Pres. Obama has decided that Asia will be the focus of America's economic and military attention in the coming years. Economically, because of the growth in India, China, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and South Korea ( and the economic decline and problems in Europe). The growing military spending of China and its recent flexing of military muscle, in laying claims to territories in the South China sea, which has led to great concern in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines, and the thus the "Asian pivot".
The markets are growing as the middle class in these countries expand and demand more and more consumer goods. Trade is the key in exploiting these markets and the American military umbrella is urgently needed to counteract the new Chinese "movements". Even India, which has a huge middle class, eager for "western goods", needs the assurance of the American presence, as it also has territorial disputes with China It is however the recent Chinese claims, that is of immediate importance, especially its declaration of a "fly zone", which was immediately challenged by America, by flying two "unarmed" planes through it. Japan did so too, encouraged by the American flight.
These small disputed "rocks" are important for the wealth in oil, gas, fishery and other resources around them. China with its growing demands for more and more resources to fuel its growth and feed its teeming population is adamant about its claims and without the American presence may try to bully its way over its smaller and weaker neighbors. Thus it was somewhat fortuitous that the recent havoc/ damage to lives and property in the area, especially the Philippines and the very swift and overwhelming American aid response, has opened the door for the USA to return to the Philippines. It used to have two major military bases, the largest outside the USA in the Philippines ( Subic Bay and Clark Air Force Base), which it was forced to leave in the 90's as relationship had soured as a result of the years of support for the deposed dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. Now as a result of America's immediate and abundant response, in the face of the recent disaster, the Philippines want them back and America is eager to do so as if fits well with its Asian Pivot.
The question is now about China's response. Chinese success is tied to its trade, especially with the USA, and with its investment in many countries in, America Europe, Africa and Latin America, Australia and Canada. It cannot lose these. As such its response has to be tempered and this allows Pres. Obama and his Asian Pivot a greater chance of bearing fruit, and helping to restore America's influence in Asia, which was in decline after the Vietnam fiasco.
The chamber of " sober second thoughts", has had its underbelly exposed, and it is not a nice thing to behold. Senators appointed from amongst, friends, defeated colleagues, bagmen and with little experience of how the place works or even what their real "job" is, find themselves receiving a "fat" paycheck and other perks for attending at least one "sitting" a year. Most of their time is spent away from the chamber. mostly on party business and that entails a lot of travels, giving speeches and attending functions on behalf of the party. They are allowed to claim expenses for travels and also for housing and because the rules were lax and/or unclear, many of these claims could not stand close scrutiny and usually are not scrutinised. That is until the claims become so preposterous that attention is drawn to them as is the case with the housing and travel claims of Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau and Harb and maybe more to come.
Senators are chosen to represent their provinces, and their main residence has to be in those provinces. In the case of Duffy and Wallin, it was well known that they (because of their jobs in the media), had spent the past many years outside of their province and yet Harper appointed to represent those provinces. They made tens of thousands of dollars in travel claims to and from Ottawa and their province and also made housing claims, based on their main residence. The same with Brazeau and Harb.
Official investigations led to the introduction of a motion in the Senate to suspend them for two years, with no pay or medical coverage. Initially Harper and the Prime Minister Office (this is the political body that is hired, works for and advises the Prime Minister), defended Wallin and Duffy, who had done yeoman service for the party, but then things started to unravel as more and more "juicy tidbits" were revealed by the media.
Support for the duo ( Harper even stating that he had looked at Wallin's receipts and found nothing wrong) turn to concern and then embarrassment and then outright hostility. In the meantime Brazeau (who has had some personal problems) was isolated and alone and he , (based on the official investigation , which cleared him,) decided to fight back. Later on Duffy and Wallin started their fight back to save their salary and reputation. The media was having a field day and Harper and his advisers in the PMO, at first decided to pay off Duffy's bill ($ 90.000), this to be done (depending on who you believe) through a loan from Duffy's bank, which later on became a loan from Harper's Chief of Staff, Wright. Was this a pay-off to shut Duffy up or was it a personal gift from a friend, as Wright claim. This is when "..it" hit the fan and the real cover-up began.
