Afghanistan is expected to receive promises of $15 billion in development aid from international donors after 2014 at this weekend's Tokyo conference, the hosts have said.
Ministers and senior diplomats from 70 countries will meet in the Japanese capital on Sunday to say they will continue to prop up the nation after most Nato troops leave.
Diplomats had feared that anger over Afghan corruption, fatigue over the decade-long campaign, and domestic money worries would prevent donors pouring yet more money into the troubled country. But unnamed Japanese diplomats said the fundraising drive was on track, according to Kyodo News.
In return, Afghanistan will once again promise to eradicate corruption, improve its legal system and strengthen its finances.
Andrew Mitchell, the Development Secretary, this week echoed Hamid Karzai in saying the country needed around $4bn a year in development aid.
Nato is already trying to get another $4.1 billion a year to keep the Afghan army and police going from 2015.
Aid sources in Kabul questioned how much of the aid would be new, rather than already pledged, and said they expected much would come with so many strings attached that it might never be spent.
Mr Karzai's government is totally reliant on foreign aid and even the most optimistic assessments of plans to tap the country's mineral wealth suggest it will take at least a decade before it is a significant source of income.
Mr Mitchell this week warned hard-won gains made by British troops risked being lost if the international donors failed to make long term aid commitments to the country. Even $4bn a year would be significantly less than the aid peak in 2010 and 2011. Mr Karzai's backers flooded the country with aid in support of the surge of Nato troops, but there is concern much was wasted on flawed projects, or embezzled.
Vygaudas Usackas, the EU's envoy to Kabul, said it would become increasingly difficult to justify aid if Kabul did not tighten up corruption and financial management. "We are not blind and we all feel considerable fatigue among the taxpayers of Europe and beyond," he told Reuters.
The EU gives $1.5 billion annually in development aid.
A new Egyptian television channel will only feature broadcasters who wear the traditional naqib both in front of, and behind, the camera
A new satellite television channel featuring only women wearing a traditional Moslem face-covering will be unveiled later this month, Ahram Online reported on Thursday.
The new station, the first of its kind in Egypt, will exclusively feature women dressed in the niqab veil, a full head covering with only a slit for the eyes, as prescribed by Islamic Sharia law.
In addition to the presenters, the all-female staff, including the camera crews and technical support will all be under cover.
Set to launch on July 20, the same day as the start of Ramadan, the Maraya channel is named after one of the prophet Mohammad's wives, a freed Egyptian Coptic slave.
The channel will broadcast six hours of faceless programs a day on the ultra-conservative Islamic Umma Channel with an eye, and only an eye, on the virtues of the niqab and married life.
Female preacher El-Sheikha Safaa Refai, who will head the channel, revealed that broadcasts will be a (not) barefaced effort to educate Moslem women about religion.
Scheduled shows will include "Memoires of a woman" in which presenters peep into the hidden world of women who cheat on their husbands.
"Our message will be directed at Moslem women, to teach them the practices of the Prophet Mohammed," Refai told Ahram and noted that veiled women have worked in the media for several years now, including as presenters.
The idea for the channel is the brainchild of El-Sheikh Abu Islam Ahmed Abdallah, the owner of the Umma Channel. After first producing a handful of niqabi programmes for his channel, Abdallah went one stage further with an entire veiled station.
Not just presenters and staff of the station will be under wraps, but so too any guests and critics featured in live broadcasts. If a niqab-adorned expert is not available then women appearing on shows will be give a choice: either slip on a veil or agree to having their features blurred out during the broadcast.
We can thank Champ for his leadership in the Libyan Kinetic Action and the Arab Spring...
Libya's top politicians have hatched a deal that would see the Muslim Brotherhood lead the government after the country's first free elections in almost five decades takes place on Sunday.
While the elections for a 200-member National Congress is unlikely to grant a majority to any one faction, the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies are confident they can join their counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt at the helm of leadership.
Negotiations between the Muslim Brotherhood and a secular-based political movement led by former interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril have focused on forming a post-election government as soon as the result is known. An adviser to Mr Jibril said the former prime minister was likely to take the post of figurehead president with Mustafa Abu Shagour, currently interim deputy prime minister of the Muslim Brotherhood, taking the prime minister's slot as head of government.
The Muslim Brotherhood would dominate the ministries.
