Iceland’s government has become the first state casualty to collapse from the economic crisis currently engulfing the globe. A new election is scheduled for May 9. Amid protests that have become increasingly violent, Prime Minister Geir Haarde resigned this week along with Bjorgvin Sigurdsson, the nation’s top economic minister. The International Monetary Fund is even coming to the rescue, something that while typical in “developing countries,” hasn’t happened to a Western European nation in over three decades. The economy is forecasted to shrink by 10 percent in 2009 according to the Icelandic Finance Ministry, possibly worse.
The world's attention remained focused on the Middle East during the week of January 25, as President Barack Obama met with his special envoy to the region, former Senator George J. Mitchell, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the White House on Monday. Obama also taped his first interview with an Arab television station, directed to the Islamic world, that day. The interview, taped in the White House map room, was broadcast on Tuesday on Al Arabiya, a 24-hour Arabic-language news channel in Dubai. As the interview was aired in the Muslim world, Mitchell arrived in Egypt to begin an eight-day foreign tour that will continue with Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, before moving on to France and the United Kingdom.
As the British pound continues downward relative to foreign currencies and the nation’s banks continue sucking up taxpayer money, nationalization seems to be on the horizon. Britain’s economy has been contracting at alarming levels, and the pound has gone down with it — down almost 30 percent against the U.S. dollar from last year to about 1.35.
When Tony Blair was still prime minister, a peaceful protest march surprised both media and government in England as it drew huge, sympathetic crowds of disenfranchised and disillusioned citizens. Most were there to express the sentiment displayed on their signs, the clearly felt loss of their basic right to self-defense as British citizens, owing to the country's restrictive gun-control laws, and in large part the loss of their unique English heritage, and along with it, the very culture of their people.
General David Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) in the Middle East, met Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul on the night of January 20-21, after announcing that arrangements had been made to establish new transport routes into Afghanistan from Central Asia.
On January 18, the militant Hamas regime that rules Gaza agreed to a one-week cease-fire with Israel. With three weeks of military action by Israel against Hamas brought to a halt, observers are taking stock of the devastating conditions in Gaza and trying to determine if Israel has accomplished its objective of neutralizing Hamas, which is categorized as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, the European Union, Israel, and Japan.
A report released this month by the U.S. Joint Forces Command is warning of the potential for “rapid and sudden collapse” of the Mexican government due to the corrupting influence of criminal gangs and drug cartels. The Joint Operating Environment 2008 document (pdf) also lists Pakistan as the other of two large and important states that “bear consideration,” explaining that these would be “worst-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world."
Khaled Meshaal, a Hamas leader, told the attendees at an emergency Arab summit on the Gaza crisis being held in Doha, the capital of Qatar, on January 16: "I assure you: despite all the destruction in Gaza, we will not accept Israel's conditions for a cease-fire."
As the Israeli military intensified its ongoing assault against the Hamas terrorist organization in densely populated Gaza City on January 15, artillery shells struck the compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), drawing immediate criticism from UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, who called the attack an "outrage."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Cairo on January 14, beginning a Middle East tour aimed at ending Israel's offensive against the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip. The secretary-general put on full display his view that the United Nations is a global authority empowered to dictate how "peace" is achieved — that is, that the UN's dicates, as expressed by Security Council resolutions, must be obeyed by the world's nations, including Israel.