Bosnia’s IMF tightrope

Posted September 18, 2009 by strategicanalysis
Categories: South Eastern Europe

Ian Bancroft in Belgrade

 

 

Business New Europe   |   September 18, 2009

 

 
Despite being initially agreed back in May after often-fraught negotiations, the three-year €1.2bn stand-by arrangement reached between the International Monetary Fund and Bosnia-Herzegovina remains beset by a host of impediments that delayed payment of the first tranche and threatens to curtail future financial assistance.

Gripped by political crisis and growing social unrest, the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina – the Muslim-Croat half of the country, due to receive two-thirds of the IMF money – has struggled to enact a series of testing reforms that were demanded by the IMF, and in the process further exposed Bosnia’s vulnerability to the global economic crisis.

Approval of the stand-by arrangement was initially delayed in June after the IMF rejected the Federation’s proposed budget revision for 2009. Protests by war veterans – the largest welfare category and one of the most influential social and lobbying groups – supported by trade unions and invalids’ associations, forced the Federation government to exempt war veterans and their families from a planned 10% reduction in welfare payments. In seeking to extract savings from administrative expenses, however, the Federation – which is expected to contribute the bulk of Bosnia’s budget savings, equivalent to more than one-fifth of its 2009 budget – violated an undertaking with the IMF to curb social transfers that have left the entity on the verge of bankruptcy and forced the government to take out a €71m short-term credit from local commercial banks in order to cover part of a backlog of payments from 2008. As the Federation’s finance minister, Vjekoslav Bevanda, then surmised, “politics have got entangled with the IMF arrangement.”

Though the head of the IMF mission to Bosnia, Costas Christou, previously warned that achieving the budget savings required by the IMF would require a “decisive package of measures,” the Federation government has failed to formulate a cohesive and coherent strategic response, relying instead upon a series of sporadic and haphazard measures designed to eke out savings without offering fundamental and sustainable reform.

As Svetlana Cenic, former finance minister of Republika Srpska, the other half of Bosnia, warns, the country has an “unsustainable system with huge public spending, stalled reforms and insufficient attractiveness to foreign investors, and these can no longer be justified amid the global recession.”

 

 

 

 
Postponed privatisation

 

 

Whilst the Federation government is prepared to privatise some of the better-performing public companies – such as engineering company Energoinvest and pharmaceuticals manufacturer Bosnalijek – the current economic malaise has persuaded Mustafa Mujezinovic, the Federation’s new prime minister, to put such plans on hold until both buyer interest and potential prices are more buoyant.

Although Bevanda recently confirmed that each of the entity’s 10 cantons had adopted the revised budget re-balance (which proposes savings of around €112m, including a €30m reduction in social benefits for war invalids) that will allow Bosnia to obtain the first tranche of IMF support, doubts remain as to the entity’s overall political capacity and willingness to see through such reforms in the face of rising unemployment, growing social unrest and increasingly vociferous interest groups.

With IMF estimates suggesting that Bosnia will experience an economic contraction of 3% in 2009, primarily in the Federation, with “a very mild recovery only beginning in the middle of next year,” and with unemployment currently hovering around 40%, the ramifications of the global economic crisis will continue to magnify and exacerbate the shortcomings of the Federation.

By contrast, Republika Srpska quickly proposed a revised 2009 budget that meets the IMF’s requirements by reducing spending by 4% to approximately €818m. Having already cut the salaries of government and public sector employees, and reduced public spending to below 40% of GDP as advised by the IMF, Republika Srpska, which continues to benefit from the proceeds of a string of successful privatisations, has found itself better placed to respond to the economic downturn.

As Aleksandar Dzombic, Republika Srpska’s finance minister, emphasized, savings of some €36m were achieved through cuts in grants and internal debt, eliminating the need to reduce pensions and veterans’ welfare payments. Despite the Federation’s previous failure to fulfil their part of the agreement, Republika Srpska’s request for immediate support from the IMF was immediately rejected.

Facing a stalemate over constitutional reform and other key measures for accession towards the EU, Bosnia ‘s continuing wobbles on the IMF tightrope have further exposed the country’s economic, financial and structural fragility. Though a series of short-term measures have secured access to the first tranche of assistance, doubts remain over the Federation’s capacity and willingness to contend with the political and socio-economic ramifications of implementing the stringent conditions on which future financial assistance depend. In order to mitigate Bosnia’s growing crisis of legitimacy, therefore, urgent steps must be taken to ensure that the present and prospective dysfunctionality of the Federation does not undermine the entire country’s efforts to secure vital IMF assistance.

