— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for March, 2013

Cross Talk: Syria as Proxy

‘Israel launched air strikes into Syria in response to border fire from the Golan Heights. What is Israel’s role in the Syrian civil war? What is their hidden agenda? And what about the future of the Golan Heights? CrossTalking with Sabah Al-Mukhtar, Dan Arbell and Nabil Mikhail (27 March 2013)’.

BRICS Summit in Durban, South Africa

On 26 March 2013, the “Big Picture” on India’s parliamentary television station Rajya Sabha TV discussed the BRICS summit in Durban (26-7 March 2013): ‘Guests: M K Bhadrakumar (Former Ambassador and Foreign Policy analyst) ; Mohan Guruswamy (Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation) ; Nandan Unnikrishnan (Senior Journalist and Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation) ; Pramit Pal Chaudhary (Foreign Affairs Editor, Hindustan Times) – Anchor: Girish Nikam’.

The Associated Press reports as follows: ‘Leaders of five of the world’s emerging economic powers agreed Wednesday [, 27 March] to create a development bank to help fund their $4.5 trillion infrastructure plans _ a direct challenge to the World Bank that they accuse of Western bias. But the rulers of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa _known as the BRICS group _were unable to agree on some basic issues. Foreign Minister Pravin Gordhan of South Africa told reporters that there were “different views” about how much capital such a bank would need. He said $50 billion had been mentioned, an amount conference officials said would be seed capital shared equally between the five countries. Finance ministers had discussed basing contributions on a country’s wealth, but then felt it would leave economic giant China, with the world’s No. 2 economy, in an untenably dominant position, according to conference officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to reporters. Analysts said there was little doubt that China, with the world’s largest reserves of foreign exchange, inevitably would be dominant, perhaps in much the same way that the United States and Europe dominate the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The development bank would be the first institution of the informal BRICS forum which was started in 2009 amid the economic meltdown to chart a new and more equitable world economic order. South Africa joined two years ago. “Russia supports the creation of this financial institution,” President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday, but he cautioned “we believe that, if it is created, then it must work on market principles only and support the businesses of all our countries.” But his deputy foreign minister, Sergey A. Ryabkov, implied the announcement was premature: “We are not contesting the idea, we support it, we favor it, but we are urging everyone to be serious enough to make further efforts in order to create the right foundation.” They were at a stage where “the devil is in the details,” he added. Inability to agree on fine points about the bank, first mooted a year ago when finance ministers were tasked with exploring its feasibility, highlighted the differences between the bloc that is made up of democracies and autocracies, diverse foreign policies and structurally different economies. But at the fifth BRICS summit, its first in South Africa at the coastal resort of Durban, leaders pointed to their shared histories and aims: South Africa, very much the junior partner with a much smaller economy, has a decades-old relationship with China and Russia since they funded and armed anti-apartheid liberation movements; it shares a history of colonization with Brazil, a country that was the destination for more African slaves than any other; and with India as Mahatma Gandhi lived in South Africa for more than 20 years and developed his political activism here as he faced discrimination from a white minority government. South African President Jacob Zuma, whose country is lobbying to be home to the BRICS development bank, said the formal negotiations to establish the institution were “based on our own considerable infrastructure needs, which amount to about $4.5 trillion U.S. dollars over the next five years.” The bank will also cooperate with other emerging market countries and developing economies. Zuma said the bank also will establish a “BRICS contingent reserve arrangement,” a pool of money to cushion member states against any future economic shocks and further lessen their dependence on Western institutions. Both those aims challenge the traditional roles of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, institutions that in their 50-year life have been dominated by the United States and Europe’.[1]

Will Durban spell the end of the era of Breton Woods???  The AP report continues that ‘Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said BRICS has confounded its critics. “Even the most skeptical voices do recognize the contribution the BRICS bloc of countries has provided in the field of international economics,” she said. Even the World Bank has said that global growth over the past few years and for the foreseeable future is being driven by the bloc. Rousseff said it is time multilateral institutions like the IMF and World Bank become more democratic to clearly reflect the growing influence of developing countries’.[2]  If nothing else, these developments highlight the power of words, as the mere concept of BRIC (or BRICS, as it is now spelt and understood) was actually coined by the Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill, lumping together far-flung countries with apparently similar economic outlooks. I wonder what will happen to the MIST configuration in some years’ time???

[2] “BRICS plan development bank to fund infrastructure”.

The Role of the U.S. in Syria: Training and Non-Lethal Aid???

Last year, I posted this: ‘Over the past months, Turkey has been one of the most vocal critics of the Assad regime. Tayyip Erdoğan has more than once called for Assad’s removal. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on the other hand, has instead called for calm and deliberation in dealing with Damascus, insisting on the implementation of the Annan Plan. Earlier this year, the recently much-publicised U.S. whistleblower Sibel Edmonds declared publicly that her sources indicated that the Syrian armed opposition has been receiving logistic aid and military training since April 2011. Edmonds also declared that the U.S. and Turkey had been cooperating on this, and that the U.S. Air Force base in İncirlik (Turkey) is used  as a training facility for the so-called Free Syrian Army and other opponents of the Damascus regime. At the same time, reports have surfaced that Libyan fighters from Misrata went to Syria in an effort to support attempts to overthrow Assad. In addition, rumours have equally abounded about Saudi Arabia and Qattar’s mobilization of  Jihadi fighters to undermine the secular Baath regime in Syria’.[1]

[1] “Op-Ed: The Road to Intervention in Syria” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (06 June 2012). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/op-ed-the-road-to-intervention-in-syria/.

