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Thursday
Nov252010

US Audio: Sarah Palin and "Our North Korean Allies"

Mark this moment because it may be the only time I defend former Vice Presidential candidate and resigned Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

The Internet is afire because of Palin's statement in a radio interview, "We're bound to stand with our North Korean allies", with critics holding up another example of her outstanding cluelessness about seeing anything --- except Russia --- from her house.

For me, drawing from experience, it's a verbal slip. What is more significant is the other 57 seconds of the passage, in which Palin foregoes any comprehension of the issue for her "Administration is Bad, Standing with Our Allies [Whichever One It Is] Good" posture.

 

Thursday
Nov252010

The Latest from Iran (25 November): Taking a Break?

2144 GMT: Election and Sedition. Another take-away from the Supreme Leader's speech to Basij militia today....

Ayatollah Khamenei said the post-election protesters put their desire for power above the Islamic Republic in a “complex sedition” which endangered the “interests of the country and the righteousness of its path". He added, “They acted in such a way that drew the excitement and support of Western leaders and the Iranian nation’s first grade enemies.”

The Supreme Leader also laid down the lines on loyalty: “A society is either led by the just Imam...or it is run by human beings who know nothing of righteousness....It cannot be any other way.”

2138 GMT: Controlling the Mourning. As the anniversary of the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri approaches, Commander Mohammad Reza Heydari has announced the establishment of "Muharram Police" in Qom to control religious ceremonies.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov252010

Iran Politics: Will the anti-Ahmadinejad Campaign Ease for the Holidays?

As Iran begins a four-day religious holiday today, there is likely to be an easing of news. 

But will there be an easing of pressure on President Ahmadinejad?

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Thursday
Nov252010

Afghanistan: America's Failed War of Attrition (Scahill)

It is not simply a matter of ideology versus technology. The Taliban is not one unified body. The Afghan insurgency is fueled by fighters with a wide variety of motivations. Some are dedicated jihadists, but others are fighting to defend their land or are seeking revenge for the killing of family members by NATO or Afghan forces. While Al Qaeda has been almost entirely expelled from Afghanistan, the insurgency still counts a small number of non-Afghans among its ranks. Bolstering the Taliban's recruitment efforts is the perception in Afghanistan that the Taliban pays better than NATO or the Afghan army or police.

The hard reality US officials don't want to discuss is this: the cultural and religious values of much of the Pashtun population--which comprises 25–40 percent of the country--more closely align with those of the Taliban than they do with Afghan government or US/NATO forces.

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Thursday
Nov252010

Complications of War: Jordan and the Iraqi Refugees

Jordan has provided a safe haven for Iraq’s never-ending stream of war refugees, as the country has kept its borders open long after other regional destinations have closed. According to recent estimates, Iraqis constitute somewhere between 8 to 12 percent of the Jordanian population. Jordan’s goodwill is, however, nearing its breaking point, due to resource strains, security concerns and continued violence inside Iraq. Moreover, the humanitarian crisis created by this situation has raised numerous challenges and questions of ethics and transparency in refugee management and service provision, which many in the government and NGO world did not foresee.

Thursday
Nov252010

Korea Update: North Threatens New Attacks, South to Bolster Military Arsenal, US Asks China to Step In

UPDATE 1730 GMT: The spin out of Seoul is that the President's inner circle of ministers, in their emergency meeting,decided that old rules of engagement put too much emphasis on prevention of escalation. In future, South Korea will implement different levels of response, depending on whether the North attacked military or civilian targets, but the new rules call for retaliation "with shots two to three times more powerful than the enemy artillery".

UPDATE 1420 GMT: China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has cancelled a visit to Seoul on Friday. Chinese officials claimed a scheduling conflict, but South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun indicated Seoul has concerns.

UPDATE 1115 GMT: President Lee Myung-Bak has accepted the resignation of South Korea's Minister of Defense,Kim Tae-Young.

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Wednesday
Nov242010

The Latest from Iran (24 November): Smog and Politics

2125 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Green Voice of Freedom claims, from a source close to Hengameh Shahidi, that the journalist has been hospitalised following a hunger strike.

A group of political, academic, and human rights activists have issued a statement calling for the release of Ebrahim Yazdi, the 78-year-old former Foreign Minister.

Shahidi was returned to prison on 15 November after a 18-day leave for medical treatment.

2120 GMT: An Appeal for Refugees. Exiled attorney Mohammad Mostafaei has written to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon:

Since there are Iranians living in various countries under deplorable conditions and need support to appeal their request for asylum, with deep concerns I hereby request that the United Nations expeditiously contact all member states in order to review the affairs of asylum seekers. As a result, refugees will be able to relocate to states where they desire to live in security. It is self evident that prolonging the proceedings for the refugees is against the standards of human rights and ought to be considered as torture and punishment.

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Wednesday
Nov242010

Afghanistan: The Complications of the Elections Result (Cole)

Juan Cole writes:

Most of the results of the disputed parliamentary election in Afghanistan were announced on Wednesday. Altogether 24 candidates were disqualified from parliament because the Independent Electoral Commission found them guilty of fraud. Some 1.3 million of the 5.6 million votes were tossed out as invalid.

The southern Pashtun ethnic group appears to have lost its majority in parliament, a development that could presage further dissatisfaction with the government in the Pashtun south and east of the country, which is already the site of a lively set of insurgencies.

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Wednesday
Nov242010

Korea Update: Bodies of 2 Civilians Found, Seoul Emergency Meeting, US-South Korea Joint Drill

UPDATE 1715 GMT: The US force for Sunday's joint exercise with South Korea will include the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington and four other ships, carrying 6,000 sailors and 75 aircraf

“These [exercises] are not a direct reaction [to Tuesday's North Korean artillery attack],” USFK spokesman David Oten said. “Basically, they’re unrelated.”

UPDATE 1640 GMT: North Korea's Foreign Ministry has again blamed South Korea for the artillery barrage: "The enemies, despite our repeated warnings, eventually committed extremely reckless military provocations of firing artillery shells into our maritime territory near Yeonpyeong Island beginning 1 p.m. Tuesday." 

There has been no resumption of conflict since yesterday's North Korean artillery barrage against Yeonpyeong Island; however, the bodies of two civilians killed in the assault have been found this morning. Two South Korean soldiers died of wounds on Tuesday.

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Wednesday
Nov242010

Iran Text and Analysis: The Latest Report on Tehran's Nuclear Programme

These conclusions in the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran's nuclear programme are far from dramatic. Much of the wording could have been taken from any IAEA finding of the last two years: there is no evidence that Tehran is shifting uranium to make a nuclear weapon, but the Agency cannot be sure because it has not gotten access to all areas of the programme. 

No, what is notable about the IAEA report is the "spin" being put on it by media, fed by unnamed officials. On almost every occasion in the last two to three years, reporters from leading US newspapers would have trumpeted that the IAEA had shown Iran was on the verge of material for at least one bomb in the next year and that Tehran was guilty of hiding this effort.

Yesterday, however, that guilty verdict was missing.

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