exact in Aug 2006 and Feb & June 2007
The cycle opposition stays in orb from June 2006 to July 2008. What developments in this period might we expect if the ideals activated in 1988 such as democracy in Eastern Europe and racial equality in S Africa, human rights in China and territorial rights in Palestine reach a point of maximum fruition but where inherent contradictions appear ?
THE 2014-17 CYCLE OPPOSITION DOES NOT COMPLETE TILL OCTOBER 2017 SO ANALYSIS WILL NOT BE ENTERED TILL THEN
SOVIET UNION – ORGANISED CRIME
During this period not just crime but violent crime in Russia and by Russians elsewhere surges though at this very time there are signs that the Russian government under Vladimir Putin is finally starting to get a grip on corruption. Let us look at the fight against corruption first.
FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION, JUDICIAL REFORM ?
In mid May 2006 Russian authorities are reported to have fired a string of high-ranking security and law enforcement officials in a shake up described as part of a Kremlin push to fight graft and cement control of key government agencies. On August 1 2006 a Moscow judge declares the giant Yukos oil company bankrupt. Valued in 2004 at some $30 billion it had been almost certainly fraudulently privatised for just $110 million and like other oligarchic run groups had frequently been accused of links to criminal organisations. Under Vladimir Putin’s leadership the federal judiciary has been reformed but there are still plenty of allegations that senior government officials are able to take the law into their own hands.
One of the most controversial allegations is the criminal prosecution of the richest Russian, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the president of Yukos, for fraud and tax evasion. Many analysts see this as retribution for Khodorkovsky’s funding of political opponents of the Kremlin, liberal and communist. But other argue that he had actually been engaged in corrupting sections of the Duma (Russian parliament) to block changes in the tax code aimed at taxing windfall profits and closing offshore tax evasion methods. As far as the Russian public are concerned oligarchs like Khodorkovsky are seen as thieves who have unjustly enriched themselves and robbed the country of its natural wealth.
The Yukos affair has been described as a turning point in Russia’s commitment to the rule of law in business and perhaps as a return to state capitalism or a non communist version of it. Putin is largely credited with good economic management – Russia’s GDP increases six fold during his presidency – fiscal reforms and a high oil price ensuring high capital inflows. He is also credited with increasing national salaries and substantially reducing poverty.
BUREAUCRATIC OLIGARCHY WITH TRAITS OF DICTATORSHIP
If that is the positive side of the cycle opposition for Russia it is more than outweighed by the negative. The severest critics concentrate on the unacceptable face of strong armed government. In July 2007, Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal writes: “Russia has become, in the precise sense of the word, a fascist state. It does not matter here, as the Kremlin’s apologists are so fond of pointing out, that Mr. Putin is wildly popular in Russia. Popularity is what competent despots get when they destroy independent media, stoke nationalistic fervor with military build-ups…..” In December 2007, the Russian sociologist Igor Eidman categorises Putin’s regime as “the power of bureaucratic oligarchy” which has “the traits of extreme right-wing dictatorship — the dominance of state-monopoly capital in the economy”. On the eve of Putin handing over the Presidential reins to Dmitry Medeyev the Financial Times editorialises: “Mr. Putin will remain Russia’s real ruler for some time to come”
VIOLENT OLIGARCHIC CRIME MAXIMISES
But it is the maximisation of oligarchic crime that can be most seen as matching the meaning of this cycle stage. Indeed it is the worst sort of crime, violent killings, that characterises this period as no other does. On September 13 2006 Andrei Kozlov, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Central Bank, is shot in Moscow along with his driver, by unidentified assailants. Officials suggest the attack was prompted by his efforts to clean up the country’s banking system. On September 30 Enver Ziganshin, chief engineer for Rusia Petroleum, is found shot dead at his country home.
