September 24, 2008



Hundreds of Hindus in the predominantly Hindu island of Bali in Indonesia have demonstrated twice in one week to protest against the efforts of conservative Islamic elements to force through the Indonesian Parliament a Bill, which is ostensibly meant to ban the dissemination and possession of pornographic literature, films, CDs and other material. The Hindus, who have been living in Bali for over a thousand years and preserved the pristine traditions of Hinduism, apprehend that the Islamic conservative elements behind the Bill have the hidden objective of imposing on non-Muslims the Islamic dress code and prejudices against music and dancing. They fear that the Islamic conservatives want to ban the use of music and dancing based on Hindu religious themes on religious and social occasions in Bali on the ground that they encourage eroticism and remove from temples idols, which are perceived by the conservatives as erotic. They also suspect that the Islamic conservatives want to eradicate the influence of Hindu traditions and culture in Indonesia and Arabise the Muslim population in Indonesia as has already been done in Malaysia.

2. The Islamic conservatives have been trying for the last three years to have the Bill passed and implemented, but they have been thwarted in their efforts by strong opposition not only from the Hindus and Christians, but also from liberal sections of the local Muslim society. The liberals still have a strong presence and voice in the Indonesian Muslim society, but face increasing pressure from the conservatives to let the Bill go through. This year, the conservatives made a determined bid to have the Bill passed and promulgated into law during the holy month of Ramadan.

3. Provoked by this, the Hindus of Bali have demonstrated twice against the Bill. Addressing the second demonstration on September 23,2008, Made Mangku Pastika, the Governor of Bali, said that the proposed Bill overlapped with existing legislation and trampled local customs in a country of ethnic, religious and cultural diversity. "The parliament should enforce other laws on the sex industry but don't endorse a new law on pornography, especially if that law only accommodates a single group's perspective and disrespects others'," he said.
He added that regulations in the media law, the criminal code, the broadcasting law and the child protection law should be enough to control pornography.

4.The Bill is too vague in its definition of pornography and the critics of the Bill fear that it could lead to Taliban-style attacks against those preserving Hindu traditions in music and dancing and dressing differently from the Muslims. The conservatives want that women should be banned from exposing their midriff and navel, which should be made an offence punishable with two years in prison. The Hindus say that the Bill would threaten their local religious and cultural traditions, and hurt the lucrative tourism industry, on which they are mainly dependent for their livelihood.The Bill would criminalise all public acts and material capable of raising sexual desires or violating "community morality," including dance, music and poetry. The protesting Hindus sang, danced and recited from Hindu epics----- all acts which could be criminalised if the Bill became law.

5.In the beginning the Bill was supported only by the Islamic conservative parties, but in view of the elections due next year, the secular Golkar has also started supporting it. However, the Christian Peace and Welfare Party and the nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) have rejected the proposed Bill.The Hindus have threatened to launch a civil disobedience movement similar to the movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in India if the Bill is enacted and enforced.

5. The discussion on the Bill in the Parliament has reportedly been postponed till the end of this year in view of the protests from the Hindus and the Christians, but it has not been withdrawn. (24-9-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )

September 23, 2008

Christian-Missionary Raj in India thru Sonia (Miano) Gandhi

Are we heading towards a Christian India ? Francois Gautier

I am a westerner and a born Christian. I was mainly brought up in catholic schools, my uncle, Father Guy Gautier, a gem of a man, was the parish head of the beautiful Saint Jean de Montmartre church in Paris ; my father, Jacques Gautier, a famous artist in France, and a truly good person if there ever was one, was a fervent catholic all his life, went to church nearly every day and lived by his Christian values. There are certain concepts in Christianity I am proud of : charity for others, the equality of system in many western countries, Christ’s message of love and compassion….

Yet, I am a little uneasy when I see how much Christianity is taking over India under the reign of Sonia Gandhi : according to a 2001 census, there are about 2.34 million Christians in India ; not even 2,5% of the nation, a negligible amount. Yet there are today five Christian chief ministers in Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.

One should add that the majority of politicians in Sonia Gandhi’s closed circle are either Christians or Muslims. She seems to have no confidence in Hindus.Ambika Soni, a Christian, is General Secretary of the Congress and a very powerful person, with close access to Sonia Gandhi. Oscar Fernandes is Union Programme Implementation Minister. Margaret Alwa is the eminence grise of Maharasthra. Karnataka is virtually controlled by AK Anthony, whose secretaries are all from the Southern Christian association. Valson Thampu, a Hindu hater, is Chairman NCERT curriculum Review Committee, John Dayal, another known Hindu baiter, has been named by Sonia Gandhi in the National Integration Council ; and Kancha Ilaya, who hates Hindus, is being allowed by the Indian Government to lobby with the UN and US Congress so that caste discrimination in India is taken-up by these bodies.

I have nothing personnally against Sonia Gandhi, in fact she probably is a good person to win the alliegance of so many and certainly a loving mother . I share with her a love for India, like her I have lived in this country for over 30 years and like her I have married an Indian. But nevertheless, since she is at the top, Christian conversions in India seem to have gone in overdrive. More than 4,000 foreign Christian missionaries are involved in conversion activities across different states. In Tripura, there were no Christians at independence, there are 120.000 today, a 90% increase since 1991. The figures are even more striking in Arunachal Pradesh, where there were only 1710 Christians in 1961, but 1,2 million today, as well as 780 churches! In Andhra Pradesh, churches are coming-up every day in far flung villages and there was even an attempt to set-up one near Tirupati. Many of the North-East separatist movements, such as the Mizo or the Bodos, are not only Christian dominated, but also sometimes function with the covert backing of the missionaries. In Kerala, particularly in the poor coastal districts, you find “miracle boxes” put in local churches: the gullible villager writes out a paper mentionning his wish: a fising boat, a loan for a pukka house, fees for the son’s schooling… And lo, a few weeks later, the miracle happens ! And of course the whole family converts, making others in the village follow suit. During the Tsunami, entire dalit villages in Tamil Nadu were converted to Christianity with the lure of money.

It is true that there have been a few backlashes against missionnaries and nuns, particularly the gruesome muder of Staines and his two sons. But Belgium historian Konenraad Elst laments that « When over a thousand Hindus are killed and a quarter million Hindus ethnically cleansed in Kashmir, the world media doesn't even notice, but watch the worldwide hue and cry when a few local riots take place and a few missionaries are killed by unidentified tribal miscreants. Christian Naga terrorists have been killing non-Christians for decades on end, and this has never been an issue with the world media, except to bewail the "oppression" of the Nagas by "Hindu India" ». More than 20,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in Assam and Manipur in the past two decades. As recently as last week, four paramilitary Assam Rifles soldiers were killed in an ambush yesterday by the outlawed United National Liberation Front (UNLF).

The other day I was at the Madras Medical center, the foremost heart hospital in Madras. Right when you enter the lobby, you find a chapel, inviting everybody to pray, there are pictures and quotations of Christ everywhere and a priest visits all the patients, without being invited at all. Educational institutes and orphanages run by Christian organisations have become big business in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and other states. In Pondichery, where I am often, schools run by Adventists force their pupils, mostly Hindus, to say Christian prayers every day and attend mass. They are constantly fed anti Hindu slogans and biases under different forms, whether it is in history books, or discourses by priests during religious classes. Even in the elite schools or colleges, such as Saint Stephen in Delhi, Saint Xavier in Calcutta or Loyola college in Madras, where no direct proletization is attempted, Hindu pupils are subtly encouraged towards skepticism of their own religion, and admiration of whatever is Western. One should also say that it’s a one way traffic : remember the furor when MM Joshi wanted the Saraswati hymn to be sung at a Chief Ministers’ meet on education ? And imagine the uproar in secular India if portions of the Bhagavad Gita, this Bible for all humanity, were read at the beginning of the day in public schools ?

Sonia Gandhi said during the last National Integration Council meeting : « We are committed to ideological battle against communal forces which seek to destroy our diversity and polarise us. Certain parties promote polarisation and confrontation. And there are certain regimes in India which promote communalism ». But is not actually the Congress under Mrs Gandhi, which is promoting communalism, by insidiously installing Christians and Muslims (and Marxists) everywhere, propping up Christian states, allowing a free hand too missionnaries and pressing for reservations for Christian Dalits and Muslims, as recently done in AP, in a nation of 850 million Hindus ?

In my country, France, a Christian majority nation , it would be unthinkable to have Hindus – or even Indian born French for that matter – in so many positions of power. Impossible also to find a non-elected, non French, non-Christian person being the absolute ruler of the country behind the scene as Sonia Gandhi is in India. Indians like to say that the greatness of India is that it accepts a foreigner and a Christian like Sonia Gandhi. But is’nt it rather a weakness, and an aberration ? Can’t we find a worthy leader amongst one billion Indians ? This is an India where you see today Swami Avimukteshwarananda Saraswati of Dwarka Peeth, made to disembark from an Indian Airlines flight for carrying his holy dand, a thin bamboo stick which is a symbol of their spiritual designation, inside the aircraft cabin.
Are we heading then towards a Christian India under Sonia Gandhi’s helm? It would be a tremendous loss not only to India, but also to the world. For in India, you find the only living spirituality left on this planet.

François Gautier

China, Space Weapons, and U.S. Security

Author: Bruce W. MacDonald
Council on Foreign Relations Press

September 2008

60 pages
ISBN 978-0-87609-406-8


China’s successful test of an anti-satellite weapon in 2007, followed by the U.S. destruction earlier this year of an out-of-control U.S. satellite, demonstrated that space may soon no longer remain a relative sanctuary from military conflict.
As the United States, China, and others increasingly benefit from the information that military and intelligence satellites provide, the temptation to attack these satellites provides troubling potential for instability and conflict in space that could dramatically affect U.S. military capabilities on earth.

