Friday, November 21, 2008

JAPAN needs to create an independent foreign policy

Japan needs to create an independent foreign policy

World War Two (WW2) finished a very long time ago, however, in Japan it appears that time is standing still because this nation is over compliant towards America. Also, Japan is still alienated in Northeast Asia because of her past history. For unlike Germany, which became sincere after WW2, too many nationalists remain within the ruling inner-circle in Japan and symbolic nationalist issues like Yasukuni Shrine continues to add "fuel to the fire." Therefore, Japan needs a sincere approach and to move closer to her natural environment, rather than "hanging on to the coat" of America. So can Japan revolutionize her thinking and establish an independent foreign policy?

Firstly, this article is not aimed at being anti-American, it merely applies to the need for Japan to develop an independent foreign and monetary policy. Of course relations should remain strong with the USA and shared interests will be natural. However, at the moment it appears that Japan is a mere "lackey" of America and this simply isn’t good enough. So of course both nations must continue to foster close relations but not at the expense of Japan’s independence. Given this, Japan must move closer to other regional nations and firmly set her sights on being independent.

Ex-PM Abe hinted at a shared alliance based on "democratic principles" and this applies to America, Australia, India, and New Zealand, respectively. Also, ex-PM Abe focused on NATO and how Japan can play a role within this institution. Much of his domestic thinking was a little strange and out of step with public opinion, however, his foreign policy objectives did make sense. Yet he suffered from two major weaknesses. Firstly, ex-PM Abe was "toothless" when it came to America, just like other past leaders. Secondly, and sadly, he embroiled himself in nationalistic scandals, for example speaking negatively about the "comfort women" issue and then endorsing "revisionism" with regards to historical events which took place in Okinawa.

So can a future political leader stand up and be counted? I certainly hope so because how can Japan be trusted within the international community if nations don’t take her independence seriously? This is a serious issue because Japan desires to become a permanent member of the United Nations but under the current circumstances, then many nations have reservations about this. Given this reality, it is vital for Japan to change direction and embrace not only Asia but the international community.

If Japan does not change her thinking then her reputation within the international community will be further weakened. Also, regional nations, for example China, the Russian Federation, North Korea, and South Korea, will merely ignore Japan’s thinking and they will not trust the motives of Tokyo. Therefore, the time is right to transform the foreign policy of Japan. After all, the current American "lackey" status is hindering Japan. So surely Japan needs to become independent and play a leading role within the United Nations and other major institutions.

This also applies to Japan's monetary policies because even in this field it is clear that Japan is offering the hand of friendship towards America. For example, around 90% of all Japanese reserves are held in either American bonds or in the dollar. Yet with the current weakness of the dollar and the American economy, then is this policy justified? Also, what about supporting the Japanese yen with regards to major foreign transactions? To me this policy is either naive at best or at worse it is further evidence about her limited independence. Once more, Japan must diversify her monetary policies and look to the Euro, gold, and other currencies or international bonds, while of course still holding dollars and American bonds, but not at the current level.

So can Japan develop a new way? Sadly, under the current leaders of Japan, then the answer may still be no. However, to be fair to the current leader of Japan, PM Aso, then we can not judge him because he only took office recently. Yet, despite this, it would appear that PM Aso will maintain the current status quo and he will follow a pro-American foreign policy.

However, PM Aso should refrain from this and instead he should focus on regional powers and important international blocs, while preserving close ties with America. For if Japan wants to become accepted internationally, an independent policy is essential. Also, Japan must "build sincere bridges" with China, North Korea, and South Korea; and leaders in Tokyo must "break the chain" with regards to the Russian Federation. Yet can the current ruling party do this given past history?

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA

Thursday, November 13, 2008

MONGOLIA and the importance of this nation to America, China, and Russia

MONGOLIA and the importance of this nation to America, China, and Russia

The nation of Mongolia is very large in landmass, however, her population is very small and it would appear that this nation is not blessed by her geography. However, if we focus on this nation being democratic, independent, and neutral; then clearly Mongolia can help to soothe relations between China and the Russian Federation during times of difficulty. Therefore, can Mongolia play a good "hand of poker" and make the most of her geopolitical reality?