And on October 7 comes the killing that attracts the greatest international outrage. Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist, is shot to death outside her apartment building in Moscow. She is known for her critical coverage of the war in Chechnya and is about to publish a story about torture and abductions in Chechnya. Many suspect the hand of the state in the killing. A year later a lieutenant colonel in the security service and eight others are charged with her murder. Three days later Alexander Plokhin, the head of a branch of a state-controlled bank, is fatally shot in Moscow. Six days after that the business chief of Russian state news agency Itar-Tass is found knifed to death at his flat in central Moscow. Two days after that Dmitry Fotyanov, a mayoral candidate in Dalnegorsk is gunned down as he leaves his campaign headquarters. These all have the appearance of contract killings. Then finally on November 1 comes a killing whose method is so lethal that it is thought only through the direct involvement of Russia’s security agency could such a thing have come about.
LITVINENKO RADIOACTIVE POISONING IN LONDON
Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent, meets a number of people including other ex KGB Russians at a bar in London’s Piccadilly. Falling gravely sick he is diagnosed with radioactive poisoning. Three weeks later he dies from the radioactive element polonium-210. It is alleged he may have been targeted for his outspoken criticism of former colleagues in Moscow. He had accused his country’s secret service agency of “staging’ apartment-house bombings in 1999 which killed more than 300 people and sparked the second war in Chechnya”. Before dying Litvinenko blames a “barbaric and ruthless” Russian President Vladimir Putin for being behind his fatal poisoning.
WAS HIS MURDER ORDERED BY RUSSIAN STATE ?
Certainly British counter terrorism investigators get a frosty reception from the Russian security services on their Moscow fact finding visit. A former Russian spy living in the US claims Litvinenko was murdered because of a report he had compiled with damaging personal details on a highly placed member of Putin’s administration. Although an alternative interpretation is later made that Litvinenko had been working for British secret intelligence service MI6, the likelihood that this murder was ordered by a Russian state agency or senior member of the government will not go away. This gets confirmation when the Russian prosecutor-general will not extradite to Britain the suspected killer Andrei Lugovoi, another former KGB member.
PUTIN’S REFORMS OFFSET BY ATTACKS ON HUMAN RIGHTS
During his presidency, Putin passes into law a series of fundamental reforms, including new economic and fiscal measures, new land and legal codes. But at the same time, his conduct in office has been questioned by domestic political opponents, foreign governments, and human rights organizations. He is accused of strong-armed leadership of the country; of instigating the Second Chechen War; of alleged violations of human rights and freedoms; of forcibly silencing his opponents; and of allegedly bullying former Soviet Republics. He has been especially criticized In the West and by Russian liberals for what many observers consider a widespread crackdown on media freedom.
VIOLENT CRIME – 18,000 MURDERS IN 2006 !
During this period a number of issues come to a head that question the ideals behind the launch of a post apartheid government in South Africa. Of course South Africa is having to cope with a growing AIDS crisis – the previous year it had been established that one in three deaths in South Africa was due to AIDS – in two provinces it was over 40% ! But the central issue is a major increase in the amount of violent crime – a staggering 18,000 people are murdered in 2006 – and an increase in the number and level of strikes. Finally both the prospective third President and the national police chief face the threat of corruption charges and in a newly multiracial society there is extensive violence against other African immigrants.
ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACES IN THE WORLD
But it is the fact that South Africa has become one of the most dangerous places in the world for violent crime that matches the cycle stage most. In October 2006 Nobel peace prize winner, former Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu says South Africa faces a moral crisis in the shape of violent crime “People have turned freedom into licence and forgot that freedom has its obverse – responsibility and obligation”. “The country” the Archbishop adds “is sitting on a powder keg because the gap between rich and poor is widening”.
JACOB ZUMA FUTURE PRESIDENT ESCAPES CORRUPTION CHARGES
In September 2006 a judge dismisses corruption charges against Jacob Zuma after the prosecution says it is not ready to proceed against a powerful, populist politician who could be South Africa’s next president – the decision is reversed on appeal in November. In December 2007 delegates of the governing African National Congress cast their votes for party leader – Jacob Zuma defeats President Mbeki and moves into position to become president in 2009. However at the same time South Africa’s top prosecutor says he has enough evidence to bring corruption charges against Zuma. In October 2007 South African prosecutors obtain an arrest warrant for national police chief and Interpol president Jackie Selebi, on charges of corruption linked to a murder suspect. Ironically a few months earlier former apartheid law and order Minister Adriaan Vlok and his police chief Johannes Van der Merwe were both sentenced to 10 years in prison.
