of Qatar plays a dominant role, most are Al Qaida or allies linked to them, and similar fundamentalist religious groups who are fighting for religion, and whose aim is to overthrow the heretical Shi’ite government. That to be followed by imposing a theocratic government as the first stage of a regional Mesopotamian Caliphate, who will impose Sharia law and scourge the Shi’ites and other nonconformists.

Since they are not fighting for democracy but to implement sharia law and are under al Qaida/fundamentalist orders not to settle for less, it seems that even if the anti-Assad forces were to prevail, there would inevitably be a second civil war to determine how the Assads should be replaced. This seems to be understood by those secular rebel groups that are not jihadist fighters, who are currently fighting alongside them.

It is reminiscent of the Spanish civil war where disciplined communist fighters, ideologically motivated, treated the liberal-left (motivated by anti-facism) as allies of convenience, ‘useful fools’ perhaps, and purged them as they acquired control, the upshot there being that with all this infighting, their side lost and Spanish forces under a fascist general crushed them all.

There are quite seperate agendas here, which could prove to be the basic reason that the existing Syrian government may not be brought down.

It is surely now required of the US; UK; and France who have taken strong anti-Syrian government positions, to explain what happens next if the rebels win, having two conflicting and incompatible agendas. We agree that if a peace conference can actually be convened, which on present evidence does not seem highly likely, if realistic proposals are on offer and acceptable, then this terrible war might finish. But we continue to point out that the well motivated government forces appear to be winning, so if they are not facing defeat, then why should they behave as though they are and conveniently fade away?

But what would neutral arbiters realistically propose, since how can the ‘secularists’ of the FSA and the Islamist rebels with their conflicting agendas, be represented at a conference, to find some sort of common ground? The FSA we are led to believe, could find a compromise with the government forces, if say Assad and family went into exile and fair elections could be held. The Islamists have a different but simple objective, which is to deliver a defeated Syria expelling or killing all the heretical Alawites, Shiites, etc; over to Islamic rule governed by sharia law, as the first step towards the regional caliphate (to include neighbouring Iraq, currently ruled by a Shi’ite administration).

Of course the realities and horrors of the war, scream out for peace and for the two sides to find a solution, other than continuing death and destruction. But even here the western politicians unrealistically see negotiations (and say as much), as an opportunity for terms to be dictated to the Assad government who are clearly winning the war and will need a lot of persuading to effectively give up – why would they? They know that if they lose, these religious zealots threaten their very survival and that of their families and their Alawite religion that goes back in Syria for more than a thousand years.

As to democracy, which some westerners initially thought that this was about, it has never had a chance. The Syrians, as with all their Arab neighbours bar Lebanon, but including Qatar and of course Saudi Arabia, who jointly sponsored the rebellion, have a ruling family and little vestige of democracy. Looking at the Arab League of 17 nations (of 1million population) not a single one is democratic. World Audit Democracy tables show the very best that any Arab League member can do, measured not just by the lack of a free electoral process, but by degrees of public corruption, free media and individual human rights, is to come 75th (the UAE) out of 150 nations- all those with a population measured in millions. (DEMOCRACY table).

In this civil war, in the US and Europe, unreconstructed ‘cold warriors’ have seen a cause with which they can identify, largely because they believe that it is somehow a re-run of Cold War interests with the ‘wicked’ Russians lining up with Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy (and seemingly by extension, that of the western world), to support their nefarious plots.

Yet, precisely why? What is Russia doing this for? (forget the naval-base story which the Russians are closing down). China has similarly taken a blocking position in the UN Security council, again why?

The most likely answer is that they resent that the US should, after playing the key role in the break-up and pacification of Yugoslavia, continue to be seen as the world’s arbiter, effectively being able to get rid of governments of which it doesn’t approve.

In this theory, they would say that the UN, if there is sufficient support from the UN Security Council, is the only body that can claim to intervene in a situation involving nation states, not any single nation state. That this doctrine was indeed the basis of having a supreme world authority, itself subject to the democratic overview of the Security Council.

The outcome in Serbia was seen in that light, also Bosnia Herzegovina, where the settlement was arrived at, with the US ‘calling the shots’. But this was largely due to the UN military set-up failing to do its job. Srebrenica was the breaking point; yet no-one including the US, Russia or the European nations have since set out, having learned some hard lessons, to apply them and reshape the UN force capability. If the US didn’t push for this it could only be because on balance, it quite suited them to hold the military and diplomatic reins, and seek to shape events as they would wish them to be.

