As speculation continues over possibilities of a unilateral attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear program, the Obama administration is sending a clear signal that it is prepared to work with the victorious factions arising through the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring — including self-avowed “Islamists.” In the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “what parties call themselves is less important to us than what they actually do.”
According to a story from the Associated Press, the Obama administration is now openly embracing the Islamist shift which is taking place as a result of the past year’s series of revolutions that have swept through a series of Islam-dominated countries. Speaking to the National Democratic Institute, Clinton made it clear that a profound shift is taking place in American foreign policy. In the words of the AP story:
Clinton offered a forthright embrace of the democratic changes enveloping North Africa and the Middle East at a time when the euphoria of the successful revolutions from Egypt to Libya is giving way to the hard and unprecedented work of creating stable democracies.
After decades of partnering dictators throughout the region, her message was that the U.S. would approach the new political landscape with an open mind and the understanding that long-term support for democracy trumps any short-term advantages through alliances with authoritarian regimes.
Government programs often begin with limited, easily identifiable purposes, then grow over time to become expensive, wasteful, and even dangerous monstrosities. Such is the case with the federal War on Drugs, which began with little fanfare under a modest 1914 anti-narcotics law and has since grown to enormous proportions, eviscerating the Bill of Rights and entangling the United States in countries all around the globe in a futile effort to eradicate the supplies of highly sought-after commodities.
On Monday, a number of media outlets predicted that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s next quarterly report on Iran's nuclear potential (set to come out this week) would set the stage for a preemptive attack on that country. Experts indicated that the document would reveal the so-called “smoking gun” that would justify a war against Iran. Leaked portions of the report, however, reveal no such information, instead focusing on seemingly idle observations and speculation.
After being slapped with a $2.4-million bill by the Beijing tax bureau, Chinese artist and political dissident Ai Weiwei could be charged with illegal fundraising. Ai disclosed to the public his hefty tax bill only last week, and since then nearly 20,000 people have donated more than 5.3 million yuan ($840,000) to help the artist pay an enormous sum of back taxes and fines.
The Global Times, a state-run Chinese newspaper, castigated Ai’s funding measures and suggested that using the contributions to pay back the government "could be an example of illegal fundraising." The newspaper also attempted to downplay Ai’s support from the Chinese people. "It is absolutely normal for a certain number of people to show their support for him with donations. But these people are an extremely small number when compared with China's total population," the newspaper’s commentary read. "Ai's political preference along with his supporters' cannot stand for the mainstream public, which is opposed to radical and confrontational political stances."
Communist China has long been seeking to increase its influence over the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, whether through economic, industrial, diplomatic, or militaristic means, as part of its gambit for geopolitical dominance. Part of this overall mission has been the establishment of formal ties with various African nations, most of them impoverished and home to petty dictators, such as the beleaguered nation of Zambia, where concerns have been raised that China is engaged in widespread human rights abuses against Zambian copper mine workers, according to a report released last week from Human Rights Watch.
In a 122-page report, " 'You'll Be Fired If You Refuse': Labor Abuses in Zambia's Chinese State-owned Copper Mines," the international rights watchdog said that despite improvements in recent years, safety and labor conditions at Chinese-owned mines are worse than at other foreign-owned mines, and Chinese mine managers often violate government regulations in their treatment of Zambian workers. These violations include poor health and safety conditions, regular 12-hour and even 18-hour shifts involving arduous labor, and anti-union activities, all in violation of Zambia’s national laws or international labor standards. The four Chinese-run copper mining companies in Zambia are subsidiaries of China Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation, a state-owned enterprise under the authority of China’s highest executive body. Copper mining is the lifeblood of the Zambian economy, contributing nearly 75 percent of the country’s exports and two-thirds of the central government revenue.
JBS CEO Art Thompson's weekly video news update for November 7-13, 2011.
According to American intelligence sources, senior Israeli ministers who once opposed a military strike against Iran are now indicating support for such an endeavor. Those sources indicate that Israeli officials have been swayed by updates on the progress Iran has made toward building a nuclear program, believing that the next round of sanctions will not be tough enough. Israeli President Shimon Peres has warned that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly imminent, prompting U.S. officials to voice concerns that Israel may attack Iran without any warning for the United States.
Last week, the Israeli military launched a “ballistic missile” test, in addition to a large-scale civil defense drill. Though Israeli officials indicate that the drills were planned long ago, some believe the tests reveal a potential drive toward Israeli military action against Iran.
Sources indicate that information about how Israel would like to proceed with Iran will likely appear in the next International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran, expected on November 8. Members of the Obama administration claim that the change of heart is based on the notion that Iran may already possess a nuclear weapon.
Rosen Plevneliev managed a narrow victory in Bulgaria's recent presidential elections on a reform platform pledging to clean up the country's corruption-plagued government, one of the most notorious in Europe. On November 3, Plevneliev was certified as the official winner in Bulgaria’s presidential race. The President-elect immediately declared that the first thing he plans to do after assuming office is fire all Bulgarian diplomats abroad who have been exposed as former agents of the communist Committee of State Security (CSS).
Egypt’s ruling military junta is positioning itself to keep the reins of power even after elections take place, prompting outrage and criticism among Egyptians of all political persuasions. Critics, meanwhile, are being silenced by the regime. And talk of a “second revolution” is becoming more widespread.
Among the most contentious issues is a proposal by the Egyptian cabinet — hand picked by the military — to ensure that civilian government cannot meddle in the affairs of the armed forces. Because the military regime would be recognized as the guarantor of “constitutional legitimacy,” analysts said the junta would in effect continue to rule without any limits to its power. Even its budget would be secret.
The scheme would also give the military the ability to virtually exclude elected representatives from the process of drafting a new constitution, with 80 percent of the delegates being selected by the generals. And all it takes for the proposal to become binding is approval from the two dozen generals on the “Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.”
When it comes to private property, wrote economist Ludwig von Mises, it is a simple “either-or” proposition: “either private ownership of the means of production, or hunger and misery for everyone.” In 1959, Fidel Castro essentially abolished private property in Cuba, and the result has been exactly as Mises predicted: a declining standard of living and shortages of basic necessities such as food, building materials, and housing.
Faced with this reality, Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother and successor, has begun scaling back government and liberalizing property laws. He has pledged to trim nearly one-quarter of the government workforce, which accounts for over 80 percent of all jobs in Cuba. Last year he began allowing private enterprise in some limited circumstances, and now “the number of private business operators has hit more than 333,000, above the expectations of the authorities, from 148,000 in 2010,” according to Agence France-Presse. In October he lifted some restrictions on the buying and selling of automobiles. Now, in what the Associated Press terms “the most important reform yet,” Castro’s government has announced that individuals will, for the first time in half a century, be able to buy and sell real estate.