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News in Brief: 21 April 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

AFRICOM’s Ugandan Blunder. In early February, The New York Times released information detailing the involvement of the U.S. military in the bungled Ugandan mission to oust the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) from northeastern DR Congo. Seventeen military advisors from AFRICOM worked closely with the Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) to plan the attack, which the United States further subsidized through the donation of satellite phones and $1 million worth of fuel. Although the United States has been training the Ugandan military for years, this is the first time it has directly assisted in carrying out an operation. (Foreign Policy in Focus)

Azerbaijan: Is Baku Offering a Natural Gas Carrot to Moscow for Help with Karabakh? As talk of a potential Nagorno-Karabakh deal gains momentum, Azerbaijan appears to be making serious overtures toward Russia in hopes that the Kremlin will push Armenia to make key concessions, analysts in Baku believe. As an incentive, Azerbaijan is playing one of its most strategic cards – cooperation in the natural gas sector. (Eurasianet)

Ambush deep in the valley of death. At 11:15 am, just when the air cover pulled off to refuel, insurgents, holed up in hidden bunkers, began to fire rockets, mortars and small arms at American jeeps. A day that had been intended to build bridges – both literally and figuratively – in Afghanistan’s “forgotten province” of Nuristan, had suddenly gone horribly wrong. (Asia Times)

What new strategy for Afghanistan? Justification aside, the new strategy will unfurl in a predictable fashion over the coming months. The president’s additional 21,000 forces will roll into the “restive” provinces of southern and eastern Afghanistan. And they will dutifully train the nascent yet improving Afghan National Army. They might even start to create the semblance of a functioning National Police force, although this is unlikely. According to a US Government Accountability Office report of June 2008, the $6.2bn already spent to this end has not resulted in a single police unit capable of fulfilling its mission. (Le Monde Diplomatique)

Lebanon: Jumblatt’s Reconciliations. Roughly a year ago Jumblatt was the March 14 lightning rod who threatened Hezbollah’s weapons, now he drifts increasingly towards more centrist and conventional positions. While most March 14 leaders are hardening ranks (or, the undetermined electoral lists notwithstanding, at least trying to), Jumblatt is keeping his options open. This really doesn’t bode well for March 14 that Jumblatt feels the need to shift his position, though it is not surprising. (Ex Oriente Lux)

Interview with Prof.Yaron Ezrahi: “Bibi wants to block the peace process”. First we have to recognize that Bibi is back to his blocking and delaying tactics. He is a perfect follower of Yitzhak Shamir who famously said that he was not against the peace process; in fact, he likes the process so much that he doesn’t mind if it never ends. Bibi’s main interest is to conduct an inconsequential peace process that goes no where but to keep him in office. Bibi wants to block the peace process; he wants to put sticks in the wheels of real substantive progress, and so he sets down conditions that cannot be met: 1) In the past he said that Israel will be ready for peace with the Arab world when they become democracies, which can take quite a while. 2) In the campaign he called for economic integration before political peace… (Mideast Peace Pulse / Israel Policy Forum)

Bakshi: Where Religion Meets Politics. There is no doubt that religion and politics make for a potent mix and the recent UN resolution, condemning the ‘defamation of religion’ has created quite a stir in the international community. In the following article Gitanjali Bakshi analyzes the possible implications of this resolution and what it could mean for the on-going debate on religion and politics. (Informed Comment Global Affairs)

Barzani to Obama: support KRG oil policies. Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, in a previously undisclosed letter to then President-elect Obama, stated the KRG case for oil autonomy and pledged security for “disputed territories.” (Iraq Oil Report)

South Korean Envoys Arrive in North for Talks. South Korean envoys arrived in North Korea on Tuesday for the first formal talks with North Korea in more than a year, but procedural wrangling prevented the meeting from convening. (New York Times)

Kazakhstan: China’s Deep Pockets Make Beijing a Potent Energy Player in Central Asia. President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s April 15-19 state visit to China may have gotten Kazakhstan over a big financial hump, but at a substantial cost. In a deal that emerged as the centerpiece of Nazarbayev’s visit, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the state energy giant, gained a major stake in the MangystauMunayGaz (MMG) energy concern, according to a press release issued April 20 by the Kazakhstani state-controlled energy company KazMunayGaz (KMG) on April 20. (Eurasianet)

Kazakhstan Snubs NATO Games In Support For Russia. Kazakhstan has refused to take part in NATO-organized war games in Georgia in a show of support for Russia, which has bitterly criticized the plan. (RFE/RL)

Counterterrorism and Military Occupation. (Small Wars Journal)

Peace Education in Japan’s Schools: A View From the Front Lines. Here I would like to report on events of the last decade that took place at the public high school where I have taught, and the peace consciousness of students seen through the practice of peace education. This is a general education high school with eight classes in each grade, roughly 45 percent of the students going on to college, 25 percent to junior colleges and 30 percent to professional schools. (Japan Focus)

Summit of the Americas might lead to changed relationships. Experts say President Barack Obama will use the buzz from last weekend’s hemispheric summit in hopes of rebuilding strained relationships with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Raul Castro – with baby steps that will improve relations without setting off a firestorm in Miami. (McClatchy)

Spain’s Falling Prices Fuel Deflation Fears in Europe. Economists fear that the country may be in the early grip of deflation, which can result in a downward spiral that can be difficult to reverse. (New York Times)

Bush-era CIA officials push back. As U.S. President Barack Obama appeared at the CIA Monday, a conflagration sparked by his administration’s decision last week to release Bush-era memos describing harsh interrogation techniques was having gasoline poured on it. (The Cable)

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