2014: year in review (by countries, part 2)

2014

 

This is the continuation of previous post I published yesterday. Here are a few more countries under the spotlight this year:

 

Iraq – this country has long been notoriously associated with sectarian strife, the failed US invasions, and right now, a seemingly new synonym is ironically added into once was an influential power in Middle East a millennium ago: ISIS. Since its advent in the middle of this year, this organization, led by a former CIA informant (ha!), has committed numerous atrocities against religious and ethnic minorities across much of the country, most notably Christians and Yazidis. Excluding their poor public-relations exercise by means of decapitation, which, as horrendous as it seems, still continues to entice thousands of foreigners across the whole world to join this movement.

With the Iraqi Army still in partial disarray due to internal conflicts, who else remains in charge of limiting ISIS’s movements? Big kudos to Peshmerga, the army for Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region in northern Iraq. While the Army’s offensive has been largely limited (and some even escape), the Peshmerga fighters remain fiercely committed to defending their region, and more generally, the country as a whole, despite the frequent fracas between Baghdad and Erbil (capital of Iraqi Kurdistan) in regard to oil production sharing contracts.

Iran – it has been an uneasy year for President Hassan Rouhani, as nuclear deals with Western countries remain largely in limbo. But one piece of slightly good news abounds: Iran has, for the first time since Ahmadinejad era, achieved positive economic growth, albeit small compared to most emerging markets. With GDP growth estimated at 2%, no matter how small it is, Iran is expected to move slowly into better direction in the years to come.

The big concern that matters, as of my opinion, is the limited freedom of expression that prevails.

Israel / Palestine – “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Gandhi’s quote resonates very obviously in terms of how these two countries relate to each other. A few Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered, followed by a retaliation by which a Palestinian child was done so in similar manner. And huge conflicts, due in part to deep scars that remain in both governments, reverberated again, as history has taught. More than 2,000 Palestinian civilians were killed during an offensive by Israeli military in August this year. But is Israel the sole culprit in this conflict? What about Hamas, notoriously known for exploiting civilian places like schools and hospitals to launch unending attacks to Israel? With now Israel dominated by hard-line Zionists, and Palestine partially under control of hard-line leaders as well, the doors towards negotiation and dialogues will not be achievable in the near future.

A piece of good news that remains largely overlooked in this conflict zone: start-ups, mostly in software development and creative products, in both countries are flourishing, and more European countries are recognizing Palestine as a sovereign state.

Japan – Shinzo Abe was reelected as Prime Minister of Japan in a somewhat risky bet he placed in this year’s general election, as his Abenomics was showing failure. In short term, his quantitative easing policy has pumped over trillions of dollars into the market, therefore stimulating exports growth, abundant cash, as well as inflation, the word first time appearing in the news after more than 20 years experiencing continuous periods of deflation. Nonetheless, with Abe’s introduction of consumption tax at 8%, this deals a catastrophic blow for his ambitious initiative intended to revive Japanese economic miracle. With GDP contracting this quarter, the country unofficially enters its recession again. Even his ‘Womenomics’ program, aimed to increase female participation in leadership seats across Japan’s corporations and organizations into 30%, will be hardly achievable in this decade.

In 2015, challenges will not be even easier for Abe, as a whole range of issues will soon face his administration. Revision of US-drafted post-war constitution has attracted massive opposition from largely Japanese public, still traumatized by the deadly repercussions of World War II, even though Japan will never become a militarist power again, given the country’s increasing demographic pressure. His plans to restart nuclear power plants, ratify the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), pass national secrecy laws, and handle Japan’s fragile relations with China similarly encounter big resistance from much of the Japanese population as well. 2014-2018 will not be a smooth path for Abe, were he to continue his tenure.

Libya – the country remains largely fractured three years after Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown and brutally murdered by opposition forces in a NATO-led civil war that destroyed Libya in 2011. Some militants have previously formed their own ‘governorate’ in the country’s eastern part, only to face another armed resistance from other fighters, while several ISIS sympathizers have begun to infiltrate the country’s security. Even with Libya’s riches stored abroad (the country’s sovereign wealth fund reaches a staggering amount of 120 billion US$, but mostly in bank accounts in Switzerland, notorious for their secrecy laws), the money can hardly be used for Libyan public, given that much of the money remains under control of Qaddafi’s relatives, many of whom had escaped abroad (except for his son, Saif al-Islam, who may possibly face death sentence).

