Special Reports
 
 


PALESTINIANS TILT THE WHOLE MIDDLE-EAST
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We correctly predicted in our Jan 18th Bulletin (IMMEDIATE DANGERS) that Hamas would win in Palestine, and thus upset all kinds of middle-east checks and balances. It is hard to see how any peace process can continue with Hamas as the new government whilst being dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel and maintaining an armed faction. Additionally Hamas is a religious party, with close links to IRAN. It would be unlike the Israelophobe Iranian president, Ahmadinejad, not to mix-in with a little (or a lot) of triumphalism, which would certainly intensify the provocation that Israel will feel! But maybe Hamas having seen the power of the ballot box has come to the fork in the road and may opt for politics rather than the gun - if they can understand that they cannot do both. 

Peace in Palestine, the two state solution, was to have been the centerpiece of eventual Arab-American reconciliation, now another casualty of this election. But the people have spoken, as they tend to do in elections and not always for the convenience of those promoting democracy.

They didn't vote this way because they think Hamas can actually lead them into the destruction of Israel, and it is possible that Hamas having so successfully tried the democratic political alternative to terrorism, will see that their immediate next step should be to repudiate the 'armed struggle' and stand down their militia, other perhaps than to restrain the other armed groups, as Fatah patently were unable to do. Their policy of the destruction of the State of Israel is obviously unachievable, thus absurd. It might do as sloganising for a never-ending guerilla war but for a neighbouring elected government it is almost tantamount to a declaration of war, particularly if terrorist acts were to continue. When one remembers how harshly Israel dealt with Yasser Arafat for years in his almost bombed-out Ramallah HQ, for failing 'to prevent' terrorist acts in Israel, how would an actively belligerent Hamas fare any better? They were persuaded to try the political path and the logic is now to capitalize on that, be recognized internationally and then honourably proceed on behalf of the Palestinian people with the negotiations towards a two-state solution. Anything less than that means no progress whatever in resolving the future of Palestine. 

We can expect that the first suicide bombing in Israel following this election, be it from Hamas or others, will likely be regarded as a positive invitation by Israel to chastise them big time, targeting amongst others, their military wing. Restraint, so obviously needed now, is in short supply in the Palestinian - Israeli confrontation. 

The question of funding the Palestinian Authority has already arisen, as the EU and others, whilst cutting some slack by deciding to provisionally continue writing cheques this side of the appointment of the first Hamas administration, will not financially support a terrorist organization, which is how Hamas have long been listed. Hamas has already appealed to other Arab nations for financial help, but since many of those have long ago agreed with the US not to allow finance to reach terrorist organizations, that is unlikely to solve their funding problems. But if IRAN, as a result, were to pick up that financial burden, how could Palestine avoid being regarded as their satellite in the Islamic Revolution? 

A NEW PERSIAN EMPIRE? 
It is extraordinary that TWO cherished US & UN policies - Nuclear Proliferation and the Palestine Peace Process have fallen apart simultaneously. The Islamic Republic of IRAN is the common factor. They have through the troubled times since 9/11 extended their considerable political influence against all the odds in western foreign-policy considerations. They are powerful from the western and Shi'ite provinces of AFGHANISTAN, where they are heavily invested; initially through the solidly Shi'ite southern areas of IRAQ, latterly through the majority religious government of that country; Iranian power extends further through the beleaguered state of SYRIA (whose only international friend they are); into Lebanon via the influential Hezbollah; and now through their Palestinian clients Hamas, right up to the borders of Israel - indeed also those of Jordan and Egypt. 

The US invasion of IRAQ was hardly calculated to produce the unlooked for hegemony of religious shi-ite politics in that benighted country, which given the democratic choice, emphatically rejected the secular parties, as now in Palestine, in favour of the religious. 
Thus the decline of secular Arab politics parallels the spectacular growth of the emerging 'Persian empire.'

Hamas is not a Shi'ite group, but its core policy - the destruction of the state of Israel exactly matched the teachings of the Ayatollah Khomeni, thus of Iranian policy ever since. In December, the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal was in Tehran meeting Ahmadinejad, it is believed seeking financial support. They declared then that they represented a 'United Front' against Israel. 

