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Sunday
Nov282010

Korea Latest: As US-South Korea Drills Begin, Journalists Ordered to Leave

UPDATE 1110 GMT: Yonhap News interprets South Korea's flurry of varying message on China's call for six-party talks:

The foreign ministry said Sunday that China's offer to resume six-party talks on North Korea "should be studied very carefully," stressing that creating the right atmosphere for reopening the negotiations is a priority.

The reaction was seen as a de facto rejection of Beijing's proposal that the chief delegates from the six nations meet in early December to discuss tensions on the Korean Peninsula after North Korea's deadly artillery strike on a South Korean island.

UPDATE 1035 GMT: South Korea has shifted its position (see 0909 GMT) on the Chinese intervention, now saying it will "carefully consider" Beijing's call for a resumption of six-party talks.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Nov282010

The Latest from Iran (28 November): Politics Does Not Stop

1625 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. The names of four of the seven activists detained in Marivan in Iranian Kurdistan have been published.

1550 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. The Supreme Leader's represetnative to the Revolutionary Guard, Mojtaba Zolnour, has renewed the allegation that the children of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani --- Mehdi Hashemi and Faezeh Hashemi --- were involved in the 2009 "sedition".

The regime has elevated its threats in recent weeks to arrest Mehdi Hashemi, who is currently in London.

1510 GMT: Press Watch. The managing directors of the conservative newspapers Fararu and Tabnak have been convicted of charges in a Tehran court.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Nov282010

Korea Music Video Special: Getting Funky with Pyongyang

We originally featured this video on 5 September to show off how music and spoofing the "enemy" has a proud history from World War II to the present. But, in a very tense week, I think it might be valuable to bring it back for a few smiles:

Sunday
Nov282010

US Politics: Government Spending, Ethanol, and the Republican Dilemma

During the recent controversy within the Republican Party over a ban on "earmark" funding, Senator Jim DeMint, the leading advocate of the moratorium, was able to call upon the support of a host of Tea Party and conservative blogs.

Now the battle gets specific. As DeMint turns his attention to the specific issue of subsidies for corn, media on the Right have been much quieter. At stake in the upcoming debate over the extension of tax credits for the use of ethanol (corn alcohol) in fuel are the same principles that drove the earmark battles, but this time politicians  in corn-producing states may find themselves opposing a cut in Government spending.

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Saturday
Nov272010

Korea Update: A (Dismissed) Signal from the North, A March in the South

The immediate crisis over North Korea's shelling of Yongpyeong Island has eased. There was a flutter on Friday when the North carried out a military drill with artillery fire only miles from the island, which is just off the western coast of the North-South border, and the state news agency pronounced, "The situation on the Korean Peninsula is inching closer to the brink of war." 

The display was more bravado than threat, however, offering a response to the tour of Yongpyeong by the top U.S. commander in South Korea and Sunday's planned US-South Korea military exercise, headed by an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, in the Yellow Sea.

An important story emerged this morning. On 3 August, North Korean radio issued a clear warning, as a notice from the Western Front military command, that Pyongyang would carry out a military strike in response to any South Korean drills near the border and North Korean waters.

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Saturday
Nov272010

Afghanistan Analysis: Karzai Making a Break? (Rashid)

Afghan president Hamid Karzai is a changed man. His worldview now is decidedly anti-Western. When I spoke with him earlier this month at the presidential palace in Kabul, Karzai told me that the US has been unable to bring peace to Afghanistan or to secure cooperation from Pakistan, which continues to give sanctuary to the Taliban. He rejects the barrage of US criticism at his government on issues like corruption and poor administration and says the original sin of all these faults lies with the Americans.

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Saturday
Nov272010

Iran Special Investigation: Why Did Ahmadinejad Give Away His Car?

I sent EA investigators to Iran. Their mission: find out what a middle-aged guy in the midst of possible mid-life crises --- do people really like me? how am I doing in my job? will I avoid eventual prosecution? --- might buy to make himself feel a bit better.

They have not failed me. His country gets a Peugeot 504 and Mahmoud gets....

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Saturday
Nov272010

The Latest from Iran (27 November): Breaking News --- Supreme Leader is Fabulous

1335 GMT: Parliament v. President. Someone is getting worried that the effort to summon Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Parliamentary questioning may succeed. Follow this carefully....

The pro-Ahmadinejad Islamic Republic News Agency is claiming that Ali Motahari, the MP leading the campaign for Ahmadinejad's interpellation, has struck a deal with the reformists: if Motahari can deliver 50 signatures on the petition for the President's appearance, the minority faction will give him 25 endorsements. That would make 75, more than the requirement of 1/4 of the 290-member Majlis.

On the surface, the story appears to be a triumph for Motahari, but I suspect it is an un-subtle attempt to tarnish him by claiming that he has resorted to devious scheming with the dubious reformists. Motahari, for his part, has claimed that almost all the signatures on his petition are from the majority principlist faction.

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Saturday
Nov272010

Egypt Special: On the Eve of a Pretend Election?

On Sunday, Egyptian voters will nominally go to the polls to decide who should lead them in Parliament. In reality, the arrangements are in place for Hosni Mubarak to claim a sixth term in next year's Presidential election, beginning his fourth decade in charge.

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Saturday
Nov272010

Egypt Special: What is the Significance of the Latest Christian Protests? (Iskander)

Fresh protests by Egypt’s largest Christian community the Copts indicate a new phase in communal tensions that have risen steadily throughout 2010. The latest demonstrations, which have so far led to one dead and many injured, began on 24 November in the Giza area of Cairo when permission to construct a church was refused.

Church building has remained a possible flashpoint between 1981 and last week, but Coptic reactions had been muted as Pope Shenouda pursued a pragmatic policy of cooperation with the State. Now a changed environment, beyond anger at inequalities over places of worship, is emerging: this is a political rivalry which is damaging the Church-State relationship and perhaps laying the ground for further communal violence.

Click to read more ...