Saturday, February 05, 2005

 

IRAN, CRIME & THE UN

5 February 2005

IRAN

Is Iran developing a military enabled, nuclear armament programme?

The question is increasingly appearing to be redundant. The fact that the European Union 3, has been in active negotiation with the Iranians to publicly disclose the full nature and extent of its programme and developing capabilities is strongly suggestive that the Iranians are ‘up to no good’ on this issue. The lack of clear disclosure by the Iranian shouldn’t be unexpected or a surprise, as it is in line with many years of international deceit and deception in terms of its international statements and actions since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The issue has obviously attracted the attention of the United States. Israel is of course in the background, and given its capability and history (re: the attack on the Iraqi nuclear weapons programme). But in a short time, the ability of Iran (if unchecked) to cast a nuclear shadow over the region as a political as much as military threat, will have to bring out the regional governments – the Saudis, Kuwaitis, the Gulf nations – to bring strong and persistent diplomatic pressure to bear on Iran to at best stop its programme or as a minimum at least disclose publicly what they are up to.

At face value, there are a number of questions that Iran has still to answer, even if there is acceptance that the nuclear programme they are developing is to meet purely civilian energy requirements and demands.

1. In a region resplendent in natural energy resources such as oil and gas, why the need for a nuclear programme?
2. How will the Iranians process their nuclear waste? Where will it be stored? What environmental audit and controls have they enacted with regards storage?
3. Iran regularly experiences earthquakes. What provisions (if any) have the Iranians implemented to minimize the impact from an earthquake on a nuclear reactor(s)?
4. From which country(s) will the Iranians be sourcing their unprocessed uranium?

Finally, concerning Bushes’ State of the Union address’ comments on Iran, the Iranian government controlled media made the interesting comment:
“Why is Bush only interested in promoting democracy in oil-rich regions?” (source http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,12149830%255E2703,00.html) This is a very interesting comment, which has gone without comment. By asking why is Bush only interested in promoting democracy in oil rich regions, the Iranians have admitted that there is no democracy in that region. But it’s also interesting that in the recent State of the Union, Bush also in respect of US allies such as Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said:
The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.

Crime and Terrorist links
Paul McGeough prepared a fascinating article (see link http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2005/02/04/1107476802323.html) documenting the issue of crime and the insurgents in Iraq.

The suggestion that the insurgent/terrorists are fuelling their energies and activities on religious faith alone, has been long over due for refutation.

The terrorists have long used foreign exchange markets, the billion (USD) dollar trade in counterfeit goods, and the facility of the internet, to fund and promote their campaigns. The rampant theft that has occurred in Iraq provides significant capital funding and ready laundered cash.

The terrorist network that the West finds itself exposed to, is calculating and resourceful. The book Inside Al Qaeda by Rohan Gunaratna, provides an extensive audit of Al Qaeda and its financial and bureaucratic capacities. The terrorists, despite deriding the technological (and cultural) advancements of the West, find no moral or intellectual contradiction in using Western initiatives and resources to progress their cause – particularly United States denominated currency.

The UN & the Middle East
The United Nations has long had a troubled history in the Middle East. The recent public report into the UN’s handling of the Oil for Food programme in Iraq (a programme that involved the management of $US67 billion of related activities), is testament to a body that has probably reached the end of its working life.

The fundamental problem for the UN, goes beyond mere structural reforms, but goes to its very heart. The UN is just a body representative of national governments. In itself it has no power, no authority, and no internally driven capacity to enact change, to progress democracy, to furnish the advancement of human rights.

Those abilities rest with national governments, and the UN can only undertake those functions if commissioned by the General Assembly, and in particular the Security Council.

With regards to Iraq, the UN was found to be very, very wanting. In respect to the audit of the oil for food programme, the audit into the programme found that:
The oil-for-food program, which began in December 1996 and ended in November 2003, allowed Saddam Hussein's government to sell oil in order to buy humanitarian goods. It was intended to ease the hardship of ordinary Iraqis under UN sanctions, imposed in mid-1990.
But since the US invasion of Iraq, documents have emerged that show Saddam Hussein skimming funds from the program, illegally selling oil outside the program, often with the knowledge of big powers on the Security Council, and bribing a variety of officials around the world. (see The Age: UN official 'got oil kickbacks during aid program' Feb 5, 2005)
The other serious concern, still yet to be addressed by the international community is that ultimately the international Coalition that set about the liberation of Iraq were ultimately enforcing the resolutions confirmed by UN such as resolution 1441. The difficult for the UN was and remains that it effectively opposed its own resolution(s) when the international Coalition set about its mission in Iraq.