Malaysia – 2014 is the most disastrous year for the country’s aviation industry, as three airliners belonging to its most reliable carriers, Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia, perished this year. The most puzzling of which was Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a scheduled flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing that ended up nowhere. After almost 10 months of investigation, involving hundreds of rescue ships and even war ships from more than 27 countries, not even the slightest trace of the plane can be found. The plane was presumed, as by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, to have ‘ended up somewhere in Indian Ocean’. This makes the search efforts even riskier, given that much of Indian Ocean’s terrains remain largely unmapped, some of which may have depth over 6,000 meters. Four months after this tragedy, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 again became a tragedy, as pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine mistook it as ‘Ukrainian military transport plane’ and shot it down. 239 people in MH370 had never been found, while 298 people in MH17 were instantly killed by the missile launched by the separatists.

And this Sunday, Air Asia, long notable as Asia’s largest low-cost carrier with great safety records, faced its first major crisis with the disappearance of its plane in Air Asia Flight QZ 8501, flying from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, to Singapore. 162 passengers and crew were inside the plane, which remains missing as of this hour.

However, other than aviation disasters, Malaysia faces another major issue in regard to the country’s increasing authoritarian rule, as Najib’s administration restarted decades-old sedition laws, used only during British colonial rule, to detain political opponents without prior permission from judiciary powers, including Anwar Ibrahim, the most outspoken. The country also faces ethnic and religious tumults, as Christians are no longer allowed to use ‘Allah’ in their sermons, and more pro-Malay policies at the expense of Chinese and Indian minorities, many of whom have increasingly emigrated abroad.

Myanmar – the country doesn’t experience much progress in democratic transition, as one-fourth of the national parliament remains solely reserved for military. Even the constitution itself requires a law to be approved by more than three-fourths of the entire members, something which can be easily aborted by the powerful military members.

How the country handles its ethnic minorities will remain a concern to be observed in 2015 and years to come, most commonly illustrated by the country’s failure to relate with Muslim Rohingya minorities, many of whom have fled abroad to avoid persecution by ultra-nationalist Buddhists.

One thing almost for sure: in next year’s 2015 election, there is large probability Aung San Suu Kyi will not become the country’s president, given many of the current constitution’s limitations.

Nigeria – Africa’s most populated country faces its major crisis when Boko Haram, an Islamist movement affiliated with Al-Qaeda in northern Nigeria, kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls, sparking an international campaign to free them. However, the kidnapping itself is not the mere problem the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration is being faced with. Continuous suicide-bomb attacks have killed over thousands of civilians in many parts across the country, prompting military operations to capture those involved.

Nonetheless, there remains some good news that is worthy of international attention. The country, given its proximity to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, was once thought as a potential ‘bomb’ for Ebola epidemic to turn itself into a pandemic, given the country’s population that now reaches 170 million, as well as high density, low sanitation, acute poverty, and little awareness about cleanliness. However, within months, less than two dozens of cases took place across the whole country, with the number of mortality countable by fingers. This is something seemingly impossible for many experts, but Nigeria, given the national unity in facing this crisis, has proven to the world that no matter how problematic things seem to be, they can resolve it successfully.

And Nigeria’s GDP has for the first time surpassed that of South Africa, therefore becoming Africa’s largest economy. While oil and gas revenues remain the largest source for government budget (and often corrupted), Nigerian economy has been more diversified in recent years.

North Korea – other than the Kim-Obama fracas about naughty comedy ‘The Interview’ and the subsequent Sony hacking attacks that follow (which may possibly be conducted by third parties using North Korean IP addresses), the country is not as isolated as people perceive anymore. Over hundred thousands of Chinese tourists are now visiting North Korea every year, followed by a large flow of cash from China, its principal ally, largely driven by informal economy that the country is mostly depending upon. As economy has collapsed, majority of the North Koreans have now turned into either smuggling or small trade, and the country’s unofficial currencies are either US dollar, euro, or Chinese yuan (South Korean won is not allowed).

The purge, and eventual execution, of Jang Song-thaek remains a proof, however, that Kim Jong-un can be as ruthless as his grandfather and father were (Jang was his uncle, and a sort of ‘intermediary’ between North Korea and China in terms of economic, trade, and investment relations).