The nuclear impasse looks baffling enough for the western countries, but the USA which has conducted 2000 'controlled' nuclear explosions in the sixty years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and isn't prepared to definitively state that it has finished yet, has hardly held the moral high ground in this matter. IRAN's circumlocutions and NORTH KOREA's hard-nosed stance, together amount to the admittedly nightmare prospect of the nuclear genie being out of the bottle with no prospect of it going back - indeed copycat expansion must now be expected, unless the Security Council reference of IRAN is effective in curtailing their nuclear programme.

The UN badly needs a 'Plan B' because Nuclear Proliferation is now with us. We certainly do not rule out however, that the Israeli Air Force will intervene in IRAN as they did decisively in 1981 at IRAQ's Osirak reactor. Other states may talk and strike attitudes, but imagine how it must look to Israel and the Israelis, with IRAN's Islamic revolution having leapfrogged onto their frontiers with a proxy army waiting there for them - perhaps to receive at some future time, nuclear weaponry! No need for rockets - just walk it over the frontier!

At the time of the Osirak intervention, Israel's government issued this terse statement: "Under no circumstances will we allow an enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction against our people." So, what can be said to have significantly changed over the last 25 years? 

Although Israel is in many ways a US client, they developed their own nuclear bomb because in the last analysis, they will ultimately be reliant on no other power on earth for their survival as a nation. It seems unlikely that they would make a pre-emptive strike without the nod from Washington. Maybe it cannot effectively even be done without assistance from USAF assets. But it is noteworthy that in 1991, ten years after Osirak, the Israeli Air Force general who had commanded the pre-emptive strike, received a framed satellite photograph of the destroyed reactor accompanied by a inscription with thanks and congratulations, "on the outstanding job you did." It was signed by Dick Cheney. 

Whoever leads them, the Israeli government must have calculated these contingencies and will have determined in what circumstances they would pre-emptively attack their perceived enemy, and we cannot know that critical path. But they would surely allow a few weeks for Hamas to just possibly drop the armed struggle in order to be able to negotiate the state of Palestine; or alternatively to reiterate their call for the destruction of Israel. Also, the Security Council proceedings will shortly take place.

The US might still just consider in the circumstances, depending on the success or lack of it, of the Security Council reference of IRAN, that an Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities might be the least-worst option, even though it would lead to a regional meltdown in the many places including Shi-ite IRAQ, where IRAN could bring this about. Wiser councils might point out that the current US National Intelligence estimate is that IRAN is six to ten years away from having their own nuclear weapons. 

'DISASTERSTAN'
This month we are pleased to add the forty first nation to our regular monthly reports on nations in transition. BANGLADESH, once East Pakistan, is the words largest poor country with a population of 144,319,000, many millions of whom (45%) are below the poverty line! In the field of geopolitics, BANGLADESH with such a vast and poor population, mainly Moslem, cannot be ignored, or only at the peril of the developed nations by so doing.

It is so badly led politically, so corrupt, so unprotected against natural disasters, that probably it is not possible to imagine a more unfortunate nation, and yet…. they do have something admirable at the micro-level. The praiseworthy Grameen Bank is truly a 'peoples bank,' more accurately a womens bank, which has led the way worldwide in micro-banking and which in that nation, shines forth like a good deed in a naughty world. Lending at rates comparable to commercial banks, it is itself a commercial bank but without the need for collateral, it has brought a transforming new element into village life and a proven way of attacking the poverty line from underneath. 

Their web site outlines the amazing story at www.grameen-info.org/bank/GBGlance.htm

FATHER OF THE POTENTIAL NATION
This month has seen the anticipated death from lung cancer, of the chain-smoking president of the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova. This is a region that has produced an impressive line-up of world-class villains : the prisoner at The Hague, Milosevic of SERBIA; the deceased President Tudjman of CROATIA; the fugitives: Serb general Ratko Mladic, and Bosnian-Serb president Radovan Karadic. In this company, Ibrahim Rugova, a pacifist of all unlikely things in such a lethally quarrelsome place, never failed to impress. A pacifist, a professor of literature, a poet and a leader of men. This is not a normal combination, but his embattled character reminded us of the Gandhian alternative to Kalashnikovs and M16's. Sad that he has gone, just as the complicated future of Kosovo is about to take centre stage in the long-running Balkans drama. We shall not soon see his like again, more is the pity. 