For leaders in Moscow, it is clear that Mongolia is important because this nation is surrounded by both China and the Russian Federation. Therefore, the geopolitical significance of Mongolia is obvious to both China and the Russian Federation. Given this reality, political leaders in Moscow desire to help this nation because it is vital that Mongolia at least remains neutral.

Also, America could encroach by offering vast economic and political support. Therefore, important policies are being implemented by the Russian Federation with regards to energy routes, transport networks, economic zones, for example the Tumen River Delta Economic Zone, and other dynamic policies. So the strategic importance of Mongolia to the Russian Federation is abundantly clear and Moscow desires to maintain a neutral Mongolia.

China shares similar views towards Mongolia because if tensions did develop with the Russian Federation, then Mongolia would be an important nation because of the geopolitical reality of this country. So Mongolia is deemed to be a vital "buffer" between both China and the Russian Federation. However, at the moment both Beijing and Moscow have cordial relations between each other and towards Ulan Bator. Therefore, Mongolia should upgrade her economy while both nations are working together on so many issues.

China is also worried about the "American card." So it is in the interest of both China and the Russian Federation to shore up their relationship. After all, American meddling could upset the applecart. However, China does have one major "ace" and this applies to the economic angle. Therefore, China does have a lot of economic influence in Mongolia because China is Mongolia's major trading partner.

China and the Russian Federation also fear America having major military bases in Mongolia in the future. This applies to America having independent bases in Mongolia or via the framework of NATO troops. China is also worried about the Taiwan issue, therefore, China can not afford a weakness within her geopolitical zone of influence and Mongolian neutrality is a must for the leaders of Beijing.

America, on the other hand, desires to keep both nations in check and of course they hope to increase their influence in Mongolia for geopolitical and military reasons. America also understands that Mongolia is in a very strategic region and they desire to increase their influence within the "backyard" of both China and the Russian Federation. America also knows that Mongolia could be threatened, after all inner Mongolia lies within the nation of China. Therefore, it is a good way for America to keep an eye on her main rivals, while justifying this on past history.

Given this, the nation of Mongolia must utilize her geographic reality in order to boost the economy of Mongolia. Therefore, astute leaders are needed in order to play "a wise game." If this happens, then Mongolia can gain from economic and political support from all the major powers. Of course this is not going to be easy, therefore, diplomacy and statecraft is badly needed in order to maintain the current status quo.

However, for now Mongolia is utilizing her geography well because international investment continues, despite the remoteness of this nation. Yet dangers remain within the political system of Mongolia because earlier this year you had mass demonstrations in this nation. Therefore, Mongolia needs to focus on democracy and transparency because internal political tensions will lead to international capital flight and it will reduce direct foreign investments.

Also, it is hoped that regional or global institutions will help this nation. This applies to the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, NATO's Part­nership for Peace, the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, and other major institutions. The European Union should also develop a robust policy and democratic nations throughout the region should implement favorable policies towards this nation, for example South Korea and Japan. Therefore, it is vital for Mongolia and positive outside forces to help this nation to develop and to utilize the natural resources of this country.

If Mongolia can maintain her neutrality in the future, then her economy will continue to benefit and her global influence within Northeast Asia will also blossom. In this sense Mongolia is already winning and maybe this weak nation can help to reduce respective tensions in this part of world via her diplomatic policy? Therefore, all major political parties in this nation must refrain from using violence and intimidation. Instead, they must focus on preserving the independence of this nation and creating a stable economic and political system. So it is vital for Mongolia to utilize the international political system because it is clear that this nation is of strategic importance.

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

TURKEY and the secular card. Myth or reality?

Turkey and the secular card. Myth or reality?