 

(wait for part 3)

 

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Israel-Palestine conflict: on choosing a solution

clip-art-war-403131

 

 

Tragedies can be resolved in one of two ways: there is the Shakespearean resolution and there is the Chekhovian one. At the end of a Shakespearean tragedy, the stage is strewn with dead bodies and maybe there’s some justice hovering high above. A Chekhov tragedy, on the other hand, ends with everybody disillusioned, embittered, heartbroken, disappointed, absolutely shattered, but still alive. And I want a Chekhovian resolution, not a Shakespearean one, for the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy.

Quote by Amos Oz, Israeli novelist.

 

Now, the world still sees a huge tendency for both Israelis and Palestinians to resort Shakespeare’s method. The world gets blinded as eye begets eye.

 

Picture source: Pic Gifs

Both Israelis and Palestinians are losers in this conflict

Palestinians salvage their usable belongings from the rubble of their homes

 

An impartial, blatantly-honest food-for-thought by Daniel Barenboim about the eons-old conflict that encompasses all aspects. You can view the original article in The Guardian.

Here’s his brief essay.

 

———-

 

Both Israelis and Palestinians are losers in this conflict

There can be no military solution. Both sides need to acknowledge the other’s suffering and their rights

I am writing these words as someone who holds two passports – Israeli and Palestinian. I am writing them with a heavy heart, as the events in Gaza over the past few weeks have confirmed my long-standing conviction that there is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is not a political conflict but a human one, between two peoples who share the deep and seemingly irreconcilable conviction that they are entitled to the same small piece of land.

It is because this fact has been neglected that all the negotiations, all the attempts at brokering a solution to the conflict that have taken place until now, have failed. Instead of acknowledging this true nature of the conflict and trying to resolve it, the parties have been looking for easier and fast solutions. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts when it comes to solving this conflict. A shortcut only works when we know the territory we cut through – and in this case, nobody possesses that knowledge as the essence of the conflict remains unknown and unexplored.

I have deep sympathy for the fear with which my fellow Israelis live today: the constant sounds of rockets being fired, of knowing that you or someone close to you might get hurt. But I have profound compassion with the plight of my fellow Palestinians in Gaza, who live in terror and mourn such devastating losses on a daily basis. After decades of devastation and loss on both sides, the conflict has today reached a previously unimaginable level of gruesomeness and despair.

I therefore dare to propose that this may be the moment to look for a true solution to the problem. A ceasefire is of course indispensable, but it is by far not enough. The only way out of this tragedy, the only way to avoid more tragedy and horror, is to take advantage of the hopelessness of the situation and force everybody to talk to one another. There is no point in Israel refusing to negotiate with Hamas or to acknowledge a unity government. No, Israel must listen to those Palestinians who are in a position to speak with one tongue.

The first resolution that has to be achieved is a joint agreement on the fact that there is no military solution. Only then can one begin discussing the question of justice for the Palestinians, which is long overdue, and of security for Israel, which it rightfully requires. We Palestinians feel that we need to receive a just solution. Our quest is fundamentally one for justice and for the rights given to every people on Earth: autonomy, self-determination, liberty, and all that comes with it. We Israelis need an acknowledgement of our right to live on the same piece of land. The division of the land can only come after both sides have not only accepted but understood that we can live together side by side, most definitely not back to back.

At the very heart of the much-needed rapprochement is the need for a mutual feeling of empathy, or compassion. In my opinion, compassion is not merely a sentiment that results from a psychological understanding of a person’s need, but it is a moral obligation. Only through trying to understand the other side’s plight can we take a step towards each other. As Schopenhauer  put it: “Nothing will bring us back to the path of justice so readily as the mental picture of the trouble, grief and lamentation of the loser.” In this conflict, we are all losers. We can only overcome this sad state if we finally begin to accept the other side’s suffering and their rights. Only from this understanding can we attempt to build a future together.

Son of Hamas

son of hamas

 

Israel-Palestine conflict, we all admit, has encompassed historical, geographical, political, and religious perspectives, and on contemporary times, is one grave mistake made by previous superpower, British Empire. The land the two nations currently stand on bear witness to centuries-old conflicts among various competing groups, each with their own political and hegemonic agenda: Romans, Israelite, Christians, Muslims, Ottomans, and most recently, between Israelis and Palestinians. In 20th century, Ottoman Empire lost control of the territory, and ceded it to British government under a mandate. First, it was the Arabs who were promised land. Then with the outbreak of World War II and its aftermath, Jewish refugees flooded the land, having been promised the similar home as the Arabs were by the British administration. The conflicts, now exacerbated as a colonial by-product, became increasingly intense between two different groups, and 1948 was the year it geared up into a climax with Israel proclaiming itself as an independent nation. They fought countless wars; yes, they didn’t stop fighting wars with Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and many other Middle Eastern countries else, but almost never in a single instance did the country catastrophically lose.

