Home > News > News in Brief: 18 November 2009

News in Brief: 18 November 2009

A brief list of news clippings for the day:

Pratap Chatterjee, Afghanistan as a Patronage Machine. Every morning, dozens of trucks laden with diesel from Turkmenistan lumber out of the northern Afghan border town of Hairaton on a two-day trek across the Hindu Kush down to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. Among the dozens of businesses dispatching these trucks are two extremely well connected companies — Ghazanfar and Zahid Walid — that helped to swell the election coffers of President Hamid Karzai as well as the family business of his running mate, the country’s new vice president, warlord Mohammed Qasim Fahim. (TomDispatch)

One-two punch for India’s opposition. Following hard on its defeat in national elections, India’s main opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has been trounced in three state polls. While the results further strengthen the ruling Congress party, the big loser, beyond the BJP, is India’s move towards a broad two-front political system. (Asia Times)

Think Again: Africom. U.S. Africa Command was launched to controversy and has been met with skepticism ever since. Behind two years of mixed messages, a coherent mission might finally be emerging. Here’s what you need to know about the world’s next U.S. military hub. (FP)

Kurds threaten to boycott Iraq elections. Kurdistan Leader Massoud Barazani threatened to boycott elections unless the allocation of seats in parliament to Kirkuk, Nineveh and Diyala provinces is revised. (Alsumaria)

Iraq poll in jeopardy as VP vetoes law. Iraq’s general election planned for January, only the second since the fall of Saddam Hussein, was thrown into jeopardy on Wednesday after Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi vetoed the polling law, AFP reported. (Dawn)

A new courtship for Southeast Asia. Barack Obama at the weekend became the first US president to share a room with all 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The US’s new Asian focus is based partly on a belief that the region has been neglected, giving China a pre-eminent position, and that it’s time to get down to business. (Asia Times)

Berlin’s Asia policy should focus on India and US role in the region. As his first policy inititiative, Germany’s new development minister said he wants to end technical aid for China and India. Experts agree and suggest additional changes in Germany’s Asia strategy. (Deutsche Welle)

Hillary Clinton makes surprise visit to Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Kabul Wednesday in a surprise visit on the eve of the inauguration of President Hamid Karzai. (CNN)

Israel defends settlement growth amid sharp criticism. Israel on Wednesday fended off criticism of its approval of hundreds of new homes in annexed Arab east Jerusalem as France urged a resumption of stalled Middle East peace talks. (Dawn)

Abbas defends decision to seek state recognition. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday the impasse in the Middle East peace process left him no choice but to seek international recognition, even as Europe and Washington discouraged the move. “We feel we are in a very difficult situation,” he said in Cairo after talks with Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak. “What is the solution for us? To remain suspended like this, not in peace? That is why I took this step.” (Daily Star / AFP)

Turkey: Government Launches PR Offensive on Kurdish Question. Turkey’s political leaders are taking to the road to explain their plans to end a 25-year Kurdish war to the people. The PR offensive is opening amid rising political tensions and dwindling hopes of a multi-party accord on the initiative… A day earlier, in an often tumultuous parliamentary session, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, provided for the first time concrete details about the contents of what Interior Minister Besir Atalay, the government’s point man on the issue, repeatedly stressed was a “program of national unity.” (EurasiaNet)

Armitage: Turkey knows exactly what it’s doing with Iran. A former top US official has downplayed concerns over Turkey’s stance on Iran’s controversial nuclear program, expressing confidence in the NATO ally’s ability to deal with the issue in its own way as a neighboring country. (Today’s Zaman)

Iran sentences 5 to death in postelection turmoil. Iran has sentenced five defendants to death in a mass trial of opposition figures accused of fomenting the unrest that followed the disputed June presidential election, state television reported Tuesday. (AP)

UAE Buys Saab’s Erieye AEW&C Aircraft. Saab recently announced a 1.5 billion SEK (about $220 million) contract from the United Arab Emirates for 2 of its Saab 340 regional turboprops, equipped with Erieye active-array radars that can scan large airspace volumes, and related command and control systems. The Saab 340 AEW contract also includes ground equipment, initial spares, and support services. (Defense Industry Daily)

UK: Security agencies can withhold ‘secret government information’ in civil cases. Court ruling with widespread implications for open justice condemned by lawyer as ‘outrage’. MI5, MI6 and the police will be able to withhold evidence from defendants and their lawyers in civil cases for the first time, the high court ruled today. In a move that has widespread implications for open justice, Mr Justice Silber agreed with the security and intelligence agencies that “secret government information” could remain hidden from individuals who are suing them. (Guardian)

More EU troops to train Somali forces. Up to 200 European troops could be sent to help train Somalia’s security forces next year, it has emerged. (Hiiraan)

Will Turkey benefit from Ergenekon? Is the Ergenekon affair helping to demilitarise Turkish politics? Or is the country’s post-Islamist government using it to advance its own authority at the expense of the military? It’s always hard to follow what’s going on inside Turkey but never more so than since Ergenekon. Turkey has faced four coups of one sort or another since its transition to democracy in 1946. But this is the first time those accused of an alleged coup have been put on trial: former generals and active duty officers have been charged with running a covert terrorist organisation — named Ergenekon — and inciting armed insurgency in order to bring down the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. (Le Monde Diplomatique)

India says needs no help to heal Pakistan ties. India on Wednesday said it needs no external help to improve ties with neighbor Pakistan, in a testy response to a statement issued by the United States and China. (Reuters)

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