In this politically charged climate, German and EU leaders may find a new political lightning rod for rising frustration toward the U.S. in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an ambitious trade deal between the United States and the European Union slated to add $280 billion and 13 million jobs to the transatlantic economy. Germany is the EU’s economic center of gravity, making it the United States’ most important bilateral partner in the TTIP negotiations. German and EU politicians will have to sell TTIP to their people for it to pass.
While German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned on Sunday that the bloody conflict in Iraq could quickly spin into a regional “proxy war”, former spokesperson for the US defence department J.D. Gordon said that the renewed violence is actually a “proxy war between Saudi Arabia and the Iranians which is now spilled over into Iraq and there will be a lot more violence in the months, years to come.” “We have to prevent a proxy war of the regional powers breaking out on Iraqi soil,” he said.
So Russia and China plan to change the status quo by forming their own rating agency. The two countries have signed an agreement to that effect. In a first step, the new institution will evaluate joint investment projects, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov announced during a recent visit to China. The agency will be built based on existing models. Other measures include the creation of their own development bank to compete with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Please think about why the son of a US Vice President ends up working for the biggest Ukrainian gas company. Then wonder why a college chum of Secretary of State John Kerry ends up at the same Cyprus based Burisma Holdings? Years before the current Ukraine situation western investors planned to undercut Gazprom by diverting shipments of natural gas to so-called “regasification” plants across Europe. This report by actuary Gail Tverberg goes in depth into the dynamics of east versus west price warring.
Japan’s prime minister will lay out a vision of Tokyo as a counterweight to the growing might of China this weekend, at a major security forum set to be dominated by escalating regional disputes. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will tell the so-called Shangri-La Dialogue that Japan and its partner the United States stand ready to jointly bolster security cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported.
In a spectacle designed to show their resolve against terrorism, Chinese authorities held a public sentencing in a football stadium in the northwestern Xinjiang region of 55 people convicted of violent crimes. More than 7,000 people watched from the stands in Yili prefecture during Tuesday’s sentencing, and videos were distributed by police Wednesday to Chinese media. It was an unusually public display in a country where court proceedings are normally closed to the public.
Turkey is to start extradition proceedings against US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.
Mr Gulen, a former ally of the prime minister, has been accused by Mr Erdogan of using his supporters to try to topple him. The cleric denies mounting a campaign against him. Turkey’s government has faced a string of corruption scandals and rights groups accuse it of authoritarianism.
While the SKR and FSB seem to be cooperating against the MVD, they are nevertheless competitors on other fronts. For example, talk of the creation of some investigatory super-agency—a “Russian FBI”—have resurfaced periodically. Putin, a KGB veteran who well understands the power of dividing and thus ruling the security apparatus, has always held back from such a move. Nonetheless, the Russian press has now begun reporting leaks to the effect that such an agency may be announced this spring, to be fully operational by 2016 or 2017.
The Central African Republic’s northern neighbor, Chad, is a military heavyweight in the region. Under the leadership of President Idriss Deby Itno, it is a driving force behind key decisions in the current crisis. For example, on the question of the president: CAR’s interim president Michel Djotodia was invited to attend a summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in the Chadian capital N’Djamena in January 2014. He then resigned following pressure put on him by President Deby. This was not the first time Chad had decided on the rise and fall of a Central African president.
The pre-election fever in Algeria threatens to morph into a full blown confrontation between powerful political clans. In an unprecedented move, the General Secretary of the National Liberation Front (FLN), ruling party, publically criticized the head of the all-powerful Military Intelligence (DRS) accusing him of mismanagement and negligence. Mr. Amar Saadani blamed General Médiène for the precarious political and security situations in Algeria. For local observers, this new chapter of infightings among the different cliques that form “the system” is a prelude to an upcoming power struggle over the future of Algeria’s presidency.
The Egyptian army controls almost 45 per cent of the country’s economy, German newspaper Die Welt claimed.In a report entitled “The Egyptian army is Egypt’s real economic power” the newspaper said following January 25 revolution which ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the military junta led by 75 years old Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi took over power and worked with all of its strength to protect its lucrative economic interests that made the military establishment a business empire and one of the most important factors influencing the country’s economy.
There is an unmistakeable sense among Western decision-makers of power slipping away. It’s not an argument about American abstention or decline, although that plays into it for some critics of the Obama administration. It is more to do with the exhaustion – moral, political and economic – of nations that have been in the forefront of the international security business, and the vibrant ascendancy of some other players. “It means,” he says, “we will have less influence on the international scene. The vacuum will be filled by other powers and they do not necessarily share our interests and our values.”
Iraq is poised to flood the oil market by tripling its capacity to pump crude by 2020 and is collaborating with Iran on strategy in a move that will challenge Saudi Arabia’s grip on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. “We feel the world needs to be assured of fuel for economic growth,” Hussain al-Shahristani, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy in Iraq told oil industry delegates attending a Chatham House Middle East energy conference. Iraq’s intention to challenge Saudi Arabia’s status as the “swing producer” in the OPEC cartel could see a dramatic fall in oil prices if Baghdad decides to break the group’s quotas and sell more of its crude on the open market.
There has been a craven silence from the Australian government about the grave constitutional crisis in Nauru, where the chief justice and resident magistrate have been illegally deposed by the government. There was not even a pretence of following proper constitutional procedure. Australia’s immigration minister, Scott Morrison, dismissively said it is an internal matter for Nauru. He self-interestedly asked only what will happen to asylum seekers charged with offences in immigration detention. The foreign minister and prime minister have said nothing. They have not made even a cursory condemnation of arbitrary executive rule.
