In the Middle East, an ongoing crisis deepens

Before Mr Bush and Mr Cheney embark on bringing democracy to Iran, the ongoing wars in the Middle East merit taking a closer look:

This blog has featured  a story about Afghanistan threatening to fall back into the hands of the Taliban in 2008. The story was called “Kabul likely lost in 2008”.  The “Reuters” story we linked 57 days ago said:

 “It is a sad indictment of the current state of Afghanistan that the question now appears to be not if the Taliban will return to Kabul, but when,” the report said.

The year 2008 is fourteen days old today and here are the Taliban! A Kabul luxury hotel, mostly used by foreign journalists and diplomats was attacked by the resurgent Taliban, Norway’s Foreign Minister survived the attack in the cellar of the building. Six people died.

In Iraq things allegedly go better. Still the US forces deem it necessary to launch an offensive and bomb the southern outskirts of Baghdad. In Iraq the killing doesn’t end, only the reporting on the killing did. 19 US soldiers lost their lives since the beginning of the year.

In Pakistan the bloodshed doesn’t end. The suicide bombing in Lahore four days ago killed 22 human beings mostly policemen. Today 8 died and 40 people were wounded in Karachi. The US has boots on the ground there, much to the dismay of the Pakistani government. It may indeed be necessary, because there is still a chance that Pakistan may fall to chaos and the control over the nuclear arsenal is lost.

In case someone hasn’t noticed the Palestine peace process is negotiated by Palestinian leaders who do not represent the Gaza strip which is only nominally under control of the Palestinian National Authority. The Palestinians are in a de facto civil war and thus make a poor party to peace negotiations. But are the negotiations anything else but window dressing anyway?

The Lebanon? No government to speak of and fighting factions, always on the brink of a civil war. Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, dictatorships, which face increasing internal pressure. All those ingredients don’t make the cocktail named Middle East any less explosive.

Any of the current involvements of the United States in the Middle East, military and political, is a failure and an attack on Iran would shatter what little stability there still is.

Mr Bush, Mr Cheney why don’t you just go to Crawford or to your undisclosed location, sit still and wait for your term to end? You proved a failure for seven long years, please just play dead for the remaining 371 days!

The next step in the American primary season is nearing and Michigan, Nevada and of course Super Tuesday, will push the Middle East to the backpages of the news again. But it should be kept at least in our minds, the danger is not over until the Bush Administration’s term is over. If then.

“Europeanview” wishes you all a healthy and happy day. Hug a dear one and take care!

UPDATE: You find some new developments here.

Pakistan’s Army Says “Hell No!”

In a follow-up to his post U.S. Boots on the Ground in Pakistan…What a Surprise, Willyloman, at the American Everyman, has this story about Pakistan’s Army objecting to the prospect:

Just as soon as the story broke at the New York Times, about Cheney and Rice planning how to divi up Pakistan, now that “chaos” has broken out, the Pakistan Army says they will not be welcoming US troops with open arms and flowers from the children.

In fact they say “We do not require anybody’s assistance. We are fully capable of doing it on our own,”. “It is not up to the US administration, it is Pakistan’s government who is responsible for this country,” chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad told AFP.” AfterDowningStreet story here.

I don’t think they are really getting the whole, “globalization” thing. Do you? You see, globalization means that everybody has to roll over and surrender to “freedom” else they face the wrath of the terrorists… or the CIA, whoever comes first. (Or, as was the case in 1953 Iran, and 1973 Chile, Nicaragua, Italy, Bolivia, and many many others… the CIA were the “terrorists”…)

When told about the CIA getting more of more of a free hand in Pakistan as a result of the Bhutto assassination, they responded by saying “There are no overt or covert US operations inside Pakistan. Such reports are baseless and we reject them.” Yeah, right.

More on the story over at Truthout.

Good Morning from Europe – It’s 2008 and 384 Days to Go

(This traditional dish of fried potatoes with a rolled pickled herring is supposed to get you cured from your hangover on New Year’s Day.)

It is a New Year, but one night of partying and a change in calender dates is not going to change much, when it comes to the state the world is in. So, let us have a look at what is going on and reported on this morning, below the fold: Continue reading

Latest: Bhutto’s son, 19, to lead Pakistan’s opposition

Bilawal Bhutto, 19, is appointed co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party together with his father Asif Ali Zardari, who will effectively lead the Party until Bilawal has finished his education. The young man will probably play an active role in the upcoming elections, but will return to Oxford to resume his studies next year. Bilawal is still too young to run for office himself, candidates must be at least 25 years of age.

Read more herehere and here.

Good Morning from Europe – 388 Days

Benazir Bhutto’s body is being laid to rest in her ancestral village of Garhi-Khuda Baksh while I am writing this. Ms Bhutto would not have qualified as democratic by our western standards, but she did open her country to more liberal influences, education and, of course, symbolized the equality of women in a country, where women don’t amount to anything. May she rest in peace and may she be remembered for the good things she’s done.

