World Media Watch
by Gloria R. Lalumia
August 5, 2005
|MEDIA WATCH ARCHIVES|
World Media Watch
by Gloria R. Lalumia
BuzzFlash Note: WMW provides BuzzFlash readers foreign views and perspectives that are not usually available from the media here in the U.S. The presentation of these articles from these international publications is not an endorsement of their viewpoints.
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WORLD MEDIA WATCH FOR AUGUST 5, 2005
1/International Crisis Group, Tehran/Brussels--IRAN: WHAT DOES AHMADI-NEJAD'S VICTORY MEAN? (The surprise election of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, who is being sworn in as president this week, has given rise to dire predictions about Iran's domestic and foreign policies and relations with the U.S. and the European Union. There are reasons for concern. Based on his rhetoric, past performance, and the company he keeps, Ahmadi-Nejad appears a throwback to the revolution's early days: more ideological, less pragmatic, and anti-American. But for the West, and the U.S. in particular, to reach and act upon hasty conclusions would be wrong. Iran is governed by complex institutions and competing power centres that inherently favour continuity over change. More importantly, none of the fundamentals has changed: the regime is not about to collapse; it holds pivotal cards on Iraq and nuclear proliferation; and any chance of modifying its behaviour will come, if at all, through serious, coordinated EU and U.S. efforts to engage it.)
2/MercoPress, Uruguay--OPEC MEMBER ANTICIPATES 70 US DOLLARS PER BARREL (Crude prices could reach 70 US dollars per barrel towards the end of the year if current circumstances persist, forecasted Iran Oil Deputy Minister Hadi Najad-Hosseinian during a visit to India. "Experts anticipate 70 US dollars per barrel, and we believe this could happen towards the end of the year," said Najad-Hosseinian. … Iran is the second largest producer of OPEC (behind Saudi Arabia) which has been pumping oil at the highest level in twenty five years.)
3/The Moscow Times, Russia--OPINION: SHIFTING FORCES ALONG THE SILK ROAD (Sociologist Giovanni Arrighi offers what may be the most serious explanation of the stakes involved in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Sept. 11, 2001, gave the George W. Bush administration an extraordinary opportunity, comparable to Pearl Harbor, to attempt to remold the world order. Bush's goal of establishing effective control over the volatile and oil-rich Middle East seems obvious enough. But looming behind it is another, larger goal: the containment of China. Control over the world's oil spigot is one way to achieve this. The other is establishing U.S. military bases where this previously seemed unthinkable. The bases in Central Asia serve this purpose wonderfully: Close to the active Middle Eastern theater of operations, they are also strategically lurking behind China's back. After just four years, this U.S. advance is being rolled back. After Andijan, Karimov got an additional lease on life, along with the knowledge that his new patrons value political stability above all. Russia scored, but surely the biggest winner was China.)
4/The Daily Star, Lebanon--LIBYA REFORMS EXCEED EXPECTATIONS (… While turning a rogue nation into a lauded paragon of international cooperation quickly was an extraordinary feat, Gadhafi's ambitions are greater. Despite his long allegiance to socialism, Gadhafi is now moving his country toward a Western-style free market system. Libya recently announced it would lift virtually all tariffs on imports later this year and is preparing a bid for membership in the World Trade Organization. Other barriers to foreign investment have been or will be eased, and there are plans to privatize many state-owned concerns soon - an unthinkable suggestion a decade ago.)
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1/International Crisis Group, Tehran/Brussels 4 August 2005
IRAN: WHAT DOES AHMADI-NEJAD'S VICTORY MEAN?
Middle East Briefing N°18
Ideologically, Ahmadi-Nejad remains somewhat of a mystery, not so much because he conceals his beliefs as because they are strikingly abstract. His campaign utterances, much like his mayoral tenure, were dominated by lofty phrases about economic justice, Islam, national dignity and the need to protect the national interest against foreigners. Arguably the best indicator of his views are the positions of his allies -- the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the basij militia, and the Abadgaran movement, all of which have embraced socially conservative and internationally confrontational outlooks, and some of which have supported violent activity abroad.
But presidential change is unlikely to signify fundamental policy change. Ironically, the same U.S. observers who before the election argued a reform victory would make little difference because unelected officials make decisions, have been quick to express alarm at a threatened rightward turn. Given Iran's political system, earlier assessments ring truer. Domestic changes may come at the margins, not spectacular enough to provoke international opprobrium, albeit serious enough for those affected. On the foreign front, the style likely will be more confrontational and less appealing to Western audiences, and in the short run at least, Ahmadi-Nejad's surprise victory is likely to aggravate tensions with Washington and perhaps with Brussels. A diplomatic newcomer, Ahmadi-Nejad brings a less sophisticated approach than his predecessor; alone among the candidates, he did not broach improved relations with the U.S. during the campaign and, since his victory, has been at best indifferent about them. But bottom line positions -- on Iran's nuclear program, regional interests, Iraq policy -- almost certainly will not budge in the foreseeable future.
