Sunday, August 2, 2009

World News Today, 3 August 2009


The Washington Post reports that “The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is preparing a new strategy that calls for major changes in the way U.S. and other NATO troops there operate, a vast increase in the size of Afghan security forces and an intensified military effort to root out corruption among local government officials, according to several people familiar with the contents of an assessment report that outlines his approach to the war. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who took charge of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan last month, appears inclined to request an increase in American troops to implement the new strategy, which aims to use more unconventional methods to combat the growing Taliban insurgency, according to members of an advisory group he convened to work on the assessment. Such a request could receive a chilly reception at the White House, where some members of President Obama's national security team have expressed reluctance about authorizing any more deployments... ‘There was a very broad consensus on the part of the assessment team that the effort is under-resourced and will require additional resources to get the job done,’ a senior military official in Kabul said.”

The AP reports that “U.S. agencies handling reconstruction work in Afghanistan lack direction and communication, problems that risk wasting U.S. tax dollars, says the special inspector general overseeing tens of billions of dollars worth of projects. Inspector General Arnold Fields says that coordination between the Americans and the Afghans is poor, leading to a disjointed effort and slowing progress on critically needed improvements to the country's transportation, agriculture and energy production.”


The Wall Street Journal reports that “Iran's opposition ‘Green Movement’ showed no sign of quieting down as thousands of Iranians took to the streets Thursday, gathering at Tehran's main cemetery for the 40-day commemoration of those killed in the most violent clashes with the regime after disputed national elections. Neda Agha Sultan, the 27-year-old music student, whose image bleeding on camera from a gunshot wound turned her into a symbol of defiance world-wide, was among those mourned. Security forces swarmed the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in southeast Tehran and packed around main squares trying, at times violently, to disperse the crowds. Riot police and plainclothes militia Basij threw tear-gas at protesters but failed to crush the demonstration, one of the largest in weeks, failed. Witnesses said protests in Tehran dragged well into the night. Some said tens of thousands demonstrated, though some news accounts estimated the figure at thousands.”

Dow Jones reports that “A bipartisan raft of senior senators Thursday renewed calls for a new law levying sanctions against Iran for pressing ahead with its nuclear-enrichment program. Senate sponsors of a measure that would target the country's refined petroleum imports said the bill now has 71 co-sponsors. The bill mirrors a proposal in the House that legislators are prepared to approve after the August recess, with more than half the chamber's members already signed on as co-sponsors. While the Obama administration has pursued new diplomatic efforts to halt Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons program, Congress has pressed President Barack Obama to step up its economic actions against Iran… Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) said none of the sanction regimes so far implemented had produced the desired results, and ‘it has become clear that we need a fresh approach and that stricter controls may be necessary.’”

Iason Athanasiadis writes in the National (Abu Dhabi) about his detention in Iran and protests: “It was my third week in Tehran’s Evin Prison and the start of a second round of interrogations. The first wave began after my arrest on June 17 and ended when I signed a confession admitting to the administrative crime of working as a journalist in Iran between 2004 and 2007, when I lived and studied in Tehran… And so, after two weeks in prison, sitting in a narrow, bare room surrounded by the sounds of separate interrogations all around, I spent intermittent sessions, lasting from five to 12 hours, talking about the ideological roots of the Iranian Revolution, about the Iranian philosopher Jalal al-e Ahmad’s theory of “Westoxification” (which posits that Iranian society will be poisoned by any engagement with western culture), about American efforts at democracy promotion in Iran, about Velvet Revolutions and neo-liberalism. For my interrogators, the protests raging on the streets outside were nothing less than a battle for the identity of Iran – a struggle to the death they were determined not to lose.”


The New York Times reports that “A senior American military adviser in Baghdad has concluded in an unusually blunt memo that Iraqi forces suffer from entrenched deficiencies but are now able to protect the Iraqi government, and that it is time ‘for the U.S. to declare victory and go home.’ The memo offers a look at tensions that emerged between Iraqi and American military officers at a sensitive moment when American combat troops met a June 30 deadline to withdraw from Iraq’s cities, the first step toward an advisory role. The Iraqi government’s forceful moves to assert authority have concerned some American officers, though senior American officials insisted that cooperation had improved. Prepared by Col. Timothy R. Reese, an adviser to the Iraqi military’s Baghdad command, the memorandum details Iraqi military weaknesses in scathing language, including corruption, poor management and the inability to resist Shiite political pressure. Extending the American military presence beyond August 2010, he argues, will do little to improve the Iraqis’ military performance while fueling growing resentment of Americans.”

AFP reports that “Iraq has allowed US forces to provide medical care to Iranian opposition members injured when Iraqi troops stormed their camp near Baghdad, the State Department said Thursday.
US embassy officials met members of the Iraqi government who renewed assurances of "humane" treatment to members of People's Mujahedeen, Iran's main armed exiled opposition movement, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. After the meeting, a US military medical team headed to the People's Mujahadeen base at Camp Ashraf, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad, Kelly told reporters.”

