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July, 1, 2016

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Commentary > China Post > John Metzler
It's a deal! The Islamic Republic of Iran is set to buy 100 American-made Boeing civilian airliners for a price tag of almost US$25 billion. The sale, which has been quietly in the works for some months now, can be directly linked to last summer's Iran nuclear accord reached in Vienna by the United States and five other powers, which in effect trades Tehran's presumed nuclear transparency for a lifting of stifling economic sanctions on the Islamic republic. Why am I not surprised?
 
In a country awash with automatic weapons, overwhelmed by warring militias, and lacking an effective central government, there's little wonder why global terrorist groups such as Islamic State (IS) have found fertile ground for expansion.
 
The artillery still rumbles like a rolling late spring storm. Small arms fire reaches a staccato, only to fall silent just as quickly. And hapless civilians on both sides of an arbitrary divide endure and suffer as the forgotten slow burner conflict in eastern Ukraine continues far from the headlines but embedded in the acute anxiety of European and U.S. policymakers.
 
Words cannot begin to describe the devastation and suffering that has befallen Syria, now in its fifth year of civil war. Upon his return from the ravaged country, the U.N.'s humanitarian chief, Stephen O'Brien, solemnly told the U.N. Security Council, "I have run out of words to fully explain how the actions of the parties to the conflict have led to the devastation of a country and its people."
 
"Economic activity in the world economy remains lackluster, with little prospect for a turnaround in 2016," is the gloomy prognosis of the World Economic Situation and Prospects Update for 2016. The U.N. survey cautions that weak global growth "continues to linger," posing a serious challenge for governments and economies.
 
Stressing that terrorism "can only be defeated by a sustained and comprehensive approach" involving the active participation and collaboration of all states, the U.N. Security Council hosted an open debate on developing a counter-narrative campaign to dissuade, discourage and ultimately defuse this widening global threat which is increasingly disseminated through the internet and social media.
 
When I first visited Estonia over 20 years ago, the Baltic country had recently regained its independence from the Soviet Union. Tallinn, the capital and an old Hanseatic trading city, offered an intriguing mix of medieval architecture and shoddy Soviet style construction. Situated on the Gulf of Finland, Estonia, though occupied by Moscow, was deceptively close to the free Nordic countries.
 
The seemingly never ending presidential primary circus came through New York with the predictable partisan name calling and puerile political promises. For much of the campaign the political charges and arguments resembled peeved sandbox-kicking kindergarten kids more than serious adults running for the nation's highest office.
 
Calling for an end to "human trafficking and other forms of human slavery," British Cardinal Vincent Nichols presented a stunning testimony against the "resurgence of slavery" where up to 21 million people are affected by the scourge. As archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Nichols has led the fight against global human trafficking, which given recent chaos around the world, is actually now on the rise.
 
The modern day barbarians have been routed from the ancient city of Palmyra, but the destruction left in the wake of the nearly yearlong Islamic State occupation has been near catastrophic. After five years of conflict, war-torn Syria sees the fruits of limited cease-fires allowing observers to gaze upon a near apocalyptic humanitarian and physical landscape.
 
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