Home > News > News in Brief: 16 February 2009

News in Brief: 16 February 2009

A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Exploring American Military Base Alternatives in Central Asia; Is Uzbekistan an Option? Speculating over the future of the US air base in Kyrgyzstan is a popular pastime in Central Asian capitals these days. The general consensus is that Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev is taking a gamble, playing a waiting game in the expectation that Washington will come up with more money to retain Manas air base. But some experts believe that with the United States now actively pondering its options, the Kyrgyz leader faces the danger of overplaying his hand. (EurasiaNet)

Pakistan: President approves Sharia laws for Malakand. President Asif Ali Zadari, who termed the victims of militancy ‘national heroes,’ has given go ahead to the provincial government of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to allow militants to enforce Sharia laws in entire Malakand Division including Swat. (Dawn)

Pakistani government makes deal with Islamic militants. The Pakistani government has agreed to a deal that could impose Islamic law in parts of the country in an attempt to placate Islamic militants, while Pres. Asif Zardari warned in an interview to be aired Sunday that the Islamists are “trying to take over the state.” (McClatchy)

Holbrooke in India to discuss Pak, Afghan. US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan arrived in New Delhi on Sunday for talks with Indian officials, which will pretty much include ways to shepherd all three regional countries to boost the American-led war on terror without having them treading on each other’s toes. (Dawn)

MIDEAST: Waiting to See Who Blinks First. An indiscreet whisper following a hastily scribbled note around the Israeli cabinet table exposed the deepening political stand-off in the wake of last week’s inconclusive elections. Who will blink first was the underlying message of the whisper and of the note – foreign minister Tzipi Livni or right-wing Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu? The two are gripped in a mighty power struggle over the formation of Israel’s next governing coalition. (IPS)

Hamas, Fatah draw closer. Last week’s Israeli election has greatly encouraged the main rival Palestinian factions – Hamas and Fatah – to put aside their differences and bridge the gap separating them amid the changing face of Israel in religious and ideological perspectives, analysts say. (Gulf News)

No cease-fire in Israel, Turkey ties after Davos. Controversial remarks made by a top Israeli general spark more friction between Turkey and Israel. The incident, in which the general told Erdoğan to look in the mirror, is the first fallout from Davos. (Hurriyet)

Clinton’s Maiden Voyage Aims to Reassure Asian Allies. Hillary Clinton’s maiden voyage overseas as secretary of state is designed above all to reassure Washington’s key East Asian allies and China of the U.S.’s enduring interests in the region and commitment to its stability. (IPS)

Sadr courts Maliki, says reforms should include ending sectarianism. Iraq’s prominent anti-occupation Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday reached out to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, hinting his movement could return to the premier’s Shiite alliance. Sadr-backed candidates in provincial elections held at the end of last month finished runners-up to Maliki’s allies in several provinces, including the capital Baghdad. (The Daily Star)

Azerbaijan: Going Sour on Moscow? Azerbaijani trust in Russia as an unbiased mediator for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is melting away amid lingering outrage over a suspected arms transfer to Armenia, and growing interest in the Western-backed Nabucco gas pipeline project. But with an eye to Russia’s regional weight, Baku is avoiding outright challenges to Moscow. The scandal surrounding an alleged Russian transfer of tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery and other materiel to Armenia drives Baku’s concerns about Moscow’s reliability as a co-chair of the Minsk Group, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. (EurasiaNet)

The Islamic World and Obama’s Middle East Initiative. (Japan Focus)

Iraq’s elections: winners, losers, and what’s next. The Iraqi local elections were held on 31 January 2009, with 440 seats being contested in fourteen of the country’s eighteen provinces. The results, most of which were released on 5 February, offer important evidence into current political trends. (openDemocracy)

South Korea to buy Israeli radar system in $215 million deal. South Korea’s military has decided to buy Israel’s Oren Yarok (Green Pine) radar warning system, in a deal worth $215 million, according to a report in Sunday’s Korea Times newspaper. (Haaretz)

An American Foreign Legion. A leaner, meaner, higher tech force — that was what George W. Bush and his Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld promised to transform the American military into. Instead, they came close to turning it into a foreign legion. Foreign as in being constantly deployed overseas on imperial errands; foreign as in being ever more reliant on private military contractors; foreign as in being increasingly segregated from the elites that profit most from its actions, yet serve the least in its ranks. (TomDispatch)

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