Turkey is often praised for being secular and a future role model for other mainly Islamic societies because of its rich history of secularism. America and the United Kingdom, and other nations, often claim that Turkey is a beacon of hope and that it is evidence that democracy and secularism can exist within a mainly Muslim nation state. However, during this so-called "golden age" of secularism it is clear that religious and ethnic minorities have suffered greatly in modern day Turkey. So how true is it that Turkey is secular?

If we look at the founding father of modern day Turkey, Ataturk, then it is clear that he himself supported the destruction of Christianity via the Armenian and Assyrian Christian genocide of 1915. Therefore, it is clear that Turkish nationalism and secularism is tainted by its anti-Christian nature and also its anti-Kurdish nature. After all, the nation state of Turkey was about Turkish nationalism and secularism did not protect the religious or ethnic minorities of this diverse nation.

In spite of this, the myth of modernity and secularism based on the founding father prevails and Western nations are very optimistic about Turkey. Yes, Ataturk faced many difficulties and from a Turkish point of view he was very astute because he preserved a Turkish state when it was threatened by others. Yet in order to do this he crushed others and therefore the "bedrock" from the start was frail because it was based on Turkish nationalism.

Ataturk did implement many reforms in order to modernize Turkey and he did lay the foundation stone for a secular based state. In this sense he crushed Islamist hopes of a Sharia Islamic state and he gave more rights to females which did not exist in the old Ottoman Empire. But his legacy of modernity and secularism is tainted by the overt nationalism of old Turkey and this nationalism is still strong in modern day Turkey.

So if secularism means having the right to crush Christian minorities, moderate Muslim minorities like the Alevi, and ethnic minorities like the Assyrians, Syriacs, Armenians, and, most notably, the Kurds in modern day Turkey; then it is not the secularism which I support. So surely modernization and secularism is tainted by this overtly nationalist state and of course the Sunni orthodox mindset means that religious inequality is the norm?

In the 1990s the Alevi Muslims witnessed an upsurge in attacks against them. For example, David Zieden, who wrote an article called The Alevi of Anatolia, states that "Renewed inter-communal violence is sadly on the rise. In July 1993, at an Alevi cultural festival in Sivas, a Sunni fundamentalist mob set fire to a hotel where many Alevi participants had taken refuge, killing 35 of them. State security services did not interfere and prosecution against leaders of the riot was not energetically pursued. (41) In 1994, Istanbul municipal leaders from the Refah Islamic political party tried to raze an Alevi tekke (monastery) and close the Ezgi cafe where young Alevis frequently gathered."

Meanwhile, if we focus on recent times then it is clear that persecution is still continuing. After all, in 2007 three Christians had their throats slit. Two of the victims had converted from Islam to Christianity, therefore, Necati Aydia, 36, and Ugur Yuksel, 32, were killed by Islamic fanatics on the grounds of merely leaving Islam. While the other murdered Christian, Tilmann Geske, 46, was a German citizen. One of the killers stated in the Hurriyet newspaper, that "We didn't do this for ourselves. We did it for our religion. May this be a lesson to the enemies of religion."

Before concluding it is important to state that you have many positive elements within Turkish society who desire change and who support a genuine democratic Turkey, which is inclusive. Also, if we view this nation from its past history and from a Turkish point of view, then clearly this nation faced many obstacles. For Ataturk, the infancy of Turkey was about survival and many Turks also suffered greatly. Given this, it is apparent that you have many positive elements within modern day Turkey and this nation does desire to join the European Union. Also, for America, Turkey is a vital strategic ally and a valued member of NATO.

Despite this, if we look at the rights of Alevi Muslims and Christians in modern day Turkey, and the persecution of Kurds; it is clear that orthodox Sunni Islam and nationalism is still being used by conservative elites. These elites still desire to crush both religious minorities and ethnic minorities. So are minorities equal in modern day Turkey? I think their treatment is the answer to this question and in recent times we have heard about several Christian murders. Also, for the more numerous Alevi Muslims and Kurds, then it is also clear that they face huge discrimination. Therefore, I believe that secular Turkey is a myth because in reality this nation state is focused on nationalism and clamping down on all minority faiths.

