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News in Brief: 4 May 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

China cashes in on crisis. China is taking advantage of the global financial crisis to strengthen ties with its Southeast Asian neighbors, helping out with credit, investment funds and other forms of support. It is also strengthening the role of its southwest provinces in the region’s economy. (Asia Times)

Nepalese prime minister resigns from cabinet. Nepal’s Maoist prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has resigned from the cabinet in a crisis triggered by his sacking of the country’s army chief. The government fired General Rookmangud Katawal at the weekend for allegedly disobeying instructions not to hire new recruits and refusing to accept the supremacy of the civilian authorities. (Guardian)

Robert Gates sees larger role for Saudis in Pakistan. As Washington prepares for direct talks with President Zardari and his Afghan counter part on the issue of Islamic militancy, the United States is prodding Saudi Arabia to play a pacifying role in Pakistan… With politically, the US looking to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, for some sort of arrangement with the government, especially since he was popular in Punjab, where 60 per cent of Pakistanis live and where extremism seems to be making inroads now. Saudis have a major influence on Sharifs, being their benefactors for years. And this is apparently the Americans want Riyadh to help to capitalise on now. (Dawn)

Halutz: We Tried to Get at Nasrallah During War. In a weekend interview with Channel Two, former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz confirmed that Israel had attempted to kill Hizbullah chief terrorist Hassan Nasrallah. “We tried to get to him, but couldn’t find him. I personally cannot accept that he is still free to shuttle between his bunker and his tunnels. There’s no question that we would have had a great feeling if he had not survived the war, but there is no person who cannot be replaced,” Halutz said. (IsraelNN)

The answer is always Clausewitz. The wry and oft-repeated saying among senior American military officers is always good for a laugh: “no matter what the question,” they claim, “the answer is always Clausewitz.” Unlike many war theoreticians, Prussian Major General Carl von Clausewitz actually served in the military–fighting Napoleon and spending time in a French prison. He was released in time to witness Wellington’s British squares crush Bonaparte’s Imperial Guard at Waterloo. His “On War” was published posthumously. For nearly two hundred years, Clausewitz’s work has retained its power. It was studied by Mao, was carried in the knapsacks of Vietnamese soldiers at Dien Bien Phu, was required reading among Saddam Hussein’s senior commanders. (Conflicts Forum)

Iran: Is Ahmadinejad Trying to Pull Off a May Surprise? Just when you thought it was impossible for Iranian politics to get any murkier, controversy has erupted over whether President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a gesture during a recent visit to Switzerland to signal his interest in normalizing relations with the United States. On April 30, however, the semi-official Iranian Student News Agency issued a report quoting presidential adviser Ali-Akbar Javanfekr as steadfastly denying that Ahmadinejad had made any such comments… But earlier, Ali Fallahian, the hardline former intelligence minister, appeared to lend credence to the idea that Ahmadinejad was exploring a diplomatic initiative toward the Untied States. (EurasiaNet)

Strouse: Lebanon’s Elections and Iranian Influence. Two critical elections will take place in early June that could potentially shape the direction that the Middle East region moves in the near future. Parliamentary elections will be held in Lebanon on June 7 and a presidential election will be held in Iran on June 12. (Informed Comment)

Iranian shelling targets Kurdistan villages. Security in northern Iraq is once again alarming as Iranian shelling is targeting border regions in Kurdistan mainly in Arbil and Sulaymaniya…Kurdistan Regional Government condemned Iranian shelling urging Tehran to halt bombardments immediately. (Alsumaria)

Exposed jihadis put Pakistan on the spot. The tales that seven Pakistani fighters caught in Afghanistan told interrogators sent shock waves all the way to Washington. Evidence of a jihadi network openly doing business in Pakistani cities was all the United States needed to convince the leaders in Islamabad – both government and opposition – that the time had come to stand united against militancy. Al-Qaeda has already mapped its reponse. (Asia Times)

Challenger Withdraws From Race To Unseat Afghan President. One of the top candidates expected to bid to unseat Afghan President Hamid Karzai withdrew abruptly from the election race on May 2, dealing a blow to opposition hopes of fielding a contender with a broad enough base to win. (RFE/RL)

RIGHTS-IRAQ: U.N. Report Paints Grim Picture. Iraqi prisons are torturing detainees, locking people up for months without charges and, in most cases, allowing the perpetrators of these human rights to escape justice, according to a new United Nations report. (IPS)

In Baghdad, Iraqis fear return of sectarian bloodshed. Over the past two months, Iraq has witnessed a sharp increase in deadly bombings, and there is widespread worry that last year’s security gains may be unraveling. (McClatchy)

Iraqi President Talabani says will not barter disputed city of Kirkuk. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Sunday the country’s Kurdish minority would not give up their bid for control of the disputed oil region of Kirkuk. (Hurriyet)

McNeill David – Tokyo’s Mean Streets. Is a new safety ordinance designed to save shoppers from transvestites, flashers and mass killers, or an Orwellian attempt to crush public protests? Last month a group of activists called Dystopia Tokyo called a protest against what they described as a “draconian” new city ordinance by conservative governor Ishihara Shintaro. (Japan Focus)

Georgia Is Focal Point in U.S.-NATO Russian Tension. Last week, Mr. Medvedev signed an agreement allowing Russia to put its own border guards in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two Georgian regions that Moscow transformed into independent states after its invasion of Georgia last August. The U.S. State Department responded quickly that the Russian move in the quasi-annexed Georgian regions was a violation of Georgian territorial integrity that caused “serious concern.” But Mr. Medvedev seemed to be getting just what he wanted: a whipsaw situation of heightened tensions in which he could scare some European NATO allies that regard the Georgian government as threateningly unstable; and the future use of those tensions to bring pressure on Mr. Obama as the opportunity arises. (New York Times)

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