Archive for June, 2013

THE MIDDLE-CLASS REVOLUTION IN THE EMERGING MARKET COUNTRIES

June 30, 2013

Wall Street Journal on June 28, 2013, published an article by Francis Fukuyama on the ongoing middle-class revolution in some of the emerging countries. Over the past decade, Turkey and Brazil have been widely celebrated as star economic performers—emerging markets with increasing influence on the international stage. Yet, over the past three months, both countries have been paralyzed by massive demonstrations expressing deep discontent with their governments’ performance. What is going on here, and will more countries experience similar upheavals? Excerpts below:

The theme that connects recent events in Turkey and Brazil to each other, as well as to the 2011 Arab Spring and continuing protests in China, is the rise of a new global middle class. Everywhere it has emerged, a modern middle class causes political ferment, but only rarely has it been able, on its own, to bring about lasting political change.

In Turkey and Brazil, as in Tunisia and Egypt before them, political protest has been led not by the poor but by young people with higher-than-average levels of education and income. They are technology-savvy and use social media like Facebook and Twitter to broadcast information and organize demonstrations. Even when they live in countries that hold regular democratic elections, they feel alienated from the ruling political elite.

In the case of Turkey, they object to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s development-at-all-cost policies and authoritarian manner. In Brazil, they object to an entrenched and highly corrupt political elite that has showcased glamour projects like the World Cup and Rio Olympics while failing to provide basic services like health and education to the general public.

The business world has been buzzing about the rising “global middle class” for at least a decade. A 2008 Goldman Sachs GS -1.47% report defined this group as those with incomes between $6,000 and $30,000 a year and predicted that it would grow by some two billion people by 2030.

Corporations are salivating at the prospect of this emerging middle class because it represents a vast pool of new consumers. Economists and business analysts tend to define middle-class status simply in monetary terms, labeling people as middle class if they fall within the middle of the income distribution for their countries, or else surpass some absolute level of consumption that raises a family above the subsistence level of the poor.

But middle-class status is better defined by education, occupation and the ownership of assets, which are far more consequential in predicting political behavior. Any number of cross-national studies, including recent Pew surveys and data from the World Values Survey at the University of Michigan, show that higher education levels correlate with people’s assigning a higher value to democracy, individual freedom and tolerance for alternative lifestyles. Middle-class people want not just security for their families but choices and opportunities for themselves.

Families who have durable assets like a house or apartment have a much greater stake in politics, since these are things that the government could take away from them. Since the middle classes tend to be the ones who pay taxes, they have a direct interest in making government accountable. Most importantly, newly arrived members of the middle class are more likely to be spurred to action by what the late political scientist Samuel Huntington called “the gap”: that is, the failure of society to meet their rapidly rising expectations for economic and social advancement. While the poor struggle to survive from day to day, disappointed middle-class people are much more likely to engage in political activism to get their way.

This dynamic was evident in the Arab Spring, where regime-changing uprisings were led by tens of thousands of relatively well-educated young people. Both Tunisia and Egypt had produced large numbers of college graduates over the past generation.

While protests, uprisings and occasionally revolutions are typically led by newly arrived members of the middle class, the latter rarely succeed on their own in bringing about long-term political change. This is because the middle class seldom represents more than a minority of the society in developing countries and is itself internally divided. Unless they can form a coalition with other parts of society, their movements seldom produce enduring political change.

Thus the young protesters in Tunis or in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, having brought about the fall of their respective dictators, failed to follow up by organizing political parties that were capable of contesting nationwide elections.

A similar fate potentially awaits the protesters in Turkey. Prime Minister Erdoğan remains popular outside of the country’s urban areas and has not hesitated to mobilize members of his own Justice and Development Party (AKP) to confront his opponents. Turkey’s middle class, moreover, is itself divided. That country’s remarkable economic growth over the past decade has been fueled in large measure by a new, pious and highly entrepreneurial middle class that has strongly supported Erdoğan’s AKP.

