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Showing posts from January 22, 2014

Moment of Truth for Syria, But Iran Left in the Cold by UN

Assad says he may stand in this year's presidential election

By Patrick Cockburn

January 21, 2014 - "The Independent" - A long-awaited peace conference on Syria is likely to go ahead without one of the major participants of the conflict after the United Nations withdrew an invitation to Iran to attend the talks in Geneva.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, rescinded Iran's invitation on the same day it was unexpectedly issued, following the threat of a boycott from the Syrian opposition and pressure from the United States.

That the conference would take place at all looked in serious doubt through much of Monday, with Iran's participation being a major sticking point for the opposition.

The meeting, arranged with strong US and Russian backing, is the only opportunity available for de-escalating, if not ending, the civil war in Syria.

Iran is a main backer of President Bashar al-Assad and has supplied him with arms, money and military advisers during the three-yea…

How Russia and the U.S. Continue to Use the Snowden Leaks

U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has asked Russian authorities to help protect him after he received death threats disseminated in the U.S. media, his lawyer said Tuesday. This comes two days after several U.S. officials accused Snowden of being a Russian intelligence asset even before he found asylum abroad. The stage is set for the next round of intelligence and propaganda struggles between Russia and the United States.

The narrative surrounding Edward Snowden, a former contract employee of the National Security Agency, has evolved over the past eight months following his theft and disclosure of the NSA's surveillance programs. Initially, it sparked a debate over whether he was a traitor -- particularly because he fled the United States to Hong Kong before leaping over to Moscow, where he was granted one year of asylum.

But public sentiment has changed as revelations emerged about the surveillance programs that allegedly targeted millions of people around the world. The con…

Russia's 1998 Financial Crisis in the Regions: A Case Study

Summary


Editor's Note: The following is the second installment of a three-part series on growing debt for Russia's regional governments.

Traditionally, Russia's regions have reacted against federal authority in times of economic crises, such as the so-called Ruble Crisis of 1998. The crisis serves as an example of how economic instability could add to the Kremlin's problems in managing the country, particularly since Russia is already dealing with divisions along social and ethnic lines.

Analysis


In 1997, the Asian financial crisis began to ripple throughout the world. Russia was still reeling politically, socially, economically and financially from the fall of the Soviet Union just six years before. Russia's industrial and service sectors had collapsed, and capital was leaving the country rapidly. Additionally, the price of the one thing bringing in money to Russia -- energy -- was dropping rapidly.

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By 1998, interest rates in Russia skyrocketed by 150…

Thailand Issues an Emergency Decree Ahead of Elections

Protesters hold candles at a pro-election rally Jan. 19 in Bangkok. (PAULA BRONSTEIN/Getty Images)

Summary


The Thai government's imposition of a 60-day state of emergency indicates that it is determined to proceed with controversial general elections, currently scheduled for Feb. 2. The emergency decree covers all of Bangkok and parts of the surrounding provinces of Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan. The decision came after the political opposition stepped up its protests, hoping to force the government to resign and postpone the election, which is expected to reaffirm the leadership of the ruling Pheu Thai party. Ultimately, the move could further restrict both sides' ability to compromise and could invite greater turbulence into the situation.

Analysis


The emergency decree expands the government's authority to deal with protests. It could outlaw gatherings of more than five people, censor the media and impose curfews should the situation deteriorate. The decree wi…