Home > News > News in Brief: 21 October 2009

News in Brief: 21 October 2009

A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Central Asia: The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Undergoing Dangerous Transformation. In Afghanistan, local officials say that 15 militants captured by US forces on October 11 in Kunduz Province were affiliated with the IMU. The Afghan Ministry of Defense estimates that there are at least 4,000 IMU-aligned “foreign mercenaries” in northern Afghanistan. The increase in IMU activity is occurring amid changes in the movement’s composition. According to some reports, the death of the group’s long-time leader, Tahir Yuldashev, has allowed more daring and innovate leaders to assert themselves within the movement. Specifically, an ethnic Tartar named Abdur Rahman is believed to have assumed the helm of the IMU, replacing Yuldashev, who reportedly died from wounds suffered in a US missile attack in August. (EurasiaNet)

Blowing in the wind. Is Japan changing for real? To get a better sense of how Japan is and isn’t changing with the urbane Yukio Hatoyama at the helm, in the wake of the Democratic Party of Japan’s stunning electoral victory over the entrenched Liberal Democratic, consider these news stories from around the Japanese archipelago… (Informed Comment Global Affairs)

In Japan, Gates talks tough on base relocation. Playing hardball with its closest ally in Asia, the Obama administration warned Japan on Wednesday of serious consequences if it backs out of a commitment to allow the relocation of a U.S. airbase on Okinawa. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that if Japan stops the base relocation, the United States would halt the withdrawal of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa and would not, as planned, return several parcels of land. (Washington Post)

Karzai challenger to set Afghan runoff conditions. The main challenger to Hamid Karzai today said he “hoped” a second round of voting in Afghanistan’s presidential election could go ahead, but warned that his team would soon announce conditions to prevent a repeat of the massive fraud that hit the original election in August. Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister who will be facing off against Karzai after a fraud investigation slashed the Afghan president’s share of votes to below the 50% needed for outright victory, said measures would have to be taken to ensure a more credible vote. (Guardian)

Bagram: Has Obama Learned Nothing from Guantánamo? While Obama inherited Gitmo, his administration’s ongoing moves with regards to a lesser known prison—Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan— continue to be endorsed by his Administration. While his government is requesting additional funding for “Afghan projects,” his administration is also simultaneously working to “overhaul” the prison. Although that linked article makes it appear as if the US is working to improve the conditions for prisoners, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argues that the Obama Administration may be doing the opposite while also trying to keep the procedures that govern the prison “shrouded in secrecy.” (Pulse)

Eyeing Iran, Israel tests missile defenses with U.S. Israel and the United States launched a major air defense drill on Wednesday which will include a preparation for a faceoff with Iran. During the two-week maneuvers, dubbed Juniper Cobra, some 1,000 American personnel will mesh ground- and ship-based missile interceptors like the Aegis, THAAD and Patriot with Israel’s Arrow II ballistic shield, defense officials said. The drill’s main scenario will be an Iranian missile attack on Israel. In the scenario, American units come to Israel’s aid in order to strengthen the IDF’s missile defense system. (Haaretz)

Obama surprises Peres gala event with special message. U.S. President Barack Obama surprised attendants of the 2009 Presidential Conference with a special recorded message, in which he called Israeli-U.S. relations a “bond that is much more than a strategic alliance.” … “The American people and the Israeli peoples share a faith in the future and believe that democracies can shape their own destinies and that opportunities should be available to all,” said Obama, in a message apparently unanticipated by the conference participants, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Haaretz)

Abbas to decree Palestinian vote for January 24. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he would issue a decree on Sunday to hold elections by January 24. (The Daily Star)

China’s navy sails past India’s dock. Three Chinese naval vessels do not make a fleet, but they do make a statement. By sending them to patrol off the coast of Somalia as part of the multinational force operating there, in effect, China is saying to India, “We’re back.” (Asia Times)

Iraq Parliament fails anew to ratify elections law. Iraqi Parliament failed anew to vote on the elections law after deep rows took hold of the session. Kurdistan Alliance MPs held Turkmen and Arab parties responsibility for hindering the elections law ratification and threatened to withdraw from the coming session if Arab and Turkmen’s proposal is voted on. (Alsumaria)

As Iraqi election worries mount, State and DoD dispute U.S. role. Much ado was made last month about the reported rift between U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill and the top U.S. military commander in Baghdad Gen. Ray Odierno, a rift that Hill strenuously denied. But a real policy dispute lies at the heart of the story, senior diplomatic and military sources in Baghdad tell The Cable. Increasingly, the two men are said to differ over the proper American role in Baghdad, specifically with regard to how heavy a hand the U.S. should apply in trying to influence the decisions of the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. (FP – The Cable)

Israel hardens opposition to war crimes report. Israel hardened its opposition Tuesday to international calls for an independent inquiry into its fierce offensive against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip last winter, saying it would urge the US to prevent the issue from advancing at the United Nations… The UN report, overseen by respected South African jurist Richard Goldstone, has created an uproar in Israel. Officials say the Human Rights Council, which includes many Arab and Muslim countries, is hopelessly biased against Israel. But Goldstone’s credentials as a former war crimes prosecutor in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, his Jewish faith and his close ties to Israel have made it hard for Israel to ignore his findings. Goldstone has personally urged Israel to hold an independent investigation. Israel attacked Gaza last December in a bid to end eight years of relentless rocket fire by Palestinian militants. Some 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, were killed in the three-week war, according to Palestinian officials and human rights groups. Thirteen Israelis, including four civilians, also died. (Dawn)

Pakistan to help Iran find bomb culprits: Qureshi. Pakistan will support Iran in tracking down those responsible for a suicide bomb attack in southeastern Iran, Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Wednesday, as calls in Iran grew for the perpetrators to be punished. (Dawn)

Battle intensifies as Taliban retakes key town. Taliban militants attacked Pakistani forces and recaptured a strategic town on Tuesday while two suicide bomb blasts at an Islamic university in the capital killed four people and wounded at least 20, officials said. (Today’s Zaman)

Top Kashmiri militant killed: Indian army. Indian soldiers shot dead three suspected militants, including a wanted commander, on Wednesday during a clash in revolt-hit Indian-administered Kashmir, the army said. (Dawn)

China’s investment in ASEAN countries. Direct investment from China to ASEAN countries in 2008 totaled 2.18 billion U.S. dollars, up 125 percent from 2007. By the end of 2008, Chinese enterprises had invested 2.75 billion U.S. dollars in Singapore, and almost 300 Chinese enterprises had been established there. By the end of 2008, China had directly invested 590 million U.S. dollars in Vietnam, of which 200 million was newly invested in2008. By the end of June, 2009, contracted investment from Chinese enterprises to Laos had amounted to 2.14 billion U.S. dollars over the years and went into 303 projects. Currently, China is the third biggest foreign investor in Laos… By the end of 2008, China had invested a total of 1.33 billion U.S. dollars in Myanmar and become the fourth biggest foreign investor of the country. (Xinhua)

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