World Media Watch
by Gloria R. Lalumia
June 19, 2006
|MEDIA WATCH ARCHIVES|
World Media Watch
Edited 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 JUNE 19, 2006
1//The Guardian, UK--BROWN AIDE: WE WILL LOSE NEXT ELECTION (One of Gordon Brown's closest aides has warned that Labour on its current course will lose the next election and be out of power for 15 years, since voters have lost trust in the party and will no longer listen to its message. The warning by Michael Wills, a former Home Office minister and the Labour MP for Swindon North, is the most public disclosure yet of the deep concern in the chancellor's circle that Labour may lose the election unless there is a radical renewal of the party. Mr Wills said: "The trouble with the current approach is that we will go out of power and we will go out of power for 15 years." He warned that the party could not afford such a fate, suggesting the Tories would "salami-slice massively redistributive tax credits out of existence". … He recounted how the American pollster Frank Lunz [sic] recently conducted focus groups for BBC Newsnight. He recalled footage of Mr Blair saying "the usual things about the health service and public service reform", which "got uniformly negative readings all the way through. So Frank Lunz asked them 'why are you responding so terribly like this, don't you like what he is saying? What they said is, 'it is him, it is you' - this is the experience actually most Labour politicians have on the doorstep with most Labour ministers, not just with the prime minister".)
3//Regnum News Agency, Russia--EXPERT: SCO’s ENERGY CLUB WILL BECOME THE OPEC ALTERNATIVE (Deputy technical engineer of the Open Stock Holding Company Barki Tojik (Tajik electric power) Rashid Gulov told REGNUM correspondent that the idea of creating the SCO’s Energy club is beneficial for Tajikistan’s economic interests. He said that the SCO member countries, particularly, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan possess vast energy resources and hydrocarbon fuel. On the other hand, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have immense hydroelectric energy resources that, if they are jointly explored and rationally used, could tangibly improve the energy security of all the countries in the region. “If all the SCO member countries and those who are willing to join it — Iran, Pakistan, and India — join their efforts to create the SCO Energy Commonwealth, this could become the world’s most powerful energy alliance. And this commonwealth most likely may be regarded as an alternative to OPEC,” Gulov suggested. … Speaking on oil and natural gas reserves in Tajikistan, Gulov mentioned that the US specialists have recently discovered a huge oil and natural gas field in the north of Afghanistan, on some estimates, the largest in the world. “The Afghanistan’s north is also Tajikistan’s south. That is why the head of Gazprom arrived to Tajikistan right after the news was made public, and a new joint enterprise for the exploration and production of oil and natural gas in our country is being established. That is why I dare to assure you that Tajikistan will not have the observer status in the SCO Energy club; our country is gradually becoming a large exporter of energy resources in the region.)
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BROWN AIDE: WE WILL LOSE NEXT ELECTION
Patrick Wintour, Political Editor
One of Gordon Brown's closest aides has warned that Labour on its current course will lose the next election and be out of power for 15 years, since voters have lost trust in the party and will no longer listen to its message.
Mr Wills said: "The trouble with the current approach is that we will go out of power and we will go out of power for 15 years." He warned that the party could not afford such a fate, suggesting the Tories would "salami-slice massively redistributive tax credits out of existence".
Mr Brown played a role in encouraging Mr Wills to gain his seat and has subsequently seen him as an important adviser on British identity and the public mood.
At a fringe meeting during a weekend conference organised by Compass, a leftwing pressure group, Mr Wills claimed that at the last election "every single Labour MP on the doorstep reported profound disillusionment and disengagement. We scraped through. If 14,000 Labour voters had voted Tory in May 2005, we would have been in a hung parliament. That is all it took - that is how narrow it was".
He continued: " We have got good messages and we are delivering on public services so why is it they don't listen any more? It is because they don't trust us. Iraq is an important part of that. The presidential style of the prime minister - which brought us great dividends in the early years and now we are seeing the mirror image of that - is also part of it."
He added: "Unless we can get people to start listening to us, unless they are prepared to hear the messages we are putting across, we are going to lose next time. There is no question about it."
He recounted how the American pollster Frank Lunz recently conducted focus groups for BBC Newsnight. He recalled footage of Mr Blair saying "the usual things about the health service and public service reform", which "got uniformly negative readings all the way through. So Frank Lunz asked them 'why are you responding so terribly like this, don't you like what he is saying? What they said is, 'it is him, it is you' - this is the experience actually most Labour politicians have on the doorstep with most Labour ministers, not just with the prime minister".
