Global Security Headlines

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top 6 Strategic Questions for 2010

Ancient Greek Plato´s teacher, Socrates, created a discipline based on asking the right questions.

For 2010, I pose the following 6 strategic questions concerning global security.

6 Strategic Questions for 2010

1. What will the international community do about Iran?
Iran´s rogue regime is nearing nuclear breakout (see Net Assessment:Iran) and tests ballistic missiles to deliver them at increasing greater ranges. The widespread public unrest over the burial of opposition leader, theGrand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, coincided with the Shia holiday of Ashoura and clashes with government security forces resulted in  many arrests and deaths. Notable is the student unrest, the country´s future. Just like the reaction in October to Mr. Ahmadinejad's fraud-tainted re-election as president, clearly the Iranian street is bubbling over with rage at the regime. The tyrants in Teheran represent a clear and present danger to Iran and the world.

2. Will radical Islamic terrorism wax or wane?
Is the so-called "Christmas Bomber" of Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit an opening shot in a wave of radical Islamic terrorism against Western interests around the world? Ungovernable Somalia and war-torn Yemen make the Horn of Africa region a hot zone haven for terrorists. Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Qaeda Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are active as well. The tyrants in Teheran also figure into the equation given the current regime is Terror, Inc. Radical Islamic terrorism is mostly organized by state sponsors and serves as a proxy to attack larger and more powerful states.

3.  What will China’s recent gains in diplomatic currency portend?
China has risen. The Middle Kingdom´s audacious diplomatic play at the so-called climate change conference in Copenhagen in early December by besting the overmatched US President Obama is more evidence (see "China Can Say No"). China surpassed Germany at the beginning of 2009 to become the third-largest economy in the world and will pass Japan to become the second in 2010. Beijing is claiming the diplomatic power equal to its economic power. Attendant military power and more muscular power projection continues. One weakness is its so-called "soft power" or cultural assertiveness. China offers an alternative to US preeminence and it does not shy away from it.

4.  Will the Nato mission fail in Afghanistan?
Nato is losing in Afghanistan. US President Obama's half-measure of 30,000 more combat troops plus another 5,000 (pledged) from Nato allies is unlikely to turn the tide. Together, the troop contingent is the bare minimum General McChrystal requested for his new strategy. An added worry: Pakistan may yet yield to Taliban and Al Qaeda pressures complicating any scenario for "victory."

5.   Does Castro, Inc. survive?
¿Fin de la Revolución?  Castro, Inc. celebrated the 40th anniversary of its violent overthrow of strongman Batista on January 1 this year. La revolución exchanged one corrupt blood-thirsty strongman for another corrupt blood-thirsty strongman, Fidel Castro. Forty years and absolute power allowed the Castro brothers to amass a vast wealth to the point billionaire Fidel ranked in Forbes list in 2006. This came despite the hated US embargo, el bloqueo (blockade) in Castro Spanish. After a fair wage for the boss, El Jefe, really, how much is left for the proletariat?

Hard times again have hit the regime. The Castro business survived the high drama of the October 1962 missile crisis sparked by Soviet missiles on the island in Mr. Castro´s hot-headed attempt to use Moscow to get revenge on Washington after Bay of Pigs. It muddled through the  período especial (special period) after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the sugar subsidy scheme evaporated.  Castro investments in tourism and sexual exploitation were attempts to earn more hard currency, as if drug smuggling is not enough.Then, El Jefe himself, reaching mortality, "temporarily" passed the baton to brother Raúl. The king stepped aside.

Will the deteriorating status quo hold? Whenever Fidel Castro dies, the pernicious disease of Castroism has been spread to others in the region, but at least the prisoners on the paradisaical island would win the freedom and full meal they deserve if the military moved to save la patría (country).

6. What is next for the European Union?
The EU-27, from the humble beginnings of the European Economic Community (EEC), now ranges from the Atlantic Ocean to the border with Russia. Spain, the "new sick man of Europe," becomes the president for the next six months on January 1. Presidente Zapatero states he hopes to superar la indiferencia de la ciudadanía respecto a Europa (overcome the indifference to Europe). The disconnect between European elites and the citizenry has plagued the EU from the start.

It is the economy, stupid. In the Eurobarometer 72 released this month, 54% of the EU-27 believe the "worse it yet to come" economically. Socialism does not work. That failed economic theory gnaws at the core of the EU´s troubles. Double digit unemployment afflicts the member states. The EU eked out 0.4% growth in the third quarter officially ending the recession on paper. At the close of 2009, Greece emerged as a threat to the euro. There still is no president of Europe. A shared history and the attendant lingering mutual suspicions, an aging population in rigid welfare states, weak military strength and hesitancy to fully support the Nato mission in Afghanistan, energy dependence on Russia and Iran, and a Tower of Babel in diplomacy, all detract from the "union" which appears more like a collection. Add fierce nationalism in the latest round of EU appointments and large nations pitted against smaller nations as even more evidence of disunion.

Happy 2010!
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Friday, December 25, 2009

Day of Peace

And into plowshares turn their swords,
Nations shall learn war no more

 - "Vine and Fig Tree" lyrics

Around the globe, many gather with family, friends, and loved ones to share in the spirit of the holidays today.

For one day, can hostilities cease, enmities be set aside, and a common spirit of humanity reign supreme?

Peace or better termed security like freedom is a rarity on this spinning orb but a mere speck in the galaxy. As Kant reminds us, the natural state is one of war.

A wish for peace therefore must be supported by the will to wage war to protect freedom.

Freedom is losing ground

Indeed, according to Freedom House in 2008, the latest report, for the third consecutive year freedom yielded to tyranny. Despotism is on the march.

As former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin told the UN General Assembly in 1982: "As long as tyranny is armed, liberty must have and develop weapons for its defense. Otherwise, slavery will engulf the whole of mankind..."

