Home > News > News in Brief: 27 October 2009

News in Brief: 27 October 2009

A brief list of news clippings:

Beijing runs a diplomatic marathon. From the Americas to Europe to Asia, Chinese leaders this autumn are engaged in wide-ranging diplomacy to play up the country’s status as a near superpower that is also a responsible stakeholder in the world community. The danger in Beijing’s no-holds-barred projection of military and diplomatic prowess is that it may also render the “China threat” theory more credible. (Asia Times)

Russia, Iran and the Biden Speech. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden toured several countries in Central Europe last week, including the Czech Republic and Poland. The trip comes just a few weeks after the United States reversed course and decided not to construct a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in those two countries. While the system would have had little effect on the national security of either Poland or the Czech Republic, it was taken as a symbol of U.S. commitment to these two countries and to former Soviet satellites generally. The BMD cancellation accordingly caused intense concern in both countries and the rest of the region… This was a carefully written and vetted speech: It was not Biden going off on a tangent, but rather an expression of Obama administration policy. And it taps into the prime Russian fear, namely, that the West will eat away at Russia’s western periphery — and at Russia itself — with color revolutions that result in the installation of pro-Western governments, just as happened in Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004-2005. The United States essentially now has pledged itself to do just that, and has asked the rest of Central Europe to join it in creating and strengthening pro-Western governments in the FSU. After doing something Russia wanted the United States to do, Washington now has turned around and announced a policy that directly challenges Russia, and which in some ways represents Russia’s worst-case scenario. (Startfor)

A Shift in Focus: Changes in the Missile Defense Program. On September 17th, President Barack Obama announced changes in the American missile defense program seeking a more proven and cost-effective system than that introduced by the Bush administration… Under Obama’s new plan, neither Poland nor the Czech Republic will host U.S. military assets in the short term. However, the long-term plan is to put land-based versions of the SM-3 in Europe, and there are already talks about beginning negotiations with Poland and the Czech Republic to get the first crack at hosting particular parts of this new infrastructure. (Foreign Policy in Focus)

Gates gets grumpy in Tokyo. United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expected to leave Japan with a firm agreement in place for the relocation of the US Marine Corps base from Okinawa to Guam. But the recently elected Democratic Party of Japan played hardball, leaving Gates empty-handed. This and other disputes are a sign that Tokyo and Washington may be drifting apart after decades of close alliance. (Asia Times)

Israeli-Turkish Relations Straining Defense Ties. Global weapon sales are always subject to political influences. For many years, Turkey and Israel have maintained a close defense relationship that extended to training in Turkey and large procurement deals. (Defense Industry Daily)

Conflict Risk Alert: After Afghanistan’s Fraudulent Elections. Widespread fraud in the 20 August presidential and provincial council polls has deeply undermined the credibility of Hamid Karzai’s government, the main beneficiary of the rigging. Afghanistan faces a critical test in the run-off between President Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah on 7 November and afterwards. A flawed second round will hand Taliban insurgents a significant strategic victory and erode public confidence in the electoral process and the international commitment to the country’s democratic institutions. (ICG)

First US official resigns to protest Afghan war. A former Marine who fought in Iraq, joined the State Department after leaving the military and was a diplomat in a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan has become the first U.S. official to resign in protest of the Afghan war… (Washington Post)

Turkish premier visits Teheran. Turkish Prime Minister Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Tehran on Monday evening and was received at the airport by the Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, the official IRNA news agency reported. The aim of the visit is boosting bilateral relations, the news agency reported… (Alsumaria)

Pakistan releases 11 Iranians arrested for trespassing. Pakistani authorities on Tuesday released 11 Iranian Revolutionary Guards detained a day earlier for trespassing into Pakistani territory, officials said. The guards were arrested in the Mashkhel area on the border with Iran eight days after a suicide bomber killed 42 people, including six Revolutionary Guard commanders, in Iran’s southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province. (Dawn)