In the run-up to the elections, Libya's interim government has struggled to maintain law and order. A threatened electoral boycott by federalists in Benghazi, the second city, has rattled Libya's rebels turned leaders. Leading figures fear that large numbers in the city that triggered the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi may shun the polls, undermining the legitimacy of the election.
Benghazi should split off and form a separate country. It isn't like it hasn't happened before...
Recent attacks on foreign diplomats in Benghazi by Jihadists, a series of ugly micro-conflicts between militias in the Nafousa mountains leaving 105 dead and 300 wounded in the last fortnight and fierce clashes between Arabs, Tebu tribesmen and Tuaregs in the south have put the country on edge.
"We need to ensure stronger and more capable leadership soon after the elections," said a senior official in the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Construction Party. "That is what Libyans want -- more security and stability and progress being made to improve their day-to-day lives. They don't want deadlock."
Any coalition government would grant a prominent place to the al-Watan party of Abdulhakim Belhaj, sources said. Mr Belhaj acknowledged that the talks were under way. He said: "I negotiate with anyone who cares about Libya and wants to unite it."
The presence of Mr Belhaj in a Libyan government would complicate relations between Tripoli and London.
Mr Belhaj, the former commandant of the now dissolved terrorist outfit, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which had ties with al-Qaeda before disavowing violence, is suing the British government for approving his 2004 rendition to Gaddafi's regime.
Libya is using a complicated electoral system designed to ensure that no party sweeps the board in the elections for the assembly, which will oversee the new government and draw up a constitution.
One hundred and twenty seats are reserved for individuals -- 2,501 candidates are challenging for those -- and 80 seats will be allotted according to party lists. There are 1,206 party candidates. But Islamic parties are likely to predominate, experts believe.
"I'd be surprised if Islamists, from the Brotherhood and other parties, don't secure most of the seats and a great chunk of the vote," says Dartmouth University professor Dirk Vandewalle, who's been advising the UN mission here.
The outgoing National Transitional Council, which has ruled Libya since Gaddafi's fall, announced yesterday that Islamic Sharia law should be the "main" source of legislation and that this principle should not be subject to a referendum.
"The Libyan people are attached to Islam, as a religion and legislation ... As such the National Transitional Council recommends that the (next) congress make Sharia the main source of legislation," Saleh Daroub, NTC spokesman, said.
Some secular Libyans fear the Brotherhood rising influence, despite promises from the Justice and Construction Party that it won't seek to impose religious views through control of the bureaucracy.
"If the Brotherhood gets in we will see a repeat of what's happening in Tunisia with underhand pressure on women to cover up and raids on art galleries," warns Majid Wanis-Gaddafi, the son of Libya's last prime minister before Gaddafi seized power in 1968.
The main storage centre for election materials in the eastern Libyan town of Ajdabiya was set on fire late Thursday night. The ballot papers for the town were burnt. The election commission is trying to print replacements in time for the polls.
Hundreds of protesters stormed the election commission's office in Benghazi last Sunday, ransacking files and smashing computer equipment. If they had managed to destroy ballot papers or voter lists, they could have derailed the election.
KUWAIT: Kuwait's ruler on Thursday asked outgoing Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah to form a new government, state news agency KUNA said, in a move that may ease a political crisis.
Sheikh Jaber must now select a 15-member Cabinet, after which analysts expect Kuwait's ruler to dissolve Parliament in order to allow fresh elections, widely expected to be held after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which starts around July 19.
The previous government, also headed by Sheikh Jaber, resigned last month after Kuwait's constitutional court dissolved a Parliament dominated by Islamist-led opposition lawmakers and reinstated its more government-friendly predecessor instead. The government took its oath of office in front of the dissolved Parliament, meaning its activities had technically become unconstitutional and hence had to step down.
The reappointment of Sheikh Jaber was a widely expected move and the new Cabinet is unlikely to be different from the previous one, analysts and lawmakers said.
"Probably there will not be new ministers ... because this was just an exceptional decision to resolve the problem," said lawmaker Saleh Ashour. The new Cabinet should take an oath of office at the reinstated Parliament.
Such a move could prove difficult as majority of the 50-elected-member assembly have said they are boycotting the reinstated Parliament, which was tarnished by corruption allegations, analyst said.
"The most likely scenario is that the reinstated Parliament would not be able to convene in the absence of a quorum, then the emir will have to dissolve Parliament and new parliamentary elections will be held," said political analyst Ghanim Al-Najjar.