Democratic Peace
Democracies today face an increasingly arduous task to remain free and to assist freedom lovers trapped in tyranny. International relations experts still debate the controversial theory of "democratic peace". That is, the more democracies there are the less wars there are, explains Professor Rummel.

Thus it is in the interest of democracies to expand the club in order to avoid an increase in extreme violence and war.

Democratic Future?
Bold and decisive action is required to arrest the trend toward tyranny. Fragile democracies from Colombia to the Caucasus need to consolidate gains with aid from other democratic states.
Unfortunately, the diplomatic, military, and economic power of Western democracies is waning at a crucial juncture in world history when tyranny is in ascendancy.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Net Assessment: Iran

Exclusively from Global Security Monitor at

Global Security Monitor presents Net Assessment: Iran as a guide forward for global security policymakers grappling with the Iranian problem.

A consensus is coalescing around the dire nature of Iran's challenge to the international community.

However, decisionmakers in Western capitals are reluctant to confront the challenge presented by the radical tyranny in Teheran.

Some of our key assessments are highlighted below:

  • Iran achieves nuclear breakout probably in early 2010. 
  • Its civilian and military nuclear programs are more advanced than what is publicly acknowledged. 
  • The Western democracies led by the United States fail to act to stanch Teheran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and forcefully confront the radical regime.
(81k) Download a copy of Net Assessment: Iran. | Press Release

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AQIM - Just Pesky or Rising Danger?

From out of the Maghreb, a shadowy Al Qaeda junior group has emerged to terrorize Western interests in West Africa - Al-Qaeda Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Latest Threat in Sahel

The Sahel is a lawless strip of plains and scrub along the Sahara’s southern frontier and increasingly becoming security threat to the region where terrorists, drug traffickers, and assorted bandits thrive.

After murdering a Briton and American in July after a string of attacks beginning in 2007 following a calming of internal tension in Algeria, AQIM now threatens three Spanish relief workers and a French citizen after their kidnapping in Mauritania. The latest threat to Westerners came after a US warning of such activity.

El Pais on Sunday features an article ("En manos del juez del desierto") about the so-called desert judge:

...Abú Hannas, el denominado juez del desierto, un dirigente religioso del que sólo existe una fotografía, la que aparece en los vídeos, oculto bajo su turbante mientras lanza soflamas incendiarias sobre la necesidad de crear un nuevo califato y un Gobierno islámico en el Magreb. Discursos que siempre terminan con la coletilla: "Pido a Alá morir por la yihad".

...Abú Hannas, the so-called desert judge, a religious leader of whom there is only one photograph, appears in videos hidden by his turban giving fiery speeches about the need to create a new caliphate and Islamic rule in the Maghreb. He always ends his speeches with "I ask Allah to die for the jihad."

Indeed, the Spanish link with AQIM is not new. In June 2008, security forces cracked a cell of 18 in Spain pivotal in the financing and logistical support of AQIM. It is apparent President Zapatero's precipitous withdrawal from Iraq upon winning his election after Al-Qaeda's Madrid 2004 bombing did not appease the terrorist group at all.

Transnational Threat: Drugs

Beyond terrorism, the way to fund it worries global security experts. Kidnapping for ransom is an obvious choice for these groups.

However, AQIM seems to show a propensity to dominate the lucrative drug trade in the Sahel, a subject of a hearing in the US Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing earlier in November.

West Africa is a transhipment point for 40-50 tons of cocaine a year, probably more. Curiously, this week three alleged Al-Qaeda operatives were apprehended in Ghana working with the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), Colombia's leftist narco-terrorist group waging civil war against Bogotá.

Indeed, the discovery of a burned-out Venezuelan Boeing in the Malian desert provides greater evidence of the South American connection narco-bandits to Islamic militants. AQIM's success in the Sahel could lead to a firmer terrorist organization in the Sahel even to the point of linking up with the Touareg insurgents in Niger and Mali.

Wider Implications

A diminution in strength is not expected. Regional terrorist analysts see a greater swath of territory dominated by AQIM giving rise to a danger and near-safe haven in yet another ungoverned part of the world.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

China Can Say ‘No’

The real story out of COP15, the so-called Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, is not the curious quest for an international agreement based on dubious science.

It is the conspicuous display of China’s full diplomatic, and economic strength on the world stage and the eclipse of US prestige.

China Leads

China hosted a closed door meeting among other partners with India and Brazil to thwart any legal binding stipulations to put teeth into any accord pushed by the United States. While it is not confirmed that Russia attended, the BRIC bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) came alive in Copenhagen.

The BRIC bloc represents the four top developing nations whose weight on the world stage is increasing every day.

Surrounded by its BRIC bloc partners, China asserted its role clearly as a leader of the “non-aligned” less-developed countries at the Copenhagen conference. This was China’s tact during the Cold War and remains a guiding principle in its international statecraft.

BRIC Ascendancy

It was US President Barak Obama who sought out Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, not the reverse, to salvage a minimal and meaningless “declaration of principles” so he did not appear to leave Copenhagen empty handed twice in a span of two months.

China told the US ‘no’ on any binding targets for reduction of CO2 gas emissions on which its economy is dependent for exports as a developing country. It will not sacrifice its economic progress and date with history based on dubious science.

The BRIC bloc is emerging as an effective counterweight to declining US primacy.

China Snubs

The Sino-US standoff began as soon as US President Obama arrived on Friday in Copenhagen. Premier Wen took umbrage from an extemporaneous line in the president's speech in a slightly veiled reference to China by insisting on "sharing information and ensuring we are meeting our commitments."

Later that afternoon in a negotiation round, he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cooled their heels with three low-level Chinese delegates who could not make any political decisions. That was only the first diplomatic snub.

US Prestige Drops

The amateurish US diplomatic play by President Obama to crash China's closed door meeting (to which it was pointedly not invited) in order to desperately force even an unbinding agreement will certainly be noted by the BRIC bloc and other adversaries in the world.