Chile’s police special forces took the port of San Antonio by force yesterday to allow non-striking workers access to the San Antonio International Terminal. The move comes in response to strikes that began on Jan. 3 which have paralyzed trade from the major port, particularly for the fruit industry. San Antonio Port Workers Front (FTP) leader Julio Castillo said police had exercised excessive repression in the city to gain access. “A night of repression from the police special forces was experienced. People from STI don’t want to go to work but they are forced to,” Castillo was quoted as saying.
Anti-government protesters in Bangkok have threatened to take Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and senior cabinet ministers hostage unless they step down in the next few days. The dramatic escalation in the protesters rhetoric comes as thousands marched on government offices on the second day of their attempted ‘shutdown’ of the Thai capital. Major roads in central Bangkok have been barricaded since Sunday night by tens of thousands of demonstrators as part of their campaign to force Ms Yingluck and the ruling Pheu Thai Party from power.
Although the garments are destined for the US, Europe and Japan, South Korean companies reap much of the financial gain, playing the role of middleman between laborers and Western brands. Korean-owned factories employ legions of low-wage workers, churning out clothing for fashion-hungry markets. Now, South Korea has emerged as a behind-the-scenes actor in the crackdown. The embassy admits that in recent weeks it has been running a backdoor campaign to protect Korean business interests. This campaign has included turning to the brutal and battle-hardened Cambodian military to implement security measures.
Washington has gained a little-known ally in its bid to win crucial Arab support for curbing Iran’s nuclear program: Oman, a small kingdom that is expanding its role on the Middle East’s diplomatic stage. After playing a behind-the-scenes role in the Obama administration’s diplomatic overture to Iran, the Sultan of Oman and his royal court are working to help sell the deal to skeptical Arab governments, said U.S., Iranian and Arab officials. The Obama administration is pressing to gain the support of its key Mideast allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and Israel, for its Iran diplomacy, but is facing strong resistance.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, a business empire as well as the country’s most powerful military force, have been a vocal critic of recent nuclear diplomacy. President Hassan Rouhani is fighting back, setting up a contest that may shape his presidency. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps expanded under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, benefiting from multi-billion-dollar contracts to build Iran’s nuclear facilities and develop the world’s biggest natural-gas field at South Pars in the Persian Gulf. Former officers, who made up more than half of Ahmadinejad’s cabinet, are down to four out of 18 ministerial jobs under Rouhani.
The Gulen community has been at odds with the Prime Minister over a range of issues, including the wide powers afforded to his intelligence agency, his handling of the Gezi Park protests, and his government’s foreign policy. The blowback began with reports that Erdogan was engineering a purge of the Turkish bureaucracy, in which the Gulenists had established a number of powerful fiefdoms. In November, when the government confirmed that it would go ahead with plans to shut down Turkey’s exam prep schools—one of the Gulen movement’s financial lifelines—it reached a peak.
The European Parliament voted this week to lift import duties on Moldovan wine, responding to the “unjustified and arbitrary pressures exerted by Russia”, which banned the product as of 1 January next year. But Russia has not had its last word yet, analysts warn, urging the European Union to speed up its association process with Chisinau to avoid a Ukraine-like scenario.The move comes two months after Russia banned wine exports from Moldova citing “food safety concerns”, and just a few weeks after Moldova initialed a key association agreement with the EU in Vilnius, which is yet to be formally signed.
Yemen, often the battle ground for proxy wars in the region, is no stranger to accusations that Iran funnels money into the country to fund a group known as the Houthis. The Houthis are Zaidi Shi’ites who have battled the government for power in Sa’ada governorate for almost a decade. In March 2011 during Yemen’s popular uprising, the governor of Sa’ada fled and the Houthis took control of the area. The group, often termed ‘rebels’ and ‘militants’, are controversial internationally for their anti-American and anti-Israel slogan. However, they have growing political clout.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s uncle, seen as the hardline regime’s political regent, has apparently been purged and two associates executed, South Korea’s spy agency said on Tuesday nearly two years after the young supremo came to power. The National Intelligence Service (NIS) told a parliamentary committee that it believed Jang Song-Thaek had been removed from all posts, including vice chairman of the communist country’s top military body, the National Defence Commission.
Ukraine had dodged a “death spiral” by protecting its eastern trade flows. Putin has been tightening the screws for months, blocking shipments of goods and targeting heavy industry in the eastern region that depends on the Russian market. A freeze on imports of railway carriages has hit 80 per cent of Ukraine’s carriage output. Another victim is Roshen chocolate, owned by Petro Poroshenko, a champion of the EU cause in Ukraine’s parliament. Roshen sales in Russia have been banned for “toxic impurities”. The guerrilla warfare tactics have pushed Ukraine to the brink of financial collapse.
A former officer said: “The primary goal the authorities will have had is to present Bouteflika as strong and in control of the state—including the security apparatus. On the other hand, the big changes taking place in the region, the security deterioration along Algeria’s borders, and the corruption scandals that have come to light have forced these actions and changes in military and government officials. But to say that there is a struggle between the intelligence service and the presidency—this is just to distract public opinion. There is no struggle whatsoever; they are in perfect harmony.”