In this Council Special Report, Bruce W. MacDonald illuminates the strategic landscape of this new military space competition and highlights the dangers and opportunities the United States confronts in the space arena. He recognizes that advancing technology has likely made some degree of offensive space capability inevitable but calls on the United States to draw upon all instruments of U.S. power, including a reinvigorated space diplomacy, to lead in establishing a more stable and secure space environment. To this end, he spotlights a series of pragmatic policy, programmatic, and diplomatic steps the United States should take to strengthen its security interests in space and help reduce the chances that the military benefits of space will be cut off when the United States may most need them. In addition, these steps would serve important U.S. and Chinese economic interests and open new channels of communication and understanding between the mid-twenty-first century’s likely two leading powers. This timely report breaks new ground in thinking about the space dimension of U.S. security interests and its growing effect on U.S. security in the twenty-first century, and will be especially useful to those who are unfamiliar with the role of space in U.S. security.

The Author

The Author

Bruce W. MacDonald is an independent consultant in technology and national security policy management. From 1995 to 1999, he was assistant director for national security at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as senior director for science and technology on the National Security Council staff. Earlier, Mr. MacDonald was a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee and was defense and foreign policy adviser to Senator Dale Bumpers (D-AK). He also worked for the State Department as a nuclear weapons and technology specialist in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, where he led the Interagency START Policy Working Group, served on the U.S. START delegation in Geneva, and dealt with space and missile defense issues. He also supported the OSD SALT Task Force as staff scientist at System Planning Corporation. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a senior director of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. Mr. MacDonald holds a BSE from Princeton in aerospace engineering and two master’s degrees, also from Princeton—one in aerospace engineering, specializing in rocket propulsion, and a second in public and international affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School. He has authored a number of technical and policy papers and reports.


Europe: Dying days of conscription

23 Sep 2008

The leather-booted feet of a soldier rest on a desk on his last day of duty.
Only a few European governments still adhere to a system of compulsory military service. Daniel Hoegger examines why for ISN Security Watch.

By Daniel Hoegger for ISN Security Watch

The French government announced the suspension of military draft on 27 June 2001. The decision to do so in 1996 came roughly 200 years after the revolutionary regime introduced the levée-en-masse, the duty of all citizens to military service. The principle of a mass army based on conscription quickly spread all over the continent and became the standard military organization not just in Europe but also in the US.

Since the end of the Cold War, however, the vast majority of European countries have begun discussing or have already decided to suspend conscription and rely purely on volunteer forces. Only a few governments still adhere to a system of compulsory military service. While every country has its own reasons, there seems to be some major causes for both the continuation as well as the suspension of conscription.

NATO, a central factor

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War brought about some major geo-strategic changes. Suddenly, large conscript armies for territorial defense seemed outmoded, resulting in a number of military transformations.

"A central factor is definitively NATO membership," Pertti L Joenniemi, senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), tells ISN Security Watch.

The idea of classic warfare has been dropped. Additionally, the end of the Cold War brought about a new conception of security resulting in an abandoning of the primacy of territorial defense and a reorientation toward peacekeeping missions and the fight against terrorism.

Dr Tibor Szvircsev Tresch from the Swiss Military Academy (MILAK) points to further aspects underlining the central role of NATO in the shift of military organization. Though in accordance with Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, every member is part of an alliance, not every member is obliged to take part in every alliance activity. Because of specializations and work sharing, this means even that certain military branches in many countries exist only on a very basic level.

"As an example, not all maritime nations maintain still a fully equipped submarine fleet," Szvircsev Tresch tells ISN Security Watch.

Furthermore, cooperation among members requires a certain standard of training and a certain level of military application.

These new tasks combined with the introduction of advanced technology and modern information systems require high levels of proficiency. Additionally, soldiers have to develop new "soft-skills," e.g. knowledge of foreign languages, diplomatic technique or the ability to adapt in unknown environments.

"An example of this is the situation in Afghanistan not demanding just classic warfare tasks," Joenniemi says.

Both training and operations often require immediately available personnel who are able to take on longer periods of engagement than would be allowed by conscription. It is also questionable whether conscripts are suited for these new operational styles, and there is also the fact that conscripts often are prohibited legally from serving outside their own territorial borders.

Another strong factor for suspending conscription is social change.

"The transformation of attitude toward conscription is rooted in a general value change of society towards hedonism and individualism," explains Dr Szvircsev Tresch.

Additionally, during the Cold War, conscription was almost ubiquitous and serving in the army was understood as a duty of citizenship. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, states began not just to modernize their forces, but also to reduce them by cutting down the quantity of conscripts needed. Eventually, the numbers of eligible people drafted became so low that its legitimacy was increasingly questioned resulting in a rapid loss of popular support for conscription as well for the entire military.

Geography and geopolitics

Nevertheless, despite the fact that most European nations have suspended conscription and replaced it with volunteer forces, some countries still maintain the practice as their chosen form of recruitment.

Geography and geopolitics seem to be central factors of the decision to uphold conscription. While countries further in Western Europe for much longer have been a part of NATO and have thus adapted the organizational and strategic patterns of the North Atlantic Treaty, Joenniemi remarks that the military thinking of former Eastern Bloc states - such as Ukraine or Poland - is still mainly based on classical aspects like war, sovereignty or territorial defense, despite aspired or existent NATO membership.

The close proximity to or even a long border section shared with Russia also may foster arguments in favor of conscription based defense, as with Estonia and Lithuania, for instance.

Unsolved conflicts or tensions between neighboring countries (such as between Turkey and Greece or Azerbaijan and Armenia) also are often brought forward as rationales for maintaining conscription.

While this applies to Finland as well, which still feels threatened by neighboring Russia, the other Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden and Denmark) are making moves away from conscription and toward volunteer armies.

Particularly in Sweden, which has increased its deployments abroad and has even taken the lead for an EU Battle Group, signs are obvious for a shift from classical defense towards a modern intervention force. Also in Denmark, conscription is less universal these days than it is voluntary. Nevertheless, in the event that ranks cannot be filled, there is still a kind of lottery applied to ensure the required draftees.

As far as conscription in Germany and Austria is concerned, historical reasons come into play. After World War II, both countries were prohibited by the Allied powers from maintaining armed forces. Only in the decades to come did Germany (FRG in 1950; GDR in 1962) and Austria (1955) again establish defense forces based on conscription.

Though today conscription in Germany is highly contested, concerns exist that the principle of alternative community service (Zivildienst) would collapse if conscription were to be suspended. The manpower lost if Zivildienst, as an important part of the public health system, were abolished would have to be replaced by a much more expensive professional labor force.

For Austria, a commitment to armed neutrality is a main reason for holding onto the draft system. However, due to the fact that Austria is steadily increasing its missions abroad, extending its contingent of volunteers and, meanwhile, reducing the term of service, the suspension of conscription seems to be only a matter of time.

Also obliged by international law to maintain armed neutrality is Switzerland. Regardless, the establishment of a volunteer army in Switzerland under current circumstances does not appear to be a viable option.

"Successful recruitment demands both high prestige of professional soldiers as well as a high level of unemployment. In Switzerland, both these conditions are currently nonexistent," says Dr Szvircsev Tresch.

The future of conscription in Europe

So all things considered, is there then no future for conscription in Europe?

The general tendency seems clear: During the Cold War, every state protected its independence and territorial integrity with a large army, based on conscription, whereas after the end of the Cold War, we witnessed a process similar to the one in private market economies: large numbers of the manual labor force replaced by specialized technology.

The "enterprise" army thus becomes highly skilled and more professional but also smaller. The protection guaranteed by NATO overcame the necessity for large defense armies based on conscription.

"At the same time, there are signs that states still maintaining conscription do hesitate to change this fact as the shift is often associated with high costs, e.g. for recruiting and marketing," cautions Dr Szvircsev Tresch.

Nevertheless, even NATO members that have not yet suspended conscription will do so in the foreseeable future and implement an all-volunteer force. The almost complete suspension of conscription in Europe is only around the corner.

Daniel Hoegger is a former ISN summer editor. He has a master's in political economy from the University of Birmingham.

Casino Capitalism

Global Business
Label Listen (23mins)
Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September 2008, 09:06 GMT

No business like money for Peter Day
Find a Programme Global Business steps away from the chaos and confusion in the global financial system to ask whether banks can learn anything from gambling and the way casinos manage their own, considerable, risks.

Place your bets with Peter Day in Global Business.

About this programme by Peter Day

Maybe I’m naïve, but for 35 years I have been reporting business on the assumption there was some kind of social and even ethical purpose lying behind it: improving wellbeing, better goods and services, more employment, a (slightly) better world.

This inherent optimism/naivety is currently taking a battering, and maybe the world has changed.

The banks seem to be at the centre of this, as they are in this week’s Global Business examining the connections between risk, casinos and the financial markets.

There have not been that many manifestations of capitalism so far, and the one we are most familiar with is industrial capitalism: banks and stock markets financing other businesses which employed people and made money for shareholders and suppliers etc, and built prosperity for various owners who maybe did good things with their money.

But an important new 21st century form of capitalism is afoot: financial capitalism.

It may make much more money (in the good times) but it is less easy to be happy about its purposes.

Many big banks have diluted their old primary business of lending to enable enterprise, and started investing on their own behalf in anything that moves... in foreign exchange, or warrants or options or packages of debts so arranged that the liability falls off the balance sheet and cannot readily be ascertained by outsiders.

When banks get into difficulties, they still (as in the old days) look for help and rescue to the national authorities, and they are successful in winning support for their disasters because the authorities are still terrified of the idea of a bank failure, or systematic collapse as it is scarily termed.

(Just sometimes this doesn’t work. Maybe the US authorities balked at arranging a bailout for Lehman Brothers because the cry for help came the same September weekend that the Merrill Lynch and AIG insurance were also in deep trouble, and their plight was even more worrying to the powers that be than that of Lehman.)

But these banks seem to have lost a lot of their commercial compass or moral purpose of employment or prosperity.

Their feet are no longer on the ground, in the real world.

They are run by contract employees working for annual bonuses, and profits are the only measuring stick they know.

The relatively new private equity and hedge funds which flourished in the past decade were set up partly to sidestep the more rigorous regulations and borrow far more than would be appropriate for most conventional companies.

These funds buy whole companies but take short term views about them.

