5/05/2013

"Outsiders" Weekly Reflections Upon The World (May 5, 2013 Edition)


The World over the past 10 days has continued to be on the edge ever more.   Syria continues to burn, Mexicans continue to die in a pointless Drug War, Bangladeshi Workers perished as they tried to make a living, Europe's economic malaise became worst while wild fires in Southern California threatened 4,000 homes as it consumed 43 square kilometers .

I begin with Syria.    Syria has been hit by Israeli Bombs.  I just saw the latest from Chinese Central Television where reporting reflects 4 Israeli hits over the past 48 hours.   What is clear is that Israel has made a clear decision to intervene.   The decision to intervene has to do with the fact that Hezbollah, the Lebanese Party with a very strong military wing, has decided to intervene in Lebanon on the side of Bashar Al Assad.   Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah Leader, has said that it is to protect the Shia Population.   I have seen reports that they have deployed in Damascus as well to protect the Shia shrine of Zinab, a grand daughter of the Prophet and a shia shrine.    

The opposition to Assad is divided.    Even though it is divided, it continues to take the fight to Assad.   The Prime Minister escaped an assassination attempt.     But this division has given Assad the opening to fight them  all to a standstill.    With the Israeli attacks, it gives Assad another opening to further discredit the opposition and potentially ignite a wider regional conflict.   I continue to be concerned that what happened to Lebanon will also happen to Syria.  Lebanon was contained--Syria will not be contained because the neighbors have turned on Assad and have recognized the Syrian National Council as the rightful representative.   There are also apparent moves to turn over Syria's UN seat to the Syrian National Council who is the nominal umbrella organization but cannot pull all the elements together.    The region is one of the most militarized in the World that was also even more so after the most recent arms deal the United States concluded with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel.    All it takes is a spark which may consume the whole region.

The only very interesting development of note is the election in Malaysia.   I view it as quite dramatic as Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader, has a shut to dislodge the ruling party from power.    I saw this last minute instructions from his campaign as the country got ready for the campaign:

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We Malaysians stand today on the brink of history. We have reached the final day of a historic campaign that will change our country forever. Throughout Malaysia, we have seen hundreds of thousands of people of all ethnicities come to our ceramahs. The response in frontline states such as Johor, Sabah and Sarawak, the heartland and fortresses of Umno and Barisan Nasional, has been tremendous and inspiring.

To the rakyat and supporters of Pakatan Rakyat, we thank you for your faith, your courage, and your commitment. This is a campaign built on the millions of small and large sacrifices that you have all made. It humbles me and all leaders in Pakatan Rakyat.

Sunday’s election will mark the decisive step in an amazing, peaceful, democratic revolution that will take Malaysia into a new era. Let us go out to vote in strength on Sunday for candidates in Keadilan, PAS and DAP.

A few instructions that will help us win:
Encourage all your friends, family and neighbours to cast their ballots because every vote counts
Know where your polling station is. Double and triple check your voting status. Plan a route to the polling station and do consider traffic
Vote as early in the day as possible. Polling starts at 8 AM and an early vote helps us to defend against voter fraud
Do not be intimidated by those who try to scare or threaten you, we are here to defend the rights of all Malaysians
Believe that your vote will change the future of our country and when you check the box on your ballot your act will be written into the history of Malaysia
In preparation for our first few months of government, I am releasing a Pakatan Rakyat Roadmap outlining key actions that we will undertake in order to fulfill our manifesto promises. As I have always emphasized, the focus of this roadmap must be pro-rakyat  and consist of measures that will have both immediate impact, and long-term benefits. These are reforms that BN has never dared to implement, but Pakatan Rakyat has the courage to do so – reforms that will bring back a renaissance, a genuine merdeka and democracy to Malaysia.

You can read the 100 Day Plan here at http://www.anwaribrahim.com/100days. Please share it with everyone who you know.

I want assure all Malaysians not to fear. This transition will not only be historic, but also peaceful. Pakatan Rakyat’s Security Advisory Council of former generals and police will help myself and other Pakatan Rakyat leaders through the process.

I warn the Election Commission again - the rakyat will not tolerate any electoral fraud. Be vigilant of all suspicious activities. We must ensure that only Malaysians will decide the fate of our nation, and Insyallah, we will succeed.

Our nation is a land of promise and fulfillment. Seize your destiny. Ini kali lah!

Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim
May 4, 2013
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I have followed Anwar's struggle for years.   Whenever I saw any opportunity to support him virtually, I did as his Wife fought valiantly to keep his memory alive as he languished in prison for his valiant struggle against Mahatir Mohammad.    He was able to fight his way back.  I view Malaysia as a perfect test case of how it should work.  Malaysians are voting right now.

Beyond Malaysia, there is also Pakistan.    I view what happens in Pakistan to be absolutely vital.   It has  almost 200 Million People and has nuclear weapons.  It continue to be besieged by an insurgency that is not slowing down.  As the insurgency continues, the General Election Campaign continues onward.  The media has been touting the fact that it is actually the first time a peaceful transition of power is about to occur.   Beyond that, though, there is not much to celebrate in Pakistan.    

