Home > News > News in Brief: 26 October 2009

News in Brief: 26 October 2009

A brief list of news clippings for the day:

This Week at War: General Casey’s Doubts. Left unmentioned in all the discussion of America’s interests in Afghanistan are several risks that Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request for 40,000 additional soldiers, if implemented, would create. McChrystal is asking for a permanent escalation in Afghanistan that would commit U.S. ground forces to a larger open-ended effort. Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, fears that the size and duration of this commitment could eventually break the all-volunteer Army. One strategic risk is that the United States would not have enough ready ground forces for another sustained contingency elsewhere. Finally, the funding that is diverted to sustaining ground-force intensive operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could be creating risks in the space, air, and naval dimensions that will unpleasantly appear in the next decade and beyond. (FP)

Pakistan arrests 11 Iranian guards close to border. Pakistani police arrested 11 Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers Monday for illegally entering the country, amid tensions over a recent suicide attack that Tehran alleges was carried out by militants backed by Pakistani intelligence officials. The 11 officers were taken into custody in Mashkel, close to the countries’ border in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, police officer Dadur Raman said. He said officers were interrogating the men and had seized two vehicles. (AP)

Iraq Council submits 3 proposals over Kirkuk. The political council for national security presented three proposals to the Presidency Council over Kirkuk. MP Iman Al Assadi told Alsumaria News that the council decided to appoint two representatives of Kirkuk Arabs in the Council namely MP Omar Al Jibouri and Mohammed Tamim in addition to a representative of Turkmen in the quality of MP Saad Din Arkij in order to resolve disputes over the elections law. Al Assadi noted the council will convene again on Monday to reach a consensus agreement. (Alsumaria)

Baghdad blasts echo far and wide. The twin suicide bomb attacks in Iraq on Sunday that killed 132 people and injured 700 others have dramatically shattered the relative calm the country has enjoyed over the past 18 months. One of the first major consquences could be delays to the parliamentary elections scheduled for January, while the reverberations may yet be felt in Afghanistan. (Asia Times)

Israel to UN: We’ll continue to gather intelligence in Lebanon. The United Nations has asked Israel for clarifications on “listening devices” that the Lebanese authorities claim were revealed near the village of Hula in southern Lebanon last week. The request was made following an official Lebanese petition to the UN. Israel neither denied nor confirmed that it had placed intelligence-gathering equipment in the area, but informed the UN that collecting intelligence in southern Lebanon will continue as long as the government in Beirut is not in full control of its territory. (Haaretz)

Not Your Father’s Islamist TV: Changing Programming on Hizbullah’s al-Manar. The image of Islamist media is one of grim old men dictating extremist and male-centered religious precepts; Hizbullah’s al-Manar television, not just Islamist but also owned by a political party with a militia, has been equated with broadcasting terrorism and waging psychological operations against its enemies.[1] Yet much of al-Manar today is nothing like the picture painted of the station. Classified as terrorist by the U.S., most topics broadcast have little to do with Hizbullah, its resistance, Shi’a religious teaching, or the fight against Israel. On Hizbullah’s al-Manar, non-veiled women dominate the airwaves on many programs. Only a small minority of programs on the television is religious. Christians regularly participate as experts and audience members, including priests and bishops, and scientific studies from the west are used as affirmative demonstrations of how Lebanese need to change. Problems are discussed in an open-ended, non-authoritative format, and a broad, multi-communal audience regularly participates. (Arab Media & Society)

Emirates Press Law. When the UAE’s draft media law was ready for release in January 2009, journalists were genuinely excited. The existing Press and Publications Law of 1980 is archaic at best. It lists 16 punishable offences, among them insulting Islam and the royal family. For years the UAE government exercised a fear campaign against journalists, jailing, fining, detaining and interrogating reporters and editors for breaking ambiguous laws. (Arab Media & Society)