Al Qaeda in Iraq ally claims bombings. The Islamic State of Iraq , an umbrella group affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility Tuesday for a pair of weekend bombings that killed 160 people in Baghdad. (CNN)

Georgia: Are Guantanamo Bay Prisoners Heading for Tbilisi? A senior Georgian official tells EurasiaNet that Tbilisi and Washington are discussing the possibility of Georgia accepting suspected terrorists currently being held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba. (EurasiaNet)

Amnesty International: Israel curbing water to Palestinians. Human rights group Amnesty International said in a report published Tuesday that Israeli restrictions prevented Palestinians from receiving enough water in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The report said Israel’s daily water consumption per capita was four times higher than that in the Palestinian territories. (Haaretz)

Brown: Asking the wrong questions about Palestinian elections. On October 24, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree calling for new parliamentary and presidential elections in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza in January 2010. The chance of the elections being held as decreed is virtually nil—Israeli permission is needed for polling in Jerusalem; Hamas’s participation is needed in Gaza. Neither is likely, and for both Israel and Hamas to decide to cooperate is unimaginable in current circumstances. And that leads us to why it is misleading to ask if Hamas leaders will decide to run. They can’t, even if they wanted to (which they definitely don’t). When the 2006 elections led to Hamas’s upset victory, Abbas as head of Fatah threatened to use a series of illegal devices to overturn the result. The idea seems to have been to keep coming up with new election ideas until a way was found to make sure Palestinians gave the right answer. Finally, in June 2007 (after Hamas’s takeover of Gaza) he found one that had the virtue of being arguably legal: Abbas issued a new law by decree that not only changed the rules but also all but barred Hamas. (Marc Lynch)

Big companies getting closer to big Iraq oil fields. A half dozen major international oil companies are close to deals with Iraq, on the heels of BP and the Chinese National Petroleum Corp., which are one step away from receiving the first new oil contract issued by Baghdad – for the largest oil field in the country. (Iraq Oil Report)

Turkey to invest $4 bln in Iran’s southern gas field: report. Turkey is to invest around 3.5 to 4 billion U.S. dollars in Iran’s southern gas field, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Tuesday, quoting an official from Iran’s Oil Ministry. (Xinhua)

Kyrgyzstan: Why did French and Spanish military withdraw from Manas airbase? After the departure of 50 Spanish and 60 French military there are only US soldiers remaining in the airbase. Thus, TC became hundred percent American airbase. To tell the truth, it was named so earlier although the airbase hosted the soldiers from another 11 member-countries of anti-terrorist coalition. The agreement on establishing the transit center was signed by President Kurmanbek Bakiev on July 7, 2009 although earlier in February he had announced the intention to let NATO forces leave the country. Kyrgyzstan reasoned its decision by the fact that US compensation for Manas airport area rental is not enough and that situation in Afghanistan improved; besides, American soldiers are not under jurisdiction of Kyrgyz courts since they have diplomatic status. In the spring of this year the agreement with USA and 11 anti-terrorist coalition countries on placement of military units was denounced. Nearly unanimous decision of the parliament denounced all agreements with Australia, Spain, Denmark, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Turkey and France. Later on Kurmanbek Bakiev mentioned in the interview that Kyrgyzstan was ready for new negotiations, considering new format and payment conditions. It was followed by the letter from Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, addressed to Kyrgyz leader, where he asked to help stabilize situation in Afghanistan. Bakiev “forgot” about his plan to exclude the Western military from Kyrgyzstan in exchange for US promise to pay $60 million per year and changing the airbase status into “Transit Center”. Finally, “thank you” message from US leader Barack Obama, addressed to Bakiev, concluded the complex maneuver over Manas. (Ferghana)

European Union Scraps Last Uzbek Sanctions. The European Union on Tuesday dropped the last remaining sanctions against Uzbekistan imposed after a 2005 crackdown on an uprising. (New York Times / AP)

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