Afghan parliamentarians and analysts are concerned about the Iranian regime’s machinations in Afghanistan. “Iran is quite busy inventing crisis in Afghanistan,” Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, a writer and director of the Regional Study Centre in Kabul, said. “Iran has two goals,” he told Central Asia Online. “First, it wants to create barriers to Western countries, and second, it wants to build up its own influence by establishing pro-Iran universities, religious seminaries and media outlets.” Nazir Ahmadzai accused Tehran of supporting insurgents in order to destabilise Afghanistan before its April elections.
It’s an election in name only: even the challengers to Tajikistan’s autocratic president have praised him and the only real opposition candidate has been barred from the race in the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation. Emomali Rakhmon, 61, who has led the mountainous, Sunni Muslim nation neighboring Afghanistan and China for more than two decades, is all but certain to win a fourth presidential term in Wednesday’s vote. He polled 79 percent in the previous election seven years ago. Western monitors criticized it as lacking any genuine competition.
Along the lines of the intensifying regional rivalries between Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Iran, the Lebanese arena continues to play the role of a “mailbox” for sending messages between the concerned states – an issue that was apparent in the continuing clashes in Tripoli between Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. There is talk of a Saudi-Syrian struggle in the poorer districts of Tripoli, manifested in rumors of massive amounts of money being transferred to the different groups and their fighters.
China’s interest in a peaceful Middle East is enormous, by contrast. Beijing is not only the biggest customer of precisely those oil powers who presently are fanning the flames of conflict in Syria; as a VIP customer, Beijing has growing political influence, which it should use openly. The word of the Chinese foreign minister has just as much weight in Tehran and Riyadh as that of his American counterpart. China’s situation, Zand continues, is rather like Germany’s after reunification: a state whose economic power is growing will eventually be asked what it puts on the table politically.
The GCC countries spent about $130 billion in 2012 to bolster their defences, according to ‘Jane’s Defence Weekly’. While most of their requirements are currently sourced from Western manufacturers, there is change in the offing. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Saudi Arabia made a $15-billion weapons contracts proposal to Russia in July 2013. And, if the possibility of Turkey choosing a $4 billion Chinese missile defence system materialises, at the cost of Western firms, it will create big openings for the Asian giant in the Gulf.
Beijing considers Central Asia as a region of its own, if not a testing ground for China’s foreign policy, while publicly stating that the region remains under Russia’s sphere of influence. The post-Cold War Chinese approach to Central Asia is based on the concept of Zhoubian, or peripheral strategy, meaning that security has to be reached in the bordering Chinese territories through the development of a belt of stable neighbors based on peaceful coexistence. Thus, Central Asia represents a continental bridge between China and Europe: regional stability is paramount for Beijing because turbulences on the bridge could endanger the whole sub-system.
“Karzai has a mental map of the incredibly Byzantine patronage networks and small balancing acts among local leaders that have formed the spiders’ web of connections that is the current government,” he said. That may not please NATO planners, who privately say they are running out of time to strike a deal for forces to remain. This week Mr. Karzai gave a reminder of his short fuse, railing against international forces for causing “great suffering” for the past year.
An audio recording attributed to Egypt’s Defense Minister al-Sisi was published on Thursday by Rassd News Network in which the army chief has called for providing a constitutional immunity for him if he is not elected Egypt’s president “You should lead a campaign with intellectuals to draft an article in the constitution to provide immunity to Gen. al-Sisi in his capacity as a defense minister and allow him to resume his role if he is not elected president,” al-Sisi reportedly says during an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper.
Fidan’s rise to prominence has accompanied a notable erosion in US influence over Turkey. Washington long had cozy relations with Turkey’s military, the second-largest army in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato). But Turkey’s generals are now subservient to Erdogan and his closest advisers, Fidan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who are using the Arab Spring to shift Turkey’s focus toward expanding its regional leadership, say current and former US officials. “Hakan Fidan is the face of the new Middle East,” says James Jeffrey, who recently served as US ambassador in Turkey and Iraq. “We need to work with him because he can get the job done,” he says.
After finding favour with energy resource-rich countries such as Nepal and Bhutan, India’s proposal for a common power market in South Asia is now gaining traction with power-deficit countries of the region like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. While Indian power companies have a strong footprint in the hydropower sectors of Bhutan and Nepal, estimated to have generation potential of 30,000 mw 40,000 mw respectively, they have now found toeholds in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Pakistan, too, has solicited Indian investment in its power sector.
Saudi Arabia, exasperated with U.S. vacillation related to Syria’s chemical arsenal and now its effort to reconcile with Iran, Riyadh’s foremost adversary, is forging a new alliance of Islamist rebels in Syria under a pro-Saudi warlord to supersede the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army. Riyadh also wants to foment an Iraq-style “Sunni Awakening” to unite Syria’s majority sect to topple the minority Damascus regime of President Bashar Assad. “The Saudis have enlisted ’50 brigades’ and some thousands of fighters under a new structure headed by Zahren Alloush, head of Liwa al-Islam, the new group’s most powerful Salafist brigade.”
Algeria’s ailing head of state, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, had been widely expected to stand aside in presidential elections slated for April 2014 after ruling the oil and gas-rich North African country since 1991. But instead, the 76-year-old Bouteflika, one of the few surviving veterans of Algeria’s 1954-62 war of independence against France, has boldly sought to consolidate his power base in his running battle with the country’s generals by purging the powerful intelligence services.
Russia knows very well that should Ukraine sign the EU Association Agreement, it will no longer have the tools to incorporate Ukraine into the Customs Union, thus making further political integration into the Eurasian Union impossible. The Eurasian Union has been at the forefront of Putin’s attempts to create an umbrella group for former Soviet nations that would strive for their security, economic prosperity and cultural closeness. The idea of seeing Russia as the core of a new geopolitical center that would act as a bridge between West and East has long been an attractive idea to many Russians and is a project that Russian rulers have promoted for centuries.