US could shift Afghanistan focus eastwards

Posted September 15, 2009 by strategicanalysis
Categories: World

Daily Times Monitor | Sept. 15, 2009

 

 

LONDON: The US could shift its focus on Afghanistan towards the eastern provinces, the Guardian has suggested. Senior military officials are said to believe that the Taliban’s ability to find sanctuary across the border with Pakistan may have however, prompted this change of tact. The primary focus of the US strategy in Afghanistan could shift towards the eastern provinces bordering Pakistan and away from the country’s south, where British forces are heavily engaged, under a plan being finalised by commanders, the newspaper reported. Senior military officials are said to believe that the Afghan Taliban’s ability to find sanctuary and support across the border, in addition to the suspected presence of Al Qaeda in Waziristan, has necessitated a bigger effort in the East. However, any move by Gen Stanley McChrystal, the US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, to concentrate firepower and resources away from Helmand, in the south, could be resisted by British commanders leading an increasingly lethal struggle with insurgents there, the Guardian said. Cause for concern: Additional US military pressure along the eastern border would also be cause for concern in Pakistan, where US drone attacks on Al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Waziristan are blamed for the growing instability in the country. We decide: Asked whether Islamabad was being urged by Washington to launch more Swat-style offensives on its side of the border, a senior Pakistani official insisted Islamabad, not the US, would decide. “Waziristan is part of Pakistani territory,” the official said. “We will decide what happens there, and when it happens,” he said. US officials, speaking during a recent visit to the region by ‘AF-PAK’ envoy Richard Holbrooke, said particular attention should be paid to Jalaluddin Haqqani and other insurgent leaders in Afghanistan’s eastern mountains. According to an account in the Washington Post, Major General Curtis Scaparrotti, US commander of forces in the East, said Haqqani “is the central threat” in the area and “he’s expanded his reach”. This month, McChrystal presented the broad outline of his Afghanistan strategic review to Obama, placing greater importance on the need to protect Afghan civilians and increase security as a means of encouraging political and economic development.

German general takes over KFOR command in Kosovo

Posted September 9, 2009 by strategicanalysis
Categories: South Eastern Europe

German Lieutenant General Markus Bentler took over Tuesday the command of NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo (KFOR). In a ceremony held in KFOR main headquarters in Pristina, Bentler took over the office from his processor Italian general Giuseppe Emilio Gay, becoming the 14th commander of KFOR ever since the international forces took over control in the breakaway southern Serbian province in June 1999. Gay said that as a sign of KFOR successful performance, the mission is beginning to move forward in the next phase of recognizing that the situation is improving. “The gradual reduction of NATO does not mark the end of our engagement, but the aim is to confirm the big progress we have achieved,” said Gay, adding that KFOR would continue to provide safety, security and freedom of movement to all citizens of Kosovo. General Bentler said that cooperation with institutions in Kosovo and international missions must continue. “We have to ensure a secure livelihood with a reduced staff and it will be a challenge for me,” Bentler said. Commander Joint Force Command Naples Admiral Mark Fitzgerald said at the ceremony that, in coordination with international partners and local institutions, KFOR would continue to provide support to all Kosovo citizens in creating a peaceful and stable environment, encouraging economic development and a free and democratic society. The change of command occurs at a time of significant KFOR reduction of troops announcements in the territory. NATO has made clear they intend a significant reduction of troops in the next two years. At the end of this year there will remain 10,000 troops from actual 13,829 peacekeepers serving now in Kosovo. KFOR, which at its height numbered 55,000, is expected to be reduced to a little more than 2,000 although no specific time frame is proposed. Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu decorated Gay with a golden medal for his military service in Kosovo. Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority unilaterally declared independence in February 2008, which has been recognized by 62 countries including the United States and most European Union members. Serbia and its strong ally Russia, a permanent UN Security Council member with veto rights, have said they will not recognize an independent Kosovo.

 

 

Source: Xinhua

Fourteen Centuries of War Against European Civilization

Posted September 7, 2009 by strategicanalysis
Categories: World

Global Politician 03 September 2009

 

By Fjordman

 
The following essay is an amalgam of my previous online essays, among them Who Are We, Who Are Our Enemies — The Cost of Historical Amnesia, Why We Should Oppose an Independent Kosovo, Refuting God’s Crucible and The Truth About Islam in Europe.

 

 

“The Jihad, the Islamic so-called Holy War, has been a fact of life in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East for more than 1300 years, but this is the first history of the Muslim wars in Europe ever to be published. Hundreds of books, however, have appeared on its Christian counterpart, the Crusades, to which the Jihad is often compared, although they lasted less than two hundred years and unlike the Jihad, which is universal, were largely but not completely confined to the Holy Land. Moreover, the Crusades have been over for more than 700 years, while a Jihad is still going on in the world. The Jihad has been the most unrecorded and disregarded major event of history. It has, in fact, been largely ignored. For instance, the Encyclopaedia Britannica gives the Crusades eighty times more space than the Jihad.”