The rapid drop of US prestige in the world less than one year into the naïve president’s term is quite shocking.

The Sino-US chilliness is palpable. China's handling of the weak US president has broader implications. A China that can say 'no' to the US has already risen.

The fissures exposed among the international players in Copenhagen augur a more competitive global security environment at the expense of Washington. The die is cast.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Peru Joins Arms Race

Add Peru as the latest to engage in the Latin American arms race as reported by AFP in Peru formalized purchase of Chinese tanks.  President Alan Garcia said the purchase did not represent an arms race but a repositioning of forces.

President Alan Garcia said today Peru formalized its intention to buy high-tech Chinese MBT-2000 tanks while emphasizing the measure did not contradict its “ position against an arms race.”
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mr. Obama´s Top 6 Foreign Policy Flops

Top 6 Obama Foreign Policy Flops

6. Honduras - Washington initially backed the constitutionally-removed Mel Zelaya who sought to perpetuate his presidential term beyond its time limit. It was disgraceful to embrace false coup language and side with the Castro-Chavez Club in Latin America.

5. China - President Obama was roundly criticized for showing weakness and undue deference to Beijing, the United States´ major creditor. He tepidly spoke about human rights and returned home empty-handed on issues ranging from the environment and help with Iran.

4. Afghanistan - In his latest speech, Mr. Obama abandons the war effort to defeat Al Quayda and the Taliban and signals a fundamental absence of understanding about international affairs and how to confront tyranny.

3. Russia - The US president abandoned Central European allies the Czech Republic and Poland by withdrawing a Bush-era missile defense shield against Iranian (and Russian) missiles, all in a vain effort to curry favor with Moscow on Iran sanctions.

2. Iran - It is clear that Washington has no desire to stop the Teheran Tyrants from acquiring nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. Words alone cannot and do not tame tyrants. Human history is replete with examples. Sadly, the US president is not a student of history. GSM will release an exclusive Net Assessment with more details about the Iranian impasse.

1. War on Islamic Fascism - The United States is at war despite inexplicable behavior by the country´s president to deny that reality and act in a cavalier manner toward the most serious threat to the nation´s survival. From allowing some key parts of the Patriot Act to expire, closing the facilities at Guantonomo Bay to interrogate prisoners for intelligence to prevent future attacks, to allowing a civilian court trial for Khalid Sheik Muhammaed and other alleged perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and to flinching in the stares of evil from Iran and the Al Quayda/Taliban threat in Afghanistan, it is obvious Mr. Obama is severely misinformed about the true nature of the threat.

The war within Islam has become the world´s problem manifested in the various terror groups from Asia to America. By not taking on Terror Inc - Iran - directly, the United States is treading dangerously in an increasingly unstable world partly because of US tepidness and disengagement.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

US President Obama´s Afghan Endgame: Freedom Loses

Timetable for US War Effort

Naive US President Barak Hussein Obama sounded the endgame of his country´s war effort in Afghanistan in a long-winding speech at West Point last night. His words provide  comfort to the enemies of freedom in general worldwide and Al Quayda and the Taliban in particular.

Specifically to Afghanistan, the US cuts in half the original troop request by in-theater commander, General McChrystal, to 30,000 and July 2011 was arbitrarily selected as the date to draw down the war effort, in a bow to his Democrat Party anti-war firebrands.

The United States no longer has the will the complete the mission of beating the forces of tyranny.

Thus, Mr. Obama´s own hand-picked general will be bereft of the troops and resources necessary to wage the war to a ''successful conclusion.'' Ironically, this has been a central criticism by Mr. Obama and his politcal party of the previous administration´s handling of the war.Penny-wise is pound foolish.

Decent Interval with fewer resources

The US president could not utter the word victory. Afghanistan gets a decent interval with tepid US stepped-up support and then the country is abandoned just like Vietnam.

In a nutshell, the hopes are that the US-led coalition can beat back Taliban forces sufficiently to allow Aghan forces to take on the job of protecting their country - Afghanization. This is complete folly.

Announcing a timetable assures domestic critics, but telegraphs weakness to the enemy who can adjust his tactics and strategy to accommodate the end date. Sometimes a US president must have the courage to do what is correct despite his domestic critics. In the roguish neighborhood of SW Asia, an absence of US resolve guarantees a calamitous end.

Freedom loses, again

The naive US president´s broader points in his speech demonstrate clearly his fundamental misunderstanding of global security dynamics in this first half of the twenty-first century:

        ...I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force...
        ...And we can't count on military might alone...
        ...We'll have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone.

Tyranny does not respect diplomacy; tyranny only respects the credible threat or use of force. The naive US president may reject the use of military force, but diplomacy not backed by the stick is worthless. Soft power alone is not sufficient to persuade or dissuade opponents in a world governed by the aggressive use of force.

In some cases, unilateralism is justified when others refuse or are unable to act to defend those living '' under the dark cloud of tyranny.'' A fair reading of human history demonstrates that evil advances when good nations refuse to act. Freedom, a value the US president does not revere sufficiently, loses.

Enemy Agenda Advances Unopposed

In sum, abandoning Afghanistan is not a ''successful conclusion'' to the challenges posed by the enemy there. US allies should fear any commitment made with Washington (notice fewer  Nato troops are following on) and US enemies can push forward with their agenda without fear of reprisal. Weakness begets challenges.

A world where the US is purposely disengaged ratchets up the threats to peace and global security. Mr. Obama and his international affairs team will learn this lesson forthwith.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

US on Right Side of Honduran Crisis, finally

 Fledgling US President Obama seems to have a firmer footing in Latin America by supporting the presidential elections in Honduras on Sunday despite rankling some countries in the region, as outlined in
Obama Backing of Honduras Election Crimps Latin Ties.

 The Administration´s first stance supporting the restitution of constitutionally-removed former president Mel Zelaya was incomprehensible. Foreign assistance was cut off and visas were canceled for members of interim President Micheletti´s government.