Ownership no longer carries the old burden of responsibility.The sole measure of success is the medium term returns.

Functioning companies are loaded with debt by the new buyers, and these liabilities become a horrible distraction when the going gets tough as it has done now.

Businesses are not built any more, but sliced and diced and reassembled in a similar way to the toxic mortgages assembled by the banks during the subprime bubble.

Bubbles burst, and (as we are now learning) real people are hurt. Casinos know what the odds are, but these new international investment banks don’t, despite their complex risk management algorithms.

Unlike the casinos, they are houses of cards.


Professor Chris Brady, Dean of the Business School, Bournemouth University

Roy Ramm, Director of Compliance and Security at London Clubs International,

Professor John Adams

Professor Michael Mainelli, Director, Z/Yen Group

Andrew Hilton, Director of the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation

Russia and the World in the 21st Century

09-08-2008 15:27

© "Russia in Global Affairs". № 3, July - September 2008

Sergei Lavrov is Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister. This article was written on the basis of his June 20, 2008 speech at the international symposium “Russia in the 21st Century,” organized in Moscow by the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy in partnership with the British think tank Policy Network, and the Alfred Herrhausen Society, within the framework of the latter’s project “Foresight – Forging Common Futures in a Multi-Polar World.”

In modern international relations it is difficult to find a more fundamental issue than the definition of the current stage in global development. This is important for any country in order to correlate a development strategy and a foreign policy with the vision of the world we live in. It seems that a consensus is already being formed on this score, albeit at the level of the expert community both in Russia and abroad. This is largely a consequence of debates, on which Russia insisted. Moreover, this emerging consensus largely reproduces the analysis which Russia offered as a starting position for discussion in Vladimir Putin’s speech in Munich in February 2007.

It is already obvious that individual problems of world politics cannot be solved without understanding the “big issues” of global development and without reaching a common vision of them in the international community.

I will try to outline some of these issues, which are directly related to the building of Russia’s foreign-policy strategy.


There is already no doubt that the end of the Cold War marked the end of a longer stage in global development, which lasted for 400 to 500 years and when the world was dominated by European civilization. This domination was consistently led by the historical West.

As regards the content of the new stage in humankind’s development, there are two basic approaches to it among countries. The first one holds that the world must gradually become a Greater West through the adoption of Western values. It is a kind of “the end of history.” The other approach – advocated by Russia – holds that competition is becoming truly global and acquiring a civilizational dimension; that is, the subject of competition now includes values and development models.

The new stage is sometimes defined as “post-American.” But, of course, this is not “a world after the United States,” the more so without the U.S. It is a world where – due to the growth of other global centers of power and influence – the relative importance of the U.S. role has been decreasing, as it has already happened in recent decades in the global economy and trade. Leadership is another matter, above all a matter of reaching agreement among partners and a matter of ability to be the first – but among equals.

Various terms have been proposed to define the content of the emerging world order, among them multi-polar, polycentric and nonpolar. The latter characteristic is given, in particular, by Richard Haass. It is difficult not to agree with him that power and influence are now becoming diffused. But even the former director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department admits that ensuring the governability of global development in the new conditions requires establishing a core group of leading nations. That is, in any case the matter at hand is the need for collective leadership, which Russia has been consistently advocating. Of course, the diversity of the world requires that such collective leadership be truly representative both geographically and civilizationally.

We do not share the apprehensions that the ongoing reconfiguration in the world will inevitably bring about “chaos and anarchy.” It is a natural process of forming a new international architecture – both political and financial-economic – that would meet the new realities.

One such reality is the return of Russia to global politics, the global economy and finance as an active, full-fledged actor. This refers to our place on the world energy and grain markets; to our leadership in the field of nuclear energy and space exploration; to our capabilities in the sphere of land, air and sea transit; and to the role of the ruble as one of the most reliable world currencies.
Unfortunately, the Cold War experience has distorted the consciousness of several generations of people, above all political elites, making them think that any global policy must be ideologized. And now, when Russia is guided in international affairs by understandable, pragmatic interests, void of any ideological motives whatsoever, not everyone is able to adequately take it. Some people say we have some “grievances,” “hidden agendas,” “neo-imperial aspirations” and all that stuff. This situation will hardly change soon, as the matter at issue is psychological factors – after all, at least two generations of political leaders were brought up in a certain ideological system of coordinates, and sometimes they are simply unable to think in categories beyond those frameworks. Other factors include quite specific, understandably interested motives pertaining to privileges that the existing global financial-economic architecture gives to individual countries.


Russia views itself as part of a European civilization with common Christian roots. The experience of this region offers material that can be used to simulate forthcoming global processes. Thus, even a superficial analysis suggests the conclusion that the overcoming of the Cold War has not solved the problem of ways for social development. Rather, it has only helped to avoid extreme approaches and come closer to its solution on a more realistic basis – especially considering that ideological considerations very often distorted the effect of market forces, as well as the idea of democracy.
The rigid Anglo-Saxon model of socio-economic development has again started to fail, as it did in the 1920s. This time, the failure is due to the isolation of the U.S. financial system from the real sector of economy. On the other hand, there is the socially oriented Western European model, which was a product of European society’s development throughout the 20th century, including the tragedies of the two world wars, the Cold War, and the Soviet Union’s experience. The Soviet Union played no small role in this process, as it not only served as the “Soviet threat” that consolidated the West, but also motivated Western Europe to “socialize” its economic development.

Therefore, by proclaiming the goal of creating a socially oriented economy, the new Russia appeals to our common European heritage. This is yet more evidence of Russia’s compatibility with the rest of Europe.

The end of the Cold War coincided in time with attempts to unify European development according to the Anglo-Saxon model. However, there is an impression that Europe will hardly give up its development model which meets its views of life and which has a more solid financial and economic foundation. Rebalancing is possible and, apparently, inevitable on both sides of the Atlantic. This brings to mind Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal policy, which marked a time of convergence in America’s development.

Probably, a synthesis of various models – as a process, rather than a final result – will be a key trend in global development in the foreseeable future. Accordingly, the multiformity of the contemporary world, which reflects its more fundamental characteristic – cultural and civilizational diversity, will remain. One can also assume that in order to make the global “rules of the game” more effective in these conditions, they must be freed from ideology.

A different, unifying approach would lead to interventionism – a strategy that is hardly realistic, since its effectiveness can be achieved only in a transition toward global imperial construction. Movement in that direction would increase tensions in global and regional politics and would exacerbate unsolved global problems – as seen from the current aggravation of the global food crisis.
These factors speak in favor of pluralism on a wide range of social development parameters as a non-alternative and, most importantly, non-confrontational way for the international community’s existence at the present stage.

Whatever the circumstances of what is called the valorization of natural resources, this trend is creating conditions for moving toward equalization of development levels in the contemporary world. The task is to create modalities and mechanisms for the effective use of redistributed global financial resources for the purpose of universal development. Thus, sovereign wealth funds already participate in refinancing the U.S. banking system.


International experts, including American ones, write about a “world turned upside down” and criticize the “weak dollar” policy. What is remarkable is the analysis of Henry Kissinger, who writes that “the International Monetary Fund as presently constituted is an anachronism” and who even points to the need of restoring moral aspects in economic and financial activities.

One cannot but agree with Kissinger’s statement about the emergence of a gap between the economic and political orders in the world. But we must clarify something in this regard. First, there is no reasonable alternative to a global political architecture relying on the United Nations and the rule of international law. Let us not forget that the UN was created even before the beginning of the Cold War for use in a multipolar international system. In other words, its potential can be fully tapped only now.

Second, the global financial-economic architecture was largely created by the West to suit its own needs. And now that we are watching the generally recognized shift of financial-economic power and influence toward new fast-growing economies, such as China, India, Russia and Brazil, the inadequacy of this system to the new realities becomes obvious. In reality, a financial-economic basis is needed that would conform to the polycentricity of the contemporary world. Otherwise, the governability of global development cannot be restored.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev spoke about this in detail in Berlin and at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum. The reform of international institutions will be among the subjects to be discussed at the upcoming Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido, Japan. So the urgency of the matter evokes no doubt among our G8 partners, either. Russia is ready to participate constructively in this joint work.


I think that as soon as these big issues are duly grasped, it will be easier to solve all the other issues, including the range of problems in relations within the Euro-Atlantic region.

Fyodor Tyutchev [a 19th-century Russian poet] wrote that “by the very fact of its existence Russia negates the future of the West.” We can refute Tyutchev only by acting together – building a common future for the whole Euro-Atlantic region and for the whole world, in which security and prosperity will be truly indivisible.

New things scare people. At the same time, they are inevitable. And there is only one rational response to this challenge – accept this reality. When they scare us with the threat of “anarchy” in the contemporary world (which is very Russian-like, but done, as a rule, from the outside), they forget that any system can be self-regulatory. This requires effective, adequate institutions, which should be created.

I would like to make it clear: Russia, as no other country, understands the painfulness of the current changes. No one can get away from them. Moreover, as experience shows, adaptation at the level of foreign policy can only result from serious changes within the states themselves. Therefore Russia has quite realistic expectations regarding when changes should be awaited in the foreign policy philosophy of its international partners.

In contemporary conditions, it is hardly appropriate to speak in terms of “challenges” thrown down by some states to others. This only results in too much focus in foreign-policy strategies on virtual dangers. The interdependence brought about by globalization motivates no one to “throw down challenges” to whomever. And Russia is the last one to need this: we have enough problems of our own, which we are well aware of; at the same time, we understand the interests of our partners. What is dangerous is a lack of cooperation and holding aloof from the problems of one’s partner – which makes collective actions to address common tasks impossible.

Each country and each nation have had enough national catastrophes and tragedies in their history. The longer the history, the more positive and negative events it comprises. I fully agree with Vladislav Inozemtsev who maintains that the Soviet Union and the United States, even when they confronted each other, remained remarkably alike. Often our actions, taken in the name of the assertion of opposite ideals, were remarkably similar in the means involved and their practical consequences.