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ethiopian Ambassador to Japan and Third Secretary in Tokyo speak openly about Somalia

Ethiopian Ambassador to Japan and Third Secretary in Tokyo speak openly about Somalia

I was kindly invited by the Ethiopian Ambassador to Japan, Abdirashid Dulane, in Tokyo, and the Third Secretary, Dawit Yirga, on October 14th. At all times, both Ambassador Abdirashid Dulane and Dawit Yirga, spoke openly about many diverse issues. Therefore, I will touch on these issues, while protecting their privacy with regards to topics not related to Ethiopia.

Before I start, these two fine representatives of Ethiopia offered the best of this ancient nation. For both representatives came from different ethnic groups and different faiths. Yet this did not matter, for both were proud to be Ethiopian and race and religion did not enter the equation. Therefore, all the positives of Ethiopia was mirrored in this one room and this is what Ethiopia is famous for.

Therefore, the land of Orthodox Christianity and Islam, and other minor faiths within Ethiopia, including Judaism and Traditional Beliefs, could be seen in the rich mosaic of this nation by their genuine care for both Ethiopia and the international community. It should be remembered that Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity is one of the oldest branches of Christianity. Also, Ethiopia is famous in Islam because Muslims were given protection when they were being persecuted in the 7th century. Therefore, the Prophet Mohammed said that Ethiopia was "a land of righteousness where no one was wronged."

Moving back to my meeting with both Ambassador Abdirashid Dulane and Dawit Yirga, our conversation, in the late evening, was soon to focus on Somalia, the international community, and many other issues. At once, I could tell that both representatives felt a tinge of sadness and bewilderment, about the one-sided nature of a lot of media coverage surrounding Ethiopia and the Somalian issue. This bewilderment, from my perspective, is fully justified because many journalists are not looking at the bigger picture, or easy statements are being made without any real substance.

Therefore, both Ambassador Abdirashid Dulane and Dawit Yirga, spoke passionately about Somalia and the surrounding region. They also made it clear that Ethiopia was acting in good faith and that dangerous forces, for example terrorists, criminals via piracy, and Islamic radicals, had threatened to attack Ethiopia and other nations via radicalism and criminality. It must also be stressed, that recent events clearly vindicate Ethiopia because radical Islamists last week threatened to attack Kenya and of course piracy is a growing problem.

Also, international terrorism and criminality is working together via the financial mechanism of piracy and the international war against terrorism must include Somalia. After all, Al-Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations, desire to use Somalia for their own negative means. If radical Islamists took power then we would have another Taliban and Al-Qaeda conundrum, where women would be killed for adultery and radical Islamists could plot more international terrorist attacks.

If we concentrate on piracy first, then it is clear that a stable Somalia is in the interest of all nations. The German Defense Minister, Franz Josef Jung, stated that "We have to first push back the pirates, restore security on the high seas and make free maritime trade possible again." Currently eight European nations who are members of the European Union (EU) will deploy additional warships and other members may also get involved. The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, also called for a major concerted effort to tackle this growing menace.

Therefore, Ethiopia is only interested in stabilizing Somalia and defeating forces which seek to cause deadly mayhem. Given this, it in the interest of all nations that a stable and viable Somalia can emerge. Yet this can only happen if proper funding and support is given to Ethiopia, Somalia, the African Union via their peacekeeping mission, and other major institutions, who desire to bring peace to this part of Africa.

Peter Bergen, who is a member of the important think-tank, New America Foundation, is a specialist on al-Qaeda and its network, counter insurgency methods and counter-terrorist policies, and he frequently writes about Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. On April 9, 2008, Peter Bergen commented that "..... al-Qaeda and its affiliates have targeted the ungovernable regions within Gaza, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia to establish safe havens, and they may be achieving success in certain areas. Areas such as these should be regularly monitored, al-Qaeda and affiliate activities should be disrupted and al-Qaeda should not be permitted to establish safe havens within these territories. As many African nations face the greatest threats from ungovernable regions, the U.S. should increase its annual funding for the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership."