Slowly Washington evolved its thinking (prodded by US Senator Jim Demint of South Carolina, a member of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee) on the Honduran Crisis by silently rejecting the popular narrative spun by the Castro-Chavez Axis as a ´´coup´´ in another Latin American country. Unfortunately, the international press picked up the line and complicated a sober and honest assessment of the facts on the ground in Tegucigalpa.

No coup occurred when the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court acted to save the country and ordered Zelaya´s removal from the presidency.  The near-coup actually happened when Zelaya rolled the dice in an illegal and naked power grab in a rigged national referendum to perpetuate himself in power. He failed to copy the success of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia to install competitive autocracy through the ballot box.

As quoted in ''Impasse em Honduras amplia divisão político-ideológica na região''(Impasse in Honduras Widens Ideological Division in Region), Clodoaldo Bueno, a foreign policy professor at the University of São Paulo, believes ''Little by little, other countries will probably end up recognizing the election as the only possible solution because there will not be an ideal one.''

 The Honduran Crisis is more than a tug-o-war of who leads Honduras. The bigger picture is a test of wills between two competing ideologies of Washington and the Castro-Chavez Axis in the region.

The only crimped ''Latin ties'' of importance are with Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Standing for free elections and democractic values should not be so controversial.

The weight of Washington´s endorsement of the elections should also influence the European Union and individual states to give their unqualified support as well to finally conclude this difficult time for the people of Honduras who have been the first to forestall a Castro-Chavez takeover of their country. 

The United States does need to pay greater attention to its southern border as both China and Iran forge closer ties. Building pluralist civil societies and improving trade relations, like passing the free trade agreement with Colombia, could help countries in the region to decide upon the political and economic model best for them. That is the their decision not populists who want to change the rules of the game once past the ballot box.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Spy Case Latest Flap between Peru and Chile

The tit-for-tat existence that somehow constitutes bilateral relations between Peru and Chile hit a new low as Lima accused Santiago of spying earlier in the month as the Americaeconomia writes in : Caso de espionaje desata crisis entre Chile y Perú (´´Spy case unleashes crisis between Chile and Peru´´).

(pictured above: President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, Alan Garcia of Peru)

The two South American neighbors confront a simmering maritime dispute (heated up in March over Peru´s petition before the UN to definitively resolve the matter) over fishing and sovereignty rights in the Pacific Ocean and a bi-lateral trade agreement now generating some doubts.

The  cheeky Salitre military exercises, led by Chile involving Argentina, Brazil, France and the US - but not Peru - is a recent irritant from October. The exercise included a hypothetical invasion of Chile (read Peru). Add historical humiliation at the hands of Santiago (War of Pacific naval defeat at Casma in 1839) and you have the perfect ingredients for mutual suspicions, lack of cross-border confidence, and a brimming arms race.

Enter the spy scandal.

Given Chile´s air superiority, Peru became infatuted with MiG 29 Fulcrums in the late 1990s, but bought them from Belarus on the cheap and Russia at first would not service them. Now, an expected and long-needed upgrade perhaps piqued interest by Chilean Air Force (FACh) intelligence as identifiied by the alleged perpetrator (non-commissioned officer Victor Ariza Mendoza) in fragments of his interrogation conveniently published in Lima´s national daily, El Comercio (original + translation):

{0>3 ¿Cree que sus contactos forman una red internacional dedicada al espionaje?<}0{>
3 ¿Cree que sus contactos forman una red internacional dedicada al espionaje? ¿Quienes la forman?
No lo puedo precisar pero lo que puedo interpretar es que son hombres de inteligencia de la Fuerza Aérea Chilena y como tal se dedican a la obtención de información en sus diversas modalidades de acuerdo a principios y doctrinas de inteligencia que son aplicables a todos los servicios de inteligencia de las FF.AA.

Question #3 - Do you believe your contacts were part of an international spy ring? Who are your contacts?
I cannot say that, but what I do know is that the men were from Chilean air force intelligence and operated like military intelligence.

The explosive confession about files on Peru´s MiG-29 SMT (fighter) and Matra Magic-2 air-to-air missiles supposedly passed to Santiago in meetings in Chile and later in Uruguay ignited the latest row.

In a strongly worded diplomatic note, Lima demanded a clear explanation and Santiago said it would ´´study´´ the dossier handed over by Peru regarding the matter.

While few observers expect an armed confrontation between Peru and Chile (mutual business interests perhaps usurp deep-seated political fusses?), the alleged spy scandal ratches up tensions between two neighbors who despite past problems have more to lose than to gain by letting the hot rhetoric overboil.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

´´Brazil is different´´

Spain´s leading daily in Madrid, El Pais, sports a thorough article on the Brazilian success story in -Brasil, el gigante despierta (´´Brazil: The Giant Awakens´´) this Sunday.

Brazil is different. "Brasil es diferente". Brazil is in ascendancy.

Oil (la gran espoleta ) ´´fuse´´ is fuelling Brazil´s rise to eminence. Brazil hosts the World Cup in 2014, the crown jewel of soccer and the national passion as well as the recently-announced summer Olympics 2016 - both in the strife-torn paradise of Rio de Janeiro.

However, it was not always so. As the article points out, a mediados de los cincuenta importaba el 95% del petróleo que consumía (in the 1950s, it imported 95% of its oil consumed) and now se puede convertir en la sexta región petrolífera del planeta, could become the world´s sixth largest oil producer, a virtual island of stability in contrast to the far-flung and fragile oil sheikdoms in the Middle East.

Indeed, state-run megacorporation Petrobras posted a $4.24 billion profit last quarter in line with market expectations.

On the flipside, 25% of Brazil´s population swelters in poverty, a high rate of violence afflicts its largest cities, and substandard infrastructure and educational systems are difficult obstacles to overcome. The large oil profits accumulated by the state are not reaching the most destitute and less fortunate.