A week is an eternity in politics and this has gone for longer and is going away. There a new proposal before the Senate that would soften the punishment ( the previous motion was criticized from all corners for among other things denying them "due process"), but it won't go away (Harper was hoping for an end before the Party's Convention this week-end). His performance has been ragged and contradictory during Question Period, claiming for instance at one time that Wright "had done the honorable thing' and resigned over the cheque and then, after heated questions from the NDP's leader Mulcair and the media changing his story to say that he fired Wright; that he supported Wallin and Duffy and then calling for their firing; that only Wright knew about the check and then saying " a few" people knew.......
There are rumblings from the party base. Some senior members have broken ranks and saying that they will vote against he party motion. It is going to be a real interesting time this weekend at the Convention, even if the Senate do vote.
This has focused much needed attention on Senate appointment and exposes not only Harper's injudicious and questionable appointments, but on the entire process of appointment and more importantly on the relevance and need for the Senate as presently constituted. The
Reza Khan, staged a coup in 1921, and became the Shah in 1925 with the name of Reza Shah Pahlavi and immediately started to modernise the country, building infrastructure, railroads, education, the judiciary etc. He also sent hundreds to study abroad, so that the country could be self-reliant. He favored a strong centralised government and wanted to reduce foreign influence, especially British( they controlled the oilfields through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.). He changed the name of the country,1935, from Persia( which favored a particular group) to Iran, to make it more inclusive, and he sought assistance from Germany, Italy, France etc. This did not sit well with the British and when Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, it demanded that all Germans be expelled from the country, but Reza Shah refused and was forced into exile in 1941 and his son was put in power.
The British and the USSR had by now become allies and they decided to occupy Iran and thus control the very important oil supply. The USSR invaded from the North and the British from the South and signed an agreement, to vacate the country within six months of the end of the war. This agreement was reaffirmed at the Teheran conference of 1943 among Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. The Soviets left in 1946 taking Azerbaijan with it, but the British stayed to protect their oil interests.
The first competitive elections in 20 years, was held in 1944. After the war, there was years of unrest, mainly because of the Shah's western "bias", ( he also wanted to continue his father's modernisation programme), the young Shah made the strong nationalist leader Mohammad Mosaddeq the Prime Minister. A struggle for control ensued and the Shah fled the country. The USA accused Mosadeghq of being a communist and with the British (who wanted to protect their oil interests), staged a coup, (the first of many by the CIA), overthrew him and returned the Shah to power. There was outrage and riots, which were bloodily dealt with and so began 36 years of authoritarian, violent and repressive rule, aided by the CIA and the SAVAK...trained and controlled by the CIA.
The Americans became the major player, as Iran shared a long border with the USSR, which the Americans wanted to use for surveillance on the Soviets. The USA armed, trained and controlled the Iranian military and security forces and became clearly identified with the regime and its treatment of the people...arrest, beatings, imprisonment, killings, exile, were the order of the day.
Eventually in 1979, things came to a head. The Shah, once again fled into exile and an Islamic Republic was established under the Ayatollah Khomeini and America became the " Great Satan". The American embassy in Teheran was sacked and many Americas were taken as hostages ( a clear violation of international law) and kept captive for 444 days. ( The relationship had been so close between the USA and Iran, that the Reagan Administration included them in the Iran/Contra Affair).
Those days of close friendship have been replaced with hatred and suspicion, with support for Saddam Hussein during his 8 years (1980-88) homocidal war with Iran and with trade embargo/sanctions and threats of war.
A new government is in place in Teheran and have been making "cooing" sounds, sending messages of peace and reconciliation but too many years and too much hatred have gone by, so there are doubts and a reluctance to believe. However, there is the beginning of a dialogue, so perhaps, at long last, these two former allies (at least, at the governmental level) may be inching forward a rapprochement.