Reuters reports that “Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is due to meet Kurdish President Masoud Barzani next week, a rare encounter between two leaders whose standoff over territory, power, and oil threatens renewed bloodshed in Iraq. The meeting is likely the first between the two men in more than a year, during which time Barzani, leader of Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdistan region, has accused Maliki of acting like a tyrant and marginalizing the interests of minority Kurds.”

The Washington Post reports that “Britain launched an independent inquiry into its role in the Iraq war, with the panel's chairman confirming that former prime minister Tony Blair will be among the witnesses and that it would not ‘shy away from making criticism.’ John Chilcot said at a news conference Thursday that the panel would scrutinize the period from 2001 until the present, making its investigation Britain's widest-ranging inquiry yet into the Iraq war. He also said that ‘the Anglo-American relationship is one of the most central parts of this inquiry’ and that the panel hoped to have "discussions" with Americans involved in the war. At the same time, he said, ‘discussions and evidence sessions are not necessarily the same thing, and of course we have no power to compel witnesses here, let alone in foreign governments.’ Blair's decision to join the 2003 U.S.-led invasion was deeply unpopular here and was seen as one of the key reasons he stepped down two years ago.”


The Washington Post reports that “The United States is moving to deepen security cooperation with Russia as part of the Obama administration's effort to "reset" relations with Moscow, senior officials told Congress on Thursday. This week, a team of military experts went to Moscow for the first round of discussions on an early warning center that would assess the threat of ballistic missiles, including any from Iran or North Korea, the officials said. U.S. and Russian officials are also planning to hold talks in October to lay the groundwork for extensive military programs next year.”

Missile Defense

The AP reports that “The latest U.S. missile defense test is expected to come Thursday evening in Hawaii waters as tensions continue with North Korea over that country's missile program. A short-range ballistic missile slated to be fired from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the island of Kauai was to be shot down by a three-stage interceptor missile from the USS Hopper. The test, conducted by the Navy and the Department of Defense's Missile Defense Agency, will mark the 23rd firing by ships equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system. There have been 18 successes, including the shooting down of a dead U.S. spy satellite from space last year.”

North Korea

Roberta Cohen writes in the Washington Post that “The now-defunct six-party talks in which the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China participated focused almost exclusively on North Korea's nuclear weapons program. But with a struggle for succession underway in Pyongyang and some of the country's internal controls reportedly beginning to erode, it's time to rethink the near-exclusion of human rights from the U.S.-North Korean dialogue. The fear of raising human rights issues has been based largely on the belief that doing so would distract from efforts to disable North Korea's nuclear weapons program. But past negotiations focused narrowly on nuclear weapons have not produced sustainable outcomes, and they are unlikely to do so in the future unless they are grounded in a broader and more solid framework.”


The New York Times reports that “Moldova’s pro-Western opposition parties appear to have unseated Europe’s last governing Communist Party in repeat parliamentary elections that have become a test of whether this impoverished former Soviet republic will lean toward the West or Russia. With most votes counted from Wednesday’s elections, the Communists seem to have lost the majority they held for eight years in Parliament, winning about 45 percent of the vote, the Central Elections Commission said.”


The Financial Times reports that “India has plans to add about 100 warships to its navy over the next decade as it seeks to modernize its armed forces, and develop its low-cost shipbuilding capabilities. Captain Alok Bhatnagar, director of naval plans at India’s ministry of defense, said on Thursday that 32 warships and submarines were under construction in the country’s shipyards. Work on 75 more ships, including aircraft carriers, destroyers, frigates and amphibious vessels, would begin over 10 years. New Delhi is sensitive to lagging behind Beijing's naval might in the region. China has three times the number of combat vessels as India and five times the personnel. Officials are wary of port developments in neighboring Pakistan and Sri Lanka that offer Chinese warships anchorages and potentially greater control of the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.”


The Washington Post reports that “Britain launched an independent inquiry into its role in the Iraq war, with the panel's chairman confirming that former prime minister Tony Blair will be among the witnesses and that it would not ‘shy away from making criticism.’ John Chilcot said at a news conference Thursday that the panel would scrutinize the period from 2001 until the present, making its investigation Britain's widest-ranging inquiry yet into the Iraq war. He also said that ‘the Anglo-American relationship is one of the most central parts of this inquiry’ and that the panel hoped to have ‘discussions’ with Americans involved in the war. At the same time, he said, ‘discussions and evidence sessions are not necessarily the same thing, and of course we have no power to compel witnesses here, let alone in foreign governments."


