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China's power disequilibrium

Fifty years ago, China was a totalitarian state - there was nothing outside of the part: no civil society, no market economy, and no companies. The country was completely isolated from the outside world. China now is extremely different, and President Xi Jinping has an international community to be responsible to. However, one question is, how long is Xi Jinping in power for? Ten years - or for life? - Francesco Sisci (Jan 30, '15)

STDs and strategy in Iran
In the 5th Century BC, the "Persian disease" noted by Hippocrates probably was bubonic plague; in 8th-century Japan, it meant the measles. Today it well might mean chlamydia. Standout levels of infertility among Iranian couples, a major cause of the country's falling birth rate, coincide with epidemic levels of sexually transmitted disease. Both reflect deep-seated social pathologies. (Jan 30, '15)

Obama's India visit a big blank
The three-day state visit by the Barack Obama to India - an unprecedented second visit by an incumbent US president to India - was extraordinarily rich in political symbolism, yet it failed to produce a substantive outcome. There were no commitments regarding US investments, no accord on climate change, no flagship project on joint development of military technology. Nor did India sign any new contracts for US weaponry. - M K Bhadrakumar (Jan 30, '15)

Saudi Arabia's culpability for extremism
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a hothouse of extremism that nurtures distorted dogma. Its acceptance, endorsement and external preaching of perverted ideology is an international disgrace. It has an absurd, outdated and hypocritical monarchic regime that has the unearned distinction of being located at the geographical center of a great religion that has been perverted by self-centered bigots.
- Brian Cloughley (Jan 30, '15)

Dear Syria: From one refugee to another
Nine million Syrian refugees are now duplicating the Palestinian tragedy of 1948. Watching the destitution of the Syrian refugees is like rewinding the past, in all of its awful details. And watching Arab states clamor to aid the refugees with ample words and little action feels as if we are living Arab betrayal all over again. Here is a survival guide. - Ramzy Baroud (Jan 30, '15)

Asia feels pressure on Interview
North Korea has launched an international campaign to suppress viewing of The Interview, including demands to the governments of Myanmar and Cambodia to curb DVD sales of the comedy movie, whose depiction of Korean leader Kim Jong-eun led to a hack of movie-maker Sony Pictures' software. - Bertil Lintner and Nate Thayer (Jan 29, '15)

How US policy blunders hurt Israel
It has long been obvious that Russian foreign policy involves a trade-off between Ukraine and Iran, responding to Western efforts to bring Ukraine (and Crimea) into an alliance by subverting US interests elsewhere. Vladimir Putin must be frustrated to encounter a White House so eager to deal with Iran that it fails to notice where its interests have been impaired. The Israelis, however, do notice. (Jan 28, '15)

West's agri-giants snap up Ukraine
Ukraine has the equivalent of one-third of the entire arable land in the European Union. The maneuvering for control over the country's agricultural system is a pivotal factor in the latest East-West confrontation as Monsanto, Cargill, and DuPont lead the drive to control all aspects of Ukraine's agricultural supply chain.
- Frederic Mousseau (Jan 28, '15)

Oil price boost for Indo-Vietnam ties
The decline in oil prices has been great news for the Narendra Modi government, which in just seven months of being in office has seen a drop in India's current account deficit and an easing of inflation. It also creates an opening for strengthening ties with oil-exporting Vietnam. - Sadhavi Chauhan (Jan 22, '15)

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India v China: Border games
India is the belle of the ball, as world and Asian powers make pilgrimages to flirt with India's new prime minister. But Narendra Mod and India have some unpleasant baggage that their suitors do their best to ignore. There is also the unfortunate matter of a very dodgy non-treaty concerning Arunachal Pradesh that Delhi definitely does not want unpacked and studied.
- Peter Lee (Jan 28, '15)

'Turk Stream' far from a done deal
The latest part of the saga concerning Russia's southern pipelines delivering gas to Europe has attracted two wrong assumptions. The first overlooks the underutilization of the old BlueStream link to Turkey; the second, that agreement has been reached with Ankara on the route of the proposed new "Turk Stream". Not so, and in important ways. Then there is the impact of falling oil prices. - Robert M Cutler (Jan 28, '15)

The collapse of Europe?
Between 1989 and 2014, Europe quietly became more prosperous and more of a player in international affairs (while lacking the muscle to play global policeman). It rose to third in population behind China and India and is the world's largest trading power. Yet now the European project is teetering on the edge of failure. - John Feffer (Jan 28, '15)