Nonetheless, aside of all brouhaha mainstream media reports about the ongoing tensions in Middle East, numerous questions remain. Who is Israel actually fighting against? Are they fighting the entire Palestine, or are they simply fighting against Hamas, an Islamist organization now designated as ‘terrorist’ by international governments, now based in the secluded, densely-populated Gaza Strip? Why is Israel always blamed for the casualties, but never before has anyone ever attempted to investigate what is actually happening within the factions in Palestine? Is Israel doing it only for the sake of ‘international exposure’, one certainly tantamount to ‘self-defamation’? Or is there a hidden motivation within the conflict the media either doesn’t, or doesn’t want to dig further?

Mosab Hassan Yousef, a former Hamas member, explains all the details in his book, Son of Hamas, all of which you have barely expected before. You can read the book online, for free, by downloading the PDF file below:

 

Mosab Hassan Yousef – Son of Hamas

The Israeli connection in Guinea

guinea

 

 

We all have been bombarded with reports about China investing in huge amounts of money in Africa. We all have known about multinational corporations’ attempts to seize control of the continent’s seemingly endless, overmuch natural resources. And we all realize the ongoing geopolitical nerve wars between China, United States, Europe, and Japan in grabbing the ‘heartfelt’ attention of the continent’s leaders.

Nevertheless, the situation is totally disparate in Guinea.

It is one of the world’s poorest countries; more than half of the population can’t even read. It is one of the world’s most severely corrupt nations; you can sense its ‘unpleasant’ smell once you step in to the airport. It is, time and time again, ruled by authoritarian, plutocratic regimes, resulting in bogged-down progress in nearly all sectors.

But the country has gigantic iron-ore reserves – of the world’s rare and finest quality – worth up to 140 billion dollars. And the presence of mining companies is largely absent here.

Starting from this point, an Israeli billionaire attempts to take advantage of this situation – one which often involves illicit methods in order to maintain his control in one of the world’s largest mining reserves.

 

Read the 13-page full report in The New Yorker.

 

Excerpt:

 

Beny Steinmetz, who is fifty-six, does not seem to live anywhere in particular. He shuttles, on his private jet, between Tel Aviv (where his family lives, in one of the most expensive houses in Israel), Geneva (where he technically resides, for tax purposes), London (where the main management office of B.S.G.R. is situated), and far-flung locations connected to his diamond and mineral interests, from Macedonia to Sierra Leone. He is technically not an executive of the conglomerate that bears his name, but merely the chief beneficiary of a foundation into which the profits flow. This is a legal fig leaf. Ehud Olmert, the former Prime Minister of Israel and a friend of his, described Steinmetz as “a one-man show.” Olmert continued, “I don’t quite understand the legal aspects—just know that he can work ceaselessly and will move from one side of the globe to the other if he identifies a promising deal.” Steinmetz is very fit and exercises every day, no matter where he is. With blue eyes, tousled sandy hair, a preference for casual dress, and a deep tan, he looks more like a movie agent than like a magnate.

“I grew up in a home where diamonds were the subject,” Steinmetz has said. His father, Rubin, was a Polish diamond cutter who learned the business in Antwerp before settling in Palestine, in 1936. A family photograph from 1977 captures Beny as a young man, sitting at a cluttered table with his two older brothers and his father, who looks sternly at the camera while Beny inspects a precious stone. That year, Beny finished his military service and struck out for Antwerp, with instructions to expand the company’s international business in polished stones. According to a privately published history of the family business, “The Steinmetz Diamond Story,” Beny branched into Africa, in search of new sources of rough stones. The plan wasn’t to establish mines but, rather, to make deals with the people doing the digging.

Approximately half the diamonds in the world originate in sub-Saharan Africa, and many ambitious Westerners have followed the lead of Cecil Rhodes—the founder of De Beers—and sought fortunes on the continent. “Unfortunately, there aren’t any diamond mines in Piccadilly,” Dag Cramer, who oversees Steinmetz’s business interests, told me. “That’s not where God put the assets.”

