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Tom Arms’ World Review – 21 May 2023

Diamonds are sexy.

That is why they are at the top of the new list of sanctions against Russia. They also represent only $4 billion of Russia’s exports. This is a fraction of what Russia is earning in sales of oil, gas and weapons to countries thumbing their noses at Western sanctions.

That is why Japanese Premier Fumio Kishida has invited eight additional world leaders to the G7 Summit in Hiroshima this weekend. Gone are the days when the top seven industrialised countries could dictate terms to the rest of the world. If sanctions against Russia are going to work they have to be world sanctions, not just western sanctions.

The additional countries at the table this weekend are India, Brazil, Australia, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Comoros and Cook Islands. They have been invited either because they are major economies and political powers in their own right or represent a region of the world.

Most of them are sceptical about Western sanctions and some of them—such as India—are flagrantly flouting them and helping to fund the Russian war machine. India has also refused to condemn Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Vietnam has a long history of close relations with Moscow that go back to the French colonial wars and the Vietnam War. It still buys 60 percent of its weaponry from Russia. Indonesia is also a big buyer of Russian weaponry.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (aka Lula) projects himself as a friend to everyone. He has met with American, Russian and Chinese leaders; and wants to set up a “peace club” to resolve the Ukraine War.

China is also high on the G7 agenda, especially as regards the sabre rattling around Taiwan. Prime Minister Kishida wants the expanded G7 to make a clear statement in favour of Taiwan. This will be difficult given that almost all of the countries represented are heavily invested in the Chinese economy.

The world is so much more complicated than in 1975 when Giscard d’Estaing hosted the inaugural G7 summit at Rambouillet.

Syria has become a Narco state

And its new found position in the world is one of the reasons that President Bashar al-Assad is hugging Middle East leaders at the Arab League summit in Jeddah this weekend.

Syria and its leader were effectively expelled from the Arab League 12 years ago when Assad responded to the Arab Spring with bullets and chemical weapons. Since then 500,000 Syrians have died and 6 million have been displaced. Assad has managed to cling to power with the help of Iran and Russia.

But Assad needed money to pay for the weapons needed to fight his civil war. The factories and markets had been largely reduced to rubble. The farmers have fled their fields for refugee camps. So Assad turned to the manufacture of drugs.

More specifically, a synthetic amphetamine called captagon which is also known as fenethylline. The drug was first developed in the US in 1961 and given to soldiers in Vietnam to help their combat performance. But by the 1980s the dangerous side effects had become known and the amphetamine was banned.

The Syrian captagon is a super-charged version of the 1960s amphetamine. It is highly addictive and causes irreversible damage to the brain’s circuits that govern impulse control and judgement. It basically takes away the ability to reason or think rationally.

This was the perfect drug for ISIS who have bought in large quantities from Syrian dealers in order to turn their fighters into a cross between screaming banshees and mindless zombies.

In recent years the market in the drug has expanded from ISIS fighters to include upper the young social elite in Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Recently a cache of 157 million tablets was found in shipment of flour bound for Saudi Arabia.

The Gulf States have been unable to stop their young people popping the Syrian-produced pills. So, they swallowed their pride and re-admitted Assad to the Arab fold in the hope that they can persuade him to shut down to the captagon labs.

Turkish elections

It looks bad for Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the second round of the Turkish elections on 28 May. Opinion polls predicted that he would top the three-man race last Sunday and possibly even win the 50 percent plus one vote needed to topple 20-year incumbent Tayyip Recep Erdogan in the first round.

The opinion polls were wrong. It was Erdogan who came out on top with 49.4 percent of the vote. Kilicdaroglu won 44.9 percent. Ultra nationalist Sinan Ogan secured five percent and his voters are more likely to back Erdogan than Kilicdaroglu in the second round.

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Safe way?

The Home Office’ s proposals to change the Asylum law is disturbing. They don’t reflect an understanding of the hardship and difficulties that refugees face. Desperate people resort to desperate actions risking their lives to find a better life.

It is very difficult for these people to come directly to Britain. No visitor visa, no way of boarding a plane. It is unlikely those in conflict zones can obtain a visa anyway. They will have to cross borders and journey across countries to reach Britain.

The measures proposed to send them back are not based on any humanitarianism but a simple desire to keep foreigners out of Brexit Britain. Indeed, there is no legal basis for the EU to accept those that have crossed their territories and I doubt if the EU is in any hurry to make such an agreement. Britain in fact has a smaller number of people seeking asylum than other western European countries.

In these last few years, I have got to know some Pakistani Christian refugees who have fled to Bangkok. They faced a situation where Christians were being murdered and being driven out of their homes. The level of intolerance led to heavy discrimination making life extremely difficult. I knew of someone who tried to set up a Unitarian church. He faced death threats and eventually his employer told him he would not employ him any longer as he didn’t want the company to have any trouble.

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