For more on the criticism of the UN, its worth reading the book We Did Nothing by Dutch journalist Linda Polman. Granted it’s not a terribly well written book (perhaps suffering from the translation into English) but nonetheless important comments and issues are raised about the activities, usefulness and future effectiveness of the UN.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

 

Another Day

The Sunnis
The issue of how best to integrate moderate Sunni leaders into the post election environment appears to be the all-consuming issue.

It is apparent that the Shia’s though embracing the election have used it to promulgate and support leading religious leaders into the political process. After all, Iran backed the holding of the elections. Rather ironic sine it has virtually excluded moderates from its own Parliamentary system.

Not much as been reported about the Kurds and how the election went for them.

The Sunnis are rather trapped as the buffer zone between traditional rivalry with the Shia’s and the Kurdish provinces that appear moving (slowly mind you) towards asserting a position of independence, which will inevitably drag in an angry Turkey.

The compounding issue for the Sunnis is indeed real internal pressures also within their community. There are the secularists versus the theocrats (insurgents? See the Muslim Clerics Association), and the Baathists/Saddam loyalists vs. the participatory democrats.

Will this all lead to civil war? My gut hunch is that it will not. At the end of the day, all three communities of Iraq need each other, structurally. The Shia’s have the manpower and access to oil reserves, the Sunnis the administrative and governance culture, and the Kurds the oil wealth of the north and the trade routes to Western and Eastern Europe.

Where there will be a ‘war’ of sorts is eventually to occur on and to the insurgents. The simple fact that their strategy of attacking military personnel has failed from a PR perspective, and has had limited military success. They then have turned increasingly towards maiming and killing innocent Iraqis whose only transgression apparently was standing in job queues, or shopping at food markets. And they have really struck a low blow (surely even their most committed of adherent would acknowledge) when they strapped explosives to the body of Amar Ahmed Mohammed who was 19 years old and had Down Syndrome and sent him to his death. http://www.smh.com.au/news/After-Saddam/Handicapped-boy-made-into-bomb/2005/02/01/1107228705132.html
And after all that, what have they achieved, but continued toi cause the Iraqi people continued missery, and hardship.

Beirut
Terrific article in the press about travel opportunities and tourist activities in Beirut. Since the end of the Lebanon civil war, Beirut in particular has flourished, with an extensive sea side building boom, restoring this great historical city to its once great beauty.
http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2005/01/28/1106850092882.html

Not intending to flame
A contributor – see link http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=2987
wrote in a circumlocutory manner about…. Well, I still don’t understand what it was about! Please see the link above for the article. If someone could please explain it, please could you let me know!

I posted my comments in response.
Scott, lots of words mate, but at the end its still a piece of intellectual drivel.

How is Rushdie 'demonising' Islam? His work was that of fiction! Its purpose was ultimately literary entertainment, rather than a public exploration of Islam and its tenets. Is his reward for producing fiction, the imposition of a death penalty on his head which has still yet to be revoked!

The conjecture around the Huntington book is typical of people who have not read it. The supposition drawn from the title creates all types of conspiracy thinking. Since publication the Huntington book has declined in prominence in the West, as the assertion took hold that it was the predominantly Christian-Judeo (and can I add secular) West that was confronting Islamic societies. However, if you look at Al Qaeda they are the ones propagating the 'clash of civilisation' arguments. There response to the Iraqi elections is a case in point.


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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

 
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POST ELECTION DAY – IRAQ (2)

1 Feb 05

POST ELECTION DAY – IRAQ (2)
The news today continues with the post-election analysis, and what it means.

Overall, the response has been positive. The fact that the Iraqis boldly made the proclamation for themselves that participatory democracy was a ‘good thing’, is overwhelmingly encouraging.