President Lula, a fighter from his union days, can point to at least one success on the macroeconomic level during his two terms in office: Brazil, the largest economy of Latin America, was one of the first countries to emerge from the global economic crisis.

As a powerful developing country with unlimited ambition and a regional heavyweight, on the diplomatic front, Lula drew raised eyebrows by welcoming Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this Monday just two weeks after the visit by Isreaeli President Shimon Peres. Mr. Ahmadinejad will also include mutual friends Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Moraels of Bolivia, two countries at odds with Washington, on his travels to the region.

Perhaps the retiring president believes his good offices could promote peaceful dialogue with a fellow oil producing state. Next year, Brazil chooses a new president as he steps aside.

At the end of the day, despite its internal challenges, Brazil continues to acumula las mayores reservas de optimismo del planeta (accumulates the greatest reseves of optimism on the planet).

Any visitor here can certainly attest to that feeling in the air and among the people.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Headless in Berlin

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.
Former US President John F. Kennedy in his Berlin speech, June 1963

The United States was left headless in Berlin last Monday.
US President Barak Hussein Obama did not deign to visit the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall´s fall for three main reasons. Instead, he dispatched Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, a diplomatic downgrade, to mingle with the presidents and prime ministers of US allies in Europe.

It is a despicable act and a shameful behavior by the leader of the free world and president of the very country that forced the hands of the communist dictatorships to surrender leading to fall of the Iron Curtain symbolized by the fall of the odious Berlin Wall twenty years ago. Unfortunately, it is consistent with a US president ill at ease with American success and leadership in the world and devoid of intellectul curiosity about global security.

Tone death to history, US President Barak Hussein Obama betrayed the legacy of his Democrat Party´s main icon in the latter half of the last century,  John F. Kennedy, who proudly stood at the wall and declared: ´´All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner.´´

US President Obama, who is often lauded for his soaring rhetoric, cannot ever match the substance of former President Kennedy nor his committment for freedom, sadly.

Moreover, the Democrat Party was on the wrong side of history seeking more accomodation and less confrontation with the Soviet Union after the US reversal in the Vietnam War. Perhaps President Obama did not want to bring attention to this fact.

However, the fall of the Berlin Wall is not viewed by many Americans as a partisan achievement while it is undeniable the impetus for forcing the communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe to yield to the thirst for freedom by their people was Ronald Wilson Reagan, a member of the Republican Party, the Democrat´s main political opponent. In June of 1987, former US President Ronald Reagan proclaimed at the Wall:

´´I noticed words crudely spray-painted upon the wall, perhaps by a young Berliner (quote):"This wall will fall. Beliefs become reality." Yes, across Europe, this wall will fall, for it cannot withstand faith; it cannot withstand truth. The wall cannot withstand freedom.´´

Indeed, a little freedom is very dangerous for tyrannical regimes. Liberty cannot be snuffed out by concrete and steel when the will of the people is greater than its dictators.

President Obama´s absence at the anniversary last Monday is a telling indictment on his rank inability to fulfill the august duties of president and serve as the number one advocate defender of freedom, a horrifying combination. Today´s tyrannts may misread the US president´s snub and imperil global security further.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cold War Series Part IV: Lessons Learned

“We win, they lose.” - Ronald Reagan´s strategy for the Cold War

GSM concludes its four part series on the Cold War examining the lessons learned recalling the maxim studying history is to (hopefully) avoid repeating it.

First, a just cause and the will to advance it are key ingredients in a struggle. The Western powers and their allies around the world united their efforts to oppose Soviet-inspired tyranny  Every continent was affected by the East-West contest. Though progress waxed and waned, the thirst for freedom by the oppressed cowering at the boot of the dictator sustained the West´s effort to defeat Soviet communism.

Second, the spiritual aspect of the democracies, especially the appeal in East Europe by the Pope John Paul II in the Vatican, is credited with fueling the Solidarity trade union resistance in his native Poland. Moscow attempted to assassinate the Pope and never underestimated his ability to expose the hollowness of secular communism. The ´´holy alliance´´ between former US President Reagan and former Pope John Paul II proved a potent antidote to the raw atheistic offerings of Soviet communism. Faith to overcome the heavy boot of tyranny sustained many behind the Iron Curtain. In addition, the moral element embodied in Reagan´s ´´evil empire´´ comment drew the battle lines tight with the practitioners of tyranny like Solzhenitsyn´s Gulag Archipelago.

Third, military superiority spearheaded by President Reagan´s military buildup and modernization of strategic weaponry narrowed the gap with the Soviet Union. The military maliase following the Vietnam War defeat, highlighted by the ´disaster in the desert´ to rescue the Iranian-held hostates in 1980, left the United States vulnerable in the air, land, and sea. The buildup demonstrated US resolve at a critical time. The Warsaw Pact held the number superiority, but the West compensated with superior technology.

Fourth, in deed, the technological edge, particularly the mere threat of a Strategic Defense Initiative (derided by the Western press as ´´Star Wars´´) convinced the Soviets to seriously reconsider both the nature of the struggle with the West and the confident Reagan leadership in the White House. The KGB thought the tech gap with the West undermined Moscow´s ability to compete. Reagan doubled down on the costs for the Soviets to compete with the West, essentially to bankrupt Moscow.

Fifth, the ideological economical competition pitted free markets versus Marxism and capitalism won. The Soviet 5-Year plans as required by the command economy were folly. The more productive West despite intermittent cyclical market downturns proved the superior economic system to provide the most basic goods and social mobility for a better life.

Finally, the will to win and overcome cannot be underscored enough. The democracies´ will to win was flagging when former US President Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher appeared on the scene at a crucial time in world history to dispatch Soviet communism to the ash heap of history. One wins by imposing your will on the opponent. Mr. Reagan and Mrs. Thatcher imposed the West´s will on Mr. Gorbachev who only sought to reform communism instead of killing it. Laurels for Mr. Gorbachev are misguided. His card hand was not very appetizing when he appeared on the scene to preside over the dissolution of the East European dictatorships, a Soviet leader´s nightmare.