Obama insists he's on course in Yemen
President Barack Obama during his visit to India has rebuffed right-wing criticism in Washington that his "appeasement" policy of Iran has muddled US Middle East policies and brought about the latest crisis in Yemen, now close to civil war conditions. Notably, he refrained from mentioning Iran and from making any criticism of Yemen's Sh'ite Houthis, whose actions have helped to precipitate the crisis.
- M K Bhadrakumar (Jan 26, '15)

The Saudi palace coup
Saudi King Abdullah’s writ lasted all of 12 hours after his death. Within that period the Sudairis, a rich and politically powerful clan within the House of Saud, which had been weakened by the late king, burst back into prominence. It was a palace coup in all but name, all before Abdullah was even buried. - David Hearst (Jan 26, '15)
For Pepe Escobar's take on the Saudi succession, written just before King Abdullah's death, see here.

Blair turned deaf ear to warnings
Tony Blair had a cough. He looked sick, pale and exhausted. “Don’t tell me it is going to be bad,” he said to the six men he had summoned to see him in Downing Street as war loomed. “Tell me how bad it will be.” This was a meeting that could have changed the course of history - if only the British prime minister had listened.
- Cole Moreton (Jan 26, '15)

Why the Teesta matters
The inability of Indian leaders to reach an understanding with their Bangladeshi counterparts on the vexed issue of sharing the resources of the Teesta river is emerging as a major threat to the two countries’ multi-faceted bilateral ties. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's resistance is a key factor in blocking an agreement. - Rupak Bhattacharjee (Jan 26, '15)

Kim's 'crime' is Putin, not Sony
There is at the least a whiff of bogosity in the blaming of North Korea in the Sony hacking case. A more immediate explanation for the quick sanctions slapdown is Kim Jung-eun's desire to circumvent the Six Party Talks united front by dealing with the Monster of the Century, Russian President Vladimir Putin. - Peter Lee (Jan 22, '15)

What can Obama do for India?
When US President Barack Obama visits New Delhi on Sunday, his guests will know from his State of the Union address his overriding concern over the US’ economic recovery - he will want to know how useful Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government can be for boosting US exports and for creating jobs. But will Modi be too equally focused on what his priorities are?
- M K Bhadrakumar (Jan 22, '15)

US stands back as Mongolia falters
The United States’ muted profile in mineral-rich, landlocked Mongolia receded even more in 2014. Indeed, the US has largely stood by while Mongolia has deliberately integrated its faltering economy closer with its two neighbors, China and Russia. - Alicia J Campi (Jan 22, '15)

The golden age of black ops
During the 12 months through last September, US Special Operations forces deployed to 133 countries - roughly 70% of all the world's nations. Just 66 days into fiscal 2015, America’s most elite troops had already set foot in 105 nations, approximately 80% of fiscal 2014's total. Despite its massive scale and scope, this secret global war across much of the planet is unknown to most Americans. - Nick Turse (Jan 21, '15)

Hollande fails to learn from Bush
France's President Francois Hollande has succeeded at launching wars, but has failed at managing their consequences - as the latest attacks in Paris have demonstrated. In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings, he seems intent on repeating the failed policies of the George W Bush administration and reversing the principled and sound choices of former French presidents, like Jacques Chirac.
- Ramzy Baroud (Jan 21, '15)

Final push to open high seas pact talks
The United Nations is to make its third - and perhaps final - attempt at reaching an agreement to launch negotiations for an international biodiversity treaty governing the high seas. The present lack of governance on the high seas is widely accepted as one of the major factors contributing to ocean degradation from human activities. - Thalif Deen (Jan 21, '15)

Taming the wild Salween
Time may be running out for Southeast Asia’s last major undammed river - the Salween, also known as the Nu in China and Thanlwin in Myanmar - which originates in Tibet and flows south for 2,800 kilometers through Myanmar into the Andaman Sea. There are plans to construct 19 dams along the length of the river and its tributaries. - Alec Forss (Jan 21, '15)

China implements new pollution rules
As China implements tougher pollution rules and stiffer penalties under its first reform of environmental law in 25 years, the government faces questions about how far the enforcement will go. - Michael Lelyveld (Jan 21, '15)

