Home > News > News in Brief: 26 May 2009

News in Brief: 26 May 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Sri Lanka wards off Western bullying. China and Russia have invited Sri Lanka to get involved with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and will ensure that the “international community” does not torment Colombo. Sri Lanka is becoming the theater where Russia and China are challenging the United States’ global strategy to establish a North Atlantic Treaty Organization presence in the Indian Ocean region. There is moral muddiness all around. (Asia Times)

France opens military base in UAE. France has opened its first military base in the Persian Gulf, strategically placed in Abu Dhabi, between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran… It it is also to serve as a stopover point en route to Afghanistan, where 2,800 French soldiers are currently fighting against Taliban militants… The base is France’s first major foreign military installation since the 1960s and its first outside Africa. It is also expected to contribute to anti-piracy patrols off Somalia and guard vital Persian Gulf shipping lanes. (Deutsche Welle)

France eyes UAE base, big military, nuclear deals. France prepared on Monday to open its first military base in the Gulf Arab region as it eyed multi-billion-dollar deals to supply the United Arab Emirates with nuclear power plants and advanced military aircraft. (Khaleej Times / Reuters)

Russia-China Strategic Relations Warm in Wake of Mounting Russian Tensions with NATO/US. Westernism is giving way to Orientalism in Moscow’s outlook, if the past week’s happenings are any guide. As Russia’s ties with the West deteriorate, an upswing in its strategic partnership with China becomes almost inevitable. The resumption of Russia-NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) dialogue has gone awry. And the nascent hopes regarding a “reset of the button” of the Russian-American relationship are belied. With Moscow under multiple pressures from the West, two top Chinese officials have arrived in the Russian capital to offer support – Defense Minister Liang Guanglie and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. (Japan Focus)

Trapped civilians face catastrophe in Swat: HRW. Thousands of civilians trapped in Pakistan’s northwest where the military is pounding Taliban insurgents face ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ unless help reaches them soon, a rights watchdog said Tuesday. (Dawn)

Going for Broke: Six Ways the Af-Pak War Is Expanding. Behind McChrystal lies a string of targeted executions that may run into the hundreds, as well as accusations of torture and abuse by troops under his command (and a role in the cover-up of the circumstances surrounding the death of Army Ranger and former National Football League player Pat Tillman). The general has reportedly long thought of Afghanistan and Pakistan as a single battlefield, which means that he was a premature adherent to the idea of an Af-Pak — that is, expanded — war. While in Afghanistan in 2008, the New York Times reported, he was a “key advocate… of a plan, ultimately approved by President George W. Bush, to use American commandos to strike at Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.” This end-of-term Bush program provoked such anger and blowback in Pakistan that it was reportedly halted after two cross-border raids, one of which killed civilians. (TomDispatch)

Big Crowd for Moderate Reflects Serious Challenge to Iran’s Leader. Mir Hussein Moussavi is the strongest challenger to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in coming national elections. His wife, Zahra Rahnavard, who has been at the forefront of his campaign, said in a meeting with women that she favored monogamy — although polygamy is allowed under the law — and more rights for women. She is the first candidate’s wife to campaign since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Ms. Rahnavard, a former dean of a women’s university in Tehran and a sculptor, is also seen on Mr. Moussavi’s posters holding hands with him, a somewhat daring image in a country where public mingling of the sexes is repressed under strict Islamic social etiquette. (New York Times)

Ahmadinejad seeks debate with Obama. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday ruled out any talks with world powers on Tehran’s nuclear drive, but said he was open to a debate with US President Barack Obama… However, he said he was ready to have a debate at the United Nations with Obama on global issues, adding that he welcomed the change in policy from the new US leader who has said he was open to dialogue with Iran. (Dawn)

Iran courts the US’s allies. The weekend’s summit between Iran and United States-backed Pakistan and Afghanistan has given Tehran an opportunity to deepen ties for the fight against terrorism and narcotics, as well as to strengthen its position ahead of proposed direct dialogue with the US. By presenting Iran as a regional power, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad also boosts his chances of re-election in June. (Asia Times)

Pakistan, Iran sign gas pipeline deal. Pakistan and Iran have reached agreement on a gas pipeline between the two countries, concluding 14 years of on-off talks under the shadow of US opposition. One-time likely partner India played no part in the deal, leaving China with a likely future role. (Asia Times)

208 Somalis killed in two weeks. More than two weeks of fighting between pro-government forces and insurgents in the Somali capital have left at least 208 people dead and 700 wounded, a government minister said. An upsurge in violence this month has killed more than 200 people in Mogadishu and forced some 60,000 residents from their homes. At least 53 people have died since Friday morning, when the government attacked rebel strongholds in the city. (Gulf News)

Atomic Agency Examines Candidates to Replace ElBaradei. With their qualifications under heightened scrutiny following North Korea’s second nuclear test, five candidates began campaigning on Tuesday to replace Mohamed ElBaradei as head of the United Nations atomic agency. (New York Times)

Security Council Condemns North Korea Nuclear Test. The United Nations Security Council has unanimously condemned North Korea’s nuclear test as a clear violation of Security Council resolutions, and said it would begin work immediately on a new, legally binding resolution addressing the violations. (RFE/RL)

How serious is Obama about freezing Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank? As the linked article explains, freezing settlement growth will require much more than identifying violations of Israeli commitments or gaps in Israeli reporting. It remains to be seen if the U.S. president is ready for the tough political battle he will have to wage in order to impede Israel’s colonization of the West Bank. (From the Field)

‘Israel must stop seeking fast peace with Palestinians’. Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Tuesday that Israel should stop looking for an immediate solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. “We have to disavow the commonly held perception that we should find an imminent solution,” the former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff said at a conference held in the Knesset. (Haaretz)

MIDEAST: Showdown Looming Over Settlements. A showdown over Israeli settlements in the occupied West bank is looming between Israel and the United States barely a week after the encounter at the White House between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What’s becoming increasingly clear is that the May 18 encounter was no friendly ‘getting-to-know-you’ meeting between a new President and a new Prime Minister of the Middle East’s most enduring alliance. (IPS)

Biden links US support for Lebanon to outcome of vote. US Vice President Joe Biden said Friday that the US was committed to supplying the Lebanese Armed Forces with the weapons it needs, but that Washington would reevaluate its assistance to Lebanon after upcoming parliamentary elections. “We will evaluate the shape of our assistance programs based on the composition of the new government and the policies it advocates,” Biden said after a morning meeting with President Michel Sleiman, echoing previous statement by senior US officials. The trip was the latest in a string of high-profile visits by US diplomats and politicians to the country ahead of the fiercely-contested June 7 parliamentary elections. The polls, pitting the ruling March 14 majority against the Hizbullah-led opposition, will decide who runs Lebanon’s next government. (Daily Star)

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