The West won and the Soviet Union lost just as Reagan quipped in our quote above. The end of the Cold War was not marked by victory parades or grand displays in contrast to the May Day celebrations in Moscow every year. Regrettably, many in the democracies are unaware of the high stakes involved in the titanic struggle with Moscow and worse, many sympathized if not openly sided with Moscow.

We live in a more dangerous multipolar world today without any longing for the managed bipolar world of the Cold War. Nuclear technology and ballistic missiles are more available around the world in the hands of tyrants. There is no Reagan or Thatcher on the scene in the democracies to confront the scourage of Islamic fascist terrorism, nuclear-tipped tyrants or other asymetrical challenges to freedom and pluralism.

Leaders in the democracies today do good to heed these lessons and apply them forthright or risk horrifying consequences.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Honduran Crisis: Recognize Michelleti Now

Honduras is no better off after constitutionally-ousted former president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, cries foul over a breakdown of the accord leading to his restitution and a national unity government: ´´The accord is dead.´´ 

The accord forced upon the interim President Michelleti by the disgraced OAS calls for a vote by the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court before Zelaya supposedly returns to power. However, the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court voted him out of power, thus sparking the ´´crisis.´´ Just because one is president he or she is not above the law as Mr. Zelaya found out.

There is no evidence Mr. Zelaya has learned a lesson from his constitutional ouster. There is no contrition. Authoritarians rarely say ´´I am sorry.´´ His designs for Honduras to continue as a transhipment point for Venezuelan drug planes and to become a junior member of the Castro-Chavez Club are unaltered.

Thus, Mr. Zelaya is a threat to Honduran democracy. His street thugs agitating for his return at any costs, including attacking the attorney general investigating his alledged long list of crimes last weekend, are very similar to the same outlaws enforcing Chavezism in Venezuela.

Brazil still provides diplomatic cover for Mr. Zelaya housing him in their embassy. The United States first rushed to support him because of ´´coup´´ talk (false).

It is time for regional powers and the international community as a whole to recognize the Micheletti government in Tegucigalpa and recognize Mr. Zelaya was dutifully dismissed and let Honduras resolve its problems alone.

Freedom and democracy are in the balance.

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Cold War Series - Part III: How the Cold War Was Won

´´General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!´´
Former US President Ronald W. Reagan, June 12, 1987.

In the end, the Cold War was won by defeating the Soviet Union, a novel concept.

In arguably the West´s darkest moment, Ronald Wilson Reagan, a former actor and governor of California, and Margaret Thatcher, the daughter of a humble grocery store owner, were elected president of the United States (1980) and prime minister of the United Kingdom (1979) respectively. This dynamic duo would steer the West to victory against tyranny.

In 1980, the United States was reeling from twin humiliating reversals: the ghosts of Vietnam and the 444-day hostage drama at the hands of Islamic Republic of Iran, both inflation and unemployment were in double digits and above all US morale was flagging. The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan and the strategic balance in Europe favored Moscow with its deployment of mobile SS-20 missiles. The challenge was cast. Washington and London readily accepted.

US President Reagan defied the ruckus of KGB-funded peace movement in West Europe and deployed Pershing II and cruise missiles throughout Nato countries to counter the Soviet threat. He finally had a summit with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik, Iceland, after a series of Soviet leaders died in office over what became the INF (Intermediate Nuclear Forces) Treaty to scrap these missiles.

In a departure from past negotiations, Reagan negotiated from strength: the largest military buildup since Vietnam and an ace in the hole - the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) derided by the naive Western news media as ´´Star Wars´´ to discount its realistic function and purpose - creating a missile shield to protect the West from Soviet missiles. His vision then is still inspiring today.

Mr. Gorbachev knew the danger SDI posed to Moscow. The technological gap persisted throughout the Cold War after the Soviets launched Sputnik first in expanding competition into space. The introduction of anti-aircraft missiles in Afghanistan and the rugged mujahideen created the ´´Soviet Vietnam.´´ His perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (opening) policies lulled the naive Western media, but they were futile attempts to reform and save communism from the dustbin of history. His hand was forced by SDI and the iron will of mainly Reagan and Thatcher backed by credible military force to end the communist menace. Any credit to Mr. Gorbachev is in recognizing the defeat of the Soviet Union.

In the end, visionary leaders, iron nerve backed by strength, and technology gave a strong push to cause the ailing Soviet Union to fail and condemn its brand of communism to the deathbed.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cold War Series Part II: How the Cold War Was Not Won

 In our second series on the Cold War to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the odious Berlin Wall
on November 9, we examine how the West did not win the Cold War.

Our first part covered the Soviet communist ascendancy. Our final part of the series addresses lessons learned and informed perspectives about the ideological struggle between the United States and its allies against the Soviet Union and its client-states.

First, it is helpful to learn how the Cold War was not won. The ´´long telegram´´ from Moscow, written by ´´Mr. X´´ later appearing in Foreign Affairs in July 1947 (´´The Sources of Soviet Conduct´´), kicked off the intellectual debate about how to confront Soviet communism. Then US diplomat George F. Kennan in the US Embassy in Moscow argued for containment of Soviet expansionism. His identity remained secret for years, but his thoughts shaped the initial US response to the Soviet challenge. However influential and insightful, containment was a mere holding strategy - accepting Soviet communism and a losing strategy to keep it from flowing to other parts of the world.

Second, the Cold War was not won through détente - (relaxation in French) - a relaxing of tensions between the United States and Soviet Union, usually at moments of Soviet exhaustion to buy time. US-Soviet summits were mainly media events, carefully managed, and coveted by the often naive Western media who pressured the US side for concessions. The main topic was nuclear arms talks resulting in estimable treaties between the two sides. Agreements and treaties are only valuable if both sides intend to adhere to them. A piece of paper with signatures does not tame a sworn enemy.

