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THE INTERNATIONAL OBSERVER

and

GLOBAL SURVEY

            

 

 

 

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    Our 36th year of publishing The International Observer

The Latest Issue

VIEWING THE WORLD

 Among the most noticeable developments of the last few weeks we must mention in no particular order the first legally-binding Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Adopted by a United Nations (UN) conference in July, it opened for signature on 20 September. Next to the greatest threat to the world, uncontrolled global warming changing the climate, accidental or willful use of nuclear weapons is the second-ranking threat to humanity. Underlining the dangers posed by the weapons, the UN Secretary General on 26 September remarked bluntly “The only world that is safe from the use of nuclear weapons is a world that is completely free of the nuclear weapons themselves.” While most of the non-nuclear states will sign up, countries with nuclear weapons, including the United States of America, are in no rush to follow. Unless they can all agree to simultaneously give them up, the treaty will remain unfulfilled.

Speaking about climate change, it is noteworthy that a number of prominent speakers at the General Debate of the new General Assembly, especially those from Pacific island nations, asked for speedier action. Without doubt, the recent devastations of Caribbean islands and in the southernmost US ─ not necessarily all due to a change in climate ─ are dramatizing urgency. The French president noted that the next climate conference will be held in December in Paris.

Changes of a different nature are in store for the European Union (EU). Both, the president of the EU Commission and the head of state of France are pushing the issue and have made more detailed recommendations. While there is no overall agreement and comments that the Macron suggestions are better suited to France, the German Chancellor gave her full support for them.

In Germany, Bundestag elections have been held. Chancellorship will not change about the shape of the next coalition government remains uncertain. A further complication is the not unexpected rise of the far-right neo-Nazi anti-immigrant and anti-EU Alternative for Germany (AfD) party which placed third and will make its influence felt in committees.

Aside from conflicts and disputes (see Situation Updates), attention in the next months will continue to be occupied with the Qatar-Saudi Arabia quarrel, Turkey playing its influential power role, independence movements in Kurdistan and Catalonia, exploitation of the Rohingya misery in Burma by others, and the further undemocratic moves by the former Khmer Rouge leader in Cambodia to stay in power.

Considerable effort is made in China to prevent any diversion of attention from the 19th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) in Beijing on 18 October under the leadership of the current General Secretary: Closure of Tibet to travel, increased restrictions placed on Kazakhs, Tibetans, and Uighurs, closing off more Internet access, websites, citizen reports on incidents, and increased use of so-called “social management.”

September 2017

Noticed and Noted

United Nations

Al Jazeera closure demand rejected as unacceptable attack on press freedom

The attack by Israel, Saudi Arabia and its allies against the Al Jazeera news network based in Doha, Qatar, and operating worldwide, has also elicited strong condemnation from Amnesty International (AI), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the United Nations.

 The High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) rejected the demand that Qatar close Al Jazeera as an ‘unacceptable attack’ and described it as “extraordinary, unprecedented and clearly unreasonable.” He said “whether or not you watch it, like it, or agree with its editorial standpoints, Al Jazeera’s Arabic and English channels are legitimate, and have many millions of viewers.” The High Commission’s spokesman added that “the demand that they be summarily closed down is, in our view, an unacceptable attack on the right to freedom of expression and opinion.”

 

Chinese Concerns

Preparations are being made for the 19th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing and the anticipated reconfirmation of General Secretary Xi Jinping. Those supporting him point to his steady spread of the People’s Republic’s influence around the world, especially in Africa, advancing the Belt & Road infrastructure project, asserting sovereignty in the East and South China Seas, widening leadership of the CCP, the anti-corruption campaign, increased social management of the people of China, and continuing economic growth. But all is not well. Xi is seizing too much power for himself ─ “the core of leadership” ─ has used disciplinary and frugality actions to destroy rival networks, appears to be avoiding preparing, much less designating someone to succeed him, tightening regimentation of people, failing to reach acceptance or conciliation with the native population of Tibet and Xinjiang. Abroad, aside from generally cordial receptions in Europe, he is criticized for being unable or unwilling to restrain North Korea nuclear efforts, growing control of the internet and social media, interfering with the rights of Hong Kong voters, condoning unseemly and inhuman harassment of mourners of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo who died in prison on 13 July after spending more than a decade in prison for asking for political reform and keeping his wife under unofficial house arrest.