Ailing Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s massive reorganisation of the cabinet, in which he gave key posts to close allies, aims to ensure he has control over his succession next year, analysts and media say. The reshuffle on Wednesday, the largest since 1990, saw nearly a third of ministers lose their jobs and came after Bouteflika had put a confidante as head of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) and trimmed the sails of the powerful DRS military intelligence agency. “It’s a war cabinet to prepare for the presidential election” in April 2014, political analyst Rachid Grim said.
With a subtle motion of the hand” China took away the Turkmenistan – Afghanistan – Pakistan – India (TAPI) pipeline project from USA and became yesterday the chief controller of gas resources in Central and South Asia.
Somebody else’s ideas and plans have been expropriated by means of contract for sale of 25 bn cu m of gas per year concluded between State Concern Turkmengas and Chinese Company CNPC. The deal will increase the total volume of Turkmen gas supplied to China up to 65 bn cu m.
Russian naval vessels in the Mediterranean are capable of reacting to an escalation in the Syria conflict, a military source said, as Moscow fine tunes its maritime presence ahead of possible US military action. “Today we consider our presence in the eastern Mediterranean to be sufficient to solve the tasks. If necessary, together with submarine forces, they (the ships) are capable even today of influencing a military situation,” a general staff said. “We are ready to solve sudden task.
Natural gas basins could turn the Mediterranean into a “sea of prosperity,” but there is a risk that politics may hamper economic progress, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned. “The biggest problem in the eastern Mediterranean is not the existence of reserves, it is the potential that politics may supersede the economy,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist, told daily Hürriyet. “If this settles down, I believe eastern Mediterranean gas will raise the prosperity of regional countries and could become an important alternative to Russian gas,” he said.
Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Mongolia are expected to become full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at its next summit, said former Secretary General of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Akram Zaki on Wednesday. Speaking at an international conference entitled “SCO’s Role in Regional Stability: Prospect of Its Expansion” organized by Islamabad Policy Research Institute here, Akram Zaki said China and the Russian Federation had supported Pakistan, India and other countries’s membership of the SCO.
Tens of thousands of Russian troops have been placed on alert after a suspected Israeli airstrike destroyed advanced, Russian missiles recently delivered to Syria. In a July 13 report from ITAR-TASS, The Russian Defense Ministry has announced what is being described as “the most ambitious [check alert] in the history of post-Soviet test readiness.” The alert, according to the ITAR-TASS report, involves more than 80,000 troops, around a thousand tanks and armored personnel carriers, some 130 aircraft and 70 naval vessels.
Both Gen Sisi and Adly Mansour, the chief justice appointed as interim president by the generals, have old ties with Riyadh – Gen Sisi was once military attache there, while Mr Mansour spent seven years as an adviser to the Saudi ministry of commerce. The day before Saudi’s money was sent to Egypt, it won another small battle when Ghassan Hitto, who was said to be close to Qatar and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, finally resigned as the interim prime minister of the Syrian National Coalition. Two days earlier, Saudi’s man, Ahmad Assi Jarba, a tribal sheikh of more traditional bent, became its president.
Those who wanted to believe Bouteflika dead were disappointed, those who plotted against him in the interim shelved their plans, those who longed for a huge succession fight realized they’d wasted their time, and those who dreamed of a new day for their country would have to dream of something else instead. And just you wait, Bouteflika will punish them all. He will go after everyone who declined to come out and mourn for him, who failed to organize fervent processions, to sacrifice sheep, to make offerings like in the days of the sultans.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter what is right or wrong. What matters is what is practical. For this week eurocrats went a step further and— having already exasperated many of the EU’s own members— they managed to alienate the one of the block’s biggest trading partners too, by slapping tariffs on cut-price Chinese solar panels. The scrap has become so petty that even the country which started it, Germany, wants no part in the fight, while France, which will be hit the hardest by any Chinese wine tariffs, is posturing angrily on the point of principle.
“Qatar has spent about three billion dollars in the past two years to support the opposition in Syria, which far exceeds what provided by any other government. However, the Saudi Arabia competes now in leading the bodies providing Syrian opposition with weapons,” the paper said. “The cost of the Qatari intervention in Syria, which is the latest effort of the oil-rich emirate to support an “Arab revolution,” only represents a very small part of the international investment of Qatar,” it added. “Qatar’s support for Islamist groups in the Arab countries puts it in confrontation with the other Gulf States and provokes competition with the Saudi Arabia,”
Russia is engaged in a major buildup of both nuclear and conventional missile defense systems at the same time Moscow is seeking legal limits on U.S. missile defenses, according to U.S. officials.
The Russian military is developing and deploying an array of new and modernized anti-missile interceptors that are part of a strategic doctrine that calls for defending against what Moscow believes to be an increasing threat posed by offensive ballistic missiles, said U.S. officials with access to intelligence reports.
A bid by Qatar to relocate the United Nations’ civil aviation agency from Montreal to the tiny emirate has angered Canada, where politicians from all sides vowed Friday to band together to fight the proposed move.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, which sets international civil aviation standards, has been in Montreal since its founding in 1946. Qatar presented ICAO with an unsolicited offer last month to serve as the new permanent seat of the organization beginning in 2016.
