5/26/2013

A "Broad Brush" of the World As May 2013 Comes to an End.....

I begin this edition of "World Watch" with the Middle East.    The Great War for the soul of the Middle East continues onward.

The tragedy that is the Islamic Republic in Iran continues with no apparent end in sight.    One of the children of the Revolution, Hashemi Rafsanjani, has been devoured by the Revolution.    At the age of 78, he decided to file an application to run for President again.    His application was rejected by the Guardian Council on the grounds of being "too old" and being implicated in the so-called "putsh of 1388"--basically having been supportive of the Green Movement.   I had written extensively being hopeful that somehow his continued clout back in 2009 would somehow change things in Iran.  But, his children were imprisoned, he was gradually stripped of his existing authorities and his control of the Islamic Azad University of Iran was stripped away from him.      He said he won't challenge the determination of the Guardian Council and has called for unity.   What is tragic is that the current bunch of characters that has been approved are a joke.    What is further tragic is that out of a country of 70 Million,  only 7 people have been approved--the seven who have all been functionaries in the regime whose only loyalty is basically to Khameini, the leader of the Revoulution (known in the West as the Supreme Leader).     What is fascinating to watch, though, is to see which of the so-called candidates will prevail.    Whatever happens, Khameini will continue to have the final say on all matters of State and the defacto dictatorship and control by the Revolutionary Guards will continue with no end in sight.     In the meantime, security measures have been stepped up as Iran seems to be on the path to cut itself from the Worldwide Web--just like the North Koreans.   There were also reports of a cyber attack by the Iranians against US Energy assets.  The Iranians have denied it--but it gave fuel to the folks over at the Fox News Network in the United States to have a field day about all kinds of conspiracy theories.   It must be noted that the US spearheaded a Cyber attack on the Iranian Nuclear Program that ultimately has led to Iran ultimately deciding to take itself out of the Worldwide web.

Iran's major role in the Middle East underscores why what happens in Iran matters.    It continues to be the major supporter of Bashar Assad and Nouri Al Malaki in Iraq.    It has been the support of Bashar Al Assad that has allowed Bashar to be sustained as long as it has.  Bashar has fought the opposition to a standstill and has begun gaining ground.    What is especially troublesome is how Lebanon's Hezbollah has essentially "gone all in" and guaranteed a victory by Bashar Assad.   This is as the number of refugees continues to increase in the countries bordering Syria.     What I find extremely tragic is how the so-called Syrian Opposition has not been able to get its' act together.     The danger of a Somalia in the heart of the Middle East is becoming a reality daily.     The implications of it for the region are profound. 

Beyond Syria, there is Israel.  Israel's domestic challenges do not get much press around the World.    Israel's new Government has presented an austerity budget as it deals with economic challenges at home.    It has to sustain "fortress Israel" even though the United States continues to bankroll most Defense expenses for the Country.    The United States, in the meantime, is trying to force the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.   I have noted throughout my comments in "outsiders' that there is no peace process to speak off--and the fact that most of the West Bank has basically been annexed by Israel means that Abu Mazen does not have much to negotiate.    As the US Secretary of State is continuing his shuttle diplomacy, the Palestinian President has come out during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Amman recently noting that Peace is doeable.   This is as the Arab League--led by Qatar-has revised its' initial 2002 Peace Initiative by noting the realities on the ground in not calling for a full withdrawl of Israel from the occupied terrorities.    I welcome Palestinian President Abu Mazen's  optimisim despite the realities that seem to dictate otherwise.   Israel, though, continues to flex its' muscle.  F16's again flew over Beirut, Lebanon,  within the past 24 hours.