This social group works hard and saves its money. It exhibits many of the same virtues that the sociologist Max Weber associated with Puritan Christianity in early modern Europe, which he claimed was the basis for capitalist development there. The urban protesters in Turkey, by contrast, remain more secular and connected to the modernist values of their peers in Europe and America. Not only does this group face tough repression from a prime minister with authoritarian instincts, it faces the same difficulties in forging linkages with other social classes that have bedeviled similar movements in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere.

The situation in Brazil is rather different. The protesters there will not face tough repression from President Rousseff’s administration. Rather, the challenge will be avoiding co-optation over the long term by the system’s entrenched and corrupt incumbents.

Brazil’s recent economic growth has produced a different and more entrepreneurial middle class rooted in the private sector. But this group could follow its economic self-interest in either of two directions. On the one hand, the entrepreneurial minority could serve as the basis of a middle-class coalition that seeks to reform the Brazilian political system as a whole, pushing to hold corrupt politicians accountable and to change the rules that make client-based politics possible. This is what happened in the U.S. during the Progressive Era, when a broad middle-class mobilization succeeded in rallying support for civil-service reform and an end to the 19th-century patronage system. Alternatively, members of the urban middle class could dissipate their energies in distractions like identity politics or get bought off individually by a system that offers great rewards to people who learn to play the insiders’ game.

There is no guarantee that Brazil will follow the reformist path in the wake of the protests. Much will depend on leadership. President Rousseff has a tremendous opportunity to use the uprisings as an occasion to launch a much more ambitious systemic reform. Up to now she has been very cautious in how far she was willing to push against the old system, constrained by the limitations of her own party and political coalition.

The global economic growth that has taken place since the 1970s—with a quadrupling of global economic output—has reshuffled the social deck around the world. The middle classes in the so-called “emerging market” countries are larger, richer, better educated and more technologically connected than ever before.

This has huge implications for China, whose middle-class population now numbers in the hundreds of millions and constitutes perhaps a third of the total. These are the people who communicate by Sina Weibo—the Chinese Twitter—and have grown accustomed to exposing and complaining about the arrogance and duplicity of the government and Party elite. They want a freer society…
This group will come under particular stress in the coming decade as China struggles to move from middle- to high-income status. Economic growth rates have already started to slow over the past two years and will inevitably revert to a more modest level as the country’s economy matures. The industrial job machine that the regime has created since 1978 will no longer serve the aspirations of this population.

There, as in other parts of the developing world, the rise of a new middle class underlies the phenomenon described by Moises Naím of the Carnegie Endowment as the “end of power.” The middle classes have been on the front lines of opposition to abuses of power, whether by authoritarian or democratic regimes. The challenge for them is to turn their protest movements into durable political change, expressed in the form of new institutions and policies.

The new middle class is not just a challenge for authoritarian regimes or new democracies. No established democracy should believe it can rest on its laurels, simply because it holds elections and has leaders who do well in opinion polls. The technologically empowered middle class will be highly demanding of their politicians across the board.

The U.S. and Europe are experiencing sluggish growth and persistently high unemployment, which for young people in countries like Spain reaches 50%. In the rich world, the older generation also has failed the young by bequeathing them crushing debts. No politician in the U.S. or Europe should look down complacently on the events unfolding in the streets of Istanbul and São Paulo. It would be a grave mistake to think, “It can’t happen here.”

Mr. Fukuyama is a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the author of “The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution.”

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US OSPREYS AND AIR TANKERS PUT IRAN IN ISRAEL’S REACH

June 29, 2013

USA Today on June 27, 2013, reported that the United States plans to give Israel weapons that would enable it to send ground forces against Iranian nuclear facilities that it can’t penetrate from the air. Excerpts below:

The deal includes air-refueling aircraft, advanced radars for F-15 fighter jets, and up to eight V-22 Ospreys, an aircraft that can land like a helicopter and carry two dozen special operations forces with their gear over long distances at aircraft speeds.

The Osprey “is the ideal platform for sending Israeli special forces into Iran,” says Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst now at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

The aircraft could help solve Israel’s inability to breach Iran’s uranium enrichment facility buried under a granite mountain at Fordow. It might be impregnable to even the heaviest conventional bunker-busting munitions in the U.S. arsenal, Pollack said. Israeli military planners have been brainstorming how to conduct an effective operation, Pollack said, citing conversations with senior Israeli military officers.

