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Due to a public holiday, Asia Times Online will next upload on April 22.

Ukraine and the grand chessboard

In a sane, non-Hobbesian environment, a neutral Ukraine would only gain by positioning itself as a privileged crossroads between the European Union and the proposed Eurasian Union, as well as a key node of the Chinese New Silk Road - not to mention of vital link in a common market from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Instead, the present disaster is a big spanner in the works - a spanner that suits only one player: the US government. - Pepe Escobar (Apr 17, '14)

Agony of Korean ferry disaster

South Korean relatives of passengers on board a capsized ferry wait for news about their loved ones, at a gym in Jindo on Thursday. Poor conditions hampered the frantic search for nearly 300 people, most of them schoolchildren, missing as nine passengers were confirmed dead and distraught relatives maintained an agonizing vigil on shore. Click here for the latest news. (Apr 17, '14)

Baloch separatists follow Taliban footsteps
Talks between the Pakistani Taliban and the government in Islamabad have increased the prospect of some sort of peaceful settlement, after terror attacks forced the government to the negotiating table. The slaying of innocents in southwestern Balochistan province shows that as separatists there take their cue from the Taliban, Islamabad would be wise to support Baloch nationalists who favor the ballot box rather than to up the ante with military action.
- Syed Fazl-e-Haider (Apr 17, '14)

It's our UN party
A grandstanding Tea Party Republican last week sponsored a senate bill demanding that Iran rescind Hamid Aboutalebi as its choice for its envoy to the United Nations. Yet, Iran has a sovereign right to choose whomever it wants to represent it at the UN, just as Texans have the right to choose whatever Ivy League meathead they want to represent them in congress.
- John Feffer (Apr 17, '14)

Conflict fuels child labor in India
Parents in India's Chhattisgarh state who fear their children may be forced to fight for Maoist insurgents are inadvertently passing them to child traffickers in an attempt to "save" them, with many ending up as unpaid laborers or in the sex industry. Because the government doesn't want to admit the problem exists, the traffickers rarely face justice. - Stella Paul (Apr 17, '14)

Indonesia and those dashed lines
Speculation that Indonesia has abandoned its mediator status in the South China Sea sovereignty dispute ignores that the country has never laid claim to the hundreds of "features" in the Spratlys and the Paracel islands around which much of the conflict has revolved. There is also the problem that China's "nine-dash map" is incomplete, inaccurate, inconsistent and legally questionable. - Arif Havas Oegroseno (Apr 17, '14)

Rockefeller rebooted for Asia's century
As pioneers of US-China cultural and business collaboration, the Rockefeller family would probably approve of plans by the Asia Society to create a think-tank that will develop "solutions for the Asian century". The society was founded by John D Rockefeller III at a time when most Americans perceived Asia as a region of poverty, disease, overpopulation and war, and while the oil magnates saw Asia as home of immense potential. - Dinesh Sharma (Apr 17, '14)

No hegemonic peace in Cyprus
Occupying powers have quit places such as Iraq and East Timor, yet the West allows Turkey to garrison northern Cyprus in perpetuity through "international treaties". Amid the discovery of hydrocarbons off the island, plans are afoot for a new regional security system, but Ankara's record for aggression could undermine any such body's international legitimacy. - Marios L Evriviades (Apr 17, '14)

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Putin warns of Ukraine 'civil war'
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Ukraine is "on the verge of civil war", speaking to German Chancellor Angela Merkel after Ukrainian armed forces retook control of a military air base in the east of the country, part of an action the White House described as a "measured" response to an "untenable" situation after pro-Russian separatists seized control of buildings and other facilities in at least nine cities. (Apr 16, '14)

China tightens case against Zhou
Media reports in China suggest that President Xi Jinping's administration is bolstering its case against Zhou Yongkang, the once-powerful security czar, according to analysts. Two officials from the once-powerful leader's days as the party chief in Sichuan and China's largest oil company, headed by Zhou in the 1990s, are be investigated for "serious violations of discipline", the reports said. (Apr 16, '14)

Asia bucks military spending decline
Factors including China's military modernization, India-Pakistan rivalry and America's "Pacific pivot" all combined to help Asia raise military spending in 2013. The US weapons industry appears to be the main beneficiary, and continuing tensions over North Korea's nuclear program and territorial disputes suggest the upward trajectory is unlikely to slow anytime soon. - John Feffer (Apr 15, '14)

Breaking bad in
southern NATOstan

Joie de vivre and fine wines won out as the Roving Eye and Roving Son spurned NATO's anti-Russian paranoia in Brussels in favor of breaking out to Provence. The road passed through towns strong in culture and artisan delights yet paved with malaise, revealing why - at a time China and Russia are forging ahead with mega-deals - locals in NATO's southern territory view its economic march with Van Goghian apprehension.
- Pepe Escobar (Apr 15, '14)