The last such elections in the US-allied OPEC oil producer were in February. Analysts said a new cabinet could be formed by next week, though there is no deadline for government formation in Kuwait's constitution and it could drag on for longer than that.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez staged a huge rally on Sunday despite his lingering health problems as he and rival Henrique Capriles formally launched their campaigns ahead of October elections.
After 13 years in power, the firebrand Chavez is facing his first serious election challenge as he vies for a new term that would cement his legacy both at home and as Latin America's leading leftist in the post-Fidel Castro era.
Chavez -- who has been battling cancer for more than a year -- could rack up 20 years in office if he is re-elected on October 7 and serves out his full term. Assuming that the new term doesn't last longer than three months...
Dressed in a jacket and his trademark red beret, Chavez kicked off his campaign in the town of Mariara in Carabobo state, where he was greeted by a red tide of thousands of supporters who chanted, "Chavez isn't leaving!"
He then left in an open-top truck -- part of a boisterous caravan that travelled 10 miles to the nearby town of Maracay, where he delivered a fiery 90-minute speech. Putting on a show of force to naysayers who have raised doubts about his health, the 57-year-old president sang the national anthem a cappella, accompanied by some of his ministers, before launching into his address.
"I would like to first thank Christ the Redeemer for allowing me to get through this difficult year and be with the Venezuelan people to start this battle," said Chavez, who insists he is fully recovered and fit to lead.
"We will fight every day, and night after night, to find 10 million votes and give the bourgeoisie another explosive knockout," he added, describing his opponent as "boring."
The youthful and telegenic Capriles, 39, is the former governor of Miranda state. Venezuela's sometimes fractious opposition has united behind Capriles, who opened his campaign in the remote indigenous community of Kumarakapay near the Brazilian border.
"We will be better because Venezuela deserves to be better," said Capriles, wearing a native headdress and a shirt bearing the colours of the national flag. "There is nothing that can beat the storm of progress."
He was due to travel later to the other end of the country to the town of Guajira in northwestern Zulia state near the Colombian border, in an attempt to show the Chavez government has neglected those areas.
Most opinion polls put Chavez firmly in the lead, but Capriles is counting on undecided voters -- estimated at 35 per cent of the electorate -- to help him win. Capriles has claimed he will handily defeat Chavez, even predicting a 10-point margin of victory. He has vowed to tackle what he calls the country's three main problems -- poverty, unemployment and violence.
Uzbekistan has withdrawn from a Russia-lead military alliance of former Soviet states, triggering a wave of speculation that it wants closer ties with the US.
Dear Mr. Putin (I'm afraid I've lost track of whether he is president or prime minister this month) isn't going to like being embarrassed like that, but American foreign relations are being run by the smartest man in the room and Mrs. Bill, neither of whom has ever been called another Henry Kissinger.
Strategically located on the southern fringe of Central Asia, Uzbekistan is an important but controversial partner for the West, which needs its support to withdraw military kit from neighbouring Afghanistan from 2014.
The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) didn't give any official reasons for Uzbekistan's withdrawal from the alliance when it announced the news in Moscow last Thursday but analysts and commentators were quick to describe it as a move towards the US.
Now we'll wait and see Putin's counter-move...
"The United States will make Uzbekistan its strategic ally, will provide financial and military assistance, assume some security guarantees, close its eyes to human rights violations," the Russian newspaper Kommersant quoted Vadim Kozyulin, an analyst for the Moscow-based think tank PIR-Center, as saying.
A southern exit route from Afghanistan through Pakistan has closed as Washington's relations with Islamabad have soured forcing it to look to Central Asia and especially to Uzbekistan, which has the best railway network links in the region but also one of the worst human rights records.
The US already operates an important base at Manas airport outside Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, which it uses as a stage-post to ship equipment and soldiers into Afghanistan. Its withdrawal along the so-called Northern Distribution Network will be far more reliant on Uzbekistan and its Soviet-era railway links with Russia.
Lilit Gevorgyan, an analyst covering the former Soviet states for IHS Global Insight/Janes Information Group, agreed that potential closer military ties with the US was a driving factor behind Uzbekistan's decision to quit the CSTO.
"It is very likely that the US would prefer a transit base in Uzbekistan like Manas in Kyrgyzstan, strengthening the Northern Distribution Network," she said in an emailed note. "As a CSTO member, Uzbekistan must co-ordinate any potential plans to host Western military with the CIS military bloc -- hence having more of a free hand in deciding on the US base could be the main factor behind Tashkent's decision to withdraw."