Bloomberg reports that “Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he regrets that Colombia is offering to host U.S. military counter-narcotics operations even as he respects the country’s sovereign right to do so. ‘An American base in Colombia doesn’t please me,’ Lula told reporters today in Sao Paulo today after a meeting with Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet, commenting on the U.S. plans for the first time. ‘But just as I wouldn’t want Uribe interfering in my government, I’m not going to interfere in his,’ he said, referring to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Bachelet said she shared Lula’s views “completely.” As interim head of the Union of South American Nations, she plans to call a meeting August 10 in Quito to discuss Colombia’s decision and the regional backlash it generated.”

AFP reports that “Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of cooperating with ‘radical branches’ of Islam and of anti-Semitism, according to media reports Thursday in Colombia. ‘I will not speak about intelligence specifics, but we have enough to be concerned about the collaboration between radical branches of Islam and Hugo Chavez,’ Lieberman told the El Tiempo newspaper at the conclusion of a 10-day South American visit which included stops in Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Colombia.”

Friday, June 19, 2009



The New York Times reports that "As another day of defiance and uncertainty loomed in Iran's capital, many Iranians looked to an appearance by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who led the national prayer service from Tehran University on Friday. Political analysts said they hoped that the leader would reveal his ultimate intent, indicating a willingness to either appease the opposition or demand an end to protests that followed presidential elections a week ago. He blamed 'media belonging to Zionists, evil media' for seeking to show divisions between those who supported the Iranian state and those who did not."

Radio Free Europe reports that "Tens of thousands of supporters of Iran's presidential challenger Mir Hossein Musavi have taken to the streets of the capital, Tehran, to mourn the deaths of at least seven protesters killed in postelection violence. Musavi himself joined the rally, the latest protest against the results of last week's election that gave incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad an overwhelming victory. It came as the country's electoral watchdog said it had invited Ahmadinejad's three challengers to a meeting in the next few days to discuss their complaints.... [A] caller to RFE/RL explained why he had joined the crowds dressed in black: 'Our main demand is the establishment of democracy in our country and the taking back of our rights, even as regards the smallest things called ballot papers,' he said. Up to five students are also believed to have died in a raid by pro-Ahmadinejad and Basij militia forces on a Tehran university earlier this week."

Reuters reports that "Iranian opposition politician Ebrahim Yazdi has been arrested while in hospital, an ally said on June 18, the latest in dozens of detentions of pro-reformers since last week's disputed presidential election... Earlier this week, reformist sources said police had detained over 100 reformers, including a brother of former President Mohammad Khatami and leading reformist Mohammad Ali Abtahi. Police denied Khatami's brother had been arrested"

The Wall Street Journal reports that "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, despite his contested election victory, is getting a boost from an unexpected corner: conservative lawmakers who had stymied some of his economic initiatives. Many conservative lawmakers broke ranks in the past with Mr. Ahmadinejad, openly criticizing the president's management of the economy. His officially sanctioned -- though widely disputed -- landslide victory of more than 60% has those lawmakers rallying behind him. So far, 220 out of 290 members of Iran's parliament have written to him to formally endorse his victory."

Paul Wolfowitz writes in the Washington Post that "President Obama's first response to the protests in Iran was silence, followed by a cautious, almost neutral stance designed to avoid "meddling" in Iranian affairs. I am reminded of Ronald Reagan's initially neutral response to the crisis following the Philippine election of 1986, and of George H.W. Bush's initially neutral response to the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. Both Reagan and Bush were able to abandon their mistaken neutrality in time to make a difference. It's not too late for Obama to do the same."

Charles Krauthammer writes in the Washington Post that "Millions of Iranians take to the streets to defy a theocratic dictatorship that, among its other finer qualities, is a self-declared enemy of America and the tolerance and liberties it represents. The demonstrators are fighting on their own, but they await just a word that America is on their side. And what do they hear from the president of the United States? Silence. Then, worse. Three days in, the president makes clear his policy: continued "dialogue" with their clerical masters. Dialogue with a regime that is breaking heads, shooting demonstrators, expelling journalists, arresting activists. Engagement with -- which inevitably confers legitimacy upon -- leaders elected in a process that begins as a sham (only four handpicked candidates permitted out of 476) and ends in overt rigging."

North Korea/Missile Defense

The Wall Street Journal reports that "The U.S. is moving ground-to-air missile defenses to Hawaii as tensions escalate between Washington and Pyongyang over North Korea's recent moves to restart its nuclear-weapon program and resume test-firing long-range missiles. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday that the U.S. is concerned that Pyongyang might soon fire a missile toward Hawaii. Some senior U.S. officials expect a North Korean test by midsummer, even though most don't believe the missile would be capable of crossing the Pacific and reaching Hawaii. Mr. Gates told reporters that the U.S. is positioning a sophisticated floating radar array in the ocean around Hawaii to track an incoming missile. The U.S. is also deploying missile-defense weapons to Hawaii that would theoretically be capable of shooting down a North Korean missile, should such an order be given, he said."

