Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Afghan Journal:

America, don’t “leave us in the lurch” in Afghanistan

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(U.S. Marines in Nimroz province, southern Afghanistan)

(U.S. Marines in Nimroz province, southern Afghanistan)

One of the first things that U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates did during his trip to India last week was to assure Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the United States did not intend to cut and run from Afghanistan.  America was committed to Afghanistan for the long-term, he said, trying to calm Indian concerns over the Obama administration's stated plans to begin  withdrawing troops from July 2011. 

It struck me as quite remarkable that India, long a prickly nation opposed to superpower presence in the region, had so openly pinned its hopes on a prolonged U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Quite a change from the time  it would rail against the presence of such "extra-regional" powers.

But the world has changed and India like several other countries in the region, feels  more threatened  by the spread of Islamist militants than the long arm of a foreign power. Indeed while nobody likes the idea of foreign troops occupying another country, the very prospect of American withdrawal, still more than 18 months away, seems to be sending jitters. Pakistan has been saying all along its not sure how long the United States will remain engaged in Afghanistan.  It reminds everyone how it was left holding the can once the U.S. turned away from Afghanistan following the withdrawal of the former Soviet Union.

Come  to think of it, it suits quite a few countries nicely that America invests its blood and treasure in Afghanistan while these nations focus on their own development, as some commentators are pointing out. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in a piece written from Taipei said he felt quite envious of the leaders of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong who had far more time to focus on building their countries "than my president whose agenda can be derailed at any moment by a jihadist death cult using exploding underpants."

Other rumbles in the Iran nuclear storm

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In the sound and fury following the U.N. nuclear governors’ censure of Iran last week for its cover-up of a second uranium enrichment site, and Tehran’s rejection of a nuclear cooperation deal with world powers, a broader, festering issue was obscured.

 

That is the question of “alleged military dimensions” to Iran’s nuclear programme — that is, whether Tehran illicitly coordinated projects to process uranium, test high explosives and revamp the cone of a missile to fit a nuclear payload.

Forget about light bulbs – Iran wants a seat at the table

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For years Mohamed ElBaradei, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and outgoing head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, has warned the United States and other Western powers against jumping to conclusions about Iran’s nuclear program. While Washington, Israel and their allies see increasing indications that Tehran’s secretive nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons, ElBaradei told an audience of academics, politicians and diplomats at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City that his agency has “no concrete evidence” that Tehran is pursuing an atom bomb.

So is Iran’s nuclear program intended solely for lighting light bulbs in the world’s fourth biggest oil producer as Tehran insists? According to ElBaradei, its purpose is something completely different.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan, Pakistan and … all the other countries involved

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I have questioned before the value of the "AfPak" label, which implies that an incredibly complicated situation involving many different countries can be reduced to a five-letter word.

Having spent the last couple of days trying to make sense of the suicide bomb attack in Iran which Tehran blamed on Jundollah, an ethnic Baluchi, Sunni insurgent group it says has bases in Pakistan,  I'm more inclined than ever to believe the "AfPak" label blinds us to the broader regional context. Analysts argue that Jundollah has been heavily influenced by hardline Sunni sectarian Islamist thinking within Pakistan which is itself the product of 30 years of proxy wars in the region dating back to the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan towards the end of the same year.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Attack in Iran: What are the links to Pakistan?

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A week after suspected Sunni Islamist insurgents attacked the headquarters of the Pakistan Army, a suicide bomber killed six senior Revolutionary Guards commanders and 25 other people in Shi'ite Iran in one of the deadliest attacks in years on the country's most powerful military institution.

Were these two events connected only by the loose network of Sunni insurgent groups based in and around Pakistan? Or are there other common threads that link the two?

from Commentaries:

West raises stakes over Iran nuclear programme

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big-3President 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?

A world without nuclear weapons: Obama’s pipe dream?

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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)

Iran’s Ahmadinejad jumps the gun on Afghan poll

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By Golnar Motevalli

On Friday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — accused by thousands of Iranians back in June of stealing Iran’s own disputed election — congratulated Afghan president Hamid Karzai on being re-elected.

It was a bit premature: even Karzai himself hasn’t actually claimed victory in last month’s presidential poll.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The missile shield and the “grand bargain” on Afghanistan and Pakistan

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Back in 2008, even before Barack Obama was elected, Washington pundits were urging him to adopt a new regional approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan involving Russia, India, China, Saudi Arabia and even Iran. The basic argument was that more troops alone would not solve the problems, and that the new U.S administration needed to subsume other foreign policy goals to the interests of winning a regional consensus on stabilising Afghanistan.

It would be simplistic to suggest that the Obama administration's decision to cancel plans to build a missile-shield in eastern Europe was motivated purely -- or even primarily -- by a need to seek Russian help in Afghanistan. But it certainly serves as a powerful reminder about how far that need to seek a "grand bargain" on Afghanistan may be reshaping and influencing policy decisions around the world.

from Tales from the Trail:

Is Chavez helping Iran build the bomb?

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IRAN/

Veteran Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau is on Hugo Chavez's case.

Morgenthau warned last week at Washington's Brookings Institution that Iran is using Venezuela's financial system to avoid international sanctions so it can acquire materials to develop nuclear weapons and missiles.  He urged more scrutiny of the "emerging axis of Iran and Venezuela" in an op/ed article in the Wall Street Journal, in which he said a number of mysterious Iranian factories had sprung up in remote parts of Venezuela.

Chavez's man in Washington, Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez, called the allegations "outrageous ... unfounded and irresponsible" in a letter to the district attorney seen by Reuters.

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