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Postscript to “Is Saudi Arabia Preparing To Invade Qatar?” Fourteen Months Later

August 2, 2018

Postscript. August 2, 2018

At the time I wrote this piece “Will Saudi Arabia Invade Qatar“, last June, it very much appeared that indeed Saudi Arabia along with its regional partner in crime, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), were prepared to invade Qatar to seize its lucrative natural gas assets and its $320 billion sovereign wealth fund to help prop up Saudi’s own flagging reserves. Preparations were well underway. Saudi anti-Qatari rhetoric had been whipped up, troop build ups were in place. But then it didn’t happen and soon the invasion threat seemed to dissipate, although the Saudi-U.A.E. economic blockade of Qatar continues.

I wondered if I had been wrong in the first place – ie, that the threat was to intimidate Qatar to fall in line, to distance itself from Iran and return to the Wahhabist fold or, whether something took place behind the scenes that staid the Saudi hand at the last  moment. An article that appeared at “The Intercept” by Alex Emmons yesterday gave ample credence to what transpired “behind the scenes,” staying the Saudi military hand. Read more…

Ethiopia and the American Geo-Politics in the Horn of Africa – Fifth of a Series.

July 29, 2018

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. 

1. Ethiopia Needs a Face-lift. The United States needs a more stable, militarily capable ally in the Horn of Africa.

Although it is not clear that President Donald Trump even knows where Ethiopia is on a map of Africa, or that it is in Africa – as it qualifies in his vulgar language as one of the world’s “shit hole’ countries – his administration, that is the Defense Department and what is left of the State Department – have been actively engaged in the American version of geo-political social engineering there. Why should he? After all there are no Trump Towers in Addis Ababa.

The Washington Administration  is trying to reshape the Ethiopian political landscape in order to give it a new, more democratic gloss after 26 years of supporting what was one of Africa’s most repressive governments in exchange for its doing Washington’s dirty work in Ethiopia. If Ethiopia’s image is being polished up, the underlying power relations of “the new Ethiopia” will remain unchanged.

Putting make-up on the corpse that has been Ethiopia since 1991  means playing down Washington’s unflinching support for its dictatorship whose military and security forces it has financed, armed and trained. It means playing down embarrassments like the Obama Administration’s claim that the 2015 elections in which the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) won 100% of the vote was “democratic”, the U.S. creation and training of Ethiopian death squads, the Agazi units, the 2007 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, etc. Read more…

Ethiopia and the Iran Factor: Fourth in a Series.

July 27, 2018

1. Ethiopia and The Iranian Factor. What is “the Iran Factor?”

What is most intriguing about the media hype extolling the change in prime ministers in Ethiopia and the fledgling reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea is what is left out of the news. There is very little in the news – virtually nothing – about what hasn’t changed in Ethiopia (like essentially everything other than the new prime minister). While there was a reconfiguration at the top – cosmetic or real yet to be determined – in Ethiopia, no such juggling can be observed with Eritrean leadership, one of the most closed and repressive in Africa. While Ethiopia and Eritrea have “made nice” to each other for the first time in decades – more than likely as a result of threats and possible bribes of one kind or another from Washington – Ethiopian troops have yet to withdraw from the contested town of Badme as promised according to the Algiers Agreement of 2000.

But the biggest omission is elsewhere: the general failure of the U.S. (and European) media to report the long standing security and military relations between Washington and Addis Ababa. Without some understanding of the basic dynamics of these relations, one cannot understand what is behind Washington’s pressure for change in Ethiopia. Bottom line: fear of what I have dubbed “the Iran Factor.” (the security and military arrangements will follow in another blog entry). Read more…

Ethiopians Celebrate the Collapse of Hailimariam Desalegn Dictatorship: Unfortunately There Are No Messiahs – 3

July 27, 2018

1. Ethiopia’s “Savior” Headed To Washington

Despite all indications to the contrary, many people look to some kind of modern day messiah, savior, to lead them out of misery and oppression. Unfortunately, messiah’s don’t come very frequently and when they do in Africa (a la Lumumba, Thomas Sankara), they have a long history of being assassinated or, if they survive, being compromised (a la Senghor, Sadat, Dos Santos). At best they represent, bring together in one person, the aspirations, the collective values of a people; at worst, they degenerate into demagogues whose promises soon deteriorate into the mud, controlled largely by outside forces and the thinnest of thin social strata in their own country.

Over the next few days, Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed (1), will visit the United States. From the announcements I have been able to see, his first stop will be Washington DC, site of the largest Ethiopian Community in the United States. He’ll meet with the community as well as with officials in the Trump Administration before returning home to Addis Ababa.