US veterans promote 'right to heal'

Recent shootings of soldiers at Fort Hood and other US military bases and rising suicide rates among American troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are inexorably linked to the wars. Now, veterans are holding the US government accountable for innocent victims on all sides of the fighting. - Phyllis Bennis (Apr 15, '14)

High-level threat to China's party line
China's President Xi Jinping is channeling more powers into secretive leading groups and commissions within the Chinese Communist Party that report directly to him. The increase in top-level bodies raises questions about a lack of transparency and goes against Premier Li Keqiang's pledge that the State Council would be streamlined. - Willy Lam (Apr 15, '14)

Assad's staying power on show
As Syrian President President Bashar al-Assad's forces take the upper hand and the rebellion against him is dominated by extremists, countries that hoped to sponsor Assad's demise can only step up support of the "increasingly rare" moderate factions. A defeat of Assad was to become a victory for political Islam - but as hopes of this fade enemies are more concerned about blowback. - Nicola Nasser (Apr 11, '14)

Ukraine facing replay of Moscow '93
YouTube is full of amateur footage showing all sorts of militarized units being moved towards the Ukrainian cities of Kharkov, Donetsk and Lugansk. Local people have tried to stop them, without success. This is all too reminiscent of Moscow in 1993, when the subsequent bloodbath was hidden from the public. Something very similar might happen soon in eastern Ukraine. (Apr 11, '14)

Philippines tests rule of law
The Philippines chose the right course in submitting its nearly 4,000-page memorial to an arbitration tribunal at The Hague arguing against China's nine-dash line and other aspects of Beijing's South China Sea claim. Now the international community must convince China that preserving the international rule of law is in its own best interests.
- Gregory Poling (Apr 11, '14)

Former Zhou aide Guo in graft probe
China's top prosecutor's office is carrying out a criminal investigation into Guo Yongxiang, a former vice governor of Sichuan province who was expelled from the Communist Party this week. Guo was for a time the secretary of Zhou Yongkang, the now retired head of nation's public security affairs. More than 300 people linked to Zhou have reportedly been taken into custody or questioned in the past four months, and assets worth as much US$14.5 billion seized. (Apr 11, '14)

Dust storms cloud Iran's future

Dust storms are normal in the more arid regions of the world, but what Iran is now experiencing verges on catastrophe, with Tehran obscured for 117 days of the past year. Solving the problem will require better water and land-management practices, and, above all, cooperation with Iranís neighbors, which face the same wind-borne disaster.
- David Michel (Apr 11, '14)

Time to end subcontinent's family feud
Anyone who thinks that Pakistan and India can never be at peace should look at the example of Britain and the United States. They spent a century as mortal enemies, yet once they decided to resolve their differences something like brotherhood quickly followed. The key was cultural similarities, which also exist on the subcontinent and are a way out of the present madness. - Arshad M Khan (Apr 11, '14)

The finance millstone
Four simple reforms would help return the finance sector to its true purpose - providing financing for the real economy to produce the goods and services that consumers and businesses demand. One hindrance - the finance industry today owns the politicians. - Hossein Askari

Promise of deflation
The noise from high places, including the US Federal Reserve and the IMF's Christine Lagarde, is warning of the imminence of deflation and the dire consequences that would ensue from even a mild decline in prices. I frankly don't believe a word of it.
- Martin Hutchinson

Financial stability
An energetic exchange at the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group focused on whether the US Federal Reserve should withdraw its "punchbowl". At issue was the importance - or otherwise - of "financial stability".
Doug Noland looks at the previous week's events each Monday.

Ukraine: No winners
What happened on Wednesday in eastern Ukraine should be a wake-up call for US President Barack Obama. A column of Ukrainian paratroopers belonging to the elite 24th Airborne Brigade entered the city of Kramatorsk, met with no resistance, and were instead greeted by unarmed civilians with flowers and food...
- M K Bhadrakumar

[Re North Korea needs 'strategic shaping', Apr 8, '14] The alpha and omega of the Obama administration's approach relies less on diplomacy than on repeated military exercises with South Korea to "force" North Korea to bend to its goals.
Lou Vignates
   Go to Letters to the Editor

1. This is all too reminiscent of Moscow in 1993

2. Dust storms cloud Iran's future

3. The US-Russia Ukrainian deal

4. Assad's staying power on show

5. New US reality: An empire beyond salvation

6. Time to end the subcontinent's family feud

7. What would Jesus do to North Korea?

8. In Andrew Jackson we trust

9. Philippines tests rule of law

10. Former Zhou aide Guo in graft probe

(Apr 11-14, 2014)


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