The above quote is from Paul Fregosi’s book Jihad in the West from 1998. Mr. Fregosi found that his book about the history of Islamic Holy War in Europe from the 7th to the 20th centuries was difficult to get published in the mid-1990s, when publishers had the Salman Rushdie case in fresh memory.

….

Jihad continues to this day in the Balkans, a region which was for centuries under brutal Turkish rule. According to writer Ruth King, “When Serbia became independent of Byzantine rule in the 12th century, its economic, cultural, social and religious institutions were among the most advanced in Europe. Serbia functioned as a bridge between Greco-Byzantine civilization and the developing Western Renaissance. The center of the Serbian Orthodox Church was in Kosovo where churches, monasteries and monastic communities were established. A form of census in 1330, the ‘Decani Charter,’ detailed the list of chartered villages and households, of which only two percent were Albanian. The Ottomans invaded Serbia in 1389 and consolidated their rule in 1459, propelling major parts of the Balkan peninsula and adjacent southeast Europe into a Koran-dictated Dark Ages.”

Early in the twentieth century Serbian Christians comprised roughly two-thirds of the population of Kosovo. After WW2, Communist dictator Tito did not allow Serbs who fled from their homes to return and did not enforce border controls as thousands of Albanians moved into Kosovo. This later led to escalating violence against Christian Serbs.

As King says, “Initially, the media reported the situation in Kosovo fairly. For example, in July 1982 The New York Times noted: ‘Serbs have been harassed by Albanians and have packed up and left the region. The Albanian nationalists have a two-point platform, first to establish what they call an ethnically clean Albanian republic and then to merge with Albania for a greater Albania. Some 57,000 Serbs have left Kosovo in the last decade.’ Five years later, in 1987, the Times was still reporting the persecution of Serbs within Kosovo. ‘Slavic Orthodox churches have been attacked, wells poisoned, crops burned, Slavic boys knifed. Young Albanians have been told to rape Serbian girls… Officials in Belgrade view the ethnic Albanian challenge as imperiling the foundations of the multinational experiment called federal Yugoslavia… Ethnic Albanians already control almost every phase of life in the autonomous province of Kosovo, including the police, judiciary, civil service, schools, and factories.’“

It was this situation that led to the rise of Serb nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic. However, according to Ruth King, “While the brutality of the Milosevic regime was indeed a complicating factor, he is long gone, but the KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] continues its assault on Serbs, on their churches, priests, homes, even on civilians sitting in cafes, this under the nose of the U.S. and UN troops.”

Bosnia’s wartime president Alija Izetbegovic died in 2003, hailed as a moderate Muslim leader. Little was said in Western media about his 1970 Islamic Declaration, where he advocated “a struggle for creating a great Islamic federation from Morocco to Indonesia, from the tropical Africa to the Central Asia,” and that “The Islamic movement should and must start taking over the power as soon as it is morally and numerically strong enough to not only overthrow the existing non-Islamic, but also to build up a new Islamic authority.”

According to Hugh Fitzgerald, “One must keep in mind both the way in which some atrocities ascribed to Serbs were exaggerated, while the atrocities inflicted on them were minimized or ignored altogether. But what was most disturbing was that there was no context to anything: nothing about the centuries of Muslim rule. Had such a history been discussed early on, Western governments might have understood and attempted to assuage the deep fears evoked by the Bosnian Muslim leader, Izetbegovic, when he wrote that he intended to create a Muslim state in Bosnia and impose the Sharia not merely there, but everywhere that Muslims had once ruled in the Balkans. Had the Western world shown the slightest intelligent sympathy or understanding of what that set off in the imagination of many Serbs (and elsewhere, among the Christians in the Balkans and in Greece), there might never have been such a violent Serbian reaction, and someone like Milosevic might never have obtained power.”

In 1809, after the battle on Cegar Hill, by order of Turkish pasha Hurshid the skulls of the killed Serbian soldiers were built in a tower, Skull Tower, on the way to Constantinople. 3 meters high, Skull Tower was built out of 952 skulls as a warning to the Serbian people not to oppose their Muslim rulers. Some years later, a chapel was built over the skulls.

Similar Jihad massacres were committed not only against the Serbs, but against the Greeks, the Bulgarians and other non-Muslims who slowly rebelled against the Ottoman Empire throughout the 19th century. Professor Vahakn Dadrian and others have clearly identified Jihad as a critical factor in the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century.