There has always existed an interrelation between Russia and the United States. Alexis de Tocqueville predicted a common future for our countries way back in the 19th century. This interrelation also showed itself in the fact that after 1917 the U.S. gradually and even unwillingly replaced Russia in the European balance. It is another matter that there is currently no longer any need for Europe to have external balancers, be it Russia or the U.S. We understand this very well – and this is why we come out for equal relations in a tripartite format involving Russia, the European Union and the U.S.

In the 20th century, this interrelation was corroborated by convergence events that were not only limited to the New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt and allied relations within the anti-Hitler coalition. Thus, the election of John F. Kennedy as U.S. president can be attributed, among other things, to America’s reaction to the Soviet Union’s rise – not only technological and military-technical, but also spiritual, at the level of an entirely new attitude to the world, which stemmed from Khrushchev’s Thaw and the completion of the postwar reconstruction. Kennedy made a bold attempt to overcome the logic of militarization of foreign-policy thinking, of whose danger his predecessor had warned. Unfortunately, later the pendulum of foreign-policy philosophy swung toward politics based on instincts and ideological prejudice. Now everyone is wondering when this pendulum will swing back, which will show what kind of America the world will have to deal with.

Russian-U.S. relations would benefit greatly from the establishment of an atmosphere of mutual trust and mutual respect, which characterized the relationship between the presidents of the two countries over the last eight years but which not always showed itself at the lower levels. Paradoxically, there was more mutual trust and respect between the two states during the Cold War. Perhaps, it was because there was less lecturing then about what a state should be and how it should behave. There was awareness of the need – and the desire – to address issues that were truly significant for our two countries and the whole world.

We understand that America is facing difficult tasks. On the positive side, we see that the understanding is beginning to prevail that these are problems, above all, of America itself, including its ability to accept “a world with a diversity of voices and viewpoints.” Intellectual rigidity will only restrain America’s inherent ability to adapt to changing realities. History “happens” to all countries and peoples, and this refers to Russia much more than to any other country. But this factor teaches tolerance, without which neither empires nor simply normal equal relations between states can survive.
It is gratifying that in the course of the current U.S. presidential campaign voices are growing louder in favor of preserving and developing the disarmament and arms control process. Such cooperation alone would be enough to ensure stability for our bilateral relations, until there is mutual readiness for their substantial modernization in accordance with the requirements of the times.


The issue of the destiny of the diverse European civilization now presents itself in a new way. At the political level, there is a need for equal interaction among its three independent, yet related, component parts. The confrontational paradigm of intra-European relations of the Cold War era is giving way to a cooperation paradigm. This means tolerance of dissent, and pluralism of views and positions. Democracy is always historical and national by nature.

The proposals put forward by President Medvedev in Berlin are based on a sober analysis of the situation. The European architecture, established back in the Cold War years, prevents overcoming the negative dynamics set by inertia approaches of the past and by contradictions accumulating in European affairs. There remains only one thing to do, and that is to look further than what we have; that is, to try and create something that would unite the entire Euro-Atlantic region at the level of principles, by which we should be guided in our relations. After that, we will be able to move on. But without this clarity it will be difficult to create a critical mass of confidence that is required for building positive, forward-looking relations in our region. The importance of principles follows, for example, from the fact that at the annual OSCE ministerial meetings we have for years been unable to achieve any accord on reiteration by all states-parties of their adherence to the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. What more proof is required to prove the ailment of all Euro-Atlantic politics?

There is a need for a positive process, including convening a pan-European summit, in order to fill the political vacuum emerging in the Euro-Atlantic region, and to make up a positive agenda, which we lack so badly now. Over time, we could determine which elements of European architecture are promising and which are not, what stands in our way, and what we can take with us into the future. Why not insure ourselves, especially when much is still unclear? That would not be a means of pressure on any existing structure or organization. The matter at issue would be the creation of a new atmosphere of confidence in our region, which could help to take a new look at the relevance of the arms control process, as well. Let us develop it on a modern universal basis, rather than along bloc lines. Otherwise, the legacy that we have inherited from the previous epoch will only create a feeling that a war in Europe is still possible.

We all should think and look around – this is the meaning of the pause that we suggest. But this means that all projects should be frozen where they are now, be it Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, the implementation of plans to deploy elements of a U.S. global missile defense system in Eastern Europe, or NATO’s eastward expansion – because any desire to complete – at any cost and by a specific date – the implementation of what causes strong rejection among partners and what threatens to ruin established relations, will cause a reaction. This vicious circle must be broken.

What is the alternative? A further accumulation of “electricity” in the atmosphere of Euro-Atlantic relations? Do we really need to continue making blunders? Will it be good for all of us if we watch from the outside how, for example, the European Union proves its post-modernity, or NATO, its efficiency in Afghanistan? Likewise, we would not want our partners to remain aloof from the implementation of the project for Russia’s modernization.

Finally, we all should step over ourselves and stop the unnecessary talk about “veto power” outside the UN Security Council, about “spheres of influence” and the like. We can very well do without all that, as there are more important things where we undoubtedly have common interests. We must build confidence and develop skills for joint work in truly significant strategic matters. Then many things will look different. Let life decide and put everything in its place. What really depends on us and what demands political decisions is that we must stop sliding into the past, into an absurdity that we all will be ashamed of. And history will not forgive us, either. Is it not in our common interest to have “a coherent Europe,” all parts of which are united by “workable relations”?


Everyone has their own problems; everyone has something to do. The U.S. electorate is about to make a choice. The European Union is in the process of adaptation. In EU countries, processes of ethno-religious self-determination are ripening – both among the indigenous population and recent immigrants. “Rich” regions aspire to their independent existence in order not to pay for the development of “poor” regions within one and the same state. This is a serious test for the EU’s commitment to the ideas of tolerance and solidarity.

Psychologically, it is easy to understand those who wish to leave everything the way it is, in order to die in the Europe or the America in which they were born. But the rapid changes do not allow such a luxury. They presuppose, among other things, civilizational compatibility, and tolerance not only in word but also in deed. And this will be hard to achieve in conditions when militant secularism acts from positions that differ little from an official religion.

No less importantly, the time has come to address global problems which the world had no time to address during the Cold War. There were other, ideological priorities then. If not now, then when will we fight global poverty, hunger and diseases? The international community has not achieved much progress yet.

We see nothing in our approach that would be contrary to the principles of rationality, intrinsic in Europeans’ attitude to the world. Acting differently means piling up problems upon problems and making the future of Europe and the entire Euro-Atlantic region hostage to hasty decisions. That would be a huge waste of time, resulting in a multitude of lost opportunities for joint action. We are not hurrying anyone; we only urge all nations to think together about what is awaiting us. But a breakthrough into our common future requires new, innovative approaches. The future belongs to them

What if the bailout plan doesn't work?

Eamon Javers Tue Sep 23, 6:33 AM ET

Lawmakers raised doubts Monday about what would be the largest government bailout in American history, but a bigger, more terrifying question lurked right under the surface: What if it doesn't work?
Failure, says one insider, is not an option.

"The alternative is complete financial Armageddon and a great depression," said a former Federal Reserve official. "Where do they go after this? Well, the U.S. government could nationalize the banking system outright."
A few months ago, that idea would have been laughed out of the room.
But no one's laughing anymore.
While almost no one wants to dwell publicly on the possibility that a $700 billion package could simply be too small to forestall a financial meltdown, privately some aides were already thinking of what the government might do if the Treasury plan passes but fails.
In a statement Monday, President Bush said that "the whole world is watching to see if we can act quickly to shore up our markets and prevent damage to our capital markets, businesses, our housing sector and retirement accounts."
What the president didn't say is that the whole world will be watching to see not just if Washington can act but whether Washington's actions can still make a difference.
Under the current plan, the U.S. government will buy up to $700 billion in assets from private holders on Wall Street. That would help banks stabilize their balance sheets, and in theory provide an incentive for banks to begin extending credit among themselves again — a critical component of a functional financial system.
So what's Plan B?
There really isn't one.
If this week's bailout doesn't work, the government will probably have no choice but to continue to buy assets. There's no one left to pick up the tab. "The private sector got us into this mess," said House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.). "The government has to get us out of it."
Getting us out of it would likely mean buying up even more debt in the markets if the $700 billion fails to turn things around. That could include credit card debt, which is securitized and sold on Wall Street the same way as home mortgages, car loan debt and even commercial real estate debt, until the problem begins to recede or the taxpayers gain effective control over the nation's banking system.
So how will leaders know whether it's working or not?
Traders and Washington insiders will look at credit market indicators to gauge their progress. One number in particular will be the focus of enormous attention on the day the bill passes: the difference between the interest rate offered by the federal government and the rates private banks charge when they loan money to one another.
If confidence is returning to the credit markets, the spread between the two numbers should begin to narrow as the banks' rate — known by the acronym LIBOR — falls. But if the credit market is still in distress, the spread will widen.
In theory, traders should be able to see the results of any congressional legislation within minutes of news of the bill's passage hitting Wall Street.
Here's the good news: Already, just based on the news that Treasury is working on the proposal, the spread has been narrowing this week, down from the dramatic highs of last week. That means the market is pricing in an expectation that Congress will act and that the action will work.
If everything goes smoothly, it is even possible that taxpayers will profit from the deal in the long run, as the underlying assets accumulate value over the coming years and the government is able to ultimately sell them back into the market at higher prices than it's paying now. Of course, it's also possible that the values will never come back, in which case taxpayers would be on the hook.
The specific details of the package were a moving target on Monday, and congressional Democrats tangled with administration Republicans over the exact makeup of the bill.
Said Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.): "The last thing any of us want is to be back here in a month coming up with some new plan because this didn't work. It's important that we act quickly, but it's more important that we act responsibly."
That's congressional code for: "Hey, wait a minute."
The Banking Committee's ranking Republican was of a similar mindset. "I am concerned that Treasury's proposal is neither workable nor comprehensive, despite its enormous price tag," said Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. "In my judgment, it would be foolish to waste massive sums of taxpayer funds testing an idea that has been hastily crafted and may actually cause the government to revert to an inadequate strategy of ad hoc bailouts."
Ultimately, the negotiations will come down to doling out huge new powers, including:
• Buying Power: This is the cornerstone of the proposal — allowing Treasury to buy up to $700 billion of privately held assets in the market. The original proposal called for buying power to be limited to "mortgage-related" assets, but a later draft expanded that to allow the government to purchase any "troubled assets." There's a staggering difference in authority between the two phrases, and it is a moving target as of press time. The banking industry generally favors the second version, but that potentially exposes taxpayers to much higher costs.
• Managing Power: Under the Bush administration's plan, Treasury would hire private managers to handle the hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of assets it will soon own. But Treasury was silent on whether those managers would be able to actually negotiate directly with homeowners who hold the troubled mortgages. Democrats would go further and demand that bankruptcy judges be given the ability to renegotiate those failing mortgages on behalf of homeowners. This will be one of the more contentious sideshow fights of the negotiations.
• Global Power: Under one version of Treasury's proposal, the government would have the power to buy assets from any institution in the world that it deemed worthy of a bailout.
• Pay Power: Democrats on Capitol Hill say they want the final plan to include restrictions on payouts to the executives of the financial institutions that take the taxpayer lifeline. Paulson says he doesn't like this idea, but it may be tough for elected officials to oppose this populist carve-out in an election year.
• Equity Power: Democrats would like the government to get shares in the financial institutions that take federal help — effectively giving taxpayers ownership stakes in the nation's largest banks and providing them with a huge windfall if those institutions prosper in future years.
• Oversight Power: Treasury's initial proposal included very little room for congressional oversight of the new effort, calling for reports to be sent to the Hill just twice per year. That isn't flying with Democrats or many Republicans on the Hill; if a bill makes it through Congress, it will almost certainly have much stronger oversight provisions.