“One of the possibilities is (Israel) would use special forces to assault the Fordow facility and blow it up,” Pollack said.

The weapons deal would be part of a military aid package for Israel that includes $1 billion for up to eight V-22 tilt-rotors; $500 million to retrofit radars into F-15 fighters and another $1 billion for a variety of air-to-ground weapons.

Jonathan Schanzer, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said the arms package was part of an Israeli wish list including some items that were not discussed publicly to help it keep a military edge over other nations in the region and for possible operations against Iran.

Israel’s air force would be hard-pressed to cause lasting damage to the Iranian nuclear program because it cannot sustain long-term bombardment and has limited bunker-busting capabilities and limited air-refueling capabilities, said Kenneth Katzman, who co-wrote the 2012 report “Israel: Possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities” for the Congressional Research Service.

Other parts of the arms package include Boeing’s KC-135 “Stratotanker,” which can refuel Ospreys and other aircraft while airborne and extend the tilt-rotor aircraft’s 426-mile range almost indefinitely. The deal also includes anti-radiation missiles that are used to target air defense systems, and advanced radars for Israel’s fleet of F-15 fighter jets, according to a Defense Department press release.

That equipment would increase Israel’s capabilities against Iran, said Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at The Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel.

The refueling equipment would extend the reach of Israeli special forces, which could be used against Iran as they were in Israel’s attack on a Syrian nuclear facility under construction in 2007, Karmon said.

In the 2007 attack, at least one Israeli team was on the ground to provide laser targeting of sophisticated airmunitions, Karmon said. “The same would be done for Iranian sites.”

Michael Rubin, an analyst for the American Enterprise Institute, said senior U.S. and Israeli bombers would do significant damage to Iran’s hardened sites by targeting the entrances, and Israel could use the Ospreys for missions other than Iran’s nuclear sites. Israel may want the ability to send troops to secure chemical facilities in remote regions of Syria or to block Iranian shipments bound for terrorists in the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula or Lebanon, Rubin said.

The arms deal also sends a message to Iran and reassurance to Israel that the United States is serious about standing by the Jewish state, Karmon said.

U.S. MILITARY GEARING UP FOR CYBER WARS

June 28, 2013

The Washington Times on June 27, 2013, reported that the top U.S. military officer urged private businesses and lawmakers to do more to protect the nation from cyber threats, saying “intrusions” into critical networks have increased 17-fold in the last two years. Excerpts below:

“The computer control systems that operate our chemical, electrical, water and transport sectors have all been probed. Several intruders have successfully gained system access,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the Brookings Institution.

More than 20 nations have military units dedicated to employing cyber warfare, he said.

In response, the U.S. military is increasing its cyber capabilities by adding 4,000 cyber operators to its ranks over the next four years and investing $23 billion in cyber security.

The general also appealed to private industry to share information with the government about cyberattacks they experience.

“Right now, threat information primarily runs in one direction — from the government to operators of critical infrastructure. Very little information flows back to the government. This must change. We can’t stop an attack we can’t see,” he said.

“The reality is that every day adversaries are injecting malware [malicious software] into our networks. “

POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER RADOSLAW SIKORSKI WARNS EU-UKRAINE BILATERAL AGREEMENT ‘CLEARLY’ AT RISK

June 27, 2013

EurActiv on June 26, 2013, reported that the planned sign-off of a wide-ranging EU-Ukraine Association Agreement at the November Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius is “clearly” at risk, according to the Polish Foreign Minister, Radosław Sikorski. He urged Ukrainian authorities to “speed up” reforms and fulfil the EU’s conditions by the end of summer, and not to wait until the last moment. Excerpts below:

“We are worried that Ukraine might not fulfil the conditions on time,” said the Polish diplomat, whilst attending the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 25 June.