As Efraim Karsh notes, “The Ottomans embarked on an orgy of bloodletting in response to the nationalist aspirations of their European subjects. The Greek war of independence of the 1820’s, the Danubian uprisings of 1848 and the attendant Crimean war, the Balkan explosion of the 1870’s, the Greco-Ottoman war of 1897—all were painful reminders of the costs of resisting Islamic imperial rule.”

In his book Onward Muslim Soldiers, Robert Spencer quotes a letter from Bosnia, written in 1860 by the acting British Consul in Sarajevo, James Zohrab :

The hatred of the Christians toward the Bosniak Mussulmans is intense. During a period of nearly 300 years they were subjected to much oppression and cruelty. For them no other law but the caprice of their masters existed… Oppression cannot now be carried on as openly as formerly, but it must not be supposed that, because the Government employ�s do not generally appear as the oppressors, the Christians are well treated and protected.

 

The Islamic world is now using the Balkans as a launching pad for Jihad against the rest of Europe. “There are religious centres in Bulgaria that belong to Islamic groups financed mostly by Saudi Arabian groups,” the head of Bulgarian military intelligence has warned. According to him, the centres were in southern and southeastern Bulgaria, where the country’s Muslims, mainly of Turkish origin, are concentrated, and “had links with similar organisations in Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia. For them Bulgaria seems to be a transit point to Western Europe.” He said the steps were taken to prevent terrorist groups gaining a foothold in Bulgaria, which shares a border with Turkey. Bulgaria’s Muslim minority accounts for more than 10 percent of the country’s population.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia passed a law allowing ethnic Albanians to display the Albanian national flag in areas where they form the majority. The decision came as a result of seven months of heavy fighting in 2001 involving Albanian separatists, and following pressure from the European Union, always ready to please Muslims.

Ethnic Albanians make up about 25 per cent of Macedonia’s population. If the demographic trends are anything like in Kosovo, where the predominantly Muslim Albanians have been out-breeding their non-Muslim neighbors, Macedonians could be facing serious trouble in the future. In Kosovo, dozens of churches and monasteries have been destroyed or damaged following ethnic cleansing of Christian Serbs, all under the auspices of NATO soldiers.

Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland and later Chief United Nations negotiator for Kosovo, caused anger in Serbia when he stated that “Serbs are guilty as a people,” implying that they would have to pay for it, possibly by losing the province of Kosovo. I disagree with Mr. Ahtisaari. It is one thing to criticize the brutality of the Milosevic regime. It is quite another thing to claim that “Serbs are guilty as a people.” If anybody in the Balkans can be called guilty as a people, it is the Turks, not the Serbs. The Turks have left a trail of blood across much of Europe and the Mediterranean for centuries, culminating in the Armenian genocide in the 20th century, which Turkey still refuses to acknowledge, let alone apologize for.

Dimitar Angelov elucidates the impact of the Ottoman Jihad on the vanquished Balkan populations:

…the conquest of the Balkan Peninsula accomplished by the Turks over the course of about two centuries caused the incalculable ruin of material goods, countless massacres, the enslavement and exile of a great part of the population — in a word, a general and protracted decline of productivity, as was the case with Asia Minor after it was occupied by the same invaders. This decline in productivity is all the more striking when one recalls that in the mid-fourteenth century, as the Ottomans were gaining a foothold on the peninsula, the States that existed there — Byzantium, Bulgaria and Serbia — had already reached a rather high level of economic and cultural development….The campaigns of Mourad II (1421-1451) and especially those of his successor, Mahomet II (1451-1481) in Serbia, Bosnia, Albania and in the Byzantine princedom of the Peloponnesus, were of a particularly devastating character.

This Ottoman Jihad tradition is still continued by “secular” Turkey to this day. Michael J. Totten visited Varosha, the Ghost City of Cyprus, in 2005. The city was deserted during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and is now fenced off and patrolled by the Turkish occupiers. The Turks carved up the island. Greek Cypriot citizens in Varosha expected to return to their homes within days. Instead, the Turks seized the empty city and wrapped it in fencing and wire.