The celebrations of Ethiopia’s U.S. diaspora community coincide with the Abiy Ahmed’s upcoming visit to the United States. He’ll also visit Minneapolis and Los Angeles to connect to other large Ethiopian communities. His appointment – he wasn’t elected – as prime minister by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has ignited hope for badly needed change both in Ethiopia and among the Ethiopia diaspora, including the 500,000 strong community in the United States. Read more…

Colorado Ethiopians Celebrate Collapse of Hailemariam Desalegn Dictatorship – 2

July 23, 2018

“Thank God for what happened, for Eritrea, for Ethiopia, for East Africa” – an Eritrean in London participating in the rally celebrating Ethiopian-Eritrean reconciliation. 

Ethiopian Spring?

Spring came early to Ethiopia this year, politically speaking. There is even a specific date for its arrival. Thursday, February 15, 2018. On that date the current prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn submitted his resignation. In a bid to head off what was shaping up to be nothing short of a national political explosion, Desalegn resigned ending six years of rule marked by deceptive double digit economic growth on the one hand and severe repression, ethnic conflict on the other.

Then on April 2, 2018, Desalegn was replaced by Abiy Ahmed. In the first hundred days of his acceding to power, Ahmed released tens of thousands of political prisoners, promised and delivered on reviving Ethiopia’s long censored press, reached out to Eritrea to bring the state of war between it and Ethiopia to an end. The celebrations of Ethiopia’s U.S. diaspora community coincide with the Abiy Ahmed’s upcoming visit to the United States, that will include stops in Washington DC, Minneapolis, culminating in what is shaping up to be a massive reception for him in Los Angeles, home of the country’s largest Ethiopian diaspora community.

A la Gorbachev in the mid 1980s, Ahmed is not afraid to mix up with the “man on the street.” Furthermore, at least in principle, if not in fact, he has begun a process of ethnic reconciliation to reduce the strong ethnic (and religious) tensions that have plagued the country these last decades and made a commitment to close the growing gap between rich and poor that has long plagued the country. Read more…

Colorado Ethiopians Celebrate Collapse of Hailemariam Desalegn Dictatorship – 1

July 22, 2018

(Note: This is the first of several articles concerning the Ethiopian rally I attended; I was invited to be one of the speakers. Here are my notes. I generally say most of what is in these notes, and did so on this occasion. My sense is that what I participated in, experienced tonight was historic, nothing less. Many, many lessons here that I will be writing about in the near future. The event itself and the Ethiopian Community of the Greater Denver area will be the focus.)

Remarks of Rob Prince/Ethiopian Community Rally, Aurora Central High School, Aurora Colorado, July 22, 2018

Friends and Supporters of the Ethiopian Community of Colorado, a community some 30 to 35,000 strong.

Congratulations on having come through this painful period in your history, and having put years of repression, suffering, dictatorship, nepotism behind you!

Let us be frank with one another

While the changes in the Ethiopian government appear to have been little more than a change in prime ministers, the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn and the selection of another, Abiy Ahmed, is a much more profound change than that.

Desalegn did not merely step down.

He was overthrown, nothing less and it was a rebellion from below that included all sectors of the great and culturally rich Ethiopian nation that forced the dictator – for that is what he was, a dictator – to resign.

Let us hope that this change in power marks not just the end of the Desalegn dictatorship, but the end of what has been a 150 years of foreign intervention, that included such outrages as the Addis Ababa Massacre of 1937 by the Italian fascists. Read more…

Ripping off Colorado State Employees…the PERA Scam. A Guest Commentary

July 19, 2018
ColoWINS-Dec.2013

Union activists from Colorado WINS, state wide employees union, lobbying for better working conditions at the Colorado State legislature in Denver. Several union members commented how Dan Pabon, one of the authors of this bill butchering (and that is the correct word) PERA benefits the state pension fund, made a special effort to avoid contact with the union. 

by Doug Vaughan

PERA rip-off: Like the village in Vietnam burned by the US Army “in order to save it”, maybe it’s too late to stop the state from pouring $500 million to “save” the pensions of our Public Employees Retirement Assn., even as it cuts them again. But it’s a drop in a leaky bucket– the fund is underfunded by $30-50 billion! So, it’s never too late to expose the financial fraud underlying this scam:

As retiree Jeremiah M. Attridge notes, Colorado’s taxpayers spiff $500 million a year in “base rate fees” to 7 private money managers to handle 64% of PERA’s assets. This guaranteed commission is augmented by another 20% these firms “earn” (skim) from any profits on PERA’s investments. 

Despite receiving higher contributions from both employers and employees, while reducing benefits 8 years ago in the Great Recession, in 2015 PERA declared an “actuarial crisis” predicated upon a single study that found that retirees were living longer than expected — quel horror! — and that the expected rate of return on investments would no longer be as high as in the past. Maybe. Read more…