On Nov. 24, a deal was struck between the P5+1...US,GB. France, Russia, China and Germany and Iran, whereby in return for a easing of sanctions, Iran will put its nuclear program on hold for 6 months, and agree to allow daily inspections of nuclear facilities. Negotiation and compromise rather than confrontation and war. Israel and Saudi Arabia , strange bedfellows are against the deal and so is the "out-of step" Canadians. The world is a better and safer place as war and instability has been pushed back.
The op-ed piece by Valdimir Putin in the New York Times has put the Russian cat amongst the American pigeons and has caused laughable ire from "outraged" American politicians and media.They screamed in anguish and feigned anger over his mention of America's "exceptionalism" ( the constant boasting of being the only super-power; of being the policeman of the world of being "the greatest country and having the greatest military in history; of having the greatest cities sports teams, etc.), and its eagerness to use its war machine (Panama, Grenada, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen etc (Drone strikes), but the real reason for their discomfiture is the possibility that the Russians have managed to outflank the Americans in Syria by getting Syria to offer to sign the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, which will allow for the inspection and destruction of the 1,000 tonnes or so of sarin, mustard gas and other poisons that it has collected in response (it claims to offset) Israel's nuclear weapons.
If Russia succeeds ( and the Americans with their French and British lackeys are putting up resistance by their demands), it will boost the prestige of Russia and the stature of Putin, not only in the Middle East but elsewhere in the world where they will be called upon as "honest brokers". The Russians will get to keep their warm water port in Syria; will become an important player in the Middle east ( which they had lost after the fall of the USSR); in the Israel/ Palestine issue; in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and elsewhere. They will get indirect relief in Dagestan and Chechnya, where they continue to battle Islamic forces and al Qaeda. As Russia rebounds on the world stage, it brings some balance and offset the American dominance, which has allowed it to act without restraint.
The most important issue however, is the continued civil war in Syria. There is the possibility that if the Russians succeed on bringing Assad on board, that this could lead to a broader peace and the end of the civil war in Syria. That would be a resounding victory for the Middle East and the world. It will show that, with USA and Russia working together, the volatility and the violence, which has been rampant since the end of the Cold War, can be reduced.
There is a great opportunity here and must be seized. Obama has said that he was elected to end wars. If he still believes this, then he must work with the Russians. National pride and ideological bias be damned, work together to advance peace.
Hasan Rouhani was sworn in as president of Iran and immediately launched a more moderate and less strident approach to USA and Israel than former president Ahmadinejad.
He appealed for the end of sanctions and stated that the "only way to interact with Iran is through dialogue on equal footing, confidence-building , mutual respect, as well as mutual reducing of antagonism and aggression". " If you want the right response", he continued, " it should not be through the language of sanctions, it should be through the language of respect". The Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei , the Supreme Leader, said he approved of Rouhani's approach. " We need to take action wisely and prudently", he said.
Rouhani, further signaled his intention, by naming US-educated former UN ambassador Mohammad Javad Zarif as foreign minister. He is well known to top-level officials in the Obama administration. This bodes well, so long as the Americans are willing to take Rouhani at his word. One thing that should reassure them is that Rouhani, not only did not condemn Israel, but he, instead sent a message that Iran does not wish " to change the demarcations and borders" of any country in the Middle East. He insisted that Iran "pursues peace in the region" and that " the political structure of each country relies on the will of the people in that country". This refers of course to Israel as well as Syria,Egypt etc. of course. " Iran has never wanted to fight anyone in the world. Our policies will be focused on bringing the warmongers under control".
This is the new voice from Iran. There is an opening which must be seized but the immediate response from Netanyahu was to seize on a misquote from Rouhani " about Israel being a wound on the body of the Arab world". Netanyahu runs the risk of being overlooked, if he continues with his belligerent attitude as he did when he stated that while the president of Iran has been replaced, the "goal of the regime has not been replaced, it remains as it was.......develop nuclear weapons to destroy the state of Israel". Netanyahu the politician, has to be replaced by Netahyahu the statesman, who wants what is best for his country and not himself clinging to political power with the help of the colonists/settlers and the religious right, whose vote props him up. Can he change? I doubt it. He will procrastinate and throw up obstacles,while pretending to be interested.
