Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Did I hear ‘freedom fries’? – France says Iran is no Iraq

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- French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud briefs reporters at the United Nations in New York. UN photo

French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud briefs reporters at the United Nations in New York. UN photo

February 2003. Anti-French sentiment sweeps across the United States. President George W. Bush and his top aides can barely contain their irritation at the French government for undermining U.S.-led efforts to get the U.N. Security Council to authorize the impending invasion of Iraq. With the aid of Germany and Russia, France torpedoes the drive for a new resolution authorizing war. Frustration erupts into anger. Bottles of French wine and champagne are emptied into toilets and some restaurants rename French fries “freedom fries.”

The rest is history. The United States tells U.N. weapons inspectors to clear out of Iraq and launches an invasion in March 2003 to put an end to Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction programs. They topple Saddam’s government and execute the deposed Iraqi leader three years later. But U.S. and British intelligence claims that Saddam Hussein had revived his nuclear, iraqbiological and chemical weapons programs turn out to be false.

Seven years later. France and the U.S. are friends again and working on the same side to prevent Iraq’s neighbor, Iran, from developing nuclear weapons. (Interestingly, both France and the United States had supported Iraq during its bloody 1980-88 war with Iran.)

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

“My Life with the Taliban” – on study and Islamic values

zaeefIn  "My Life with the Taliban",  Abdul Salam Zaeef -- who fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan and later served in the Taliban government before it was ousted in 2001 -- writes of how he longed to escape the trappings of office and instead follow in the footsteps of his father as the Imam of a mosque, learning and teaching the Koran.

"It is work that has no connection with the world's affairs. It is a calling of intellectual dignity away from the dangers and temptations of power. All my life, even as a boy, I was always happiest when studying and learning things. To work in government positions means a life surrounded by corruption and injustice, and therein is found the misery of mankind," he writes in his memoirs, newly translated and edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn.

from Tales from the Trail:

Qat joins al Qaeda as Yemen threat

YEMEN-QAT/U.S. lawmakers, convening a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the threat posed by al Qaeda in Yemen, found themselves focused on another problem stalking the impoverished Arab country:  the mild drug qat, which permeates Yemeni society.

Rep.  Howard Berman, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, launched the discussion of Yemen's drug problem in his opening remarks, noting that qat was "a narcotic plant that produces feelings of euphoria and stimulation, but ultimately undermines individual initiative -- sort of like being in Congress."

Does Washington care about the EU?

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Try as it might, the European Union’s efforts to act like a bigger player in world affairs keep running into obstacles.

The latest setback is a report that President Barack Obama won’t be able to make it to the annual EU-U.S. summit this year, pencilled in for Madrid in May. A hectic domestic agenda and the fact the U.S. president made 10 foreign trips last year — more than any other president in his first year in office — means staying at home is the priority and the Europe Union will have to wait.

Renewing trans-Atlantic ties Finnish-style

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It’s not often that Finland takes the lead in calling for better trans-Atlantic ties, but as the Nordic country’s energetic foreign minister might say: there’s a first time for everything.

In a speech in London this week, delivered on the eve of the Afghan conference, which might perhaps have led it to garner less attention than it otherwise would, Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb laid out a bold five-point plan for closer EU-US relations.

Does Siemens’ move send a message on Iran sanctions?

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nuclearWhen it comes to further sanctions on Iran, the clock is ticking relentlessly, even if those leading the drive – the United States, Britain, Germany and France — are giving little away in terms of timing or what might be targeted under any new, U.N.-agreed package.

Still, companies that do business with Iran appear to be getting the message that time is running out.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

On Taliban/AQ ties and the Afghanistan exit strategy

british soldierVahid Brown at the CTC Sentinel has a new article (pdf document) out arguing that the relationship between Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden before 9/11 was considerably more fractious than it was made out to be.  The main source of argument was between the Taliban's Afghan nationalist agenda and bin Laden's view of global jihad, and in particular his determination to attack the United States, he says.

Based on an account by an insider, he challenges the assumption that bin Laden personally swore an oath of allegiance to Mullah Omar. The account by Egyptian jihadist Mustafa Hamid, better known as Abul-Walid al-Masri, was first published in jihadist forums in 2007 but gained little attention outside specialist websites.

EU’s Ashton seeks stronger ties with U.S.

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- EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton

Catherine Ashton has signalled her intention of giving the European Union’s relationship with the United States more prominence in her new role as the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs.

How productive that relationship proves to be depends largely on how much Washington believes it needs the EU and how much it deals with the European Union as a whole, rather than with its member states one-to-one.

from Afghan Journal:

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

(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.

Will EU ever move on from “soft touch” diplomacy?

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- Miguel Angel Moratinos (centre)

Miguel Angel Moratinos (centre)

Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos recalled this week that it had been said of the previous U.S. administration that what American diplomacy needed was “regime change”. Europeans, meanwhile, he said, simply needed “a regime”.

America got its regime change with President Barack Obama, Moratinos explained this week, while Europeans got a new regime with the Lisbon treaty, a document that is supposed to help bolster the EU on the world stage and creates a more powerful foreign policy chief for the bloc.

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