In an indication of what he believes the chancellor will need to do, he added that the electorate "have got to believe Labour politicians are on their side and 'understand concerns of people like us' ... They don't believe that at the moment".
NEW MOVES ON THE TRIPOLAR CHESSBOARD
For months, the US press and policymaking elite have portrayed the crisis with Iran as a two-sided struggle between Washington and Tehran, with the European powers as well as Russia and China playing supporting roles.
It is certainly true that US President George W Bush and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad are the leading protagonists in this drama, with each making inflammatory statements about the other to whip up public support at home.
But an informed reading of recent international diplomacy surrounding the Iranian crisis suggests that another equally fierce - and undoubtedly more important - struggle is also taking place: a tripolar contest among the United States, Russia and China for domination of the greater Persian Gulf/Caspian Sea region and its mammoth energy reserves.
When it comes to grand strategy, top Bush administration officials have long attempted to maintain US dominance over the "global chessboard" (as they see it) by diminishing the influence of the only other significant players, Russia and China.
This classic geopolitical contest began with a flourish in early 2001, when the White House signaled the provocative course it planned to follow by unilaterally repudiating the US-Russian Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and announcing new high-tech arms sales to Taiwan, which China still considers a breakaway province.
After the events of September 11, 2001, these initial signals of antagonism were toned down to secure Russian and Chinese assistance in fighting the "war on terror", but in recent months the classic chessboard version of great-power politics has again come to dominate strategic thinking in Washington.
Checkmate for whom?
That all key parties see this unfolding crisis as part of a larger geopolitical struggle is beyond doubt. For example, the Russians and Chinese have begun to create something of a counter-bloc to the United States in Central Asia, using the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a vehicle.
Originally established by Moscow and Beijing to combat ethnic separatism in Central Asia, the SCO - now including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan - has become more like a regional security organization, a sort of mini-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (but also an anti-NATO).
Clearly, the Russians and the Chinese hope that it will help them turn back US influence in the energy-rich Islamic territories of the former Soviet Union, and in this it has shown - in Uzbekistan, at least - some signs of realpolitik success. At a recent meeting of the organization, the current members went so far as to invite Iran to join as an observer - to the obvious displeasure of Washington. "It strikes me as passing strange," Rumsfeld opined recently in Singapore, "that one would want to bring into an organization that says it's against terrorism ... the leading terrorist nation in the world: Iran."
At the same time, the United States has sought to line up its own allies - including South Asian wildcard India - for a possible military confrontation with Iran. Even though Bush insists that he's prepared to rely on diplomacy to resolve the crisis, Pentagon officials have sought the assistance of NATO in planning air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. In March, for example, the head of NATO's Airborne Early Warning and Control Force, General Axel Tuttelmann, indicated that his force was ready to assist US forces at the very onset of a US attack on Iran. The German press has also reported that former CIA director Peter Goss visited Turkey late last year to request that country's assistance in conducting air strikes against Iran.
Despite continuing calls for diplomacy to prevail, all sides in this wider struggle recognize that the current situation cannot last forever. For one thing, the shaky position of the Bush administration - politically at home, in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in its attempts to secure geopolitical advantage in Central Asia, and economically at a global level - continues to develop fissures and to embolden those countries, Iran included, that might frustrate its desires.
To top Bush officials, still dreaming of global energy hegemony, the situation may seem increasingly perilous, but the window to act may also appear in danger of closing. Their appetite for European, Chinese or Russian stalling tactics, no less Iranian intransigence, may not be great; and, however much Moscow and Beijing try to persuade the Iranians to back down on nuclear matters, thereby averting US military action, their influence in Tehran may not prove strong enough.
If, in the coming few months, Iran rejects US demands for the complete and permanent termination of its nuclear-enrichment activities, the United States will certainly insist on the imposition of sanctions at the UN. If, in turn, the Security Council (with the acquiescence of Russia and China) adopts purely symbolic gestures to no visible effect, Washington will then demand tougher sanctions under Chapter VII; and if either Russia or China vetoes such measures, the Bush administration will almost certainly choose to use military means against Iran, playing out Moscow's and Beijing's worst fears.
Russia and China can thus be expected to stretch out the diplomatic process for as long as possible, hoping thereby to make military action by the United States appear illegitimate to the Europeans and others. By the same token, the hawks in Washington will undoubtedly become increasingly impatient with the delays - viewing them as rear-guard strategic moves by Russia and China - and so will push for military action by the end of this year if nothing has been accomplished by then on the diplomatic front.