Instead, diamonds tend to be found in countries that are plagued by underdevelopment and corruption and, often, by war. This is enough to scare off many investors, but not all; some entrepreneurs are drawn to the heady combination of political uncertainty, physical danger, and potentially astronomical rewards. Ambassador Laskaris, who has done tours in Liberia and Angola, likened the diamond trade in much of Africa to the seedy cantina in “Star Wars.” “It attracts all the rejects of the galaxy,” he said. “Low barriers to entry. It rewards corruption. It also rewards a little bit of brutality.”

Steinmetz plunged into Africa’s treacherous political waters. In the nineteen-nineties, he was the largest purchaser of diamonds from Angola; later, he became the biggest private investor in Sierra Leone. Today, Steinmetz is the largest buyer of rough diamonds from De Beers, and one of the major suppliers of Tiffany & Company. And he has diversified his holdings into real estate, minerals, oil and gas, and other fields, with interests in more than twenty countries. A Web site that Steinmetz recently set up describes him as a “visionary” who used a “network of contacts on the African continent” to build “a multi-faced empire.”

The Birobidzhan Paradox

Jewish Autonomous Oblast

 

 

Originally designated by Soviet authorities as a ‘safe refuge’ for Jews fleeing persecution in Europe (also as an attempt to anticipate Japanese regime’s attempt to expand  its puppet state Manchukuo’s territory and to gain endorsement from overseas Jews already influenced by NAZI’s anti-Semitic sentiments and American financial support), Jewish Autonomous Oblast – a once promised land compatible with Israel largely favored by numerous Zionists – instead suffers from more melee imposed by its own contrivers.

These Jews’ aspiration, as hardly as it seems, largely depend on the deviser’s, Joseph Stalin, mood. In the beginning of 1930s, tens of thousands of Jews were given opportunities to settle in the oblast (pictured above, in stark red), with relative freedom and slightly better economic latitude. Nevertheless, nearing 1940, Jews were again subject to suppression imposed by the authorities when their leaders were captured for ‘ideological treason’. During the peak periods of World War II, again the leader favored evacuating European Jews into this region from the perils of Holocaust, and the exodus climaxed until 1948, when Israel proclaimed its independence and fully supported United States. That was a hard blow for virtually all the Jews already living a stable life in the oblast. Since then, the Jews again fell prey into Soviet’s harsh oppression. The situation even deteriorated after Stalin’s death in 1953.

Albeit its name is, as yet, Jewish Autonomous Oblast, Jews no longer constitute a majority of the population. Once climaxing to 30,000 in 1948, the figure has fallen very steeply to no more than 2000, only one percent of the oblast’s total citizens. It is, in conclusion, a by-product of a dictator’s voluptuous mood, combined with global policies gone awry and last but not least, once-in-a-lifetime contretemps.

 

Read the full version here.

Flash point: who’s unsafe without US?

“Four more years…”

We, in the long run, have realized that even the so-called ‘police of the world’, the epitome of democracy, the embodiment of capitalism, and the epicenter of geopolitical chess games itself is now at its own vulnerability. Having been severely laden by its soaring debts, which amount to 15 trillion US$ (nearly the size of its own GDP), socially burdened by its skyrocketing number of unemployment rates showing no signs of abating, and, politically coining, ‘menaced’ by the unexpected rise of new global powers, particularly China, United States must realize that its days at the paramount seat of global superpower are being counted. The harbinger, however, in case United States did really collapse – given its seemingly incurable debt level – would not only inflict suffering to its own people, but also disproportionately threaten the existence of other nations whose companionship has so long been bonded that even a slight loose may translate as ‘imminent danger’. As in my own analysis, here are the countries whose dependence on ‘Big Brother’ has reached symbiotic level, without which, may be at stake.

South Korea

We can’t deny all the wonders the country has had – advanced economy, well-educated human resources, excellent innovation in science. South Korea also intensively allocates nearly 31 billion US$ this year (compared to its 1-trillion-dollar GDP, the spending is merely a minutiae) in military expenditure, but even such investment may do seem insignificant; its nuclear-armed hermit-minded long-separated brother, North Korea, has never shown any signs of abating in disarmaming all the missiles they have aimed to South Korea’s, Japan’s, and America’s major cities altogether. That, pretty much, could also explain why United States maintains its commitment in dispatching nearly 30,000 troops across the demilitarized zones (DMZ). Just wondering if the all-beloved Kim Jong Un may anytime prepare for nuclear apocalypse.