What about Obama? Well he has a great opportunity to re-connect with the statements he made in the first year of his presidency, about being willing to talk with Iran. Maybe, he will be thinking about his place in history. Being a peacemaker, ending over 30 years of enmity and suspicion between Iran and the USA, will appeal to him. So Yes. I think that there will be probes, a bit hesitant at first to test the waters, and to see whether Rouhani and his more moderate cabinet and its policies are indeed the new approach. He also has a weakened Netanyahu to contend with. We may be moving to period of change, for if Iran is engaged, then events in Syria, Iraq ( more than 60% of the population is Shia) and with Hizballah , will also be moderated.
You can feel the changing mood already. Hope.
Rouhani has made some moves that the Americans cannot ignore......sending new year's greeting to Israel; freeing political prisoners and forcefully re-stating that Iran will not pursue the building of nuclear weapons. ....19/9/13
Sept.28, 2013....Rouhani continue to distance himself from the past...no nuclear weapon, phone call with Obama, first since 1979. The Sanctions are devastating, much suffering.
The trial of Zimmerman has revealed the very politicized and the compromised legal syatem at the state level. Politicized, because judges and prosecutors are elected ( anyone can run for these positions. You do not need a law degree or anything else) to office and therefore are wary of public opinion and do all they can not to be seen with disfavour; and this compromises the process and the application of the law.
Judges are careful when making rulings, not because of points of law but how it will play with the voting public and prosecutors are always careful when making decisions on whether to charge or no not charge someone and what charges will be brought forward. They will play to the camera and crowd ( the reluctance to bring charges by the Florida prosecutor in the first place and acting only when there was an outcry from the black community; the manner in which the investigation was carried out by the sheriff( another elected psoition) department, the failure to preserve the "crime" scene, the failure to question Zimmerman immediately etc.) . The motivations here was not the law but the politics. No one wanted to "make a mistake" in what was seen as a white/black case...err on the side of the majority voters. By the way Zimmerman's mother is Peruvian, as if that mattered.
Jury selection is another political matter. In this case the judge ruled that two white women, who had been excluded because of the prosecution challenges, were put on the jury because the judge ruled that their exclusion was racially motivated ( do you think that these two women would be sympathetic to the prosecution's position after this?). The jury was composed of six white women. What happened to " be judged by your peers"?
The case became a spectacle. A young black man was shot. The person who shot him was lold by the police not to pursue him any further. The pursuer muttered something about "them not getting away with it" and a struggle began and Martin was shot. What happened? Why the struggle? Who started it? And who fired the shot?
This is what the trial should have been about but from the outset it became a show between the judge on one side and the prosecution and defence on the other, with the usual "experts" and the media. And the issue of who shot Martin bercame secondary.
The verdict was not surpriising. It was always going to be difficult to prove" beyond a resonable doubt that it was 2nd degree murder. The prosecution should have gone with a lesse and more practical charge, but there was no glory in that. They "rolled the dice", to get the glory and to further their political career and blew it. The judge made the ruling on the two white jurors with an eye to future too. Only the defence did their job.
This is the consequence of sociological jurisprudence, where society, its make-up and its values trump evidence. ( It reminds me of so many cases where this factor was present and the outcome was the same . The "white" accused gets off but the "black" accused does not. One of the most glaring example happened in Detroit some years ago, when three white men were charged with beating an" Asian" man to death with a baseball bat (calling him a"Jap", by the way, he was Chinese out for a drink with some white friends) and were found not guilty because according to the judge they were drunk, they had lost their jobs in the auto industry, which they blamed on the Japanese carmakers and they thought that he was Japanese). In this case, after much media attention, especially 60 Minutes, the Federal government brought charges against the three for violating "the Civil Rights" of the deceased. They were tried in Federal court, (where judges are appointed and are thus less susceptible to political/ community pressure/ values ) and found guilty.
This is a case where the Justice Dept. needs to examine and bring charges of the "violation of civil rights" of Tryvan Martin.