Sikorski pointed to a number of shortcomings in the country’s democratic reform process, saying the Ukrainian parliament has neither passed the electoral law nor reformed what he referred to as “its Stalinist era prosecution service”. In Ukraine “there are also well-known concerns about selective justice”, he added in reference to the imprisonment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Asked by journalists whether signing the Agreement at the November Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius was at risk, the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs replied: “It clearly is.”
“If Ukraine does not do what it is supposed to do, there will be no signing,” he stressed.

The association agreement, totalling more than 1,000 pages, was initialled more than a year ago but its signature is awaiting progress on conditions imposed by the EU, including the release from prison of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko (see background).

Ukraine hopes to have the Association Agreement signed at the 28-29 November Eastern Partnership summit, held in Vilnius under the Lithuanian EU Presidency.

Sikorski said that Ukraine had “time until the end of the summer, if it wants to sign the Agreement in Vilnius”.

“If it will not meet the conditions, then we will have some plan B,” he added.

Diplomats said failure to sign the agreement in Vilnius will likely delay the process by two years because the new European Parliament and Commission that will emerge from the 2014 European election process will probably want to reassess the bloc’s future relations with Ukraine.

The Polish diplomat stressed that “everything is up to Ukraine”.

“It’s up to the parliament to pass the laws,” Sikorski said…

He promised that if the Ukrainian authorities meet the conditions, Poland “will do its best to persuade others” to go ahead with the Agreement.

In December 2012, the Council of Ministers, which represents the 27 EU member countries, set conditions for the signature of the Association Agreement, saying “tangible progress” was needed in three areas: compliance of the 2012 parliamentary elections with international standards, addressing the issue of selective justice, and implementing reforms jointly agreed in the EU-Ukraine Association Agenda.

For the European Union, the term “selective justice” refers to the sentencing of opposition politicians, especially former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was found guilty of abuse of office when brokering a gas deal with Russia in 2009. In 2011 she was sentenced to seven years in prison.

US SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM OF SOUTH CAROLINA: THE SENATE’S REPUBLICAN DEALMAKER

June 26, 2013

Wall Street Journal on June 21, 2013, published an interview with Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Excerpts below:

On the issues, Lindsey Graham is at odds with prevailing—in his preferred description, merely louder—opinion in the GOP. He is also one of his party’s leading legislators.

Mr. Graham also faces re-election next year, and something may have to give. “If I lose, I lose,” he says, invoking one of his trademark sayings: “I don’t want to stop being a senator to be senator.” But Mr. Graham, a practiced politician, says the assumptions about the GOP’s mood and future direction are wrong. He says defense and immigration are a winner for him, even with South Carolina primary voters, as well as for the Republican Party.

Like drones, he says, data-mining is one of many tools approved by the courts and Congress to protect Americans from terrorists. “When I defend it, my critics say, ‘There, you’re helping Obama.’ No, I’m defending America. I don’t want to get so partisan and so jaded when it comes to national security I can’t help the commander in chief when I know I should.”

The isolationist mood in the GOP “has to be contained and pushed back against,” he says. “You know why I’m not worried about it? Because after the Boston bombing everybody was tripping over themselves to get to the right of me. A lot of this is headline-driven.”

In the rising generation of GOP politicians, he sees in Mr. Rubio, New Hampshire Sen.Kelly Ayotte and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan successors to Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength model” of politics.

Along with Mr. McCain, he continues to call for the U.S. to impose a no-fly zone in Syria and to move beyond President Obama’s decision last week to supply small arms to the rebels. Yet some Republicans joined with the antiwar left to oppose any involvement in Syria. Mr. Graham brushes it off.”Every major period of turmoil, there have been voices, ‘Leave those people alone.’ And they have been eventually drowned out by voices that we are America, we have to do the right thing, we have to lead.”

Looking beyond immigration, Mr. Graham sees a showdown over a congressional attack on the NSA program. “I think it’ll go down in flames, and I’m gonna try to prove to you that criticism doesn’t represent a change in Republican Party politics. It’s loud and it’ll sometimes be a threat. But in the 2016, 2014 [election cycles] . . . all of that won’t sell. And if it does sell, I’ll be a man without a party.”