 Containing tyranny and talking with tyrants do not solve the problem - how to protect freedom in the Hobbesian international system governed by the aggressive use of force. In part three of our series, we report how the West won the Cold War without the often-feared horrific nuclear exchange between Moscow and Washington. 

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cold War Series Part I: Soviet Communist Ascendancy

November 9, 2009, marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the odious Berlin Wall, a symbolic event for ushering in the end of the Cold War. An ´´Iron Curtain,´´ separating East and West Europe, walls, vicious guard dogs, prison camps, barbed wire, minefields, no-mans land, Checkpoint Charlie, and soldiers at the ready were implements of tyrannical regimes to enslave their people, dash their dreams, and maintain total control through the gun barrel.

The Western democracies led by the United States rejected this barbarism.

GSM in a four part series reviews the Cold War. Part I covers the ascendancy of Soviet communism. Part II shows how the Cold War was not won. Part III demonstrates how the West´s iron-willed determination forced Moscow to relent. Finally, Part IV expounds upon the lessons learned which are applicable to the current international system.

 From the ashes of World War II sprang almost immediately the Cold War, the titanic struggle between the West (NATO) and the East (Warsaw Pact). Namely, the United States and the Soviet Union managed a rivalry across the global chessboard for supremacy. Would tyranny and command economics triumph over freedom and market economics? For 46 years, the two sides competed for prestige, allies to carry forward the fight, and of course, victory.

The early contests began in the divided Germany - Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in the former Nazi capital - Berlin. The West led by US President Harry Truman defied Soviet attempts to block land routes into western Berlin (where the western Allies had divided the capital into zones) with a massive airlift transferring supplies to 2.2 million inhabitants. The Soviets did not act to stop the airlift and the crisis abated and West Berlin became an island of freedom and market economics in the heart of East Germany. West Berlin and the divided Germany would be a constant thorn in the side of the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War.

The US-Soviet rivalry stretched across the globe touching every continent. US President Truman believed China´s helped spark the Korean Conflict which was fought to a stalemate. That unsettled conflict precipitated a challenge later in Vietnam where first the French were evicted by a nationalistic communist insurgency and later the United States who left the quagmire with a shameful defeat. The dominoes fell later as predicted in Laos and Cambodia who also fell under communist tyranny. Re-education camps and ´´the killing fields´´of Cambodia proceeded to subject millions to a fate of certain death.

Indeed, the 1970s can arguably be the apogee of Soviet communism. The West was reeling. Many observers believed Moscow´s march was unstoppable and that capitalism was a spent force. At the height of the Arab-Israeli War in 1973, US President Nixon put the country on DEFCON3 (Defense Readiness Condition) to deter the Soviets from intervening.

However deadly serious, the second direct confrontation between Moscow and Washington occurred a decade earlier during the  Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 which nudged the United States and the Soviet Union closer to mutually assured destruction (MAD). The wily Castro in Havana and reckless Khrushchev in Moscow pushed the US Kennedy Administration to the brink over nuclear missiles in Cuba.

These hot points during the Cold War again redounded to a test of wills. Join us for Part II of our series where we explore how the Cold War was not won. Our final post on the series reflects more on the extraordinary time period the Cold War covered in world history and lessons applicable to global security challenges today.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Persian Peril Percolates While West Wanes

"J'espère que ces négociations vont se poursuivre, que les éléments sataniques ne pourront pas les perturber, car le régime sioniste et les puissances dominatrices sont mécontents", a déclaré le président iranien, selon Isna.

´´I hope these negotiations continue [and] that the Satanic forces will not be able to disrupt them because the Zionist regime and domineering powers are dissatisfied.´´

´´Washington is expected to continue to engage Tehran toward a deal on Iran's nuclear program, according to both government sources and American sources accompanying U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her lightning visit to Israel Saturday´´ -, 11/01/2009

´´Iran must demonstrate through concrete steps that it will live up to its responsibilities with regard to its nuclear program´ - US President Obama, 10/02/2009 after P-5+1 talks in Geneva.

The Teheran Tyrants know they have won. Iran skipped providing an answer by the October 23 deadline on the ridiculous nuclear enrichment deal. More defiance from the Teheran Tyrants and yet the Obama Administration reportedly (from Haaretz above) is still on the talk-a-thon track. Incredible!

The Western powers at this late date face two unpalatable options: 1) worthless sanctions and 2) a military campaign to cripple Teheran´s nuclear capabilities. The first option is more likely because the United States led by President Obama has no intellectual curiosity about how the world actually works and worse anyone in the his inner circle who does.

A military campaign is fraught with complexity and difficulty given the extensive layout of Iran´s nuclear facilities across the Persian state and the built-in redundancy. It would require a sustained operation to be effective. The repercussions with Russia and China have to be weighed beforehand as well.

When the Bush Administration did not follow up Iraq with confronting Iran more forcefully (as if killing US soldiers in Iraq was not an act of war), the mullahs in Teheran knew the coast was clear. An inexperienced president from a traditionally anti-war (Democrat) party was manna from heaven after the 2008 US elections.

World history is replete with examples when a determined foe is not confronted until the last hour. It is incredible to believe suddenly Iran will scrap its crown jewel overnight to please the Western powers after investing billions of oil dollars in research, materiel, nuclear scientists, and advanced ballistic missiles to deliver their lethal cargo.

Its protectors in the proxy war with the United States, Russia and China namely, provide Teheran the cover required to defy Washington. The smart bet is to believe the naive US president does not have the temerity to launch and all-out military assault given his mounting domestic worries including sinking poll ratings. Leaders buck polls and do what is required regardless, a profile in courage the current president lacks.

As neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan teeter on the brink, Iran´s defiance cannot be welcome in Washington. Thus the Persian peril percolates while the West wanes in both influence and credibility in global security affairs.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Colombia´s Courage

Colombia´s courage to stand alone in a hostile neighborhood is instructive to the naive US Obama Administration.