The CSTO was established in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, in 1992 and, as well as Russia, also includes Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Armenia and Belarus. Uzbekistan previously suspended its membership of the group from 1999 until 2006.
[Jerusalem Post] French Interior Minister Manuel Valls condemns the "anti-Semitic aggression"; suspects jugged
Men attacked a 17-year-old boy wearing a kippa and tzitzit ritual fringes on a train in southern La Belle France on Wednesday.
The boy, a student at the same Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse ...lies on the banks of the River Garonne, half-way between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The Toulouse metropolitan area is the fourth-largest in La Belle France... where Islamist terrorist Mohamed Merah killed four Jews on March 19, was on his way to visit his family in Lyon when "a group of other young men started to insult him [and] harass him before beating him up near the toilets," police said.
The suspects were identified and jugged Drop the rosco and step away witcher hands up! on Thursday.
The attack only ended when a passenger and a conductor intervened.
Thank goodness for the kindness of courageous strangers.
The victim was hospitalized in Lyon and sent home, then pressed charges against his aggressors at a cop shoppe in the city.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls condemned the "anti-Semitic aggression" and called for a "fight against all the resurgences of this strong evil that is the anti-Semitism in our country."
"The number of acts is rising, their violence too, [since] the killings perpetrated by Mohamed Merah," he said.
According to the French Jewish Community's Protection Service, there were more than 90 anti-Semitic incidents in the country during the 10 days that followed March 19's shooting.
And on June 2, three Jewish teenagers -- a girl and two boys wearing kippot -- were attacked in Villeurbanne, a town with a large Jewish population near Lyon. They were insulted and beaten by attackers of foreign origin who used racial slurs. The victims were hospitalized before being sent home.
Johan Sportouch, the secretary of the Union of Jewish Students, declaimed after the Villeurbanne incident "the resurgence of anti-Semitic acts in La Belle France.
"Jewish citizens are a recurring target. Since the Toulouse Affair one can no longer underestimate the seriousness of anti-Semitic aggression," he said.
Turkish firefighters are battling blazes along the border with Syria in areas where thousands of Syrians have crossed to flee the fighting in their country.
Mehmet Harbi, a forestry official, claimed the fires were "deliberately started" at four different points on the Syrian side of the border and spread to Turkey because of strong winds. Turkey's state-run TRT television said Syrian forces were believed to have started the fires to deny shelter to rebels along the border area. Harbi and TRT provided no evidence to substantiate their claims.
A Turkish helicopter also was fighting Wednesday's blazes, and a News Agency that Dare Not be Named reporter in the border town of Yayladagi said loudspeakers were used to call all males between the ages of 15 and 55 to help fight the fires.
Pencilneck sure knows how to make friends and influence people...
In a dramatic video dated May 26, U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., addressed an Islamic Circle of North America convention, saying the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was hard on Muslims and that Americans should look to Muslim schools for guidance.
Heard suggested the other day, that a good campaign ad might be, get the names of these Mexican's souls, and read the names aloud, ending with a statement that these were Mexicans citizens who were killed with guns from Fast and Furious. Do it on the steps of the Department of Justice in DC...
The American people finally have heard of Brian Terry. He is the best-known victim of Fast and Furious, an Obama-administration conventional-weapons-proliferation program. Between November 2009 and January 2011, Team Obama arranged for licensed firearms dealers to sell guns to straw buyers, who transferred them to known violent criminals in Mexico. Two of these firearms, AK-47s, were found near Rio Rico, Ariz., where suspected smugglers fatally shot Terry, a 40-year-old former Marine, on December 15, 2010.
"I do not fear death," Terry once wrote. "I do fear the loss of my honor, and would rather die fighting than have it said I was without courage."
While Brian Terry is the most visible victim of this notorious policy, he is not its sole casualty.
On February 15, 2011, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata, 32, was shot mortally in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Members of Los Zetas drug gang also hit ICE Agent Victor Avila in that ambush, although not fatally. This assault involved a rifle purchased in Dallas in another Obama administration "gunwalking" escapade.
Largely overlooked is this plan's calamitous impact on Mexico, its people, and U.S.-Mexican relations. Fast and Furious has spilled American blood. But south of the border, it has made blood gush like an oil strike.
