Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Are U.S. troops learning from cultural blunders in Iraq?

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U.S. soldiers patrol a road in Mosul“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave that bottle of water in the vehicle,” Captain Adam Canon told me as I got out of the Humvee. We were about to meet some Iraqi army officers in the northern city of Mosul, one of Iraq’s insurgent hotspots. “It’s because it’s Ramadan. The men we’re about to meet haven’t had anything to drink in this heat the whole day and there’s still three hours to go.”

I was embarrassed not to have thought of it myself, but I was also encouraged: U.S. troops have often been accused of failing to understand Iraq’s cultural landscape.

Canon then managed a short chat with the Iraqi soldiers we met in their native Kurdish (later, in Arabic, he exchanged pleasantries with an Arab policeman). He engaged in small-talk with every Iraqi we came across on our tour, despite a packed schedule, before getting down to business (it’s rude not too). He embraced them on leaving. It was all common courtesy, but it bucked a common perception of U.S. troops as culturally insensitive.

A crew member of a U.S. Black Hawk helicopter in the Green ZoneIn his book about Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone compound in the year after the 2003 invasion, “Imperial Life in the Emerald City”, former Washington Post Baghdad bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran writes: “At the cafeteria at the Republican Palace … a buffet featured … a bottomless barrel of pork: sausage for breakfast, hot dogs for lunch, pork chops for dinner. Hundreds of Iraqi secretaries … were Muslims and were offended by the presence of pork. But the American contractors kept serving it.”

Gaddafi – No longer “Mad Dog” of Middle East

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Libyan leader Gaddafi listens to a speaker at the African Union summitOnce called the “mad dog of the Middle East” by President Ronald Reagan, Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafi will meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week.

Senior State Department official David Welch told reporters he had met Gaddafi — “a person of personality and experience” — several times. 

What Russia wants: lessons from the 19th century

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Russian tanks in N. Ossetia after crossing from S. Ossetia/Sergei KarpukhinRussia’s bear-paw swipe at Georgia has got many people drawing comparisons with the Cold War, but personally I like to look for parallels in the 19th century.

At the time the faultlines between Russian and British imperial interests ran from the Balkans through the Crimea and the Caucasus to Central Asia and Afghanistan. That is remarkably similar to some of the faultlines creating upheavals today.  

Is Hezbollah’s gun diplomacy working?

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hezbollah.jpgHezbollah literally rolled out the red carpet to welcome home five prisoners released by Israel in a U.N.-mediated exchange deal. Securing the release of the last five Lebanese held by Israel was a major triumph for the group, which in turn handed over the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured in a 2006 raid into Israel.

Having achieved a long-held goal, Hezbollah is holding up the exchange as further evidence that its uncompromising, armed approach to dealing with Israel brings results, directly challenging the policies of Arab leaders who have engaged in negotiations or signed peace treaties with the Jewish state. The New York Times called the prisoners’ homecoming a triumph.

Russia’s Cold War anger over U.S. shield: misjudged?

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Signing of missile defence treaty

Russia’s angry response to an accord between Washington and Prague on building part of a U.S. missile defence shield in the Czech Republic is reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Cold War. Although Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Moscow still wants talks on the missile shield, his Foreign Ministry has threatened a “military-technical” response if the shield is deployed.

That phrase could have come straight out of the Soviet lexicon and seems more at home in the second half of the last century than now. Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer called it psychological pressure to try to encourage opposition to the missile system among Europeans, and described it as “the same sort that was used in the 1980s by the Soviet Union when the United States deployed cruise missiles in Europe.”

New U.S. embassy: symbol of U.S.-German relations

The ferocity of the reaction in the German media to the fortress-like new U.S. embassy in Berlin, which former U.S. President George Bush will inaugurate on Friday, strikes me as a reflection of the strains in German-U.S. relations since 2003′s Iraq conflict.

It underlines just how long gone the days of the Cold War really are. Then, when Berlin was the front line in the Cold War, America was West Germany’s best friend and U.S. soldiers were welcome across the country.

Iraq: was it all about the oil?

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iraq-oil-minister-2.jpgFive years after the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, Iraq is throwing open its oil sector to foreign oil firms  in a way Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and others in the region are reluctant to. Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani says no company will have any special privilege.

Some  analysts take a different view. They reckon U.S. and British oil majors are in a strong position to help develop the world’s third-largest oil reserves. Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP head the queue. They have already built up a relationship with Iraq’s oil officials by negotiating short-term technical deals.

Just by reading this blog, you may be fuelling inflation

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry PaulsonSoaring energy and food prices are the top concern at the Group of Eight finance ministers meeting in Japan this weekend, while central banks are keeping their fingers crossed that they can find a solution without killing off shaky economic growth.

U.S. consumers’ mood plunged to a 28-year low in June as soaring inflation pinched at their purse strings.

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