WHAT TURKEY’S RIOTS MEAN

June 25, 2013

National Review on June 20, 2013, published an article by Daniel Pipes on the rebellion that has shaken Turkey since May 31. Excerpts below:

Is it comparable to the Arab upheavals that have overthrown four rulers since 2011; to Iran’s Green Movement of 2009, which led to an apparent reformer’s being elected president last week; or perhaps to Occupy Wall Street, which had negligible consequences?

The unrest marks a deeply important development with permanent implications. Turkey has become a more open and liberal country, and its leaders face democratic constraints as never before. But how much this unrest will be able to change the role of Islam in Turkey depends primarily on the economy.

Material growth like China’s has been the main achievement of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the party he heads, the AKP. Personal income hasmore than doubled in the decade that he has been in power, changing the face of the country.

That impressive growth explains the AKP’s increased share of the national vote — from 34 percent (2002) to 46 percent (2007) to a shade under 50 percent (2011).

At the same time, two vulnerabilities that jeopardize Erdogan’s continued domination of the government have become more evident, especially since the June 2011 elections.

The first is dependence on foreign credit. To sustain consumer spending, Turkish banks have borrowed heavily abroad, and especially from supportive Sunni Muslim sources. The resulting current-account deficit creates so great a need for credit that the private sector alone needs to borrow $221 billion in 2013, or nearly 30 percent of the country’s $775 billion GDP. Should the money stop flowing into Turkey, the party (pun intended) is over…

The second is Erdogan’s sultan-like understanding of his democratic mandate. The prime minister sees his election victories — especially the one in 2011, when the AKP won half the popular vote — as carte blanche to do whatever he pleases until the next vote.

This attitude has won the fervent support of his once-downtrodden constituency, but also has wrought the fury of the growing numbers of Turks who resent his authoritarianism, as well as drawn the criticism of Europe’s leaders. German chancellor Angela Merkel pronounced herself “appalled” by the recent police crackdown.

These two weaknesses point to the importance of the economy for the future of Erdogan, the AKP, and the country. Should Turkey’s finances weather the demonstrations, the Islamist program that lies at the heart of the AKP’s platform will continue to advance, if more cautiously.

But if “hot money” flees Turkey, if foreign investors go elsewhere, and if Persian Gulf patrons cool on the AKP, then the demonstrations could end AKP rule and rupture the drive toward Islamism and the application of Islamic law.

Payroll employment is down by 5 percent in the past year. Real consumer spending in the first quarter of 2013 fell by 2 percent over 2012. Since the demonstrations started, the Istanbul stock market is down 10 percent and interest rates are up about 50 percent. To assess the future of Islamism in Turkey, watch these and other economic indicators.
Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.

US REVOKES NSA LEAKER SNOWDEN’S PASSPORT, AS HE REPORTEDLY SEEKS ASYLUM IN ECUADOR

June 24, 2013

Fox News on June 23, 2013, reported that WikiLeaks said Sunday it is helping Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who exposed secrets about the federal government’s surveillance program, to seek asylum in Ecuador. Excerpts below:

The announcement came as a source confirmed to Fox News that the United States revoked Snowden’s passport.

Snowden took flight in evasion of U.S. authorities, seeking asylum in Ecuador and leaving the Obama administration scrambling to determine its next step in what became a game of diplomatic cat-and-mouse.

The former National Security Agency contractor and CIA technician fled Hong Kong and arrived at the Moscow airport, where he planned to spend the night before boarding an Aeroflot flight to Cuba. Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said his government received an asylum request from Snowden, and WikiLeaks said it would help him.

“He goes to the very countries that have, at best, very tense relationships with the United States,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., adding that she feared Snowden would trade more U.S. secrets for asylum. “This is not going to play out well for the national security interests of the United States.”

“The United States has been in touch via diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries in the Western Hemisphere through which Snowden might transit or that could serve as final destinations,” a State Dept. official told Fox News. “The U.S. is advising these governments that Snowden is wanted on felony charges, and as such should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States.”

Snowden has been in hiding for several weeks in Hong Kong, a former British colony with a high degree of autonomy from mainland China. The United States formally sought Snowden’s extradition from Hong Kong but was rebuffed; Hong Kong officials said the U.S. request did not fully comply with their laws.

