Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Photographers' Blog:

A tribute to journalist and colleague Sabah al-Bazee

Reuters correspondent Peter Graff in Baghdad writes following the death of journalist Sabah al-Bazee:

For those of us who work in the Baghdad bureau, it is always a shock to look back through the collected photos of one of our Iraqi colleagues. We think we are used to those old scenes. But seen one after another, the images compiled over eight years of carnage by a single journalist like Sabah al-Bazee still have the power to freeze your blood.

A man sits on the rubble of a destroyed house after a U.S. air strike in the village of Samra near Tikrit, 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad June 25, 2008.  REUTERS/Sabah al-Bazee

There’s a photo that Sabah took showing the bodies of a family killed during a botched U.S. military raid on their home in 2005. Three small children wrapped in blankets, who look almost like they are sleeping, snuggled with their parents, their faces pale and lifeless in the dust.

The first word that colleagues around our office were using on Tuesday to describe Sabah, who died in an attack in his home town of Tikrit, was “enthusiastic”. The second, heard from several and meant as a sincere compliment, was “almost childlike”.

What’s really behind Merkel’s nuclear U-turn?

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(German Chancellor Angela Merkel promises a more rapid shift to renewable energy sources during a speech in the Bundestag lower house of parliament on March 17)

(German Chancellor Angela Merkel promises a more rapid shift to renewable energy sources during a speech in the Bundestag lower house of parliament on March 17)

The consensus view in Germany is that Angela Merkel’s abrupt reversal on nuclear energy after Fukushima was a transparent ploy to shore up support in an important state election in Baden-Wuerttemberg. If indeed that was her intention (she denies any political motive) then she miscalculated horribly. Her party was ousted from government in B-W on Sunday after running the prosperous southern region for 58 straight years. But what if Merkel was really thinking longer-term — ie beyond the state vote to the next federal election in 2013? After the Japan catastrophe she may well have realised that her chances of getting elected to a third term were next-to-nil if she didn’t pivot quickly on nuclear. There are two good reasons why that is probably a safe assumption. First is the extent of anti-nuclear sentiment in Germany. A recent poll for Stern magazine showed nearly two in three Germans would like to see the country’s 17 nuclear power plants shut down within 5 years.  The nuclear issue was the decisive factor in the B-W election. And you can bet it will play an important role in the next national vote — even if it is 2-1/2 years away. The second reason why the reversal looks like a good strategic decision from a political point of view is the dire state of Merkel’s junior partner in government — the Free Democrats. It was the strength of the FDP which vaulted her to a second term in September 2009. But now it looks like their weakness could be her undoing in 2013.  Merkel probably needs the FDP to score at least 10 percent in the next vote to give her a chance of renewing her “black-yellow” coalition. Right now the FDP is hovering at a meagre 5 percent and it is difficult to see how they double that anytime soon. The nuclear shift widens Merkel’s options in one fell swoop. Suddenly the issue that made a coalition between Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Greens unthinkable at the federal level has vanished. Her party set a precedent by hooking up with the Greens in the city-state of Hamburg in 2008. Now she has more than two years to lay the foundations for a similar partnership in Berlin. By then voters may see Merkel’s nuclear U-turn in a different light. And only then will it be truly clear if it was a huge political mistake, as the Baden-Wuerttemberg vote suggests, or a prescient strategic coup.

from Afghan Journal:

Standing on the warfront: when sport divides India and Pakistan

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In the run-up to Wednesday's cricket match between India and Pakistan, passions are running high on both sides of the border and in the diaspora which is following their teams' progress in the game's biggest tournament.

How to demolish Pakistan was the title of a programme aired by an Indian television network  where former players and experts discussed ways to win the high-voltage game that will be played in the northern Indian town of Mohali, within, in a manner of speaking, of earshot distance of the heavily militarised  border with Pakistan. 
  
Pakistan television in similarly wall-to-wall coverage ran a programme where one of the guests advised the team to recite a particular passage from the Koran before stepping out to play that day. There is even a story doing the rounds in Pakistan that an enraged Indian crowd put a parrot fortune teller to death for predicting a Pakistani victory, according to this report.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India-Pakistan – cricket, spooks and peace

cricket  refugee"Cricket diplomacy" has always been one of the great staples of the relationship between India and Pakistan. The two countries have tried and failed before to use their shared enthusiasm for cricket to build bridges, right back to the days of Pakistan President Zia ul-Haq, if not earlier.