In March 2006, Italian Luigi Geninazzi made a report from the same area. 180,000 persons live in the northern part of the island, 100,000 of whom are colonists originally from mainland Turkey. According to Geninazzi, the Islamization of the north of Cyprus has been concretized in the destruction of all that was Christian. Yannis Eliades, director of the Byzantine Museum of Nicosia, calculates that 25,000 icons have disappeared from the churches in the zone occupied by the Turks. Stupendous Byzantine and Romanesque churches, imposing monasteries, mosaics and frescoes have been sacked, violated, and destroyed. Many have been turned into restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Geninazzi confronted Huseyn Ozel, a government spokesman for the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, with this. Most of the mosques in Greek Cypriot territory have been restored. So why are churches still today being turned into mosques? The Turkish Cypriot functionary spreads his arms wide: “It is an Ottoman custom…”

Yosef Bodansky, director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Conventional Warfare in Washington in the USA, has stated that the Balkans was a “springboard for Islamic extremism” in Europe, with the Islamic Republic of Iran as the main driving force behind it. Iran and Saudi Arabia supplied funding, weapons and men to the Bosnians during the war in the 1990s, and terrorist organization Al-Qaeda gained a foothold in the Balkans. Saudi Arabia has invested more than $1 billion in the Sarajevo region alone, for projects that include the construction of 158 mosques. Sarajevo has by now become an almost entirely Muslim city.

Miroljub Jevtic, professor at the Belgrade University and author of a number of books on the topic of Islam and politics, believes the Western world is in favor of detaching Kosovo from Christian Serbia by fiat and making it into an independent (Muslim) state. The main argument of those supporting this scenario, notably in the United States, is to improve their image in the eyes of the Islamic world and “co-opt the influence of Islamic ‘extremists.’“

Jevtic notes that “the fact that since the arrival of NATO to Kosovo over 150 Christian churches have been destroyed and some 400 mosques have been built, or are under construction, is for the Muslims a proof that if there is a faith which is supported by true God — it is Islam! Because, why would the Christian God, why would Jesus, permit the destruction of churches, where He, Jesus, is glorified? Why would He, at the same time, permit the construction of mosques, where His existence as God is denied? Why would He permit it, moreover, in the presence of men who bear arms and who claim to be Christians?”

Miroljub Jevtic warns that the European Union’s support for Albanian Muslim demands could backfire badly: “Granting the independence to Kosovo will be taken as proof of Europe’s own wish to cease to exist, as it not only allows the expansion of Islam but is actively promoting it by aiding those who are destroying churches, raping nuns, spitting on crosses and daubing with excrement holy images of Christ.”

In Kosovo, dozens of churches and monasteries have been destroyed following ethnic cleansing of Christian Serbs by the predominantly Muslim Albanians, all under the auspices of NATO soldiers, and Muslims are not ungrateful. Kosovo Albanians plan to honor their “savior,” former US President Bill Clinton, by erecting a statue of him. Yet in 2007, four Albanians from Kosovo along with other Muslims were arrested for conspiring to attack Fort Dix, a military base in New Jersey, the USA, in order “to kill as many soldiers as possible.”

Western governments are pushing for independence for a group of Jihadist thugs who recently wanted to create the Osama bin Laden mosque in Kosovo. This name was eventually changed for public relations reasons since the Albanians knew they needed American political support. In June 2007 the visiting US President George W. Bush was hailed as a hero by a group of Albanians, who allegedly also stole his watch. “Sooner rather than later you’ve got to say ‘Enough’s enough — Kosovo is independent,’“ Bush told cheering Albanians. As German newspaper S�ddeutsche Zeitung later commented, “Why should the Albanians settle for autonomy when George W. Bush had already promised them their own state?”

President Bush declared a “war on terror” after the Jihadist attacks on the United States in 2001. Six years later, all he has achieved is bleeding American tax payers financially and American soldiers literally while overseeing the eradication of non-Muslim communities in Iraq. Now his administration supports independence for terrorist-sponsoring Muslims in the Balkans and in the Palestinian territories. George W. Bush risks being remembered as one of the worst presidents in American history.

In a commentary, “We bombed the wrong side?” former Canadian UNPROFOR Commander Lewis MacKenzie wrote, “The Kosovo-Albanians have played us like a Stradivarius. We have subsidized and indirectly supported their violent campaign for an ethnically pure and independent Kosovo. We have never blamed them for being the perpetrators of the violence in the early ‘90s and we continue to portray them as the designated victim today in spite of evidence to the contrary. When they achieve independence with the help of our tax dollars combined with those of bin Laden and al-Qaeda, just consider the message of encouragement this sends to other terrorist-supported independence movements around the world.”

I once listened to a speech by Patrick Sookhdeo, a brave former Muslim who has published books such as Global Jihad: The Future in the Face of Militant Islam. Sookhdeo had done a lot of excellent — and frightening — research regarding the Islamization of Western Europe, especially Britain. He recalled having a conversation with a senior Western official regarding what would happen if Muslims in a region of, say, Britain or the Netherlands, should declare that they would no longer accept the laws of the central government and formed a breakaway Islamic Republic. This official then replied that they would probably have to quietly accept that. When witnessing Muslim riots in France and elsewhere, which more and more resemble a civil war, this question is no longer just hypothetical.