Japan

Two factors explain why Japan is on the list: its major cities are primary targets of North Korea’s nuclear-powered vengeance (one had even flown above the air of Tokyo, but then fell into the Pacific ocean), and, last but not least, its own most brutally treated victim of its own aggression, China. Japanese government has repeatedly voiced out their concern regarding China’s burgeoning military capability. And they are particularly worried by territorial disputes on a group of uninhabited islands known in Japan as Senkaku (and in Chinese as Diaoyutai) which have nearly escalated into open warfare when both patrol ships confronted each other vis-à-vis. The main reason behind the dispute: it’s not really the islands they are fighting claims for, but it’s the need-blind substance lying kilometers down the seas within: a huge omnipotentiality of oil and gas. Until recently, United States has preferred ‘neutrality’ upon the issue, but the military has also frequently conducted joint drilling in anticipating possible ‘invasions’, referring to Chinese military.

Taiwan

What makes Taiwan easily exterminable? Topography accounts. Occupying an island approximately ‘merely’ 36,000 sq km big, Taiwan is even only 1/44 big compared to the vastness of Xinjiang, China’s largest province. Its 25-million population is absolutely incomparable to China’s 1.35-billion strong as well. The danger is further extended as Chinese military still places nearly 1000 missiles in Fujian province, all of which are aimed to Taiwan’s major cities. The worries, however, are eased as Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s current president of Chinese-friendly Kuomintang party, advocates for a more ‘peaceful approach’ on the Communist leaders. Thanks to his leadership, both bilateral relationships, particularly in trading and investment, have strengthened. The current fear for Taiwanese, on the other hand, remains on how Taiwan, now in global-stage status quo, will stand a choice when Ma’s no longer permitted to participate in 2016 election. (now he’s serving his second period, the maximum extent granted by the Constitution)

Philippines

The issue regarding Scarborough Shoals (known to be oil-rich) in South China Seas has further deteriorated the country’s volatile relationship with China. It escalated as several Philippines’ patrol ships confronted vis-à-vis with Chinese marine vessels. In addition, the joint China-ASEAN diplomacy efforts in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, resulted in ultimate deadlock, particularly endorsed by the fact that Cambodia, the country in charge of managing ASEAN this year, got too ‘intimate’ with Chinese sides. Albeit having signed mutual defense agreements with the United States, Philippines might also be on the harbinger, in case America’s global position wanes.

India

The country encounters perils, unfortunately, from two nuclear-armed neighbors at the same time: China and Pakistan. Regarding China (and it’s pretty much a minor issue), India has had problems yet to be solved: the ownership of several  territorial remains in northern India remain disputed, ever since the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and Dalai Lama (he and his followers gain exile in Dharamsala, a small border-town). Those of Pakistan, however, are of more sensitive ones, and any temerarious diplomatic clashes could spark a deadly war within both nations. Kashmir, ideological differences, terrorism, and water resources are four pivotal ‘thorns’ that continue to ravage both to date.

Pakistan

Pakistan, now a nation of 180 million, suffers from internal strife, tribal rivalries and Islamic extremism, particularly from Afghanistan. US military, despite frequent drone attacks on Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlines which often erroneously target civilians, most of whom women and children, has had little success in combating terrorism in a nation so badly damaged by the threats of Al-Qaeda and Taliban posed in to the daily life. This further worsens as US-Pakistan relationship is at its lowest within decades, ever since Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted fugitive, was killed in Abbottabad, unknowingly, by Navy SEAL troops. Last but not least, the doctrines of Islamic extremism have gradually got their entries into Pakistani military, as well.

Afghanistan

The future of this country remains bleak, even as US-led NATO troops are scheduled for complete withdrawal as of 2014. After a little more than a decade of military operations, US military has not consequently succeeded in eliminating, or, if anything, minimized, terrorism in the country. Instead, numerous civilians fall prey to the US military’s much-denounced ‘search-and-destroy’ war strategy. No matter how disliked the army is, they are fully responsible for maintaining the uneasy equilibrium in the country as they are the ones firstly involved in the ‘game’.