So when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced last week that he was inviting Prime Minister Yusuf  Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari to watch the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup in Mohali, India, the temptation was to dismiss it as an old idea.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

On Taliban talks and driving out al Qaeda

osamaIn the debate about the possibility of reaching a peace settlement with the Taliban in return for them breaking with al Qaeda, it has never been entirely clear how that breach would be defined. While on one hand the international community would expect the Taliban's break with al Qaeda to be public and irreversible, few expect them to turn on al Qaeda's leaders, preferring instead for them to leave the Afghanistan and Pakistan region.

 Somewhere in there is a huge grey area that has not yet got the attention it deserves. The Century Foundation in its newly released report (pdf) calling for a negotiated settlement to the Afghan war has come up with a suggestion which at least forms the basis of debate.  Its key point -- or at least the one that jumped out at me -- is that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar would declare the jihad over: 

from Afghan Journal:

United States begins a new war, what happens to Afghanistan?

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The United States has said the scope of its military intervention in Libya is limited, but it nevertheless raises questions about what happens to the two other wars that it is waging, especially in Afghanistan. The last time Washington took the eye off the ball in Afghanistan was in 2003 when it launched the Iraq war and then got so bogged down there that a low level and sporadic Taliban resistance in southern Afghanistan grew into a full blown insurgency from which it is still trying to extricate itself.

The question then is will the U.S. attention again shift away from Afghanistan and to Libya  and indeed other African and Middle East countries where revolts  against decades of authoritarian rule are gaining ground, and unsettling every strategic calculation.   Already U.S. Republicans are saying they are concerned that U.S. forces may be getting drawn into a costly, long-running operation in Libya that lacks clear goals.  If it ends in a stalemate - a possibility recognized by Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen - how focused can America be on Afghanistan where you can argue that the stakes are arguably less now that al Qaeda has largely been pushed out, and the fight is almost entirely with the Taliban.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The “sound and fury” of U.S.-Pakistan ties

rayjmonddavisphotoWith the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, the United States and Pakistan have put behind them one of the more public rows of their up-and-down relationship.  It was probably not the worst row -- remember the furore over a raid by U.S. ground troops in Angor Adda in Waziristan in 2008, itself preceded  by a deluge of leaks to the U.S. media about the alleged duplicity of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in its dealings on Afghanistan.

But it was certainly one which by its very nature was guaranteed to get the most attention - an American who shot dead two Pakistanis in what he said was an act of self-defence, denied diplomatic immunity and ultimately released only after the payment of blood money. Adding to the drama were two intelligence agencies battling behind the scenes.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Keeping Raymond Davis and Lashkar-e-Taiba in perspective

tajmumbaiAccording to the New York Times, Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor arrested in Pakistan for shooting dead two Pakistanis in what he says was an act of self-defence, was working with a CIA team monitoring the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.

The article, by Washington-based Mark Mazzetti, was not the first to make this assertion. The NYT itself had already raised it, while Christine Fair made a similar point in her piece for The AfPak Channel last week (with the intriguing detail that "though the ISI knew of the operation, the agency certainly would not have approved of it.")

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Towards a review of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws

rehman malikAfter two assassinations, Pakistani politicians are finally beginning to address tensions over the country's blasphemy laws.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said in an interview politicians should be able to reach a cross-party consensus on preventing the misuse of the blasphemy laws, as proposed by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, head of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) religious party. "Its misuse is being, of course, taken into account and the party leaders are going to sit together as proposed by Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman ... and I hope this matter can be thrashed out, whenever this meeting takes place." 

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s debate on drones, lifting the secrecy

droneIn a rare admission of the effectiveness of drone strikes, a senior Pakistani military officer has said most of those killed are hard-core militants, including foreigners, according to Dawn newspaper.

It quotes Major-General Ghayur Mehmood as telling reporters at a briefing in Miramshah, in North Waziristan, that, “Myths and rumours about US predator strikes and the casualty figures are many, but it’s a reality that many of those being killed in these strikes are hardcore elements, a sizeable number of them foreigners."

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