Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Saudi-Israeli whack-a-mole policy

Saudi Arabia and Israel are united in their opposition against any reconciliation with Iran. For very similar reasons.

Israel doesn't want strong adversaries in the Middle East. So it always tries to crush the strongest country available. That used to be Iraq and now that that is finished it has turned on Iran. Don't expect Israel to rest when Iran has become just as wrecked as Iraq: it will just start looking for the next strongest country in the region and target that. The alternative is reconciling with the Arabs. But that would mean giving up on stealing Arab land and that isn't popular in Israel. It doesn't help neither that Netanjahu is the kind of politician who thrives on sowing hatred.

Saudi Arabia is a country that was only formed in 1932. Its cohesion is weak. In fact it is just the project of the rapacious Saud family. It is somewhat doubtful whether the country would have survived without oil. Yet nowadays the Saudi has big visions of Saudi Arabia as the most powerful country in the Middle East. As he lacks the forces to project such power himself he depends on his money to seduce other countries to do the dirty work for him. As Iran is the strongest country at the moment it is the natural target.

So we have two countries that are inherently weak yet want to be kings of the hill. Both want crush the strongest country available as a threat to this ambition. But as they themselves are too weak to dominate that just will open the door for another country - that will become the next target of their ire. This is a whack-a-mole game that will never end. Western countries who let themselves be seduced to participate in this game will sooner or later conclude that they are fighting for a bad cause.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The misguided Geneva peace process takes another step

The false "friends of Syria" have produced another document on how they believe the Syrian peace process should be run. This is the communiqué issued by the London 11.

It comes with high aims: "The future Syria must be democratic, pluralistic, and respectful of human rights and of the rule of law.". Given what has happened in the other "Arab Spring" countries this is unlikely to be achieved. Worse, by putting so much stress on the process they avoid talking about what really should change in Syria. If you really want such a Syria you should begin by talking about how it should look. Only after that has been settled should there be elections. If you have a transitional government and elections first you create a Libya-style climate where the strongest dominates and where talking seems meaningless.

The continuing US desire to get a permission to use violence is also very visible. Article 13 claims that "Negotiations to form the TGB must not be open-ended. Delaying tactics should not be tolerated" and article 17 claims that "The agreement, which will be signed by the parties, certified by the participating states, and endorsed in a United Nations Security Council Resolution, shall be enforceable."

It seems to me a recipe for disaster.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Boko Haram is beatable after all

The NY Times has an article (Vigilantes Defeat Boko Haram in Its Nigerian Base) about how in Maiduguri in North East Nigeria Boko Haram has been pushed back by a vigilante militia that calls itself “Civilian J.T.F.” (JTF = Joint Task Force = a common name for the army). As Maiduguri is the capital of Borno province where Boko Haram is strongest this is highly significant.

The article is highly critical of the army and claims that the army does very little to combat Boko Haram and that it rather seems to consider the group as a nice excuse to ask for more money for the army.

Monday, October 07, 2013

How privatization in Serbia went wrong

RFERL has an investigative reporting article (Documents Show How Serbian Companies Were Pillaged By Offshore Firms) that discusses the fate of the company Agrohem that was privatizing in 2003 and then pilfered Russian style by some investment companies based in tax paradises. It was not the only one: According to the article Almost 2,000 of the 3,017 state-owned enterprises that were privatized between 2001 and 2011 have ceased operations or sunk into bankruptcy or are on the verge of closing down, according to the Social and Economic Council of Serbia, a joint governmental and labor-union body.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Reversing Somalia into a failed state - once again

It is well known how the US threw Somalia back into anarchy in 2009 with its support for the Ethiopian invasion against the Islamic Courts Union government. This was actually a quite moderate government but in Washington the name "Islamic" was enough to believe it to be Islamists.

Now we see a similar development with the closure of the Hawala system of money transfer. Several banks have already closed their support for the system and now Barclays is about to follow. The excuse is that some of the money may land with the al-Shabab guerrilla movement in the South of the country. However, for a country that is very dependent on remittances from emigrants, this could be devastating. After Barclays there will be some banks left but very probably they will soon come under similar pressure from America's (anti-)terrorists.