The media here in Europe is full of the story. There are many “what if’s”. What if Ms Bhutto was alive and elected Prime Minister? Would she have made a difference to Pakistan? But now speculation about Pakistan’s future is abundant. Bronwen Madddox of “The Times” sees two possible successors to Benazir Bhutto’s role: Ameen Fahim as the most likely, he has led the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) during Ms Bhutto’s absence in exile. Another candidate could be Aitzaz Ahsan, a prominent lawyer who has been involved in the judicial fight against the military.

But will there be general elections on January 8th at all? The unrest caused by the assassination has already cost 200+ lives. The Military is shooting at protesters and yet another politician was assassinated. The downward spiral into violence will probably lead to Musharraf postponing the upcoming elections. This could help the PPP to rally behind a new leader but the wave of sympathy for the PPP after the killing will then have ebbed away.

The PPP will also have to decide what to do in the absence of its charismatic leader. In the short term, it is likely to benefit from an outpouring of public sympathy, but in the longer term, it does not have a unifying leader to channel that momentum. Bhutto had blocked the rise of any political heirs apparent, and it will take some time for a credible replacement to emerge.

And there is always the possibility that an outright civil war will ultimately be the result of this murder.

And the United States? After having spent billions of military aid to the country all that’s left is chaos and helplessness:

The West too is more troubled than it has been for a long time. The dismay in the corridors of government is genuine. US President George W. Bush’s statement, which barely lasted more than a minute, was eloquent testimony to his speechlessness. This world power has rarely looked so powerless — and Bush has rarely looked so helpless.

What a legacy!

“Europeanview” wishes you all a good last weekend before a new, exciting year will start. Take Care and stay safe and healthy!

Nuclear Power Pakistan in Crisis! – Analysis

Christmas is over, definitely. Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has rudely awakened us to the fact that the Middle East is still burning and there is no improvement in sight. Pakistan is ruled by the military and that is not likely to change soon, if the military has it’s will. But this in in fact an important if not the main contributing factor to the current crisis in Pakistan.

What clenches all these fingers into a fist is hostility to the army. Military analyst Hasan-Askari Rizvi said this was new: “The militants define Musharraf the same way they define [Afghan president Hamid] Karzai: as an agent of America. What’s different is that they see the army the same way. Previously there was a kind of understanding. The militants were given some autonomy for not attacking Pakistan. But now they are taking on the army within Pakistan.”

Neither Ms Bhutto, nor Nawaz Sharif, if he survives his campaigning, enjoyed or still enjoy the support of the US, however, and Pervez Musharraf is not likely to stay President for long, either.

The aim of US diplomacy is to replace him in the short or medium term. Not with either of the two main opposition leaders, Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto, who would serve at best to give a democratic gloss, but with another strong man, perhaps General Ashfaq Kyani – someone the US has on a tight rein.

But will this add stability to the situation? Hardly. So who was behind the assassination of Benazir Bhutto? Militant Islamists will be surely the first to be blamed, but the military and the Secret Service ISI have a lot to lose, too and not only when it comes to political power. The military is one of Pakistan’s main economical players.

A stroll through towns and cities shows the visibility of the army. Besides the huge monuments of ballistic missiles in the urban centres, there are local markets full of products made by factories controlled by the military; as well as tanks, aircraft and guns, they manufacture cereals, bleach, mineral water, cement, fertiliser and knitwear. There is even a bank. The military operates in agriculture, service and manufacturing industries. Military capital engages in the formal, informal and illegal economies, directly and indirectly. The army attracts a far larger share of national resources than any other state institution.

The outlook for Pakistan’s future is bleak at best. Shortly after the news of the assassination broke, shots were heard in Karachi Ms Bhutto’s home town. There are widespread fears that Pakistan will now drift into a civil war. There are doubts whether the upcoming elections will take place now.

Pakistan is not only an ally in the ill-fated and poorly executed exercise, labeled “War on Terror”, Pakistan is, of course, a nuclear power. The United States military has made plans to secure the Pakistani nuclear arsenal in case of increased unrest there, but:

…U.S. officials worry their limited knowledge about the location of the arsenal could pose a problem, it said, a week after Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency.

‘We can’t say with absolute certainty that we know where they all are,’ the newspaper quoted an unnamed former U.S. official as saying.

As for any U.S. effort to seize and secure Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the official said: ‘It could be very messy.’

Welcome back to everyday life.

However bad the news, “Europeanview” wishes you all a safe and healthy day. Take care!