PUBLIC SERVICE STRIKES BRING CITIES TO STANDSTILL
In May 2007 tens of thousands of nurses, teachers and other public service workers take to the streets to press their demands for a 12 percent pay increase – by June it has been extended into an indefinite strike with police using stun grenades and water cannon on the more hardline hospital pickets in the city of Durham. On June 13 tens of thousands of public sector workers march on government offices across the country, escalating what will prove to be a three week strike and bringing the largest cities to a standstill.
NEUTRAL POLICY ON ZIMBABWE’S MUGABE CRITICISED
Perhaps of greatest world significance, many observers see an ultimate irony in South Africa’s stance on the major crisis in Zimbabwe. In March 2007 South Africa’s neutral policy on Zimbabwe comes in for criticism with Australia calling on premier Thabo Mbeki to pressurise President Robert Mugabe to quit. Many other countries are at least ambivalent about South Africa’s refusal to condemn Robert Mugabe’s harrowing and violent treatment of large sections of Zimbabwe’s population.
ANTI-FOREIGNER VIOLENCE IN A MULTIRACIAL SOCIETY
Lastly, also ironical in a new multiracial society, comes anti – foreigner violence. In January 2008 South African police raid a Johannesburg church late at night where hundreds of Zimbabweans have taken refuge, hauling people in pyjamas to a police station in scenes reminiscent of apartheid-era raids. South Africa’s main transport union thwarts the delivery of a controversial shipment of Chinese arms destined for Zimbabwe, saying its workers will not offload the cargo.
In May 2008 in Johannesburg mobs kill at least six people and injure 50 in anti-foreigner violence. Zimbabweans, accused of taking scarce jobs and housing are the main targets along with Mozambicans – of whom 10,000 flee home to escape the violence. The South African army mobilizes to support embattled police trying to quell the wave of violence that has claimed 60 lives and displaced 16,000 people. On May 24 thousands of people march through Johannesburg, calling for an end to the xenophobic violence.
MEDIA CRACKDOWN AND WIDESPREAD CORRUPTION
In China in mid 2006 there are several cases of media crackdown – arrest and prison await many who post articles on foreign websites. Indeed on 27 June a law imposing fines on media that report emergencies such as riots and natural disasters without official approval is announced. In September 2006 China announces detailed controls on the distribution of news by foreign news agencies, banning all content that violates its own tight restrictions. In December 2006 Chinese courts confirm lengthy prison sentences on writers documenting corruption and forced abortions. Shortly after this a senior party official admits that nearly 100,000 members of the ruling Communist party were punished the previous year for corruption. In June 2007 China’s state media said that some 550 slave labourers have been freed in the past month from brick kilns and other illegal job sites in central China where they were starved, beaten and forced to work 14 hours or more per day. Days later the government is forced into a nationwide crackdown on enslavement and child labour.
TIBET – LARGEST PROTEST AGAINST CHINESE RULE
However in March 2008 there breaks the strongest rights action of all. Protestors in Lhasa, Tibet set shops ablaze in the largest demonstrations in two decades against Chinese rule. Dozens of people die and damage is estimated at 280 million yuan ($41 million). In response Tibet’s government-in-exile demands the UN intervene to end what it described as “urgent human rights violations” by China. The Dalai Lama calls for an international investigation saying Tibet is facing a “cultural genocide”.
In the days that follow demonstrations against Beijing’s crackdown spread from Australia to Europe to the USA. China responds by calling the Dalai Lama a “wolf in monk’s robes” and says it is locked in a “life-and-death battle” with his supporters. China sends additional troops in and makes more arrests even as the Dalai Lama offers face-to-face negotiations with Chinese leaders. Official media warn against the unrest spreading to the northwest region of Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims have been bridling under Chinese control. The following day China attacks US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her meeting with the Dalai Lama, accusing her and other “human rights police” of double standards and ignoring the truth about the unrest in Tibet. On the same day 500 Uighurs protest in Khotan in the North western Xinjiang region – as China had feared.