There are still critics, mostly in the West it seems, who continue to dismiss aggressively the holding of the election. Their arguments are many. Often the arguments and assertions include cultural biases, such as the Iraqis are not culturally mature or ready to run participative democracy.

I guess the real issue to consider is that despite all the attention focussed on the limited and self-destructive philosophy of the insurgents, and given this background, the elections by any measure were even more resoundingly successful.

Fred Kaplan writing in Slate http://slate.msn.com/id/2112885/ writes eloquently about the success that the elections will have for Iraq and flow-ons to the rest of the region. Kaplan writes:
Few sights are more stirring than the televised images of Iraqi citizens risking their lives to vote in their country's first election in a half-century, kissing the ballot boxes, dancing in the streets, and declaring their hopes for a new day of democracy.
And yet, the challenges and uncertainties that seemed so daunting last week about Iraq's security, society, and governance are unlikely to turn less daunting next week, next month, or the month after.

Kaplan ends by writing:
Finally, imagine a Syrian watching Al-Arabiya, seeing Iraqi-born Syrians going to special polling places to elect Iraqi leaders, observing that no Syrians of any sort have the right to elect the leaders of Syria and perhaps asking himself, "Why?" It is not inconceivable that this flicker of democratic practice in Iraq could ignite a flame of some sort across the Middle East. To what end, and for ultimate good or ill, who knows. But something happened in Iraq today, something not only dramatic and stirring but perhaps also very big.

Gerard Henderson, http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2005/01/31/1107020327547.html also writes about the achievement of the election, pointing out the foibles of the hard left that took a political position based on simple intransigence and sloganeering – ‘an enemy of America is a friend’. The question that must be asked is – but don’t expect a cogent reply – how will the hard left respond to the election, and will they continue their position of ridicule and conspiracy?

Al-Jazeera
There was a report http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2005/01/31/1107020330406.html recording that Al-Jazeera registered a global top ten position in terms of brand recognition.

The list of brands included:
1. Apple
2. Google
3. Ikea
4. Starbucks
5. Al-Jazeera
6. Mini
7. Coca-Cola
8. Virgin
9. eBay
10. Nokia

Al-Jazeera has been on the more remarkable media success stories in recent years. The ability to produce independent from government media commentary and analysis (particuarly focussing on the Middle East) is to be congratulated. Hopefully, the success of Al-Jazeera will enable governments across the region to enable Al-Jazeera and other media entities to establish services and continue to operate freely.


Monday, January 31, 2005

 

POST ELECTION DAY – IRAQ

1 January 2005
POST ELECTION DAY – IRAQ
To quote Simon Le Bon, singing the song ‘Election Day’ from Arcadia’s long underrated ‘So red the rose’ album, "…Maximum big surprise, your smile is something new’.
Well, despite killing more than 37 innocents, the ‘insurgents’ failed to dissuade Iraqis that the election should be avoided. However they continue to post hysterical warnings, such as from the Zarqawi threatening: "For the last time, we warn that [Sunday] will be bloody for the Christians and Jews and their mercenaries and whoever takes part in the [election] game of America and Allawi."
http://www.smh.com.au/news/After-Saddam/Defiant-Iraqis-brave-the-bombers/2005/01/30/1107020265345.html . Hey Zarqawi, haven’t you forgotten the Buddhists, the Hindus and Sikhs, Aethists and Agnostics that oppose what you are doing!

Despite this, the body administering the elections that the national turnout could be over 70 percent.

The Shia’s spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, congratulated Iraqis on turning out.

GW, said the obvious: "In great numbers and under great risk, Iraqis have shown their commitment to democracy. By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists".
A synopsis of major and significant world leaders comments can be read here:
http://www.smh.com.au/news/After-Saddam/Fear-and-hope-leaders-praise-Iraq-vote/2005/01/31/1107020295971.html


Sunday, January 30, 2005

 

AMERICA IS NOT THE PROBLEM (AINTP)

AMERICA IS NOT THE PROBLEM (AINTP)
 

USEFUL LINKS

USEFUL LINKS

Crikey.com: Australia’s probably most talked about internet based political and business commentary. http://www.crikey.com.au/

The Economist: Probably the best international and most concise commentary. http://www.economist.com/

Slate: Left leaning, very interesting and varied commentary, with a wide range of contributors, including Christopher Hitchens. http://slate.msn.com/

Christian Science Monitor: US based e-journal of the hardcopy. Very good coverage, and don’t let the title put you off. http://www.csmonitor.com/

The Onion: Brilliant, satirical political and social commentary. http://www.theonion.com/

MEMRI: Provision of English translations of Arab language-based broadcasts and commentary on political matters. http://memri.info/

Other links to follow (30 January 2005)


 

WHAT IS THIS BLOG ABOUT – AND THE NEED FOR IT

30/1/2005
WHAT IS THIS BLOG ABOUT – AND THE NEED FOR IT
My name is Roberto.

