William F. Jasper
After months of initiatives and statements from the new Obama administration indicating it intended to reverse U.S. policy and reopen relations with Syria, President Obama, on May 7, signed an executive order renewing sanctions on Damascus that had been put in place by President George W. Bush in 2004.
As Iran celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Khomeini Revolution and the American hostage crisis, U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were both talking about talking — with each other. Ahmadinejad, on February 10, said his country "is ready to hold talks, but talks in a fair atmosphere with mutual respect." He made the remarks at a rally to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, when members of the PLO-trained Revolutionary Guards took over the U.S. embassy and held the embassy personnel hostage for 444 days.
Less than two weeks after Iraq’s provincial elections, the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki welcomed a large high-level delegation from Iran. Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki led the delegation, which visited Baghdad on February 11 and included representatives from the Central Bank and oil, trade, and energy ministries. Mottaki met with his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari, as well as Prime Minister al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani.
Provincial council elections in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces on January 31 strengthened Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party, a militant Shia Islamic group, while also bringing many Sunnis who had boycotted the 2005 elections back into the political process. More than 14,400 candidates ran for 440 seats in the councils, which appoint the provincial governor and oversee finance and reconstruction. The three provinces of the Kurdish autonomous region and Kirkuk will hold elections in May.
Rather than merely calling Vladimir Putin on the telephone to congratulate him on his March 4 election victory for a new term as president of Russia, Silvio Berlusconi hopped in his jet and headed for Sochi, the Russian resort town that will be the site for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The Italian billionaire and media mogul, who resigned his position as Italy’s prime minister last November, is embroiled in legal battles over charges of bribery, corruption, illegal wiretapping, and sex with an underage prostitute, but those concerns took back burner to his party time with Putin.
Vladimir Putin claimed victory in Russia’s presidential election on Sunday, March 4. "I promised you we would win, and we won — glory to Russia!" he proclaimed to a throng of supporters at Moscow’s Manezh Square, in front of the Kremlin, as tears rolled down his cheeks.
Marta Andreasen (left), the courageous former chief accountant of the European Union, will not give up. In 2002 she was fired for refusing to sign off on the European Commission’s accounts. But she has continued to hold the EU politicians and eurocrats in Brussels to account, exposing fraud, waste and corruption on her website, http://www.martaandreasen.com. In 2009 she was elected as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), an office she uses to shine the light of exposure on the dark dealings of the EU’s priviledged politicians and civil “servants.” In a January 26 article entitled “MEPs should hang heads in shame over ‘jollies,’” published by Public ServiceEurope, Ms. Andreasen exposed recent records of lavish spending by the eurocrats for foreign junkets.
“We need a larger firewall.” So declared Christine Lagarde (left), Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during a speech in Berlin on January 23, in which she called on taxpayers of the world to chip in $1 trillion to the IMF to stave off a global crisis. “We need to act quickly or else we could easily slide into a 1930s moment,” Lagarde warned, in an obvious reference to the Great Depression.
Rosen Plevneliev managed a narrow victory in Bulgaria's recent presidential elections on a reform platform pledging to clean up the country's corruption-plagued government, one of the most notorious in Europe. On November 3, Plevneliev was certified as the official winner in Bulgaria’s presidential race. The President-elect immediately declared that the first thing he plans to do after assuming office is fire all Bulgarian diplomats abroad who have been exposed as former agents of the communist Committee of State Security (CSS).
Mikhail Gorbachev is coming to Middle America. To Wisconsin’s Fox Cities, to be precise — a group of communities on the Fox River clustered around the city of Appleton. Mr. Gorbachev will be the keynote speaker and main attraction at an October 1st-3rd conference that proposes to launch a new project called Communities for International Development. Some Fox Cities business, media, and academic leaders are all aglow over the supposed opportunities and prestige the Gorbachev visit will bring. However, the Appleton-based John Birch Society offers a far less naпve, and more realistic, take on the hype-driven event.