The CSS Blog Network

Tamils Want More Devolved Power in Sri Lanka’s North

Man walking in North Sri Lanka.

Ahead of Sri Lanka’s planned provincial election in a former war zone, the country’s main ethnic minority Tamil party is pushing to have as much power devolved from Colombo as possible.

The island nation has grappled for decades with the question of the devolution of power to its nine provinces, particularly the Northern and Eastern provinces, considered by Tamils to be their homeland.

In the early 1980s Tamil frustrations at what they perceived to be discriminatory tactics employed by the state led to the growth of a militant movement and a 26-year civil war that lasted until May 2009, when government forces defeated the separatist Liberations Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“The issue really is the extent of executive powers the [presidentially appointed provincial] governor will be sharing with the [provincial] board of ministers,” Abraham Sumanthiran, an MP from the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), said recently. TNA is the largest national party representing minority Tamils from the north. » More

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Why Are Turks So Angry?

Security Personnel prepare to disperse protestors in Turkey.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have had significant successes since coming to power in 2002. Erdoğan rescued Turkey’s economy, which had been reeling. He established Turkey as a world power, increasing its influence on the world stage. He also brought Turkey’s abusive military and bureaucratic establishment to heel. Turkish voters welcomed Erdoğan’s charismatic leadership and gave the AKP a mandate in three national elections. So, it was a surprise when demonstrations over a commercial development project in Istanbul’s Taksim Square spiraled into violent protests in 60 cities across the country. Why are Turks so angry?

Erdoğan’s polarizing personality is largely to blame. His arrogance and hubris make him a lightning rod for controversy. Police brutality, including the use of tear gas and water cannon, has enraged protesters adding fuel to the fire. Instead of taking on board their concerns, Erdoğan impugned them as thugs, hooligans, and looters. Erdoğan has become increasingly authoritarian, acting more like a sultan than a public servant. » More

Slowing Nigerian Grain Trade Threatens Sahel Food Security

Local maize storage barn in Africa.

Northern Nigeria’s grain trade, which supplies almost half of the Sahel’s cereals, has slowed severely, while abnormally high prices of staple grains across the Sahel are causing serious food security concerns in this chronically vulnerable region.

The areas most at risk are southeastern and central Niger, which are highly dependent on Nigerian grain flows, as well as northern Nigeria and northern Benin. Chad is somewhat protected from the dynamic, as it produced a healthy harvest in 2012, says FEWS NET.

World Food Programme (WFP) market analysts report that grain supply is low in many of the main markets across the region, and that fewer traders from Niger and elsewhere are crossing the border to re-supply in Nigeria. Cross-border trade is significantly down in Nigeria’s Maigatari market (near Zinder in Niger), Illela (near Tahoua), Jibya (near Maradi) and Damassack (near Diffa), according to WFP. » More

Russia and “Elastic Power”: Will the Burgeoning Private Security Industry Lead to Private Military Companies, Too?

Private security guards in Russia.

I’ve just written a short piece for Blouin News on the news that already-relaxed restrictions on the security forces of gas giant Gazprom and oil pipeline corporation Transneft are to be lifted, allowing them increased access to lethal weapons and rules of engagement for their use. The represents a rolling back of the trend during the early Putin years, when the private security sector–which had become pretty much out of control in the 1990s–was reined in dramatically. The days of untrained corporate goons toting assault rifles in Moscow shopping centers are, I’m glad to say, pretty much over, even if the vigilante spirit they embody (in other words, a reluctance to trust the state and its agents to provide reliable, impartial security) is alive and well. The private security industry these days is a dynamic, extensive and growing sector, but also one under rather great legal and regulatory control. » More

Why Further Sanctions Against Iran will be Counterproductive

A June 6, 2013, article from Reuters is titled, “Lawmakers in new drive to slash Iran’s oil sales to a trickle.” According to it,

U.S. lawmakers are embarking this summer on a campaign to deal a deeper blow to Iran’s diminishing oil exports, and while they are still working out the details, analysts say the ultimate goal could be a near total cut-off.

My concern is that the new sanctions, if they work, will put the United States and Europe in a worse financial position than they were before the sanctions, mostly because of a spike in oil prices.

How much reduction in oil exports are we talking about? According to both the EIA and BP, Iranian oil exports were in the 2.5 million barrels a day range, for most years in the 1992 to 2011 period. In 2012, Iran’s oil exports dropped to 1.7 or 1.8 million barrels a day. Recent data from OPEC suggests Iranian oil exports (crude + products) have recently dropped to about 1.5 million barrels a day in May 2013. » More

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