TRNN: Turkey, Israel and the Wider Middle East

‘Col. Lawrence Wilkerson: Israel needed Obama to broker Turkey deal as Netanyahu’s policies and unstable region put Israel in a precarious position (25 March 2013)’.

Afghanistan 2013 Update

‘U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Afghanistan where he and President Hamid Karzai discussed efforts to bring the Taliban into reconciliation talks. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from Kabul that the previously unannounced visit follows agreement on the U.S. handover of its last Afghan prisoners.Karzai discussed efforts to bring the Taliban into reconciliation talks. The previously unannounced visit follows agreement on the U.S. handover of its last Afghan prisoners. Scott Stearns reports from Kabul (25 March 2013)’ .

Guantánamo Update 2013: Hunger Strike and the Darkest Bush Days

‘More than 100 detainees held in the U.S. military prison at GuantánamoBay are reportedly entering their fifth week of a hunger strike sparked by deteriorating conditions. News of the hunger strike first emerged last week, but it appears the action involves far more prisoners than previously thought. In a letter to his attorney, one detainee wrote: “We are in danger. One of the soldiers fired on one of the brothers a month ago. Before that, they send the emergency forces with M-16 weapons into one of the brothers’ cell blocks. … Now they want to return us to the darkest days under [George W.] Bush. They said this to us. Please do something. We’re joined by Pardiss Kebriaei, senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights and counsel for one of the hunger strikers (13 March 2013)’.

Cyber War: The U.S. to Set Up 13 Offensive Cyber Teams

‘Officer Gen. Keith Alexander, who heads the US Cyber Command and National Security Agency, announced on Tuesday that the US is developing 40 new teams of cyber support teams to be ready by 2015. This move comes after the highly publicized cyber-attacks on American companies and of the 40 teams, 13 of them will be responsible for deploying attacks on other countries. So what does this mean for America’s cybersecurity and the face of future warfare? RT’s Andrew Blake joins us to discuss the latest developments. (13 March 2013)’.


Habemus Papam: Francis I

‘Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected in a surprise choice to be the new leader of the troubled Roman Catholic Church, taking the name Francis I and becoming the first non-European pontiff in nearly 1,300 years. (13 Mar ch 2013)’.

‘The first Latin American pope, Argentina’s Jorge Bergoglio is a moderate known for his strong negotiating skills as well as a readiness to challenge powerful interests’.

The first non-European Pope may have been born on the other side of the world, in South America, but his heritage is still resolutely European and white . . . still he seems to be quite different from his two staunchly conservative predecessors, John Paul and Benedict. The BBC gives this short press review: ‘The first non-European leader of the Catholic Church for 1,300 years is pictured on most front pages, waving to the thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Square. “Pope Francis the humble” is the main headline in the Daily Telegraph, which says he appeared “as surprised as anyone” by his election. The paper describes him as the “antithesis of Vatican pomp”, highlighting that he is “a man known for catching the bus and eschewing the luxuries of high office”. For the Independent, he’s an “inspired and original choice” and a signal that “change has come” to the Catholic Church. The Sun says that when Pope Benedict announced it was time for a younger man, “few imagined his replacement would be 76”, but the paper reckons Francis has “energy and charisma”. The Guardian welcomes an “extraordinary leap” from the conservatism of the last two papacies, and a “decisive shift in the church’s centre of gravity”. The Daily Mail asks simply whether he can “clean up his troubled Church?”. The Times believes the new leader of the Catholic Church gives “every indication of inspiring admiration, even devotion, as well as respect”. But it goes on to add that the Argentine is “not untainted by controversy”. The Sun reports, bluntly, that “Pope Francis wants Britain to hand back the Falklands”. The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires has said previously that the islands were “usurped” by Britain, and in 2010 he insisted the Falklands “are ours”. Several papers also report that he’s been accused of complicity in the kidnapping of two liberal Jesuit priests by Argentina’s military junta, during the so-called dirty war. He has denied the allegations, and insists he helped many dissidents during the dictatorship’.[1]

[1] “Newspaper review: Press react to new Pope Francis” BBC News (14 March 2013). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21781637.

South of the Border, 2010 (O. Stone)

South of the Border is a 2009 documentary film directed by Oliver Stone. The documentary premiered at the 2009 Venice Film Festival. Writer for the project Tariq Ali calls the documentary “a political road movie”. Stone stated that he hopes the film will help people better understand a leader who is wrongly ridiculed “as a strongman, as a buffoon, as a clown”. The film has Stone and his crew travel from the Caribbean down the spine of the Andes in an attempt to explain the “phenomenon” of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, and account for the continent’s “pink tide” leftward tilt. A key feature is also Venezuela’s recent Bolivarian revolution and Latin America’s political progress in the 21st century. In addition to Chávez, Stone sought to flesh out several other Latin American presidents whose policies and personalities generally get limited, or according to Stone, biased media attention in the United States and Europe, notably: Evo Morales of Bolivia; Cristina Kirchner and former president Néstor Kirchner of Argentina; Rafael Correa of Ecuador; Raúl Castro of Cuba; Fernando Lugo of Paraguay; and Lula da Silva of Brazil.

Wilkerson Attacks Senate Resolution on Iran

‘Col. Lawrence Wilkerson: Resolution S.RES.65 sends the message to Iran that the US objective is regime change, not a negotiated settlement to nuclear question (13 March 2013)’.