"One of the things that's so offensive about this case is that our federal government knowingly, willfully, purposefully gave the drug cartels nearly 2,000 weapons -- mainly AK-47s -- and allowed them to walk," Representative Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) told NBC News. These arms were supposed to lead federal agents in Phoenix to the Mexican thugs who acquired them. Instead, Fast and Furious guns melted into Mexico without a trace.
These weapons became invisible, but not silent.
Approximately 300 Mexicans have been killed or wounded by Fast and Furious guns, estimates former Mexican attorney general Victor Humberto Benítez Treviño. Now the chairman of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies' Justice Committee, Benítez told the Los Angeles Times that Fast and Furious "was a bad business that got out of hand."
Relevant details are scarce. However, at least one case generated enormous headlines in Mexico. Here is what happened, according to a July 26, 2011, joint report by House Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Senate Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa.
On October 21, 2010, Sinaloa drug cartel members kidnapped Mario Gonzalez Rodriguez, brother of Chihuahua State's then--attorney general, Patricia Gonzalez Rodriguez. She believed his abduction was in retaliation for her prosecution of Sinaloa narco-traffickers. A video promptly emerged showing Mario in handcuffs, surrounded by five armed, masked captors. That November 5, his tortured body was discovered in a shallow grave. Mexican police soon nabbed his suspected kidnappers after a shootout. Serial numbers confirm that two of the 16 weapons seized from eight of these hoodlums were Fast and Furious guns. These also were tied to the kidnappings of two people.
Patricia Gonzalez Rodriguez said, "The basic ineptitude of these officials caused the death of my brother and surely thousands more victims."
Fast and Furious guns have befouled at least 200 crime scenes. Among them:
Members of the La Familia drug gang fired at a Mexican Federal Police helicopter on May 24, 2011, wounding three officers and forcing it to make an emergency landing near Michoacan in western Mexico. Five days later, four more helicopters attacked La Familia. The gang returned fire, striking all four choppers and injuring another two government agents. The police prevailed, killing eleven cartel members and arresting 36 -- including those suspected of targeting the first chopper and its passengers. Mexican authorities say La Familia possessed heavy-duty body armor and 70 rifles, including several Fast and Furious weapons.
Two weapons purchased by Fast and Furious targets were recovered in Sonora on July 1, 2010, and tied to a "Homicide/Willful Kill -- Gun," the U.S. Justice Department revealed last September 9.
Two Fast and Furious guns were linked to a February 2010 assassination conspiracy against Baja California's then--police chief, Julian Leyzaola.
Four Fast and Furious guns were found on January 8, 2010, and connected to a "kidnap/ransom."
As of December 2010, 241 Fast and Furious guns had been recovered in Mexico and 350 in America.
In one striking case, these weapons did not walk across the border; they ran. "Within a span of 24 hours," Issa and Grassley learned, "a straw purchaser bought guns at a gun store in Arizona and facilitated their transport to Naco, Mexico with the intent of delivering the guns to the Sinaloa cartel." On November 20, 2009, 42 AK-47 assault rifles and a Beowulf .50-caliber rifle were recovered. In just one day, 20 of these guns traveled from Arizona to Sonora, Mexico.
The woman who transported these armaments told investigators that she planned to deliver them directly to the Sinaloa mob. Noting that this was the first Fast and Furious repossession, Issa and Grassley explained: "From the very first recovery of weapons, ATF officials knew that drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) were using these straw purchasers."
Team Obama's defenders correctly argue that Bush-administration investigators distributed some 450 guns in Mexico. But there are several key differences: Operation Wide Receiver caused no known deaths. Many of that program's weapons (unlike most Fast and Furious guns) featured radio tracking devices. Also, Mexico's government knew about and supported Wide Receiver.
In contrast, Issa and Grassley observed, "ATF and DOJ leadership kept their own personnel in Mexico and Mexican government officials totally in the dark about all aspects of Fast and Furious."
Mexican attorney general Marisela Morales told the Los Angeles Times that she first learned about Fast and Furious via news accounts. "In no way would we have allowed it," she said, "because it is an attack on the safety of Mexicans." In June 2011, a U.S. official informed Morales that, eight months earlier, Mario Gonzalez Rodriguez's murderers used Fast and Furious guns.
"Hijole!" Attorney General Morales replied. Roughly translated: "Damn!"
Consequently, another casualty here is America's friendship with Mexico. Though not mortally wounded, this relationship is in serious condition.