The new president is dismissive of the need to improve relations with the U.S., and his election strengthened those within the U.S. administration who have long believed engagement would only further entrench a hostile, undemocratic regime and who wish to pursue a strategy of "delegitimisation". But though both sides might take short-term comfort from continued estrangement, this posture is unsustainable. On at least two burning issues -- Iraq and the nuclear question -- the U.S. and Iran inexorably must engage, collide or both. While Iran has turned a page on the Khatami era, President Ahmadi-Nejad faces the same situation and President Bush the same dilemmas as before.
In short, and for all their flaws -- hundreds of candidates, including all women, were disqualified by an unelected body, and there were serious charges of irregularities -- the election clarified some core realities of Iranian politics, with significant implications that the West cannot afford to ignore:
The current regime is not about to collapse, and any reform movement will need time to revive. In an election that by regional standards was competitive, had strong participation, and offered a broad choice, Iranians voted on the basis of economic rather than political needs. There is little doubt a vast majority wants genuine reform but at this point is more interested in its well-being, and Ahmadi-Nejad spoke to that issue best. In contrast, the reform movement is in disarray, unable to find a way to participate in the political system without ultimately being stymied and discredited by it. Reformers are disorganised, lack a strong leader, have a desultory eight-year record and are failing to connect with voters' everyday concerns. In other words, for all the dissatisfaction, the regime is not nearing collapse. For the U.S. to assume that popular anger will translate into an organised opposition and that the regime is ripe for a fall would be a risky gamble that virtually nothing in Iran appears to validate.
Serious, coordinated U.S.-EU engagement with Iran on the nuclear issue is required to avert a full-blown crisis or, at a minimum, genuinely test Tehran's intentions. Renewed Iranian threats to resume work at a uranium conversion facility in Isfahan are only the latest indication that the current process is not working. More creative proposals -- allowing Iran to operate a small enrichment capacity under strict international surveillance or joint Iranian/international management of nuclear sites -- should be put on the table, along with discussion of Tehran's security concerns, before taking the uncertain step of Security Council referral.
2/MercoPress, Uruguay Thursday, 04 August 2005
OPEC MEMBER ANTICIPATES 70 US DOLLARS PER BARREL
Crude prices could reach 70 US dollars per barrel towards the end of the year if current circumstances persist, forecasted Iran Oil Deputy Minister Hadi Najad-Hosseinian during a visit to India.
Although the Iran official did not specify the type of crude, oil markets Wednesday marked a new record 62,50 US dollars per barrel, an approximately 40% increase in the first six months of 2005.
Iran is the second largest producer of OPEC (behind Saudi Arabia) which has been pumping oil at the highest level in twenty five years.
Analysts said the latest surge can be tracked to a possible decline in US gasoline and heating oil reserves plus the hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico and production cuts in several US refineries.
Crude prices have been steadily increasing for the last two years because of insufficient refining capacity to keep up with a strong demand from the US and the growing demand from emerging economies such as China and India.
"Each problem, each event, recalls the industry how close to the edge it's functioning," said Deborah White from SG Commodities.
"Refineries have been running a marathon for the last two years and are exhausted. But the marathon is far from over," she underlined.
Meantime Indonesia said it was seriously considering abandoning OPEC permanent membership.
3/The Moscow Times, Russia Friday, August 5, 2005. Issue 3224. Page 8.
OPINION: SHIFTING FORCES ALONG THE SILK ROAD
The recent eviction of the U.S. military from a base in Uzbekistan is indeed unprecedented. Since 1945, U.S. hegemony has relied on a global network of military bases and naval fleets, which has never been scaled back. The framework of bases, along with the attendant political and economic aid arrangements, held together the geopolitical space of the "free world" better than outdated formal colonialism. Justified by the containment of the communist menace in one epoch and ethnic strife and terrorism in another, the American bases became essentially permanent.
This is why the bad news from Tashkent caused perhaps more bewilderment than anger in Washington. The emerging U.S. rationalization for this setback flows from the current ideology, which similarly rationalizes the setbacks in Iraq or Afghanistan as a struggle between good and evil: The native despots cannot stand the advancing light of democracy and bite back.
The United States, from Karimov's standpoint, proved to be a capricious and forgetful patron. In fact, given all the floating allegations of Western sponsorship in the recent spate of revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, the United States looked downright dangerous to the embattled Karimov. Yet, however desperate he might have felt, Karimov would not have dared to snub the American empire had he not been nudged by another promising patron of imperial stature and ambition.
Was this alternative patron Russia? Yes, but only in part. Karimov knew from personal and often bitter experience that Russia could be no less forgetful for its own reasons. If the United States is being torn between the pragmatic needs of its global military commitments and the official ideology of spreading democracy, Russia has yet to acquire a coherent policy, let alone the means of implementing it. Russia still enjoys a significant presence in its former imperial underbelly. But in strategically secluded Central Asia, Russia is no longer and will never again be the strongest external force.
