Home > News > News in Brief: 15 November 2009

News in Brief: 15 November 2009

A brief list of news for the day:

Peshawar Bombing Kills 12; Tablighi Turn against Taliban. The Taliban Movement of Pakistan launched another bombing in Peshawar on Saturday, killing 12 and wounding 30… The S. Waziristan campaign continued Friday-Saturday, leaving 7 guerrillas dead along with 4 Pakistani soldiers… The Tablighi Jama’at is a Muslim revivalist movement begun in Delhi in 1924, which preaches mainly to other Muslims and tries to influence them toward the practice of a fundamentalist form of Islam. They are largely apolitical, but some observers have accused them or their offshoots of a connection to terrorism. Interestingly, this year the mood of the Tablighi Jama’at members gathered at Raiwind near Lahore is virulently anti-Taliban. (Informed Comment)

US unveils extended Bagram prison. Journalists have been permitted to inspect newly refurbished facilities at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, the largest US military hub in the region and home to a controversial prison. Al Jazeera’s correspondent James Bays, who was among those who inspected the internment facilities on Sunday, said Bagram, unlike its Guantanamo counterpart, was clearly not going to be shut down soon. “The new prison wing cost some $60 million to build … and is meant to be part of a new era of openness and transparency,” Bays said. “But we were not shown the detainees themselves. And human-rights lawyers say that while the environment for the prisoners may be changing, their legal situation is not … not having been charged. Nor has any civilian lawyer ever been allowed inside.” (Al Jazeera)

Iraqi prison was Qaida breeding ground: ex-inmate. Iraq’s Camp Bucca, the US-run jail where around 100,000 prisoners were kept over six years, was a breeding ground for the Al-Qaida terror network, according to police and former inmates. Bucca, located in an isolated desert north of the border with Kuwait, was a school for scores of Takfiris, or Sunni extremists who usually ended up in Al-Qaida, said Abu Mohammed, freed in 2008 after 26 months behind its bars. (Dawn)

A witches’ cauldron brews in Yemen. Saudi Arabia is on the offensive in Iraq and Afghanistan to counter Iranian influence. The Saudis, though, are on the defensive in Yemen, which has become a safe haven for al-Qaeda elements to make incursions into Saudi Arabia. In addition, the Shi’ite Houthi clan has made the Saudi-Yemeni border highly volatile. Tehran, while doing nothing adventurous, is highly pleased. (Asia Times)

This Week at War: The Upside of the Proxy War in Yemen. Why has Saudi Arabia felt the need to overtly intervene in what was previously an internal Yemeni dispute? According to the United Nations, the latest flare-up in the Houthi insurrection has created 175,000 refugees. Breaking the insurgency might curtail the refugee crisis and prevent it from spilling over into Saudi Arabia. At the geostrategic level, Saudi leaders might fear the creation of a pro-Iranian Shiite enclave adjacent to the Red Sea shipping lane, similar to what Iran has achieved with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. From the Saudi perspective, it would be best to strangle that possibility immediately. (Foreign Policy)

A strategic alliance. Economic cooperation between China and Africa is gaining ground. Seeking deeper economic ties and mutual prosperity, the third Conference of African and Chinese Entrepreneurs along with the fourth Ministerial Conference on Africa-China Cooperation brought together senior Egyptian, African and Chinese officials along with some 800 businessmen to negotiate cooperation prospects in these regions. (Al-Ahram)