As writer Julia Gorin has warned, “An independent Kosovo will serve as a nod to secessionists worldwide,” and “history will show what no one cares to understand: the current world war began officially in Yugoslavia” in the 1990s.

Granting Jihadist Muslims independence in Kosovo after they conducted ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims has established an extremely dangerous precedent. Not only is it immoral to sacrifice the freedom or perhaps existence of smaller nations, be that the Serbs or the Israelis, in order to save your own skin. As the example of Czechoslovakia demonstrated prior to WW2, it is also counterproductive. Supporting independence for Muslim Albanians in Kosovo will not lead to stabilization of the Balkans; it will rather lead to the Balkanization of the West. The new thug state will serve as a launching pad for Jihad activities against non-Muslims, just like an independent Palestinian state would do in the Middle East. In the case of Kosovo, the Russians are right and Western leaders, both in the European Union and the United States, are wrong. The Serbs have suffered enough, and don’t need to be stabbed in the back by the West as well.

Janos (John) Hunyadi, Hungarian warrior and captain-general, is today virtually unknown outside Hungary and the Balkans, but he probably did more than any other individual in stemming the Turkish invasion in the fifteenth century. His actions spanned all the countries of south-eastern Europe, leading international armies, negotiating with kings and popes. He died of plague after having destroyed an Ottoman fleet outside Belgrade in1456. His work slowed the Muslim advance, and may thus have saved Western Europe from falling to Islam. By extension, he may have helped save Western civilization in North America and Australia, too. Yet hardly anybody in West knows who he is. Our children don’t learn his name, they are only taught about the evils of Western colonialism and the dangers of Islamophobia.

Western Europe today is a strange and very dangerous mix of arrogance and self-loathing. Muslims are creating havoc and attacking their non-Muslim neighbors from Thailand to India. It is extremely arrogant to believe that the result will be any different in the Netherlands, Britain or Italy, or for that matter in the United States or Canada, than it has been everywhere else. It won’t. If we had the humility to listen to the advice of the Hindus of India or even our Christian cousins in south-eastern Europe, we wouldn’t be in as much trouble as we are now.

On the other hand, if we didn’t have such a culture of self-loathing, where our own cultural traditions are ridiculed in favor of a meaningless Multicultural cocktail, we probably wouldn’t have allowed massive Muslim immigration, either. There doesn’t have to be a contradiction between being proud of your own cultural heritage and knowing that there may still be lessons you can learn from others. A wise man can do both. Westerners of our age do neither.

Sun Tzu, a contemporary of the great Chinese thinker Confucius, wrote The Art of War, the extremely influential book on military strategy, 2500 years ago. It is a book that deserves to be read in full, but one of the most famous quotations is this one: “So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”

The West has forgotten who our enemies are, but worse, we have also forgotten who we are. We are going to pay a heavy price for this historical amnesia.

NATO to cut troops in Kosovo despite unrest – Rasmussen

Posted September 3, 2009 by strategicanalysis
Categories: South Eastern Europe

Reuters
NATO will stick to plans to scale down its military presence in Kosovo, despite recent unrest there, alliance Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday.

On Aug 25, seven people were wounded in northern Kosovo when minority Serbs and Albanians clashed in the ethnically divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica.

A hand grenade was detonated and the two groups briefly traded small-arms fire, police said. In the capital Pristina, dozens of protesters led by an ethnic Albanian nationalist group rallied against the EU executive presence, damaging 24 EU vehicles.

“Despite the unfortunate incidents, I don’t think the overall security situation has changed,” Rasmussen told a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

“So we will stick to the decision already taken that we will reduce the number of KFOR troops from a level of 15,000 to a level of 10,000 at the beginning of next year. I think the overall security situation has improved and the conditions are fulfilled that we can take that step…I think the overall security situation is quite satisfactory.”

Last month’s violence broke out after Serbs from the ethnically mixed neighbourhood rallied to protest against the rebuilding of Albanian houses destroyed during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war.

In April, dozens of people including a French peacekeeper were wounded when local Serbs fought international peacekeepers and police to protest against housing development.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, nine years after a NATO-led air war forced Serbian security forces out of the area, ending Belgrade’s crackdown against ethnic Albanians.

Following Kosovo’s independence declaration, the European Union deployed a police, customs and judiciary mission called Eulex to replace a United Nations mission.

