- Kofi Annan says that his Syria peace plan is failing
- Syria's Circassian refugees add to Russia's problems in the Caucasus
- Netherlands government collapses as right wing rejects austerity program
- Anti-austerity backlash grows across Europe
- Forecasts of Greece's economy once again worsen
Kofi Annan says that his Syria peace plan is failing
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a closed session of the U.N. Security Council on Monday that his six-point peace plan for Syria was failing. According to a spokesman, Annan pointed to two specific issues:
- The Bashar al-Assad regime is ignoring his own promise to withdraw heavy weapons and soldiers from urban centers and returned to their barracks. It's pretty clear that al-Assad never intended to fulfill that commitment.
- When the U.N. observer team visits a town, speaks to the people, and then leaves, the regime rounds up the people who spoke to the U.N. observers and harass, arrest or kill them.
Last week I quoted a Syrian activist who claimed that the Kofi Annan peace plan not only would not accomplish anything, but was actually making things much worse for the Syrian people, and now we see this happening. In the run-up to the date when the "truce" was to have taken place, the regime's tanks and snipers redoubled their slaughter of innocent Arab citizens in their residential neighborhoods, massacring as many people as possible prior to the "truce." Then, after the "truce" took effect, watching the U.N. observers provided a convenient way to know who to torture and slaughter next. As anyone could see, the Kofi Annan peace plan was never more than an stalling maneuver by Russia, China and Syria to allow al-Assad to continue to slaughter his people unfettered while Russia, in particular, trades the blood of innocent Arabs for economic gains and a Mediterranean port. Reuters
Syria's Circassian refugees add to Russia's problems in the Caucasus
The beautiful Black Sea resort of Sochi is the site of Russia's 2014 Winter Olympics games. It's also the site of the the 1864 massacre by the Russians of the ethnic Circassians, making 2014 the 150th anniversary of the massacre. Russia's North Caucasus provinces, including the region surrounding Sochi, are being increasingly plagued by radical Islamist violence. The massacre going on in Syria has added a new complication. During the 1864 massacre, many Circassians fled to Syria, and there are now between 80,000 and 100,000 Circassians living in Syria, mostly living in Damascus, Aleppo and Homs. Circassians lived in 11 villages around Homs, but all of them have become refugees, because they've been targeted by the Bashar al-Assad regime. Members of the Syrian Circassian community have been kidnapped, threatened and tortured. The situation in the city of Homs, where Circassians used to reside in substantial numbers, was characterized by famine and an absence of medical assistance. Thus, there is pressure in Russia to repatriate the Syrian Circassian refugees back to Russia. However, some experts are saying that repatriating them would further destabilize the North Caucasus, while other experts say that ignoring the plight of the Syrian Circassians would infuriate many in the North Caucasus, also risking destabilization. Jamestown
Netherlands government collapses as right wing rejects austerity program
The Netherlands' liberal prime minister Mark Rutte was forced to resign on Monday after he lost a part of his governing coalition. The crisis was triggered when Rutte's far-right parliamentary ally, the Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders, walked out of budget negotiations designed to reduce the country's deficit. Wilders has become well-known for his widely criticized campaigns against Islam and Muslims, as well as being an arch "euroskeptic." Wilders refused to endorse the new austerity measures, saying that Brussels was "stealing money from the wallets of the poor," and, "We won’t let our pensioners suffer for the Brussels dictators."
It's ironic that the Netherlands, along with Germany, has been one of the leading criticis of the profligacy of Greece and the southern European countries, and has been leading the demand for further austerity in those countries. It will be quite humiliating if Holland now fails to pass its own austerity program. Furthermore, Holland is one of the few European countries left with an AAA credit rating, and failure to pass the austerity measures would probably cause it to lose the rating, raising the costs of borrowing money in the future. AFP
Anti-austerity backlash grows across Europe
One government after another has been collapsing in Europe, as voters blame their political leaders for financial crisis, and for forcing them to accept austerity programs to reduce the national deficits. Ireland, Greece and Italy all faced brutal government collapses over austerity. In France, Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to lose in the second round of presidential elections on May 6 to Socialist François Hollande. And now, the Netherlands' government has collapsed. All sorts of agreements -- the bailout of Greece, the creation of the bailout funds, the proposed adoption of "fiscal pacts" -- were accomplished by a group of national leaders who are disappearing, putting the agreements themselves in danger. To matters worse, the EU government in Brussels is practicing anything but austerity, with the European Commission demanding a 7% increase in its own budget. Telegraph
Forecasts of Greece's economy once again worsen
Greece's economy will contract a deeper than expected 5% this year, worse than the previous forecast of 4.5% made in March. On Tuesday, George A. Provopoulos, the head of the Bank of Greece said that it's necessary for Greece to continue its austerity program, and to implement even deeper austerity measures:
"What is at stake is the choice between:
An orderly, albeit painstaking, effort to reconstruct the economy within the euro area, with the support of our partners;
a disorderly economic and social regression, taking the country several decades back, and eventually driving it out of the euro area and the European Union."
Reuters and Bank of Greece