Transformation of Japanese Space Policy: From the “Peaceful Use of space” to “the Basic Law on Space”. Japanese space activity started in 1955. After fourteen years of rocket and satellite experimentation, space activity was initiated in such practical realms as weather forecasting and broadcasting… Militarization of Japan’s space activity began in the mid-1980s. In 1985, the Maritime Self-Defense Force (SDF) bought receiving equipment to obtain information provided by the U.S. Navy FLEETSAT satellite. The Japanese government excused a violation of “the Principle for peaceful use of space” in terms of the so-called “generalization theory” which allows the SDF to use ‘commonly’ used satellites (those used in the civilian sector) or satellites that have equivalent capabilities. Reconnaissance spy satellites were introduced in 1988. These were called “information gathering satellites” (IGS) in order to avoid violation of “the principle of peaceful use of space”. The introduction of IGS was also justified by “generalization theory”. The spatial resolution of the IGS imagery data was similar to that of the U.S. commercial-satellite, IKONOS, a remote-sensing satellite developed using reconnaissance technology. (Japan Focus)

Iraq: Talabani and Abdul Mehdi ratify election law. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi ratified the election law amendment approved by Parliament last week. Vice President Tarek Al Hashemi however still has reservations over certain paragraphs of the law. (Alsumaria)

The rise of Rimland? Energy deals across Southwest Asia – such as between Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey – are redrawing international relations for years to come, bringing full circle the region’s post-Ottoman Empire history. On the periphery, and crucially, lie Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. (Asia Times)

In China, Obama will glimpse world’s new center of gravity. When President Barack Obama lands here Sunday night in China’s largest city, he’ll find many of its 20 million people intrigued by him and welcoming, but hardly deferential, and some openly skeptical of his promises of change. (McClatchy)

China’s Role as U.S. Lender Alters Dynamics for Obama. President Obama will likely spend more time reassuring Beijing than pushing reform. (New York Times)

Hopes pinned on Dubai air show. The Dubai air show has opened with hopes that military sales will to continue to prop up a slowing civilian industry. The four-day, bi-annual exhibition began on Sunday in the United Arab Emirates with advance orders and exhibitor numbers up on previous years, according to organisers. (Al Jazeera)

In warning to Russia, Iran says it can build S-300. “If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran,” says long-time Pentagon advisor Dan Goure. With the delivery of an advanced air defense system to Iran long overdue by Russia, Tehran says it is capable of mass-producing replicas of the controversial Russian-made missile in the near future. Speaking to Mehr News Agency on Saturday, Head of Iran’s Foreign Policy and National Security Commission in Parliament Alaeddin Boroujerdi said Tehran and Russia have a long history of military cooperation and it is crucial that Russia honors its commitments with respect to Iran. “The Russians should meet their commitment on the delivery of the missile system, which will only be used to defend the country’s territory,” said the Iranian lawmaker. He was referring to the Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missile system, which can track targets and fire at aircraft 120 km (75 miles) away, features high jamming immunity and is able to simultaneously engage up to 100 targets. (War in Iraq / Press TV)

British Intelligence: Other People’s Mail. It seems to be widely acknowledged today that states need secret intelligence services. It is generally accepted, so long as those states are thought to be legitimate, trustworthy, and to represent a public as well as a more partisan interest. But it wasn’t always the case. For most of the 19th century, espionage was thought to be a low and foreign practice that the British – or at any rate the English – should not stoop to in any circumstances. This was for a number of reasons: because it used deception, which was immoral; because the state could not always be relied on not to abuse it; and because it was counter-productive, since foreign espionage was often claimed as a cause of war, and domestic surveillance was considered intrinsically damaging to the trust people needed to have in their governments, and in each other, if they were to be content and thus politically stable. (London Review of Books)

USA: Welcome Home, War! How America’s Wars Are Systematically Destroying Our Liberties. As the War on Terror enters its ninth year to become one of America’s longest overseas conflicts, the time has come to ask an uncomfortable question: What impact have the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — and the atmosphere they created domestically — had on the quality of our democracy? Every American knows that we are supposedly fighting elsewhere to defend democracy here at home. Yet the crusade for democracy abroad, largely unsuccessful in its own right, has proven remarkably effective in building a technological template that could be just a few tweaks away from creating a domestic surveillance state — with omnipresent cameras, deep data-mining, nano-second biometric identification, and drone aircraft patrolling “the homeland.” (TomDispatch)

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