Home > News > News in Brief: 30 January 2009

News in Brief: 30 January 2009

A brief list of news clippings for the day:

MIDEAST: Mitchell Mission Risks Déjà vu. At the start of his Middle East presidential mission, Senator George Mitchell has listened to President Barack Obama’s recommendation earlier in the week on Al-Arabiya television that he “should start by listening, because ultimately we cannot tell Israelis and Palestinians what’s best for them.” (IPS)

A return to square one. Effectively, Israel tore up the Egyptian ceasefire proposals and its investment in mediation, leaving a sidelined President Mubarak on Saturday angrily disavowing the agreement between Israel and the US for ending the flow of weapons via Egypt to Hamas. It is a messy, ambiguous “end”. It is, in this sense, a return to square one: the situation at the end of the last ceasefire. Israel’s declaration therefore contains the potential for further conflict. The core of the dispute for Hamas has been the siege and the restrictions on the crossings; and for Israel, the rockets. Neither has been settled. (Conflicts Forum)

Russia and Iran get strategic. Rosy predictions of United States-Iranian relations improving under the new US president have been muddied by clear signs that Russia is pursuing Tehran as a “strategic partner”. The US’s hard line has forced Iran into Moscow’s embrace, and the energy and arms ties nurtured since could well be crucial come the major US-Russia military confrontation looming over the Middle East and Central Asia. (Asia Times)

US to take tough decisions on Iraq, Afghanistan: Obama. The United States must make tough decisions soon about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, warns US President Barack Obama. In his first visit to the Pentagon as commander in chief, Obama reviewed the situation in those two countries with his senior commanders and pledged to provide US troops the resources they need to accomplish their missions. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a news conference on Wednesday that President Obama will make a statement “relatively shortly” on the speed of troop withdrawals from Iraq and on overhauling the US strategy in Afghanistan. (DAWN)

Tajikistan: Possibility of Expanded Security Ties with Washington Sparks Enthusiasm in Dushanbe. US plans to carry out a significant buildup of forces in Afghanistan are heightening a sense of anticipation in neighboring Tajikistan about a potentially significant rise in American aid and investment. With the global financial crisis taking a drastic toll on Tajikistan s economy, Tajik leaders seem eager to obtain assistance from wherever they can get it. (EurasiaNet)

How We Were Ruined & What We Can Do. Some prominent figures in the financial markets insist that unchecked opportunism by financiers was not a root cause of the current credit crisis. Charles Morris’s informed and unusual book, The Trillion Dollar Meltdown, provides a decisive rebuttal to all such excuse-making and blame of “government.” Morris makes it clear that it was an unquenchable thirst for easy profits that led commercial and investment banks in the US and around the world-as well as hedge funds, insurance companies, private equity firms, and other financial institutions-to take unjustifiable risks for their own gain, and in so doing jeopardize the future of the nation’s credit system and now the economy itself. (New York Review of Books)

Japan on the Brink of the Abyss? The economic outlook in Japan is very grim, as these brief overviews (links below) indicate. Right now, Japan has the worst growth outlook in Asia. That is a surprising fact, if one recalls that this is a country presumably dusting itself off from the collapse of its own bubble nearly two decades ago. After such a long period of economic crisis, Japan should be renovated and ready to thrive. But instead, it may be in worse shape than even the US (though clearly not Iceland and much of Eastern Europe). (Japan Focus)

Faceless Taliban rule. The Taliban in Malakand Agency in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province have established their influence not at the barrel of a gun but by addressing the grievances of the people. Greedy and arrogant doctors, criminals with links to politicians and the police and brothels all feel the sting of the Taliban. This “creeping Talibanization” thrives in an environment of corruption and bad governance. (Asia Times)

Turkish president backs PM’s actions during Israeli debate on Gaza. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan gave the required response to Israel’s president during a heated debate on the Gaza war at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Turkish president said Friday. (Hurriyet)

Iran: Rafsanjani Plays the Foil to President Ahmadinejad. The first of a two-part series – He’s experienced more peaks and valleys than any other Iranian political figure since the establishment of Iran’s Islamic Republic. Aliakbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been down in recent years, but his recent actions indicate that he’s gearing up for one more comeback, having positioned himself as the political figure best able to foil President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s neo-conservative faction. (EurasiaNet)

Will Obama support Karzai’s re-election in Afghanistan? The announcement on Thursday that Afghanistan’s second presidential election since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001 will be held on Aug. 20 poses a critical question for the Obama administration: Should it favor a second term for President Hamid Karzai? Relations between Karzai and the U.S. are worse than at any time in the past eight years. Each side accuses the other of conduct that has enabled the revival of the Taliban and soured many ordinary Afghans on the Kabul government and its international backers. (McClatchy)

Chinese state media goes global. Call it the “Great Leap Outward”. Beijing plans to spend billions of dollars on an international media blitz to establish China-oriented television stations and newspapers for Western and Asian audiences. With most of the world’s media downsizing, China’s propaganda putsch will catch eyeballs galore. Whether the worldwide audience will buy into the product is another matter. (Asia Times)

Striking Hard in Tibet 50 Years After The Uprising. China is preparing for the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising – which saw the Himalayan territory’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, flee into exile – with a ‘strike hard’ campaign and propaganda on the evils of feudal oppression in pre-1949 Tibet. (IPS)

IRAQ: Threat of Violence Looms Again Over Fallujah. The threat of violence hangs over Fallujah again as leaders of the Awakening Council fight for political power through the elections Jan. 31. (IPS)

India to sign IAEA deal on Monday: ambassador. The inspection deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is a precondition of a United States-led agreement allowing nuclear nations to supply India with nuclear material and technology for its domestic power sector. (Khaleej Times/Reuters)

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