Home > News > News in Brief: 25 November 2009

News in Brief: 25 November 2009

A brief list of news clippings for the day:

US rejects landmine ban treaty. The US administration has rejected a global treaty, supported by more than 150 countries, banning the use of landmines. The state department explained the decision on Tuesday, saying a policy review had found the US could not meet its “national defence needs” without landmines… Besides the US, countries holding out on the agreement include China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Russia. (Al Jazeera)

Iran clerics start taking control of schools. An Iranian cleric says religious authorities have started taking control of schools, part of a wider ideological drive by hard-liners to wage what authorities call a “soft war” against Western influence. Cleric Ali Zolelm is quoted by the Etemad paper on Wednesday as saying schools in several provinces have been transferred from government oversight to control by Islamic seminaries. Elementary grades are believed to be the focus of the nationwide plan. It was not immediately clear whether higher grades also would fall under clerical control. (AP)

Afghanistan: Elections and the Crisis of Governance. President Hamid Karzai’s re-election on 2 November 2009, following widespread fraud in the 20 August presidential and provincial polls, has delivered a critical blow to his government’s legitimacy… Although the elections were held for the first time ostensibly under sole Afghan stewardship, UNAMA through the United Nations Development Programme’s Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (ELECT) program was heavily involved in planning, preparations and logistics. The international community was thus perceived by Afghans as an active participant in the flawed process. (Conflicts Forum)

US headache over Afghan deserters. According to data published by the US Defense Department, one in every four combat soldiers quit the Afghan National Army during the year ending in September. This high desertion rate not only flies in the face of US officials’ long-time praise for the army as a success story – it is also very bad news for US President Barack Obama’s latest Afghan strategy. (Asia Times)

Blackwater’s Secret War in Pakistan. Jeremy Scahill reveals a covert military operation being run almost entirely by Blackwater, USA, a military contractor embroiled in controversy for their actions in Iraq and the Middle East… An elite division of Blackwater, USA is running a covert, US Military operation that includes planning targeted assassinations, “snatch and grabs” and other sensitive actions inside and outside Pakistan. This is a program that not even some Senior Level Obama Administration and Pentagon officials are aware of. Blackwater operatives are assisting in gathering intelligence to help run a secret, second and heretofore unreported, US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes. (Pulse)

The Myth of Hearts and Minds. Hearts and Minds is a wonderful name for a teen romance novel, but I’ve always thought it to be a poor name for a counterinsurgency concept. The idea of winning the hearts and minds of the population carries the connotation that there is somehow a magic formula that will turn the population from willing puppets of the insurgency into enthusiastic supporters of the national government. The reality is that the key to defeating an insurgency is in shaping the human terrain so that the host nation can conduct governance and economic development in conditions approaching normalcy. (Small Wars Journal)

India lays to rest a Bush-era ghost. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh failed to realize the main objective of his visit to the United States – the “operationalization” of the US-India civilian nuclear deal. India and the US were more successful in other areas, including on defense cooperation. But the most important outcome from Delhi’s perspective is a jettisoning of false hopes and expectations raised in the George W Bush era that do not match the US’s declining power and influence. (Asia Times)

China’s Noisy Nuclear Submarines. China’s new Jin-class ballistic missile submarine is noisier than the Russian Delta III-class submarines built more than 30 years ago, according to a report produced by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)… The report shows that China now has two Jin SSBNs, one of which is based at Hainan Island with the South Sea Fleet, along with two Type 093 Shang-class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN)… The ONI report states that the JL-2 sea-launched ballistic missile on the Jin SSBNs has a range of ~4,000 nautical miles (~7,400 km) “is capable of reaching the continental United States from Chinese littorals.” Not quite, unless Chinese littorals extend well into the Sea of Japan. Since the continental United States does not include Alaska and Hawaii, a warhead from a 7,400-km range JL-2 would fall into the sea about 800 km from Seattle. A JL-2 carrying penetration aids in addition to a warhead would presumably have a shorter range. (FAS Strategic Security Blog)

EU turns away from Ukraine. EU officials are casting a wary eye at Ukraine as it prepares for watershed presidential elections in January that look likely to spark a lurch back towards the Russian sphere five years after the former Soviet republic was supposedly set free by the “Orange Revolution”. (Guardian – Comment is Free)

Western Sahara conflict goes on. Sometimes referred to as “Africa’s last colony”, Western Sahara was, till 1975, a colony of Spain. When Spain withdrew, the UN’s International Court of Justice ruled that Western Sahara had the right to self-determination. In response, Morocco invaded. Many of the indigenous people, the Sahrawis, fled east, across the border, into Algeria, and built refugee camps. They’re still there. Their liberation movement, the Polisario Front, established a government in exile and fought back against the Moroccans. Within Western Sahara, expressions of support for self-determination, or of Sahrawi culture or identity, were outlawed. (Le Monde Diplomatique)

Row overshadows Iraq inquiry. The long-awaited public inquiry into Britain’s controversial role in the invasion of Iraq and the legality of the war opened here on Tuesday but even before it started taking evidence a controversy broke out over the choice of its chairman and his four fellow-members, all handpicked by Downing Street. (The Hindu)

‘Iraq was not top of weapons concerns list’. Iraq was not “top of the list” of the countries causing concern about weapons of mass destruction prior to the invasion of 2003, the official inquiry into the war was told today. (The Independent)

Tajdid List joins Iraqi National Party. Tajdid List MP Omar Abdul Sattar Al Karbouli said the list headed by Iraqi Vice President Tarek Al Hashemi officially joined the Alliance that gathers Accord Front led by former Prime Minister Iayd Al Allawi and National Dialogue Front headed by Saleh Al Motlaq as well as other lists. (Alsumaria)

Pakistan Foreign Office accuses India of preparing for limited war. Pakistan accused on Tuesday India of ‘preparing for a limited war’ against it and asked the international community to take notice of New Delhi’s ‘long-term intentions’. (Dawn)

Militants destroy Nato oil tanker near Peshawar. Suspected Taliban militants on Wednesday attacked and destroyed a tanker supplying fuel to Nato troops in neighbouring Afghanistan, police said. (Dawn)

DCNS Wins EUR 1b to Maintain France’s Nuclear Subs. State-owned DCNS is France’s only warship supplier, just as BAE Systems has become Britain’s sole warship supply and maintenance source. In November 2009, DCNS received 2 major contracts for through-life support services of France’s nuclear-powered submarine fleets. (Defense Industry Daily)

Azerbaijan: Baku Developing Satellite to Kick Off National Space Program. First came oil. Now comes space. Flush with energy revenues, Officials in Baku are intent on launching Azerbaijan’s first satellite by 2011. (EurasiaNet)

A radioactive labour camp? On October 6, BHP Billiton and the South Australian Department for Correctional Services announced a new agreement allowing the company to employ prisoners from Port Augusta at Olympic Dam — the world’s biggest uranium mine. (Green Left)

YEMEN: Ali Saleh Ahmad, “It was a hard trip with Zaraa on my back”. Ali Saleh Ahmad, 45, and his family arrived in the Al Mazraq camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the northwestern Yemeni province of Hajjah after fighting between the Saudi army and Houthi-led Shia rebels in the northern Saada governorate forced them to flee their home in Ghafri village, Dhahiri district. (IRIN)

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