Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

What will Biden say? I know, Sarkozy says

Photo

To many of the hundreds of defence experts, heads of state, ministers and journalists at the Munich Security Conference, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s speech was the keenly awaited highlight of the three-day gathering in Bavaria. Biden, on his first trip to Europe in his new role, was expected to lay out the foreign policy priorities of President Barack Obama’s administration to European allies, including Washington’s future policy on Afghanistan and Iran.

But well before Biden took the stage in the plush Munich hotel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the audience that he, at least, was already in the know about Biden’s speech. As Biden watched on from the front row, Sarkozy deviated from his speech on France’s policies towards NATO and the defence priorities of the European Union, and said with a smirk: ”I already know what the vice-president will say … because he sent me his manuscript in advance. “That’s part of good management,” Sarkozy said to loud laughter from the audience. Biden smiled, listening to Sarkozy’s comments over headphones through a translator.

Biden delivered his speech about an hour later, saying the new U.S. administration was determined to set a new tone in America’s relations around the world but also announcing it would ask for more from its partners. After talking about U.S. relations with Russia and Iran and detailing U.S. priorities in the Middle East, Biden turned towards Sarkozy, sitting in the audience. ”We warmly welcome the decision by France to fully cooperate in our structures,” Biden said, referring to Sarkozy’s plans to return France to NATO’s command structure. ”That’s the main reason the president got our speech,” he added. Sarkozy, sitting in the front row, grinned uneasily and squirmed in his seat. 

It is not unusual for leaders to circulate speeches to allies or journalists before they deliver them, but it is unusual for politicians to reveal publicly they have seen them. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband seemed to know in advance what Sarkozy would say, telling Reuters a day before the
French leader’s speech in Munich that he did not expect any major new announcement on NATO.    

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Of Afghanistan and backpacks

Photo

According to George Friedman from the Stratfor intelligence group the United States should forget the idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan and concentrate instead on covert operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

As has become increasingly clear, the administration of President Barack Obama faces a hard time raising its troop presence in Afghanistan without either relying on precarious supply lines through Pakistan or making political compromises with Russia to win its support for using alternative routes through Central Asia.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghan supply routes face setbacks in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan

Photo

U.S. efforts to improve supplies for its troops in Afghanistan just had a double setback after militants in northwest Pakistan severed the main supply route for western forces and Kyrgyzstan's president said the United States must close its military base there.

Militants blew up a bridge on the Khyber Pass, cutting the supply route to western forces in Afghanistan and underscoring the need for the United States to seek alternative supply lines. The U.S. military sends 75 percent of supplies for the Afghan war through Pakistan but has been looking at using other transit routes through Central Asia. Although Washington has been sketchy on the details of its plans, its Manas military airbase near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek has so far provided important logistical support for its operations in Afghanistan.  During a visit to Moscow, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev announced the closure of the base, opened after the 9/11 attacks.  Bakiyev made the announcement after securing a $2 billion loan and a further $150 million in aid from Russia.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The other Guantanamo

Photo

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered the Guantanamo military prison closed within the year, but what about the detention centre in Bagram, the U.S. military base in Afghanistan, which has an equally murky legal status ?

An estimated 600 detainees are held there, without any charge and many for over six years, rights activists say. That makes it more than twice the number held in Guantanamo, and according to military personnel who know both facilities, it is much more spartan and with lesser privileges as this report in the New York Times says.

A fresh start with Russia: what’s the trade-off?

Photo

Russia has reversed its decision to station missiles in the Western outpost of Kaliningrad, next door to the European Union, according to Interfax.

The move would be the clearest signal so far of the start of a thaw in U.S.-Russia relations, which could be one of the major changes in U.S. President Barack Obama’s first year in office. We don’t know what commitment, if any, Obama may have given to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the missile shield (the two spoke by telephone earlier this week).

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Afghanistan and the breakdown of the balance of power

Photo

Keeping track of the many countries with a stake in Afghanistan -- and the shifting alliances between them -- is beginning to feel awfully like one of those school history lessons when you were supposed to understand the complex and tenuous balance of power whose breakdown led to World War One.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer became the latest to call for a regional solution to Afghanistan when he said this week that the United States and its NATO allies must directly engage with Iran if they are to win the war there. “If we are going to succeed in this game, we need to be playing on the right field,” he said. “And that means a more regional approach. To my mind we need a discussion that brings in all the relevant regional players: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Russia and, yes, Iran.”

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

The scramble for Central Asia

Photo

Central Asia is much in demand these days, whether as a transit route for U.S. and NATO supplies to Afghanistan as an alternative to Pakistan or for its rich resources, including oil and gas.

So it's worth noting that India has been hosting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev as its guest of honour at its Republic Day celebrations while signing a bunch of trade deals in the process. According to reports in the Indian media, including in the Business Standardthe Week and the Times of India,  India is seeking supplies of uranium for its nuclear plants and access to Kazakhstan's oil and gas and in return would be expected to support Kakazhstan's bid for membership of the World Trade Organisation. (India's state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) said on Saturday it had signed a deal to explore for oil and gas in Kazakhstan.)

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

U.S. missile strikes on Pakistan : more of the same under Obama or worse to come?

Photo

The first U.S. missiles have struck Pakistan since U.S. President Barack Obama  took office, dispelling any possibility that he might relent on these raids that have so angered Pakistanis, many of whom think it only engenders reprisal attacks from militants on their cities.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari protested to the U.S. ambassador over Friday's twin raids in South and North Waziristan and  newspaper editorialists and commentators are worried this is just a foretaste of things to come. The strikes, the first since Jan 2, have led the Dawn newspaper to recall Obama's statements during the presidential camapaign when he repeatedly said he would "take out high value terrorist targets" inside Pakistan if it was unable or unwilling to do so.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Obama’s South Asian envoy and the Kashmir conundrum

Photo

Earlier this month, I wrote that the brief given to a South Asian envoy by President Barack Obama could prove to be the first test of the success of Indian diplomacy after the Mumbai attacks. At issue was whether the envoy would be asked to focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan or whether the brief would be extended to India, reflecting comments made by Obama during his election campaign that a resolution of the Kashmir dispute would ease tensions across the region.

That question has been resolved - publicly at least -- with the appointment of Richard Holbrooke as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. No mention of India or Kashmir.

Talking about talking to Hamas

Photo

Should Israel and/or its allies talk to men like these, the Palestinian Islamists of Hamas, who run the Gaza Strip?

That’s a question that has been revived this week following the end of Israel’s 22-day war in Gaza, which left Hamas rule apparently intact and 1.5 million people in desperate need, and the arrival in the White House of President Barack Obama, who has indicated he might be willing to talk to people his predecessor George W. Bush had shunned.

  •