Two enemies on its borders - Ecuador and Venezuela - are not Colombia´s only threats to its fragile democracy. Add the United States, its erstwhile ally.

Bogotá knew the change in administrations and ideologies from Bush to Obama spelled a change in its relationship with Washington.

Thus far, President Obama´s curious choices of friends in Latin America are the very countries who work diligently to undermine freedom and democracy in the region. Staunch allies like Colombia are dismissed.

President Obama refuses to buck Big Labor and fight for a free trade agreement with Presidente Uribe. Washington only advances Caracas´agenda to destroy Colombia by economic pressure, an unconscionable move.

The US seemingly remains oblivious to the high stakes regional power game with the Castro-Chavez Club perhaps blinded by the left-leaning ideology of President Obama and his staff.

The most glaring example is US support for the return of constitutionally-ousted Manuel Zelaya, the former president of Honduras and Castro-Chavez champion. Obviously seriously misinformed, the Obama Administration up to now seeks to re-impose a disgraced freedom hater on the humble country of Honduras.

US interests are sorely served cossetting the Castro-Chavez Club while freedom lovers are cast aside. US influence is declining in Latin America. Supporting those actors who undermine freedom and its allies serves no purpose.

The Obama Administration needs to quickly study the facts on the ground in the region and not allow ideological bias to blind its approach.

Colombia also fights terrorists (FARC, paras) daily like the US. Bogotá even sent troops to help in Afghanistan. The US needs strong allies in a region tipping more toward authoritarianism and less toward freedom. Bogotá deserves better.

A positive first step would be congressional ratification of the free trade agreement with Colombia to reward Bogotá´s progress of reform and show clearly the US does not abandon its freedom-loving allies in a time of need.

GSM Daily: Venezuela Merits Terrorist Listing

Add Venezuela to the US State Department list for state sponsors of terrorism. Hugo Chavez will be in good company with friends Cuba, Sudan, Syria, and Iran.

Venezuela provides material support for the narcoterrorist FARC in Colombia. Even before Colombia´s daring raid into Ecuador last March, which resulted in the death of the FARC #2 leader and a treasure trove of laptops, Caracas´collusion and coordination with FARC narcoterrorists were well-known.

Caracas also reportedly is a transhipment point for narcotics that funds FARC terrorism and possibly Chavez personally.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez hit the measure now before the US Congress: Chávez critica pedido de que Venezuela sea incluido en lista negra de EEUU - Venezuela -

..."¿Saben cuál es el primer país patrocinador del terrorismo? El gobierno de Estados Unidos...Maldito imperio, mil veces maldito, algún día terminarás y te hundirás.´´

...You know who this biggest supporter of terrorism? The United States...Damn empire, 1000 times worse, one day you will end and you will sink.´´

Venezuela merits listing on the terrorist list for its naked support of FARC narcoterrorists and deserves the attendant penalties despite being the fourth largest supplier of oil to the US.

An American decline would undermine global security |

If, when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world. - Former US President Richard Nixon in national address, April 30, 1970

An American decline would undermine global security | "Crude Awakenings' and 'The Absence of Grand Strategy.'"

While Dr. Yetiv´s central thesis is sound, US decline is already underway. The US as the great stabilizer of the international system is shattered like glass.

Moreover, America´s future as a great power is in the hands of its effete elites more than external forces. The current US administration denies America´s unique role in the world and seeks actively to diminish it. Thus the decline will become more pronounced in the coming years and global security will be jeopardized.

Internal difficulties - economic, social, and political - are undoing the US as a great power. Its financial house is in disarray while the current administration envisions adding more burdens through universal health care, extreme environmental restrictions, and a weaker dollar. The Social Security and Medicare programs are running in multi-trillion dollar debts. The political class is decadent, rudderless, and lacks the courage to confront domestic and foreign realities.

The failure to lead and lack of will to lead hasten the US decline. The great stabilizer in the past century of world history is steadily weakening from within with the active acknowledgment of its political class. Democracies more often decay from internal, not external, forces.

So, Dr. Yetiv´s tome may serve more as a historical chronicle of US foreign policy rather than a guiding light in an increasingly complex and dangerous world absent of US leadership.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

GSM Daily: Afghan-Pakistan Contagion

The fates of Afghanistan and Pakistan are intertwined.

Dual attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul and Peshwar in Pakistan today underscore the dire security threat each country faces. The inability of each country´s weak central government to exercise state control over all its territory, widespread corruption, and Al Quayda and Taliban elements on their murky border beset both.

The fragility of each country´s existence as states is an interminable vexing issue for global security analysts to predict likely outcomes of the Afghan-Pakistan contagion.

If the Taliban returns to Kabul and an Islamic fascist faction upends the current government in Islamabad (and gains control of the nuclear weapons), the security dynamics in the region change suddenly and for the worse.

from France2:

Kaboul: 6 employés de l'Onu tués par les talibans

Kabul: 6 UN employees killed by the Taliban

La sécurité a été renforcée mercredi matin à Kaboul pour protéger les étrangers après des attaques de talibans

Security reinforced Wednesday morning in Kabul to protect foreigners after Taliban attacks

A l'aube, six employés de l'ONU ont péri dans l'attaque de leur maison d'hôtes. Puis deux roquettes ont été tirées sur un hôtel de luxe Serena, à Kaboul, sans faire de victimes.

Six UN employees died in a dawn attack on their housing complex. Two rockets slammed into the the luxurious Serena hotel aftewards in Kabul without any injuries.

Les talibans ont revendiqué ce qu'ils appellent la "première étape" de leur campagne visant à déstabiliser le 2e tour de l'élection présidentielle, prévu le 7 novembre.

The Taliban said it is the ´´first stage´´ of their campaign to disrupt the second round of the presidential election scheduled for November 7.