Therefore, clearly Peter Bergen clarifies the danger of Somalia and other failed regions where terrorism can grow. Added to this, Somali Islamic fighters stated that they would take their war to Kenya via terrorist attacks and other measures. This threat is real because Sheikh Muktar Robow, on October 17, 2008, stated that "We will order all our holy warriors to start the jihadi war inside Kenya."

Also, in the past radical Islamists like Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who is wanted in connection with U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania respectively; used Somalia, alongside other Al-Qaeda operatives, in order to spread international terrorism and radical Islam. Therefore, the linkage between failed states, Islamic terrorism, harsh and draconian implementations of Sharia Islamic law, piracy, and other forms of major criminality, including the drug trade, is clearly linked. So because of this, and other factors, Ethiopia felt obliged to support the international community and the people of Somalia.

Also, I will mention again that Ethiopia is not the richest nation in the world, however, despite this, Ethiopian soldiers and the government of Ethiopia is trying to help the nation of Somalia.
Yet Ethiopia needs the international community to help both financially and via a major peacekeeping force. If the international community becomes fully involved then everybody will gain because forces of chaos will be defeated and the world will be a much safer place.Yet, in general, most nations are not pulling their weight and the burden on Ethiopia is severe but this neighbouring state is doing its best to help Somalia. Also, it is clear that Ethiopia desires to leave Somalia but only when the people of Somalia have hope. So if the international community becomes more robust on this issue, then Ethiopia can hand over the full reigns of power to both the Somalian people and the international community.

To conclude, this article was written after listening to the wise words of the Ethiopian Ambassador to Japan, Abdirashid Dulane, in Tokyo, and the Third Secretary, Dawit Yirga, on October 14th. However, I must state that this article, and my ideas, belong to myself and Ambassador Abdirashid Dulane and the Third Secretary, Dawit Yirga, may disagree with parts of my article? Yet, I would like to thank both Ambassador Abdirashid Dulane and Dawit Yirga for being great hosts, talking openly, and giving me the chance to discuss a major international topic.

Lee Jay Walker

Sunday, October 19, 2008

EGYPT - Coptic Christians are still marginalized

EGYPT - Coptic Christians are still marginalized

Egypt is viewed to be a moderate nation, however, if you scratch under the surface and study the laws of this land, and how Coptic Christians are treated, then your opinion may change? So when will the Christians of Egypt be given genuine equality? Also, are Coptic Christians best served by the estranged democracy of President Hosni Mubarak or open democracy which may unleash Islamic forces? This issue is very complex because if we look at the crisis in Iraq, then change can sometimes usher in an even more dangerous period. So what are the best options available to the minority Christian community?

Before focusing on this it must be stated that the Coptic Christians of Egypt resided in this land a long time before the Arabs invaded their nation and colonized Egypt in the distant past. Also, despite massive past historical persecution, colonialization, jizya tax, massive inequality, pogroms, massacres, and dhimmitude; many still remained loyal to their Christian faith because of the strength of the Coptic Christian church which was extremely tenacious. Of course many Muslim leaders were very moderate and many Christians were protected providing they paid jizya tax.

Therefore, the plight of Christianity often relied on the respective Muslim leader and the moderation of leading Islamic clerics. However, it only took one major spark or crisis of confidence within the Muslim community to cause havoc. Therefore, Coptics understood that being passive was their only option when we focus on past history and the same applied to accepting dhimmitude for many centuries. More recently, Coptic Christians have been divided because many in the diaspora are outspoken but many Christians in Egypt feel that "a quiet approach" is best.