‘Putting America first is simply wrongheaded’

A Commentary

In an opinion piece former Secretary of State Colin Powell took issue with the president’s approach to diplomacy and his proposal to cut the budget of the Department of State and foreign aid programs by about 30 percent. The former general noted that he had “learned plenty about war on the battlefield, but I learned even more about the importance of finding peace.” Powell severely criticizes “The idea that putting Americans ‘first’ requires a withdrawal from the world is simply wrongheaded, because a retreat would achieve exactly the opposite for our citizens… Indeed, we are strongest when the face of America isn’t only a soldier carrying a gun but also a diplomat negotiating peace, a Peace Corps volunteer bringing clean water to a village or a relief worker stepping of a cargo plane as floodwaters rise…. With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside our borders, it’s not ‘America First’ to surrender the field to an ambitious China rapidly expanding its influence, building highways and railroads across Africa and Asia.” Powell emphasizes “America is great when we’re the country that the world admires, a beacon of hope and a principled people who are generous, fair and caring. That’s the American way.”

Colin Powell: Leadership Isn’t Free. New York NY: The New York Times, 25 May 2017. (The author served as National Security Advisor 1987-1989, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 1989-1993, and  Secretary of State 2001-2005.)

 

G7 and NATO members disappointed

Most participants of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Meeting of Heads of State and Government in Brussels on 25 May and the Group of Seven (G7) Summit meeting in Taormina, Italy on 26-27 May were sorely disappointed by the lack of community spirit and contribution by the new US president. So much so that soon afterwards the German chancellor declared that dependence on the US has become uncertain and that Europe better rely on itself.

 

BHP on the move worries secular and Muslim Indians

Attention stays fixed on the continuing influence and political strength of the governing Hindu nationalistic Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). After recent gains in state elections and installation of an extremist religious leader as chief minister in Uttar Pradesh, secular and Muslim opponents are worried not only that the country may move farther right but that religious strife will again become more commonplace. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is credited with widening economic development and advocating modernization but is not disassociating himself from some of his militant Hindu supporters.

 

Ominous Developments

 The new Administration in Washington is taking the country closer to domestic social and international  influence setbacks with its diplomatic, economic, fiscal, and trade policies to the detriment of the nation and especially of  lower income and middle class Americans.

 In France, about to elect a new president on 23 April and 7 May, its pro-European position and support for the North Atlantic Alliance could be shattered if Ms. Marine Le Pen of the reactionary anti-foreigner National Front (FN) should win the presidency.

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 In Turkey, an affirmative vote in the referendum on 16 April on proposed constitu-tional changes would give the autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dictatorial control over government, courts and parliament. After having pursued for years placing himself at the head of an Islamic state at the expense of reopening fights with Turkey’s Kurdish minority, attacking and insulting the leaders of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the European Union, and arresting or firing some 100,000 of its own citizens while committing an ever growing number of violations of human and political rights, he might be close to achieving his goal. There are, however, authoritative predictions that holding the ‘super-presidency’ will place both him and the nation in peril from ensuing violent reaction.

 

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The government of the United Kingdom is carrying out the wish of the Little Englanders after having given formal notice on 29 March to the European Union about leaving. Meanwhile a growing number of influential business leaders, economists, and politicians as well as Northern Ireland and Scotland are advancing their concerns, some calling it “a willful act of self-destruction.” As it turns out, the prime minister’s plan of quickly elevating the kingdom to an influential and rewarding position in the world will be slowed down considerably by the decision of the European Union of 31 March — first negotiations about withdrawal and retaining rights of EU citizens and settling financial accounts, then talks about trade and benefitting from the European common market.

March 2017

 

The Future of the West: Downfall or Comeback?

Munich Security Conference 2017

 “What would [the conference’s founder’s] generation say if they saw our world today? I fear that much about it would be all-too-familiar to them, and they would be alarmed by it.

 They would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism.

 They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims.

 They would be alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.

 They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent. 

 But what would alarm them most, I think, is a sense that many of our peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West ... that they see it as a bad deal that we may be better off without ... and that while Western nations still have the power to maintain our world order, it is unclear whether we have the will. “

 US Senator John S. McCain III at the

2017 Munich Security Conference (MSC), 17 February 2017.

 

Obstacle noted on Moldova’s path to Europe

A situation of concern may be developing next to Romania and Ukraine. On 13 November, Igor Dodon, a pro-Russian president was elected. The country, a former republic of the Soviet Union, is already split when in August 1991 the eastern, predominantly Russian part declared its independence as the Transdniestrian Moldovan Republic (TMR), backed up by Russian military forces that had never left. The majority of the inhabitants  are Moldovans who speak Romanian and recognize their cultural identity but so far have decided to remain separate. Nevertheless, past governments have pursued an opening to the European Union (EU) and have entered into an association agreement. Now the move into the union is stagnating and the new president is not only opposing partnership but wants to restore close relations with Russia while weakening any links to the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

January 2017

 

 

 

 

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