Iraq-US: For the record. Iraqi auditors believe as much as US $800 million is being sent out of the country illegally each week, according to a report by the US Special Inspector General released Tuesday. His findings point to widespread money laundering and focus attention on lax oversight at Iraq's central bank, which is at the heart of a probe into alleged financial wrongdoing involving its former governor and other top officials.
Comment: That is more than $41 billion a year with nothing to show for it and no accountability and after the departure of US troops.
Hmmm… that raises a question about what are the savings, if any, from the withdrawal of US soldiers. The answer is that the post-withdrawal costs to the US appear as large as or larger than when the US had combat forces deployed in Iraq.
The US is not engaged in combat in Iraq, but it is still spending $4 billion a month in Iraq, which is about what the US was spending when it had combat forces there.
Ukraine: The government party of President Viktor Yanukovych won a solid victory in parliamentary elections. International observers charged that the elections were not fair, but their allegations do not signify. Yanukovych's Party of the Regions will retain its majority in parliament.
Comment: Russia and pro-Russia Ukrainians have halted the eastward drift of NATO. Ukrainian leaders will be justified in focusing more intently on developments in Moscow than in Brussels. Relations with Russia will be rocky, but the vote indicates Ukrainians prefer a political leadership that speaks Russian.
Libya: Fewer than 100 people, made up of civilians and former rebel fighters, charged into the meeting hall of the General National Congress as it voted on Prime Minister Ali Zeidan's cabinet line-up, which was drawn from liberal and Islamist parties.
In chaotic televised scenes, Congress members negotiated with the protesters, unhappy with some of the nominations, to leave. Voting then briefly resumed before being interrupted a second time, leading congress leader Mohammed Magarief to announce the session was postponed to Wednesday. A vote on the new cabinet did not take place.
Comment: The Congress will try again, but Libya is not ready for democracy. Even if Congress approves a cabinet, it is almost a meaningless political act.
Mali: The operational plans for an African-led military intervention in Mali are being finalized in meetings between representatives from the United Nations; the African Union; the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); and the European Union and partner countries, the ECOWAS representative to Mali said.
Comment: The various parties appear to be cheerleading for themselves, rather than taking action to rid northern Mali of its al-Qaida base. Operational planning is a term of military art that indicates military leaders are organizing the campaign. Nevertheless, the pace is slow and the parties seem reluctant.
Greece: Update. Greece has reached a deal with the troika -- the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank -- over the country's fiscal measures and budget, the prime minister's office said in a statement on 30 October. The statement said significant improvements were made during negotiations, and if the deal and budget are approved, Greece will stay in the eurozone.
Comment: The Greek government has rolled over on and agreed to every requirement imposed by the troika, because the impact is almost trivial.
The Greeks know that none of the north Europeans, especially the Germans, want to admit that the eurozone experiment is a failure. Thus, Greece will not be expelled, even if it suggests changes to the latest bailout deal. Corruption, illicit foreign bank accounts, tax evasion, increased personal and property crimes and the operations of the grey and black markets have not changed because of the eurozone's fiscal problems.
A Member of AFCEA International