NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: September 30

Asia rides high – for the moment

The great Wall Street meltdown is a huge economic and financial event. But might it also signal a historic shift in global politics – a moment that both marks and accelerates the decline of American power?

I have just spent the past two weeks in China and India – and it is clear that the thought has occurred to many people there. Whatever the long-term economic impact on Asia of America’s financial crisis, a psychological shift is already evident.

The success of the Beijing Olympics in August and the failure of Wall Street in September has been a boost to Chinese self-confidence.

Pan Wei, director of the Center for Chinese and Global Affairs at Beijing university, mused aloud to me that: “My belief is that in 20 years we will look the Americans straight in the eye – as equals. But maybe it will come sooner than that. Their system is in chaos and they need our money to rescue them.” [continued…]

They just don’t get it

Oy vey.

That is the technical economic term that best sums up a day in which the House of Representatives refuses to pass a $700 billion rescue plan pushed by the White House and congressional leaders from both parties, Wachovia is taken over in a deal that will have the government potentially owning 10 percent of Citigroup, a few European banks fail, the Federal Reserve and other central banks are forced to inject an additional $300 billion into the global banking system, the Dow Jones industrial average plunges 778 points, and investors everywhere rush to the safety of gold and short-term Treasury bills.

The basic problem here is that too many people don’t understand the seriousness of the situation.

Americans fail to understand that they are facing the real prospect of a decade of little or no economic growth because of the bursting of a credit bubble that they helped create and that now threatens to bring down the global financial system. [continued…]

Failure written in West Bank stone

The latest phone call came from a journalist in Denmark. Why, he asked, has Israeli settlement in the West Bank continued despite peace negotiations with the Palestinians?

As a historian of settlements, I’m used to this question. Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insists that Israel’s future depends on a two-state solution. Building new homes in settlements only makes it more difficult to withdraw. When President Bush convened the Annapolis conference last November, there was media buzz about a settlement freeze. Olmert said that every request to build from within the government required his approval. Yet in the past year, construction has increased — despite Olmert’s talk, despite Bush’s supposed commitment to his 2003 “road map” plan with its freeze on settlement.

Nearly a thousand housing units are being built in Maale Adumim, according to Peace Now’s Settlement Watch project. At Givat Zeev, another of the settlements ringing Jerusalem, a 750-unit project was approved this year. The government has asked for bids on building nearly 350 homes in Beitar Illit, also near Jerusalem. Meanwhile, hundreds of homes have been added at settlements deep in the West Bank, with the government’s acquiescence if not approval. [continued…]

Olmert says Israel should pull out of West Bank

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview published on Monday that Israel must withdraw from nearly all of the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem to attain peace with the Palestinians and that any occupied land it held onto would have to be exchanged for the same quantity of Israeli territory.

He also dismissed as “megalomania” any thought that Israel would or should attack Iran on its own to stop it from developing nuclear weapons, saying the international community and not Israel alone was charged with handling the issue.

In an unusually frank and soul-searching interview granted after he resigned to fight corruption charges — he remains interim prime minister until a new government is sworn in — Mr. Olmert discarded longstanding Israeli defense doctrine and called for radical new thinking, in words that are sure to stir controversy as his expected successor, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, tries to build a coalition. [continued…]

Bibi: I’ll resume settlement activity

Binyamin Netanyahu will resume building in existing West Bank settlements if he is elected prime minister, the opposition leader told Walla! News on Sunday.

“I don’t understand why there can be natural growth in Arab neighborhoods, but not in Jewish neighborhoods,” he said. “There is a difference between the plans of a family that has more children and wants to close off its balcony and the building of additional neighborhoods. There is no reason why there shouldn’t be development of existing [Jewish] neighborhoods.”

The opposition leader reiterated that there was currently no chance of a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority and therefore, the only option was an economic arrangement. He said that after such an agreement had been kept properly, a peace deal could be examined. [continued…]

American diplomats meet Syrians in sign of thaw

Senior American and Syrian diplomats held a series of meetings over the past week here, a sign of a potential thaw between the U.S. and a country that President George W. Bush has alleged is a principal sponsor of international terrorism.

A State Department official said the U.S. used the talks as an opportunity to list its grievances with Syria. But the diplomats also discussed Washington’s support for peace talks between Syria and Israel over the future of the disputed Golan Heights region, participants in the talks said. The two sides also talked about Damascus’s role in the security situations in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

“I consider this a good progress in the American position,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in New York Monday. “We agreed to continue this dialogue.” [continued…]

For U.S. and Sunni allies, a turning point

First Lt. Justin John, 6-foot-4 and built like a linebacker, plopped down on a sofa in front of Ibrahim Suleiman al-Zoubaidi, one of the leaders of the mainly Sunni armed groups that have helped the U.S. military quell violence in Iraq since last year.

Zoubaidi, a small man armed with a revolver, had one thing on his mind: This week officials of Iraq’s Shiite-led government will assume authority over the groups, which have been backed by the United States.

“They will kill us,” Zoubaidi declared. “One by one.”

Across Baghdad, leaders of the groups speak about the transition in similarly apocalyptic terms. Some have left Baghdad, saying they fear that the Iraqi government will conduct mass arrests after the handover. Others are obtaining passports and say they will flee to Syria. [continued…]


If a Muslim chemistry graduate takes an ill-paid job at a farm-supplies store what does it signify? Is he just earning extra cash, or getting close to a supply of potassium nitrate (used in fertiliser, and explosives)? What if apparent strangers with Arabic names have wired him money? What if he has taken air flights with one of those men, with separate reservations and different seats, paid in cash? What if his credit-card records show purchases of gadgets such as timing devices?

If the authorities can and do collect such bits of data, piecing them together offers the tantalising prospect of foiling terrorist conspiracies. It also raises the spectre of criminalising or constraining innocent people’s eccentric but legal behaviour.

In November 2002 news reports revealed the existence of a big, secret Pentagon programme called Total Information Awareness. This aimed to identify suspicious patterns of behaviour by “data mining” (also known as “pattern recognition”): computer-driven searches of large quantities of electronic information. After a public outcry it was dubbed, perhaps more palatably, Terrorism Information Awareness. But protests continued, and in September 2003 Congress blocked its funding. [continued…]

The fight goes on, militants tell Pakistan

When United States President George W Bush and British Premier Gordon Brown interacted with their Pakistani and Afghan counterparts on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week, they expressed satisfaction for the conflict escalation against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the South Asian War theater. (See Militants shake off Pakistan’s grip Asia Times Online, Sep 29.)

This escalation, particularly in Pakistan’s tribal agencies, is a gamble based on the tactics used by the US’s chief man in Iraq, General David Petraeus, in 2007. Following a “surge” in the war, the US offered an olive branch to the militants. This created a wedge between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi tribal resistance and led to a significant reduction in the intensity of the resistance.

In Pakistan, there is no sign of this happening. Indeed, the reverse is true. [continued…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email