Again if we look at past history it doesn`t look good. After all, when Camp David was signed between America, Israel, and Egypt, all three nations were happy; however, the same Anwar Sadat persecuted the Christian community via anti-Christian laws. Therefore, just like the Christian community in Iraq which doesn`t count and which isn`t protected, it is clear that Western nations have different interests. This fact alone should worry the Coptic Christian community because America supported the introduction of Sharia Islamic Law in Sudan in 1983, and they of course did the same in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, in more recent times many parts of Africa are in transition because in the early 19th century Islam dominated over Christianity in this part of Africa, apart from Ethiopia and Eritrea (new nation state) where the Christian and Muslin population was well established. However, by the middle of the twentieth century times had changed because Christianity grew rapidly in parts of Chad, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Therefore, the religious map of this part of Africa and the surrounding region was radically altered. Also, by the end of the twentieth century Christianity was around 13% to 17% in Sudan and the mainly Christian elite of the south fought back against radical Islam.

Therefore, the embattled Coptic Christians of Egypt are no longer isolated within the dynamics of the surrounding geography of Africa and churches are now being planted in parts of northern Sudan. Given this, it is hoped that greater Christian unity will lead to more pressure on Islamic states which discriminate against Christians in this part of Africa. So now it may be time for the Coptics to reach out and strengthen their cause in Egypt and Eastern Africa?

Unlike Africa, the future of the Christian community in the Middle East looks rather bleak because they face dhimmitude, terrorism, persecution, inequality via the legal system, a demographic time bomb, marginalization, and so much more. Also, history tells us that they do not count in the eyes of major Western powers and of course most Western governments are pro-Saudi Arabia, despite this nation not allowing one single Christian church. Given this, the Christians of the Middle East must unite and they must gain strength from their longevity in order to stop this onslaught.

Turning back to Egypt, then it is clear that organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood desire to create an Islamic state and the central government often panders to the Muslim majority. Therefore, Coptic Christians suffer dhimmitude via radical Islam and suffer discrimination at the hands of the Egyptian government. Given this, Christians are in a no-win situation and while many want "true democracy" others do not because they fear that radical Islam may come to power in the long run. Given this, the Christians of Egypt are in a major dilemma. Do they fight back against the central government which discriminates against them? Or do they remain quiet because of the fear of radical Islam? In truth, whatever they do could backfire and this is the problem.

Before concluding, it is important to state that many Christians and Muslims have great relations in Egypt. Also, in the past some local Muslims have also tried to protect Christians from radical Islamists. So persecution in Egypt is much more moderate rather than the direct persecution which happens in nations like Saudi Arabia. Also, some Muslim writers have been outspoken and they have supported the Christian community during times of persecution. Yet despite this, negative aspects of Egypt must not be ignored and many Christians have suffered within Egypt because of discrimination via the state system or they have suffered at the hands of radical Islamists.

Therefore, recent flashpoints will continue and Coptics will suffer more religious persecution, educational inequality, inequality in law, discrimination in the workplace, discrimination in national government, and they will be limited by land laws which will hinder them from building new churches or monasteries. So, overall, their situation looks negative but the changing religious map could be a future lifeline? For now, however, the Christian community must remain firm and strong, and to unite against their enemies within Egyptian society. Yet if any community can survive against all the odds, then this certainly applies to the Coptic Christians of Egypt who have remained strong in faith despite many negatives being stacked against them.

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ethiopia needs international support to contain dangerous forces in Somalia

Ethiopia needs international support to contain dangerous forces in Somalia

The Ethiopian government was faced with a stark choice, either enter Somalia and try to stabilize this nation or do nothing and allow radical Islam to destabilize the region. Obviously, the government of Ethiopia is a very responsible government, therefore, the armed forces of Ethiopia entered Somalia in December 2006. This much needed intervention dislodged the Islamists from power but it was clear that Ethiopia had hoped for greater international support. After all, Al Qaeda had entered this nation in the past and the war against terror was not meant to be limited to only a few nations. However, to the dismay of Ethiopia, the majority of world powers have mainly turned a blind eye and left Ethiopia to solve this major problem by themselves. Yet why was Ethiopia abandoned by the major powers?