Israel and Palestine

Israel, America’s closest ally, faces dangers not because of the external threats they possess, but rather its own mischiefs. Israel becomes increasingly internationally isolated, thanks to its ruthless occupation of both West Bank and Gaza Strip (nearly half of the children in Palestine even suffer from malnutrition, resulting from a very strict food-and-water-rationing policy imposed by Israeli government). Israel even pulls the gauntlet against a much larger Iran, a nation whom the government ‘rationally’ believes is building atomic bombs, and can be exterminated within no time. Israel is also becoming increasingly unsafe, as US-Israel relationship has reached its lowest point in history regarding Jerusalem’s division and Israel’s plan to invade Iran (and Obama has even never visited Israel once in his presidential period). The test does not cease here; Benjamin Netanyahu, a hard-line Zionist, is ordering approximately 75 thousand troops to ‘surround’ the entire Gaza Strip (also a political stratagem to regain confidence among Israeli public before the upcoming election), adjacent to a repetition of 2006 and 2008 large-scale offensives which killed approximately 1000 lives.

But putting the blame entirely on Israel may be a biased option. Palestine, on the other hand, is ruled by two factions frequently involved in clashes within: the hard-line, jihadist Hamas, and the slightly-moderate-yet-corrupt Fatah. Hamas occupies Gaza Strip, and often provokes military attacks by continuously launching rockets at Israeli main cities. Fatah, meanwhile, only holds account for West Bank, an area increasingly occupied by Israeli authorities aspiring for more housing construction for the Jews. Hamas, notoriously reported, has had intense cooperation with Lebanon’s Hizbullah, and Iran altogether. No doubt, brainwashed by ultra-radical doctrines and rhetoric, many of the Hamas fighters frequently conduct what they call ‘an eye for an eye’ for Israelis having taken away their millennium-old homeland.

In the short term, and even in the long term, the two-state solution proposed by United Nations would seem beyond rocket science. Unless moderate governments (one that neutralizes its pro-Zionist agenda, and one that reduces its hardcore-Islamist aims) are installed in both countries, peace won’t prevail, even for the upcoming decades.

Poland

Poland is a staunch ally of United States (it is even now a NATO member) having bittersweet relationship (most of which is bitter) with Russia, spurning deep into historical contexts. Poland was the first casualty of Second World War, having witnessed savage battles between NAZI and Soviet troops, killing more than 3 million Poles. Poland was also forcefully ‘integrated’ into Soviet Union, and faced severe restriction on freedom until 1991. Until now, such sentiment is still instilled by majority of the citizens in sense of anger, wrath, mismashed with a slight mixture of bigot. They widely believed that the 2010 airplane, which killed all the cabinet members of the government (including President and Prime Minister), had been perfectly ‘orchestrated’ by Kremlin. Excluding NATO’s failed plan to install a missile shield, which highlighted Poland’s full suspicion on its own ‘ex-stepmother’.

Liberia

The ongoing relationship it has with United States surpasses political context; it has been more of a historical one, given that the dominant minority ruling the state is African-Americans (whose ancestors were the liberated slaves who returned to the country by 1830). Ever since the end of Liberian Civil War, which severely ravaged the country in all aspects (the GDP-to-debt ratio had soared to 800%) and also by the time Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf swept in the presidency by 2003, both countries’ relation had been more imminently close than ever. Since 2006, foreign direct investment has peaked to a staggering rate of 16 billion US$, most of which is conducted by American businesses involved in iron ore, palm oil, and oil & gas sectors. The threat of US’ collapse, though sounds more phantasmagorical than it does to reality, may menace the existence of Liberia as a nation, given its already dependence on American support to help sustain the country.

Most likely and most unlikely: China.

Neither friends nor foes, neither close partners nor bitter rivals, both countries have struggled to maintain a fragile relationship they have had spanning four decades. China slams the United States for issues concerning Japan, Taiwan, Tibet, and South China Seas, while the latter lambasts the former for its poor human-rights track record, unfair and illicit economic and trading practices, copyright, currency manipulation, and virtually nonexistent protection of labors. But as the brawl goes by, so does the interdependence: until now, China entrusts over 1 trillion US$ (almost 30% of its foreign exchange reserves) on US Treasury Bond, while United States outsources most of its workforces there under the grounds of ‘cheap wages’.

Only in the context of ‘foreign policies’, this may have been largely a headache for Obama, four more years.