NATO aims to cuts its troop presence to a little more than 2,000 over two years, although Rasmussen stressed that each further reduction would follow a thorough analysis of the security situation to ensure there was no negative impact in Kosovo or the region. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Bosnia’s ethnic divisions are evident in schools

Posted August 25, 2009 by strategicanalysis
Categories: South Eastern Europe

By AIDA CERKEZ-ROBINSON (AP) – 22 Aug. 2009 STOLAC, Bosnia-Herzegovina — It’s shortly after noon, and teenagers who were taught their capital is Zagreb, in neighboring Croatia, are streaming out of Stolac High School. In an hour, their classrooms will be filled with children who have learned that their capital is Sarajevo, Bosnia. Fourteen years after Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, youngsters from Muslim Bosniak and Roman Catholic Croat families attend the same schools, but are separated from each other and learn from different textbooks. With the Bosnian Serbs already holed up in their own part of the country, critics say the Balkan nation’s school system is one of the worst examples of segregation in Europe — one that’s producing a generation ripe for manipulation by nationalists. Tiny Bosnia is home to just 3.5 million people, yet its schools are governed by 14 ministries, many run by people who favor segregation. Vedran Zubic, a high school teacher in the capital, Sarajevo, sees the separation as a continuation of wartime nationalist rhetoric. “We have a generation of young, intolerant, ethnically isolated and ethnically overfed pupils who are being used as weapons of nationalist politicians,” he said. The Stolac school is an example of Bosnia’s postwar emphasis on “two schools under one roof.” It was designed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as an urgent but temporary response to the problem of educating the children of parents who had ventured back to their prewar homes in towns subjected to ethnic cleansing. During the war, Croats drove the majority Bosniak population out of Stolac, a southeastern town near the Croatian border. Those who returned found the town’s schools were using Croatian history books. Bosnian Croats are taught they are members of the Croatian nation living in a Croat province in Bosnia. Almost 99 percent of Bosnian Croats have Croatian passports and vote in Croatian elections. Before the former Yugoslavia crumbled in the 1990s, Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks attended school together and studied from uniform textbooks distributed by the communist government. But the war opened a chasm between Bosnia’s ethnic groups, and the peace accords that followed split the country into a Serb mini-state and a Bosniak-Croat federation. Separation since has become a way of life. Unwilling to have their kids learn the history and language of a neighboring country, Bosniak returnees formed a school for their children in a private home where Bosnian language and history was taught. Predominantly Muslim Bosniaks, for example have been taught in geography books that “Muslims don’t attack sacred objects, unlike others,” while mainly Catholic Croats learned that “Muslims are an ethnic group and not a religion.” The OSCE mission in Bosnia, in charge of overseeing education, pressed Croat school managers to allow the Bosniaks to use the school building at least in the afternoon. The first day, Croat school staff piled up chairs and desks to build a barrier separating the children. The U.S. Embassy in Bosnia even invited Martin Luther King III, the son of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., to talk to teachers and students about human rights and segregation. But in Stolac, King found, his father’s famous dream remains just that: a dream. As he spoke, Croat students sat up front; Bosniaks took the chairs in the back. Merima Tabakovic, a 17-year-old Bosniak student, points to flagrant examples of discrimination in Stolac’s classrooms: She said Bosniak students cannot enter the school before the afternoon, even if it’s raining. “In the winter, they switch off the heating as soon as the second shift starts,” added another student, Azra Isakovic. And students rarely broach the issue of segregation with one another. “It’s taboo,” she said. Claude Kiffer, who runs the OSCE education department, said it was supposed to be a temporary solution until a new, countrywide curriculum was adopted. But that never happened, and the Stolac model spread throughout the part of the country shared by Bosniaks and Croats. Today, more than 50 schools operate like this. Now, nongovernmental organizations and the OSCE are urging an end to segregation. Education, they contend, should have been a part of the Dayton peace agreement that ended the war, but in 1995, few understood the damage that segregated schools could inflict in the long run. “The absence of genuine education reform designed to bring future citizens together undermines all other reforms so far,” Kiffer said. The system, he added, is producing “three sets of citizens who do not know anything about the others, have no intercultural skills.” He warns: “In the longer term, this may contribute to the breakup of the country.” David Skinner of Save the Children says about half of all peace pacts worldwide fail after five years because neglected school systems don’t produce citizens with critical thinking skills. The nonprofit group recently organized an international conference in Sarajevo where participants urged the U.N. to include education in future peace agreements. That way, Skinner said, “we can start reducing the number of peace agreements that fail.”

Pakistan: Who’s Attacking the Christians?