Lebensraum in Palestine
Olives were originally cultivated in Syria, Palestine and Crete and some existing trees are 2,000 years old - but none of these now exist in Palestine. Indeed, there are few left there of any age. It is ironic that an ancient symbol of peace is used by the Israelis as a modern means of persecution. Uprooting and hacking down olive trees symbolizes all that Israel stands for as regards the Palestinian people.
- Brian Cloughley (Jan 20, '15)

Saudis face rethink on Iran rivalry
The terrorist strike last week on the Saudi border post facing the Iraqi province of Anbar - known to be the Islamic State's first assault on the kingdom - could be the proverbial straw on the camel's back, forcing Riyadh into a profound rethink of its regional strategies imbued with the rivalries involving Iran. - M K Bhadrakumar (Jan 16, '15)

UN helpless over Badawi flogging
Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was publicly flogged 50 times last Friday, is due to be flogged again today and every Friday - 19 more times - until his full sentence of 1,000 lashes has been fully carried out. He will then face 10 years in jail. The rest of the world, including the United Nations, is too impotent to stop his punishment.
- Thalif Deen (Jan 16, '15)

Charlie Hebdo and Fredou:
Who's awake, who's still in bed?

On January 8, France 3, the second-largest French public TV channel, reported the death that morning of a police commissioner who had been investigating the January 7 attack on the French weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Western mainstream media find the story not worth reporting. (Jan 16, '15)

Needed: an international cyber treaty
We are witnessing state and non-state actors steal our intellectual property, corrupt and destroy our computer networks and threaten our critical infrastructure. Ultimately, an international cyber treaty, with clear rules of conduct and legal remedies when rules are broken, is necessary. The cyber hacking attack on Sony Pictures should be a wake up call to all nations.
- Joseph R DeTrani (Jan 16, '15)

Russia's 'Turk Stream' move against Europe
Russia continues to play hardball with natural gas for the European Union, trying to get Brussels to sacrifice Ukraine in return for the promise of better relations with Moscow. The latest Russian ploy - "Turk Stream" - amounts to the threat of a new cut-off, albeit one with a kinder, gentler face.
- Robert M Cutler (Jan 16, '15)


China oil imports
surge as prices fall

China has been providing one of the few supports for the world oil markets amid declining prices, with imports surging 10% last year to a record, probably in a move to fill the country's strategic petroleum reserve.
- Michael Lelyveld

Citic $10b sale faced
government doubts

China's Ministry of Finance had reservations about selling one-fifth of Citic Ltd's shares to Japanese and Thai investors in a US$10 billion deal that marks the biggest foreign investment ever in a state-owned enterprise. Its top investor is China's largest industrial and financial conglomerate, Citic Group.

The rich get richer
Since the beginning of the financial crisis in 2009, banks have paid a staggering US$178 billion in fines, yet no banker has been incriminated in a personal capacity. No less astonishing, in two years’ time the richest 1% of the world´s population will have a greater share of its wealth than the remaining 99%. - Roberto Savio

Crisis as you sleep
Backdrops conductive to crises can drag on for so long, sometimes seemingly forever, as if they're moving in ultra-slow motion. Invariably, they lull most to sleep. Better yet, such environments even work to embolden the optimists - then most everyone gets caught totally unprepared.
Doug Noland looks at the previous week's events each Monday.

Obama ticks off
India’s ‘Sangh Parivar’

President Barack Obama’s visit to India has concluded on controversial note. Just before he left India on Tuesday, in his town hall address in Delhi, Obama waded into a topic that even India's brave-hearted Prime Minister Narendra Modi fears to tread - freedom of religion in India. - M K Bhadrakumar

[Re: Turning tables on North Korea, Nov 17, '14] Xi Jinping's haughty treatment of Barack Obama during the recent summit in Beijing should indicate that China is not interested in boxing in North Korea.
Junzo Nakamura
   Go to Letters to the Editor

1. Libya: Be careful what you wish for

2. Oil free market is bad news for US

3. Russia, Turkey pivot across Eurasia

4. 'Drill, baby, drill' in the South China Sea

5. The cleansing of India

6. Kurdistan stays its hand, for now

7. Northeast India needs a Yoda

8. Usmanov does good by Nobel laureate Watson

9. CIA torture: the future starts here

10. War by media and the end of truth

(Dec 12-14, 2014)


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