FOX News reports that "The U.S. military is tracking a flagged North Korean ship suspected of proliferating weapons material in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last Friday, FOX News has learned. The ship, Kang Nam, left a port in North Korea Wednesday and appears to be heading toward Singapore, according to a senior U.S. military source. The vessel, which the military has been tracking since its departure, could be carrying weaponry, missile parts or nuclear materials."


Reuters reports that "A top Air Force general, swerving from the Pentagon leadership, said ending production of Lockheed Martin Corp's (LMT.N) F-22 Raptor fighter jet, as proposed by President Barack Obama, posed a high risk to U.S. ability to carry out its current military strategy. 'In my opinion, a fleet of 187 F-22s puts execution of our current national military strategy at high risk in the near- to mid-term,' Gen. John Corley, head of the Air Combat Command, wrote in a June 9 letter to a senator. 'To my knowledge, there are no studies that demonstrate 187 F-22s are adequate to support our national military strategy,' he added in the letter to Sen. Saxby Chambliss."

The AP reports that "Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday a decision by House lawmakers to increase the budget to buy a dozen more of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-22s is a 'big problem.' Gates said additional funding for 12 radar evading jets, built by the Bethesda, Md.-based defense contractor, goes against recommendations made by him to the president, and ultimately against the budget the president sent to Congress."

Reuters reports that "The Pentagon will decide 'within a few days' how to structure the next attempt to award a multi-billion-dollar contract to replace the Air Force's aging tanker fleet, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday."


Reuters reports that "The U.S. Congress on Thursday sent President Barack Obama a $106 billion bill to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars after political sparring that could foreshadow tougher fights over Obama's agenda. The bill, delayed by disputes over quickly closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay and expanding support for the IMF, highlighted the difficulties Obama may face in Congress even though his fellow Democrats control both the Senate and House of Representatives."

Central Asia

The Washington Times reports that "Thousands of Mongolians turned out at the main square of the capital to celebrate the swearing in of their new president, Elbegdorj Tsakhiagiin, on Thursday, marking the first time the opposition Democratic Party has held the office in the five presidential elections since Mongolia became a democracy in 1990. The Harvard-educated, two-time prime minister Mr. Elbegdorj defeated incumbent president Enkhbayryn Nambaryan of the People's Revolutionary Party on May 24 by capturing 51 percent of the vote on a platform of reforming the judiciary, fighting corruption, and finding a way to give more of the country's mineral wealth back to the people."

Radio Free Europe reports that "The Central Asian country that routinely holds the most competitive, provocative, and entertaining elections in the region is about to hold a poll for the nation's top post. Campaigning started today for Kyrgyzstan's presidential election on July 23. From an original field of 18 hopefuls, the Central Election Commission approved six candidates who successfully filed all the required documents and passed a test on their knowledge of the state language -- Kyrgyz. To many, the result of the election is a foregone conclusion, but for Kyrgyzstan -- and Central Asia as a whole -- the more important issue will be how open and fair the campaign and voting process will be... Political analyst Marat Kazakbaev told RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service that the system will work to see Bakiev reelected. But he said that Almaz Atambaev, the candidate of the unified opposition who heads the Social Democratic Party (SDP), could provide stiff competition for the incumbent."


UPI reports that "The killing of some 20 Algerian paramilitary policemen in a desert ambush Wednesday by Islamist extremists linked to al-Qaida was a show of force by the jihadists who appear determined to expand their operations across the region and open a new terror front. The ambush was the work of al-Qaida in the Maghreb, the Arabic name for North Africa. It was formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, one of the most vicious Islamist groups to emerge from Algeria's civil war throughout the 1990s. It swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden's global network in September 2006."

VOA reports that "The internal security minister in Somalia's fragile, internationally-backed government has been killed in a suicide attack. The blast, which took place in the town of Beledweyne near the Ethiopian border, killed at least 20 people. Omar Hashi Aden had been a key figure in the Somali government's efforts to counter the Islamist insurgency that is seeking to take control of the country."


The Los Angeles Times reports that "The 24-year-old granddaughter of Ernesto "Che" Guevara will partner with PETA in the group's first South American campaign to promote vegetarianism. The campaign, expected to debut in Argentina this October in the form of print ads and posters, features Lydia Guevara armed with carrot-laden ammunition belts and wearing a beret that even the youngest hipster will recognize from a famous T-shirt design."


Discussion with William Forstchen on U.S. Vulnerability to EMP Attack
Foundation For Defense of Democracies
June 22

CATO Institute
June 23

Heritage Foundation
June 29

Hudson Institute
June 30

Overnight Brief is a daily product of the Foreign Policy Initiative, which seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America's global economic competitiveness. To submit comments or suggestions,