Posted August 6, 2009 by strategicanalysis
Categories: World

The intruders wore masks and carried guns. They went door to door, through the narrow and dusty alleyways, asking if there were any Christians inside. When the terrified faces inside replied yes, they poured chemicals on the small, redbrick homes of Episcopalians and Evangelicals, setting them ablaze. In some cases, they didn’t bother with the question. Instead, they opened fire and hurled rocks, forcing families to flee in a panic — moments before fresh flames consumed their homes as well. When the attackers were done, nine people had been killed and 45 homes lay smoldering and destroyed in the clustered Christian colony in Gojra, a town in central Punjab, marking the worst anti-Christian violence Pakistan has seen in recent years. A tearful woman crouches over rubble outside the attackers’ first target. “Look what they have done to our church,” says Shahida William, the wife of the pastor, pointing at the deeply blackened one-room Faith Bible Church. Inside, bricks are strewn across the floor. The stinging smell of the chemicals used still hangs in the air. A few houses down, Ethel Gill points to nine bullet holes that have been punched into the top story of her home. “They threw rocks and bricks at us. Then they opened fire. We cowered for safety and ran away, jumping over roofs of other houses. We eventually found sanctuary in a church.” She shows the remains of her Urdu language Bible: “Look at our holy book. The pages are all burnt. Is this not desecration?” (See pictures of the ethnic rivalries that lie beneath the surface of Pakistan.) The roots of the attack lie in Korian, a village five miles away from Gojra. There, a Christian family was celebrating a wedding on July 28 when, somehow, a rumor spread alleging that the revelers had torn the pages of the Quran and thrown them in the air. No evidence has emerged that this actually happened. But the mere suggestion appeared to set off days of rioting. Christian homes in Korian were torched, before the violence spread to Gojra. Last Friday, Christian residents say, the preacher at a nearby mosque issued a fiery sermon inciting violence against them. The police visited the Christian community later that night, warning them of possible violence the next day. Some left that very night. But it appears others didn’t receive the warning, and were present when thousands of Muslim protesters charged through the town. Clashes ensued between the advancing Muslim crowd and the much smaller group of Christians trying to push them back. The police were caught in the middle for some time, before they, for reasons that remain unclear, melted away. Some members of the Christian community allege that the police stood by as a group of armed men mounted their attack. Paramilitary forces were dispatched on Sunday, but their arrival came too late, residents say. Authorities and human rights groups now suspect that the attackers belonged to the Sipah-e-Sahaba, a sectarian militant group from the nearby town of Jhang. A senior member, Qari Saifullah, served as Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud’s righthand man and trained scores of suicide bombers. The group’s even more vicious offshoot, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, is considered al-Qaeda’s front in Pakistan. The enduring and undisturbed presence of Sipah-e-Sahaba and other militant groups in central and southern Punjab has led many analysts to predict that the militants will open up their next front here. Already, the Pakistan army has said that “splinter groups” from Jaish-e-Mohammad have been fighting alongside the Taliban in Swat. And Punjab is also home to front groups of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the outlawed militant group that was blamed for last November’s Mumbai massacre. (See pictures of the long journey of the lone surviving Mumbai gunman.) The Gojra tragedy has sparked outrage across Pakistan. The government has ordered a judicial commission to investigate what happened and parliament passed a unanimous resolution condemning the violence. Islamabad’s gestures, however, have done little to assure Pakistan’s estimated 3 million Christians, who are 60% Catholic, 40% Protestant (the second largest religious minority after Hindus). Many now question whether they can remain safe in a country that has long neglected them, and continues to have blasphemy laws that have been repeatedly exploited by violent extremists. “This isn’t the first time that this has happened,” says Pastor William, who heads the burnt one-room church. Similar episodes of broke out in the towns of Shantinagar in 1997, and Shangla Hill in 2005. Just last month, accusations of blasphemy triggered violence in four different towns in Punjab. On Tuesday, two people were killed in the town of Muridke after a similar accusation was raised. In each case, says Pastor William, blasphemy laws are used as a pretext for attacks on religious minorities. Anger is now spreading in Pakistan’s Christian community. On Wednesday, riots broke out in Lahore’s Youhanabad neighborhood, where stick-wielding Christian protestors smashed buses and property. Pakistan’s blasphemy laws date back to the colonial era. The late military dictator Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq introduced a further, harsher clause as part of his sweeping “Islamization” program. Human rights groups have long appealed to successive government to repeal or amend these laws. The current ruling party, the Pakistan People’s Party, vowed to do so in its election manifesto. As yet, nothing has been done. But presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar says that the Gojra tragedy “has increased the urgency of revisiting these laws”.

 

 By Omar Waraich

http://www.time.com