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from The Great Debate:

Iran sanctions and wishful thinking

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Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate
-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

So what's so difficult in getting Iran to drop its nuclear program? All it needs is a great American leader who uses sanctions to break the Iranian economy so badly that popular discontent sweeps away the leadership. It is replaced without a shot being fired.

That simplistic solution to one of the most complex problems of the Middle East was part of a keynote speech greeted with thunderous applause by 6,000 delegates to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The speaker: Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2012.

In the fourth month of the administration of President Barack Obama, who favors talking to America's adversaries rather than ousting them, the Gingrich prescription sounded like a throwback to the days when neo-conservatives predicted that the U.S. troops invading Iraq would be pelted with flowers and sweets. Wishful thinking at its finest.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Nuclear South Asia: Iran fires a shot at India

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Iran looks like it will come out swinging at a global conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) opening in New York on Monday, and in the process take a swipe at Israel as well as India.

And that is a bit of a shift, for India and Iran have ties going back into history, but which have in recent years come under pressure and play in the tangled relationship between India and Pakistan.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Want peace? Blunt Iran, Netanyahu aide says

As Benjamin Netanyahu's top pick for national security adviser, Uzi Arad will be key to crafting the foreign and defence policies of the incoming Israeli government.

Arad is a retired official of the Mossad intelligence agency who served under the hawkish Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister in 1996-1999. That period saw Israel pursuing U.S.-sponsored interim peace negotiations with the Palestinians, as well as tentative rapprochement with Syria.

from Global News Journal:

Politics and paranoia complicate IAEA’S work on Iran, Syria

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The U.N. nuclear non-proliferation watchdog assiduously guards its impartiality as it monitors and investigates disputed activity in Iran and Syria, with suspicious Western powers impatient for the inspectors to draw conclusions.

So the International Atomic Energy Agency typically puts what have become keenly anticipated, quarterly reports on Iran and Syria through many painstaking drafts before they see the light of day, to help ensure that not a single word can be misunderstood, misinterpreted or turned to political advantage.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Israeli rhetoric on Iran can lack consistency

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Veiled threats require calibration. Too explicit, and they risk spilling over into uncontrolled confrontation. Too elliptical, and their impact might be lost entirely.

When it comes to Israel's regular hints that it could attack Iranian nuclear facilities to prevent them producing a bomb, there's another liability: boredom and incredulity at all the repetition.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

A covert challenge to Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

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Israeli officials aren't talking, but Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper is quoting intelligence experts and an unnamed former CIA agent as saying that Israel is waging a covert war of sabotage inside Iran in an effort to delay its suspected attempts to build a nuclear weapon.

An intelligence source in the Middle East has told Reuters the Israeli campaign includes sending letter bombs or anthrax-tainted mail to scientists involved in Iran's nuclear programme and sabotaging related infrastructure. European countries and the United States are also part of the cloak-and-dagger war, the source said.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India-U.S: advancing a transformed relationship

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In the space of a decade, the United States and India have travelled far in a relationship clouded by the  Cold War when they were on opposite sides.

From U.S sanctions on India for its nuclear tests in 1998 to a civilian nuclear energy deal that opens access to international nuclear technology and finance, while allowing New Delhi to retain its nuclear weapons programme is a stunning reversal of policy and one that decisively transforms ties.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan and its nuclear weapons loom large over Obama administration

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Pakistan and its nuclear weapons are back in the centre  of the U.S. foreign policy frame as a steady stream of reports from think tanks and newspapers build the case for President-elect Barack Obama to recognise and act urgently with regard to the potential threat from the troubled state.

The New York Times Magazine in an extensive article  headlined Obama's Worst Pakistan Nighmare says the biggest fear is not Islamist militants taking control of the border regions. It's what happens if the country's nuclear arsenal falls into the wrong hands. And it then takes a trip to the Chaklala garrison where the headquarters of Strategic Plans Division, the branch of the Pakistani government charged with protecting its growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, are located and led  by Khalid Kidwai, a former army general.

from Global News Journal:

Half-baked men, hooligans and other insults from North Korea

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By Jon Herskovitz

The end of the Bush administration will likely bring an end to one of my favourite guilty pleasures of reporting on North Korea, which is the verbal battle between Washington and Pyongyang. Prickly North Korea will undoubtedly fire rhetorical volleys at Barack Obama's team but it may be hard to match the vitriolic language it has levelled at the administration of outgoing President George W. Bush, which in North Korean parlance is "a bunch of tricksters and political imbeciles who are the center of a plot breeding fraud and swindle".

The Bush administration came into office pledging to take a tough line toward Pyongyang to force it to end its nuclear weapons programme, stop threatening its neighbours with ballistic missiles and halt human rights abuses that are regarded as some of the worst in the world. North Korea bristles at any criticism of its leaders or its communist system. It unleashed its first insults directed at Bush weeks into his presidency in 2001, after his team labelled the North a dangerous state.   

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India, Pakistan and covert operations. All in the family?

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Do read this piece by Gurmeet Kanwal, the head of the Indian Army's Centre for Land Warfare Studies, about how India should respond to the Mumbai attacks with covert operations against Pakistan.

He says that "hard military options will have only a transitory impact unless sustained over a long period. These will also cause inevitable collateral damage, run the risk of escalating into a larger war with attendant nuclear dangers and have adverse international ramifications. To achieve a lasting impact and ensure that the actual perpetrators of terrorism are targeted, it is necessary to employ covert capabilities to neutralise the leadership of terrorist organisations."

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