But the UN was set up during WWII for the purpose of preventing future large scale war and it is arguable that the UN has never been allowed to develop in such a way with the ability to keep the peace, so as to deal with crises in an authoritative way, mainly because US domestic politics could not allow that.

We take the view that it is quite unfair on the US and its citizens and soldiers, that they should be expected to lead in crisis situations which are highly ambiguous (“six of one and half a dozen of the other”), as is, we contend, the Syrian civil war, leaving aside the invasions of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan all of which looked at in retrospect, are hard to justify! We have looked and we cannot!

Meanwhile, the UK and France, of the European Nato members, have triumphantly scuppered the European Union arms embargo on Syria. But in the case of the UK and France at any rate, they are now in reverse, trotting out reasons why the rebels should not be armed and have put a delay on any decision to do so, probably recognising, at least in the UK’s case, that it would probably be voted down in the UK Parliament. The Syrian rebels, that is the Free Syrian army, contend that the arms are needed now or it will be too late, since they admit they are to some extent on the back foot, with Government forces on the offensive. The jihadists meanwhile have their own sources of arms supplies and take most of the initiative – and casualties it seems, in battling against the Government troops.

The US meanwhile are keeping everyone guessing. Their position is tougher than that of the Europeans because they are in a phase of war weariness, that goes back to the awful years in Vietnam. This was followed, post- Soviet Union, by indulging the neocons, Cheney et al; who could see no point in having made such a vast investment providing the most powerful military ever known, if it wasn’t going to be used. Hence their colonialist instincts resulted in a false prospectus to bring about the Iraq invasion, and the years of occupation, following the 9/11 ‘kneejerk decision’ to invade Afghanistan.

There the Islamic militants were the Taliban - Afghans and Pakistani mountain tribesmen , who remain undefeated ten years later, whilst the villains who actually were responsible for the destruction in New York and Washington, the more shadowy Arab-based al Qaida, dodged across the invisible ‘border’ into the mountains of Pakistan, where only Special Forces could reach them. The irony here is that the allied Special Forces were doing just that, already fighting in the Pakistani and Afghan mountains before 9/11, following Al Qaeda bombing two US embassies in Africa and the USS Cole in Aden harbour.

The invasion of Afghanistan was provoked by the public outcry in the US after this monstrous act of homeland terrorism, yet the perpetrators were already, without publicity, being hunted down by the allied Special Forces. Still, ‘rag-heads’ generally were seen to be to be to blame (as New York’s Sikh taxi-drivers discovered in the aftermath of 9/11).

It used to be possible to say that “everyone knows” that invasions of Afghanistan do not prosper. The British army suffered their worst defeat ever, in 19th C. Afghanistan.

The Soviets had a dismal ten years of war and occupation, trying to secure a puppet government, but the aftershock of failure and their immense casualties, did much to contribute to the collapse of Communism and the implosion of the Soviet Union.

After the Iraq invasion came the occupation, failing to discover any WMDs, as the UN inspectors had after all, made clear beforehand. A lot of people died for no good reason and the whole region has been shaken up ever since, which takes us back to Syria.

There was a time when if post-Soviet Russia took up a position, the West would go for the alternative and vice-versa. It came as an uncomfortable reality back in 2011, that the Russians seemed to be talking more sense (to keep out) about Syria than were the western democracies, until the realisation came that the US State Department, along with European allies, saw in this rebellion a splendid strategic opportunity to de-couple Iran from its Syrian ally; (the Iranians being of an even deeper shade of villainy, as we are regularly told - but do not necessarily believe).

Since some are not fighting for democracy, but to implement sharia law and are under al Qaida orders not to settle for less, it seems that if the anti-Assad forces were to prevail, there would have to be a second civil war to determine how the Assads should be replaced. This seems to be understood by those rebel groups linked to the Free Syrian Army, who are currently fighting alongside them.

The situation is, as we say above is fearfully complicated by there being two distinct rebel agendas and it being, or having rapidly become a religious civil war.

It has certainly become a nightmare in which many people are being killed and the West has no real place. Our fear is of it worsening through 'mission creep' as the US realise that 'their side' may well lose this war and perhaps seek to intervene even after the experience and misery of the years in IRAQ.

Clive Lindley - Publisher





All Country Updated reports Bulletin, 1st July 2013|New Nations - a not for profit company
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