The Justice Department rejected that claim, saying its request met all of the requirements of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Hong Kong.

During conversations last week, including a phone call between Attorney General Eric Holder and Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen, Hong Kong officials never raised any issues regarding sufficiency of the U.S. request, a Justice spokesperson said.

A State Department official said the United States was in touch through diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries that Snowden could travel through or to, reminding them that

Snowden is wanted on criminal charges and reiterating Washington’s position that Snowden should only be permitted to travel back to the U.S.

The Justice Department said it would “pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel.”

Upon his arrival, Snowden did not leave Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. One explanation could be that he wasn’t allowed; a U.S. official said Snowden’s passport had been revoked, and special permission from Russian authorities would have been needed.

“It’s almost hopeless unless we find some ways to lean on them,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

The Russian media report said Snowden intended to fly to Cuba on Monday and then on to Caracas, Venezuela.

U.S. lawmakers scoffed. “The freedom trail is not exactly China-Russia-Cuba-Venezuela, so I hope we’ll chase him to the ends of the earth, bring him to justice and let the Russians know there’ll be consequences if they harbor this guy,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, but does with Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador. Even with an extradition agreement though, any country could give Snowden a political exemption.

The likelihood that any of these countries would stop Snowden from traveling on to Ecuador seemed unlikely. While diplomatic tensions have thawed in recent years, Cuba and the United States are hardly allies after a half century of distrust.

Venezuela, too, could prove difficult. Former President Hugo Chavez was a sworn enemy of the United States and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, earlier this year called Obama “grand chief of devils.” The two countries do not exchange ambassadors.

U.S. pressure on Caracas also might be problematic given its energy exports. The U.S. Energy Information Agency reports Venezuela sent the United States 900,000 barrels of crude oil each day in 2012, making it the fourth-largest foreign source of U.S. oil.

“I think 10 percent of Snowden’s issues are now legal, and 90 percent political,” said Douglas McNabb, an expert in international extradition and a senior principal at international criminal defense firm McNabb Associates.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is “aiding and abetting Snowden’s escape,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“Allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways, and Putin always seems almost eager to put a finger in the eye of the United States,” Schumer said. “That’s not how allies should treat one another, and I think it will have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she had been told Snowden had perhaps more than 200 sensitive documents.

U.S., ARAB AND EUROPEAN ALLIES PLEDGE MORE SUPPORT FOR SYRIAN REBELS

June 23, 2013

Washington Post on June 22, 2013, published an AP report on the U.S. and its Arab and European allies agreeing to do more to help the embattled rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said. Excerpts below:

…Kerry said the assistance would help change the balance on the battlefield of the civil war where regime forces have scored recent victories.

At a meeting of nearly a dozen of his counterparts, Kerry blamed Assad for the deteriorating situation in Syria where more than 93,000 people have died in a two-year civil war. He denounced Assad for inviting Iranian and Hezbollah fighters to battle alongside his troops and said the Syrian president risked turning the war into a regional sectarian conflict.

Kerry met with his counterparts in the Qatari capital on the first stop of a seven-nation trip through the Mideast and Asia where he is tackling difficult foreign policy issues…

Kerry has been pressing hard on Russia to back an international conference intended to end the bloodshed in Syria and allow a transitional government to move the country beyond civil war.
Russia has been the key ally of Assad’s regime throughout the two-year conflict.

Top U.S. diplomats are ready to go to Geneva to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other officials in coming days to advance the political process, Kerry said.

Kerry, a long-time proponent of more aggressive action in Syria, believes the international community must urgently try to stop the civil war in Syria.

It was Kerry’s first meeting with his counterparts about aid to the Syrian rebels since President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. would send lethal aid to the opposition. That decision was partly based on a U.S. intelligence assessment that Assad had used chemical weapons, but Kerry expressed deeper concern about Iran and Hezbollah fighters.

“That is a very, very dangerous development,” Kerry said. “Hezbollah is a proxy for Iran. … Hezbollah in addition to that is a terrorist organization.”