On March 26 China announces hundreds of people have surrendered over anti-government riots among Tibetans and allows the first group of foreign journalists to visit the regional capital since the violence. However a group of monks protesting the absence of religious freedom disrupt a carefully orchestrated visit for foreign reporters to Tibet’s capital, an embarrassment for China. The deputy Communist Party secretary of Lhasa, says 800 protestors have been arrested while another 280 have surrendered.
WORLDWIDE PROTESTS ENSUE
In London thousands of anti-China protesters draped in Tibetan flags disrupt the Olympic torch relay – the same thing happens in Paris. On April 11 an indignant China says the US “seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” when Congress passes a resolution calling on Beijing to stop cracking down on Tibetan dissent and to talk to the Dalai Lama. On May 12 a tragic earthquake with over 75,000 deaths diverts China’s attention as it tries to evacuate more potential victims. And, as the Saturn/Neptune opposition goes out of orb, please note that, apart from some Uyghur arrests, calm is now apparently restored in China’s border regions.
HAMAS NON-ACCEPTANCE OF ISRAEL & JEWISH SETTLEMENTS
In June 2006 the recently elected Hamas-led Palestinian government rejects a deadline to accept a proposal that implicitly recognizes Israel. At the same time Israel begins laying the foundations for Maskiot, a new Jewish settlement deep in the West Bank, breaking its promise on settlements to Washington. Hamas’s non-acceptance of Israel and the building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory will remain the key obstacles to peace negotiations throughout the cycle opposition. This all takes place against a backdrop of bitter infighting between Hamas and the rival Fatah movement and a surge in the number of Palestinian rockets fired into Israel inviting a regular Israeli airstrike response.
BITTER INFIGHTING BETWEEN HAMAS AND FATAH
On June 12 hundreds of Palestinian security men loyal to President Abbas go on a rampage against the Hamas-led government, riddling the parliament building and Cabinet offices with bullets before setting them ablaze in retaliation for an attack by Hamas gunmen in the Gaza strip. On June 19 Israel’s defence minister orders a review of the route of Israel’s separation barrier to better reflect Palestinian concerns, a decision that could have significant implications for Israel’s future borders. On June 27 Hamas and Fatah, anxious to lift crippling international aid sanctions, agree on a plan implicitly recognizing Israel.
ISRAEL RESPONDS TO KIDNAP WITH MAXIMUM FORCE
But on June 25 Hamas had kidnapped an Israeli corporal and a day later in response Israeli tanks and troops enter southern Gaza while its planes attack three bridges and knock out electricity and water supplies for most of the 1.3 million residents of the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops round up 27 Palestinian ministers and lawmakers from the ruling Hamas party. On July 8 the Hamas-led Palestinian government offers a truce but Israeli PM Olmert refuses until Hamas release the Israeli soldier. At the end of July 2006 Israeli troops withdraw from Northern Gaza. Then on August 25 in Jordan leaders of the Fatah party agree to form a unity government with the militant Hamas. (Aug 31 1st Exact Opposition date) On September 9 Israel ends its 10 week military operation which killed a reported 230 Gazans including over 60 children. The Economist magazine reports the operation has had no noticeable impact on militant activities.
UN CALLS FOR END TO ISRAELI OPERATIONS IN GAZA STRIP
In September 2006 when Israel kills more Palestinians in the Gaza strip tens of thousands march to demonstrate their support for Hamas. In October Israeli forces are on the offensive killing nearly 50 Palestinians – by no means all of whom are militants. A further 35 are killed in early November – in one instance Israeli tank shells crash into a residential neighbourhood killing at least 18 people including eight children in their sleep. Hamas’s exiled leader Khaled Mashaal says a 2005 truce with Israel is completely finished. On November 17 the UN General Assembly calls for an end to Israeli operations in the Gaza strip. On November 25 Israel and the Palestinians finally agree to a cease-fire to end the five-month Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip and the firing of rockets by Palestinian militants into Israel. On December 23 Israeli PM Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas meet for the first time in 22 months. Feuding between Fatah and Hamas continues into 2007 escalating at the end of January into gunfights and mortar and rocket grenade attacks that kill some 35 people. (Feb 28 2nd exact Opposition date). Then on March 15 Hamas and Fatah form a long sought after unity government – immediately Israel states it will not deal with the new government.