I am astounded and deeply saddened to witness the senseless destruction in the U.S. financial system, which has been the envy of the world. We have always gone through periods of correction, but today's problems are so much worse than they needed to be.
David Klein
The Securities and Exchange Commission and bank regulators must act immediately to suspend the Fair Value Accounting rules, clamp down on abuses by short sellers, and withdraw the Basel II capital rules. These three actions will go a long way toward arresting the carnage in our financial system.
During the 1980s, our underlying economic problems were far more serious than the economic problems we're facing this time around. The prime rate exceeded 21%. The savings bank industry was more than $100 billion insolvent (if we had valued it on a market basis), the S&L industry was in even worse shape, the economy plunged into a deep recession, and the agricultural sector was in a depression.
These economic problems led to massive credit problems in the banking and thrift industries. Some 3,000 banks and thrifts ultimately failed, and many others were merged out of existence. Continental Illinois failed, many of the regional banks tanked, hundreds of farm banks went down, and thousands of thrifts failed or were taken over.
It could have been much worse. The country's 10-largest banks were loaded up with Third World debt that was valued in the markets at cents on the dollar. If we had marked those loans to market prices, virtually every one of them would have been insolvent. Indeed, we developed contingency plans to nationalize them.
At the outset of the current crisis in the credit markets, we had no serious economic problems. Inflation was under control, GDP growth was good, unemployment was low, and there were no major credit problems in the banking system.
The dark cloud on the horizon was about $1.2 trillion of subprime mortgage-backed securities, about $200 billion to $300 billion of which was estimated to be held by FDIC-insured banks and thrifts. The rest were spread among investors throughout the world.
The likely losses on these assets were estimated by regulators to be roughly 20%. Losses of this magnitude would have caused pain for institutions that held these assets, but would have been quite manageable.
How did we let this serious but manageable situation get so far out of hand -- to the point where several of our most respected American financial companies are being put out of business, sometimes involving massive government bailouts?
Lots of folks are assigning blame for the underlying problems -- management greed, inept regulation, rating-agency incompetency, unregulated mortgage brokers and too much government emphasis on creating more housing stock. My interest is not in assigning blame for the problems but in trying to identify what is causing a situation, that should have been resolved easily, to develop into a crisis that is spreading like a cancer throughout the financial system.
The biggest culprit is a change in our accounting rules that the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the SEC put into place over the past 15 years: Fair Value Accounting. Fair Value Accounting dictates that financial institutions holding financial instruments available for sale (such as mortgage-backed securities) must mark those assets to market. That sounds reasonable. But what do we do when the already thin market for those assets freezes up and only a handful of transactions occur at extremely depressed prices?
The answer to date from the SEC, FASB, bank regulators and the Treasury has been (more or less) "mark the assets to market even though there is no meaningful market." The accounting profession, scarred by decades of costly litigation, just keeps marking down the assets as fast as it can.
This is contrary to everything we know about bank regulation. When there are temporary impairments of asset values due to economic and marketplace events, regulators must give institutions an opportunity to survive the temporary impairment. Assets should not be marked to unrealistic fire-sale prices. Regulators must evaluate the assets on the basis of their true economic value (a discounted cash-flow analysis).
If we had followed today's approach during the 1980s, we would have nationalized all of the major banks in the country and thousands of additional banks and thrifts would have failed. I have little doubt that the country would have gone from a serious recession into a depression.
If we do not halt the insanity of forcing financial firms to mark assets to a nonexistent market rather than their realistic economic value, the cancer will keep spreading and will plunge the world into very difficult economic times for years to come.
I argued against adopting Fair Value Accounting as it was being considered two decades ago. I believed we would come to regret its implementation when we hit the next big financial crisis, as it would deny regulators the ability to exercise judgment when circumstances called for restraint. That day has clearly arrived.
Equally egregious are the actions by the SEC in recent years lifting the restraints on short sellers of stocks to allow "naked selling" (shorting a stock without actually possessing it) and to eliminate the requirement that short sellers could sell only on an uptick in the market.
On top of this, it is my understanding that short sellers are engaged in abuses such as purchasing credit default swaps on corporate bonds (essentially bets on whether a borrower will default), which lowers the price of the bonds, which in turn causes the price of the company's stock to decline further. Then the ratings agencies pile on and reduce the ratings of a company because its reduced stock price will prevent it from raising new capital. The SEC must act immediately to eliminate these and other potential abuses by short sellers.
The Basel II capital rules adopted by the FDIC, Federal Reserve, Office of Thrift Supervision and the Comptroller of the Currency last year are too new to have caused big problems, but they must be eliminated before they do. Basel II requires the use of very complex mathematical models to set capital levels in banks. The models use historical data to project future losses. If banks have a period of low losses (such as in the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s), the models require relatively little capital and encourage even more heated growth. When we go into a period like today where losses are enormous (on paper, at least), the models require more capital when none is available, forcing banks to cut back lending.
As I write this article, I am seeing proposals by some to create a new Resolution Trust Corp., as we did in the 1990s to clean up the S&L problems. The RTC managed and sold assets from S&Ls that had already failed. It was run by the FDIC, just like the FDIC. We needed to create the RTC in the 1990s only because we could not comingle the assets from failed banks with those of failed thrifts, because we had two separate deposit insurance funds absorbing the respective losses from bank and thrift failures.
I can't imagine why we would want to create another government bureaucracy to handle the assets from bank failures. What we need to do urgently is stop the failures, and an RTC won't do that.
Again, we must take three immediate steps to prevent a further rash of financial failures and taxpayer bailouts. First, the SEC must suspend Fair Value Accounting and require that assets be marked to their true economic value. Second, the SEC needs to immediately clamp down on abusive practices by short sellers. It has taken a first step in reinstituting the prohibition against "naked selling." Finally, the bank regulators need to acknowledge that the Basel II capital rules represent a serious policy mistake and repeal the rules before they do real damage.
We are almost out of time if we hope to eradicate the cancer in our financial system.
Mr. Isaac, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from 1981-1985, is chairman of the Washington financial services consulting firm The Secura Group, an LECG company.

Interview: Kurdistan Region's head of security talks to Asharq Alawsat

Asharqalawsat, 14:20:33 19 Sep. 2008
Could you speak to us about the nature of your work in this apparatus?
Like other security and intelligence organs, we try to preserve the Region's and our people's security and be a factor in Iraq's stability. We fight terrorism, foreign espionage, and the drug trade. In general our task is to maintain security. This is not a party organ. It is like any other Regional apparatus. We have been building it for a long time. So far we have not succeeded in unifying all the security organs in the Region. Through parliament we succeeded in passing Law Number 46 to create a legal framework for the Region's security organs. Our work continues to place the security organs within a legal regional framework.

Does the Kurdistan Region have other security organs? Does the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have a similar apparatus?
When the Region had two separate administrations, the PUK had a security apparatus of its own. Now that the two administrations have been unified, our aim is to unite the security organs.

Is there any rivalry or contradiction between the different security organs in the Kurdistan Region?

There is cooperation and coordination between the two organs. There is no negative rivalry because our goals are the same.

Do you coordinate with the security organs in Baghdad and the US forces?

Yes, we coordinate and cooperate with the federal government's security organs. Indeed, we have been helpful to Baghdad's security organs all over Iraq. Because of the presence of the coalition forces in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, we coordinate and cooperate with them.

Do you coordinate and cooperate with some of the Middle East's security organs?

Iraq has a constitutional and legal frame work that organises its relations with the other countries in the region. We follow the Iraqi Constitution and therefore we do not coordinate with the other countries in the region.

Is there a terrorist threat to the Kurdistan Region?

Yes, there is. However, it is much smaller than the threat to the other parts of Iraq. The threat would be greater if we did not fight the terrorist groups inside and outside the Region. We recently foiled a planned suicide attack in Erbil.

Do you hold non-Arab detainees in Kurdistan?

All the detainees are members of the terrorist groups and they are all Iraqis.

Are your activities confined to Iraqi Kurdistan or do you operate in other Iraqi areas as well?

By law we are concerned with Kurdistan's security but because of the security vacuum in other parts of Iraq we cooperate and help to maintain stability and security all over Iraq. We are always ready to offer any assistance asked of us.

Did you take part in uncovering or combating terrorist groups outside Iraqi Kurdistan?

Yes, we did. We took part in combating terrorist groups in Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Mosul. We carry out these operations in coordination with Baghdad, not on our own initiative.