I’ve been mulling the idea for some time, of writing a blog, with particular focus on the Middle East, with direct reference to its politics and its history. Of course, the politics of the Middle East has incurred extensive media attention in recent years, arising from the consequences of September 11, 2001.
But the Middle East has certainly been the subject of other sporadic media attention, particularly coverage of events arising from the Israel vs. Palestine confrontation, the theocratic fascism of Iran, and the in clandestine subtlety of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s ‘closed-door’ governance.

I’ve taken a strong interest in Middle Eastern affairs in recent years, recognizing the beauty of its intellectual culture, its precise and rich history, and its people. However, in recent years, the Middle East is becoming (if not already be) virtually hostage to a theocratic, fascism murderous sect, known as the terrorists (or the euphemistically called the ‘insurgents’ Iraq) most notably known as Al Qaeda.

In analysis of this fundamentally complex issue, the common response is to somehow (and as often as possible blame the United States). The problems faced by the Middle East – and there are many – are only a result of Middle Eastern cultural responses, poor political and economic choices, and intellectual stubbornness.
Its time, not to point the finger of blame, but time to start to properly consider, appraise, and find solutions for the Middle East, and done in conjunction with the peoples of the Middle East, other wise the rest of the world (and I don’t limit it to just the West) to work strenuously and efficaciously to assist the peoples of the Middle East to work hard and fast towards a liberal democratic mandate, and inevitably peace.

I welcome your thoughts and views on any of the issues, comments and views expressed via this blog. I look forward to receiving your comments and views. Please contact me via the email address: robertomelbourne1@bigpond.com

Thank you.

 
30/1/2005

IRAQ – TO VOTE OR NOT VOTE – PLEASE, PLEASE DO

I write this on the eve of the elections in Iraq. Unlike, many in the media, and I must say many of my friends, I’ve held the view that the elections will not end up the ‘disaster’ anticipated.

I only have a hunch, and I could be proved wrong, but I doubt it – I have too much faith in the common decency of the Iraq people and their inherent and obvious desire to make the quantum jump to representative democracy. It’s heartening to learn that 13 million people have registered for the election. Go guys.

While the elections serve to elect an effective representative body that will then go to work to develop constitutional and governance frameworks, it’s an important key step in the democratization project. Best of luck to Iraq. Let’s hope that it’s peaceful and orderly, and the Iraq people are allowed the decency to determine how they want to be governed and not lectured to via the indiscriminate targeting of car bombs and suicide bombings.

WALK DON’T RUSH
Henry Kissinger and George Shultz jointly co-wrote an article commenting on the Coalitions’ position in Iraq titled: “Don't rush the exit plan”. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,12070796%5E7583,00.html

The article covers a number of important themes and issues, including the relatively new concern about the potential for a civil war, primarily between the minority Sunnis and the majority Shia’s.

Kissinger and Shultz state that: “A pluralistic Shiva-led society would indeed be a happy outcome. But we must take care not to base policy on the wish becoming the father of the thought. If a democratic process is to unify Iraq peacefully, a great deal depends on how the Shiva majority defines majority rule. So far the subtle Shiva leaders, hardened by having survived decades of Saddam's tyranny, have taken pains not to clarify their goals.”

Certainly all parties to the elections are using it for internal political purposes. The Shias, in the main, and looking forward to the elections in order to maximize their voter turnout to translate into directly held seats in the new assembly. The Sunnis, ravaged by the ‘insurgents’ are traumatized into staying away. The Kurds – why are they so quiet. I guess they may be viewing their own status as at least an autonomous impendent region of a federally structured Iraq.