Whilst in the Balkans, we reproduce at BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA an important think-piece by distinguished European observers of that divided nation, with its many contradictions stemming from a once essential - to stop the ethnic killing - Dayton agreement. Ten years afterwards, the authors make a powerful case for Dayton to be replaced by a more appropriate constitutional agreement.

NATIONS ON THE EDGE - THE HOTSPOTS
This month, early in the New year, we offer a very full series of reports, including for each, a new review of 2005 and forecast for 2006 (how they got where they are now, and where they are going), for the hot-spots, AFGHANISTAN, IRAN and IRAQ, all of which will get the casual follower of events in those troubled and troublesome countries up-to-speed. The specialist reader may just choose to fast-forward to this month's UPDATE of what has gone before. The Palestinian triumph of the IRANIAN sponsored Hamas, also creates a further twist in the already complicated story of this ancient Western Asian nation which currently so troubles the mighty of this world.

'POWER' BY ANY OTHER NAME
RUSSIA and its former colonies, UKRAINE, GEORGIA, MOLDOVA, all unhappy energy clients; and suppliers: TURKMENISTAN and KAZAKSTAN, are all linked by hydro-carbon bonds of gas and oil, also electricity, along with an AZERBAIJAN, no longer dependent on Russian pipelines. We have long observed and reported RUSSIA's strategic objective of acquiring control of energy supplies throughout its former empire, be it pipelines, electricity supply, even as in the case of KYRGYZSTAN, Russian companies financing the building of new dams for generating power for export. This month we review the situation with each of these energy clients as well as those producers outside of RUSSIA's control but dependent on their pipelines, which of course amounts to the same thing. Not for nothing is manufactured energy also known as 'power'. 

One should never take one's eye off RUSSIA whose energy-imperialism has now surfaced publicly after years of patiently building up their international network of pipelines, electrical generation and distribution, together with the diplomatic squeezing of former satellites. RUSSIA under Putin does not accept that it is a post-imperial state. When the Europeans finally discarded their world empires it was not on any serious politician's agenda to re-establish the previous polity, although undoubtedly there was for some years an ex-colonial economic dependence that largely, over time, dwindled away. 
This month's report on RUSSIA looks particularly at the implications of the first 'confrontation' between President Putin and the new German Chancellor, Angela Merkel in the wake of the short lived crisis of gas supply on the first day of the year. 

MARCH ELECTION IN UKRAINE
UKRAINE's story of course also looks at the upcoming election where Yushchenko's Orange revolution is under great threat of being substantially snuffed out in the March parliamentary elections, by the same voters that put them in to power. This was the second New Year 'warning' in our 18th January Bulletin and again we hope that we are wrong. But on present indications, this may not be so. The UKRAINE story remains a murky one illustrated by the pervasive stories of corruption at the highest levels. It is illustrated by the amazing outcome of the New Years Day gas-transmission crisis being resolved by what was called a compromise: A mysterious Swiss based intermediary 'half-owned' by Gazprom with unnamed directors, which somehow, without going broke, can 'buy at 200 and sell at 100,' with billions of dollars involved. This is an 'in-your-face' example that the world (and Ukrainian voters) heard about, but sadly UKRAINE watchers have plenty more. 

NORTH KOREA - READING THE RUNES
IRAN for the last month certainly took the lime-light off this other international nuclear pariah whose leader, as we describe, took an unannounced trip to China. By all the evidence he had sprung the visit on them at virtually no notice, let alone the rest of the world. Although there were economic factors in this trip based on his itinerary, we describe the undoubted political implications, given the obvious importance the Chinese gave to his visit. Obviously, Kim Jong-il and his advisors will be following every nuance of the way in which the western allies are handling the IRAN nuclear crisis. China as well as RUSSIA, both permanent members, have just agreed that IRAN should be referred by the IAEA to the Security Council which will surprise many - perhaps even the dear leader? 

Clive Lindley:  Publisher

In addition to reports on the seventeen nations highlighted here, we also feature 
FEBRUARY UPDATES on twenty-four other nations in transition. 

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