You mentioned that one of your apparatus’ tasks is counter-espionage. Is there espionage within the Kurdistan Region?

Yes, there is.

Who are the spies working for?

They work for neighbouring countries.

Does this mean that there is no internal espionage on Baghdad's behalf?

No, not at all.

How far does your apparatus’ work affect freedom of expression in the Region?

The nature of our work does not conflict with freedom of expression. On the contrary, we create a favourable atmosphere to encourage freedom of expression to allow the people to speak their minds freely on political and economic matters.

Do you hold political prisoners?

Of course not. We do not have a single political prisoner, a prisoner of conscience, or anyone detained because of his political beliefs.

What efforts does your apparatus carry out to promote economic stability?

The extent of economic investments in the Region is a sign of security. Any area that has no security and stability cannot have any economic investment in it whether external or domestic. The credit does not go to us but to our people who cooperate with the Region's security organs.

Do you coordinate with the Kurdistan Regional Government?

We are part of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Does your apparatus fall under the jurisdiction of the Kurdistan Regional Government?

We have not yet finalised this issue legally. However, the Region's prime minister plays a major role in our work and in Regional stability.

The name of the security apparatus has been changed to the Kurdish term ‘Asayish’. Has the essence of the apparatus been changed?

Asayish is the Kurdish term for security. We intentionally used this name because the security apparatus under the former regime left a negative and frightening effect on the people. We do not know how we will get rid of that terrible legacy. Our current security apparatus is a service organ that we try to make the people trust. Our citizens are very cooperative with our security services for the sake of their own safety.

Security in the Kurdistan Region

It is said that your security services require any Iraqi citizen who wishes to reside in the Kurdistan Region to have an entry visa, a sponsor, and a residence permit. What is your response to these reports? Are you trying to place obstacles before Iraqi citizens who wish to come and reside here?

We are not a separate country. We do not require a visa from Iraqi citizens. Our cities are Iraqi cities like any others. The reports about visas are rumours that seek to distort the Region’s reputation. Nevertheless, certain security procedures are taken when someone enters the Region whether he is an Arab or a Kurd. These procedures apply also to Kurds who come from other parts of Iraq. This is because of the poor security situation in the other parts of Iraq. We wish to protect the citizens of the Region. Thousands of Iraqi families have settled here because of the stability in our Region. We do not wish to risk this stability and open the doors to terrorists, booby-trapped vehicles and suicide attackers.

What are these procedures?

They are very simple. Every person who wishes to reside in the Region should visit an Asayish centre, register his address, and obtain a permit to reside in the Region. This makes it easier for us to know who the inhabitants are. There is another procedure which we do not strictly require. If the newcomer knows a long-time resident, we would like him to sponsor him but we do not apply this procedure strictly. The media exaggerate its importance and some of our security personnel apply it too strictly but this is individuals’ behaviour that we are trying to eliminate. We hope soon to eliminate all these procedures when the security situation improves everywhere in Iraq.

The important thing is that everyone should know that the aim of these procedures is to defend their security and the Region's security rather than place obstacles in the face of newcomers. On the contrary, the Region's presidency has given instructions to facilitate the entry of new arrivals on condition that this should not take place at the expense of the Region's security. We have long borders with the neighbouring countries and many persons try to infiltrate into Iraqi territory across these borders. It is difficult to control all the possible entry points, especially as the security situation in neighbouring provinces is unstable. This does not allow us to act with great confidence at the entry points that we share with these provinces. Therefore, we are forced to adopt these measures for the safety of the Region's citizens. We sincerely hope that security will improve all over Iraq so that we can remove the checkpoints and open the gates of our cities to all visitors, Arabs and Kurds alike.

There is a lot of talk on the streets and in the media about financial corruption in the Region. Does your apparatus intervene in combating this corruption?

Some corruption cases reach us and we handle them. We report the other cases to other government departments. At any rate, this issue does not lie at the heart of our work.

There is talk that foreign intelligence services are training your cadres, including the CIA and Israel's Mossad. Could you give us direct clarification on this point?

Frankly, this is totally untrue. The problem is that those who spread these rumours know nothing about what is really happening in the Region. However I answer this question, some people will continue to spread these rumours.

Do your security services use any form of torture to extract confessions from detainees?
No, absolutely not. This practice is absolutely unacceptable in the Kurdistan Region. When we took over this apparatus, we decided that it would be merely a service organ. The Region’s president issued strict instructions not to use torture to extract confessions and not to put undue pressure on any detainee or suspect. If this happens, the confession is considered invalid and any official who practices torture or any form of pressure is investigated and punished. This is a matter of principle to us.

What groups pose a real threat to the Kurdistan Region?

In the first place Al-Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam, Ansar al-Sunnah and other terrorist groups.

Do your security centres and jails take human rights standards into account?

] All our instructions stress the importance of human rights. We monitor these matters very carefully. We run courses to train our cadres to observe human rights standards when they deal with suspects.

Some Kurdish journalists and writers have been murdered in the Region. Several Kurdish newspapers accused the security services and some party organs of being behind the murders. What is your comment?

We deeply regret the death of any journalist, writer, politician or citizen. This is a very sad thing. People usually make accusations without ascertaining the facts. It is easy to make accusations. At any rate, not only journalists but also military personnel, politicians, business people and ordinary citizens have been murdered here in the Region and in other parts of Iraq. Were the security services and party organs behind those incidents? If anyone has proof of any party being involved in a murder, let him bring us this proof and we will be grateful to him. We will investigate these regrettable incidents. However, making hasty and gratuitous accusations is another matter. There are hostile circles that try to slander the reputation of this or that party by making false accusations.

What procedures are you taking versus these accusations by the Kurdish press?

Just as in any other sphere in the Region including culture, the economy and political activity, the press needs to become more mature and professional in accordance with the requirements of journalistic work. It was we who encouraged freedom of expression and freedom of the press. There are writers and journalists who can tell the difference between freedom of expression and assaults on others. There are some who cannot tell the difference and think that whatever they write falls under the heading of freedom of the press even if it slanders others.

We are working together to reach an equation where we preserve freedom of expression while protecting people from being slandered. A bill has been referred to parliament that organises journalistic work while protecting the citizens from being slandered. Parliament decided that the proposed law was too harsh and the presidency asked that it be reviewed. Slander is indeed not part of journalistic work. In my view a journalist wins respect through the credibility of what he writes or loses it when his writing has no credibility.

The Peshmerga Regional forces

The Kurdish armed forces go by several names including the Peshmerga and the Regional Guard. Which ones are the official forces that defend the Region?

According to the constitution, the forces that defend the Kurdistan Region are the Regional Guard forces.

What is the connection between the Peshmerga or the Regional Guard forces and the Iraqi Defence Ministry?

The Regional Guard forces are part of the overall Iraqi defence system. Since the Kurdistan Region is part of Iraq, these forces defend this part of Iraq's territory.

Have you reached a solution regarding placing the Peshmerga or the Regional Guard forces under the jurisdiction of the Iraqi Defence Ministry?

In principle there is no problem. All that remains to be done are tactical steps. However, the federal government is not cooperating properly with us to include the Regional Guard forces and pay their salaries. Now the Kurdistan Region is part of Iraq but when we demand our rights or certain services on the grounds that we are part of Iraq, our demands and requests are ignored. The Kurdistan Region’s budget is well-known to be17% of Iraq's total revenue. Large sums are deducted from this sum, however, and only 14% of Iraq's revenue reaches the Region. Part of our budget is deducted under the name of sovereign allocations for the Iraqi Army. The Regional Guard forces and the Peshmerga are identified as part of Iraq's defence system, that is, they are part of the Iraqi armed forces. When we demand appropriations for these forces, however, the federal government says no and claims that these forces are part of the Kurdistan Region and their appropriations should come from its budget. The federal government uses a double standard with us. In obligations we are part of Iraq but when it comes to rights, we are sidelined. When we are asked to carry out certain tasks, we do so and are always prepared to help but when we demand our rights, we are ignored.

Have the Peshmerga forces taken part alongside the Iraqi forces in battles in Basra, Baghdad or Mosul?

The Peshmerga operate on the Iraqi Government’s orders. They participated in operations in Baghdad and other places at the federal government's request. According to the Region’s President, the Peshmerga will fulfil any security request demanded by the federal government for the sake of stability. As I noted, they are part of Iraq’s defence system. Anyone who does not view them in this light does not believe in the new Iraq. Iraq is no longer a totalitarian state or governed by decisions from the centre. According to the constitution, Iraq today is a federal, pluralistic, democratic Iraq based on participation in power as well as participation in rights and obligations. The Kurds are basic partners in the government. They are not a marginal force.

On the level of your security apparatus, are you partners to the security decisions made in Baghdad?

In principle, we are members of a joint security commission with the federal government. The important thing is the principle. The important thing is for Baghdad to believe that we are its partners. If this is accepted, there will be a great deal of cooperation and many problems will be solved. However, when there are committees of which we are members but the decisions we make are not implemented, this is not proper partnership.


The situation in Khanaqin almost reached the point of armed confrontation between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army. How do you describe this from a security point of view?

What happened in Khanaqin was negative. The Iraqi Army’s entry was not for the purpose of combating terrorism, as Khanaqin is very secure. The army entered for political reasons. Some circles in the federal government believe that disputed territories should be under the federal government’s control. However, the idea of disputed territories means that no final decision has been made on their ownership. Why else would they be called disputed territories? Agreement should be worked out between the two sides over their ownership. Khanaqin is the most secure area in Diyala Governorate. Saddam Hussein’s regime tried for many years to seize these areas by force but failed. Now, attempts are being made to take these areas from us by other means.

What is the reason for your failure to appear in the media?

I do not appear in the media because of the nature of my work. I also do not like publicity.

Were you chosen to lead this apparatus because you are President Barzani's eldest son?

I was selected on merit. I pay a price for being Masoud Barzani's son and a security official.

Are there disagreements or a power struggle between you and your cousin, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani as is rumoured?