China has allegedly sold helicopter gunships to ethnic Wa rebels who occupy areas of Shan State in eastern Burma, intelligence monitor Jane’s Information Group reported on Monday.
The report claimed China “delivered several Mil Mi-17 ‘Hip’ medium- transport helicopters armed with TY-90 air-to-air missiles to the Wa in late February and early March, according to both Myanmar ethnic minority and Myanmar government sources.” Bertil Lintner, an expert on Burma and author of Great Game East: India, China and the Struggle for Asia’s Most Volatile Frontier, confirmed the accuracy of the Jane’s report.
Analyzing Beijing’s foreign policy is a relatively simple exercise. That’s because, unlike the United States and other Western nations, China doesn’t even pretend to operate on any other principle except naked self-interest. On one hand, China has courted Israel as a partner in developing Mediterranean gas fields — but it also has been happy to do business with Israel’s arch-enemy, Iran, and has sold weapons that ended up in Hezbollah’s arsenal. In South Asia, meanwhile, China has cynically helped Pakistan check India’s regional role, even as China’s state-controlled press has warned Pakistan that Beijing may “intervene militarily” in South Asia if Pakistani-origin jihadis continue to infiltrate Muslim areas of Western China.
With the Sino-India standoff in Ladakh now in it’s third week, Chinese are showing no signs of withdrawing from the territory they occupied after their incursion in Ladakh two weeks ago. On Monday news reports said Chinese troops have erected an additional tent in the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) sector raising to five the number of such structures in the area. The Chinese troops have also deployed Molosser dogs to keep a vigil, according to latest reports on Monday from the site of incursion, 70 km south of Burtse in Ladakh division. A banner hoisted outside the camp reads in English “you are in Chinese side” with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) personnel maintaining a round-the-clock vigil, official sources said.
Morocco could be the first victim among the emerging democracies of Southern Mediterranean, a European strategy for economic independence and political sovereignty. The World Social Forum held recently in Tunis, associative altermondialists Maghreb, South European and Scandinavian, had preached an alarming discourse: It would be according to what was discussed by them, a wide ranging a war that is about to pit the EU-27 countries against the democratic spring countries in the southern Mediterranean. Thus, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and to a lesser extent Jordan, whether it decides its orientation towards democracy or not, will be kept on a leash by Europeans through Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs)
In the way China made land grabs across the Himalayas in the 1950s by launching furtive encroachments, it is now waging separate stealth wars—without firing a single shot—to change the status quo in the South and East China Seas, on the line of control with India, and on international river flows. Although China has risen from a backward, poor state to a global economic powerhouse, the key elements in its statecraft and strategic doctrine have not changed. Since the Mao Zedong era, China has adhered to ancient theorist Sun Tzu’s advice, “The ability to subdue the enemy without any battle is the ultimate reflection of the most supreme strategy.”
The 2008 war with Georgia allowed Russia to greatly enhance its already considerable military presence. Russian officials say there are roughly 5,000 Russian personnel in Abkhazia: 3,500 military and 1,500 Federal Security Service (FSB) officers and “border guards”. Moscow allocated $465 million over four years to the rehabilitation and construction of military infrastructure. This included work on Bombora, the largest military airfield in the South Caucasus, in Gudauta. Though Russian media sources describe significant weapons at the base, Western military officials in late 2012 said intelligence indicated only four fighter craft there on a regular basis – two Sukhoi 27s and two MiG-29s.
THE leading independent election monitoring group in Russia yesterday became the first non-governmental organisation to be prosecuted in President Putin’s nationwide hunt for “foreign agents”.
Golos (Voice) has reported widespread irregularities in recent Russian polls and said in March last year that the presidential election, in which Mr Putin was re-elected for a third term, was not “fair, just and open according to the Russian constitution and international standards”. The Justice Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that Golos “receives foreign funding and carries out political activities in Russia, thus it fulfils the functions of a foreign agent”. It will present its case in court today.
There are three major means for the U.S. to conduct deep involvement in the Asia-Pacific region: first, wide alliance to win over various countries in the Asia-Pacific region; second, military forward deployment to realize strategic “re-balancing”; and third, occupy a “leading” position in the region to play “pro-active role”.
The U.S. believes that the time span from the end of the Cold War to 2015 is a period of “strategic opportunity”, during which the rise and development of such major regional countries as China and Russia will pose serious challenges to the U.S. around 2015. Among the two, China “is more likely to become the challenger”.
Saudi authorities have called in several influential Shiite Muslim clerics and intellectuals for questioning, as last month’s arrest of 16 people on charges of spying for Iran threatens to raise tensions between leaders of the religious minority and the government in the oil-rich kingdom.
The trigger for the summons was the Shiite community’s angry reaction to last month’s arrest of 16 Saudi Shiites, who are accused of providing information and documents to Iran, allegations that Iran denies.
Which cruel ruler is continually forcing new rounds of austerity measures on the Greeks? And which dark power managed to break the resistance of Cypriots in just a few days? The answer is not Germany. It is the eurozone’s shadow state.
“Within this euro shadow state is a shadow government, the European Council,” Mayer said at a recent lecture at the Academy for Civic Education in Tutzing, southern Germany. “There’s a shadow executive, the Eurogroup. And there’s a task force to implement discipline that was grossly infringed upon. That’s the troika.”
Australia is seeking to bypass trading in U.S. dollars with China in an effort to avoid the commercial uncertainties that come with the recent fluctuations in the greenback. For example, just a half a year ago, the dollar traded at about $1.20 to the euro; by February, it had weakened to $1.34 per euro and now it is going for $1.27.
