|Asia News Digest
Afghan President Karzai Moves Election to April
March 1 (EIRNS)Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered on Feb. 28 that Presidential elections be held by April, months earlier than the date of Aug. 20 set by the voting authority because of security and logistic issues. In a decree that comes after weeks of consultations about the date, Karzai said the Independent Election Commission had to conduct the elections according to provisions of the constitution.
The commission last month delayed polling to Aug. 20, saying that security and logistical concerns meant it would not be ready to hold a legitimate and credible poll in the timeline provided by the Constitution.
By ordering the date pushed forward, Karzai has thrown the ball into Washington's court. Washington wanted the election delayed for two reasons. First, some within the Obama Administration have begun to question the efficacy of the Karzai government, accusing it of corruption and ineptitude. Obviously, these individuals are looking around for a candidate to replace Karzai, and need more time to find one.
The second reason is the deterioration of security in Afghanistan. The U.S. military believes that the insurgents are preparing for a major thrust which may begin this month, or in April. Under the circumstances, Washington does not expect a "free and fair" election can be held in Afghanistan.
Now, Washington will have to move quickly to push the date back again, thus undermining President's authority altogether, or Washington has to accept Karzai's diktat, expecting the re-election of the disfavored candidate.
A Move To Get the Brits Out of Drugland, Afghanistan?
March 1 (EIRNS)If U.S. troops take control over the drug routes that are used to get hundreds of tons of heroin out of Helmand, Farah, Nimroz, Kandahar, and Uruzgan provinces under the British watch, Her Majesty's Service will have to stand before the world with a begging bowl. And, it seems the Americans may well just do that.
The Sunday Times of London reports that U.S. troops, from a 2,000-man taskforce based in Helmand, have pushed west into Farah province to choke off the Taliban's supply lines, part of an American plan to contain what they perceive as British failures in southern Afghanistan. Privately, the Americans are fiercely critical that the British are merely treading water until more U.S. forces arrive this Summer. NATO's senior commander in Afghanistan, David McKiernan, an American, has conceded that the British are locked in a stalemate in Helmand. "America's focus on the routes through Helmand is linked to a clampdown on the drug trade. U.S. officials have been frustrated at Britain's reluctance to tackle poppy farmers and heroin traffickers for fear of alienating local people. American diplomats advocate aerial spraying to wipe out poppy fields," the Sunday Times says.
The Times also reports that there is growing tension between the U.S. and British troops. The Americans have refused to take orders from Britain's Taskforce Helmand, which is nominally in charge. They report directly to a regional headquarters in Kandahar. Americans joke that ISAF, the acronym for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, which includes most British forces, really stands for "I Saw Americans Fighting."
Even the Drug Bankers Are Getting Whacked
March 2 (EIRNS)HSBC, the former Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, which was the original drug bank of the British Empire (and little changed today), has announced a profit drop of 70%, and the issuance of new stock in an effort to raise $18 billion. The largest bank in Europe, HSBC also shut down trading temporarily in its old home town, Hongkong, as its stock fell 18%, on top of a 28% fall already this year.
HSBC announced it will be closing most of its U.S. consumer and mortgage lending, and laying off over 6,000 U.S. employees.
It looks like you just can't make an honest buck selling drugs these days. Lyndon LaRouche noted: "Soros and company are stealing everythingeven from HongShang."
Japanese Political Crisis Guarantees Weak Government
March 4 (EIRNS)A raid on the campaign office and the local constituency office of the leader of Japan's Democratic Party, Ichiro Ozawa, who is likely to be the winner of the next election, has plunged the nation further into chaos, as the global breakdown rips through the world's second-largest economy. Ozawa is accused of receiving illegal campaign contributions from a corporation. A close aide was arrested.
Ozawa declared the raids to be politically motivated, and refuses to resign. An intelligence source in the U.S. told EIR that this situation nearly assures that Japan will continue to have a weak and unpopular government, no matter who wins the elections, which must be held before September, but are expected in April.
Prime Minister Taro Aso's popularity has shrunk to about 10%, while former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the pro-free-trade neocon leader who deregulated and privatized much of the economy, is now moving to split the government party, the Liberal Democrats (LDP), further eroding Aso's support.
The LDP did succeed in getting a stimulus bill (a cash hand-out) through the Diet (parliament), despite opposition from the Democrats and from Koizumi.
Wen Jiabao: Economic Crisis a Major Problem for China
March 5 (EIRNS)China is facing "unprecedented" difficulties and challenges due to the world economic crisis, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said in his report to the opening session of the National People's Congress in Beijing today. "The external economic environment has become more serious, and uncertainties have increased significantly," Wen said. "The continuous drop in economic growth rate due to the impact of the global financial crisis has become a major problem affecting the overall situation [for China]. This has resulted in excess production capacity in some industries, caused some enterprises to experience operating difficulties and exerted severe pressure on employment."
Government revenues are falling as expenses grow, and this is, among other problems, making it difficult to maintain steady agricultural development and keep rural incomes growing, Wen said.
Social stability is a big concern for China, Wen also said. He said that the government "will improve the early-warning system for social stability to actively prevent and properly handle all types of mass incidents.... The more difficulties we face, the greater attention we should pay to ensuring people's well-being and promoting social harmony and stability." China has already seen many protests, by laid-off workers, taxi drivers, and others in the past year. Officials are calling on companies to keep people employed. China's labor dispute lawsuits nearly doubled last year, over 2007, because of the economic downturn and the new labor contract law, according to the Supreme People's Court.
Wen Jiabao said today that in this developing country with a population of 1.3 billion, "maintaining a certain growth rate for the economy is essential for ... ensuring social stability."