Greece exit from the Eurozone; war in the Middle East? Will all hell break loose after U.S. election?
August 24, 2012
ECONOMY – The Obama administration will pressure European governments not to let Greece fall out of the eurozone before November’s Presidential elections, British Government sources have suggested. Representatives from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission are due to arrive in Athens next month to assess Greece’s reform efforts. They are expected to report in time for an 8 October meeting of eurozone finance ministers which will decide on whether to disburse Greece’s next €31bn aid tranche, promised under the terms of the bailout for the country. American officials are understood to be worried that if they decide Greece has not done enough to meet its deficit targets and withhold the money, it would automatically trigger Greece’s exit from the eurozone weeks before the Presidential election on 6 November. They are urging eurozone Governments to hold off from taking any drastic action before then – fearing that the resulting market destabilization could damage President Obama’s re-election prospects. European leaders are thought to be sympathetic to the lobbying fearing that, under pressure from his party line Congress, Mitt Romney would be a more isolationist president than Mr. Obama. The President discussed the eurozone crisis with David Cameron during a conference call on Wednesday and both welcomed statements by the European Central Bank that it was “standing firmly behind the euro” The ECB is expected to present a plan in the next few weeks to help indebted countries like Spain and Italy by buying their government bonds. Today, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will travel to Berlin to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel, and to France tomorrow for talks with President François Hollande. He is asking that Greece be given more time to meet its deficit targets and implement its reforms as its economy is struggling through a fifth year of recession. But Germany’s Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, said it was only months since creditors drew up a second bailout package and agreed on a massive debt write-down for Greece. –Independent
Israel concealing intentions with leaks: Talk in Israel of a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities has reached a fever pitch. Last week brought the news of an alleged “war plan” leaked to a blogger. This week, a well-informed military correspondent in Jerusalem reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “determined” to attack Iran before the U.S. election. Two weeks ago, an outgoing government minister told Israelis to prepare for a war that would last 30 days. Some analysts dismiss the speculation as an effort to intimidate Iran or put pressure on the U.S. to get tough on Tehran. David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has his own contacts in the Israeli leadership. He says there’s more going on here than just war talk. “I think there’s a 50-50 chance before the U.S. election of an Israeli strike,” he says. In any case, it’s clear there’s a lot of war thinking going on in Jerusalem. The alleged war plan that was recently leaked said an Israeli strike would begin with an unprecedented cyber attack designed to paralyze the Iranian regime and blind it to what was happening on its territory. The Internet, telephones, radio and television transmissions, the electrical grid would all be taken out. That’s an attention-grabber: The world has never seen a cyber attack remotely that dramatic. John Bumgarner, chief technology officer at the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, says the plan does make sense — at least in theory. So, some of the war talk in Israel is apparently exaggerated. But this may only reflect the debate going on in the country. Someone could circulate a poorly thought-out scenario to discredit the Netanyahu government’s war planning. Makovsky says the volume and variety of speculation about an Israeli strike on Iran just underscores how seriously the idea is taken. Even apparently outlandish plans, he says, should not be discarded out of hand. “You’re going to see all sorts of things out there, and some of it might be disinformation or psychological warfare. There’s no way we’re going to know,” he says. “The Israelis do pride themselves on, you know, surprise elements that no one is thinking about.” After all, three years ago, Israel and the U.S. joined in the Stuxnet cyberattack against an Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz – a surprise too many. Seemingly far-fetched war talk could amount to propaganda and little else, but it could also mean an Israeli strike on Iran is around the corner. Makovsky says an attack before the U.S. election is a 50-50 proposition. The decision may not yet be made. “Israel has very good cyber capabilities. Some of the best computer scientists in the world come out of the Israeli military and intelligence branch,” he says. “Some of the best cyber-tools that are currently used in the world come out of Israel. -NPR