Europe Calling – 415 Days to Go

Today is World AIDS Day. There have been so many talented people, who lost their lives to this disease. Freddie Mercury, Arthur Ashe, Keith Haring, Anthony Perkins, Rudolph Nurejew, Rock Hudson, just to name a few. Another estimated 25 million men, women and children have succumbed to the virus. Twenty years ago infection meant you were going to die, today it means you’ll have to live with the disease. Unless, of course, you’re poor and living in Africa, then even today with all the modern pharmaceuticals available to us, you are going to die. Neither a cure, nor immunization are available yet. We’ve come a long way, from the times, when politicians asked for segregation of the patients in camps. But we will still have to go a long way when it comes to accepting the diversity in lifestyles, not only sexual, and despite any differences, accept the other man as a fellow human being worthy of our respect.

This said, here is what’s in the news in Europe today: Continue reading

Good Morning from Europe – 418 Days to Go

This Morning’s news round-up turned almost into a Middle East Special. General Musharraf’s resignation as army chief is today’s news. The wrap-up to yesterdays Annapolis Declaration is covered broadly in the media and unsurprisingly the scepticism has returned after yesterday’s reveling in celebration of impending peace. Analysis sheds a dark light on the situation of the broader Middle East and the prospect of an attack on Iran. Iraqi refugees suffer the consequences of US and Iraqi government propaganda and are returning to Iraq in greater numbers, not always out of their own free will. France has suffered renewed violence and in Germany a landlord had his very own domestic surveillance program. For more detailed information on all of these topics, see the post below the fold. “Europeanview” wishes you all a happy, healthy day. Take care!

Continue reading

Good Afternoon from Europe – 432 Days to Go

 Swing at the “Tenuta Le Piane”

Who wants to rule France? “Le Petit Nicholas” will have to try and overcome the French’s resilience, when it comes to giving up their cherished vested rights. Sarkozy will find out presently, whether his plans to cut pensioner’ rights, social security and many other long-fought-for privileges, will stand a chance against the rebelliousness of his people.

If all else fails, the French still have their wine and even find an upside to global warming.

A German saying goes: “Ein Affe, ohne zweiten, kann nicht streiten!”  (One monkey, without another one, can’t get into a fight). Apt, when one considers the USA-Iran conflict. Whenever the Bush Administration is toning down the language even one tiny bit or remains silent for a change, rest assured, Ahmadinejad will step up the warmongering rethoric. Now, to keep the tempers up, there is infighting in Tehran, seasoned with a slight against Britain.

The well informed neo-con elite knows, that Iran is not a nuclear power, but claims it’s plenty dangerous. Pakistan, however, has nukes. And Pakistan is in political turmoil. Worrying, isn’t it?

Well, no, not really says the Pentagon:

 “At this point, we have no concerns,” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. “We believe that they are under the appropriate control.”

Ohokay…

And finally a ray of hope.

 Michael Mukasey, who was sworn in Tuesday, has reopened a dormant inquiry into the US government’s warrantless wiretapping programme which was effectively blocked by the president 18 months ago.

 “Europeanview” will go to sleep now and hopefully wake up to a better world tomorrow morning. You all stay safe and take care!

Breaking: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf tells The Associated Press he will step down as army chief by the end of this month.

From AP:

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AP) — President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Wednesday he expects to step down as army chief by the end of November and begin a new presidential term as a civilian, warning that Pakistan risked chaos if he gave into opposition demands to resign.

In an interview with The Associated Press, he accused former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, currently under house arrest, of fueling political turmoil and rejected Western pressure to quickly lift emergency rule, which he indicated was likely to continue through the January elections.

“All those who are blunt enough to tell me to my face what the reality is, all of them think, yes, it will lead the country to chaos if I do not handle the political environment now with me remaining as the president,” he said at his army office.

Yup, Dictator in Chief.

Hello from Europe – 437 Days to Go

Roebuck Stew in Marinade

In answer to Briseadh Na Faire’s question on what Europe thinks about the new Attorney General Mukasey, the newspapers’ sites visited didn’t have much to say. In general it was listed as news and got covered as an aside. There was mention of Mukasey having the lowest approval number in 50 years.

The situation in Pakistan is getting more dramatic by the hour. Benazir Bhutto was put under house arrest and tried to break police lines today. More massive protests are expected and the country could be spinning out of control, which is more good news for the Islamists.

The first large Autumn Storm Tilo is pummeling the North Sea. Rotterdam had closed the harbor gates for the first time since their construction and the British east coast was in danger of flooding. The Alps will see their first and partly heavy snowfalls, which due to high winds may lead to dangerous avalanches.

There are tough times ahead for the European landed gentry, seemingly, and “The Independent” gladly reports.

And just in: Benazir Bhutto released from house arrest

And the latest financial info: The Dow Jones is sliding again Nasdaq shares are hit hard.

