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16 April 2013
The dust is finally starting to settle in Cyprus after the painful negotiations with the ‘Troika’ (IMF, ECB and European Commission) over the terms of its bail-out agreement have been concluded in the early hours of Monday, April 1st. Leaving aside the dangerous precedents set by the levy on deposits in Cypriot banks and the reasons that led the European Partners and the IMF to issue such a profound attack on the banking system of the country, it is worth analysing how the Cyprus bail-out in particular and the bail-outs to Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain in general, are showing that the Eurozone is re-shaping both its structures and its purpose. It is unclear if the aspirers of the Eurozone envisioned a fully integrated Economic and Monetary (EMU) whose members would not only share a common currency but also unitary fiscal and banking policies, but we are currently experiencing an overt tendency towards that direction.
28 March 2013
Ever since the 1973 epochal oil crisis following the start of the October war between Israel and its neighbors, the international political and economic system has seen the cost of this commodity go up and down with glut and shortages, coupled with apocalyptic warnings and benign indifference. The issue of fossil fuel use by the mid nineties came also to be linked with global warming and has now become a national and international issue matched by heated debates on alternative energy and renewable resources. The Middle East and the Persian Gulf are still one of the most important geographic areas with easily recoverable oil and gas reserves, and the politics of oil in the area inevitably overlap with territorial disputes, the Arab-Israeli conundrum, and the religious cleavages between Shiites and Sunni oriented regimes. The demand of oil and gas is not going to decrease, if anything, the ever expanding economies of India, China, and South East Asia, ensure added pressures on the supply of fossil fuels. The rhetoric about renewable resources and alternative green energy has yet to pan out and will take a long time before modern societies can wean themselves away from fossil fuels.
21 March 2013
The current financial crisis vexing Cyprus makes the history aware and sharp-eyed observer ponder over the recent course of the small Mediterranean state's financial and political troubles, more often than not the two being inextricably intertwined. To put it in plain words, the birth of the Republic of Cyprus was imperfect by design, hence the new state was mutilated, incapacitated by birth. It has been described as the stillborn Republic. Burdened by a cumbersome constitution designed to serve the interests of the principal minority - the Turkish - and the neo-colonial overlord rather than the interests of the Greek overwhelming majority, the young state already in 1963-64 was deprived of its means of subsistence. The Turkish Cypriot delegates holding an inexplicable to any well-meaning constitutional analyst, separate majorities prerogative, bent on promoting segregation, refused to pass bills of financial nature. Consequently, the state machinery was paralyzed as the stillborn state was intentionally deprived of the legal apparatus to collect taxes, so vital for the coverage of costs involved in its basic smooth functioning. All the more so that the young RoC had to finance the creation of new institutions.
17 December 2012
BAGHDAD — The lone Syrian rebel group with an explicit stamp of approval from Al Qaeda has become one of the uprising’s most effective fighting forces, posing a stark challenge to the United States and other countries that want to support the rebels but not Islamic extremists. Money flows to the group, the Nusra Front, from like-minded donors abroad. Its fighters, a small minority of the rebels, have the boldness and skill to storm fortified positions and lead other battalions to capture military bases and oil fields. As their successes mount, they gather more weapons and attract more fighters. The group is a direct offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Iraqi officials and former Iraqi insurgents say, which has contributed veteran fighters and weapons.
“This is just a simple way of returning the favor to our Syrian brothers that fought with us on the lands of Iraq,” said a veteran of Al Qaeda in Iraq, who said he helped lead the Nusra Front’s efforts in Syria. The United States, sensing that time may be running out for Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, hopes to isolate the group to prevent it from inheriting Syria or fighting on after Mr. Assad’s fall to pursue its goal of an Islamic state. As the United States pushes the Syrian opposition to organize a viable alternative government, it plans to blacklist the Nusra Front as a terrorist organization, making it illegal for Americans to have financial dealings with the group and most likely prompting similar sanctions from Europe. The hope is to remove one of the biggest obstacles to increasing Western support for the rebellion: the fear that money and arms could flow to a jihadi group that could further destabilize Syria and harm Western interests.
18 February 2012
One thing is for sure: the Eastern Mediterranean is going through interesting times. Historically, I guess, we have always been living in such times. The Mediterranean, as the etymology of the geographical name denotes, constitutes the middle of the earth, the place where multiple trade routes meet and intersect. The battle for the control of such trade routes is perennial, from ancient to modern times. In modern times Cyprus' political legacy stems to a large extent from its acquisition by the British Empire. Importantly, the Eastern Mediterranean Sea lies at the crossroads of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa and as of recently at the heart of substantial natural resources reserves.