On the contrary, I like him very much. We grew up together. Our relationship has always been fraternal. I respect him on a personal level and because he is the Prime Minister. There is no rivalry between us but some of our enemies would like us to quarrel. God willing, this will not happen.



The Editor

Dear Sir/Madam:

It gives me pleasure to inform you that the book release of “M.S. Golwalkar: His Vision and Mission” will be held Friday, September 26, 2008, 06:00 to 07:30 P.M. at Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 1007.
Shri Mohan Bhagwat, General Secretary, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, India, has kindly consented to be the Keynote Speaker and grace the occasion with his presence.

We will appreciate it very much if you could kindly send your representative to cover this event.

It will be a big hlep if you let us know in advance that you will be sending your representative to cover this important event.

If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me at (718) 478-5735 or my cell (646-831-2754.

Further details of the event are given below.

Very truly yours,

Narain Kataria
(718) 478-5735


You are cordially invited to the release of the book

"M.S. Golwalkar: His Vision and Mission"
On Friday, September 26, 2008, 6:00 to 7:30 PM.
The event will be held at, “Tribeca Performing Arts Center,”
199 Chambers St., New York, NY 10007.

About the book:

This book is a compilation of selected thoughts of Shri M.S. Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak (President) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The book provides the reader an insight into the vision of Shri Golwalkar about the Hindu worldview, the well being of humanity, and the eternal principles of Dharma. It also offers guiding principles for workers engaged in social causes.
About the author:
Shri Golwalkar, affectionately known as Shri Guruji, led Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for 33 long years, growing it into the largest voluntary organization in the world. Shri Guruji, a seer, a thinker, and an organizer par excellence, had a vision of a vibrant, modern India rooted in its cultural values. He inspired and molded countless lives because his life was a glowing expression of his noble thoughts.

Keynote speaker:

Shri Mohan Bhagwat, General Secretary, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh will release this book at this event. A veterinary doctor by education, Shri Bhagwat has dedicated himself entirely to the service of society. Since 1973 he has been a pracharak (full time worker) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. An original thinker and eloquent speaker, Shri Bhagwat has also traveled and guided Sangh swayamsevaks in several countries, including Kenya, the UK, and the US. He has inspired hundreds of youth to dedicate themselves for the cause of Sangh and work selflessly for the benefit of society.

This event is by invitation only. Kindly confirm your participation. For additional information please feel free to contact Vikas Deshpande (Tel: 617-869-1383, email:

With kind regards,
Rakesh Shreedhar, M.D., President, New York Chapter
Radharaman Upadhyay, Vice-President, New York Chapter
Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh

Paulson's Bank Bailout The Biggest Swindle Ever Pulled!

This article appears in the September 26, 2008 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

by John Hoefle

Lyndon LaRouche has issued a clear warning to the pack of fools pushing the largest bank bailout in history: Don't do it, and if you do, don't expect to get away with it. There will be consequences for such treasonous stupidity, far beyond what you can imagine.

The plan, presented by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and supported by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, President George W. Bush, and a gaggle of international bankers and other idiots, would transfer most of the enormous losses incurred in the death of the global financial system, from the books of the banks to the Federal government—and the U.S. taxpayer.

This scheme is being marketed to a frightened public as a "bold" plan to "solve" the financial crisis once and for all. What it really is, is the biggest theft in history, a act of monumental stupidity which will destroy everything in its path: the economy, the nation, and the people. There is nothing good about it.

Absolute Insanity
"This is the biggest swindle ever pulled," LaRouche said. "It is absolute insanity. The public is being duped."

Virtually nothing Paulson has said is true—it is all lies designed to dupe Congress and the American people into believing that this gigantic ripoff is both necessary and in the public interest, when neither is true. The lies began well before Paulson, when we were told that finance, not production, was the road to wealth. For the past four decades, we have seen the systematic dismantling of American industry and agriculture, and the turning of our economy into a giant casino. Our banking system has been turned over to the speculators, and we have watched a relatively small portion of our population get rich—some obscenely so—while a growing portion fell into poverty, and others were pushed over the edge. Every protection put into law to stop such looting has been systematically repealed, including the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which forbade commercial banks from engaging in investment banking. Now that system has collapsed, and we are being told that the people must bail out the crooks.

The final phase of this collapse began last year, with the mythical "subprime crisis," a deliberate misnomer. Then this "subprime crisis" somehow morphed into a "credit crunch," infecting an "otherwise healthy" banking system. It was, from start to finish, a lie carefully constructed to support the ultimate demand for a bailout.

Here's what really happened, and it all starts with the banking system. The banks built up a huge derivatives bubble in the 1990s, a pyramid scheme which constantly needed more money fed into its maw to keep it going. One of the prime sources of fuel was mortgages, which were used to spawn mortgage-backed securities, and even wilder forms of casino chips like CDOs. The more mortgage money that came in, the larger the profits that could be made from speculating in the securities, yielding more money for new mortgages. It was this securities machine which drove housing prices—and the mortgages on those houses—into the stratosphere.

However, the machine worked so well that it drove housing prices beyond the reach of many Americans, so, in order to keep the mortgages flowing in, the banks began to relax loan standards, and in the end, were selling homes to people who could not afford them, just to keep the game going. It finally got to the point that prices were so high, that even with the lax lending standards, they couldn't keep the game going, and the whole house of cards collapsed. The subprime loans collapsed first because they were the shakiest, made at the top of the market, so the banks painted the subprime lenders and borrowers as the villians, as a way of covering up their own role. It was a classic "blame the little guy" scam.

Now we see Paulson asserting that the banks have been infected by this "housing crisis," and that in order to protect the American people, we must carry out the biggest bank bailout in history. But it was Paulson, a former investment banker, and his investment banking buddies and their predecessors, who created this mess in the first place, and are now demanding that they be saved from the consequences of their folly, and handing the bill to the people they have been victimizing for decades. The foxes are demanding that the chickens pay for cleaning up the blood in the chicken coop.

It Won't Work
Aside from its incredible arrogance, the plan put together by Paulson, his cronies at the Plunge Protection Team, and his Wall Street peers, is incompetent from an economic standpoint. All it really does is transfer unpayable debts from the books of the banks to the books of the government, without addressing the issue of why those claims are unpayable.

The claims are unpayable because the productive sector of the economy, the sector which ultimately pays all bills, is far too weak to carry the load, and is sinking fast. As it has for the past four decades, the U.S. economy is operating below breakeven and taking on debt to make up the difference. This growing mountain of debt was turned by accounting magic into a pile of assets, upon which the bankers leveraged an even bigger mountain of speculative bets. They lived off the income they gained from trading all this fictitious capital back and forth, until the size of their bubble could no longer be supported, and it collapsed. All Paulson's plan would do is give the bankrupt gamblers more chips with which to play, so they can do even more damage.

We Can Stop It
We have reached the point where we can no longer survive such greed and stupidity, and must fundamentally change our approach. Rather than listen to the siren call of the bankers which summons us to our doom, we must face the fact that we, as a people, have been behaving like fools. The bankers may have done this to us, but we let them, and all too often participated, greedily scraping up the crumbs which fell off their overloaded tables.

Now, watching our biggest banks report multi-billion-dollar losses every quarter, despite multi-trillion-dollar injections from the central banks, watching our leaders call for unprecedented bailouts and sacrifices, it is beginning to dawn upon us that the great economic boom was a sham, that the "fundamentally sound" system was an illusion, and that the whole house of cards has collapsed. It is dawning on us that we were fools, that the world does not work they way we thought.

Fortunately, we have among us a man who saw these errors as they were being made, and who has a plan to solve the problem, even at this late date. That man is Lyndon LaRouche, and his solution begins with a return to the sound economic principles that have worked so well for America in the past, most recently with President Franklin Roosevelt. Rather than saving the paper, as Paulson would have us do, LaRouche's proposal is to put the financial system through the equivalent of a bankruptcy proceeding, freezing the giant mass of speculative bets while stopping foreclosures and making sure that the goods and services necessary for human existence continue to flow. At the same time, low-interest government credit would be used in an emergency program to rebuild our productive base, all coordinated with keystone nations like Russia, China, and India, as a way of pulling the entire world up out of this looming new Dark Age. It can be done, but we must do it.

First, we must stop this crazy bailout scheme, which LaRouche has characterized as "tantamount to treason" for the destruction it will visit upon our nation and its people. But LaRouche also has a warning for those who sponsor it, and for those who vote for it. As the magnitude of the theft you support becomes more apparent, there will be new governments, prodded by a furious people, who will demand that this theft be reversed, and that the perpetrators of this crime be punished. Great crimes are not always punished right away, but history has a way of settling the score. There are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


By Dr. Subhash Kapila

Introductory Observations

Political and economic analysts prefer to maintain that the global centre of gravity in these two dimensions has moved to East Asia. It may be so but in terms of global strategic centre of gravity, the same has shifted from Europe to the Middle East. This is more true following the developments of 9/11.

The geo-strategic location of the Middle East coupled with possessing within its confines the world’s largest reserves of oil and gas reserves have ensured that the Middle East always figured high in the global strategic calculus. It has constantly remained in the cynosure of the major powers of the day.

The resultant power play has made the Middle East into a highly conflict prone strategic region plagued with wars, conflicts and insurrections, and externally generated regime changes to suit their respective strategic interests.

Historically, the extensive Middle East region was a major component of the erstwhile Turkish Ottoman Empire and despite any autocratism that may have been existent, it existed as a stable region. The stability of this region was shattered following the carving out of new countries with artificial boundaries following the end of World War I and dividing it into spheres of influence by the victorious European powers, with Britain predominating.

The end of World War II and the ensuing Cold War drew this strategic region into the vortex of Cold War rivalries between the two superpowers the United States and Russia (Soviet Union). While wars and conflicts continued in the region, they were managed by the two superpowers within manageable limits without drawing the superpowers directly into war.

The end of the Cold War in 1991 accompanied by the disintegration of the Soviet Union removed the countervailing power of the Soviet Union and the United States primacy in the Middle East became supreme and unquestionable.