"Fast and Furious has poisoned the well-spring of public opinion in Mexico as it relates to the cooperation and engagement with the United States," Mexico's envoy to America, Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, told Washington, D.C.'s New Democrat Network on May 31. "The thinking that you can let guns walk across the border and maintain operational control of those weapons is really an outstanding lack of understanding of how these criminal organizations are operating on both sides of our common borders."
This foreign-policy fiasco is the brainchild of an administration whose transparency was supposed to stun the world and whose sagacity promised to smooth international relations after the alleged small-mindedness of the G. W. Bush years.
Diplomatic headaches aside, the real victims of Fast and Furious are those whom this policy helped kill, and the Team Obama--supplied firearms that still haunt the horizon.
"This is the perfect storm of idiocy," ATF's Carlos Canino told Representative Issa's investigators: "Unfortunately, there are hundreds of Brian Terrys probably in Mexico. . . . We [ATF] armed the [Sinaloa] cartel. It is disgusting."
And, as Issa and Grassley concluded last July 22, 1,048 of those weapons "remain unaccounted for." Unlike carrier pigeons, these Fast and Furious guns will not fly safely home. Instead, for years to come, they will keep drawing blood in Mexico -- and points north.
All containers passing through Pakistan to supply NATO troops in Afghanistan are to be scanned to ensure they do not contain ammunition and weapons, customs officials said Friday.
Islamabad reopened overland routes to NATO convoys earlier this week after closing them in protest at a U.S. air raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at a border post in November.
A number of trucks have already crossed into Afghanistan, but the vast majority are still at the Arabian Sea port of Karachi, where they have stood idle for the past seven months.
Ties between Washington and Islamabad, fractious allies in the "war on terror", plummeted following the air strike and blockade, which ended after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said sorry for the deaths.
The two sides are still rebuilding trust and officials in Karachi said there would be thorough checks to ensure the convoys conformed to Pakistani parliamentary guidelines barring the transport of lethal supplies.
"We scanned the containers randomly in the past, but now every container will be duly scanned," Karachi customs spokesman Qamar Thalho said.
He said any item "not mentioned in the agreements between Pakistan and Afghanistan and Pakistan and NATO" could be seized.
An official speaking on condition of anonymity said the move was intended to stymie opposition parties and religious groups -- who have criticised the resumption of supplies.
There are times when I think that the right thing to do would be to tell the Indians that we have no security interest in Pakistan and wait to see what happens. Also tell the Pakis that the first nuclear weapon of Pakistani origin that explodes outside of Pakistan will be considered an act of war by the US requiring nuclear retaliation. Not that anyone would ever believe the current administration capable of such.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "sorry" to Pakistan Tuesday and announced that Pakistan would resume allowing U.S. military goods to flow through its border with Afghanistan, but her near-apology was only one piece in a much larger set of moving parts in the effort to restore some normalcy to the troubled U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
Tuesday's announcement came after months of protracted and often excruciating negotiations between the two governments. The internal U.S. process that led to today's remarks by Clinton was extensive -- and rocky at times. Three administration sources confirmed that between December and early spring, the National Security Council convened at least 8 separate high-level meetings to debate the apology, and ultimately, the White House earlier this year decided to issue one. The Pakistani government in early Spring asked the White House not to issue the apology because the Pakistani parliament was in the middle of its comprehensive review of the bilateral relationship. Then, following [Pakistan-based Haqqani network's] deadly attacks in Kabul on NATO forces in April, the White House took the apology off the table. That's why Tuesday's comments by Clinton came as a huge surprise to many Pakistan-watchers.
But experts saw in her comments a careful dance that the administration thinks represents a compromise, because Clinton never actually said the word "apology" or "apologize." Asked directly at today's press briefing if the "sorry" comment constituted an "apology," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland wouldn't say that it did.
In conjunction with Tuesday's announcement, the Obama administration has agreed to hand over about $1.2 billion to the Pakistanis in Coalition Support Funds (CSF) that were owed but delayed as part of the overall unhappiness between the two governments, two administration sources confirmed. Pakistan, which views the funds as reimbursements the United Sates agreed to pay in exchange for Pakistan's help in fighting the war on terror, argues that America owes it a larger sum. The deal may not stop there.
Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, warned that the relationship is still very fragile and that any number of things could send it spiraling downward once again, including a clumsy drone strike, a U.S. troop incursion into Pakistan, or another attack on NATO forces by Pakistan-based militants.