This is “Europeanview’s”  news round-up for today. It’s slow going, but whoever wants Breaking News on O.J. Simpson, CNN has it. Have a nice day and take care.

Hello from Europe – 438 Days to Go

Thistles – I feel prickly today

There is not much news today except maybe for this:Will the Dow Jones start lower today, again, after a hard beating yesterday? Some people seem to wake up from their months of partying and don’t like what they see. The Fed can’t cut rates on a weekly basis, so when the aspirin wears off the real hangover sets in. And Bernanke doesn’t seem to be very upbeat about the economy either.

A Blackhawk helicopter crashed in Northern Italy with ten people on board, killing four.

Finland still reels from their first school massacre which cost eight lives.

Elections seem to be the flavour of the day. One is calling for early elections. The other postpones. Both are violently suppressing dissent just to keep a grip on power.

And finally: Winter is coming to Switzerland!

This is “Europeanview’s” rather hung-over view of the news today. Stay safe and See you Soon! 

Good Morning from Europe – 439 Days to Go

Chestnut Tree – Le Piane – Italy

Gold, Oil and the Euro: Amidst fears, that the latest rate cut by the Federal Reserve will still not be enough to curb the financial markets crisis, the Dollar lost again to the Euro. Gold reached an all time high and oil hit $97. And for those who think this is restricted to the housing and financial markets, think againAnd again!

Pakistan will return to pre emergency rule status in 2-3 weeks – or rather not? Meanwhile, Islamists have taken over yet another of its provinces. Is this the west’s fault really?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet President Bush by the end of this week. She signalled Germany’s will to heighten sanctions against Iran, but will insist on a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

No news today on the bold move of Dennis Kucinich to impeach Vice-President Cheney in European newspapers.

The Washington Post reports on it, however, and  chances are, that the Democrats again will shoot themselves into their collective foot over this.

And finally: A veto can be overridden! Now Democrats, try again and end this war!

This is how “Europeanview” saw the headlines today. Have a nice Day, Everybody!

Good Morning from Europe – 440 Days to Go

Ecomusée – Alsace – France

Is the turmoil in the financial markets a full-blown crisis already? Not everyone thinks so. “The Guardian” is convinced the real crisis is still ahead at least for British banks and, truly, nobody knows what’s still lurking in the “subprime basement”.

Pakistan is facing new protests, as the imposing of what is in fact martial law, produces further unrest. Benazir Bhutto has threatened to call for mass protests, but has not, as of now, done so, while Pakistani Police cracks down violently on protesters. The “Telegraph” sheds a light on the wisdom of Musharraf’s actions.

The Kurdish PKK is now an Enemy of the United States. For now an invasion into Iraq by Turkey has been averted. Intelligence gathered by US military will be forwarded to Turkish authorities to help them fight the PKK. 

While French President Sarkozy is looking forward to meeting with President Bush, “Le Petit Nicolas” will first have to confront the wrath of his own people. If the pictures here, are mindful of the Pakistani unrest, martial law and other serious incidents, it helps to know that the protests are about petrol prices!

The Swiss Blackwater Mercenary: In Switzerland a former Blackwater-in-Iraq employee is prosecuted for working as a mercenary, while still considered a member of Swiss active duty military personnel.

Truffles prices are up after an uncommonly hot summer in Italy, which leads to fairly uncommon criminal activity.

So, with only 440 more days of Bush Presidency to go through, have a nice day Everyone!

Europe calling – Monday

 

(Castelluccio, Italy)

Is war with Iran really inevitable? Yesterday’s Guardian tries to make a case for ways to avoid it, but doesn’t sound very optimistic about it really. (Impeachment proceedings against Vice-President Cheney may be the ticket to keep him focused away from Iran.)

Most headlines in Europe deal, of course, with Pakistan and Musharrafs attempt to stay in power at all costs. Journalists and lawyers are among the first to bear the brunt of the State of Emergency, while Islamists are not easily deterred and fuel the crisis. There were even rumours that Musharraf himself has been arrested by his second in command. This, however has been promptly denied. The latest developments indicate, that elections will be held in January, this seems to be mainly due to pressure from the US, who can ill afford such an outcome to their Democratization of the Middle East.

“What if Iraq hadn’t happened?” asks Tim Watkin in “The Guardian” and triggers a lively discussion. It has happened, however, so the exchange of thoughts may be considered moot by some.

The Dollar has lost 34% against the Euro since 2001, mainly due to the spending frenzy during the Bush administration. Small wonder, that celebrities like Gisele Bundchen insist on getting paid in Euros.

Banks all over the world are getting a thrashing at the stock markets for their continued gambling in the global credit casino for the last years. UBS, Barclays and Citi are among the more prominent victims of asset backed securities that turned into half-assed securities.

Despite all the woes of the world, I wish you all a good start into the week!