Eliminating the dollar in trade will be the focus of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s trip to Beijing next week. Trade with China, Australia’s primary trading partner, totaled $120 billion in the last fiscal year. China buys nearly one-third of Australian exports.
In October, the government started a new program of “nationalization of the elite.” That’s a term that was thought up by Konstantin Kostin, an advisor to President Vladimir Putin. Kostin says the Kremlin is aiming to change the mentality of many elite Russian business people, who see Russia as a country to exploit, but who end up going to live elsewhere. Other sources close to the Kremlin agreed that there was another motivation for these laws. They said that this “nationalization of the elite” was a direct response to the mass protests last year demanding honest elections in Russia. “The government is convinced that there are foreign governments behind these protest movements,” said one source.
Qatar, the small Gulf state that on Tuesday hosts an Arab summit, has become a key regional player thanks to its support for Arab uprisings and the marginalisation of traditional heavyweights.
But the “chequebook diplomacy” of this energy-rich state — a staunch US ally — and its backing for Islamists who have managed to seize power in some countries rocked by the Arab Spring have triggered criticism. The emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, is “obsessed by an ambition to leave his heirs a country that counts on the world map after it was practically unknown only 20 years ago,”
Large depositors face heavy losses and the Central Bank of Cyprus will be given new powers to shut down struggling banks under a last-ditch plan to prevent the island’s exit from the euro. Included in legislation drafted by the European Central Bank are draconian controls on capital, including unprecedented restrictions on debit card use and cash withdrawals. Cypriot MPs were meeting on Friday night in a final attempt to stop the ECB and eurozone from carrying out a threat to withdraw cash support from the country’s banks next Tuesday.
Standard Bank analyst Simon Freemantle said he thinks China will try to use the BRICS bank to push the status of its currency. “I think very core to the bank from China, at least, has been the desire to use it as a means to continue the internationalization of the renminbi,” he said.
“The idea would not be not to host it in a single currency. … But there will also be benefits in removing the dollar from bilateral trade between, say, South Africa and Brazil, South Africa and India, if that can happen. But I think principally, it’ll be a push for RMB internationalization,” Freemantle added. But he said it is unlikely that this move will unseat the major reserve currencies. He also said trade within the BRICS group makes up a small portion of international trade – which is mainly in dollars.
Banks in Cyprus will not resume work until the country accepts a bailout plan to rescue the local financial market, stated a European Commission spokesperson. In the statement, the official in effect said that the EC supports the position of Germany, which has requested the Cypriot government to stop financing banks by Friday. “At present, the European Central Bank is supplying half the financial resources for the system in Cyprus. If the ECB flow is shut down, banks in Cyprus will default,” added the EC spokesperson.
Excessive secrecy in government has now been recognised at all levels, from Obama down. In 2009 he effected an executive order that provided for information to be released to the public as soon as possible, and the following year he signed HR 553, the “reducing over-classification act”.
Yet, at the same time as Obama has talked about enhancing transparency, he has also presided over one of the toughest administrations in terms of policing state secrets. There have been six prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act under his watch – more than under all previous presidents combined.
“Every day,” Pavlovsky said of Putin, “he gets these terrible revelations. If he believed them all, he’d have to fire everyone or imprison them. They’re all accusing each other not only of theft but of espionage, of being American spies. He suspects them all, but he doesn’t understand the degree of rot.”
This sums up one of the main challenges facing Putin. His grip is not absolute. Factions within the Kremlin vie for supremacy, while Russia’s vast bureaucracy looks out, primarily, for itself. He has his own minefields to deal with.
Diplomats and leaders from the Bricks countries are also thrashing out details on the proposed currency swap mechanism — a potentially game-changing idea that could take on the dollar, euro and other currencies.
Brics countries are looking at ways to establish a foreign-exchange reserve pool, along with a currency-swap arrangement, meant to insulate these emerging economies against the economic woes faced by developed economies. Intra-Brics trade is more than $300bn and is expected to reach the $500b n mark by 2015.
With drastic decline in militancy, infiltrations from across the border and significant improvement in security situation the political class has genuinely been asking for repeal of some of the harsh security laws which are not required anymore.
However, at the same time the state government has come up with a draft legislation which puts Police ahead of every civilian organ of the State and the laws related to policing more stringent than those which are sought to be repealed, as in the case of Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that Turkey was seriously considering becoming a member of the SCO instead of continuing its efforts to join the EU.
‘The European Union needs to stop stalling us,’ Erdogan said. ‘We have a strong economy. I told [Putin], “You should include us in the Shanghai Five [the former name of the SCO] and we will say farewell to the European Union.” The Shanghai Five is much better off economic-wise. It is much more powerful. We told them, “If you say come, we will”.’
“India’s grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighbourhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over actions of outside powers.” – C. Raja Mohan
India with a population of 1.24 billion and GDP of $2.19 trillion in nominal terms looms large on the South Asian subcontinent. None of the other South Asian countries comes even close to the size of India’s population and economy. In fact, its population and GDP are more than the combined population and GDP of all the other South Asian countries.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is at the forefront of a regional push to build up domestic defense manufacturing capability to reduce reliance on imports that come with too many strings attached, analysts say.
Wary of non-Arab adversary Iran in a competition for regional predominance, and seeing an increased security threat from Islamist militants, Gulf Arab monarchies have some of the fastest growing military budgets in the world. The UAE has established a small defense industry that includes maritime security and defense-related services such as maintenance and repairs over the past two decades.