One major factor could be the memory of America`s failure in Somalia and the lingering memories of American bodies being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. After all, the American led invasion in the 1990s failed to stabilize Somalia and after encountering fierce fighting they soon pulled their armed forces out of this nation. Yet the images of a lawless Somalia in this period remains and America`s failure in Somalia was costly because it boosted both the warlords and Islamists.

Therefore, when the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) unleashed a bid for power in 2006 the Ethiopian government was faced with a serious dilemma. After all, the options they faced were daunting by any standards. Either the government of Ethiopia had to shore up their borders andinternal security because of the genuine threat of contamination; or they could just allow a failed state to be taken over by radical Islamists and face future dire consequences; or Ethiopia could try and stem the tide of this chaos and be a true neighbour. Ethiopia believed that the latter was in the interest of both the Somalian people and the international community at large.

The global threat was genuine because leading international Islamists could sense a new battleground, whereby they could spread their radical version of Islam within Somalia and then use this nation to launch attacks against the international community. Also, with Yemen facing serious internal problems, then funding, manpower, and other negative factors, could easily link the Middle East with this part of Africa. Therefore, Ethiopia believed rightly that they were trying to stem the tide of an ideology which was dangerous to the people of Somalia, could threaten Ethiopia internally, and could spread terrorism and a dangerous ideology to other parts of the world.

Eliza Griswold, New America Foundation, who writes for this important think-tank, clearly links global terrorism with Somalia. After all, Eliza Griswold, in her article which was written in The New Republic (August 6, 2007), states that "The head of the UIC's shura council, Sheik Hassan Aweys, was the military leader of Al Ittihad Al Islami, which launched several attacks against Ethiopia in the 1990s and had links to Al Qaeda. Also, in the second half of 2006, hundreds of foreign fighters reportedly arrived in Somalia to fight alongside the shebab. The UIC harboured several members of Al Qaeda, including Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the elusive mastermind reportedly behind the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 225 people."

So if Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was involved in the conflict in Somalia, then it is clear that a failed nation state would have been used in order to create further mayhem. Also, other members of Al Qaeda were implicated with the chaos that engulfed Somalia in 2006 and clearly the UIC was obtaining financial and military support via international Islamic jihadist organizations. It must be remembered that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is wanted in connection with U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania respectively.

Therefore, the threat of international terrorism was too much for Ethiopia and the same applied to a failed state because the UIC was going to impose a harsh version of Sharia Islamic law on the people of Somalia. This applies to killing all converts from Islam to Christianity, stoning women to death for adultery, and other draconian measures. More important, when looking at the bigger picture, a Somalia under the UIC could have been used to launch attacks against Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Tanzania, and then further afield. This policy may not have been a direct UIC policy, but just like Afghanistan under the Taliban, the UIC would not be able to contain the international jihadist movement and Ethiopia fully understood this.

Given this, Ethiopia bravely entered Somalia in order to prevent a radical Islamic state from causing mayhem within Africa and the international community at large. Also, you have major ethnic and religious faultlines within East Africa and this applies to all regional nations. But clearly Ethiopia faced serious threats from the UIC and Kenya would have been the next target for these Islamists. So the regional diverse mixture of Animism, Christianity, Islam, and Traditional Beliefs, alongside ethnicity, means that East Africa could easily become even more destabilized by radical Sunni Islam.

Yet it is clear that Ethiopia feels abandoned by the international community because economic support and a major multi-national peacekeeping force is still not in place. Also, the perception that Ethiopia is fighting a proxy war for America is not valid. Instead, Ethiopia is trying to stabilize the Horn of Africa and this nation is showing important international qualities.

The leader of Ethiopia, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, stated that "Ethiopian forces did not enter Somalia to control the country, but to make sure that extremist forces will not be in power in that country," he said. "The Islamic Courts Union in Somalia declared jihad against Ethiopia twice, along with all sorts of anti-peace forces ... It was our responsibility to resolve the huge wave of jihadists." This comment was reported in The Guardian (UK) newspaper on May 22, 2008 and this statement is valid because it is clear that Ethiopia merely wants to stabilize Somalia and then for the international community to take charge.

