2009 Gloom & Doom Update: France Strikes and Demonstrations

My social unrest post of Jan 27 mentioned that  France, Germany and United Kingdom had avoided demonstrations but my commentary was a tad premature.

It turns out that Jan 29 was a day of mass demonstrations and strikes in France with a 2.5 million turnout in a country of a mere 65 million population (almost 4% of the population was simultaneously out on the streets!). An excerpt from one article states:

Thursday’s day of action throughout France in defence of jobs, the purchasing power of wages and social services, called by the eight major trade union federations, brought an estimated 2.5 million workers and youth onto the streets of some 200 cities and towns. Some small towns reported the largest demonstrations in many years. Workers went on strike in great numbers, as did high school and university students.

Not surprisingly, the French economic stimulus of 26 billion euros ($33.1 billion) was released 3 days later. On the pro side, the stimulus package has been introduced before the country has officially entered a recession; on the con side the size of the package is generally considered insufficient to reverse the general trends. 

Small-scale union supported strikes are also starting in Scotland against hiring of foreign workers.  And most unexpected of all, Obama openly stated that more banks are expected to fail. Such bluntness is not customary for US presidents as they tend to sugarcoat the truth. Or perhaps he is sugarcoating?

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Saudi Patience: USA and Iran

Prince Turki al-Faisal wrote a strongly worded letter on Thursday to President Obama regarding Gaza/Israel and the impact it can have on the special US-Saudi relationship.

The content can be seen at the Financial Times web-site. One of the things it mentioned was a letter President Ahmedinejad of Iran wrote to King Abdullah,

explicitly recognising Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds

Clearly something I had missed seeing in the news last week.

This was surprising as both KSA and Iran have been bandying for regional hegemony in the past. An open declaration that unites the Shias and the Sunnis could be a harbinger of more cooperation in the future as well. It can also change the stakes and influence that can be exerted on international politics to seriously and fairly address the conflict.

It turns out that what President Ahmedinejad wrote was slightly different. As per the Irani Press TV what he actually called King Abdullah was his official title/position :

the Saudi Arabian King and the Custodian of the Two Holy Places, i.e Makkah and Medina

Sighhh, my excitement was premature. President Obama, King Abdullah and President Ahmedinejad are no closer to each other today as they were yesterday. But hope springs eternal , after all, tomorrow is another day!