China’s acquisition of a strategic port in Pakistan is the latest addition to its drive to secure energy and maritime routes and gives it a potential naval base in the Arabian Sea, unsettling India.
The Pakistani cabinet on January 30 approved the transfer of Gwadar port, a commercial failure cut off from the national road network, from Singapore’s PSA International to the state-owned China Overseas Port Holdings Limited. The Pakistanis pitched the deal as an energy and trade corridor that would connect China to the Arabian Sea and Strait of Hormuz, a gateway for a third of the world’s traded oil, overland through an expanded Karakoram Highway.
In Egypt, Libya and Syria, where Qatar tried to play a role post-Arab Spring, it finds itself blamed for much that has gone wrong on a local level. Close ties to Egypt’s new leaders, the Muslim Brotherhood, have alarmed countries like the United Arab Emirates, where the group is banned and which in January said it had foiled a Brotherhood-linked coup plot. Senior officials in the UAE have long believed Qatar has long-term strategy to use the Brotherhood to redraw the region. “There is both greater apprehension and appreciation for Qatar two years after the Arab awakening in the region,”
Residents told the Yemen Post on Sunday they saw French warplanes patrol the sky of the capital in a great show of strength, which they say they felt a bit “over the top” and slightly insulting to Yemen military potency. A retired General, Ali Mohsen Khawlani stressed that Yemen should have been put in charge of all security details . “Our armed forces are perfectly capable and well-trained. What kind of message does it send to see foreign troops invade our capital. Are we moving toward a military occupation? Did foreign powers come to announce they will divide Yemen into zones of influence?”
Chinese firms have become more active in mergers and acquisitions since the global financial crisis that began in 2008, as economic distress has thrown up bargains around the world.
Between 2005 and 2011, the number of China’s overseas acquisitions tripled to 177 and jumped five-fold by value to $63 billion, according to law firm Squire Sanders and intelligence service Mergermarket. But Chinese state media used the Nexen success to blast unspecified “Western powers” for alleged unfairness and protectionism.
Struggling to quell violent protests that have threatened to derail a referendum on an Islamist-backed draft constitution, President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt moved Saturday to appease his opponents with a package of concessions hours after state news media reported that he was moving toward imposing a form of martial law to secure the streets and allow the vote.
Under new rules that threaten to greatly increase the risk of armed conflict, Chinese law enforcers starting next year will be boarding and seizing foreign vessels in areas claimed by China in the volatile West Philippine Sea, according to a report by the Chinese state media.
“That’s too much. While we are exerting all peaceful means, that is what they are doing,” said Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of the AFP’s Western Command. “That’s a violation of (the rules) over international passage.”
For years, the tiny oil sheikdom of Qatar has been a reliable US partner in the Middle East — as a host to the largest American military base in the region and as a diplomatic bulwark against Iran. It has backed the fall of autocratic rulers in Libya and Syria.
Two years after the start of the Arab Spring, however, Qatar’s carefully cultivated reputation as a U.S. partner — and as a neutral broker in the region — is increasingly muddled. With billions of dollars in natural gas and oil revenue, it is bankrolling a new generation of Islamists across the Middle East, raising questions about its vision for the region and whether some of its policies are in direct conflict with U.S. interests.
The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc has begun planning its own development bank and a new bailout fund which would be created by pooling together an estimated $240 billion in foreign exchange reserves, according to diplomatic sources. To get a sense of how significant the proposed fund would be, the fund would be larger than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about 150 countries, according to Russia and India Report.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un apparently remains determined to rein in the military, whose power under former leader Kim Jong-il had turned it into a state within the state.
Former army chief Ri Yong-ho, who was sacked in July, is under house arrest at a hot spring in North Hamgyong Province, South Korean intelligence have learned. Also, two business fronts of the North Korean military that were responsible for bringing in hard currency have been placed under state control.
General Sir David Richards said plans were being drawn up in case winter made conditions on the ground worse. Any intervention would be ‘limited’ and needed the support of people inside Syria, he said. But it would be seen as a potential step towards a full-scale military intervention bringing British forces directly into conflict with the regime of president Bashar al-Assad.
The French effectively view the launch of new EU military missions as a Trojan horse for a European military headquarters and France will mount a major offensive in mid-2014 that could see it back treaty change to scrap national vetoes over defence.
Britain last year blocked moves to create an EU military operations HQ (OHQ), with William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, threatening to veto the plan over concerns that it would rival Nato command.
The race for a share of the enormous reservoirs of fossil fuel — an estimated 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil alone — beneath Greenland’s ice sheet in the Arctic Circle is heating up. Some four years after the US Geological Survey came out with its estimates of huge oil and gas reserves in the region, periodically, in ways big and small, the stakes are being raised by the “Arctic Five”.
Germany is secretly drawing up plans to step in and overhaul parts of France’s economy. Berlin has instructed a powerful body of economic ‘wise men’ to produce a list of the changes it would impose on its neighbour. The move fuelled fears that Berlin is making a covert power-grab to take control of the tax and spending decisions in weaker European Union economies.
Outgoing President Hu Jintao, in his agenda-setting report this week at a Communist Party gathering to choose the coming decade’s leadership, signaled China’s intent to step out more on the world stage.
Hu said China would “get more actively involved in international affairs, play its due role of a major responsible country,” while underlining Beijing’s deep sensitivity to matters of sovereignty and its rejection of “any foreign attempt to subvert the legitimate government of any other countries.”
