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Current Obamameter Reading: Cloudy with Signs of Thunder
7:45 p.m. "The Cable" reports that US intelligence analysts from the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Intelligence Council will hold a closed/Top Secret/Codeword briefing on Iran for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday afternoon.
5:20 p.m. Complications and possibly worse from Sunday's provincial elections in Iraq. Tribal leaders in Anbar Province, upset at the apparent dominance of the Sunni religious Iraqi Islamic Party, have claimed widespread fraud and threatened violence if the results are upheld. The head of the Anbar Tribes List warned:
We will set the streets of Ramadi ablaze if the Islamic Party is declared the winners of the election. We will make Anbar a grave for the Islamic Party and its agents. We will start a tribal war against them and those who cooperate with them.
The turnout in parts of Anbar was as low as 25 percent.
5:15 p.m. More trouble in Somalia, only days after the election of a new President. Reports of 16 to 39 dead after a roadside bomb targeting African Union peacekeepers exploded, and the soldiers opened fire in response.
2:45 p.m. One to Watch This Afternoon. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will brief President Obama on Monday afternoon about the plans to send up to 25,000 US troops to Afghanistan. Almost 4000 have been deployed already, 17,000 are in three brigades to be sent soon, and 5000 are support forces.
2:30 p.m. Following our weekend exclusive secret US-Iran talks, there is a further revelation today. Senior Obama Administration officials have told The Wall Street Journal that California Congressman Howard Berman planned to meet Iranian Speaker of the Parliament Ali Larijani in Bahrain in December. At the last minute, however, Larijani withdrew.
The meeting was brokered by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, which had organised the Manama Dialogue on regional security in Bahrain.
11:40 a.m. Today's Country on Notice for Bad Behaviour: Turkey. We're not the only ones to notice Turkey's shifting foreign policy and the aftermath of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's criticism of Israel at the Davos Economic Forum. The Washington Post features an editorial by Soner Cagaptay which shakes a big finger at the naughtiness in Ankara:
The erosion of Turkey's liberalism under the AKP [Justice and Development Party] is alienating Turkey from the West. If Turkish foreign policy is based on solidarity with Islamist regimes or causes, Ankara cannot hope to be considered a serious NATO ally. Likewise, if the AKP discriminates against women, forgoes normal relations with Israel, curbs media freedoms or loses interest in joining Europe, it will hardly endear itself to the United States. And if Erdogan's AKP keeps serving a menu of illiberalism at home and religion in foreign policy, Turkey will no longer be special -- and that would be unfortunate.
It is purely coincidence that Cagaptay is a senior fellow at the stridently pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
10:10 a.m. Juan Cole offers an overview of early returns from the Iraqi provincial elections. His interesting evaluation is that parties supporting a strong central government (such as Da'wa and some Sunni parties) have done better than those (Kurdish parties and Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) favouring more power for provincial governments.
9:45 a.m. A senior United Nations official has been kidnapped in southwest Pakistan. He is John Solecki, an American who is head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Quetta.
9:40 a.m. A Taliban suicide bomber has killed 21 people in an attack on a police training centre in Uruzgan province in Afghanistan.
Morning Update (9 a.m. GMT; 4 a.m. Washington): The signs of thunder comes in the revelation, first set out by The Los Angeles Times on Saturday and analysed by Canuckistan in Enduring America today, of a complexity in President Obama's rollback of Dubya-era orders permitting unlimited detention and torture.
White House staffers are telling the media that "rendition", the practice in which detainees are transferred by the US to other countries who may or may not carry out the torture that Obama has banned, will continue. The leaks appear to be an assurance to the military and the CIA that they can continue to pick up enemy suspects and not worry about legal issues, provided they get the bad guys into the hands of foreign allies.