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News in Brief: 3 June 2009

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A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Nato terminal attacked in Balochistan. Two people were killed and three others injured on Tuesday when dozens of militants attacked a terminal in Pakistan’s Balochistan province used by convoys ferrying supplies to Nato forces in Afghanistan. (Times of India)

Lebanon sees more arrests in probe into Israeli spying. Lebanon’s chief of police said on Tuesday he expected more arrests in an investigation into spying for Israel that has already led to some 35 people being detained. “We have not completed the mission,” Achraf Rifi said. “We have files that are still being prepared for arrests.” The wave of detentions began in April with the arrest of a former brigadier general of the General Security directorate, together with his wife and nephew. The latest suspects to be held include two serving army colonels. “Most played central spying roles and confessed to falling into the snares of the Israeli enemy,” Rifi told Reuters in an interview, citing sex, money and politics as possible motives. Lebanon has described the arrests as a major blow to Israel’s intelligence-gathering in a country where it has fought several wars in the past 31 years, most recently in 2006 against Iranian-backed Hizbullah guerrillas. (The News)

Chinese help for Pakistan railway worries India. Indian officials are worried that China is involved in building what they say is an illegal railway station in the no-man’s land along the Munabao-Khokhrapar train link, a news report said on Tuesday. A separate report said the Indian Air Force was planning to beef up its recently upgraded base near the China border with an additional squad of Russian-built Sukhoi warplanes. (Dawn)

Heavy clashes kill dozens in Somalia. Somali government forces drove Islamist insurgents from two districts of the capital on Tuesday in another day of heavy fighting that killed dozens of people, said residents and officials. (The Hindu)

160 Syrian villages deserted due to climate change. Some 160 villages in northern Syria were deserted of their residents in 2007 and 2008 because of climate change, according to a study released on Tuesday. The report drawn up by the International Institute for Sustainable Development warns of potential armed conflict for control of water resources in the Middle East. (The News)

U.S.-Iranian Engagement: The View from Tehran. Understanding the Islamic Republic’s power structure and decision-making is difficult, and one needs modesty in reaching conclusions. The regime has reasons – some justified, many contrived – for suspecting outside researchers, who thus face significant obstacles. The Iranians interviewed – officials, analysts with often close ties to the regime and heads of influential research centres – cannot be said to offer an exact view of the leadership’s thoughts. This briefing should be read and filtered with these limitations in mind. That said, during the course of several weeks of interviews in Tehran, Crisis Group found remarkable consistency of views regarding how the regime contemplates renewed dialogue, what it fears and how far it believes an improved relationship can go. (ICG)

Nuke deal at risk of being shelved. The Obama administration on Monday named hardline non-proliferation warrior Robert Einhorn as the US State Department’s special advisor for non-proliferation and arms control amid disquiet in business circles on whether the choice, along with other picks for key posts, will push the US-India civilian nuclear deal into cold storage. (Times of India)

New U.S. Afghan strategy will cost billions, take years. President Barack Obama’s choice to take charge of the war in Afghanistan Tuesday called “significant growth” of the Afghan army and national police the key to his strategy, but the annual cost of building and maintaining the existing Afghan force is more than four times larger than the entire Afghan economy. (McClatchy)

Robert Fisk: Most Arabs know this speech will make little difference. More and more, it looks like the same old melody that Bush’s lads used to sing. We’re not against the Muslim world. In fact, we are positively for it. We want you to have democracy, up to a point. We love Arab “moderates” and we want to reach out to you and be your friends. Sorry about Iraq. And sorry – again, up to a point – about Afghanistan and we do hope that you understand why we’ve got to have a little “surge” in Helmand among all those Muslim villages with their paper-thin walls. And yes, we’ve made mistakes. Everyone in the world, or so it seems, is waiting to see if this is what Barack Obama sings. I’m not sure, though, that the Arabs are waiting with such enthusiasm as the rest of the world. I haven’t met an Arab in Egypt – or an Arab in Lebanon, for that matter – who really thinks that Obama’s “outreach” lecture in Cairo on Thursday is going to make much difference. They watched him dictate to Bibi Netanyahu – no more settlements, two-state solution – and they saw Bibi contemptuously announce, on the day that Mahmoud Abbas, the most colourless leader in the Arab world, went to the White House, that Israel’s colonial project in the West Bank would continue unhindered. So that’s that, then. (The Independent)

Iraq and the Gulf on the rocks. While it hasn’t received much attention, Iraq’s relations with two key Arab Gulf states have jumped the tracks over the last week. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has publicly declared that he has given up on trying to reconcile with the Saudis. Meanwhile, Iraq and the Kuwaitis are in an increasingly nasty spat over the question of compensation claims dating back to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. (Marc Lynch)

Missing Word, Missing World. Graduating the Rest of Us, ‘09. (TomDispatch)

Kurds from Syria eye KRG. Iraq’s Kurdish Region is becoming a favoured destination for an increasing number of Syrian Kurds deprived of nationality rights by authorities in Damascus. More than one thousand Syrian Kurds now survive in dire conditions in Moqoble camp, a refugee settlement near the northern Iraq town of Dahuk. The refugees live without regular access to electricity, water and food in temporary tents provided by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). (niqash)

Load ‘em up: fields in Iraqi Kurdistan begin. A media show Monday in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, is the official kick off to the first oil pumped from fields in the KRG to be exported from Iraq. But doubts remain that the upbeat news of new oil exports – thus state income – can overcome key obstacles: The Oil Ministry in Baghdad has denounced the two dozen oil deals the KRG has signed and there’s no agreement yet as to how the foreign firms will be compensated. And disputes over the rights to sign contracts and how to manage disputed territories were exacerbated by the announcement of a gas export deal in the north. (Iraq Oil Report)

Afghanistan: Humanitarian Aid Workers Win Battle Against Coalition Forces. In a move applauded by aid workers, NATO commanders in Afghanistan have agreed to stop using white-painted vehicles, the United Nations has announced. The decision will apply to over 58,000 troops operating throughout the country under the auspices of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). (EurasiaNet)

USJFCOM Awards $1B in Contracts to Help Improve the Way America Fights. The U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) awarded 4 major defense contractors up to $1 billion in contracts to provide analysis, research and development, concept development and support. The new contracts replace a large contract that is scheduled to expire July 31/09. (Defense Industry Daily)

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