Analysts say Wen’s role as the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) friendliest face — a counterpoint to the stodgy, unsmiling bureaucrats that fill its ranks — has made the disclosure of his family’s wealth a deep embarrassment to the leadership.
“Someone like Wen is a very good focal point for the party’s overall narrative — that it’s the only vehicle that can maintain the prosperity that the Chinese people have achieved over the last 15 or 20 years,” said Rana Mitter, an expert on Chinese politics at Oxford University.
Speaking to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, the officer said the Greek state had been fully aware of the activities of Golden Dawn for several years, with the National Intelligence Service and other security agencies monitoring it closely. The officer claimed police chiefs had had the opportunity to isolate and remove these small “pockets of fascism” in the force but decided not to. The state, he said, wanted to keep the fascist elements “in reserve” and use them for its own purposes.
Moscow is cozying up to China, supporting the Assad regime in Syria and ignoring the Iranian nuclear race. The Kremlin is hard at work to create a sphere of influence along its periphery and a “pole” in the multipolar world that would stand up to Washington.
Recent developments have an unmistakably flavor of the 1920s and 1930s, when the Soviets sent people the Gulag simply for who they were, not for what they did. For example, the Cheka — the grandfather of Russia’s security service, the F.S.B — preventively arrested those of noble descent or with relatives abroad.
The U.S. ambassador to Ankara Francis Ricciardone revealed on October 16 that the Turkish government rejected the U.S. proposal for joint venture extermination of Murat Karayılan and other leaders of the Kurdish PKK in northern Iraq are exposing irreparably Turkish government. As stated by the American ambassador in Turkish journalists, Washington submitted this proposal to the Turkish government to launch an operation similar to that which led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Rich countries and international lenders on Friday promised $165 million to a fund to provide financing for stronger public institutions in Arab nations seeking to establish democracies. The fund aims to help build economic institutions and promote reforms in countries where huge public uprisings ousted autocratic regimes. Major western economies and wealthy oil states are the founding donors of the fund announced in Tokyo alongside annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank.
Turkey redirected the European missile defense system in the Kurecik base near the city of Malatya to Syria to monitor the situation in the country, the Sabah newspaper reported.
This will allow Turkey to control offensive and defensive actions of the Syrian government troops and missile launches. According to the newspaper, Turkey took such a decision with the consent of NATO after shells from Syrian territory killed five Turkish citizens on Oct.3.
Fed up with what it sees as Washington’s malign neglect of the dollar, China is busily promoting the cross-border use of its own currency, the yuan, also known as the renminbi, in trade and investment. Displacing the dollar, Beijing says, will reduce volatility in oil and commodity prices and belatedly erode the ‘exorbitant privilege’ the United States enjoys as the issuer of the reserve currency at the heart of a post-war international financial architecture it now sees as hopelessly outmoded.
The Turkish Parliament voted in favor of a motion which gave green light to the government to stage cross-border raids on Syria after the Oct. 3 shelling from there killed five Turkish citizens. “I am calling once more on the al-Assad regime and its supporters: Don’t dare to test Turkey’s patience,” Erdoğan said, adding that testing Turkey’s capacity for deterrence would be “a fatal mistake.”
“We are not bluffing and we will follow this incident closely. God willing, the Syrian people would soon be saved from this cruelty and governed by an administration that guarantees the rights of all parties.”
According to a new Transportation Ministry order, starting July 1, 2013 data about every passenger who enters or exits any region in Russia will be added to a new FSB/Interior Ministry database. The Transport Ministry has published the text of the new rules in the ‘Russian Gazette.’ The FSB and Interior Ministry are ordering this new database in order to track the route of any person that law enforcement on the ground deems suspicious.
European Union chief Jose Manuel Barroso launched a campaign today to grab sweeping new powers for the bloc under the pretext of solving the EU economic crisis.
The European Commission president, who heads the EU’s powerful yet unelected 27-commissioner policy-making and enforcement body, used his annual state of the union address to its weak parliament to tell countries that they should get used to giving up power to Brussels.
Faced with global powers such as the United States and China, he claimed, “even the biggest European countries run the risk of irrelevance.”
Even though Turkey continues to deny reports that it has been setting up bases for the Syrian opposition — for example in Adana — it is no longer a secret that it is providing military support to the Syrian opposition.
One of the centers in Turkey used as a military base for the Syrian opposition is the Reyhanli “military” refugee camp, located in Hatay province. This camp is exclusively reserved for Syrian officers, among them generals and colonels, and their families who have defected to Turkey. This camp, which hosts around 1,000 Syrians, is tightly guarded by Turkish security forces. Even foreign diplomats who want to meet the camp residents are not allowed to enter.
“Criticism is allowed. However, when it is too widely publicized or when it is too personal, then it is not allowed. When the criticism is of the president himself in particular, when it is of his personal wealth, for example, or corruption aspects, or criminal aspects high up within the regime, then the state begins to crack down. So in other words there are limits,” said Nixey.
Nixey says Russia under the leadership of President Putin, a former KGB officer, is veering toward the old Soviet style of governance.
President Mohamed Morsi’s government and allies are pushing back against critical news coverage, suppressing critical journalists and state-run newspapers, putting a journalist on trial, and attacking three journalists on the street, according to news reports.
“This is a troubling backward step that Egypt’s newly elected President Mohamed Morsi should not be taking,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We urge President Morsi to reverse this course immediately and demonstrate his commitment to press freedom.”
Several journalists have reported suppression at the state-run newspaper Al-Akhbar.