Home > News > News in Brief: 26 March 2009

News in Brief: 26 March 2009

A brief list of news clippings for the day:

When a withdrawal is not a withdrawal. United States President Barack Obama’s decision to go along with the military proposal for a “transition force” of 35,000 to 50,000 troops in Iraq represents a complete abandonment of his own original policy of combat troop withdrawal and an acceptance of what the military wanted all along – the continued presence of several combat brigades well beyond mid-2010. (Asia Times)

The Middle East goes nuclear. One story in the Middle East that hasn’t gotten much attention is the move by many countries in the region to develop their nuclear energy production capacities – an important shift that should impact any analyses that examine broader regional dynamics. (Marc Lynch)

Goodbye, homo economicus. Was Adam Smith an economist? Was Keynes, Ricardo or Schumpeter? By the standards of today’s academic economists, the answer is no. Smith, Ricardo and Keynes produced no mathematical models. Their work lacked the “analytical rigour” and precise deductive logic demanded by modern economics. And none of them ever produced an econometric forecast (although Keynes and Schumpeter were able mathematicians). If any of these giants of economics applied for a university job today, they would be rejected. As for their written work, it would not have a chance of acceptance in the Economic Journal or American Economic Review. The editors, if they felt charitable, might advise Smith and Keynes to try a journal of history or sociology. (Economist’s View)

Iraq serves Turkey a rare treat. In the first visit by a Turkish president to Iraq in 33 years, Abdullah Gul was made an unexpected offer by his hosts: Iraqi Kurdistan-based rebels would lay down their arms – thereby ending a state of war with Turkey that has lasted for 30 years – in exchange for a pardon for all Kurds who have fought the Ankara government. The Iraqis might not be able to deliver on their promise, but the clear message is that they – and their US backers – can no longer ignore Turkey’s importance in the region. (Asia Times)

The EU-Turkey-Cyprus Triangle: From the Ballot Box to Brussels. Towns and cities across Turkey are festooned with political party paraphernalia as the country’s main political parties go all out in the final days of the 29 March municipal elections campaign. To an outsider the intensity of party leader involvement, media coverage, and political debate about these elections can be surprising. These are after all local elections, yet political leaders and high level government officials, from the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan down, have been actively hitting the campaign trail for weeks. (ICG)

Israel accused of indiscriminate phosphorus use in Gaza. Israel’s military fired white phosphorus over crowded areas of Gaza repeatedly and indiscriminately in its three-week war, killing and injuring civilians and committing war crimes, Human Rights Watch said today. (Guardian)

Turkey’s fallout with Israel deals blow to settlers. A legal battle being waged by Palestinian families to stop the takeover of their neighborhood in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers has received a major fillip from the recent souring of relations between Israel and Turkey. After the Israeli army’s assault on the Gaza Strip in January, lawyers for the families were given access to Ottoman land registry archives in Ankara for the first time, providing what they say is proof that title deeds produced by the settlers are forged. (Electronic Intifada)

Egypt says mediating Mideast prisoner swap talks. A government official says Egypt is still mediating talks between Israel and Hamas on a prisoner swap that would include the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. (Ynet)

To be an Arab, and an Israeli. With High Court authorisation, the farthest right of Israel’s Right finally staged on Tuesday this week what they’ve long been threatening – a march “to fly the national colours” in the face of Arab Israeli citizens. A massive police contingent prevented the marchers from entering the heart of the large Galilee town of Umm el-Fahm, a stronghold of pro-Palestinian sentiment and of the Israeli Islamic movement. (IPS)

Sacked for Writing Against the Egypt Regime. For years, Abdelhalim Kandil has been one of Egypt’s most high-profile opposition journalists, known for writing hard-hitting articles critical of the ruling regime of President Hosni Mubarak. (IPS)

In Afghan War, U.S. Dominance Increasing. With More American Troops and Civilians On the Way, NATO Is Likely to Lose Clout. (Washington Post)

Tensions Grow in Georgia Over Accusations of a Plot. Georgian authorities on Wednesday released surveillance video in which a political activist associated with a prominent opposition leader, Nino Burjanadze, says Ms. Burjanadze is prepared to use violence to force President Mikheil Saakashvili from office. (New York Times)

US, Australian DoDs Launch “Stimulus Spending” Infrastructure Efforts. The credit crunch, and ensuing financial system meltdown, have hastened the current recession. The response from many governments around the world has been classically Keynesian, in the form of “economic stimulus” spending. Some countries, like France, have used that spending as a way to accelerate key military equipment modernization projects. (Defense Industry Daily)

Japan in search of a grand strategy. In the current economic downturn, Japan needs to call on its ability to adapt to changing circumstances and develop a new strategy. Such a plan would have to navigate between the rapidly shifting configuration of forces and ideas around the globe and the robust mindset of Japanese that yearns for stability and continuity. (Asia Times)

Sunni Arab Refugees from Iraq Not Returning; $3-5 Bn. US Reconstruction Aid Wasted. Hamza Hendawi of AP says his interviews and on-the-ground researches in Baghdad support my contention that the Iraqi capital is now only 10 percent to 15 percent Sunni (in 2003 it was roughly 50/50 Sunni and Shiite). (Informed Comment)

Azerbaijan: Contemplating Life without the Nabucco Pipeline. The recent postponement of large-scale production at Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas field is giving Azerbaijan more options and time to decide on the best way to export its natural gas, experts say. (EurasiaNet)

Iran’s Security Concerns with the Continuation of United States’ Behavioral Patterns. United States still follows the model of strategic cooperation with the West. However, this doesn’t equate a reconstruction in form of extensive cooperation with Iran. The course of events during January to March 2009 shows that America will not seek strategic cooperation with radical states. Those states like Iran oppose the existing power relations in international politics. Hence, based on his ’change’ policy Obama prefers to distinguish among the countries according to the role they play. That’s when ’distinct cooperation’ comes into existence. (Iranian Diplomacy)

Merkel Calls Afghanistan NATO’s “Biggest Test”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said success in Afghanistan is critical for the future of NATO, ahead of a historic summit for the transatlantic alliance. That would mean rethinking strategy altogether, she said. (Deutsche Welle)

KRG-Baghdad still at odds over IOC pay. The war of words between the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central government of Iraq has again flared up, with Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani telling international media that it is the KRG that is holding up work on connecting its new oilfields to the national export routes—the only routes currently available to the region as Iraq’s neighbours are supporting its central government on the issue. (Iraq Oil Report)

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