Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
President Obama and the leaders of France and Britain have deliberately raised the stakes in the confrontation over Iran's nuclear programme by dramatising the disclosure that it is building a second uranium enrichment plant. Their shoulder-to-shoulder statements of resolve, less than a week before Iran opens talks with six major powers in Geneva, raised more questions than they answer.
It turns out that the United States has known for a long time (how long?) that Iran had been building the still incomplete plant near Qom. Did it share that intelligence with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, and if not, why not? Why did it wait until now, in the middle of a G20 summit in Pittsburgh, to make the announcement -- after Iran had notified the International Atomic Energy Authority of the plant's existence on Monday, after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had delivered a defiant speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday and after the Security Council had adopted a unanimous resolution calling for an end to the spread of nuclear weapons on Thursday?
Is this all part of Obama's choreography to build international pressure on Iran by getting Russia, in return for the dropping of plans to put a U.S. missile shield in Poland the Czech Republic, to threaten more sanctions against Tehran? A U.S. official says Obama shared the intelligence with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev at the United Nations this week and China had only just been informed. Did Obama try and fail to get Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao -- both in Pittsburgh -- to join the three Western leaders on the podium? Or was his hand forced on timing by the fact that the New York Times had got wind of the Iranian nuclear plant and was set to publish the news on Friday?
The division of labour between Obama, Sarkozy and Brown was striking. The U.S. president sounded stern but his tone was measured. He stressed his commitment to dialogue and negotiation with Iran and to Tehran's right to peaceful nuclear energy. He did not mention sanctions, let alone the possibility of military action. It fell to the Europeans to inject a tone of menace.
U.S. President Barack Obama says he wants a world without nuclear weapons. But will that ever happen?
Obama showed he’s serious this week. He chaired a historic summit meeting of the U.N. Security Council which unanimously passed a U.S.-drafted resolution that envisages “a world without nuclear weapons”.
It was the first time a U.S. president chaired a meeting of the Security Council since it was established in 1946.
John Burroughs, executive director of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, an advocacy group, identified serious weaknesses in the resolution, including the absence of mandatory disarmament steps for the world’s five official nuclear powers — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia.
Some diplomats from countries without nuclear weapons said the lack of mandatory disarmament moves is not just a weakness, but a loophole the five big powers — which have permanent seats and vetoes on the Security Council — deliberately inserted into the resolution so that they wouldn’t have to scrap their beloved nuclear arsenals.
An official from one of the five big powers appeared to confirm this in an “off-record” email to Reuters explaining the language in the resolution: “I would underline that creating the conditions for a world free of nuclear weapons is not the same as calling for a world free of nuclear weapons.” He added that “the spirit of the resolution is much more about non-proliferation than disarmament.”
A diplomat and disarmament expert from a European country with no nuclear weapons said this was typical of the “cynicism” of some permanent Security Council members. He added that the U.S. delegation had made very clear that the use of the word “disarmament” meant total nuclear disarmament — perhaps not today, but someday.
China’s President Hu Jintao said China was not planning to get rid of its nuclear arsenal anytime soon. So did French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The resolution didn’t name Iran and North Korea. However, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Sarkozy filled in the blanks and called for tougher sanctions against Iran for defying U.N. demands to halt sensitive nuclear work.
The resolution didn’t mention Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea, the four others known or assumed to have nuclear weapons. But it did politely ask “other states” to sign the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and get rid of their atom bombs.
Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was the only leader of a council member state that stayed away from the meeting. Several council diplomats expressed relief at his absence, saying they had been afraid the long-winded Gaddafi would have exceeded the five-minute limit for statements.
(Photos by Mike Segar/REUTERS)
As the U.S. Congress roils over use of the word “liar” against President Barack Obama, Australia
is in uproar over the prime minister’s use of the F-word.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, once a diplomat, was this week forced to defend his “robust” language used against a group of unhappy junior lawmakers in his own centre-left Labor Party while slashing back their official pay entitlements.
By Tim Gaynor
President Barack Obama’s signature battle to overhaul the United States’ $2.5 trillion healthcare industry to extend coverage and lower costs for Americans has met fierce opposition from Republicans.
But a move by Democrat backers to exclude 12 million illegal immigrants from buying health coverage and restrict the participation of authorized migrants has drawn the ire of U.S. Hispanics — a bloc that overwhelmingly turned out to vote for Obama in last year’s election.
After just six weeks as NATO secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has his first crisis. The alliance may be slowly bleeding in an intractable war in Afghanistan, but the immediate cause is the U.S. administration's decision to shelve a planned missile shield due to have been built in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The shield, energetically promoted by former President George W. Bush, was designed to intercept a small number of missiles fired by Iran or some other "rogue state". But Russia saw it as a threat to its own nuclear deterrent and NATO's new east European members saw it as a useful deterrent against Russian bullying, by putting U.S. strategic assets on their soil.
Barack Obama might have unrivalled expertise about the U.S. electorate. But the American president showed he’s something of a fish out of water when it comes to the complex world of German politics — where the seeming winners sometimes end up losing and the losers can end up in power with the right alliance.
Obama recently told Germany’s conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel to stop worrying about the Sept. 27 election: “Ah, you’ve already won. I don’t know what you always worry about,” Obama told her in comments captured by a German TV camera at the White House as the two were on their way to a joint news conference.
I had the chance to pose that question to a charismatic young German political leader who is sometimes likened by his supporters to the American President.
Greens party co-chairman Cem Oezdemir, the son of Turkish immigrants, became the first person from an ethnic minority elected to lead a major German party last year — a slogan at the time was “Yes, we Cem“. What might sound rather unspectacular in many industrial countries was actually an epic change in Germany, which until only a decade ago was loath to even acknowledge it was a country of “immigrants” (preferring to call its 7 million foreigners “guest workers”).
Just imagine the outcry if Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain had suddenly gone off on their own separate two-week vacations to, say, Mexico, just two months before the November election? Irresponsible! Reckless! Shirkers! Those and as well as other unprintable terms might be among the comments hurled their way.
Yet as unfathomable as it may be for candidates in the United States or many other countries to take a long holiday break so close to an election, in Germany it is just as inconceivable for politicians to continue to campaign actively during the summer holiday season — even if the election is just around the corner. Begging for votes while their countrymen are relaxing on the beach is simply verboten for Germans.
But Thomas Steg’s voluntary departure in Berlin just 2 months and 2 weeks before the federal election has raised more than a few eyebrows — he is not leaving his post as deputy government spokesman to go off and write a book or study horticulture but rather he will be leading the election campaign communications efforts of the man who wants to knock Merkel out of office — SPD candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
from The Great Debate UK:
-Arvind Ganesan is the Director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. The opinions expressed are his own.-
Equatorial Guinea is a tiny country of about half a million people on the west coast of Africa, but is the fourth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.