The wind blows from the East. We all know that China is rising in a big way. But can we appreciate the extent of this shift and its further implications?
Sociologist Giovanni Arrighi offers what may be the most serious explanation of the stakes involved in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Sept. 11, 2001, gave the George W. Bush administration an extraordinary opportunity, comparable to Pearl Harbor, to attempt to remold the world order. Bush's goal of establishing effective control over the volatile and oil-rich Middle East seems obvious enough.
But looming behind it is another, larger goal: the containment of China. Control over the world's oil spigot is one way to achieve this. The other is establishing U.S. military bases where this previously seemed unthinkable. The bases in Central Asia serve this purpose wonderfully: Close to the active Middle Eastern theater of operations, they are also strategically lurking behind China's back.
After just four years, this U.S. advance is being rolled back. After Andijan, Karimov got an additional lease on life, along with the knowledge that his new patrons value political stability above all. Russia scored, but surely the biggest winner was China.
Very probably, the map of Central Asia will soon change irreversibly with the extension of the Trans-Chinese highway. New oil pipelines are to follow. This might make Shanghai much closer to Tashkent than Washington or even Moscow, not only in terms of geopolitics but also trade. What is unlikely to arrive any time soon on the ancient banks of the Oxus River, however, is political freedom.
4/The Daily Star, Lebanon Friday, August 05, 2005
LIBYA REFORMS EXCEED EXPECTATIONS
For nearly 36 years, Libya's fate has been inextricably linked with that of its enigmatic leader, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi. While for much of that time that fate has been isolation from the rest of the world and domination by socialism, something new is brewing in Tripoli. After decades opposing the West and maintaining a policy of nonalignment as part of his "Third Universal Theory," Gadhafi has recently worked to restore Libya's standing in the international community and modernize his nation's outdated economy. While the self-styled "leader of the revolution" is anything but predictable, his stunning about-face could mark the beginning of a Libyan renaissance.
But suddenly things are looking up. Gadhafi has gone out of his way to make amends for Lockerbie and other incidents. Libya formally accepted responsibility for the killings and provided compensation for victims in 2003. Later that year, Gadhafi publicly abandoned all weapons of mass destruction programs. By 2004, all sanctions had been lifted and Libya had restored diplomatic ties with the U.S. The change in fortunes could not have been more dramatic or swift. In 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush added Libya to his "axis of evil"; this year he praised the country, calling on North Korea's Kim Jong Il to emulate Gadhafi.
While turning a rogue nation into a lauded paragon of international cooperation quickly was an extraordinary feat, Gadhafi's ambitions are greater. Despite his long allegiance to socialism, Gadhafi is now moving his country toward a Western-style free market system. Libya recently announced it would lift virtually all tariffs on imports later this year and is preparing a bid for membership in the World Trade Organization. Other barriers to foreign investment have been or will be eased, and there are plans to privatize many state-owned concerns soon - an unthinkable suggestion a decade ago.
If Gadhafi succeeds in fully liberalizing Libya's trade relations, next he will need to work to bring in foreign investors and create new industries. Currently, Libya's economy is largely based on the country's oil reserves. Manufacturing and construction from about 20 percent of GDP, a figure that will need to rise as oil production inevitably drops. Unemployment is high - 30 percent - and jobs for the growing number of young, educated Libyans are needed. Perhaps tourism is the solution; although Libya is not currently viewed as a prime vacation spot, Gadhafi has recently voiced interest in developing hotels on the country's long coastline. Perhaps, as Libya becomes increasingly viewed as a mainstream, Western-friendly nation, more tourists will choose to spend their holidays there.
There are still many unanswered questions. Will the sometimes fickle Gadhafi change course yet again, setting back recent progress? Even if not, what will the country look like after he is gone? Some say Gadhafi has chosen as his successor his son, Saif, who many believe is encouraging his father's new pro-Western policies. But as Libya becomes more economically and politically connected to the rest of the world, Libyans could become increasingly unwilling to live in an undemocratic country. While in some ways Libya's current autocratic system has actually made reform easier - government policies in democracies can rarely be changed so drastically, so quickly - it will increasingly become an impediment. Political destabilization is never good for business; hopefully Libya will eventually be able to make a smooth transition to a more stable form of government.
5/DW.World.de/Deutsche-Welle, Germany 05.08.05 | 03:16 UTC
FAVORED COALITION LOSES MAJORITY IN GERMAN POLL
The coalition of the woman tipped to win the German polls next month, Angela Merkel, has for the first time since March seen its opinion poll rating slip below the threshold needed to win a parliamentary majority.
With six weeks to go before the election, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats gained a point to reach 29 percent, with their junior partner the Greens at eight percent. A new breakaway alliance, the Left Party, fell one point to 11 percent.
Only 29 percent said they preferred Merkel's choice of the conservatives and liberals and a dismal 14 percent said they wanted to see a continuation of the current ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens.
However with six weeks to go before the election and many voters still believed to be undecided, there is still ample scope for the polls to change.