However, it appears that the international community is not playing their part and only Uganda and some other nations are willing to consider sending troops. At the moment you have 1,800 Ugandan troops in Somalia and they represent the bulk of the African Union forces in Somalia. Therefore, the leader of Ethiopia is clearly dismayed by this and he stated "We didn't anticipate that the international community would be happy riding the Ethiopian horse and flogging it at the same time for so long."

So what does the international community want? Does the international community want an unstable Somalia where radical Islam takes power and global jihadists cause mayhem to other parts of the world? Or does the international community want a nation which is free from radical jihadists and a nation which becomes a nation state, instead of being a failed nation state? If the international community supports progress and a solution to a very complex issue, then they must support Ethiopia. Once this happens, then Ethiopia will glady leave Somalia and hand over the reigns of power to the Somali people and the international community which can help to stabilize this nation.

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Armenia and Azerbaijan are still in dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenia and Azerbaijan are still in dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh?

The collapse of the Soviet Union led to many tensions within the former Soviet Union and since then you have had many frozen conflicts. This certainly applies to the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. The outcome of this brutal civil war meant many deaths on both sides, however, Christian Armenians overcame their numerical weakness and managed to control this region. However, today, with increasing energy wealth, the nation of Azerbaijan may be thinking about starting a fresh war with Armenia in order to re-take Nagorno-Karabakh?

Before concentrating on this, it is important to look at the regional balance and possible dangers for Azerbaijan. Therefore, if we look at the region we see many frozen conflicts or current tensions in Abkhazia (Georgia), South Ossetia (Georgia), Chechnya (Russian Federation), Daghestan (Russian Federation), Ingushetia (Russian Federation), and the Kurdish issue in eastern Turkey. Some of these fault-lines are based on religion or ethnicity, or over the control of resources. However, with a heavy mix of ethnicity and two major faiths, Orthodox Christianity and Islam, then this region is a real melting pot.

Another dimension is the Russian Federation supporting Armenia while Turkey, a member of NATO, is pro-Azerbaijan. Also, the American angle is complex and sadly based on energy issues and self interests. After all, the Armenian lobby is very strong and potent within parts of America and the government is sympathetic. But geopolitics and realism still controls, therefore, the USA is using Azerbaijan in order to counter the influence of both the Russian Federation and Iran. This applies to energy routes which bypass both the Russian Federation and Iran.

Also, if we look back into history, then we must remember the 1915 Armenian Christian genocide (other minority Christian groups were killed, including the Assyrians) by Turkish nationalists. So past history haunts this region and this certainly applies to Nagorno-Karabakh. However, I must point out that Turkey refutes this genocide because this nation claims that most Christians died because of the war, famine, and other consequences of World War One.

If we now focus on modern times, then clearly it would appear that the economic gap between potential military spending is vastly different and this certainly favours Azerbaijan. The one main comfort at the moment for Armenia is the support they get from the Russian Federation and Iran. For Iran the situation is complex because most Azeri people are Shia Muslim, like Iran, however, Iran fears a greater Azerbaijan because of the sizeable Azeri community in northern Iran. So outwardly, Iran talks about Islamic unity, but covertly, they do not want to see Armenia weakened.

Before concluding, it is important to mention that in recent times the government of Turkey is now reaching out to Armenia. Also, Iran promised to mediate between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Therefore, rays of hope do remain and both sides need to talk openly and frankly because both communities suffered during the war. Also, the EU and Commonwealth of Independent States could also help with regards to this delicate issue.

However, increasing Azeri purchases of military equipment is alarming many Armenians. Also, you have many divisions within Armenia with regards to politics. Therefore, the current leaders of Azerbaijan may try to re-start this frozen conflict which erupts from time to time? If so, we could see a real clash of titans because the Russian Federation and Turkey have major self interests and NATO would be in a flux. So will the leaders of Azerbaijan or Armenia re-start a fresh war over Nagorno-Karabakh? Or can a deal be made over Nagorno-Karabakh based on genuine autonomy?

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA