The Great Debate UK

from Afghan Journal:

Saving Afghanistan from its neighbours

(A view of the tent in Kabul where the jirga will be held.Reuters/ Ahmad Masood

(A view of the tent in Kabul where the jirga will be held. Reuters/Ahmad Masood

Walking into a giant tent at the foothills of Kabul, you are conscious of the importance of jirgas throughout Afghanistan's troubled history.  These assemblies of tribal elders have been called at key moments in the country's history  from whether it should participate in the two World Wars to a call for a national uprising against an Iranian invasion in the 18th century.

Next week's jirga is aimed at building  a national consensus behind Afghan President Hamid Karzai's effort to seek a negotiated settlement of the nine year conflict now that the Taliban have fought U.S. and NATO forces to a virtual stalemate and the clock on a U.S. military withdrawal has begun.

But the question is how much of an influence Afghanistan's half a dozen direct neighbours including Pakistan and Iran  and near ones such as India, Saudi Arabia and Russia will exert on any possible settlement of the conflict. At one level Afghanistan  has become a battleground for India and Pakistan  on the one hand, and the United States and Iran on the other.  At another level there is also China's deepening economic engagement and  Russis's concerns of the arc of instability radiating from Afghanistan into the Central Asia republics.

Here's how some of the big regional players are approaching a  U.S. military withdrawal stated to begin from mid-2011 and  Karzai'sbid to seek reconciliation with the Taliban who have  fought U.S. and NATO forces to a virtual stalemate.

from Global News Journal:

Volcano chaos: A pointer to potential Iran/Gulf smoke disruption?

volcanoAs if they didn’t have enough to think about, planners trying to pin down the unintended consequences of a strike on Iran may be required to reorder their lengthy worry list.

The concern? Iceland’s volcano, or rather, the vivid reminder the exploding mountain provided to governments of the importance of civil emergency planning.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Iran’s role in Afghanistan

ahmadinejadkarzaiIran has been hosting regional leaders, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, to celebrate the Persian New Year, or Nowruz (a spring festival whose equivalent in Pakistan, incidentally, is frowned upon by its own religious conservatives).

The Nowruz celebrations, which also included the presidents of Iraq, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, are part of Iran's efforts to build regional ties and followed renewed debate over the kind of role Iran wants to play in Afghanistan. As discussed here, it has also been improving ties with Pakistan, and both countries may have worked together on the arrest last month of Abdolmalik Rigi, leader of the Jundollah rebel group.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Attack in Iran: What are the links to Pakistan?

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 The Great Debate:

Obama in the footsteps of George W. Bush

Bernd Debusmann-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

Words of wisdom from an American leader: "The United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.

from The Great Debate:

Human bargaining chips in deals with Iran

Bernd Debusmann (Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

Seven summers ago, in a crowded conference room of a Washington hotel, an Iranian exile leader gave the first detailed public account of Iran's until-then secret nuclear projects at the cities of Natanz and Arak. It greatly turned up the volume of a seemingly endless international controversy over Iran's nuclear intentions.

The disclosures, on August 14, 2002, did little to earn the group that made them, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), merit points from the U.S. government. A year later, the Washington office of the NCRI, the political offshoot of Iran's Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) resistance movement, was shut. The State Department placed the group on its list of terrorist organizations. (The MEK, also known as the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran, had been given that designation in 1997).

from The Great Debate:

Fake news gets real

Colbert in Baghdad

global_post_logoThomas Mucha is the managing editor in charge of correspondents for GlobalPost, where this article first appeared. The views expressed are his own. --

It’s been a fascinating few weeks for global news — the real kind, of course — but also for the fake stuff.

from The Great Debate:

America’s spies and a language crisis

Bernd Debusmann-- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. --

"There is a great deal about Iran that we do not know…The United States lacks critical information needed for analysts to make many of their judgments with confidence about Iran."

from The Great Debate:

Reflections on Iran

John Kemp-- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of much western comment on the unfolding crisis in Iran has been its over-simplification and lack of historical awareness. Perspectives are shaped by a single issue (western concerns about whether Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program) and the desire to draw a simple Manichean distinction between good guys (liberal-democrats) and bad ones (clerical-authoritarians).

The reality is far more complicated.

Part of the problem is a truncated sense of history. For most western commentators, the history of Iran's troubled relations with the west starts in 1979 with the triumphant return of the glowering Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini at the head of the revolution which swept away Shah Reza Pahlavi's western-backed regime and replaced it with a new Islamic Republic.

from The Great Debate:

It’s not a Twitter revolution in Iran

reeseportrait1-150-- Reese Erlich is a freelance foreign correspondent who covered the Iranian elections and is author of The Iran Agenda: the Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis (Polipoint Press) The views expressed are his own. --

Iran is not undergoing a Twitter Revolution. The term simultaneously mischaracterizes and trivializes the important mass movement developing in Iran.

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