HAMAS FIGHT AGAINST FATAH MAXIMISES
On April 24 2007 the armed wing of Hamas fires a barrage of rockets and mortar shells from Gaza toward Israel on its independence day, saying they consider it the end of a five-month truce with Israel. On May 17 Israeli aircraft strike a Hamas command centre citing the firing by militants of more than 50 rockets at the Israeli border town of Siderot. On June 7 the conflict between Hamas and Fatah erupts into a week long battle killing over a hundred and wounding around 500. Then on June 14 Palestinian President Abbas declares an emergency after the Hamas militant group effectively takes control of the Gaza Strip and removes Fatah officials. When Hamas fighters overrun one of the rival Fatah movement’s most important security installations, witnesses say the victors drag vanquished gunmen into the street and shoot them to death gangland-style. 14 are killed and 80 wounded in this battle. (June 25 3rd exact Opposition date) President Abbas goes on to swear in an emergency Cabinet and outlaw the militia forces of the Islamic Hamas movement. In response Israel’s PM Olmert promises to free 250 Palestinian prisoners and to improve life in the West Bank.
ISRAEL TRIES TO SHORE UP PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT ABBAS
On September 11 a Palestinian rocket explodes in an Israeli army base, wounding more than 40 soldiers as they sleep in their tents. It draws calls for a major military operation against the militants. Israel’s Security Cabinet declares the Gaza Strip an “enemy entity” in order to cut off its power and fuel supplies – at the same time it votes to release 90 Palestinian prisoners in an effort to shore up moderate Palestinian President Abbas. On November 7 the watchdog group Peace Now says Israel is enlarging 88 of its 122 West Bank settlements despite an agreement to halt the spread of Jewish communities in Palestinian territory. On November 12 comes the bloodiest day of inter-Palestinian fighting since Hamas seized control of the Gaza strip in June. On December 3 Israel releases a further 429 Palestinian prisoners to try and strengthen President Abbas’s position. But the following day it says it is seeking bids to build more than 300 new homes in a disputed East Jerusalem neighbourhood. Then on December 11 Israeli tanks and bulldozers backed by attack aircraft move into the southern Gaza Strip.
MILITANT ROCKET ATTACKS MET BY AIR STRIKES
The year 2008 starts with violent clashes between Hamas and Fatah. Then as US President Bush makes a visit promising a Middle East peace treaty Israeli tanks and helicopters raid Gaza in the bloodiest day of fighting since Hamas took control of the territory. January continues with militant rocket attacks countered by Israeli air strikes. Then on January 23 tens of thousands of Palestinians on foot and on carts pour into Egypt from Gaza after masked gunmen use land mines to blast down a seven- mile barrier dividing the border town of Rafah – there is violence as Egyptian riot police try to control this incursion.
HAMAS TO ACCEPT PALESTINIAN STATE IF PRE-1967 BORDERS
On 1 March Palestinians call off peace talks with Israel after 33 Gazans are killed. The death toll climbs to 70 as Israeli troops, backed by tanks and aircraft, go after Palestinian militants. On March 31 Jerusalem announces plans to build 600 new apartments in Palestinian territory. Throughout April militant attacks lead to Israel sending in tanks, aircraft and troops. Former US President Carter announces that Hamas is prepared to accept the right of the Jewish state to “live as a neighbour next door in peace.” Hamas admits it would accept a Palestinian state provided it has the pre-1967 borders. However as if to deny this possibility on June 13 Israel confirms plans to build 1,300 more apartments in Palestinian East Jerusalem. Then on June 19 as the cycle opposition heads out of orb Israel Hamas announce a six month truce in a bid to end a year of fighting that has killed more than 400 Palestinians – but under 20 Israelis. How long will the truce last ?
The In square will be in orb from November 2014 to October 2017. The In square exact hits are Nov 27 2015 and 18 June 2016 and 10 Sept 2016.