As the crisis over Iran unfolds, most of the news commentary will continue to focus on the war of words between Washington and Tehran. Political insiders understand, however, that the most significant struggle is the one that remains just out of sight, pitting Washington against Moscow and Beijing in the battle for global influence and energy domination. From this perspective, Iran is just one battlefield - however significant - in a far larger, more long-lasting, and momentous contest.
EXPERT: SCO’s ENERGY CLUB WILL BECOME THE OPEC ALTERNATIVE
Deputy technical engineer of the Open Stock Holding Company Barki Tojik (Tajik electric power) Rashid Gulov told REGNUM correspondent that the idea of creating the SCO’s Energy club is beneficial for Tajikistan’s economic interests. He said that the SCO member countries, particularly, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan possess vast energy resources and hydrocarbon fuel. On the other hand, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have immense hydroelectric energy resources that, if they are jointly explored and rationally used, could tangibly improve the energy security of all the countries in the region. “If all the SCO member countries and those who are willing to join it — Iran, Pakistan, and India — join their efforts to create the SCO Energy Commonwealth, this could become the world’s most powerful energy alliance. And this commonwealth most likely may be regarded as an alternative to OPEC,” Gulov suggested.
Gulov also said that the energy body of SCO should, first of all, solve the issues of effective use of energy resources possessed by its member countries. “Today, each of the countries has its own energy policy, lacks basic energy saving policy, lacks a rational approach to natural gas and oil production, without giving a thought to the fact that in 10-15 years, these resources will be used up. If we had a visibly acting energy union, then we could raise the issue of why we have to burn so much of natural gas to produce electric energy if we have huge renewable energy sources in the neighboring Tajikistan. Both countries could build tens of large water power plants on Tajikistan’s territory. In this case, Uzbekistan could use natural gas for imports, to boost chemical industry output, and so forth.”
Russia, China, and Kazakhstan have already started to work on the problem, Gulov said. “Russia intends to finish the Rogun and Sangutdin hydroelectric power plants construction; China is interested in building both power transmission lines and water power plants as such in Tajikistan; Kazakhstan has an immense interest to build 2nd and 3d construction stages of the Rogun water power plant and a hydroelectric power station cascade on the Zerafshan River.
Speaking on oil and natural gas reserves in Tajikistan, Gulov mentioned that the US specialists have recently discovered a huge oil and natural gas field in the north of Afghanistan, on some estimates, the largest in the world. “The Afghanistan’s north is also Tajikistan’s south. That is why the head of Gazprom arrived to Tajikistan right after the news was made public, and a new joint enterprise for the exploration and production of oil and natural gas in our country is being established. That is why I dare to assure you that Tajikistan will not have the observer status in the SCO Energy club; our country is gradually becoming a large exporter of energy resources in the region. Because only the proved volume of renewable hydroelectric energy resources in our country amount to 527bn kW/h,” Gulov said to REGNUM correspondent.
COMMENT: RELIGION IS THE WILD CARD IN TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS
Anyone involved in politics has to make difficult ethical decisions. In Europe as in the United States, religious convictions nowadays play a key role because the interplay between religion and politics has become increasingly central to the transatlantic dialogue.
The religious landscape is changing in both the US and Europe. Religious issues are of ever greater relevance to foreign policy, and the relations of all European countries, with the US and especially those of Germany are taking on a quasi-domestic character because US policy trends are having a direct impact on Europe‘s domestic policies. This applies to religious as well as to other issues.
For example, German diplomats in the US regularly hear complaints from religious groups about the ban in Germany on home schooling. Because in the 18th and 19th centuries only the offspring of rich Europeans were taught at home, we regard compulsory school attendance as a mark of democratic progress. So even though a minority of Islamic immigrants may want to keep their children out of school, compulsory attendance is in my view indispensable to their social interaction.
European countries have made incitement to hatred through propaganda against any religion a punishable offence.
Freedom of religious worship offers no immunity from prosecution, even if hate speeches are made inside a church, synagogue or mosque. In other words, although the US and Germany cherish the same basic values of freedom of opinion and religion, our different histories mean that when basic democratic values conflict, we have wound up with different hierarchies of values.
American pre-Enlightenment religiosity
In the US, the proportion of evangelicals as a whole is less than 25%, but in the 2004 election 77.5% of all the evangelicals voted for President Bush, accounting for almost 40% of all Republican votes.
Along with the votes of traditionally-minded Catholics, voters who are not just conservative in religious terms but also in a political sense look to be greater than half of the American electorate.