The Pakistani Taliban have been on a rampage.   Secular politicians have been killed and the lawless City of Karachi continued to be dominated by the Taliban.    Karachi is the commercial hub of Pakistan and the sheer state of lawlessness is scary.   This is emblematic of the problems being faced by Pakistan in all corners of the Country.   The initial insurgency has mushroomed into a nationwide campaign that is undermining the very nature of the Pakistani State.      The latest ugly manifestation of it came about as the Chief Prosecutor investigating Benzair Bhutto's assassination was killed by the Taliban on his way to Work.

Despite all the gloom on the horizon, though,  I retain some hope for Pakistan.  I have seen Imran Khan campaign throughout Pakistan.   I have been assessing his efforts through Facebook and have seen the so-called "Jalyessa's" (meetings) he has held throughout the country ever more greater.   From what I have seen of the Taliban on Imran Khan, they have not gone after him as aggressively as others since Imran Khan has been quite vocal in his opposition of the Pakistani Government Policy.  But his party has also seen at least one Party Worker killed.    I view him as a centrist, solid hope for change in Pakistan.   I hope that he's able to win and do what he can to transform Pakistan.    His facebook page just posted his latest speech in Lahore.   In the meantime, the Judiciary in Pakistan continues to assert its' rightful role by making sure that at least there is one institution that stands for the rule of law.   The latest move by the judiciary was to ban Pervez Musharaf, the former military ruler, for life from politics.

Pakistan also matters because one of its' most volatile regions--Baluchistan--borders Iran.  Iran has a province called Sistan and Baluchistan that is probably the most deprived of the 31 Provinces in the Country.  It is also a hotbed of insurgency and drug trafficking.   Iran continues to have its' own profound challenges due to the continued sanctions regime.    This is as the Country gears up for the elections.  Iran is also pivotal because it is the main regional player supporting Syria and it is engaged in a proxy war right now with Israel.    The Presidential Campaign has begun in earnest as factions within the conservative wing of the Political Elite of the country are positioning themselves as the Guardian Council vettes all the candidates.    The head of the Guardian Council, Janati, noted that they would make sure that they undertake their responsibility fairly.    I laughed when I saw the comments especially as I also reviewed comments from him on the conduct of the election itself and the media.    It was his direct actions under the implicit instructions of Khameini, the Supreme Leader, that gave the elections to A-Jad who then turned on them all as his total lack of competence was finally revealed.

The Moderates are trying to muster somewhat of a strong effort by once again asking Rafsanjani to run.   I had written back in 2009 about my views about the power that he had and how anxious I was that he was going to make moves to somehow preempt moves by the conservative wing of the political elite in the Country.   I was surprised by how swiftly he was sidelined and how relentless the Government went after him  and his family.  His children were jailed and he has been under attack from establishment figures due to his so-called perceived role in what the political establishment is calling the "calamity of 1388".    It will be interesting to see who the Guardian Council approves to run and what will the turnout be.   There has some speculation that the next President will have a "gentler touch".  I am not sure what that means.   The ravages of the A-Jad Years are so massive--I am not sure if any one man is able to turn things around.   What I also find amusing is how A-Jad's Former Chief of Staff, Mashai', is being pushed by A-Jad to be a candidate.   Mashai is trying to position himself as the "reform" candidate.   Although he did recently note that his mandate is from God and any "mortal" does not have the right to judge him.   The Political Commentator Sadegh Zibakalam noted how the Reformists do not want

My other focus this week is on Europe.  I begin with the UK.    I saw with gratification as results of 35 council elections was a disaster for the Conservatives.  What is important about these local elections is that they are the food soldiers in the ultimate control of the British Parliament that decides who leads Britain.    David Cameron has been warned that if he does not change course, he will lose the next General Election.  This is as he continues his relentless austerity policy and as a recent report came out that noted that 5 Million families struggled to put food on the table and had to borrow to make ends meet.  

On the continent as well, there continues to be more suffering.   Portugal has just announced fresh budget cuts that will result in the firing of 30,000 Government Workers.    This is as the Eurozone continues to suffer from the highest unemployment numbers ever.     One of the largest, France, has over 3 Million People unemployed.    There are slight rays of hope, though.   The new Government in Italy has noted that Growth has to be prioritized over austerity.    The European Central Bank has cut interest rates to its' lowest ever.   I was especially gratified to see comments by the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Baroso, noting that misjudgments may have been made.    This is as this recent report came out debunking the aggresive stance taken by Governments regarding austerity:

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What happens in Europe is also crucial.  Although the United States has seen Economic Growth and a drop in the unemployment rate, the long-term prospects are of concern.   US companies have seen a drop in their numbers in large measure due the continued economic malaise in Europe.

I conclude this latest World Watch with a prayer for the victims of the tragedy in Bangladesh.   What happened when the building collapsed is horrific.  The working conditions for those poor souls who help to cloth the World is among  the worst in the World.     Treating all workers with dignity should be the goal of all.  Yet, it seems that the relentless pursuit of profit overtakes all other considerations.   Tragic is the only word I could muster.     What is even more tragic is if the major players pull out, the average person on the street will suffer.  

As I conclude this "world watch" I can't help but remember how hopeful one must be.  I am reminded of the old admonition to make sure that we all continue to smile so that our smile and optimism can change the World--not the World allow us to change our Smile.  It is in line with Gandhi's admonition for us all to be the change we want to see in the World.  

The Journey continues......

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