Kerry blamed Hezbollah and Assad with thwarting efforts to diffuse sectarian rebels and to negotiate a settlement.

“We’re looking at a very dangerous situation,” that had transformed “into a much more volatile, potentially explosive situation that could involve the entire region,” Kerry said.

US GOVERNMENT FILES CHARGES, INCLUDING THEFT, AGAINST NSA SECRETS LEAKER SNOWDEN

June 22, 2013

Fox News on June 22, 2013, reported that Federal prosecutors have filed a criminal complaint against NSA secrets leaker Edward Snowden, charging him with theft and communicating classified intelligence information to an unauthorized person, Fox News confirms. Excerpts below:

The complaint, obtained by Fox News, was filed June 14 in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia.

The U.S. also had asked Hong Kong to detain Snowden on a provisional arrest warrant, The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

The three-count complaint includes “theft of government property,” “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications of intelligence information to an unauthorized person.” The latter two are charges under the Espionage Act.

New York Republican Rep. Peter King, chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Terrorism and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said: “I fully support the efforts of the United States government to indict and prosecute Edward Snowden to the fullest extent of the law. He has betrayed his country and the government must demand his extradition at the earliest date.”

It was unclear whether the U.S. had made an extradition request. Hong Kong had no immediate reaction to word of the charges against Snowden.

The Espionage Act arguably is a political offense. The Obama administration has now used the act in eight criminal cases in an unprecedented effort to stem leaks. In one of them, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning acknowledged he sent more than 700,000 battlefield reports, diplomatic cables and other materials to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. His military trial is underway.

The U.S. and Hong Kong have a standing agreement on the surrender of fugitives. However, Snowden’s appeal rights could drag out any extradition proceeding.

The success or failure of any extradition proceeding depends on what the suspect is charged with under U.S. law and how it corresponds to Hong Kong law under the treaty. In order for Hong Kong officials to honor the extradition request, they have to have some applicable statute under their law that corresponds with a violation of U.S. law.

JUNE 17, 1953 – WHEN EAST GERMANS ROSE AGAINST THEIR SOVIET SUBJUGATORS

June 21, 2013

Weekly Standard on June 19, 2013, published a comment by William Kristol. Excerpts below:

It was on Obama’s speaking at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. He paid appropriate tribute to the brave East Germans who rebelled 60 years ago against Communist dictatorship:
“Today, 60 years after they rose up against oppression, we remember the East German heroes of June 17th. When the wall finally came down, it was their dreams that were fulfilled.”
But he drew a strange lesson from their uprising:

“Their strength and their passion, their enduring example remind us that for all the power of militaries, for all the authority of governments, it is citizens who choose whether to be defined by a wall, or whether to tear it down.”

If only.

In 1953, the citizens of East Germany chose freedom. But their uprising failed. It failed because it was repressed by superior power—by armed force, by military might. If you were a 30-year old who sought freedom in 1953, your dream of living in freedom wasn’t fulfilled until you were 66. And it was fulfilled in large part because of Western military strength, and in particular Ronald Reagan’s military build-up.

So it’s not enough for citizens to “choose” freedom or justice. Freedom needs to be backed by strength. Otherwise it loses. Otherwise we see what Leo Strauss called “the sorry spectacle of justice without a sword or of justice unable to use the sword.” Contra Obama, the lesson of 1953—and of the Weimar Republic, to which Strauss was referring—is that merely wishing for justice, and seeking freedom, is not enough.

It would pay greater honor to the brave men and women of 1953 to acknowledge this fact.

Comment by Världsinbördeskriget: It should be noted, though, that President Obama honoured the Berliners by also commenting on their plight during the Cold War: “It was here that Berliners carved out an island of democracy against the greatest of odds.” Throughout the Cold War “the fate of this city came down to a simple question: Will we live free or in chains?”…And they will recall how people trapped behind a wall braved bullets, and jumped barbed wire, and dashed across minefields, and dug through tunnels, and leapt from buildings, and swam across the Spree to claim there most basic right of freedom.” Obama also promised that “America will stand with Europe as you strengthen your union.”