There are no movements represented in the Bundestag that can be compared with the religious right in the US, nor do they play any significant role in German society. Both politically and culturally, the religious right in the US and the secularized or Christian left in Germany couldn't be more different.
Many Germans now tend to equate America's religious right with fundamentalists within Islam, Hinduism or Judaism. For the trend in Europe is generally towards the secularization of politics. By contrast, the US is a country of believers and politically assertive churchgoers. Although some 26m Germans are Protestant church members, only a small minority of about 1.3m might be considered evangelicals.
In short, the theology prevailing in Europe is one that sees itself as the sister of philosophy. My impression is very different when I go to church in the US, especially in the Deep South or the Midwest, where I find much more emphasis on emotions and personal faith. For many Europeans, such views are fundamentalist and thus an expression of a pre-Enlightenment religiosity.
Links between religion and patriotism
There is also a widespread link in the US between religion and patriotism which meets not just with incomprehension in Europe, but with dismay.
It is a link that in Germany arouses profoundly negative associations with our own history of having banned and destroyed unwanted religions. In Europe as a whole it is seen askance because of our past history of using religion to justify wars and colonial conquests.
European doubts about the development of America's faith-based politics have been succinctly expressed by Bishop Wolfgang Huber, Chairman of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany.
He has pointed out that when in 1963 Martin Luther King declared "I have a dream" he spoke of freedom and equality for everyone. His dream was not linked to any particular claim to power and was a call for non-violent protest. He evoked a vision which spanned continents, even religions.
Bishop Huber went on to say: "In Martin Luther King's version, the Christian influence on the American dream is particularly marked… At the same time, however, it is possible to view this the other way round; the Christian dream as an American dream. Where such a reversal takes place, the American dream gives rise to the idea of American superiority in the name of Christ."
TESTING TIMES FOR INDO-US NUCLEAR DEAL
NEW DELHI - As the United States and India held yet another round of intensive talks this week to flesh out the landmark nuclear deal they signed in July, it became clear that they will both explore how far they can push each other for concessions that would ease Congressional approval.
Both sides are bargaining hard as they test each other's will to implement the agreement quickly. They are mobilising their energies both in bilateral talks and through media comments.
Under the deal, the U.S. has offered a one-time exception for India in the existing global non-proliferation regime so that India can keep its nuclear weapons without signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Meanwhile, India is coming under increasing pressure to demonstrate its loyalty to a larger "strategic partnership". Prime Minister Manmohan Singh absented himself from an important meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, (SCO) this week, largely because the U.S. views the SCO with suspicion and New Delhi does not want to antagonise Washington.
The SCO includes China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Two of these, Russia and China are nuclear powers while India and Pakistan, which have observer status at the SCO, are aspiring nuclear powers having carried out weapon tests in 1998.
Iran, which also has observer status and is accused by the West of trying to develop nuclear weapons, sent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Shanghai summit.
While Indian nuclear hawks run a spirited campaign against the deal as a "sellout" and a "coup" to defang India, an impressive number of U.S. Nobel laureates have issued a strong statement against the agreement.
In the nuclear poker between Washington and New Delhi, two sets of issues have become critical for settling the agreement and getting it ratified by the Congress.
One set pertains to ‘technical', but important, questions: What kind of safeguards must India accept on its civilian nuclear programme? Assuming India is allowed to import nuclear fuel, what criteria will determine how it is modified/processed, stored and/or reprocessed? What can guarantee that it will not be diverted to military uses? And under what terms the agreement can be terminated by either side?
The second issue concerns possible further nuclear testing by India. Must it sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, or a bilateral agreement with the U.S. not to conduct future tests? Or will a voluntary moratorium of the kind declared in 1998 and reiterated in the July 2005 accord do?
Ideally, the U.S. would like India to offer something more than the July assurance so that the deal can pass relatively smoothly through the Congress: e.g. a legally binding commitment not to conduct a nuclear blast.
But India flatly rejects this. It wants to keep the moratorium voluntary. Such a moratorium can easily be rescinded. Under existing U.S. laws, a country that conducts a nuclear test automatically attracts sanctions and forfeits civilian cooperation with the U.S.
These issues will figure in the coming round of talks next month. Both sides are proceeding with cautious optimism.
India's options here are extremely limited. For all practical purposes, the Manmohan Singh government cannot amend or go beyond its understanding of the nuclear deal recorded in the Jul. 18 agreement, which notifies as "civilian" only 14 out of its 22 power reactors (under operation or construction).
However, the Bush administration may not find it possible to pilot the agreement through unless it is seen to have extracted an additional assurance from India against further tests.