Thursday, August 30, 2012

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Iran, hosting the non-aligned conference this week in Tehran, launched a strenuous effort to get Mohamed Mursi, the new Egyptian president, to attend.  They were successful and really, really happy. 

Mursi, on the other hand, revealed a level of independence that no one – NO ONE – anticipated as he condemned the Syrian government and urged the Syrian rebels to unify and turn out President Assad.  No doubt somewhat shocked, the Syrian delegation walked out.  More importantly, the Iranian government likely had a collective heart attack as Mursi, a conservative from the Muslim Brotherhood (feared and loathed by the Americans and Israelis) basically told Iran that he supported the rebels whom the West want to see take down Assad, putting him on the same side as Turkey, Western Europe and the US and against Russia, Iran and the current Syrian government. I leave China out because their veto of the UN resolutions, where they joined Russia, were  based on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of another country (not liking the idea that it could be applied to them) rather than the vaporization of an ally and major arms purchaser.  
As if to rub salt into the wound, Mursi then went on to compare the rebel cause in Syria to the plight of the Palestinians.  Just to be clear – the Palestinian cause is sacred to Egypt and a frequent, convenient rallying point for Iranian propaganda.  Mursi has effectively put Iran in the shoes of Israel vis a vis the Syrian rebels. Sting much? 
This speech is clearly not what Iran wanted and ups their cost as they will now have to deal with an increasingly annoyed Turkish government, the vast wealth of Qatar and Saudi Arabia and now a moral opponent in the leading Arab state of Egypt supposedly being run by one of their own. This is clearly not the optimum outcome from the point of view of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor will Hezbollah be celebrating in the streets of Beirut.  Hezbollah leadership is likely re-calibrating everything at this point.
Multiple  factors seem to be in play. Aside from the fact that President Mursi is a creation of the Egyptian revolution and likely feels a good deal of sympathy for the similar revolt in Syria which began peacefully and was met by violent responses from the Assad family,  Mursi is Sunni in a largely Sunni country.  Turkey is Sunni as well.  The Sunni minority in Iraq has been sidelined from power, with the Sunni Vice President forced to flee to Istanbul.  Iran has the upper hand in Iraq (thanks Bush Jr.) and Egypt wants Western, Qatari and Saudi money and investment.  Qatar and Saudi Arabia are, like Egypt and Syria, Arab.  Iran is decidedly not Arab or Sunni and, to make matters worse is flexing its muscle in the direction of the Gulf Arab states.
So, now the game becomes more complex.  Moscow is sweating and Iran is probably not in the best of moods.  An interesting sidelight to this is the American displeasure that the non-aligned movement held its conference in Tehran.  They actively tried to convince the UN Secretary General not to attend (any place, except Iran).  The Republican Party railed against the meeting and the UN – largely because they prefer killing to peace - and thought a dictator like Hosni Mubarak was their kinda guy.  Who’s laughing now?
Assad said the army was “cleansing” society and needed some time to finish the job.  Not the best choice of words.  Once ground-to-air missiles and some anti-armour weapons begin to make their impact through the largess of Qatar and the Saudi’s, Moscow should start to fixture a nice dacha for him.

Friday, August 17, 2012

For Assange - What now? What now?

Now that the Ecuadorian government has granted political asylum to Julian Assange (for those living on Pluto, the Wikileaks founder) to escape extradition to Sweden on sexual abuse allegations resulting in - ultimately - a snatch to the US, what now?  He is confined within the walls of the Ecuadorian London embassy.  For his purposes, not very optimal.

Leaving aside the arguments of whether publishing communications of limited value, aside from some amusing and embarrassing anecdotes and to which literally millions had access anyway, is some sort of crime - the granting of asylum could hardly have been a surprise to anyone with half a brain.  The current government in Ecuador is not especially supportive of the US and its foreign policy, for one thing.  It also sees the UK as in the pocket of the US.

However, even if there was a chance that Ecuador would reject the plea for asylum, the UK foreign office certainly slammed the door on that possibility by announcing that, under UK law, it could legally strip the embassy of its status, storm in and arrest poor Julian and ship him off to Stockholm.  Simply pointing our the law was a threat.  Have the people in the UK government been standing too long in the hot sun?  Were they running a high fever?  What ever made them think that floating the idea was a good plan?  If anything was going to guarantee a decision to grant asylum, that certainly was going to do it, while simultaneously enraging the government of Ecuador.  Furthermore, such an action would create a precedent of unaccountable proportions.  It doesn't need to be spelt out.

Why not have the Swedish government fly over a bunch of their crack prosecution team with the witness making the claims (who, apparently has not even been questioned) and conduct an interview inside the Ecuadorian embassy to determine if a case really exists?  If it is shown that the allegations are for real and that enough evidence exists to support an arrest (he has not been arrested) and criminal trial, it is likely that the Ecuadorian government will be placed in an awkward position and request his departure. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Mitt's European Adventure

Forever trying to solidify the Republican base, composed of red-neck conservative know (and don't want to) nothing bigots, Mitt decided to show his foreign policy credentials by taking a sojourn to that place he and his knuckle dragging followers couldn't find on a map with a flashlight - Europe. 

Not any old Europe (and certainly not France with its leftish new president) but Poland and England. Between the two, he sandwiched in Israel so he could show solidarity with the increasingly marginalized government by vowing to do something about Iranian nuclear ambitions. 

Fortunately for Mitt, most Americans - and certainly not his followers - don't much care about foreign affairs these days (not realizing that Europe's economic problems deeply affect the US).  Otherwise, they might find it astonishing that he questioned London's ability to host the Olympic games, drawing the ridicule of its outspoken mayor who is not known for his liberal tendencies and then went to Israel where he said of Palestinians (probably one of the most highly educated peoples in the Middle East) that they were intellectually and culturally inferior to Israelis.  Being treated as third class citizens and being suppressed while having their land stolen obviously points to Israeli intellectual superiority.  Oh. Yeah. Note to drooling troll Mittster supporters: he praised the Israeli health care system (single payer, price controls).

Then, to get closer to Russia (his number one geopolitical enemy) he landed in Warsaw.  There, he proceeded to glorify Poland's economy.  Great. Poland's economy has been remarkably resilient for a number of reasons.  Good for him.  Note to the knuckle-dragging Mittster supporters (I think those are the ones who can read): Poland has a larger government spending program than the US and - wait for it --------------
universal health care and a strong labour union system.

There is nothing more pathetic than pandering made worse with stupidity coupled with arrogance.