But at least, the battle that must come in the reallotment of political power – from Sunni to Kurd and Shia – is best placed to occur through a ballot box, and not the gun.

Is a civil war otherwise likely in Iraq. Its certainly appears to the best bet laid by the usual suspect of journalists. But I take the view, that the mainstream media are running this line because at the end of the day they 1. don’t really know enough about the subject, and 2. fear sells papers, and advertising space on commercial television.

But the real issue is that ultimately, Iraq in civil war is in no one’s interest: not Iran’s, Syria’s’, certainly not Jordan’s, the Saudi’s nor the Kuwaitis. Imagine the size of the political black hole that it would create. However, rather than being a negative, it way be a positive for the West. Imagine, as per know, Al-Qaeda sucked into Iraq participating in an enduring civil war, leaving the West relatively free from their tentacles! It sounds harsh I know, but the West would strategically be better off if this was the case, even with the relative threat to oil supplies. To preserve their geographic integrity the Saudi’s and the Kuwaitis would reinforce their own internal anti-Al Qaeda campaigns flushing out the threat, leaving oil supplies relatively secure.

Money!!!
The cost of the US’s participation in IRAQ and Afghanistan is set to fiscally escalate, with the US President set to ask Congress for an extra $80bUSD. See http://www.theage.com.au/news/War-on-Terror/Cost-of-war-set-to-top-390bn/2005/01/26/1106415662315.html

The Sydney Morning Herald writes that: “If approved by Congress, the cost of the wars in Iraq - in which the bulk of the money has been spent - and Afghanistan, will exceed $US300 billion ($A390 billion) so far and more than $US100 billion for 2005. Congress agreed to another $US25 billion in new funding late last year. Administration officials said they seriously underestimated the cost of the Iraq war, which is now about half the cost in today's dollars of the decade-long Vietnam War.”

This additional outlay, will add minor, but nonetheless additional pressure to the US Government’s debt levels.

MMMM!: Did he really read it?
http://slate.msn.com/id/2112699/
An interesting article in Slate, about a book that GW has claimed to be an important analysis of Middle East foreign affairs. The article goes on to prove (I have not read the book) that the book in question, The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky's book, is quite critical of the US President’s position. See the article for further details. If the analysis is correct, which I don’t doubt, the counter argument needs to be presented by GW (or his staffers/advisers) what was in the book that warranted a Presidential recommendation. I’m sure there must be something, or things!!!

DFAT ON THE UK!
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has updated its travel advice for the UK, urging Australian tourists to be alert to suspicious activities. Be alert in other words.

I’ve been to London many times for work and personal, and lived there for a year in 1991-1992, when the IRA were running about the place bombing military strategic targets like shopping centres and tube stations. But have DFAT gone overboard a little bit. The advice goes on to state: "Police have warned the public to be vigilant at cinemas, theatres, pubs and nightclubs and on all types of public transport, including the London Underground system and buses…Australians in the United Kingdom are advised to be alert to their own security… As you would in Australia, use common sense and be alert to suspicious activities."

Sensible stuff mum!

Bugger, where’s that fridge magnet when you need it. (For non-Australians email me for the punch line to this joke!) J

I-RAN, I-RAN SO FAR AWAY!!!! COULDN’T GET AWAY*
*From the Flock of Seagulls pop song.

Well IRAN continues to play silly buggers with the world, over its nuclear activities. http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0127/dailyUpdate.html. What I don’t understand is that IRAN is only a bit better than a LDC – less developed country, sitting next door to the world’s largest oil reserves in the world. Why go nuclear guys???? Surely, its not just about legitimate use of the energy source for peaceful means. If it is, why so secret guys, why play the Europeans so tactically craftily? Where there is smoke there is fire – nuclear fire!!!

Any where are all the nuclear disbarment peaceniks from yesteryear – why aren’t they camped outside the embassies of Iran. Sorry, I forgot, it’s not politically correct to protest a third world, fascist regime, seeking to arm itself with thermonuclear weapons. After all, given that they are a third world, fascist regime, they wouldn’t listen.

FINALLY
I welcome your thoughts and views on any of the issues, comments and views expressed via this blog. I look forward to receiving your comments and views. I will also publish a selection of comments and views received.

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