"This is only a Band Aid for this relationship. Any number of new crises or recurring crises is likely to trigger another round of recrimination," he said. "'Sorry' was the hardest word, but it's a bit too early to celebrate. We're not yet out of the woods." Lord Elphinstone was unavailable for comment.
"This is only a Band Aid for this relationship. Any number of new crises or recurring crises is likely to trigger another round of recrimination," he said. "'Sorry' was the hardest word, but it's a bit too early to celebrate. We're not yet out of the woods."
translation: "Our boodle demands may will escalate"
Posted by: Frank G ||
They let us know their true intentions, drop them like a bad habit when we are done with them.
Posted by: Large Darling of the Antelope3345 ||
The people killed in that strike were firing on US troops. The incoming fire was pin pointed. The resulting strike silenced the fire. Turned out the shooters were Pakistani troops.
And Hildebeast is apologizing for taking out those responsible for shooting at Americans. Never forget that!
Because we haven't had a Stupid UN story in a while...
[Jerusalem Post] UN Watch, an NGO that monitors the international body's activity, says despite Assad's crackdown, Syria likely to get spot on council due to system of fixed slates.
UN Watch cited a draft resolution presented in Geneva in which the US opposed Syria's candidacy for a Human Rights Council seat in 2014. The resolution, which is also supported by the European Union ...the successor to the Holy Roman Empire, only without the Hapsburgs and the nifty uniforms and the dancing... , said Damascus ...Capital of the last remaining Baathist regime in the world... "fails to meet the standards" for Human Rights Council membership.
IDF will 'destroy' any Lebanese village that fires rockets if war breaks out again
Six years since the start of the Second Leb War, Israeli officers say the region is thriving on both sides of the border but could spiral into a brutal war, fast
Israel will launch a brutal war against Leb if provoked by Hezbollah, senior Israel Defense Forces officers warned Thursday.
Though the northern border has remained mostly quiet since the end of the Second Leb War six years ago, Northern Command officers remain leery of hostilities breaking out again, especially as tensions with Iran remain high and Syria continues to spiral out of control.
"We will fight in a very aggressive way," said Brig. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the commander of the IDF's Galilee Division, charged with defending Israel's border with Leb. "Any village from which rockets are fired -- will be destroyed."
However, corruption finds a dozen alibis for its evil deeds... he acknowledged that another war would not be a cakewalk for Israeli troops or civilians.
"The next war will be different than the ones over the last 60 years. Civilians all over Israel will face a very tough war. There will be heavy fire on all the cities of Israel," he said.
Speaking from divisional headquarters, several hundred meters from the border with Leb and overlooking the village of Bint Jbel, where the last war's fiercest battles were fought, Halevi and other officers described both sides of the border as flourishing during the six years since the war. "For Leb it is the best period in the last 40 years," he said.
Israel's neighbor to the north, an inherently unstable country of mixed and often warring ethnic groups, is currently more stable than Egypt or Syria, he said. "The six years since the Second Leb War have been the quietest time in Leb in the last 40 years."
Halevi was atypically complimentary of the United Nations ...When talk is your weapon it's hard to make yourself heard over the sound of artillery... Interim Force in Leb, saying that they were "doing a great job" and that Hezbollah "does not like their presence."
The peacekeeping troops were installed in southern Leb as part of the cease-fire agreement, UN Resolution 1701, that ended the Second Leb war in 2006.
The UN force, he said, continually tries to precisely mark the border with blue barrels and recently built a wall at Kafr Kila, preventing rock throwing between Israelis and Lebanese. "I hope one day we can take it down, but for now it is good fence that makes good neighbors," he said.
Yet UN Resolution 1701, he acknowledged, "is not enforced on Hezbollah."
The resolution, reached at the end of the war, bans all armed Hezbollah presence south of the Litani River and prohibits the import of all weapons to militia groups in Leb, among other things.
Officers in the command said they know of "thousands of homes" south of the Litani River where "one wall divides the kids' room with the toys and the missiles and rockets."
Though the border is relatively placid, things could spiral out of control quickly, according to Halevi. Hezbollah could get frustrated with its unsuccessful efforts abroad to exact Dire Revenge™ for its military commander Imad Mughniyeh's death and decide to carry out an attack on Israeli soil; it could "mistakenly try to find a solution to the situation in Syria," or it could serve "as an Iranian tool."
But any decision by Hezbollah to attack and trigger war, a senior officer in the Northern Command said, would bring about destruction "that will take a few decades for them to get over."
