Thursday, August 23, 2007

The world hangs in the balance

Philippines is on the edge of total war:

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have launched a new military campaign against radical Muslim insurgents in its southern regions, an offensive nominally aimed at finishing off the hobbled 300-member Abu Sayyaf terror group, but one that also threatens to widen the conflict with two ceasefire groups, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Arroyo's government lost significant electoral support to the opposition at recent mid-term elections, continuing the roller-coaster nature of her scandal-plagued tenure. Former presidents Fidel Ramos and Corazon Aquino have both recently criticized Arroyo's government, with influential Catholic bishops lending support to the public denouncements against her.

Some Manila-based political analysts believe a new, high-profile military campaign could, apart from fighting terrorism, serve the purpose of deflecting national attention from the Arroyo government's political woes. The move could backfire badly, however. Arroyo has not established firm control over the AFP, witnessed by the series of foiled coup attempts against her now-six-year-old administration.

To ease tensions, she has given the military carte blanche to deal with perceived threats to national security, resulting in the so-far-successful campaign against the Abu Sayyaf, but also apparently responsible for the extraordinary number of unexplained extrajudicial killings of left-leaning social activists. The government has unconvincingly attributed the killings to the world's longest ongoing Maoist insurgency, led by the communist New People's Army (NPA) - itself designated a terrorist group by both the US and the European Union.

At the same time, a recently enacted counter-terrorism law has given the government controversial wide-ranging powers to deal with what it deems internal security threats, including armed insurgent groups. That legislation will, among other things, provide new impetus and legal protection to the army as it launches its new armed campaign against the Abu Sayyaf and perhaps other groups.

While Philippine guns will be trained heavily on restive southern territories, the NPA has already said the new legislation is grounds for launching undefined "tactical offensives" against the government. With troops on the move and rebel groups crying foul, expect more violence and perhaps a widened conflict across the Philippine archipelago in the months ahead.
And in Bangladesh:
Demonstrations have spread across the poor South Asian country in the past three days with students demanding an end to emergency rule, imposed in January when President Iajuddin Ahmed canceled scheduled elections and declared a state of emergency.

The interim government now running Bangladesh is doing so with the backing of the military, which ruled the country until throughout the 1980s.

The protests began when University of Dhaka students called for the removal of an army post from the campus. The soldiers withdrew a day later after violent protests left 150 injured, but the students’ demands escalated and the protests continued.

“It seems the situation is worsening,” University of Dhaka official Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Within hours of his comments, students were battling police in downtown Dhaka. Away from the clashes, students put up burning barricades on the largely deserted streets.

So obviously, since the world is in such a calm and reasonable state and since we have done such a good job in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush and Cheney want to take on Iran next:

The Bush administration has leaped toward war with Iran by, in essence, declaring war with the main branch of Iran's military, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which it plans to brand as a terrorist organization.

A logical evolution of US President George W Bush's ill-defined, boundless "war on terror", the White House's move is dangerous to the core, opening the way for open confrontation with Iran. This may begin in Iraq, where the IRGC is reportedly most active and, ironically, where the US and Iran have their largest common denominators.

A New York Times editorial has dismissed this move as "amateurish" and a mere "theatric" on the part of the lame-duck president, while at the same time admitting that it represents a concession to "conflict-obsessed administration hawks who are lobbying for military strikes". The political analysts who argue that the main impact of this initiative is "political" are plain wrong. It is a giant step toward war with Iran, irrespective of how well, or poorly, it is thought of, particularly in terms of its immediate and long-term implications, let alone the timing of it.

Coinciding with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's highly publicized trip to Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, the news received front-page coverage in the New York Times, next to a photograph of Ahmadinejad and his Afghan host, President Hamid Karzai, as if intended to spoil Ahmadinejad's moment by denigrating the Iranian regime. Just two weeks ago, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice implicitly put Iran on a par with the Soviet Union by invoking comparisons to the Cold War, and in essence compared it to al-Qaeda.


With the window of opportunity for Bush to use the "military option" closing because of the US presidential elections next year, the administration's hawks - "it is now or never" - have received a huge boost by the move to label the IRGC as terrorists. It paves the way for potential US strikes at the IRGC's installations inside Iran, perhaps as a prelude to broader attacks on the country's nuclear facilities. At least that is how it is being interpreted in Iran, whose national-security concerns have skyrocketed as a result of the labeling.

"The US double-speak with Iran, talking security cooperation on the one hand and on the other ratcheting up the war rhetoric, does not make sense and gives the impression that the supporters of dialogue have lost in Washington," a prominent Tehran University political scientist who wished to remain anonymous told the author.

The US has "unfettered" itself for a strike on Iran by targeting the IRGC, and that translates into heightened security concerns. "The United States never branded the KGB [Russian secret service] or the Soviet army as terrorist, and that shows the limits of the Cold War comparison," the Tehran political scientist said. His only optimism: there are "two US governments" speaking with divergent voices, ie, "deterrence diplomacy and preemptive action", and "that usually, historically speaking, spells policy paralysis".

I feel so safe....


mapaghimagsik said...

Hey, adam managed to hack Blogger's commenting facility!

ellroon said...

Adam may have hacked through Blogger, but he's just been deposited in the cyberbin of nothingness.

All that work..poor guy.

Anonymous said...

George Bush is trying to make Ahmedinejad look like a moderate.

ellroon said...

George Bush is making every other president we've ever had look tremendous by comparison. George Bush is putting the F back into Failure! George Bush is making every other tinpot dictator in the world look like Gandhi!

George Bush is making even the terrorist-supporting nation of Iran look sane by comparison to the United States.