The United States primacy in the Middle East prevailed from 1991 till 2001 or so, that is for nearly ten years. The United States military interventions in Afghanistan in 2001 following 9/11 and thereafter in Iraq in 2003 can be said as marking the waning of American primacy in the Middle East.

In the five years following the Untied States getting militarily bogged down in Iraq, the strategic landscape in the Middle East has undergone significant strategic changes and witnessed changing equations in the balance of power in the region.

The unfolding strategic dynamics in the Middle East are pregnant with many strategic imponderables having an impact on the global and regional power play.

To capture the unfolding strategic dynamics in the Middle East, this Author would like to dwell on the following overall perspectives which would seem to determine the strategic dynamics in the region in the foreseeable future.

Middle East Peace Process: Lack of Progress and Impact on the Region
Middle East’s Evolving Balance of Power
Middle East Nations Diversify their Strategic Dependency
Middle East: The New Key Regional Powers
United States, Russia and China: A Brief Exposition of their Footholds in the Middle East
Future Perspectives: Turkey May Have a Pivotal Role in the Middle East, Strategic Calculus
Middle East Peace Process: Lack of Progress and Impact on the Region

The Middle East Peace Process centered on finding a workable and substantial solution to Israel’s right of existence as a nation state in the Middle East concurrently with the emergence of an independent Palestine State has defied solution for decades now.

Solution to this vexations problem gets mired in a complex set of strategic, military, political and religious overtones. It also gets mired because of global and regional rivalries. It therefore is not a simple bi-lateral issue between Israel and Palestinian aspirations.

The United States along with the Middle East Quartet (USA, Russia, European Union and the United Nations) have made efforts to find a solution, but their efforts and focus on the issue has been spasmodic.

The impact of the lack of progress in the Middle East Peace Process on the region can be recounted in brief as follows: (1) The United States has lost confidence of Arab States in whose perceptions, its proximity to Israel impedes progress (1) Russia in a resurgent mode has made all the right pro-Arab noises on the issue and thereby getting new acceptability amongst Arab monarchial states (3) Inability to find a solution has led to the strengthening of radical Islamist militias like the Hamas in Gaza and the Hezbollah in Lebanon to challenge Israel and endanger its security as non-state actors.

The overall regional impact of lack of progress in the Middle East Peace Process is strategically adverse for the United States primacy in the region.

Middle East’s Evolving Balance of Power

Strategically, the strategic balance of power in the Middle East in terms of significant changes can be said to be marked by three milestones, namely (1) In 1979, when the Islamic Revolution in Iran knocked out the main pillar of Us security architecture in the Middle East (2) In 1990-91 when three coincidental strategic events ensured the emergence of United States primacy in the Middle East. These events were (1) US military intervention in Iraq (Gulf War I) (2) Disintegration of Soviet Union and (3) End of the Cold War.

The evolving strategic balance of power in the Middle East is characterized by the following developments (1) Untied States primacy is on the wane in the Middle East (2) Russia has made strategic forays in the Middle East and has established foot holds amongst key US military allies in the region (3) USA is militarily bogged down in Iraq and is on an adversarial mode with Iran (4) Israel remains as the only staunch US ally in the region and to some extent Egypt.

The evolving strategic balance of power in the Middle East seems to be headed towards reversion to the Cold War template. The two strategic camps that are unfolding are USA, Israel, Egypt and Turkey on one side and Russia, Syria and Iran on the opposite side.

Saudi Arabia and the other oil rich monarchial regimes of the Gulf Region can be said to be as “fence sitters”. Their strategic loyalty to USA is under strain and tenuous.

Middle East Nations Diversify their Strategic Dependency

The changing strategic landscape has resulted in pro-American Monarchial Kingdoms in the Middle East exploring alternative options in terms of their strategic dependency.

This new trend has been significantly noticeable in the new foreign policy formulations of the erstwhile staunchest US ally in the region, namely Saudi Arabia.

The post-Cold War security architecture of the Middle East presented a picture where the monarchial regimes of the Middle East and others too with the exception of Syria and Iran were overwhelmingly dependent on the United States for their security and their military inventories.

Saudi Arabia recently signed a $4 billion arms purchase agreement with Russia following visit of Saudi Arabia by former President Putin. The strategic significance of the Saudi-Russian military deal is three-fold namely (1) A political and strategic message to the United States that Middle East nations have now alternative strategic options to USA (2) In this direction the Saudi have facilitated a Russians strategic and political presence in the Middle East and (3) In terms of regional impact of this development it can be stated that with the Saudi’s lead other loyal Arab allies of the US in Middle East could also diversify their strategic dependency. It is also a Saudi message to Iran that it has no exclusive strategic rights in Russia in terms of the Middle East strategic calculus.

This is an unfolding strategic development and in the long run could affect the unquestioned primacy of the United States in the Middle East.

Middle East: The New Key Regional Powers

Strategic environments are never static and are always in the midst of frequent changes. The foregoing discussion would indicate that new strategic dynamics are unfolding in the Middle East regions.Concurrently has unfolded the emergence of new key regional powers in the Middle Eass seem destined to shape the Middle East strategic dynamics for the foreseeable future.

Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia present an interesting picture in terms of their regional standing power potential and their political affiliations and strategic alignments.

Turkey was always the most powerful regional power of the Middle East, but till lately followed a low strategic profile in the Middle East strategic calculus. However, its changing security environment has prompted it to get more involved in intra-regional diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East. Turkey is a far more powerful geo-strategic actor not only in the Middle East, but also in relation to Europe and Central Asia. Strategically, it therefore is the most powerful actor in the Middle East in comparison to Saudi Arabia and Iran. As a powerful member of NATO and integrated with Europe, Turkey in terms of strategic alignments can be said to aligned with the United States.

Iran’s geo-strategic profile has further been reinforced by its potential to emerge as a nuclear weapons power. In terms of size, resources and power potential it can emerge as a key regional player. However its adversarial relationship with the United States and the strategic concerns it generates amongst Arab nations due to its nuclear ambitious and Shia majority limits/inhibits its emergence as a key regional power. In terms of its strategic alignment, Iran depends heavily on Russia for countervailing power and military hardware.

Saudi Arabia is a large country but with a limited population base. Despite substantial financial resources its limited manpower resources impede its power potential despite its geo-strategic predominance. Presently, Saudi Arabia can be said to be a fence sitter in terms of strategic alignments. After 9/11 it has been in the process of reducing its strategic dependency on the United States.

The overall strategic profile of the Middle East therefore indicates that in terms of strategic alignment no two key regional powers are aligned with either the United States or Russia.

In terms of religious classification also while all three are Islamic, Turkey is a modern, democratic and progressive states; Iran is a conservative Shia nation still overshadowed…… with the Islamic Revolution overtones; and Saudi Arabia is a Sunni arch-conservative Islamic state more demonstrated by Wahabi impulses.

United States, Russia and China: A Brief Exposition of their Footholds in the Middle East

The United States despite some indicators of waning trends in its primacy in the Middle East will continue to be the predominant strategic power in the Middle East Region. Its strategic alliances with Israel and Egypt and so also with Turkey can be sad to be strong.

Russia after a decade-old hiatus is entering the Middle East arena once again as a resurgent power. It presents a strong alternative option to those Arab nations who are currently disillusioned with the United States. It could once again emerge as a countervailing power to the United States in the Middle East.

China despite its strategic and military links with Saudi Arabia and Iran is not in the same power-league as the United States and Russia, China, however, independently of either USA or Russia can complicate the Middle East strategic calculus by using Saudi Arabia and Iran as “pitch-forks” and using Pakistan with them too.

Overall, the Middle East Region does not seem to present any strategic convergences between USA, Russia and China. In fact their competing strategic interests could create strategic turbulence in the region.

Future Perspectives: Turkey May Have a Pivotal Role in the Middle East, Strategic Calculus

In terms of future perspectives on the strategic dynamics of the Middle East one arrives at the following conclusions:

United States would continue to be the predominant power strategically in the Middle East and globally.
Untied States, however, would have a tough challenge to maintain its primacy in the Middle East because of the rise of Russian influence as an attractive alternative countervailing power option to USA.
USA could continue to maintain its strategic primacy in the Middle East if it could “reclaim politically” its erstwhile military ally of the 1970s, namely Iran to its side. Then with Turkey and Iran on its side the balance of power would tilt heavily in the favor of the United States.
Current trends indicate that if Turkey continues with its present diplomatic initiatives of engagement with warring sides in the Middle East, Turkey could acquire a “pivotal role” in the Middle East strategic calculus.
Turkey is ideally placed and could emerge in a “pivotal role” in the Middle East strategic calculus because of the following major reasons: (1) Turkey has strong strategic linkages with USA and Europe and also now has working and accommodative relationship with Russia (2) Turkey has a strategic partnership with Israel (3) Turkey has opened diplomatic initiatives with Syria and Iran (4) Turkey unlike the other regional power contenders in the Middle East, namely Iran and Saudi Arabia is a progressive, democratic and moderate Islamic state with forward looking impulses, all of which impart Turkey with greater international acceptability globally and regionally.

Concluding Observations

The Middle East for decades to come will continue to occupy the strategic centre-of-gravity of the global power calculus.

With Russia’s resurgence, the days of United States primacy in the Middle East are under challenge. Post 9/11 strong Arab military allies of the United States are exploring alternative options for their strategic dependency.

Strategic trends do not indicate that the United States and Russia can arrive at a “Strategic Condominium” arrangement to ensure Middle East security and stability. The Middle East would therefore continue to be an arena of strategic rivalry and power play between USA and Russia.

However, strategic trends do indicate that there may develope a growing intra-regional resolve to find intra-regional solutions to the contentious strategic, political and religious issues that divide the Middle East Region.

Strategic analysis also indicates that of the three key regional powers, only one regional power is an Arab state. The other two regional powers are non-Arab states. The two non-Arab regional powers are at the opposite ends of the political and religious spectrum…. namely Iran and Turkey.

Turkey as the predominant regional power and a progressive, democratic and moderate Islamic state may have to ready itself to acquire a pivotal role in the Middle East strategic calculus. It also possesses greater international acceptability.

(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group.