The officer also voiced concern over Syria's chemical weapons. "All I can say are the facts: Syria has many chemical weapons. Their officers have strong relations with Hezbollah officers. They have given Hezbollah many rockets. If they start to lose control, it will be that much easier for them to put their hands on those products."
The officer stopped short of saying such a transfer would be a cause for war, but did say "it would contribute to a rise in tension."
Posted by: Mullah Richard ||
I hear that Obama may go to war with Iran, just to win re-election.
I rate this as No Chance in Hell. Obama's support comes from catering to his various individual constituencies - gay marriage, immigration, health care, unions, blame-Bush, etc. Even though they each have their own agenda, this would piss them all off collectively. Any support he would pick up from the Right would be swamped by massive disapproval on the Left.
As for the Hisbullies and their partners in crime, they have been too clever by half. As long as they could score Jihad Points by launching rockets into the empty desert and taking pot shots at the occasional settler, they were golden.
But now they have better, more accurate weapons and can cause some real damage. The IDF cannot afford to let that happen, no matter how much weeping and hand-wringing the international community generates. If it happens, and by 'if' I mean 'when', the response will necessarily be savage.
The only way the administration would go to war with Iran is if they stumble into it.
Right now it's the Dance of the Seven Political Veils: moving mine countermeasure assets into the Gulf (in case the Iranians attempt to block the Straits), staging a specops platform (the USS Ponce), beefing up ground forces in Kuwait, and waging a multi-front diplomatic offensive.
The idea is to simultaneously charm/convince/pressure the mullahs, mollify Israel, and buy time, at least until November has passed, preferably longer.
Posted by: Frank G ||
The statement, "Obama might start a war in Iran just to win re-election.", is not based on any reasoning. Responding to something ok, possibly. SteveS has it right, there is no electoral benefit to Obama to starting something.
It is just someone running their mouth without engaging their brain. Not uncommon, not relevant.
RAMALLAH: An advocate in Jerusalem said a Palestinian prisoner is in critical condition after a nearly three-month hunger strike, while Palestinians called for an international probe into Yasser Arafat's death.
The Palestinian call won official backing from Tunisia yesterday, after a report showed the iconic leader may have been poisoned.
The prisoner, Akram Rikhawi, started fasting on April 12, just before 1,200 other prisoners began refusing food to demand better conditions. Israeli authorities reached a deal with participants but Rikhawi has continued to protest his detention by refusing food.
Not Israel's responsibility to keep him alive. Put clean, decent food in front of him three times a day. Keep plenty of fruit juice around him. If he doesn't eat or drink that's his problem.
"The Dalai Lama, a lifelong champion of non-violence on Saturday candidly stated that terrorism cannot be tackled by applying the principle of ahimsa because the minds of terrorists are closed." source for your bookmarks
The majority of Iranians want to suspend the country's nuclear programme in return for a lifting of western sanctions according to a state television poll which runs counter to claims of universal support by Iran's leaders.
Ah. A hudna instead of a surrender.
The survey, launched by the state broadcaster, IRIB, appeared designed to demonstrate a united front in the face of a new EU boycott of Iranian oil that came into effect last Sunday. It asked viewers to express their preferred response online to the embargo, which Iran has greeted by staging a new series of war games and missile tests.
But the gambit turned into a spectacular own goal after two days of voting when IRIB's news channel screened results showing 63% of respondents in favour of suspending uranium enrichment in exchange for the gradual easing of sanctions.
TV bosses quickly stopped the poll and replaced it with one seeking viewers' opinions on an Iranian parliament proposal to close the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically vital waterway in the Persian Gulf that is the passageway for about one-fifth of the world's oil supplies. But that too appeared to backfire when 89% of respondents opposed closing the strait. It was subsequently replaced by another survey about the popular Iranian football club, Persepolis.
[It became clear] that the fiasco had touched a raw nerve become clear when IRIB claimed in a report that the results had been hacked by the BBC, an accusation the corporation denies. The Iranian broadcaster insisted the true figure supporting uranium enrichment suspension was only 24% while the rest backed retaliatory measures. The original results showed only 20% supporting retaliation and 17% wanting a continuation of the current policy of "resistance" to sanctions.
"This survey shows that, while the Iranian people might want nuclear energy, they don't want it at the price the government is forcing them to pay through its negotiating strategy," said Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-born commentator with the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company. "Their opinion is not factored into the government's negotiating strategy and this poll shows they are not happy with it."