Zimmerman had a problem. It was a young, black man in a hoodie. Florida's law gave him a license to kill and he did got away with it.
The inevitable has happened and Morsi has been ousted. Millions have demonstarted against his governement and begged the military to intervene. The people in the streets got their wish and the military, which had waited patiently, biding their time, stepped in, removed Morsi and installed an interim president.
The Muslim Brothrehood had waited for 80 years, suffering mightily at the hands of the various "rulers" from Nasser to Mubarak, but now having won power democratically, they have been displaced, with leaders under arrest. This will not sit well with their followers, who make up about 30% of the Egyptian population. The more militant will be joined by Jihadists from the region and will resort to violence.
The military, the only organised group (other than the Brotherhood), acted only after they were called upon by the "people", which give some legitimacy to its action, claiming to act only after talks with Morsi had failed ( they offered to let him stay on as president but with little power, to be a "front" for the military) but he refused, and so he was deposed and placed under arrest.)
The military has no friends, only its interests, which they are keen to protect. Their place in Egyptian society, as a class separate and distinct from the rest of society, as well as being the protector of the nation's sovreignity ( goes all the way back to Nasser and the overthrow of King Farouk, continued by Sadat and Mubarak), combined with their many busines investments, are what concerns them. "Social stability", is what they call it. They will act to protect themselves against all-comers. They do not want direct power.......they were severely "burned" 2 years ago when they took power after Mubarak (one of them). They want to control power, (and that is what Morsi refused).
Now here we are. The only organised groups in the society ( the Military and the Brotherhood. They dislike each other; their interests clash and their history is one of bitterness ) are ranged against each other with the rest of the "people"( anout 30% are liberals, secularists, leftists etc) in the middle. The other 40% or so are on the sidelines for the time being watching and waiting to see which way "the wind blows".
The USA, gives about $1.5 billion in military and economic aid to Egypt. They have had a close relation with the military and may try to use their influence , calling for elections and a return to democracy. There is also a $4.8 billion bail-out being negotiated with the IMF, that may come into play. The military will be aware of the implications, but it is the Muslim Brotherhood that will decide where this ends up.
The turn out was high and the "purple wave" has taken Hassan Rowhani to victory, not power.
Power still rests with the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who can wield it directly or indirectly with his control over the Revolutionary Guard, the judiciary and the intelligence services through hand-picked loyalists. That's where the power was and will be.
Then there is the Guardian Council of 12 experts of Islamic law who not only have to approve candidates for elected office (dozens were barred in this election, notably those who are seen as " the opposition"), but also has veto power of any parliamentary bills considered to bei in violation of the constitution.
The President has limited power,( subject to the above), whether it be political, social, educational, media etc. He represents the country aboad but again he can be and usually is reined in by the above who also control foreign and defence policies. Thus, whether it be the nuclear programme or the USA or the UN sanctions or Israel or Syria or Hizbollah etc. , it is the Supreme Leader and the Council of Guardians who are in charge.
There is a parliament (Majlis) of 290 members elected every 4 years, who can set economic and social policies but again subject to the "loyalists" of the Supreme Leader. Then there is the "hand-picked" Expediency Council which mediates between Guardian Council and parliament. They are more an advisory body to Khamenei and do his bidding. Finally there is the Assembly of Experts, an elected body of 86 clerics whose role is to oversee the supreme leader's performance. but really they are there to select a successor after his death, because the Supreme Leader ( at least so far), remains in his position until he dies.
The election of Rowhani may bring some hope to his followers, and a new face/ voice to the world, without the bombast of Ahmadinejad, but like former president, Rafsanjani (another so-called moderate, who was prevented from running this time), he may "tinker around the edges" but will not be able to make any changes that are not approved by the Parliament, the Guardian Council and especially the Supreme Leader. The next few weeks will be interesting, for it will indicate how much leeway, Rowhani is allowed.
It is obvious, or should be, that the Guardian Council and teh Supreme Leader are not too bothered by his "moderation". They after all, allow him on the ballot. He is not an outsider and he will not shake things up or else he is "Gone". Plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose'?