The United States and East Asia: The decline of long-distance leadership? Hegemony differs from leadership, and both aspects of American power are evident in its relations with East Asia. America’s military primacy was demonstrated vividly in its defeat and subsequent occupation of Japan, positioning the US to play a leading role in the construction of East Asia’s bifurcated post-war international order. But hegemony means more than simply imposing foreign policy preferences on weaker or subordinate powers. For hegemony to be enduring it requires a degree of consent and support from less powerful states—something both radical and liberal theorists of hegemony have highlighted.30 What was striking about American hegemony in the post-war period was that for many of its allies it offered a number of potential long-term advantages, which generally outweighed possible disadvantages that came with American dominance. It is worth spelling out what these were, as the calculus of advantage has started to shift, despite the persistence of the earlier structures of dependency and domination. (Japan Focus)

America’s Role in the LEU-TRR Deal. It’s been little remarked upon, but the United States appears to have a technical role, and not just a political one, in the agreement with Iran reached “in principle” in Geneva on October 1. There’s no text in open circulation, and the U.S. government won’t say what’s in it. As a senior administration official told the New York Times after last week’s technical negotiations in Vienna, it’s the better part of valor to let Tehran spin the results. (Arms Control Wonk)

US threats prompted Iran nuclear facility. The United States has accused Iran of duplicity over the construction of a second uranium enrichment facility at Qom, and says Tehran only revealed its existence once the Iranians realized that Washington knew about it. Yet US intelligence estimates tell a very different story, one in which Iran carefully reacted to what appeared to be an imminent US strike against it. (Asia Times)

IAEA team inspects Iran’s nuclear plant. A four-member team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has carried out the first round of inspections of Iran’s second uranium enrichment facility on Sunday. (The Hindu)

A pointed Palestinian parody. Over the weekend, PA President Mahmoud Abbas ratcheted up pressure on Hamas to agree to a new unity government by announcing plans to hold elections on Jan. 24, 2010. Hamas leaders in Gaza immediately rejected the decree. And it will be politically perilous for Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to hold elections that don’t include the 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza. (Checkpoint Jerusalem)

Israel rules out questioning troops about Gaza offensive. The Israeli government has ruled out setting up an independent investigative body that would interview Israeli military personnel about allegations that the military committed war crimes during its offensive against Hamas earlier this year. (CNN)

Netanyahu seems oblivious to potential risks of al-Aqsa violence. The latest violence outside the al-Aqsa mosque, below, has repercussions that go far beyond Israeli-Palestinian relations. From Cairo to Jakarta, Muslims will be enraged by the sight of Israeli security forces imposing authority at Islam’s third-holiest site. The 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference has warned that any provocative act by Israel “would bear grave consequences”. Violence at the site has increased in the past. It was clashes outside the al-Aqsa mosque that sparked the second intifada — a widespread violent uprising by Palestinians. The origins of that event are traced to Ariel Sharon’s provocative September 2000 visit to the compound. (Times Online)

Around 200,000 flee Waziristan offensive. Around 200,000 people have abandoned their homes in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area, where the military is pressing an offensive against Taliban militants, an army spokesman said Monday. (Dawn)

AFGHANISTAN: No Refuge For Victims of Violence. The rate of civilian casualties in Afghanistan during 2009 has increased exponentially if compared with previous years. When he first took command of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces in Afghanistan this summer, U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal placed an emphasis on the reduction of civilian casualties. Since then, though, civilian casualties have increased as the result of both NATO air strikes and insurgent’s attacks. (IPS)

U.N. diplomats press Afghan commission for election changes. United Nations diplomats and the chairman of an Afghan election commission are sparring over efforts to curb fraud in the country’s Nov. 7 presidential runoff election. (McClatchy)

Drones protect ships in Somalia. For the first time, sophisticated U.S. military surveillance drones capable of carrying missiles have begun patrolling waters off Somalia in hopes of stemming rising piracy. (Hiiraan / AFP)

The Syrian Exception: Between Modernization and Resistance by Caroline Donati is an important new addition to the short number of good books on Syria. It is in French. (Syria Comment)

Pakistan: Balochistan minister gunned down in Quetta. In a fresh incident of target killing in Balochistan, provincial Education Minister and PPP leader Shafiq Ahmed Khan was shot dead while his relative, Hidayatullah Jafar, was injured on the Ali Bahadur Road here on Sunday afternoon. (The News)

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