As Iran continues to deal with election fever, Pakistan just had one and a new Prime Minister is about to take over.     It appears that there is a lot of hope that Nawaz Sharif will have supposedly better luck with his third term as Prime Minister.   Although he has got a lot in his "inbox".    The most pressing issue is the nationwide Taliban Insurgency that seems to have no end in sight.    His party was spared by the Taliban during the elections--and it has paid dividends.   With the "reset" on drone policy announced by President Obama with his major policy speech, this should also bode well for the incoming Sharif Government.   But, Pakistan has major economic challenges and an endemic culture of corruption that is holding back development of its' full potential.     Furthermore, the insurgency in Baluchestan is also a major headache.     This is as Pakistan has to figure out how to deal with its' long-time nemsis, India--that has its' own share of challenges before it.      Afghanistan also will be having an election as it continues to come to terms with US Withdrawal and a Taliban insurgency that rages on with no end in sight.  

In India, The ruling coalition continues to be beset by Corruption allegations.    But, interestingly enough, the opposition BJP is even in worst shape due to the loss it suffered in the state of Karnataka--which includes the City of Bangalore--India's tech haven.     Beyond the immediate political challenges, India continues to deal with long-term challenges--including trying to insure that it is able to ultimately generate jobs for a population that constitutes a fifth of the World's working age population.   How the jobs are created will present a profound challenge to Indian Leaders.    There is also one more piece of news that is underreported: the Maoist insurgency that has been continuing for almost 30 years.   The Maoists struck, yet again, killing 16 people.

The other major player, China, is undergoing some major transformation as well which I plan to reflect upon in future editions of "World Watch".    It is worth noting that the new Chinese Premier chose India for his first foreign trip.    The new Chinese President chose Africa as one of his first trips.    Europe and the United States were interestingly ignored as the new Chinese Leadership took charge in China.   As China asserts itself, it has to deal with its' own internal challenges.    One recent development noted that Cadmimum, a toxic substance, was found in Rice--a major food staple for China.    The statistics I have reviewed report of a third of China's Rivers as being polluted.  This is as the quality of the air in the major cities is amongst the worst in the World.    I have seen reports of foreign workers asking for "hazard pay" to work in China's major cities.   I sense that change is in the air as I reviewed recent comments by leading Chinese personalities as quoted by NewsChina.     Bai Yansong, the CCTV (Chinese State Television) anchor, noted, that "...With genuine freedom of the press, we would probably face a deluge of gossip, scandale and news about sex, violence, and other things that sell.  But we have to know that this is the only path to true freedom...".    This was surprising to me coming from someone who works for the State Broadcaster that has acknowledged that this sense of freedom is yet to be realized.    I also am continuing to follow the edicts of the Chinese Government as it works to restructure its' Government.    The Chinese Premier has reaffirmed its' plans to make sure the State's role in the Economy becomes less and less--although the high degree of debt held by Government-backed institutions as exemplified by the State Railway system recently slated for privatization underscores the challenges being faced by China as it works to transform the economy and the country.     China is slated to be the biggest economy in the World by 2016 and has also recently come out with its' White Paper that for the first time noted that the People's Liberation Army has 2.3 million active military personnel--the largest in the World.   

I conclude the final edition of this months' World Watch with the Americas.  The Tea Party Gang in the United States Senate is flexing its' muscle to block the adoption of the Federal Budget.     It has exposed a rift within the Republicans.  I find it quite comical that Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have raised objections while not offering a solution.    I have to question why they have taken office while opposing even the basic elements of Government.       Beyond Washington, though, Central and South America continue to see profound changes as well.    The Economic Alliances  seem to be forming.    Argentina seems to be facing profound Economic Headwinds.  Mexico continues to have challenges on both on the political and economic front--in addition to the on-going drug war that seems to have no end in sight.   Bolivia just endured strikes as Evo Morales, the President, basically bought himself a third term as President.     The two reasonable bright spots seem to be Brazil and Chile.  I was gratified to see Brazil having forgiven most of Africa's Debt that shows the power it has around the world.    I also hold out hope for Chile as its' former President, Michelle Bachelet, has declared her intention to run for President of Chile again.     America's backdoor has finally broken free.

It remains a challenging world ever more.....










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